1008: Cold Miser

by TC Blane
Concurrent with Hell Freezes Over

-=Base Camp, Sibalt=-

The bone-biting chill woke TC from his slumber shortly before sun-up. He pulled his sleeping blanket tighter around his bare shoulders as he rolled over onto his side and grabbed his watch. He squinted to see the time in the dim morning light that seeped into the tent.

“0600 hours.” He mumbled as he dropped the watch and sat up rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “I overslept.”

Normally he would have been up at least an hour prior, completed his workout and prepared breakfast. He rubbed his bare arms to fight off the chill in the air. He took notice that he could see his breath.

* The cool air must have helped me sleep deep. *

“Up and at them.” He urged himself on as he flung the comfortably warm sleeping bag off his bare body and searched for his clothes.

=^= A Short Time Later =^=

TC emerged from his tent into the new winter wonderland. The lush deep green of the rainforest was covered in a blanket of bright white. TC thought it had a sort of strange beauty to it, like two worlds colliding and coexisting for a time.

His boots crunched on the snow and he made his way over to his fire pit. He kneeled down and removed the snow that covered the broad green leaves that he had placed over the dim embers of his fire from the night before. He had placed the blanket of leaves over the smoldering fire before going to bed.

The original intent was to protect the fire from any rain that might happen over night. Snow had not been a factor but the plan worked just as well. As he removed the last of the leaves he could see the telltale wisps of smoke from the still hot embers.

It only took a few minutes to get the fire started up again. It took longer to warm up his hands over the now blazing flames.

It was then that he saw the captain waving for him to join what looked like a conference between Commander Salvek, the Vedek, Captain O’Sullivan, and herself.

Zipping up his coat he made his way over to the group. His footsteps continuing to crunch as he walked on the newly fallen snow.

He nodded to each of the officers gathered near the captain as he neared the group.

“Captain?” He asked as he saw the all too familiar look of a person worried on her face.

“Thomas, we’re missing some of our people.” Liis explained bluntly.

TC frowned, the chill of the cold air forgotten completely. “Who?”

“Lt. Grace and Commander Reece.” Salvek answered.

Concern gripped TC immediately. “When?”

The Vedek spoke up now. “Sometime before the snowfall started. We could not find any tracks in the snow near or around either of their tents.” He pulled his coat tighter as a shield against the now fiercely blowing snow. “It is possible that they went off somewhere together?”

The captain shook her head. “No. We would have heard Reece complaining about the snow and the cold by now.”

TC nodded his agreement. “Could this be part of the training?” He asked. “Maybe our rogue element, what did you say his name was?”

“Mellice Cem.” Liis replied.

“Maybe he is trying to throw another wrench into the works.” TC put his hands into his pockets in an attempt to keep them warm.

“Maybe, but this is out of context for these events.” The captain suppressed a shiver that threatened to shake her clear out of her coat. “All of the events have been in a highly organized format. A kidnapping does not fit with the capture the flag event.”

An uneasy silence fell on the gathering as each went over the possible causes of why and where the missing crewmembers could have gone.

Finally it was Salvek who spoke up. “Captain, considering the situation may I suggest that you suspend any further testing until we have recovered our missing crew.”

TC immediately nodded his agreement. “Yes, and get them to turn off this blasted weather. If they did happen to wander off this will not help us find them. Plus if they still had wet clothing exposure is going to be an issue.”

The Captain quickly nodded. “Agreed. Consider the games suspended from this point foreword. No more teams, we are one crew from here on out. Thomas, organize search parties and get them ready to go. Salvek, I want you to work up a search plan.”

She turned to her husband. “You and I will talk to our host and explain to them the situation and get any help from them we can.”

TC spoke up. “Captain, I would suggest that we have Zander set up security for the search parties and the camp. We do not know what has happened yet, or why, but I think caution and security are a priority.”

Liis thought for a moment and then cast her eyes back to Salvek. “See to it.”

Salvek nodded as the group broke up and headed off to complete their assigned tasks.

TC trudged through the snow, worry on his face. His “little sis” and her husband were missing. He could not ignore the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that was screaming that something was afoot.

All could think about was someone he cared about was missing and possibly hurt and god help anyone who might be responsible.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1007: Hell Freezes Over

by Ensign T'Dara
Concurrent with Yes or No Will Suffice

-=Base Camp, Sibalt=-

"It's colder than Detroit on New Years Day!" Landry complained, rubbing her arms through the sleeves of her jacket. Her frenzied motions did nothing to stave off the cold in her hands, and she feared frostbite may be setting in.

The snow was blowing in frantic, almost psychotic squalls; piling up at a rate she couldn't believe possible and what was worse, in addition to the threat of freezing to death it was really messing up her hair.

"Quit your moaning, Steele. We were warned to be prepared for any potential weather...happening." Dane remarked, as he looked at Gira, still shivering beneath the hood of her jacket and wondered how anyone could possibly look as adorable as she did. All he could see poking out from beyond the synthetic fur lining of the head covering was the tip of her nose and her soft, tempting lips. Then, when she turned her head just slightly he saw the light from the hazy morning sky shine in her eyes and he wondered if there was any possible thing she could ever wear in which she would not look beautiful to him.

He doubted there was.

"Yeah, well, here's the thing." Landry bit down on the gum she'd been chomping furiously, frowning as she discovered that it was so cold that it was actually getting stiffer in her mouth instead of easier to chew. She sighed. "I left my gloves in the forest after I shot Blane. I was going to go back and get them this morning but now I can't find the forest."

"Things are tough all...over..." Dane watched as Landry's eyes glinted with a hint of a spark as she caught sight of a form moving in the distance. He laughed once in disbelief. "What? Him?" He leaned over to whisper to her but Landry felt the need for no such subtlety.

"Yep. Him, and he's gonna be mine. Gotta go."

Dane could only glare in surprise as Gira lifted the hood of her coat again, unsure she'd really seen what she saw and so looking to Dane for confirmation. He nodded.

"Boy," He had to laugh slightly as they watched Steele heading over to try to flirt- again- with Trev Sterling, the Alchemy's newest engineering wonder.

"Boys." Gira nodded along with Dane and wondered how it was that Landry couldn't see that Tryst and Sterling were already competing against each other in the very contest that she was so interested in winning with Sterling herself.

Whether or not Sterling or Tryst would ever be called victor remained to be seen, but it was clear to both Gira and Dane after the Tug of War alone that the game was afoot just the same. "Is she barking up the wrong tree."

"Speaking of...now look at that." Dane's eyebrows elevated until they were nearly independent of his forehead as he watched Micah Samson, heading for Steele on an intercept course.

"Oh no. No. Micah, veer off! Change course! Pull up! Pull up!" Gira groaned. She liked Samson. Everyone liked Samson. He was a sweet guy and that seemed to be his trouble. He was so sweet that by the time he got up the nerve to talk to any girl that interested him, she was already interested in someone else. Maybe even married to them.

The man just couldn't seem to get the hang of the whole dating scene and Gira for one really hoped that he'd just find a nice girl and...

"No, Micah. Don't do it, man, don't..." Dane had to look away. With all he'd seen in his life he still couldn't stand to watch the impending crash and burn of Samson's already toasted ego- especially not with Steele holding the flamethrower.

"It really is better not to look." Gira averted her eyes as well, and the two of them turned and retreated back toward the fire. They observed that there appeared to be some commotion going on, and as Dane saw the look on Keiran O'Sullivan's face now he knew that it must be serious.

"C'mon." He urged Gira to quicken her steps as he broke into a jog. "Something's happening."

Gira's brow furrowed as she also saw the look on the face of her former CO. "Yes, and if I know Captain O'Sullivan," she added, still calling him by that rank out of respect as she always would, "it's nothing good."

-=Across the camp=-

"Ensign Steele!" Micah Samson rushed toward Landry. He was pulling the gloves off of his hands and the moment that they were removed he felt a bite from the cold so severe that he was convinced the planet must be rabid. *It is not supposed to snow in the middle of a hurricane zone.* He thought to himself. *That weather modification net has another thing coming to it.*

"Yeah, um, somebody call me?" Landry spun around, and as she did the heels of her boots kicked up a spray of snow that flung itself all over the legs of Samson's pants.

"I...did." He said, feeling the cold seep through his now wet clothing. "I saw you didn't have any gloves, I wanted to offer you mine."

"Hey, now that's really nice. Thanks Samson! You're a great guy!"

"Steele, I was wondering, would you maybe like to, you know, when we get back..." Micah continued as she pulled the gloves on and sighed contentedly, feeling the warmth they still held.

"Thanks for the gloves! Got to go!" Landry waved at him with her newly covered fingers, to which she gladly discovered the feeling seemed to be returning, and headed forward again on her way toward Sterling.

As she approached she frowned to discover that he seemed to be busy now; engaged in a very spirited exchange with Vol Tryst.

"I'm telling you, I felt it clear as day. Don't deny you were thinking it!" Vol insisted. He had a hand on his hip as he struck a dramatic, indignant pose that stunned Sterling into near silence with its undeniable appeal.

"I...I'm telling you, Vol, I was going over the rules for the next game. I swear, I was not thinking what you're implying I was thinking!" *Not then, anyway.* Trev thought as he held up the PADD in his hands. He wiped the screen again as newly fallen snow covered it once more and displayed the rules as evidence. "See? I'm telling the truth."

"Well if it wasn't you then someone around here has a real thing for..." He stopped as he heard the sound of a female clearing her throat just over his shoulder. *She's interested in Sterling all right but it wasn't her I was sensing,* Vol thought, as he nodded and smiled slightly to Landry, *the emotions were too focused, too intense. Too utterly clear to be...uh oh.*

Vol looked up in the distance and he happened to catch the eye of the Vulcan woman who was standing several meters away. She had at first been staring as if at nothing off into the distance before she caught sight of him too, and then she looked away. He did some quick math in his head, and given what he knew of her from their time working together coordinating care of patients between Medical and Psychiatric Services, he realized...

"Um...you two have a nice chat. I have to talk to a...about a... yeah." Vol headed off distractedly, nearly walking into the tree trunk right in front of him as his thoughts were so focused on trying to handle the sudden barrage of emotions coming from that one particular officer that he could think of little else.

Sterling shifted nervously as Landry gave him her most winning, flirtatious smile and put a hand on his arm. "Hi."

"Hi." Trev replied, nervousness turning to dread as she began running her hand up and down his arm.

"So, you're really strong. You did so well in that rope...pulling...thingy."

"I-" Trev winced, eyes snapping shut in pain as her fingers clamped down tightly on his Tug of War weary, still aching bicep.

"Very strong. So, gorgeous, tell me about yourself!" She interrupted. "I can't wait to hear all about you."

