Missions - Whispers In The Dark

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Humble Pie

Location: Chief Medical Officer's Quarters
On: Day 9 at 2050

Ask anyone and they would say that accepting they were in the wrong was never an easy task. Accepting they were wrong and admitting it to a colleague was even harder. That, however, was the task that awaited the Commander as she paced backwards and forwards outside the personal quarters of the ships Chief Medical Officer. She'd been there for several minutes now, wearing a hole in the deck plating as she contemplated what she was going to say to the man, in the hope she would pluck up the courage to actually press the door chime rather than succumb to the urge to walk away. She'd exchanged a few glances with passersby, an almost crazed smile sending officer and enlisted alike scurrying for the hills. She wasn't exactly boosting her reputation as she hung around outside a colleagues quarters like a crazed stalker, but at least that wasn't on her mind right now.

Except now it was, and that made her even more anxious. On the plus side however, the thought of looking like a lunatic did propel her into action and her hand finally slammed down on the door chime. The familiar computer beep sounded and she waited to see if he would even answer the call.

The sound of Barber's Adagio for Strings filled Doctor Hill's quarters as he lay on his bed, lost in the music with his eyes closed. The sound of the door chime mixed poorly with the exquisite strings and drew Jonathan back to reality. He let out an exasperated sigh and moved to the edge of his bed. "Computer, pause playback." A few seconds were spent silently debating whether to pull on a t-shirt but he decided not to before moving to the door. The doors opened in response to his reaching out and pressing a button on the control panel.

"Captain." He was unable to keep the surprise from his voice and he was certain his furrowed brow only reinforced his surprise. "Aren't I supposed to make the house calls?"

"Only fully clothed I hope," the Commander smirked as she made a humorous reference to his attire, or lack thereof. "I am sorry to bother you so late, but I wondered if I could have a word?" she asked, lingering in the corridor space.

Jonathan stepped to one side, allowing the CO entrance to his home. He waited until the door closed before speaking. "You'll forgive me if I don't offer you something to drink right now, but I'm not feeling particularly hospitable right now." He paused for a beat. "So, what can I do for you?"

Upon the closing of the door, Tharia almost felt like she was at home on Andoria, such was the chill in the air. "I wont stay long, Doctor, but I came to apologise," she let out a smirk at almost the exact time she said it, "which I know is probably not something you expected I'm sure."

Hill's face remained impassive as the Captain spoke. He folded his arms across his chest. "One of the perks of being in command is that you don't have to apologise to anyone or explain your reasons for making a decision." Either she knew that he was pissed that he'd been kept out of the loop or suspected as much.

“Absolutely,” Tharia agreed with a nod accompanied by a rather sheepish smile, “but a good leader knows when to apologise for being in the wrong.” The Commander lent against the edge of a work surface as she ran a nervous hand through her thick mop of white hair. “Listen, I should have filled you in on the later developments, but things moved quickly and I need you in sickbay to ensure the safety of our patient.” Her apology was sincere, her tone quite reserved for her as she watched the man for his reaction.

Jonathan listened silently, his gaze focused on the Captain's eyes and his own features remaining impassive. "I notice you were able to get word of the suspicions regarding Captain T'Prynn to the XO and Jav." He wasn't going to let her off the hook quite so easily.

She had, of course, expected him to throw this at her so she had already prepared a defence of sorts. "It was crucial to get the information to them, in order to prevent them from following T'Prynn's lead and essentially becoming traitors to the Federation. You knew everything you needed to know to keep our patient safe and achieve our objective in that regard," she told him in the usual matter of fact way that she spoke to him with in normal circumstances.

The CMO let out a singular hollow laugh. "If this information was 'need to know' and that I didn't, then what the hell are you here apologising for?"

"I'm apologising for what I'm about to do," the Commander told him as she fumbled around in her pocket and pulled out a small, shiny object. "Lieutenant Jonathan Hill, Chief Medical Officer of the starship Ulysses. You are hereby promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Commander, with all the rights, privileges and expectations of that rank," she smirked, almost sadistically, as she tossed him the small object (since she wouldn't pin it on his bare chest). It was the expectations part she was smirking at in particular. With such a rank came the responsibility of overseeing both the Medical and Counselling departments, spending more time on the bridge, and eventually having to assume command at some point. It meant they would be spending a lot more time together, which he would no doubt hate.

Jonathan never broke eye contact with the Captain as he caught the shiny object, his features frozen into a look of shock. He glanced down at the object, a small round black pip with a silver rim. It would look good beside his two solid silver pips. Jon looked back up at the Captain. "You can't promote me to Lieutenant Commander." He told her firmly.

"What? Why?" the Commander looked confused as she pushed herself off of the edge of the work surface. He was rejecting a promotion? That was almost unheard of, and she wanted to know his reasons for doing so.

"This morning I stood on the Bridge of your ship and, in front of your senior officers, challenged your authority. After a display like that you can't reward me with a promotion. You should be busting me to Lieutenant JG, removing me from my post as Chief Medical Officer and drawing up charges." He told her.

As honourable as ever, thought the Commander as the smile returned to her face and she shook her head slowly. "You remind me of another Chief Medical Officer that my father would tell me stories of," she began, leaning back against the surface again, and folding her arms across her chest. "Doctor Leonard McCoy. He would fight for what he believed in, and stand up to his Captain too. You know the man? Goes by the name of James Tiberius Kirk," the Andorian took great delight in her little history lesson. "You stood up for your patient, you defended your hippocratic oath and you did what you thought was in the best interests of all involved," she told, before quickly adding, "but most importantly, you put me in my place and helped me to see the error of my ways. That's the kind of officer I need by my side in these dark and dangerous times, Commander." Emphasis on the Commander aimed at appealing to him somewhat.

Hill couldn't keep the smile from his face. "Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Hill." He met the Captain's gaze again, tears forming in his eyes. sh'Elas was getting to see a side of her CMO that few before had seen. His ex-husband being the most recent. "I like the sound of that." He glanced back down at the pip and wiped the tears with his free hand. "Can I be honest with you?" The Captain nodded her agreement. "I like arguing with you." He paused for a moment. "You can bet that I'll continue to express my views in my usual forthright manner." His smile became lopsided. "Though maybe not quite so publicly as I did this morning."

“You keep me on my toes, Doctor. If that means you have to give me a bloody nose every once in a while, that’s fine by me,” the blue-skinned woman smiled as she offered a congratulatory hand to the Chief Medical Officer. “If you do it in public, that’s fine. And don’t expect to always win; I’m not going to let up on you just because you’re a three-pip now,” she added.

"If anything, I'm expecting you to be even tougher on me." He told her with a smile as he grasped her offered hand firmly and shook it. "This means a lot, Captain. More than you can know."

