"Etre à L'ouest"

OFF: CHALLENGE POST

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THE FESSARIUS, FLAGSHIP OF THE FIRST FEDERATION

“Ah, Commander Svorak.” Balok greeted the Romulan as he entered the Fessarius’ flight deck. With him was an impressive sight; a full complement of shock troops.

“Balok what is the meaning of this? My men have been locked out of the ships systems!” the Commander glowered as he approached Balok.

“Ah! A slight change of plans Commander, will you join me for a last drink before you depart?” Balok raised a glass of tranya towards the Romulan only to have it dashed to the deck.

“Depart? Are you mad?”

The Commander’s words were cut short as - with a sharp thrust - Balok plunged an ornate jeweled dagger into Svorak’s chest. “Mad?” Balok giggled, with a twist of the blade, “My dear Svorak I am furious, and your services are no longer... required.” Balok sneered and tapped an activation code into his seat console. The golden haze of transporter beams removed the Romulans, and their fatally wounded commander, from his ship and he watched their bodies materialize through the view screen. They writhed for mere seconds before the bitter vacuum of space reduced them to frost etched statues.

His plan had been fool proof. He’d faked orders from Starfleet, drawn the Endeavor into the nebula and used a Romulan device to create a telepathic nightmare of which the Federation ship shouldn’t have been able to escape.Victory had been within his grasp but the Romulans lost their nerve and actually helped save the imperiled ship’s crew, abandoning their plan and his bargain in their foolishness.

So be it.

He still had the telepathic device and though the Endeavor was now free of the Nebula, and its amplifying effects, he could still make use of it to manipulate members of her crew left vulnerable by their recent ordeal.

“Computer show me the Endeavor.” Balok ordered as he sipped on his sweet blue tranya. He licked his lips slowly as the Galaxy Class vessel appeared on the viewscreen. “Activate the Aenar Transmitter and target Lt Vaanaras.”

“AENAR LINK ESTABLISHED,” Came the reply, “SUBJECT VAANARAS COMPLIANT.”

“Execute command Gamma Five Alpha.” Sitting back to enjoy the show, he poured himself a fresh glass of tranya.

THE ENDEAVOR - CREW QUARTERS 02:00

Held aloft by a gentle zephyr, Vaanaras rose as a star among mortals with a shine so brilliant her entire body shimmered with ethereal light. The stronger Stonehenge sand, the stronger and brighter she glittered until the combination of light and sound began to threaten the safety of those who came upon it.

She could see, through eyes of amethyst, those that gazed upon her malice; an emotion she learned to fear. Worse, she could see the malicious gleam of her own reflection in the blade of a knife sharp enough to rend bone in two. It glistened wetly, highlighted by her own astral beauty, and though she tried to flee, it was in vain.

Tulde held the weapon high in his pudgy grasp, "RELEASE ME AS I RELEASE HER! TO THE STARS!" she heard him bellow, and before she could even muster a scream, pain blossomed through her entire body, stemming from a grotesque wound at the center of her chest.

Looking down, the star-child could see the hilt of the dagger resting against her naked flesh and blood oozing from around it. It pouring down the length of her body in macabre sanguine rivulets and the skipping of her valiant heart told the rest of the tale.

The calm of night was suddenly shattered when Vaanaras awoke with a start to a darkness that could only come from living on a starship. She was drenched in sweat and her eyes were wide as saucers with fear as she slowly ended her fight against the tangle of her bedsheets.

That irrational sort of fear continued to gnaw at her even though she knew she was was far from the standing stones - but knowing that didn't stop her from bringing her hands to her chest, expecting for there to be blood. Her hands came away dry, but it did little to solve her disorientation.

The little Vorta's ears strained, convinced that if she listened close enough she'd hear the creaking of a deck plate beneath Tulde's rotund weight or the gurgle of her own blood as it bubbled through the hole his knife had left in her chest. She also knew, somewhere in the back of her mind, that if she did hear such things, she'd go completely and utterly mad.

Neither ever came.

All that persisted was the steady thrumming of the ship. With a sigh, Vaanaras allowed her weary head to rescind once more to her pillow and her eyes to flutter shut as sleep - or something like it - began to overtake her.

TEN FORWARD 02:00

“So if the Roumulans are real and London was an illusion then where is the detective?” Ensign McCree asked.