*There's one thing about me you're not going to want to hear.* Trev groaned inwardly. He smiled at her as politely as possible while he attempted to extricate himself from her clutching, unrelenting grasp.


Counselor Tryst's feet crunched in the snow as he trudged unhappily through it but he was far too preoccupied to be truly aware of the sound it made as he approached the person he was seeking.

"T'Dara." Vol spoke her name softly, as gently as possible. She startled, and jumped back a step.

She turned and looked up at him with large, crystal clear blue eyes so intensely focused on trying to hold back the tears that they now held that she could not speak.

It was too late- he knew. Now they would all know.

She nodded to him, urging him to just say what he had to say.

"Are you unwell?" Vol asked, already knowing the answer.

"I...am in a great deal of trouble." T'Dara replied. She had managed to hide her condition thus far through the use of medications she had replicated for herself and brought along with her, but the extremes in the weather had wreaked havoc on her supply pack, and the hypos were malfunctioning. She couldn't get them to administer the correct dosage of medication, and then this morning the last vial of the delicate liquid compound she required to combat the onset of Pon farr had frozen solid in the cold before she woke from her fevered sleep to realize what was happening. Now it was too late, two doses had been missed, the fever would take her over.

She sighed wearily, her eyes brimming and her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

When Vol inquired compassionately if there was anyone here among the crew that she had...romantic interest in, T'Dara's shoulders began to shake with sudden, wracking sobs. She dropped her head into her hands.

A picture began to form in Vol's mind, and he had only one word for her in response as he tried to suppress his shock. This might not be a bad thing, after all. "Really?"

Ensign T'Dara
Nurse Practitioner
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1006: Yes or No Will Suffice

by Rada Dengar and Salvek
The Morning After Every Lock, Save One

-=Base Camp on Sibalt=-

Salvek’s eyes blinked open, and the chill in the air immediately caught his attention. No, it wasn’t just a chill, it was cold. He got to his feet, and noticed how bright the early morning light appeared to be. Pulling on his boots, he pushed the front of the tent open, and saw white as far as the eye could see.

About thirty centimeters of pure white snow had replaced the heat and rain of yesterday, glistening in the light of Sibalt’s star, as it emerged over the horizon.

Salvek trudged through the snow to the small mound that had been the location of the previous evening’s fire. As he looked around, he saw no other footprints in the snow. Indeed, he was that first person up this morning. For the sake of safety, Salvek had completely extinguished the fire before turning in last night. A fact he now lamented. If he had left even a few hot embers to smolder over night, the snow would not have collected here, and he would easily be able to restart the fire with the small pile of wood he had left beside it.

He felt it important to uncover the wood and restart the fire as quickly as possibly. He did not want to think of the consequences of the Captain waking up to bitter cold with no fire to warm herself at, let alone the likes of Landry Steele, Ashton Ledbetter, and Dabin Reece.

Salvek uncovered the fire area and pile of wood from the snow, using mostly his boot, and the cuffs of his shirt, which he had pulled over his wrists to keep his hands from developing frostbite. The top of the pile was wet, but underneath there was still some dry wood and kindling. After several minutes of preparation and rubbing, Salvek produced a small wisp of smoke followed by a flame. He set the tiny burning piece beneath the kindling, and let it spread to start the full fire.

As the flame grew, the snow around the fire began to melt away.

“Are you serious?” The unmistakable and angry voice of his wife filled Salvek’s ears. Kellyn was apparently the second person up this morning.

“Good morning Kellyn. Come warm yourself.” Salvek offered.

Kellyn growled and went back into her tent, looking for something warmer to wear. Salvek cleared off the log he had used as a bench last night, and lowered himself down to sit after stripping off the wet bark. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a figure approaching. Specifically, he saw the orange glow of the flames reflected in the whites of the man’s eyes, as if the fire knew exactly what was going on inside the mind of Rada Dengar.

Salvek turned to him, then slid down the log a bit, inviting Rada to be seated if he wished.

In silence the Angosian accepted the offered position. He gave only a nod to acknowledge Salvek as he sat down staring into the fresh flame slowly dancing before him. This alone struck Salvek as unusual; while Rada certainly could be regarded as a quiet man he’d always before at least have attempted a greeting or a verbal thanks for the welcoming to sit by him. Yet he sat now in silence, simply and only watching the fire.

It was true the lights, the heat and the elegance in this most simple yet powerful of reactions could be regarded by many as beautiful. From a great scientist struggling for understanding to a small child first discovering the wonder of the flame it could hold overpowering fascination. Certainly its life giving warmth could hold the rapt attention of any man who’d ever been truly cold. Yet watching him out the corner of his eye Salvek saw no hint of fascination in Rada’s face nor admiration of beauty in his eyes.

Even with what felt like the entire world around them frozen, Rada clearly found no great appeal to the heat. He didn’t even lean into the flame, instead just sitting back and hollowly observing it without interest or reason. Salvek soon began to consider the possibility that he wasn’t really watching it at all.

Sometimes, Salvek knew, when the mind’s eye was too fully watching a man’s concerns, the physical eye and the world it told of could be all too easily neglected. For some short times, especially in a controlled meditation, this situation could be regarded as desirable when one moved beyond simple concerns of the physical. Yet when control was lost a man was lost to his thoughts, and even if it was only just for a moment it could be the moment that mattered.

Here on Sibalt that could mean that his team lost a game. However when they were back on the ship it could mean disaster, and regardless of who or how many were hurt Rada wouldn’t be here as he was if not for the great toll that guilt could so forcefully take upon him. As of now Salvek was yet to see any reason to conclude that Rada was that far gone yet, but he had to be ever watchful for the worsening of the suffering he was facing as a result of his resequencing procedure.

Salvek could only speculate exactly what was passing through Rada’s mind at that moment. So little information was publicly available about what Rada must be going through. Salvek certainly had no way of knowing that he himself was the focus of Rada’s thoughts in this moment as he fought to hold onto memories like sands that slipped quickly through his fingers so fast he wasn’t sure they’d ever been there. So many memories felt like that still.

In particular Rada was replaying an image that had been haunting him of a look that fell on Kellyn’s face recently as he fought to recall other times he’d seen it. He knew that something had happened to Salvek. He just still couldn’t remember what it was and that was a thought that refused to leave him.

Finally, Rada’s attention seemed to be broken from the fire as deeply he took in a breath of air and then slowly exhaled as he turned his eyes down to the ground.

“Commander.” Rada started quietly, almost nervous to speak. “Last night I was speaking with Commander O’Sullivan about my recent experiences. He suggested that what I’m going through after my coma it…it might be like sort of like what happens after a resequencing procedure. Do you think that’s possible?”

With those words Salvek was momentarily more frozen than the planet around them as he wondered just what O’Sullivan may have said to him. Even if Keiran had said nothing of danger to Rada, as Salvek knew O’Sullivan well enough to know he would never intentionally have done, he still worried that now any honest answer he could give would be the one that broke Rada. At the same time he couldn’t lie to him.

Carefully, Salvek answered truthfully.

“I do believe it’s possible your experience could be comparable to that that follows resequencing. I am however not privy to significant detail about the recovery from the procedure.”

Rada paused with his answer and then looked up with haunting eyes that may have been probing to see if he was telling the truth or may have just been looking for answers. Then slowly Rada turned back to the fire and continued.

“I know that sometimes all the memories lost to resequencing can be regained if you remember some of them. I suppose it’s a little like this flame that just needed a few sparks to start it.” He indicated what had now grown into a decent fire before him. “Well, I have this memory that I think is about you. I was hoping, Sir, that you could help me remember it.”

Salvek paused, wearily considering the path Rada was asking him to walk or rather lead him along.

“I do not know what memory you are referring to so I am uncertain that my answers could be helpful.”

Rada seemed slightly disappointed, but he was not surprised.

“I understand that, Sir.” He acknowledged. “However, if I may I’d just like to ask you some yes and no questions.”

“You appear to require rest.” Salvek answered, trying not to answer at all. His response was honest if nothing else as Rada appeared to have gotten little if any sleep after his talk with O’Sullivan. “Is it truly important to ask me these questions now?”

As the memories of the day before played through Rada’s mind, he knew he could only give the one sincere and honest answer.

“Yes, Sir. I think it is.”

Though he could not lie, which Salvek feared was one of the reasons Rada sought him out specifically, he could exaggerate and embellish so long as he did not step outside the bounds of truth. Yes and no questions had a way of negating those tactics.

“Very well.” He said reluctantly.

“Did something terrible happen to you, recently? Something that would have prompted Lair Kellyn to turn over all the life’s work the two of you have compiled, for fear neither of you would ever return?”

“Yes.” Salvek answered.

“Was I aware of these events as they occurred? Was I present of the ship?

“Those are two questions.”

Behind the two of them Lair Kellyn was frozen at the entrance to the tent, straining to hear what the two men were saying, fearing that Rada Dengar’s abilities of deductive reasoning were about to pull the truth right out of her inherently truthful husband.

“Was I aware of these events as they occurred?”


Rada seemed befuddled for a moment. Then he rephrased his question.

“Was I aware that something was wrong with you, even if I did not specifically know exactly what that thing was?”

“Yes.” Salvek answered reluctantly again.

“Than how could I possibly not remember what happened to you? I remember the look of terror on her face. I remember her telling me I had to take your work on if you and Kellyn could not. Something horrible happened to two people I consider friends and I cannot recall any of it? And I know this was long before my coma, because I can remember events before and after that.”

Salvek waited patiently, knowing Rada’s questions were rhetorical in nature now. The engineer was blowing off steam, so to speak. Trying to wrap his mind around everything he was hearing, and trying to come up with a reason why the most important people in his life suddenly seemed so evasive. As Rada spoke, Salvek noted Jariel in the distance, emerging from his tent and trudging through the snow.

“It must be a side effect of the events that caused you to lose your more recent memories.” Salvek chimed in finally, hoping Rada did not ask him to elaborate on what exactly the “events” were.

Rada’s eyes seemed to narrow on Salvek suspiciously as if accusing him of knowing more than he claimed.

“What could the...” Rada began before stopping himself, running his mind over this conversation and becoming keenly aware how only one type of questions were really getting straight answers out of the Vulcan.

“I believe I understand something about my memory loss, Commander.” Rada observed. “It’s not random. You see when I look at a memory like the one I have of when you were hurt there are some small gaps but there’s always one large gaping hole dead centre. It’s like that memory was the target and the rest were just accidental casualties. In the case of this memory I had thought the target was you but I realise now I was wrong. It was your research. It was the one moment of my being given responsibility for this incredible technology for which I have no remaining shadow of a memory.” Rada paused, taking on a firmer tone than Salvek had ever known him to use before. “Yes or no, Commander, do you know of any way that that and the recent lost events could be associated?”