“Right,” for once, the Andorian almost blushed, quite uncomfortable with the perceived emotion of the moment, “well, I should get going, Doctor. I’ll see you on the bridge tomorrow,” she smiled as she released his hand and took a few steps towards the door. “Appropriately dressed of course,” she added with a smile as she looked back at him.

Hill smirked. "Aye, Captain." Once the Captain was gone he looked at the pip sitting in his hand again. He closed his hand around the pip as his gazed moved out the window. "Wow."

To Antares and Beyond

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 9 at 1800


Silence that screamed with sin. It was unnatural, a void, refusing to be filled to prolong the agony and suffering of the blue-skinned woman.

Silence gnawed at her insides, hanging in the air like the suspended moment before a falling glass shattered on the ground. The silence was like a gaping void, needing to be filled with sounds, words, anything. The silence was poisonous in it's nothingness, cruelly underscoring how frantic the storm they had weathered had truly been. The silence was eerily unnatural, like a dawn devoid of birdsong. Silence clung to the Ready Room like a poisonous cloud that at any moment could choke the life from the lone occupant. Silence seeped into her every pore, like a poison slowly paralyzing her from either speech or movement.

"Would you like to pause your log entry?"

Shaken back to the here and now by the computerized voice of the main computer, the Andorian commander of the Ulysses turned her head briefly to look at her computer console. It seemed she had drifted into a land of silent contemplation whilst dictating her personal log, for god knows how long, but long enough for the computer to detect the silence and prompt her back to life.

"Negative. Continue log," the Andorian responded as she pushed her chair away from the desk and gradually rose to her feet. It took mere steps before she was at the coffee table and pouring herself a mug of what was now lukewarm coffee. A sip later, she took a few strides to the window of her private office and glared out into the abyss far beyond the bulkheads of her vessel.

"The lies that I fear most are the ones close enough to the truth to pass under the radar, or else the ones that are so big you'd never dream a person could make something like that up," she revealed as she began dictating her log once more. "The half-truths lead you away from trust into a closet xenophobia. The big ones are shock and awe, they root you in fear so your primal brain starts doing the thinking. Once you're in survival mode there's a muzzle on your higher thinking; concepts like altruism, charity and cooperation become whispers among the anxious screams," she told quietly between sips of her beverage. "If you fight it you stick out, you're a rebel, a conspiracy theorist, a marked person."

Placing the cup on the windowsill, the Commander then propped herself up with hands placed either side of the window frame as she lowered her head in frustration. "Today, I was that marked person because I took a stand in the name of truth. I became the rebel, the person prepared to spiral the Federation into anarchy. There is a beauty in anarchy. Not chaos, but a life where every person marches to the beat of their own drum. Even in an organisation like Starfleet, there must be space for such times. That doesn't mean we don't cooperate, help one another and love, it means I don't blindly follow the orders of people hundreds of light-years away. If I don't tread on your toes, you don't tread on mine, we get along just fine. Leave me to do my job, and I'll do it better than anyone in history, but interfere, and I'll rebel. We're all rebels at heart, deep down, even those who think they aren't. Really, they're the worst ones, so repressed they can't feel the calling of their own bones. Break a rule today, just a little one, and nothing bad will happen. The galaxy will still be here and the Federation will still exist."

She let out a sigh as she kicked the bulkhead beneath the window frame and commapsed into a frustrated heap in her office chair again. "She fed me lie, after lie, after lie. She did it in such a way that I had no choice but to rebel. I was so focused on doing what was right, and she took full advantage of that, knowing I would believe every word. Only I didn't. You see, in all of the chaos and discord, something just didn't sit right. A Starfleet Captain prepared to go to war with another because they refused to surrender a patient. Not a prisoner of war, not a criminal, but a patient undergoing medical treatment. I was prepared to defend my ship with my dying breath if so necessary, sacrificing the lives of my crew and I on the alter of truth and righteousness. For a moment, I was the bad guy in some twentieth century movie who actually ends up innocent and everyone rejoices over it in the end. I shut out every word from all I held dear, in the face of overwhelming odds."

She took a pause for a moment as she lifted her cup once again, this time in a silent toast to someone far from this place. "And then that beautiful, spotted bitch came along and confirmed everything. Conspiracy, traitorous endeavours and the fate of the Federation once again in jeopardy. Everything I stood for, vindicated. Why? Because of some messed up operation by Starfleet Intelligence designed to bring a foreign agent to justice. I was prepared to risk a mutiny on my ship in the name of truth and justice, all the while, Starfleet Command knew that the woman who was supposed to be a logical, calming influence was instead a cowardly impostor."

Leaning back in her leather chair, the Commander lifted her feet onto the work surface, one hanging over the other as she let out a smile. "When I needed them most, Aria, Javorian and Peter put their trust in me, they had faith. But nothing that was achieved today could have come about without Doctor Hill and his counterpart, Lieutenant Elloyia. Each stepped up in a moment of crisis and were prepared to put their careers on the line for what they believe in. I am proud to lead them, and proud of our achievements today." She took a sip of her drink again and delivered the final paragraph of her entry. "The traitor, T'Prynn, remains in custody during our voyage to the Bajor system and the Beta Antares shipyards. Whilst we know very little, we know that she is not a Vulcan and is, in fact, a Cardassian. She'll be turned over to Starfleet Security when we arrive and a full investigation will take place. I am most concerned, however, by the reports that the Ulysses may have been sabotaged by other agents and thus, I have ordered an investigation whilst we journey to Bajor. For now, the crew deserve some rest. It's been a trying few days and trying times lie ahead..."

[A Short While Later...]

After insisting on a detour to allow a change into a fresh uniform, Lt.Commander Winters glanced over her shoulder at Lieutenant Travis before pressing the door chime. Given the ship was in one piece and they had not gotten into a battle with the Odyssey, she had to assume sh'Elas had been successful in her efforts to diffuse the situation. What the first officer could not be certain of, however, was what awaited them on the other side of the door.

"At least there is no airlock we can be thrown out of in there," she offered as she threw the science officer a reassuring smile. Or what she hoped was reassuring. As sh'Elas called for them to enter, she took a deep breath, ignored the nagging pain in her side and led the way.

Javorian had gladly accepted the detour, knowing that a fresh uniform would help put Aria in a more gathered state of mind. When she made her comment about the airlock he actually gave her a slight smile. "Don't underestimate her. She's probably still got at least one phaser..." he said, the tips of his pale pink lips still tilted upwards as he made the quip.

Following the woman through the doors he took a deep breath and then took up a spot not far from the desk, allowing Aria to take the place of prominence as was her right. Settling into an at ease posture he waited to see what they'd been summoned for.