“Oh Lords not this again!” Mok groaned.

“Nobody has seen the Lieutenant Commander since our… return.” Bolak commented as he poured a fresh round of Tranya.

“He’s probably been confined to quarters for crimes against comedy.” Mok grumbled, “I ask you a Klingon with a passion for puns?”

“He’s not just a Klingon,” McCree piped in, “He’s a Khinsharri and…”

The Bolian turned and poked a finger in McCrees chest “I know what he is. I saw it with my own two eyes. Some kind of fish powered demon plucking ships and people out of the air with his… his... magical amulet!”

Bolak coughed, “Well, technically that was just an illusion... too.”

Before the blue skinned barber could explode with rage, a sudden high pitched ringing interrupted their conversation. Bolak put down his glass and blinked.

“What’s wrong?” Mok asked, “You look like you have seen a ghost?”

“What is that noise?” asked McCree at the same time as he peered around looking for the source of the sound.

Reaching beneathing the counter, Bolak revealed a large, green, glowing and ‘singing’ stone.

“Is that?” Mok began just as McCree hissed, “the Nebula stone.”

“No.. no it is not.” Bolak explained, “It is a Linnik Resonance Crystal, similar to a Federation Tricorder. It has multiple uses depending on how it’s tuned.”

“But why does it look like the Nebula Stone?” McCree asked.

“More to the point why did the Nebula Stone look like it?” Bolak corrected the ensign, “The appearance of this device of my home world and the prominence of my dear brother Balok in our little adventure have been plaguing me ever since we have returned. So much so that I tuned this device to scan for Linnik energy signals.”

“And now it has found one.” gasped Mok as he stared down at the crystal.

“We need to find out where this signal is coming from and more importantly what it is aimed at.” Bolak peered across the bar to where the vast girth of Lt Tulde could be seen hunched over his drink. The Linnik’s eyes narrowed as he watched the Tellarite. He’d been subdued since their return - after all, his role in their imaginary charade had been one of a minor villain’s and many of the crew were having a tough time forgetting it.

“Hey Tulde we need a word.” Bolak called to the Tellarite.

Tulde turned with a squeal, “I am off duty, leave me alone.”

Mok raised his hands in defence, “Calm down. We just need your help.”

“With this.” Bolak added, holding up the resonance crystal.

The Tellarite’s normally squinty little eyes suddenly widened and he snatched for the stone, “Give it to me, I must deliver it to my Lady!”

“I don’t think so.” Bolak managed hold on it when Mok stepped up and poked Tulde hard in the chest.

“What you need to do is take us to security and patch this thing in to the ships scanners. We are in danger.” he growled. Tulde startled and finally nodded.

“Move!” Bolak cried as the Tellarite lifted his considerable bulk from his seat. It creaked violently in protest, “We haven’t time!”

DECK 36 02:25

It was cold and there was water, the brutality of it was undeniable - biting at every harrowed step the little Vorta took. If she tried to stop, even for an instant, the ice rose in an attempt to claim her.

"Know no fear, Vaanaras," from within the fathoms shuddered a voice so familiar and dear it threatened to squeeze her heart, "Inspiration comes from faith, do I inspire you?"

She couldn't see him, though her eyes darted wildly along the otherwise empty hall. The ship itself was only supported by a skeleton crew, and nary a soul was to be seen any which way she looked. No matter where she turned, there was nothing but open corridor and closed doors surrounding her like an army and behind her? Death. Cold, cruel, death. "You do inspire me," She whispered, rushing forward on legs that felt as if they were made of cement, "Where are you?!"

"Your faith is now your test, Vaana." The disembodied voice filtered back through the din, "Can you pass it? Will you save me?"

Each step clawed viciously at her energy reserves, but stopping wasn’t an option. She wouldn’t drown, and she wouldn’t fail at this new evaluation of her faith and love, “I’m coming, Avakhon,” She whimpered, willing herself to move faster through the corridor. It felt as though she were flying, though in reality the body of the little woman swayed like a rag doll, bouncing off bulkheads and stumbling along on feet moving not much faster than a crawl.

"I know you will, baby. I know you will." ‘Avakhon’ whispered soothingly in her ear, crooning as if he were ever so near. "The doors all around you lead to different paths. Only one will lead you to your final trial and bring you and our child back to me. You must move swiftly and choose wisely." It continued, urging her along, "Have faith, Vaana. Have faith. You can only succeed through faith."