Salvek suddenly realised he was trapped; knowing not to answer would be effectively no different from answering honestly.

“Yes.” Salvek said with extreme reluctance, not adding a single word that was unnecessary for each carried with it a great danger.

Rada actually looked offended, almost indignant, with this answer that told him clearly that Salvek had been hiding something all along. Rada had run over it again and again in his head trying to find the connection and there wasn’t one, at least not to the events as he’d been told them. Salvek had been choosing to keep something from him that could be the key to all of this and Rada was unwilling to consider he may have had a single good reason for it. In that moment his entire demeanour changed as suddenly he was considering that he was perhaps not as among friends as he believed.

“How?” Rada snapped with clear frustration which was in truth overridden by his internal panic, showing a side of desperation Salvek had so rarely known in him.

Kellyn saw where this was going and began hurrying from the tent over to stop her husband’s truthfulness from revealing more than Rada could handle.

“I do not believe…” Salvek started but Rada had now run completely out of patience.

“I don’t care what you do not believe.” Rada cut him off as he started considering the implications of his apparent betrayal. “You and everyone else on the ship know something you’re not telling me. Don’t you?”

Salvek stayed still, unwilling to offer any response to this. Rada’s eyes again quickly narrowed, his focus so tight that it blinded him completely to the Vedek and Kellyn who’d now arrived by the fire. While once they’d been each unwilling to interfere now neither felt willing to hold back.

“Could I please talk to you, Commander?” Jariel asked of Salvek, knowing he had to get him out of this situation. Naturally Salvek took this opportunity.

“You know what really happened. Why won’t you answer?” Rada asked accusingly and again Salvek was silent as Jariel began leading him away from the flame.

“Rada, please...” Kellyn started insistently and though he heard her Rada’s eyes remained entirely locked on the retreating Salvek.

“Please, what?!” Rada asked quickly of all who were listening, suddenly snapping back to seeing the larger world again and seeming truly angry in a way he’d so often in the past feared to let anyone see. “Please just sit back and accept what I’m told? Please just play the role you’ve all written for me?”

Kellyn stepped into his eye line, speaking firmly but with eyes that seemed to plead, as she tried desperately to stop him before he was too far gone.

“Please just ask yourself why Salvek, why anyone on this ship, would want to hold something like this back from you.”

Rada tried instantly to answer that, spluttering for words, but he simply couldn’t find them. There were always explanations, there were always reasons, but for that brief time he’d simply stopped thinking of them. He was just so desperate for answers he'd forgotten that these were his friends.

He began to look at himself again, at his anger, and he knew that he was taking out what he was going through on the people he cared about most. Slowly his mood began to change and after a moment of silence he accepted that fact as he truly processed Kellyn’s genuinely sobering question. He took his head into his hands briefly before turning back up to face her, forcing back his composure.

“He wouldn’t. You wouldn’t.” Rada finally answered with quiet confusion, the rage now completely wiped from his tone as he really took in the expression on Kellyn’s face. “I mean… you wouldn’t want to. Not unless…you had to.”

Rada felt himself struck by the sudden powerful realisation. Almost with stinging shame he turned his head down to the ground and spoke softly, considering the position Salvek must have been in. “I’m sorry. I never should have asked him.”

Kellyn internally sighed with relief as she offered a sad sort of comforting smile while she took the now empty seat beside him.

“What should I do now?” Rada asked quietly, genuinely lost in this moment, unsure what this experience and the fear were really turning him into.

“There's still a bit of time before the next game. You should get some rest.” Kellyn suggested, adding with sad sober honesty. “For now there’s really nothing more that you can do than that.”

"Will there ever be?" He asked unsure if he even expected or wanted an answer.

Kellyn just shook her head and chose not to give one because it would either be almost certainly a lie or it'd be of no comfort. Instead she chose to say the most helpful thing for him she could, though the words felt hollow as she spoke them.

"Just...get some rest now, Rada."

Now very much in the distance, and out of earshot of Rada, Salvek spoke to the Vedek. “How long, do you think?”

Jariel pondered the question for a moment. He tried desperately to find an answer that was better than the one he did not want to admit. Camen had not even been on the ship during the Domox events, but Counselor Tryst had informed him of what transpired, specifically with Rada, in case his services were ever needed to help the Chief Engineer.

“I have known you and Kellyn a long time my friend. Engineers come in different shapes, and sizes and temperaments, but if there is one central truth to Salvek of Vulcan, Lair Kellyn of Bajor, and Rada Dengar of Angosia, it is that none of you are ever satisfied with half an answer. It is in your very nature to understand how thing work. You may seek that understanding in different ways, but you so seek it, and you will not rest until you have found it.”

Salvek paused and looked back over his shoulder. Rada had apparently heeded Kellyn’s suggestion, and headed back to his tent to rest. “I had come to the same conclusion.” Salvek said.

“He will not be denied.” Jariel did not need to point out to Salvek the consequences if the resequencing failed. “By the way, when you are Rada were up, did you happen to see February leave? She was already gone when I woke up.”

“No, I did not.” Salvek said. As they approached the tent Jariel and February were sharing, a choice made based upon the fact that one man was going to have to share a tent with one woman, and Jariel was the only one Dabin trusted, Salvek noted the prints in the snow. “Those are not Converse,” Salvek said, looking at the large prints that matched Jariel’s boots.”

“I didn’t even realized…” Jariel stammered, upset with himself. “There were no prints in the snow when I got up. I’d better get Reece.”

Salvek peered into the tent, looking for clues. At the next tent over, Jariel was being informed by a very groggy Dwan Tubman that he’d just woken up, and had no idea where Dabin Reece was.

“Salvek! Dabin is gone too.” Jariel called out.

Salvek was then forced to utter the words no one on the ship ever wanted to, “I will wake the Captain.”


Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Salvek
First Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

NRPG: From the Captain and the First Officer, a very merry and safe Christmas to you all!

1005: Things Are Not As They Seem

by Mellice Cem
Concurrent with Every Lock, Save One

-=Somewhere in the forest on Sibalt=-

As he transported back to his hidden base camp, Mellice was laughing like a loon. He set his paintball rifle down beside the log he most enjoyed sitting on by the fire pit. Clearly, this day had gone far better than he had imagined. Not only did he manage to confound, confuse and all out baffle both teams as to who was using the blue paint pellets, but he also had a bit of fun at the expense of some old friends. First it had been both Doctor Hartcort and Commander Briggs, and then he had an absolute ball tormenting his former nemesis from the Aries, Zanh Liis.

It had been a long day for everyone, especially himself, and Mellice needed a hot bath in a nearby spring. He removed the ghillie suit of leaves, twigs and sticks he had constructed to conceal himself with the day he had arrived upon Sibalt, when he learned the nature of the games that would be taking place. The tug-of-war he had mucked up from afar, while the game of paintball he'd mucked from a lot closer. As for the final game of capture the flag, he'd be even closer than he had been for the previous match. For this game, he'd be taking people out of the game as 'prisoners' by abducting them personally to be held in his own detention area that Jelca and her cohorts have designated for him to use.

It was while he was en route to the hot spring that he nearly tripped over something sticking out from under the cover of some fallen leaves. Furrowing his brow, he knelt down to the ground to inspect the mysterious protrusion. Once he brushed the leaves away, Mellice made the first of several frightening discoveries.

Bodies. Mellice was about to take off to find Zanh Liis, when he heard the sound of voices and footsteps approaching. He ducked behind a tree to avoid detection.

"Rued will have her revenge soon and this Dabin Reece will be dead along with his friends, but first in order to really make them suffer, we need to take him and his wife tonight. Putting her in peril will really drive him mad." Vrex laughed maniacally to his partner.

Mellice listened more as Vrex and Grom spoke of what Jelca had planned for Dabin and the rest of the Serendipity and Alchemy crews. What he overheard made his skin crawl as these “games” were become a matter of life and death. Now, he was altering his mission to sabotage the games. It was the only way to keep Captain Zanh and her crew keep safe from a fate worse than death. If only he could tell Zanh Liis, but judging by the bodies on the ground, Rued had already replaced the real officiants of these games with her own people, and they would surly be ready to attack at the first sign that the Starfleet crew was wise to their plans. His only choice was to do what he could to spoil their plans, and hopefully find a way to get the Serendipity crew out of harm’s way in the process.

Lieutenant (jg) Mellice Cem
Assistant Security/Tactical Chief
USS Revolution NCC-71605-A
Former Games Saboteur

1004: Prophet and Loss

by Ladron Reece
Seven years after Justification
(In the year 2247)

-=Tolarum’s Ship on Sveji=-

The visitor waited silently aboard the ship, until its inhabitant was finished with his bathing. The serenade she was getting was quite lovely. She had no idea Tolarum had such a voice. Granted, he certainly had enough time to practice.

Most believed Tolarum and Ladron would never be seen again until such time as the Reece symbiont was ready for a new host. However, times changed, secrets came out, and responsible parties paid the price.

She sat at what appeared to be the kitchen table, if this was indeed the kitchen, and thumbed a well-worn notebook. It was old-fashioned paper, written in with pencil. There were dozens of sketches inside, and hundreds of scrawled notes. All the sketches appeared to be of plant and animal life. Birds, rodents, fish, flowers, trees. They were all painstakingly drawn by hand with arrows calling out features of interest. Sometimes there were just question marks or confused notes such as What could that possibly be for? or Is that a nose or a reproductive organ?

There was a certain historical curiosity about the notebook. What must it have been like for the first explorers on Trill who had no computers or cameras to capture images of the discoveries they made. Arriving at islands or continents with only limited time and hundreds of newly discovered species that they wished to study. Imagine being the first Trill to discover the symbiont caves. Seeing these odd creatures, that somehow appeared to have harnessed the power of lightning, gliding effortlessly through the pools.

It must have been terrifying for that first Trill, but if no one had had the fortitude to study the symbionts, perhaps the Trill never would have discovered that their planet-mates were not only sentient, but also the older, wiser, and more intelligent of the two species. And indeed, the symbionts would have been extinct by now, despite their wisdom, if not for their Trill partners.

She very much appreciated the mind of Tolarum in this moment, knowing the courage it must take to explore such a strange new world at such close range. It would be easy to cower in the ship, never to emerge, for fear of being consumed by the local fauna, or poisoned by the seemingly innocuous pollen of a flower.

And he had a voice fit for the opera to boot.

She didn’t know much about the man she was sent here to meet. The Symbiosis Commission employed him before her time. She had seen pictures, talked to old friends, but other than deciphering that he was a zoologist and botanist at heart from the notebook, there was not much else for her to go on.