"Aria, Javorian," Commander sh'Elas was stood behind her desk and nodded to both of her colleagues as she rounded it and gestured for them to take a seat beside each other on her two-seater sofa. "Thank you both for coming," she added, spinning one of the usual guest chairs of her desk so that it was directed at the sofa. She slumped down onto the chair and let out a sigh. "What a day, huh?" she quipped.

Looking thoroughly surprised at being addressed by her first name, Aria was nevertheless grateful for the chance to sit. From her spot, she watched their commanding officer all but fall into her own seat as she made her declaration. "Indeed," Aria replied, arching an eyebrow a Vulcan would have been proud of. She was still cautious, unsure of where the Andorian was going with the conversation. As such she could not quite bring herself to relax. Not yet anyway.

Having a seat on the couch, perched on the edge with his back straight, elbows on his thighs, and his hands clasped before him, Javorian nodded. "Agreed. I am quite glad it is close to an end," he said.

"I wanted to thank you both," she smiled sheepishly as she lent back in her chair, antennae bobbed and shoulders slouched, "and also apologise. I got you into this mess with my one track mind. I was so certain that protecting the patient was the right call, that I was prepared to go against orders, but you two were there when I needed you," she told them with all the sincerity she could muster. "If you hadn't have believed the orders from the Admiral, lord knows what might have happened today."

"You would have ended up in custody, or dead," Javorian stated matter-of-factly. "I am glad that that is not the outcome that we experienced. No apology is necessary, however. You did what you felt was right. I expect nothing less from an officer worth serving under."

“Well I appreciate that,” the Commander smiled, but shook her head at the same time, “but I can’t believe what we have unearthed here. A Cardassian? In command of one of our starships. It beggars belief...”

"What we must establish is who she is working for?" Aria observed. "It would be naturally to assume the Cardassian Central Command or - more likely the Obsidian Order although they are nowhere near as powerful as they once were - but that may be too simplistic. There have, however, been recorded incidents in the past of Cardassians undergoing radical surgeries to appear as if they were of another species. Even, if memory serves, Bajoran."

It was the most she had said since entering the room.

"Alas, that will not be our task," the Commander frowned as she rose from her chair and walked back to her desk. She knew they probably wouldn't like what she had to say next, but after the days events, it was only to be expected. "Starfleet Command have ordered us to the Bajor sector, where we will drop off our prisoner at Deep Space Nine. Starfleet Intelligence will take over her interrogation," she told, rummaging on top of her desk for something whilst she let her words sink in.

Javorian let the information sink in, relaxing a bit back into his seat. "She will be thankful it is Starfleet handling the interrogation. Her own people would likely have some pretty dire consequences in store for her afterwards. They tend to look on failure quite harshly."

Plucking out two data PADDs from the desk, the Commander walked around the desk again and returned to her original seat. "What I am about to tell you both will no doubt come as a shock," she began as she passed out the PADDs. "I've spoken with the Admiral at length over the last few hours, and she offered me a role with her staff at Starbase 565. I've decided to take her up on the offer," she told, somewhat out of the blue. "These two data PADDs contain my last official orders as commander of the Ulysses," she smiled. "In recognition of your outstanding service to this ship and crew, and especially to me, I hereby promote you both to the ranks of Commander and Lieutenant Commander respectively."

“I’m sorry, I obviously hit my head before,” Aria murmured as she took the PADD held out towards her. “You’re leaving? Who will be taking command?”

"A new commanding officer is yet to be appointed," Tharia told as she loosened up a little and sat back in her chair, "I've included on your data PADDs a recommendation; there is one of the new Polaris-class explorers at Beta Antares, set to head off into the far reaches of the unknown on some 5 year mission of exploration like in the old days," the Andorian smirked as she thought back to the Golden Age, where ships would just disappear for months or years at a time on some mission of exploration before reappearing. "I think you two would be fantastic assets for any Captain headed into the unknown. Obviously, you are free to stay here and see what happens. It is entirely up to you."

Javorian took the PADD offered to him with an arched brow. "That is unexpected," he said, his tone laced with subtle ironic sarcasm. "I was unaware you were considering such a move, and it is apparent that Commander Winters was also unaware..." he added, turning his attention to the screen before him.

"Honestly? I wasn't considering it in the slightest, but the offer came up and after the incident today, I've decided that it is for the best. I still have a lot to learn about command, so I'm going to go and do that before I take the command chair again," she told, a refreshing honesty about her as she seemed surprisingly at ease with her decision. "I'll tell the crew in a few days. Some of them will get the same offer as you did, some will be transferred elsewhere, others may choose to stay. I trust both of you to make the decision that is in yourbest interests."

Nodding solemnly Javorian spoke. "Understood, Commander. Thank you for allowing me the honor to work alongside you, and for your faith in me."

"The honor has been mine, Javorian," Tharia nodded in thanks and appreciation of the man's words. She would miss him, even though they had only been together for a short while. They still had a week or so though, until they reached their next destination.

Aria observed the two, staying silent as Javorian spoke. They had more of a history together than she had with their departing commanding officer. "Our one mission together will certainly be memorable," the first officer observed with a hint of amusement. Or as much as she could muster given her aching bones. "I wish you well, Commander. The Admiral is renowned for chosing her staff with great care so I have no doubt you will do well."

"I know things haven't exactly been smooth running between us, Aria," the Commander confessed, looking down at her feet briefly, "and I am sorry for that. I wish we could have worked together longer as I'm sure we would have become a fantastic team. Nevertheless, it has been an honor to have you looking out for this crew, too."

“I’m sure we would,” Aria conceded. “And I will keep looking out for them. Maybe without many more phaser hits though.”

"That would certainly be preferable..." Javorian said, with the slightest twitch to the edges of his lips.

The three officers remained together for some time as they talked about recent events, reminisced about some of the better times of late, and got to know each other a bit better. Despite the reality that faced them, with them potentially going their separate ways, the bonds formed would hopefully last long beyond their stay on the Ulysses.

Now, the two Commanders had some serious thinking to do.


The captain rose and left the bridge, and the counselor's silver-blue eyes followed her with an emotion that rarely filled them.


Elleese would not give in to fear as that was not a luxury she presently had and would have to wait, but the hesitation couldn't help but linger at the very forefront of her mind. For all her training and abilities, she was still a living, corporeal being with insecurities and uncertainties. If ever these was a situation she could conceive where they would be given fresh, active life... Well, this was it.

Swallowing hard, she rose to her feet and took the few steps to the center seat. She sat down but it could not be said she "settled" at all. She practically perched at the edge, back ramrod straight and hands on the ends of the armrests. "Status report on the Odyssey," she requested, projecting her voice the best she could.