And faith she had… Though there had to be at least twenty doors surrounding her and none of them seemed particularly interesting. Still, she continued to move away from the icy waves that bubbled up in her wake.

"This way!" The voice hissed, and Vaanaras swung her head around. One of the doors to her left beckoned her forth, but uncertainty lingered within the Vorta's mind.

"I said have faith, Vaana!" The voice chastised her, and she winced before throwing herself against the door, unlocking it with a waltz of her fingers across the security pad.

The sound it made as it opened was overpowering. Behind it the sharp ringing cry of the ship's engines started to sound a lot like the way the standing stones had sung to her. Even with her eyes squeezed shut and her hands over her ears, the horrible cacophony of noises were loud enough it began to drown out her thoughts and allowed for confusion to rise.

"Vaanaras..." 'Avakhon's' voice called to her, and her eyes flew open. To her great shock, the noises had suddenly ceased. She spun around on the spot as she tried to figure out exactly where it was coming from.

"Avakhon." Vaanaras whispered, more than a little wearily. "I had faith. I'm here."

"Then you know what you must do."

She nodded, looking slowly over her shoulder towards a console.

They had to go back.

They had to go back to London, to 1886 and the only way to do that was to destroy the ship and cast them back into the pulsing nebula behind them. The solution was clear as day within her mind. “We’re coming Avakhon… We’re coming.”

DECK 9 SECURITY 02:30

“Tulde, the codes! Damn you, we need to patch the crystal into the ship’s computer!” Bolak shook the wide eyed Tellarite for all he was worth, but he was lost to his delusions, mumbling on about the stone and his lady. It was a hard slap from Mr Mok that finally brought the Lieutenant around.

“What? Yes of course!” he stammered holding his cheek and staring daggers at the blue skinned Bolian.

As Bolak and Tulde worked in succession, a viewscreen flashed to life while the Endeavor began to interface with the new piece of Linnik technology. It flashed with two images, side by side, on the display. The first was a star chart that showed the signal’s origin. The second was a schematic of the ship, a flashing red light depicted the signal’s target and their location.

“Main engineering.” Bolak gasped, “Computer who is located in main engineering?”

“LIEUTENANT VAANARAS, HEAD OF SECURITY, IS PRESENT IN MAIN ENGINEERING AT THIS TIME.”

“My lady!” Tulde cried out.

“Stop that!” Mok punched the Tellarite in the arm.

“Ouch!” Tulde grunted.

“Tulde, alert the bridge of the source of the signal and then gather what is left of security and meet us in engineering.”

“I think you will find I hold rank in this room,” Tulde began to puff up, “and Starfleet protocol states that…”

Tulde fell silent as the sight of the cut throat razor that Mok held before his eyes. It glistened beneath the light of the display screen and the Tellarite swallowed hard.

“I think you will find,” Mok said softly, each word a gentle caress, “that none of us give a shit about your rank, my Lord. Now do as the barkeep says or I may relapse into my wicked old ways.”

Tulde gave a furious nod and Mok flicked the blade closed, with a wicked snip, near the Tellarite’s porcine nose.

“Mr Mok,” Bolak said carefully, “When this is over you and I need to have a very long talk.”

Before the barber could respond, the lights flickered and the red alert klaxon began to sound,

AUTO DESTRUCT SEQUENCE HAS BEEN INITIATED… ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP… ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP

MAIN ENGINEERING 02:35

Oblivious to everything but the all encompassing cold, Vaanaras sat with her back against the console and her arms wrapped about her knees. The icy fathoms continued to rise, threatening her with rancor as they licked at her toes. “I had faith…” She whimpered, tipping her head back, “I had faith and still it comes…”

“Do not fear death, Vaana. Death is a sweet surrender to forever.” The voice coddled her, “We’ll be together. Forever. Our entire little family. Have faith in this and hold fast.”

It was near impossible.

Each harrowing cry of the klaxons beat against her super sensitive ears. Every wail forced her to flinch in her dreamlike state in an attempt to prod her senses into an action that wouldn’t come. Even the buds of anxiety that normally would have pulsed through her veins seemed snipped off at the root, refused the chance to bloom by some unknown agent.