When the sound of the shower water ceased, so did the singing. She closed the notebook, and laid it back on the table, oriented exactly as it had been when she picked it up. Subconsciously she fixed her hair and brushed off her clothing. Seeing his thoughts and notes had in a way been a rather intimate experience and she was suddenly seeing Tolarum as a familiar man that she should be concerned with presenting herself for, rather than just some stranger that she had no cause to impress.

A few minutes passed, and when he did emerge he was, fortunately, wearing a towel around his waist. Tolarum rounded the corner from the shower to the room she was in, and begin whistling, still oblivious to her presence.

“Hello Tolarum.”

Tolarum turned, shrieked, and ran back in the direction he had come from.

“Wait! My name is Sellena! I was sent by the Symbiosis Commission!”

Tolarum’s face popped out around the corner. “Why?” There was no doubt she was Trill by looking at her. Once the surprise of realizing he was not alone wore of, it was replaced by the shock of knowing that he was in the presence of another of his kind. Besides Ladron Reece, he never expected to see another Trill.

“I have news.”

“Let me get dressed.” Tolarum asked self-consciously.

“Of course.” She smiled. She could appreciate his modest nature. It seemed to be a hallmark of the scientific community.

“Would you mind if I replicated something to eat?” She shouted to be heard through the ship’s walls.

“Go ahead. But if you want a real treat, there is a dish I made containing all local ingredients in the refrigeration unit.” He called back.

She opened the door to the unit and gazed upon the concoction of which Tolarum had spoke. It appeared to be a salad but it was the garnish that really concerned her. It clearly came from something that was alive at some point, and there was no way she was going to ingest it.

Sellena decided a bowl of soup broth from the replicator was the safest thing for her stomach at the moment. As she ate, she heard a very faint hum from nearby. It took her a few moments to place the sound, but when she did, she laughed to herself.

“I’m not armed.”

Tolarum revealed himself, and the scanner he was holding. “Sorry, can’t be too careful. We get a lot of break-ins around here.”


Tolarum sat down at the table across from her. “Oh, did you not see the food I told you about?”

“I… I’m on a diet.” She stuttered.

“Oh, well then maybe it’s not for you. The garnish is tasty but quite high in fat.”

“Well, you are probably wondering what news I have. But first, where is Ladron Reece?”

Tolarum’s face turned red, and he looked down at the table. “Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I think he’s out for a hike.” It was sort of a lie, but there was an infinitesimally small probability that Ladron was on a hike, wherever he was. So, technically, it was possible.

“Well, hopefully he gets back soon. I guess I’ll just tell you first then.”

“Okay.” Tolarum nodded, not bothering to tell her that the chances of seeing Ladron Reece anywhere other than on a billboard were pretty remote.

“Felani is in prison. The truth about your personality typing program finally came out, as did your exile and Ladron’s. Felani took the fall for all of it, especially the cover-up. The government has pardoned you and Ladron both, seeing you each as victims of Felani’s cover-up, and you are each welcome to return to Trill.”

Tolarum could only blink. This was certainly not at all what he had expected. “Well, that’s great news.” He said, somewhat solemnly.

Sellena was taken aback by his muted response. She had expected jumps for joy and laughter and confetti. “You don’t seem very happy.”

“No! Please, thank you so much. It’s just that I’ve been here for over seven years with no prospects of going back to Trill. This place has really become my home.”

“Well, like I said, you have been fully pardoned. You are free to go or not go anywhere you want. So is Ladron.”

“I need to think. Do you have to return to Trill soon?” Tolarum asked.

“I have a ship in orbit. We can leave anytime. Do you know where Ladron usually hikes? I can try to locate him on the sensors. I’d like to tell him right away as well.”

“Uh, well. There’s a thing, about that, that we need to discuss.”

Sellena could tell by his mannerisms that he did not want to tell her what he had to say. He was fidgeting with his hands and looking straight down at the table.

“Go on,” She prodded.

“Well, Ladron has sort of, well, picked up here where he left off on Trill. He’s made himself out to be a god and has quite the following.”

“Oh.” There was an awkward pause of about ten seconds before she continued. “The Symbiosis commission wasn’t even sure if there was life here. I guess that answers that question. How big of a following are we talking?”

“Planet-wide.” Tolarum answered.

Sellena laughed out loud. “No seriously, how big of a following?”

“You heard me.”

Sellena rubbed the bridge of her nose, as a headache instantly began to form. “When was the last time you spoke to him?”

“He visited maybe ten days ago.”

“Did he give you any idea where he was going?”

“He did mention a city. It’s on the west coast of the southern hemisphere’s largest continent. I just can’t remember the name.”

“That should do. Would you excuse me for a moment?” Sellena rose from her seat and exited the ship. Tolarum watched her out the window as she spoke orders into a communications device. When she was done, she came back in. Tolarum scrambled back into his seat so she wouldn’t know he had been watching her.

“Mister Reece will likely be joining us very shortly.” She said. “This is why you don’t send exiles to a planet without searching the planet for intelligent life first. How much has he taken from the people?”

“Well,” Tolarum paused as he considered his words carefully. There was no easy way to deliver news this bad, especially when you knew how angry it would make the recipient. “I would say, a tidy sum. I don’t know how much for sure.”

“Could you be less specific?” She asked sarcastically. He had really answered her question, despite the fact he had attempted to be evasive. She took his attempt to dodge the question as an affirmation that Ladron had taken a lot.

Tolarum was saved by the proverbial bell, which in this case was the hum of a transporter. Ladron Reece appeared before them aboard the ship, resplendent in his bright white and jewel encrusted preaching outfit. He look befuddled, as he stared at his empty and curved hand, where his microphone had once been.

It took him a moment to orient himself and realize he was aboard Tolarum’s ship.

“Dude! I was right in the middle of a performance! I mean sermon. Oh, well hello there.” Ladron’s anger turned into a smooth flirtatious voice, as he saw Sellena. Then, his demeanor turned into shock. “Wait, you’re a Trill!”

“That’s what the spots tell me, Ladron.” She said.

“We can go home.” Tolarum said.

“Go home? Back to Trill? Don’t mess with me on this.” Ladron poked at Sellena, just to make sure she was not a hologram. “What about that scary bitch?”

“Felani is in prison.” Tolarum answered, knowing exactly who Ladron meant. “We’ve both been pardoned by the government.”

“They felt nearly eight years in exile for two people who never even received a trial, was more than enough punishment.” Sellena added.

Ladron could not believe a word of what he was hearing. Two minutes ago he was going about his daily life here on this world, and now he was being offered the chance to return home. Home, where he currently had nothing. No money, no possessions, no pick of the females, and no cool car named after the local equivalent of a poisonous snake to drive at unsafe speeds down the highway.

“I don’t want to go.”

“You have to,” Sellena replied.

“Oh sure! I have to! Ladron, you have to leave Trill so no one finds out what the Symbiosis commission did! Ladron! You have to go home, because now everyone knows what the Symbiosis commission did! You abduct me off the planet, now you want me to go home against my will too. No fair!”

“I can’t let you stay here and interfere with the natural development of this culture.”

Ladron actually laughed out loud. “Oh, that ship has sailed babycakes. I am their culture. Remove from this world without any explanation and there will be chaos.”

“Why didn’t you stop this?” Sellena asked, turning her attention to Tolarum.

“Don’t blame me for this! I’m just one man up against the mad genius. He wasn’t really hurting anyone, physically, so I left him be. It was the Commissions bright idea to send us out here.”

Sellena looked out over the valley visible from the windows of the ship. The sun of this world was just about to breach the horizon, shedding light on a brand new day, and illuminating the valley before her. Perhaps that was just what these people needed, she thought, to be illuminated. Ladron was correct, if these people saw him as a god, then removing him without explanation would cause planet-wide strife. People would splinter off into different religious factions, and riots and wars would erupt across the globe. She knew this all too well, as the same paranoia had once gripped her own world in the past.

If an explanation, or in this case, an exposé, would ease the strife on this world, then she would offer it.

“I’ll make a deal with you Ladron. Spend the next hour with me, and if at the end of that time you still want to stay, you will be allowed to. If at any time in the next hour you wish to leave, just say so, and my ship will transport you away.”

Ladron thought this sounded like the best deal of all time. Just humor this chick for an hour, and he could go back to doing what he did best, pulling donations from the sheep. “Deal.”

“Excellent,” Sellena said. She took out her communications device, and flipped it open. “Bridge, this is Sellena. Beam myself, Ladron, and a dozen officers to Ladron’s previous coordinates. I don’t care who.”

[Aye, ma’am.]

“Wait, what are you doing?” Ladron asked. Before she could answer, the transporter engulfed him, and Ladron was once again back on the stage where he had previously been. Only this time he was flanked by Sellena, Tolarum, and a dozen other Trills.

“Ladron has returned!” Someone shouted from the crowd. “And he has multiplied!”

Sellena took a microphone that was lying on the floor, presumably the one Ladron had dropped, and pointed towards the cameras at the rear of the venue. “Are you filming this? Get on the phone with your networks and tell them to patch you in live. There is about to be a big announcement made.”

Ladron slinked back towards the curtain but was waylaid by Sellena’s crew.

“I want this to go out live, all over this world.” Sellena told him. “So no one can doubt or debate that you are a fraud. Maybe then things will return to normal here, without the wars that usually accompany religious ambiguity.”

“Uh, maybe we shouldn’t do that. Let’s just go back to Tolarum’s ship, and forget all this happened.”

Sellena ignored him, and waited for the go sign from the cameramen in the back that they were patched in live all over the globe. She lifted the microphone to her lips, and spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Sellena. I am from a planet, many lightyears from here, called Trill. We are a simple bipedal humanoid race, just like yourselves, merely a few years ahead of you in technology. Many years ago, a man named Ladron Reece was exiled from our world. He had portrayed himself as a prophet and taken advantage of people’s beliefs to gain a cult following on our world. We sent him here, unaware I regret to say, that there was any life on your world to be exploited.”

“Ladron is as flesh and blood as you and I. I’m sorry to say, you have all been had. Whatever afterlife he has promised you does not exist.”

She motioned for Ladron to be brought forward. Two her men shoved Reece to the front of the stage where Sellena waited. Ladron managed just a sheepish grin towards the very confused looking crowd. Sellena grabbed his hand, and before he realized what was happening, she cut him across the palm with a knife. The crowd gasped, as blood dripped onto the floor.

“W-T-F you psycho!” Ladron pulled his hand back defensively, and cradled it like a wounded animal.

“He bleeds just like you and I, and he can’t heal himself either, can you Ladron?”