"Holding position ten thousand clicks off our starboard bow. Shields are raised and phasers are charged." Adam reported.

"We're receiving a transmission from the Odyssey Lieutenant," Ensign Kedam spoke from Ops, glancing back briefly at the Counsellor. It was so unsual to see the woman in teal sitting in the Commander's chair. "It's audio only," the Cardassian added.

"That's odd, their Captain is apparently in our briefing room. Wonder if they're checking in on her." Paxton said from the CONN.

The Betazoid frowned thoughtfully. It was an extra effort than usual to keep everything "sorted" in the loud empathic mess slushing around her, but she had been trained for this. She tilted her head slightly. "Let's hear it, Ensign," she said.

Ensign Kedam dutifully played the transmission through the comm, listening as the voice kicked in.

"=/\=Ulysses, this is Odyssey. You have one minute to stand down, or we will be forced to open fire," the deep, masculine voice dictated as the crew listened, "this is your only warning."

Adam turned to face the Counsellor in the centre seat. "Does he know his Captain is here?"

"If he does, it is a brazen bluff," Ell commented thoughtfully, unable to keep from looking at things through the lens of a psychologist. "But why would she not inform her crew that she was coming to the Odyssey? Presumably with orders to fire on the vessel..." She paused thoughtfully--though still tensely. "Keep weapons on standby. We will not return fire, but we must remain in one piece. Shields are one hundred percent?"

"Affirmative," Lieutenant Dreik responded from Tactical, having returned to her post.

Elleese had to think fast, and she did. Her brain raced, even as it was bombarded by telepathic noise from every quarter. The only question was whether she replied to the Odyssey or not. She had her orders that no matter what, she must not fire and she must not flee... "There will be no reply, Lieutenant," she finally determined, since at most, she would simply say they would not back down.

And that was about to be clear.

"Hold your position. Maintain weapons charged but do not lock on to anyone. Let me know the moment the Odyssey makes a move," the counselor-turned-commander continued.

A few moments of the status quo followed, as the crew maintained their vigilance and waited to see if the Odyssey would make its move. They soon got their answer.

"Odyssey is firing phasers!" Dreik suddenly exclaimed from Tactical, a loud hum heard as two phaser bolts flashed past the view screen and, seemingly, very close to the hull of the Ulysses.

"Counsellor!" Kedam called out from the Ops station, "we have to return fire. They have acted against us and we must defend ourselves," the Cardassian declared, a little more forcefully than she would usually.

"I concur ma'am," Dreik declared from behind the Counsellor. "We must answer aggression with aggression."

"No," Elleese replied, sharply but clearly and still in control. Even as her fingers tightened on the ends of the armrests. "We are not to return fire, nor are we retreat. Make sure the shields stay up." At least until I hear from the captain or commander... she thought wryly. ...I hope it is soon.

Another burst of phaser fire from the Intrepid-class starship burst across the primary hull of the Ulysses several minutes later as the crew watched in horror. A Federation starship had fired on another, something no one ever thought they would see, but here it was, for real.

Adam did what he could to keep out the Luna-class out of the Odyssey's firing solutions, but without returning fire the hits that landed were slowly eating away at her shields.

Eventually, the doors to the bridge opened and Commander sh’Elas appeared, the Andorian moving her way towards the Command chair and nodding to the Counsellor. "Counsellor?" she enquired as she came to a halt in front of the command chair and looked at the image of the Intrepid-class starship on the screen.

Ell all but vaulted out of the chair, standing before Commander sh'Elas. "Sir," she said, containing her relief from any further visible displays. "As I am sure you are aware, the Odyssey opened fire on us. We have not returned fire and the shields are holding," she reported quickly.

"Any communications?" the Commander queried, standing with her hands clasped together behind her back, turning her head slightly to look at the Betazoid who had done a sterling job in carrying out her orders.

"One message," Ell said. "We were given one minute to stand down and if we did not, that would 'force' them to open fire. We were also informed it was our only warning. I chose not to respond."

"And then they opened fire?" the Commander queried. What was unusual was the fact that she was smiling during her line of questioning. A smile. A smile whilst her Counsellor reported her ship had been attacked.

It was a fact that did not go unnoticed by the counselor, naturally, although she knew that this was not the time to ask. She tilted her head slightly, one pale brow rising. "Correct, sir," she said. "The minute elapsed and we were fired upon." The commander was like a bright light in the haze of many emotions swirling around her, but Elleese was struggling to define exactly what was within that light.

"Excellent," the Andorian smile as she spun on her heels and turned back to her command chair, taking command again and lowering herself into the centre seat. "Exactly as expected," she spoke quietly, loud enough only for the Counsellor to hear. "Lieutenant, all stop. Ensign Kedam, open a channel to the Odyssey."

Meanwhile, Ell was more than happy to take a seat in a side chair rather than sit in the big chair.

Ensign Kedam worked to open the channel and once she had succeeded in getting through to the Intrepid-class ship, a bearded man in red appeared, sat comfortably in the command chair of the slightly smaller vessel.

"=/\=Commander sh'Elas. By order of Starfleet Command, you are under arrest. Power down your shields and surrender," Lieutenant Commander Broderick told sternly as red lights flickered in the background.

Tharia let out a little smirk as she lent forward somewhat casually. "=/\=Yeah, about that..." she began, "I estimate in about sixty seconds, you're going to get a transmission from Admiral Azulas and you are going to have to tell her that you have fired on another Federation starship," the Andorian smiled, her antenna standing fully erect which usually signalled a sense of happiness.

There was a frustrated shake of the head from the XO of the Odyssey. "=/\=I'm following my orders," the frustrated Terran retorted, "now, where is my Captain?"

"=/\=Your Captain is on her way to my sickbay," Tharia called out somewhat brazenly, to the shock of those on the bridge, and on the view screen. Just as she was about to add more to her response, a loud beeping could be heard from on the bridge of the Odyssey. "I'd wager you're going to want to take that call," she grinned.

There was what almost sounded like a growl from the bearded man before he disappeared and the comm channel closed. Still, the Andorian looked more than a little happy with herself. "Stand down red alert," she ordered with a glance over her shoulder at the tactical officer before her gaze fell on the Counsellor. "I'm guessing you want some answers?" she smiled.

That blue-silver brow had been bouncing up and down a lot in the past few minutes, the Betazoid reflected as it arched again--seemingly of its own accord. "I certainly would not say no to them, Commander," she replied wryly.