By the time Tulde and his group of ‘misfit toys’ came rushing into main Engineering, the ship’s main computer was flashing something about antimatter containment being compromised. At least the door was open - wide open - and Vaanaras hadn’t taken the time to change codes.

“SHE’S THERE!” He squealed, pointing wildly at the hunched over ball of Vorta and disheveled pajamas.

“Tul…” Vaanaras’s voice was muddy and thick with the sleep that refused to shed from her body.

She saw the imp then, the vile evil creature that had thwarted her at every turn… when, when she. No! He had a brother, a twin, but that was not real that was but an illusion. This was not her kidnapper, her enemy he was a simple bar keep a Linnik… his name was,

“Bolak.” she whispered the word as if brushing the fringes of reality with her fingertips and flinched back as if burned. He was speaking to her but the words were far away and difficult to comprehend. It was then that she saw it clutched in his hands.

The Nebula stone!

“Ignore it.” urged the voice in her mind, even as the ship continued to warn of their imminent demise, “It’s a lie. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do to keep you from me.”

“But the stone,” she whispered, her voice barely audible, “We fought so hard to find it. It holds the answers and with it..” a sudden reality hit her square and cold, a single solid fact that drove cracks into the madness that had consumed her.

“No.” hissed the voice in true urgency now, “We are so close, we can be together.”

“SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE INITIATED AUTO SELF DESTRUCT IN ONE MINUTE!”

“No! Vaana!” The voice bellowed, and she ignored. They had fought to find the stone, they had fought so hard and so long. Avakhon had died for that stone so they could return. “You are mine, you gave me your word, Vaana!” So they could escape from that world of darkness, “Do not leave me, Vaana!” and return to the stars where they belonged.

With a cry of defiance, Vaanaras launched herself forward and grasped the stone in both hands. The moment she touched it, reality came flooding in. Main Engineering, the Klaxons sounding. Tulde and her security detail along with the others all staring at and reaching for her.

“The codes,” Bolak urged her, “It’s now or never Lieutenant.”

“SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE INITIATED AUTO SELF DESTRUCT IN THIRTY SECONDS!”

The horror of what she had almost done caused her to gasp and for a moment she stared at them wild eyed unable to catch her voice. “Security override gamma three nine seven, v..voice activation Lieu… Lieutenant Vaanaras. Cancel self destruct.” she spat out the words among sobs of shock and grief. Had she just doomed her love to an eternity without her? Had it all been a lie? She looked down at the stone in her hands and let it drop to the deck.

“Avahkon, where are you?” she whispered as the tears began to flow anew.

“SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE CANCELED!”

Tulde caught her diminutive form as she collapsed.

THE FESSARIUS 02:45

“No!” spat Balok as the telepathic link faltered then failed.

“Re-establish Aenar transmission.” he ordered.

“NEGATIVE. TARGET IS NO LONGER RECEPTIVE TO AENAR INTEGRATION!”

“Damn it!” Balok drew in several ragged breaths of rage before forcing himself to calm.

So be it.

The game would continue and he would simply place his next card upon the table. Sooner or later the luck of the Endeavor would run out and then he would have them.

“By hook or...” Bolak activated a screen showing a map of the sector and placed his stubby finger on a glowing green dot on the edges of scanning range. “...by crook.” he grinned as he initiated a long prepared signal.

“Computer confirm the status of the prisoner five.”

“DRONE DESIGNATE EIGHT OF ELEVEN IS STORED IN STASIS AND ALL REQUESTED UPGRADES HAVE BEEN MADE!”

“Very good. Now please report the position of the USS Endeavor.”

“USS ENDEAVOR IS APPROACHING OUR POSITION AT WARP EIGHT!”

“Perfect. Computer cloak the Fessarius and activate the drones link to the hive mind. Use our modifications to keep us out of sight when out new friends arrive.”

“ACTION CONFIRMED!”

Balok watched with interest as the Endeavor dropped out of warp and began to scan the local sector.

“Any moment now.” he mused, “Three, two, one and…” he pointed at the screen as the vast Borg cube dropped out of transwarp above the Endeavor. “Gotcha!”

“WE ARE THE BORG. YOUR BIOLOGICAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL DISTINCTIVENESS WILL BE ADDED TO OUR OWN. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE.”

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