Murmurs began resonating throughout the hall, as Sellena continued on. Ladron just kept on grinning sheepishly.

“My species was once like yours. We drove vehicles with internal combustion engines, watched televisions much like yours, and grew food on farms just like yours. I came here to bring Ladron back to his homeworld where he belongs. When I found out about everything he had done here, I considered just vanishing with him without an explanation. However, I realized that could lead to hundreds if not thousands of years of war and turmoil on your world. So, I decided to tell you all the truth, right now, on all the airwaves of your world, so there can be no argument over the fact that that man,” Sellena pointed at Ladron, “Is a fraud.”

She paused, waiting to see if anyone in the crowd was going to a question her. A hand slowly raised, from a middle aged woman at the front near the stage.

“Yes?” Sellena asked.

“But, how? How could he fool us all so easily?”

Sellena walked to the front of the stage to be closer to the woman who had asked the question. “We Trill coexist on our world with a species we called symbionts. Our lifespans are much shorter than theirs. The symbionts can live for hundreds of years, but they cannot exist outside of a series of caves on our world. So, many on our world serve as hosts to the symbionts. They live within us, so they can move about and not be confined to the caves. In exchange, they share with us the collective life experiences of each host that came before us. Your prophet Ladron is the fifth person to host the symbiont named Reece. I am sorry to say that he has exploited the knowledge and abilities of those that came before him to fool you all into believing him.”

“What will become of this Reece once Ladron dies?” The same woman asked, with a look on her face that seemed to indicate that Ladron’s death would not be long in coming if she had anything to say about it.

“Reece will live on in a new, hopefully more honest, host.” Sellena answered. “For hundreds of years to come.”

“But, you don’t understand. The Rued clan was promised a place in Wonderland. We gave up all our possessions to Ladron because he said we would not need them. We sold our land and took our children out of school. We closed our businesses and laid-off all of our employees. We… we cannot go back.” The woman’s anger was overshadowed only by her fear of what she was realizing. That her once powerful family, like millions of other believers, now had nothing.

“I’m truly sorry. There is nothing I can do for you. You’re going to have to find your own way back to the way things were for your world before Ladron came. But at least you can do so with a clear understanding that there is no god named Ladron Reece and no magical place called Wonderland waiting for you. That might not come as much of a comfort now in what is sure to be a chaotic near future, but it will, I assure you, spare you years of turmoil in the long term.”

“How am I supposed to feed my children with that?” The Rued woman shouted. The rest of the crowd began to shout too, and soon there was a crush towards the stage.

Sellena stepped away, as the mob grew louder and louder. A shoe flew by Ladron’s head. He ducked out of the way just in time, but it looked like it was only a matter of moments before the entire crowd rushed the stage, at which point flying shoes would be the least of his worries.

“Come on everyone! Let’s all settle down.” Ladron shouted. “I still have some of your money. I didn’t spend all of it. Just most of it.”

“Dibs on his face!” A very large man carrying a pipe that he had apparently just torn loose form the wall shouted.

“Now now, can’t we just discuss this like rational adults?” Ladron asked far too quietly to be heard over the room.

“Our bargain?” Sellena asked him. “If you wish to leave, all you have to do is ask.”

“You know, I do miss the symbiont caves sometimes. I think I’ll go.” Ladron said, as he ducked out of the way of a flying piece of fruit. The crowd was climbing up on the stage now, and Ladron, Sellena, her crewmates, and Tolarum were backed up against the curtain. Sellena’s crew tried to form some kind of protective front between her and the mob, but Ladron was very much on his own.

“I should just leave you here to be torn to pieces. The only reason why I’m saving you is because of Reece.”

“Yeah, well, can’t hurt the symbionts! That’s the golden rule. Now, lets say we try that transporter.” Ladron suggested. Sellena called her ship, just as the man with the pipe broke into a run towards Ladron. By the time he swung, his pipe passed harmlessly through the swirl of energy that had once been Ladron Reece.

Somewhere in the crowd, the woman going by the name Rued stood silently, with tears of rage spilling down her cheeks. In her mind, thoughts of a revenge far in the future were already playing out. The vendetta was already beginning.


Ladron Reece
Former Soothsayer

1003: Smurfette

by Lara Valera Ryn
After Last Man Standing


Giving her body a once-over, Lara thought to herself, *I’m a bloody mess.*

Then, after checking her arms and legs, and finding no actual blood, she decided that, no, a cacophony of color was more accurate.

Between shooting her gun, being shot at, (sometimes by her own teammates), and traversing through paint and mud, she was a colorful mess.

But damn, it had been fun. In fact, Lara could not remember the last time she had had so much fun. Ruefully, she recognized that it was probably sometime before Ryn had entered her life.

But that was a somber thought for another day. For the moment, getting the paint and dirt off of her was her prime task. So, she headed out for a nearby stream that she had wandered across several times in the course of the game.

Standing at the edge of the water, she first tried to swipe away what paint she could from her body and clothing. That only resulted in getting paint stuck to her hands. Looking at the sticky mess that was now her hands, she mumbled, “Great.”

Next, she decided to kneel down at the edge of the water and wash her hands. There were still some remains of paint, especially in her nails and especially the blue paint, which seemed more resilient than the yellow and purple, but otherwise it was a good start.

Kneeling at this level gave Lara a chance to see her own reflection, which was disheveled and well, and covered in paint. She laughed at her reflection, wondering if any of the trillions of sentient beings who relied on Starfleet could see all of them now, what they would think of this intrepid and merry band.

She then shook her head and decided to dunk her entire face and head into the water. While submerged, she ran her hands through her hair and scrubbed her face as best as she could. The cold temperature of the water also served as a great way to cool down she noted, as she swung her head up out of the water.

Taking a deep breath, she remained in front of the stream, just taking a minute to herself. Then, as she was about to get up, she noticed something in the water. It was simply her reflection, but immediately she knew that something was not right. And when she released what it was, she started to laugh.


Until her stomach hurt.

And then she stopped, that was, until she took a second look at herself in the water. Running her hands through her hair for a second time, Lara shrugged her shoulders and stood up. *It could have been worse,* she thought to herself.

She returned to base camp, watching the other people roam around in the aftermath of the last game. As she walked by one of the tents, a familiar voice commented, “Your hair is blue.”

Lara stopped and looked over at the speaker, Salvek.

From anyone else, it would have been said with an undertone of sarcasm, but from Salvek it came out as straight as possible, which in and of itself made it funny in its own way.

“Yeah. I decided to go for a change. I decided the Smurfette look might suit me.”


Before Lara could reply, someone else spoke up from another part of the base camp. “Actually,” said Zander Blakeslee, “Smurfette had blue skin and yellow hair.”

Both Lara and Salvek looked over at Zander incredulously.

Blakeslee shrugged his shoulders. “The twins,” he nonchalantly replied.

Lara nodded and then said, “All I have to say is that I cannot wait until the others try to wash this stuff off.”


Lt. Lara Valera Ryn
Science Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

NRPG: Out of curiosity, to see if there were indeed “trillions” of people in the Federation, I looked it up. According to the Star Trek wiki, there are 9.85 trillion people living amongst the 155 Federation member worlds. That’s an average of 63.5 billion people on each world….. Granted there are colony planets and whatnot but still… overpopulated much? The current population density of earth is 34 people per square mile. To increase that 10-fold, it would be 340 per square mile… and that is taking advantage of ALL the land mass, including places no one wants to live, like Antarctica, the Sahara, and Canada (You know I’m just kidding, Counselor!) So the next time you are stuck in line at the grocery store behind three people while your Chunky Monkey ice cream is melting, just be glad you aren’t behind 30 people. (Of course if you had a replicator you wouldn’t need to grocery shop.)-Salvek

1002: Changing Ways

By Wren Elton
Hours After The Ghost’s Confession

-=The Afterthought Café; USS Serendipity=-

Wren couldn’t believe what she’d done. Looking back over her actions as she’d written that letter and slid it under his door it felt like it had to have been someone else, only it couldn’t be. It couldn’t be because if anyone else had been that stupid, if anyone else had dared to endanger him like this whatever their reasons, then she’d be locked away in the ship’s brig right now after killing or at least seriously assaulting them. That was no exaggeration, as she thought in disgust of that woman who’d done this horrible thing she knew she could never forgive her if it hurt him. She knew if she was ever going to live with herself she had to somehow make this better.

So here she found herself pacing in quick steps along the floor of her café; a habit she knew she’d picked up from Rada. The door was locked and the lights were down so no one could think she wanted company right now. There was only one way out of this Hell she’d made for herself and that was getting that letter back. She swore that door would not open until she’d come up with a way to do it but none was forthcoming.

This was why this normally calm and centred woman was at this moment overflowing with that particularly staining breed of frustration that meant nothing could go right. Even the length of the floor in the café felt wrong. One second it was too small as she felt she could barely concentrate having to turn around every third step. The next it was too large as she found herself doubling back before even approaching the wall because that’s just where the wall should have been if this place were properly designed. Of course the reality of the situation was that everything that was wrong was in her. Her breathing refused to settle on a single smooth rate. Her legs wanted to go somewhere but they didn’t know where so instead seemed to be pulling her in every direction at once. It was her brain which was the real problem though as it just refused to do anything useful at all.

The same sequence of thoughts repeated over and over in her mind. She had to somehow get into his quarters. In order to do that she had to get someone to let her in. No one was going to let her in if she didn’t tell them why and she doubted they’d believe any excuse. If she told them that she’d endangered his life and sanity like this then she was quite certain that they’d have her thrown off the ship. That would mean she’d really lost him.

What would have at other times been a smirk was instead now a short and quite unintentional sound; less than a sigh and worlds away from as satisfying. She felt her thoughts were starting to sound like his. His thought patterns were after all extremely contagious; they always had been. He’d had this ability; often amusing, occasionally heartbreaking and always endearing, of starting with the smallest things and working them in his mind by a perfectly reasonable process to the greatest disaster. Now here she was starting with a single pen and paper and watching as they wrote the story of the hollow and lonely ends of all their lives.

She cursed though that her thoughts were different for one very simple reason; his thoughts tended to come before the disaster was already unstoppably underway. For a life time she’d acted first; that had always been her problem and for this night she hated herself for it. When you were young and it was fun you loved it about yourself. When you got a little older and it was rebellious you respected it about who you are. When you took a few blows because of it and started to find the wisdom to notice the consequences you started to accept it as just part of who you were. When nights like this came you vowed you were going to change it. Again she cursed herself that she never did change it; this may have been the worst but it was far from the first such night.