"Captain T'Prynn attacked me, and Commander Winters in the observation lounge. Both got hurt and have been escorted to sickbay," the Commander revealed as he smile finally subsided. "We're under orders from Admiral Azulas to detain the Captain until we reach the Beta Antares sector until an investigation takes place. At best, she has just committed treason by having her crew fire on us. At worst, her crew have been manipulated in a plot that could threaten Federation interests in several key sectors."

She let out a sigh as she looked towards the viewscreen and the Intrepid that sat directly before them. "Right now, Admiral Azulas will be informing the Odyssey crew of their involvement and ordering them to Starbase 565. For now," she diverted her attention to the Flight Operations station, "set a course for the Antares system, warp seven," she ordered.

Elleese knew there was a lot more to the story that had not been included in the answers she just got, but she knew that this was also just the way it had to be sometimes. She settled back into the chair and contemplated what she had just been told. It was a lot to consider, and she had a feeling her office would be getting a lot of traffic for a time...

As the Dust Settles

Security Officers showing up at the door of Sickbay demanding entrance had been fully expected by the Chief Medical Officer. What he hadn't expected was their claims that Winters had been injured and that she was being brought to Sickbay by Travis with Captain T'Prynn in tow. Jonathan had promptly, and using some rather fruity language, told them where to go. He wasn't stupid enough to lower the scattering field or the force fields around the various access points.

Javorian sighed, showing an uncharacteristic annoyance. "We do not have time for this," he said, looking to Aria. She was injured, and she needed help. Tapping his commbadge he spoke.

=/\="Travis to Hill. Doctor, I know this is not ideal, and you have no reason to trust me after what you've been led to believe, but Commander Winters is injured. If you won't let us in, you are going to need to send someone out to treat her," =/\=

The door between Sickbay and the corridor opened, though the force field remained firmly in place. "You're right. I have no reason to trust any of you." Javorian seemed to have the Vulcan Captain restrained while the XO did indeed seem to be struggling with a wound on her side. Looks, however, could be deceiving. "Doctor Jacobs is going to examine the XO and in the meantime, your security officers are going to withdraw."

Doctor Jacobs had been slowly approaching the group as Hill spoke. She activated her medical tricorder and began scanning the wound as Travis instructed their security officers to back off. "She needs to be admitted immediately."

"Okay." Jonathan tapped a command into the door's control panel and deactivated the force field. "Have we taken Captain T'Prynn hostage?" He asked, still in the dark as to her true nature.

As Doctor Jacobs helped ease her from her resting spot against the bulkhead and guide her towards sickbay, Winters spoke up. "Not exactly. She is a prisoner. It's a long story. And our plan didn't exactly go according to plan... obviously," the first officer conceded as she spoke through clenched teeth.

"Security was sent by Commander sh'Elas to ensure the captain was no further threat and take her into custody. The commander is dealing with the Odyssey right now. I hope..."

Hill let out a derisory snort as Jacobs assisted Commander Winters to the nearest biobed while Travis marched Captain T'Prynn towards another. "You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for that. Your security officers can stay down the corridor. I have a few guys in here who can watch Captain T'Prynn while Doctor Jacobs treats her injury." As soon as the four were inside Sickbay, Jonathan reactivated the force field around the door before grabbing his medical tricorder and moving to Commander Winters' side.

Winters couldn't avoid rolling her eyes, "they aren't my security officers, Doctor. Just do not take your eyes off her for a second. She already tried to shoot the commander."

"Jacobs, sedate the Captain before treating her. That should eliminate any threat she may pose while you treat her." Hill ordered as he moved to Winters side and activated his tricorder while Jacobs sedated T'Prynn before beginning her treatment but both Travis and a Security officer remained on guard.

The CMO scanned Commander Winters' wound and watched the display. "Second degree phaser burn. You're lucky it was just a glancing blow. If it had hit you square on, it may well have killed you."

"She was aiming for sh'Elas at the time," Aria informed him as she shifted on the biobed. Moving, she told herself, was a bad idea.

Javorian, seeing that the doctor had Aria well in hand moved over closer to the bed they'd placed T'Prynn on after sedating her. Looking Dr. Jacobs in the eye he spoke firmly, and quietly. "I am not at liberty to explain why, but I suggest you keep a very close eye on her, and would recommend a restraint field as soon as possible. It is not an unreasonable assumption that sedation will not be enough."

Doctor Jacobs nodded nervously and tapped a command into an LCARS panel at the head of the bed. "Restraint field active." She confirmed before beginning to repair the damage to the Captain's face.

A few biobeds away, Doctor Hill had just administered something to ease the XO's pain and was preparing to repair her wound with a dermal regenerator. "So, care to fill me in on what happened? I don't like being out of the loop."

"I thought you weren't taking my word for it?" she commented with a raised eyebrow before continuing, "T'Prynn is not what she appears. The suspicion is she is Romulan but perhaps your scans can confirm...

After the disagreement around the survivors treatment it presented an opportunity for her. But command were suspicious and so basically, Travis and I were to help her get aboard, let it play out but to ensure she didn't harm Commander sh'Elas. It was the last part that didn't quite go to plan. I gave her a defective phaser but she managed to get my weapon and clearly she did not keep it on stun. I pushed sh'Elas out of the way and Travis stepped in before T'Prynn could take another shot."

She watched as Hill worked, adding, "we weren't really betraying you. Or the Commander. It just had to look that way or T'Prynn would have known something was off."

"Jacobs, run a DNA scan on the Captain. I want to confirm that she's Vulcan." Hill called over his shoulder as he continued his work.

Doctor Jacobs stopped her work, confused at why she was being ordered to run a DNA scan. "Sir?" She asked, her confusion evident in her voice. Hill didn't say anything in reply, he merely stopped what he was doing and looked slowly around at the young woman, his face silently telling her not to question his order. "Yes, sir."

"Hang on." Hill said as he turned his focus back to the XO. "If the Commander suspected that T'Prynn wasn't who and what she appeared to be, why not just tell us upfront? Even if she didn't trust you or I, she would have trusted Javorian." He paused for a moment as the cogs continued to turn. "Basically I'm asking why wasn't I told before now? She trusted me to have her back when it looked like you and Javorian didn't." Hill sighed as he reactivated the dermal regenerator. "Shit, I should have sided with you guys and I would have had more information than I did by remaining loyal to her."

Aria flashed him a sympathetic smile. She didn’t voice the possibility that sh’Elas had sent Travis her way purely to ensure she did have at least one of them on side. “I’m sorry.”

Jonathan deactivated the dermal regenerator. "It's not you who needs to apologise. The Commander and I will have a conversation on this topic, though I'll try not to do it on the Bridge this time." He said with a lopsided smile. "How does it feel?"

"Much better, thank you," she assured him.

"Good." He nodded and turned to where Doctor Jacobs was working. "How are you getting on over there?"

Jacobs looked from the computer display showing the results of the DNA scan, the blood drained from her face creating an unhealthy pallor. "The Captain isn't a Vulcan." She announced.

"Fuckin' Romulans." Hill muttered as he moved away from the XO's biobed and walked around to where Jacobs and Travis were studying the data. He studied the data himself for a few seconds, double checking to make sure it was right, before saying anything. "Cardassian!?"

Javorian gave the man a look, brows drawn down until the creased just above the clear plastic frame of his glasses, mouth slightly pursed. It was the closest he'd ever get to showing his annoyance, and the man's xenophobic comment, and emotionalism were definitely getting to that point. There was no point in voicing his opinion at this point in time however. It was a particularly stressful situation, and a disagreement would serve no one.

"It would appear so, Doctor. DNA, and even some skeletal structure both point to major surgical alteration from the Cardassian species to what we see before us," he said, his voice near toneless as he studied the readouts on the biobeds display, his mind linking various points of data as he went along. "I'm also showing a rather inventive cocktail of chemical compounds that I believe were being used to slow her ageing process to make her disguise more believable."

"You should inform the commander," Aria piped up as she gingerly slid down from the biobed. "This changes things. They believed she was Romulan..."

Hill tapped his commbadge. "=/\=Hill to Bridge. Commander, we've just completed a DNA scan on Captain T'Prynn. As suspected she is not a Vulcan. She's actually a Cardassian, surgically altered to appear Vulcan among other things."

There was silence on the comm channel for the following few moments, until the Commander's voice eventually filtered through. "=/\=Sorry doctor, can you repeat that? I could have sworn you said she was Cardassian," the Andorian responded, a slight audible smirk in the background at the mistake she'd heard.

"=/\=You heard me correctly." He replied. "Whatever T'Prynn's real name is, she is a Cardassian."

There was a definite change in tone when the Commander next replied to the Chief Medical Officer. "=/\=I want her in the brig as soon as she is well enough."

Hill nodded even though the Commander couldn't see him. "=/\=Understood."

"=/\=What is the condition of Commander Winters?" the Andorian queried from several decks above.

Jonathan glanced over at the XO. "=/\=She suffered a second degree phaser burn. Nothing too serious but it'll have hurt like hell. She got lucky."

"=/\=Very well," sh'Elas responded, "when she is fit enough, I'd like to see her and Lieutenant Travis in my ready room. sh'Elas out."

With the comm channel closed, Doctor Hill turned to the others. "It seems you've both been summoned."

"Yes, it does..." Javorian said, looking warily at the woman on the biobed. Finally, he turned to Aria. "Do you require assistance, Commander?" he asked, a hint of worry in his voice.

"I'll manage," Aria assured him. "Although a new uniform would be nice.... Doctor, thank you. And please, be careful around our guest."

Hill smiled. "Why Commander, I didn't know you cared." He quickly shifted gears to reassure the XO. "She'll be in the Brig before she wakes up."

"A wise precaution," Aria observed as she turned to Travis, "lets go. I just need need to make one stop first..."

Close Encounters

Location: Observation Lounge
On: Day 9 at 1420

Walking the few steps to the starboard alcove on the bridge, the Commander steadied herself with a deep breath before stepping forward enough for the door to the observation lounge to open. If she had failed to get her message across, the next few minutes would not go well for her. If she had, then she'd be home and dry.

Crossing the threshold, the Andorian came to an immediate halt as she was presented with the sight of Commander Winters and the turncoat Science Chief, along with the Captain from the Odyssey. "Captain T'Prynn," she frowned, "I didn't expect to see you aboard my ship so soon," she stated with arms folded across her chest.

Stepping to the side, making it clear he was not joining T'Prynn in this endeavor, Javorian took up a position where he could watch the situation unfold and assist as needed. He'd never been in a situation like this, but as he'd already made clear, he understood his duties and would carry them out to the fullest.

"Captain T'Prynn came to discuss the situation," Winters explained, remaining where she was. She noted the folded arms which emphasised the point they had made to the Vulcan about their commanding officer's stubborn streak.

"We've said everything we have to say," Tharia countered as she took a step forward and placed her hands on the headrest of the chair in front of her, "but I am willing to entertain the idea of an Odyssey surrender, Captain." The Andorian was clearly unarmed as she moved into position, and her movement had seen the Commander strategically position herself directly opposite the Captain, with Javorian and Aria either side of the Vulcan.

"Odyssey? Surrender? If I were not Vulcan I would be tempted to laugh at the mere suggestion," T'Prynn shook her head slowly. "Your own position becomes more and more untenable by the moment, Commander. As we speak, my forces are circumventing your security protocols and I am here, alongside two of your most senior officers as they reject your orders," the Vulcan remarked, almost as if she was scoffing at the Andorian's situation. "Perhaps it is you who should consider surrender?"

If the Vulcan had intended to anger the Andorian with her words, she was sadly mistaken as, quite bizarrely given the situation she found herself in, the Commander let out a soft smile. "For a Vulcan you are very militaristic in your actions, Captain," Tharia countered, "You mention your forces, are they not your crew? You have them actively combating the efforts of a fellow Starfleet crew, but you fail to notice that we have lifted not one finger against you, your crew or your vessel, Captain." The grin grew as the Commander's point began to hit home. "You say I am acting against Starfleet, but you have fired on my vessel. You have boarded my vessel in an aggressive gesture and, frankly, you have endeavoured to coerce members of my crew into committing acts of treason and mutiny against their lawful commanding officer."

At this point, the Commander looked increasingly more confident as her gaze turned to Aria, and then Javorian in quick succession. "If I didn't know better, I'd say these actions were more becoming of someone who hailed from somewhere other than Vulcan. Perhaps somewhere like..." and then, with all of the frustration she felt, the Commander glared at the Vulcan as her antennae drooped and her smile disappeared into a scowl, "...Romulas."

Reaching for the phaser on her hip, the Captain aimed her weapon across the table at her Andorian counterpart who took a step back, somewhat anxiously. "Commander Tharia sh'Elas," T'Prynn spoke sternly, "you are under arrest by order of Starfleet Command and I hereby assume command of your vessel. Commander Winters, you will take Commander sh'Elas into custody," the senior of the officers ordered, her phaser and gaze trained on the Andorian opposite her.

"Captain," Aria cautioned, moving closer to T'Prynn, keeping her voice low and calm. "You advised to take no action which could be seen as provocative to remain on the right side of this fight. I urge you to do the same. This is not going to help diffuse the situation."

Noting the captain's phaser did not waiver so much as an inch, the El-Aurian added, "Perhaps, we should contact the Admiral. At the very least to confirm the charges and get new orders for Ulysses."