It’s a horrible thing for any mother to say but she’d sworn she was going to never do anything this stupid again when she learnt she was pregnant with Tam. Of course she absolutely loved Tam no matter what, it was his father that she hated. He’d left her with nothing out of the interests of more logical pursuits. Worse than that, he’d taken from her the best thing that had ever happened to her in a life to then otherwise bereft of any true meaning. So quickly she up and left Rada; her very next stupid decision.

Still, with ironic disgust she considered that she always knew best. Rada would have wanted to stay with her and so she left to let him, no to force him to stay in Starfleet. She pushed him away because she knew better than to let him love her as he wanted. Then when finally seven years later he found her again she pushed him away on the grounds that Starfleet was where he had to be.

Why the Hell she’d done that she genuinely didn’t know anymore. She had no idea what exactly she felt was better for him being part of this organisation made for war that flew innocent young men and their loving families into the jaws of some impossible enemy that a living breathing being had to be sacrificed to every single time so that the rest of them could survive it. They could have had a nice home. They could have had a comfortable life. They could have lived upside down in a shack on Jupiter’s ice moon Europa and they’d have been happy because it was their ice moon. Yet she couldn’t let that be.

It wasn’t like he’d gotten anything out of Starfleet. No, that was wrong. Starfleet had given him plenty. It’d given him friends, opportunities and a sense of purpose. It was her he’d never gotten anything out of. Everything she’d ever given him was gone, stripped away by a violent assault to his peaceful soul he never would have suffered through without her and leaving in its place nothing more than a bleeding empty wound.

She felt like she was going crazy. Her situation couldn’t be this bad. All she had to do was to get rid of a single envelope. Eight years ago she’d once gotten rid of a troublesome workman near her property with just a couple of well chosen words and a suggestive glance to his foreman. She had skills. She used to do this type of thing all the time and back then she never needed a plan. She’d just walk in to a room and let her senses and her instincts lead the way.

As she remembered that woman she’d once been she suddenly knew what she had to do. She stopped her pacing and instead moved quickly to see her reflection in the shining glass of an old photograph fixed on the wall. She could hardly see herself in it, it was certainly a forgiving medium, and she knew that was what her confidence needed now. She already knew that she was a mess anyway.

With a few quick motions of her hands she tried to force her hair to sit down right. Again and again she tried but it still wasn’t working. It was hard but it was a trivially simple matter compared to when she next tried to force on a smile. It was a weak smile but would still be convincing as long as they’d avoid looking in her eyes. Finally her hair was at least something close to her satisfaction.

Soon she was on her way to the nearest turbolift she could find. She’d need a security officer and so she momentarily considered going deck six but quickly she realised the type of security officer she’d need would be on deck eight. Moments later she’d stepped into the Illusions Lounge.

The first thing she did was to order herself a bourbon then downed it quickly to stop it from drawing attention to the shaking of her hand. Trick London didn’t miss her state of mind, his senses far too well tuned, but the look she gave him said enough that he’d let her have a little time alone if that’s what she felt she needed. A little time was all she needed as as soon as surveying the rest of the lounge she very quickly knew just who she’d ask to help her.

By his uniform he was a security officer and by the unmistakably dishevelled state he’d allowed it to get into it was evident that he wasn’t the type of man who thought the job was just a uniform. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a proud man; he had a most definite confidence in the slightly slurred way he was shouting at the woman who’d just left him alone at his table by the wall. It wasn’t an angry shouting but rather the kind of a man trying to make a case when he didn’t have one. He was after all disappointed, having had what he would call high hopes for this particular evening and that particular young lady.

After taking a single long breath to collect herself Wren was soon walking towards him. She kept her steps intentionally slow but deliberate as if she knew exactly what she wanted but it would be in her own time that she got it. The security officer pretended not to have noticed her just yet though he was clearly looking out of the corner of his eye over her.

It would have been pretty hard for him to continue to pretend not to notice her as she took the chair directly across from him. Evidently he’d chosen not to even try as he nodded coolly to her with just a hint of confusion.

“Hi.” She said shyly, sounding ever so innocent as she didn’t quite make eye contact.

“Hello.” He said firmly, clearing his throat. “Why…I mean, what brings you to my humble table?”

It was clear he’d been attempting to be clever and so politely Wren giggled. This was evidently what he considered to be a satisfying reaction.

“Actually I was wondering if you could do something for me.”

“Well, that…” he began, before correcting himself as he considered the possibilities. “absolutely anything.”

“Aren’t you sweet?” Wren asked with a smile that betrayed just how much she’d hoped never to be in a situation anything like this again.

Evidently the man once again approved of her reaction as his drunken eye started to wander slightly.

“You see,” Wren explained. “I not too long ago broke up with my boyfriend.”

“Mhmm.” He answered, attempting to be both coolly dispassionate and interested.

“And I left some things in his quarters.”


“So, I was just hoping you could let me in to get them while he’s off ship? You could be outside the entire time.”

She felt it was going well until he had the unfortunate sense to internally ask himself a question. *Why’d she come to me for this?*

Wren’s face fell slightly but she quickly corrected it.

“I don’t know.” He said carefully eyeing here. “I’d better check…”

Quickly Wren took his hand firmly but gently in a way to tell him his help would greatly be appreciated.

“You have to understand that he has friends high up in security who’d tell him I was there even though I’m really trying to put him behind me.” She suggested in a slightly firmer tone. “It’s just better for everyone if this stays off the record.”

Unbelievably he seemed almost satisfied with her answer though she imagined that had something to do with what he understood to have been meant by the word ‘everyone’.

“I can understand that.” He agreed. “Who is this jerk anyway?”

“Rada Dengar.” She answered, almost getting angry for how this man was talking about Rada even if he hadn’t known who he was.

“The Chief Engineer?” The man asked with shock. “Now you have to understand, that’s different…”

“I understand.” She said, slumping her shoulders and preparing to get up. “It’s alright if you’re frightened…”

“No!” He objected gesturing for her to stay, before more calmly correcting himself. “I mean; no. I just meant that overriding the codes may be different.”

Wren knew she was lying but she simply smiled and let him believe his deception as if he was just too smart for little old her.

“Okay, so can we get going?” She asked, trying to move things along before he thought anymore than he had.

“Woah, what’s your rush?” he objected, panicking that she actually was just looking to get into her ex-boyfriend’s quarters. “Stay, have a few drinks…have…”

His eyes seemed to finish his sentence for him and Wren felt a puddle of disgust beginning, dripping slowly down her body. It was made even worse by the way he’d started rubbing his thumb along the skin of her hand. She gave the slightest shudder and without even thinking she yanked her hand away; something he evidently didn’t care for by his expression.

“Please,” She asked politely but certainly more firmly as she felt like she was failing. “Can’t you just help me now?”

“Of course, I can.” He said, his eyes falling insistently on her and leaning in closer as if her gestures weren’t quite enough to discourage him. “As long as you agree to come back to my place afterwards to finish that drink we’ll be missing out on….”

Suddenly Wren felt very dirty and she quickly stood up from the table.

“You know what, forget it.” she insisted quickly; this was no longer the way she could do things.

The man didn’t even blink, just stared in confusion as he watched this odd woman walking quickly out of Illusions.

Wren Elton
Manager, Afterthought Café
USS Serendipity NCC-2012

1001: Every Lock, Save One

By Rada Dengar and Keiran O'Sullivan
Soundtrack: Farewell to Nantes, by Shaun Davey
After Last Man Standing


-=Serendipity Base Camp, on Sibalt=-

Regardless of whether you were on the winning side or even if you were one of those who actually enjoyed camping in the dirt beneath the stars you should have been flying by, today had been one of those truly exhausting days.

For many in both the Sera and the Alchemy’s camp this had started to show. Their bodies called for real food, true warmth and a nice comfortable bed. For some their mouths could frequently be caught calling for these same things even more loudly. Rada Dengar was however not one of those given to complaining.

It wasn’t that he didn’t feel like protesting their current circumstances; he was most certainly not in the state or the mood to be trapped on this dull, unpleasant planet. The fact that he’d not only chosen a life on board of a starship but one which involved him spending half his time on top of, beneath, or inside an important ship’s system should have made it entirely clear that he had a fondness for all the higher technology they’d denied him here. However all complaining about the things you couldn’t change would achieve for you would be the irritation of those around and he’d much rather let the Ledbetters and the Steeles of this world face that particular situation alone. Irritated people tended to be loud; Rada was sure that if anything could help him right now it was the quiet.

At least quiet was something he’d mostly been able to achieve. It was late here now and in that frustrating way they tended to do, this planet had decided it was time for them to rest no matter what they may have wanted to do, so the light and warmth of the day had slowly faded away. Everyone else was already in their tents. Earlier all those still awake had opted for an evening walk around the area, but they had long since returned tired out and locked themselves away.

He alone had refused to go with them.

Many other times he’d have enjoyed such a walk, especially taken alone, but it was and for a long time had been far too cold here for him to want to leave the slowly dying fire until he was finally entirely ready to sleep.

Crewman Parrish was his tent-mate for tonight again; a relative stranger, and though Rada trusted him as much as he did almost any other member of this crew he knew he’d have to be completely exhausted before he’d easily fall asleep anywhere he was denied privacy for his dreams. Of course, the great advantage of exhaustion was that tonight he may not have had any dreams. That would take true exhaustion though and as much as he felt it in his mind he knew his body was not yet there.

So he sat here by this fire that by this time of night it was decided was better just to let die. Where once it roared with life it now merely managed the occasional whisper of faint crackles from the remains of the once mighty logs. It gave off more smoke than heat at this point; the dry and dusty smell of which he was sure by now had permanently attached itself to his clothing.

At least the smoke was now flowing mostly upwards rather than towards him in the way it did to say 'even the weather opposes you'. It was largely undisturbed by the cold, unpredictable winds that made the leaves in the trees dance the smallest of steps to an unfortunate, discordant tune.

Ultimately there was rather little for the senses here now. It was too dark to see far on the land and the stars above were blocked by the low rainless clouds in the sky. The coarse bark on the log on which he sat, just too low to give real comfort to his knees, was an unusual sensation to one so used to the smoothed and finished world that was a starship, but his fingers had quickly told him they found nothing interesting in being run along the wood. They were definitely reaching for something but he was certain it wasn't here.

So he had no option left but to time and again replay the events of the day in his mind. He looked on like a stranger at his unexpected actions, his ridiculous reactions and Kellyn’s help as she tried to make it seem like his life wasn’t exactly as empty as it was. They’d spoken for some time before he finally knew he had to leave and she kindly let him empty some paint from her weapon onto his clothing so he could get out of the game without being fired on. He sadly smirked at the fact that right now he had no idea how he’d have even have reacted to an ‘injury’ inside the game.