"No," the Captain shook her head, "you have your orders, Commander. Now execute them."

Aria sighed as she looked towards sh'Elas. "Commander -"

"If you are going to arrest me, you're going to have to shoot me," the Andorian steadied herself as she braced for what was to come. She took a deep breath and stood tall, and proud. If she was going to be taken down, she was going to go with pride and dignity.

T'Prynn stared coldly at the Andorian and lifted her phaser a little more. "So be it, traitor." With a single press of a button, the Captain fired upon her counterpart but, instead of seeing the Andorian slump to the floor , the phaser failed to emit any sort of energy beam. T'Prynn tossed the defective piece of equipment to the floor and held out a hand to the Commander beside her. "Commander Winters, your side arm."


T'Prynn turned her head and glared at the Terran with cold eyes. "I gave you an order, Commander."

"I said no. I will not give you a weapon to shoot Commander sh'Elas," the first officer clarified, her voice never losing her usual calm demeanour as she glanced towards her commanding officer.

In an uncharacteristic display of rashness, T'Prynn almost dove at Aria, reaching for the side arm attached to her hip.

It was unexpected, and while she recovered, it wasn’t fast enough and she felt the phaser being pulled from her side. There was an audible chirp as the captain adjusted it from a light stun setting even as she raised it in sh’Elas direction, preparing to fire. Seeing a blur of motion from the opposite side, a flash of blue on the edge of her field of vision, Aria launched herself at sh’Elas to knock her to the ground as the Odyssey’s commander depressed the trigger.

Her own weapon, she should have sabotaged her own damn phaser ... hindsight was amazing she thought as she collided hard, momentum on her side as she struck the Andorian. Pain shot up her side as the two of them crashed to the floor but she was unconscious before she hit the deck.

As Aria slammed into the Commander, knocking her out of the way of the beam Javorian moved, far quicker than many would have expected. His hand slammed into the side of the Vulcan woman's face, and he heard a sharp crack of bone as her orbital socket crunched from the impact. She let out a far more violent scream than he'd have imagined possible and brought her hand up to cradle the damaged eye, dropping the phaser in the process.

Javorian stepped up behind her and grabbed her by the other arm, jerking it up behind her back and holding it in tension so that she couldn't move without risking dislocating her shoulder. "Captain T'Prynn, I suggest you not struggle. I would not enjoy hurting you more, but I assure you, to protect my Commanding Officer I will."

Struggling to her feet, Commander sh’Elas glared across at the Vulcan as she wiped down her uniform. Reaching down to help her executive officer to her feet, the Commander was shocked to see the wound in the woman’s side. “Hang on there, Number One. We’ll get you to sickbay as soon as we can,” she told before looking at the Science chief. “Javorian, I want you to go with Aria and T’Prynn to sickbay. Security will be there to confine the Captain. I’ll head to the bridge and see if I can’t defuse this situation somewhat,” the Andorian told with a nod of thanks to her friend.

Clutching her side, Aria scooped up her phaser from where it had landed, adjusting it but keeping it in her free hand. Just in case. She glanced at T'Prynn, "cause trouble, I'll be inclined to return the favour..."

As sh'Elas headed in the opposite direction, the first officer followed behind Travis and the disgraced captain, hoping the Odyssey crew took the news well. Otherwise, all of this was unnecessary and a fight between both ships unavoidable.

Increasing the pressure on the Vulcan woman's arm Javorian started to goose-step her towards the door. "Slow and steady, Captain. I won't give another warning," He said, and then spoke to Aria. "Good work, Commander, though it looks like it was a painful decision. Let's go get you fixed up."

“Didn’t do too bad yourself,” Aria replied with the best smile she could muster, “let’s just hope the Doc got the memo and doesn’t start shooting too...”

Another Perspective

Location: XO's Ready Room
On: Day 9 at 1410

"I just spoke to Captain T'Prynn and I'm going to need your help..." Allowing the words to hang in the air, in all honesty uncertain of exactly what form that help would take, Commander Winters initiated a replay of her conversation with the Odyssey's captain. It would do better at recapping the situation than she could. And Travis was an experienced officer, he did not need hand holding.

Vacating her seat so he could watch, she went to stand at the viewport, gazing out at the view which for the moment included the Odyssey and, further back, her old ship. She hated to admit it, but she would have given a lot to have McLintock whispering in her ear to advise her. Because all of this was spiralling out of control. It was a feeling which did not sit well with her. The child of two diplomats, she had been raised to keep a cool head. To work around a problem rather than full on confrontation.

Yet that problem had never involved two commanding officers with different objectives. With the threat of one crew firing on another? It went against everything she believed in. And all because their commanding officer was reneging against orders to transfer a patient after initially insisting the survivor would indeed be moved to facilitate her onward transfer to a starbase.

When the recording finished, she glanced over her shoulder. She wanted his honest, unbiased opinion so offered nothing more than a question. "Thoughts?"

"I am confused as to what any of this has to do with your needing my help," Javorian answered. "I may have objected to the Captain's decision, but I still follow her orders. T'Prynn does not outrank her, so nothing she says has any bearing on that," he added.

"T'Prynn seems certain a confrontation is inevitable unless sh'Elas follows orders to transfer the survivor to the Odyssey," Aria pointed out. "I'd rather avoid that scenario and appeal to the commander for her to reverse her decision to disobey orders from Starfleet. I need your help because, honestly, you know her better than I."

Turning away from the view, she frowned, "Commander sh'Elas did not strike me as someone who would change her mind once made. But clearly, something the doctor said had the desired effect. He is happy, the commander has convinced herself that disobeying the orders is an acceptable risk. I need to find a way to convince her that the risk is not acceptable if it means a confrontation that endangers the ship and crew without an absolutely stellar reason.

Do you think she will listen?"

Javorian pondered the question for a few moments, standing to vacate the Commander's chair. Coming to a stop before her window he clasped his hands behind his back, looking out at the stars while he considered how best to answer her.

"If she has convinced herself she is right and has good reason to continue on the path she has chosen, no. She will not. However, knowing her as well as I do, she would not commit to an action she viewed as reckless unless she truly did believe that. She will view a confrontation as having come entirely from the other side of this gulf," he replied. Then, turning to face Aria he added, "And frankly, I agree with her."

“It takes two sides to make a gulf,” Aria sighed as she returned to her desk. Her eyes fell on the PADD he had carried from the bridge, “the commander said this was what exactly?” she asked as she reached for it.