So captive was he to these thoughts that he didn’t realise he was being observed through the door of one of the tents, just slightly drawn back so they could see him.

“How long did you think he’s going to stay out there?” Liis quietly asked of her husband.

“As long as he can.” Was Keiran’s simple but well considered answer.

”It’s hard to imagine what’s going on in his mind right now.” Liis added as she moved, as much as one could move inside a small tent such as this, until she was sat up behind her husband with her arms around his chest.

"Hard ta imagine.” Keiran agreed, finally releasing the door and letting it fall back in place as he laid his hands on top of Liis’. “But tis’ easy ta remember.”

Liis instantly recognised that tone, the one when Keiran was both thinking ‘there but for the grace of God’ and remembering when that same God’s graces had failed him. She made a point of pulling him closer.

Seconds passed with them sitting together in silent contemplation before Keiran finally turned towards her with heart melting eyes that stared down to her soul and left no doubt in their pain of understanding just how much he loved her.

He said simply, “I haveta talk ta him.”

Even knowing the risk Liis made no attempt to argue. She knew Keiran would say nothing he felt would put Rada in any more danger than he was already in if left too long on his own.

“What are you going to say?” She asked, but it was clear Keiran didn’t have any sort of a plan yet.

“I’ll only know that when I’ve said it.”

As she’d done many times before Liis kissed him in a way to tell him to be gone as long as he had to but not a second longer. Keiran got the message very clearly.

As he grasped the edge of the tent flap again and pulled it back he heard emotion clearly reflected in Liis' voice as she called, wanting his attention a moment longer. "O'Sullivan."

He tilted his head in question, again directing those eyes at her that stopped her every thought with just a glance.

"Here and now." She whispered, and he nodded once. He seemed to be struggling to release her eyes from his gaze, as if she were an apparition that would fade the moment he dared look away. She added one final, heartfelt reassurance before finally breaking their stare.

"I love you, Keiran."

He closed his eyes for an instant, exhaling involuntarily as a familiar, bittersweet ache in his chest forced the air from his lungs.

After all they had been through and all the times that he'd fought to stay by her side, longing every day to hear her say those simple, most meaningful of words he could never take for granted hearing them now.

Reluctantly he stepped out from their tent and slowly approached Rada, ensuring he kept his steps quiet as not to startle the young Angosian. Evidently, they weren’t quiet enough as Rada had quickly turned to him and a sense of guilt seemed instantly to have overtaken him.

“I’m sorry, sir.” Rada said quietly but very sincerely with the smoke having left his throat drier than he’d realised. “If the fire is disturbing to you I can put it out now.”

"Didn' disturb an'a'one. Was just wonderin' if I might join you for a little while."

"Actually, I was just thinking about turning in." Rada responded.

"Suit yerself." Keiran plunked down on the log beside Rada and picked up a stick from the pile of kindling next to it. He poked the flames, stirring the embers up again. When that was insufficient to create more light than smoke, he took a larger log from the pile and added it to the lot. He couldn't tell exactly what Dengar was thinking but he saw him shift uncomfortably- he seemed very much anxious to go, but unsure if he truly had the right.

"Don' let me keep ya here if you've set your mind on sleepin'." Keiran insisted, as he poked the embers around until the new log caught. With a whooshing sound the fire finally spread, and immediately the cold air seemed just a little less chilling.

"I'm not sure if I could sleep if I tried." Rada muttered softly, holding his hands out closer to the revived flames.

"Well, if i's any consolation to ya a'tall, have had many nights like that mehself." Keiran volunteered softly. His voice was barely a whisper, and he turned his massive frame more toward Rada's so that he could speak as softly as possible and still be heard. "Sometimes, talkin' things over a bit with someone who can be trusted ta keep a confidence can help."

The remark was an assertion of that particular skill and also an offer of help; Rada understood the man's words clearly enough to know that. He just wished he knew what it was exactly that was keeping him awake, then perhaps he'd be able to find the courage to confess it.

"Thank you, Sir. I'm sure that it's nothing." Rada lied, and rather unconvincingly at that. Now, Keiran's eyes turned more thoughtful than inquisitive.

"My wife has often said to me," a small smile curled just the corner of his lips. It was a sad expression though, Rada noted, and he wondered just what haunted memories lived behind it. "Said that 'with you, 'tis nothin' always means 'tis somethin'. And she does it while mocking my accent."

"She never truly mocks your accent, Sir." Rada said with a sense of knowing that made him wonder. He was surer of this than he'd been of almost anything recently. "She only teases you because she's so very fond of it."

"I suspect you're right, Mister Dengar." Keiran poked the fire again. Finally, as tired and anxious as he was to get back to that wife of his, he found that his patience for this game of cat, mouse and polite evasion was wearing thin. "Look, Rada, here it is." The Irishman set the long twig in his hand aside finally and put that hand on Dengar's shoulder instead.

"Eventually, things get ta be too much for a man to carry. Whether or not we're exactly sure what it is that's troublin' our souls, our souls don't lie like our minds and even our hearts can. We can try to convince ourselves that ev'ra'thin' is fine. We can even keep up the front for a while. A good long while, if we're determined enough. I know, because 'ave done it. But the soul keeps twistin' in ya. Pokin' at ya, every time you close your eyes. It is the voice that whispers in the silence and refuses to let us sleep." He paused a moment, allowing his words to sink in. "There's a hell of a price to pay for the lyin' to ourselves, Rada. I hate to think the years of life it's taken off my future. Don't like seein' the same thing happen to an'a'one else."

On the outside Rada’s expression remained unmoved as he silently sat watching O’Sullivan finish his explanation, yet on the inside he felt the slightest change bending his very world view. It was like staring at a painting and suddenly noticing a subtle detail you never had before; bringing you closer to finally understanding what it means. He’d always seen Keiran as O’Sullivan the strong, the mighty, and though he didn’t doubt that view for a moment, now he saw so clearly that there was so much more. So many times Rada had felt like he was slowly breaking apart and he was only finally imagining that even a man like O’Sullivan had, too.

"Thing is...in the end, you can keep lyin' to ev'ra'one but yerself. If ya succeed in it, you'll never be the man ya want ta be. But whether or not 'tis a compromise ya can live with is somethin' only a man can decide for himself, no matter what an'a'one else says. So." Keiran rose slowly, his knees creaked as he did so and at the moment he felt every bit his age. "If you decide you wan'ta talk, ya know where ta find me. But even if ya don' talk to me, or the Coun'slr, or an'a'one else among the crew..." he held his arms out to the sides. "Try to at least be honest with yerself about what you feel, even if you're not sure the emotions make sense to ya. It might help ya ta figure their meaning out later if you admit at least that you're feelin' like hell now."

O'Sullivan turned and began to walk away. After a moment, Dengar called after him softly.

"I wonder," Rada began slowly, as Keiran stepped back up to him. "If this coma that I suffered, these memory lapses." He shook his head, "I wonder if this might not be what it feels like to have your memory resequenced the way that you and the Captain have been through before."

Keiran's eyes flashed something that Dengar could've sworn was a split second of fear, but quickly it was gone. "Maybe if you describe it to me, I can tell ya." Keiran stalled for time, afraid of saying the wrong thing but not wanting Dengar to stop talking now, either.

“It is…” Rada began trying in earnest but that was felled by the knowledge that nothing he’d say could really capture it “It is something I wish I could explain.” A glance at Keiran showed him that that was something he could understand and by extension let him try again. “Do you know that feeling when you’re dreaming? It’s when you see things all around you that don’t make sense, that could never exist, but when you look at them you think they’re just how everything is. Your mind fills in the gaps around you with small explanations as they’re needed so fluidly that you don’t even know it’s doing it.” Rada paused a moment to observe Keiran and while every man’s dreams are different he could see that still he understood. “Well, this experience is the exact reverse of that. Everything makes sense, it’s all so reasonable, but as you see it it’s like you know that’s not how it is. You feel like your mind’s filling in gaps that by all reason just aren’t there. Only your dreams really feel real.”

Rada stopped, sighing, then waited for Keiran to respond. The Irishman however was unsure just what it was safe to say so instead let the seconds pass in silence forcing Rada to make the next move.

"Is that anything at all like what you've experienced?" Rada asked finally.

Keiran nodded slowly. "Yeah. Sounds a hell of a lot like it."

From the instant that he’d said it Keiran feared he’d just lit a fire or a fuse he could never extinguish as Rada began to stare off into the distance. Silently Keiran could only observe and hold his breath as pieces fell together in Rada’s mind. It was like watching a vault sealed with a hundred locks as the keys were turned, one by one. Each one clicked and clanged with increasing volume, a warning that the safety of the space and all that it may contain was about to be irrevocably breached. Then finally the turning seemed to stop with just a single lock left in place.

Perhaps the terror he felt in this moment was closer to that of someone trying to diffuse a bomb with too little time to complete the task; helplessly left watching the timer on the counter tick down from three to zero before their eyes.

In this case, the action of the mechanism had miraculously stopped on its own at one second until detonation, leaving Keiran frozen with stunned relief but still anxious in the knowledge that if the device was switched back on just as suddenly that Dengar would have no chance of escaping the destruction of the explosion.

Rada slowly turned back to O’Sullivan and seemed to look at him with eyes that had changed drastically within recent seconds. Quietly but genuinely Rada whispered, “Thank you, sir,” before looking down again to the fire.

Keiran didn’t need an explanation of what he was being thanked for. Slowly he began to move off again towards his tent, unsure that Rada would sleep any easier now but knowing he’d done as much as he dared.

Keiran hadn’t gotten more than two steps though before he heard Rada speak again, this time dropping any thoughts of their respective ranks. “It’s frightening, isn’t it?”

Keiran simply nodded before continuing on his way, speaking with haunting sincerity. “Aye, ‘tis.”

Lt. Commander Rada Dengar
Chief Engineering Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012


Commander Keiran O'Sullivan
Security Liaison to The Alchemy ProjectUSS Serendipity NCC-2012

1000: Last Man Standing

by Dane Cristiane and Landry Steele
(As told by Commander Salvek)


After the elimination of Tubman, Parrish and Tenney, the tide slowly began to turn in favor of the Alchemy crew, despite the loss of Salvek.

What the Counselor lacked in wilderness combat skills, he more than made up for with his ability to “see” through rocks, trees, and anything else someone may be hiding behind. Adding to this talent his formidable skill at a similar game from his homeworld, he was nearly unstoppable despite struggling against the weather and his own fatigue. Reece and Grace’s would-be revenge against the Betazoid was spoiled when Vol Tryst had the last laugh against both Trills.

Reece first was spotted, in more ways than one, trying to get a butterfly to land on his finger in an open meadow. Vol waited patiently for the butterfly to move to a safe distance, and deposited a splatter of paint right between his shoulder blades.

“Shoot me in the back, eh Coun’sler? Too chicken to face me?” Dabin crowed in a horrific attempt to mimic Keiran’s accent.

“Not at all, Dabin. I just didn’t want to hurt Reece.” Vol shot back.

He had a feeling Grace was likely nearby as well, and Dabin was trying to keep him distracted so he would not pick up her approach.

“Yeah yeah yeah. So, you get anyone else yet Vol?”

Vol shut him out, trying to tune in on February’s thoughts. She was close, but he wasn’t sure exactly where.

At that moment, a high-pitched squeal accompanied by the sound of a voice over a bullhorn filled the forest. February could not help but groan in pain from the intensity of it, and Vol immediately picked up her location.

“Commander Reece! You have been eliminated! Report to the detention area immediately!” The voice of Jelca Rued boomed through the trees. Vol watched February, while February watched Jelca march out of the trees and into the meadow, still holding her bullhorn, and she shouted at Reece. “Now!

“All right, I’m going, geez.” Dabin picked up his weapon and headed for the forest. February harrumph in frustration. This Jelca woman seemed to use every excuse in the world to get near her Dabin and pick on him. When she finally looked away, Vol was standing right next to her with his weapon trained on her.

“Aww man! You cheated!” She protested, surrendering her weapon.

“Your husband spoke with the Alchemy team earlier, and we all agreed, no one can bring themselves to shoot you, so…” Vol squeezed out a pellet of paint onto the tips of her shoes.

“You still cheated.” She said with pursed lips. “And those were my best boots.” She took her gun, and jogged to catch up with Dabin.

Elsewhere in the forest, Zander Blakeslee and Micah Samson fell victim to the blue painted mystery man. Jariel Camen found himself between Ryn, Cristiane and Gira Lassiter by an unfortunate happenstance. Having no intention of shooting at any of the women, he took a few failed shots at Dane, and was eventually taken out by either Ryn or Lassiter, depending on who’s paintball you believed hit him first.

T’Dara and Trev Sterling fired on and hit each other simultaneously, eliminating both from the game.

When the CO2 and paint cleared, TC Blane was the last active member of the Sera team, with Ryn, Cristiane, Lassiter, Tryst and Landry Steele, whom no one had seen since this began, on the other side.

Dane and Gira hiked through the woods together. Cristiane had two goals in this competition. The second was to win, but the primary goal was to protect Gira from getting hit. Every time she told him to spread out and give her some space, he somehow managed to wander back to her side within a few minutes. He tried to make it look like a coincidence, but she wasn’t stupid, and she wasn’t all that put off by it either.

They had passed the detention area about half an hour previously, and knew that TC Blane was the only member of the Sera crew still out there. Dane could not help but snicker, just a bit, at seeing the entire command crew locked up while he was still roaming free. His enjoyment was short lived however. The Captain was incredibly observant, and one look from her told Dane she knew exactly what he was thinking.

“I see something,” Gira whispered. She stopped walking, and lowered herself down slowly. “Definitely a woman.” She added.

“It must be Ryn.” Dane guessed. He stood up cautiously, and upon seeing with his own eyes that it was their teammate, waved her down.

“Have you seen Tryst or Steele?” Ryn asked when she made it to the top of the hill.

“Yes, I have.” Came a voice from about twenty meters away. Dane spun and trained his weapon on Vol Tryst, then lowered it down.

“I’ve been following the two of you since you left the detention area.” Vol said.

Dane snickered at the Counselor. “Who put you up to that? The Captain or O’Sullivan?”

Vol actually looked hurt by the accusation. “Maybe, Mister Cristiane, I was merely keeping close to you so that if Mister Blane ambushed you, I could move in and catch him off guard.

“Is he the only one left? Lara asked.

“Just him.” Gira confirmed. “Maybe we should stick together. He can’t shoot all four of us at the same time, and if we flush him out we should be able to get him.”

Dane kept his eyes moving across the treetops, making sure he wasn’t perched from above. “I wouldn’t underestimate him. Commander Blane is more than a match for four people. I’ve seen him.”

As if to punctuate Dane’s warning, a sphere of paint appeared, seemingly from nowhere, and splattered right on the Counselor’s chest. Dane, Gira and Lara scattered, looking for cover, and Vol’s shoulders slumped.

“Damn.” He muttered. There was still no sign of Blane, but Vol could only just now hear his thoughts as the very edge of his perception range.

TC had made it a point to take out Vol first, and he had done it from a distance to avoid being “heard” by getting too close. Thus, the Alchemy team’s greatest weapon had been neutralized. Vol shifted his eyes at Dane as he began to exit the area as per the rules, indicating which direction Blane was approaching from.

The silence was, as the saying goes, deafening as they waited. The only thing that could be heard was Vol’s footfalls crunching through the leaves, and even that vanished after a few minutes. Dane shifted his eyes back and forth between Gira and Lara, looking for some indication that one of them might have spotted Blane. He didn’t hold out much hope however. Blane would be sighted when, and if, Blane felt like it. It was entirely possible he would take all three of them out without ever being seen.

Dane’s mind raced through every training exercise he had done with Keiran. O’Sullivan had warned him that all the lessons and holodeck scenarios could teach you the basics but nothing actually prepared you for the real thing- for matching wits with another being- like being there. He was right.

TC gave Vol ample time to vacate the area, to be sure the Betazoid didn’t have the chance to compromise his position to his teammates. This delay had the secondary effect of keeping his opponents on edge as well. The trio from the Alchemy team was still looking to the West, but Blane had already circled behind them to the East. He was perched in a branch, peering through the leaves, about four meters above the ground, with Lieutenant Ryn in his sites.

His plan was simple: to fire at her and miss. When his opponents realized Blane was behind them, they would all step out into the open to return fire, giving him the chance to hit all three. With the leaves mostly obscuring him from view, he was confident he could hit all three before any of them could lock on.

Blane sent a single shot, flying just over Ryn’s shoulder. Gira saw the paint splatter, and spun around. “He’s behind us!”

“Gira, no! Get behind the tree!” Dane shouted, as Lassiter stepped away from the tree, looking for Blane, along with Ryn. He was too far away to catch her, as the next shot from Blane splattered right on Gira’s leg. She tossed her weapon aside in frustration.

Lara squinted into the setting sun, trying to determine where the shot had come from. Her split second of hesitation cost her, as Blane shifted his weapon from Gira, back onto Ryn, and delivered another shot, eliminating the science officer.

Dane was not taking Blane’s bait, he remained hidden behind a tree, and had gotten a pretty good fix on where TC was based on the shot that had taken out Ryn. He returned fire, but his shots disappeared into the leaves. Even if he had hit Blane, he wouldn’t even know it.

“Get him.” Gira muttered to Dane.

*Easier said than done, but for you, I will try. * Dane thought. He nodded to both women, as Lara and Gira walked off side by side. He was alone now, and TC was out there. Dane didn’t expect Blane to take it easy on him, either. Blane never took it easy on him. All Dane could do is hold on to what he had learned, and hope for a miracle.

He realized the tree he had taken refuge behind was barely as large in diameter as Dane was broad in shoulder, meaning he had very little coverage around him. He was faced with the choice of holding his ground, or making a break for a larger tree. There was a pop of CO2, and a paintball narrowly missed his right shoulder. Dane instinctively flinched to the left, exposing his other shoulder. Blane fired again, and Dane had no choice but to dive away to avoid being hit.

He landed in the mud at the base of the tree, coving his uniform, face and hands with cold, wet filth. He fired wildly back in Blane’s direction. One of the shots must have actually come close. TC muttered a small profanity, and slipped off a branch. He held onto it with his one free hand, and then let go, dropping to the ground below. Seeing the opportunity, Dane began spraying paint at Blane.

TC rolled across the forest floor as Dane tried desperately to get a hit. Somehow through all the mud, leaves, and spinning, Blane managed to actually take aim with his own weapon, and shoot back. Dane went flat in the mud, and the shots went over his head.

Both men were drenched in dirt and muck by this point, making them even harder to actually distinguish from the forest floor. Blane rolled himself behind a tree for cover, and quickly regained his footing.

Dane was now faced with another choice. To retreat to a safe position, or use TC’s moment of vulnerability to try and finish him off. He struggled with mud caked boots to get back on his feet. The truth was he had only flushed Blane out of the trees by pure luck. If he let TC go now, he may never have another chance.

He charged the tree, knowing he had to guess left side or right side, and so did Blane. If Dane came around the tree on the side Blane was guarding, TC would hit him right in the chest. But if Dane came around the other side, he would have an easy shot at TC’s back. It all came down to a fifty-fifty choice.

Dane picked left, spun around the tree, and fired.

There was no one there. He looked straight up, to see Blane, who as quietly as a small animal had climbed the tree without Dane even noticing. Dane fell to the ground, and covered his head as Blane fired a single shot, right into Dane’s back.

Dane pounded his fist in the mud in frustration, and then tried to draw himself up from the mud. As he did, he heard a second shot from a paintball gun. “You got me the first time!” He shouted, then looked up at Blane.

TC’s mouth was agape, and Dane was shocked to see a huge purple splatter right in the center of Blane’s chest.

“Son of a b…” Blane muttered.

Dane spun around to see where the shot had come from.

“HA! Ha ha ha ha! I got one! How do you like them apples TC Blane!” Landry Steele was laughing and bouncing on her heels in excitement, about ten meters away, with her weapon still pointed right at TC.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Blane just shook his head in complete incredulity. “Where did you come from?” He demanded.

“Well, I was taking a nap in this little cave I found, and when I woke up I decided to see if the game was over yet, cause I’m really hungry. Then I found you and Dane, and… ha! I got ya!”

Landry was definitely true to her word. While Dane and TC were both covered with muck, Landry was still perfectly clean, looking as if she only needed a fancy dress to be ready for an evening on the town. Dane was trying very hard not to smile, knowing if TC saw him taking any sort of amusement from this, the Dane would be scrubbing the deuterium injectors with his fingernails for the next two years. Possibly while they were in use.

The conversation was interrupted by the hum of a transporter. Jelca Rued appeared, right next to Landry. “Ensign Steele, congratulations. You are the last standing member of the Alchemy team. The Serendipity team was officially eliminated when you hit Commander Blane. I hereby declare the Alchemy team the victors of this competition.”

“Woot! Go me!” Landry shouted.


Dane Cristiane and Landry Steele
As told by Commander Salvek
On behalf of the winning Alchemy team
Currently on Sibalt

NRPG: An official "1000th post" message will follow soon in the From the Ready Room section...~ZL