"Orders," Javorian replied. She made a good point, it did take two sides to create a gulf, but in this case, the majority of the blame for increased tension was coming squarely from the side of the Vulcan captain. Tharia was technically in the wrong for choosing to disobey her orders to transfer the patient, but she had very good reasons. For the other woman to go directly to an aggressive posture was wrong, and perhaps most troubling, supremely illogical. He pushed that thought away, as he had been doing since it first cropped up and faced Aria as she studied the pads.

"Shall we see what it says?" he asked.

“Seems as good a time as ever,” Aria agreed as she turned on the device.

Upon activating, the data PADD's Federation logo disappeared and the face of a beautiful Trill woman appeared, a woman who was well known to both of them by now. But in place of the usual smile that would dominate her face, a stern and rather anxious looking frown was in place. Whatever this was about, Admiral Azulas was unhappy. The face was not a still image, however - it was a recording. A recording that quickly began to play.

"Commander Winters, Lieutenant Travis, if you are listening to this message a series of events have been put in motion that leaves the innocent crews of two starships on the edge of an abyss. Commander sh'Elas and I have conversed and what I am about to tell you is highly confidential. Starfleet Intelligence has reason to believe that Captain T'Prynn is not who she claims to be. According to their data, we believe T'Prynn to be an agent of one of the Romulan factions that emerged after the Hobus Supernova. Whilst we are unaware of her true motives at this time, we believe it may have something to do with the MARS system installed upon both the Odyssey and the Ulysses."

That was the little doubt he'd been having. That explained the woman's illogical, militaristic approach to this situation. It was like a key had been applied, and suddenly it all made sense. He continued to stand, staring at the screen of the PADD as it continued to unfold this little mystery.

The Trill continued her briefing. "The orders that Commander sh'Elas was so vehemently against in the end did exactly what we needed them to do; to present us with an opportunity to out Captain T'Prynn. We ordered sh'Elas to surrender the survivor in the hope that she would reject them. In doing so, we had T'Prynn positioned to act, under the belief that she would assume command of the Ulysses once sh'Elas had been removed from command herself. At this time, your Commander has been fully briefed and has given me your names as people she can trust to assist her in carrying out my next orders. You are to work, covertly, and under the guise of supporting mutinous acts against your Commander, to get Captain T'Prynn aboard the Ulysses and present her with an opportunity to act against sh'Elas. At the right moment, you must support your Commander and ensure her safety, whilst apprehending T'Prynn. Your Commander has been given orders that allow for medical examinations and the interrogation of Captain T'Prynn upon her apprehension."

Javorian smiled slightly, gratified to know that the captain considered him someone she could trust. He had known it already, but to know she had confided that in the Admiral bolstered his own confidence in himself as well as in her.

"If at any point T'Prynn threatens the safety of your ship or crew, you are permitted to use whatever lethal force is necessary to neutralise that threat. Commander sh'Elas needs your support, and assures me that when the time is right, you'll have her back. Everything that has happened to the Ulysses in recent weeks has been leading to this. Don't let your Commander down. Azulas out," the Admiral finally concluded as the screen on the PADD reverted back to the Federation logo that had previously emblazoned it.

As the message came to an end, Aria sat back, deep in thought as she processed the new information. While she was far more surprised than her colleague about the apparent vote of confidence from sh’Elas, she hid it well. Far too preoccupied by the task that lay ahead. She was snapped out of her thoughts when the ship went to red alert and she glanced at Travis, fighting every instinct drilled into her over the years as she pointed out, “we can’t go to the Bridge...”

"No, we cannot," Javorian replied, his brow slightly furrowed in thought.

Tapping her comm badge, Aria took a deep breath - reminding herself of their orders. She had hated drama classes in school, but for now she was a little grateful for them. It was important, their teacher always said, to visualise. And so when she spoke, she focused on the one aspect she did disagree with sh'Elas on. The transfer of their patient to a starbase.

"=/\= Commander Winters to Commander sh'Elas. Commander, what is going on? =/\="

There was a long moment of silence before the Andorian's voice replied. "=/\=Captain T'Prynn has threatened to open fire on our vessel, and I mean to defend it with all the power at my disposal."

Aria glanced at Javorian. She couldn't argue with the sentiment. Well, she could... "=/\= Commander, please... stop to consider the ramifications of this. Is keeping the woman aboard worth an open confrontation with another Starfleet vessel? The people serving aboard the Odyssey are fellow officers, not the enemy. There has to be another way. =/\="

"=/\=How about you get on side for once," the Andorian responded angrily, "we have a job to do and I plan to see it through. If we go to battle, it is the fault of the Vulcan, not me."

“=/\= If we go to battle, it will be everyone’s fault," Aria responded, echoing her words to Javorian. "We have clear orders to transport the survivor and proceed to our next mission. We have to find another way to resolve this."

At that the comm link went dead. Rather than be angry at being silenced by their CO, Aria was relieved. For one, her words made it very clear sh'Elas had no intention of firing first. And for another, sh'Elas had sounded angrier than she had ever heard (albeit in her short time aboard). Which ideally meant they had suggested to everyone the commander and first officer on the ship were on different paths.

"Now we need to get T'Prynn aboard," she pointed out. "How are your engineering skills?"

Javorian pondered for a moment, "Passable, I suppose. It has never been my strong suit. I'd need to know more about what you have in mind."

"I'm planning," Aria said simply, "to bring her aboard. If we suggest it as sh'Elas willing to have face to face discussions to resolve the situation amicably, it will give T'Prynn the chance to make her move.

Of course, that means beaming her aboard. While at red alert. I don't want to risk T'Prynn beaming herself aboard as then she may be able to bring her own weapon, or send over a few boarding parties. We need to control the situation as much as possible. Do you think you could convince Wilson to help? Discreetly of course."

"I think I could. We have a friendly rapport, and I think he would be willing to see reason if we told him what we had learned. Of course, that will broaden the circle of people on the ship that know about this. Are you certain you wish to do so?" Javorian replied.

It was a valid point. Numbers had to be kept to an absolute minumum. Word, however, would spread at warp ten. It always did. "Speak to Wilson. If he is reluctant then we will think of a Plan B. But however we do this, we need to get T'Prynn aboard."

"Understood, Commander," Javorian replied, and then turned to go. It wasn't far to Engineering, but he still wanted to get there as quickly as possible to make sure all of this was going to get done swiftly, and properly.

[Main Engineering]

Walking into the engineering bay Javorian motioned for Wilson to follow him and strode into the man's office. He realized it was likely to be seen as rudeness, but it was necessary, and hurt feeling would have to be smoothed over after all of this was said and done. Taking up a position to the side, in front of the desk, he waited until the man joined him.

"Hey Lieutenant, what's going on?" Peter asked. While he was not upset in the slightest of being pulled from his maintenance review, he was more confused as to why the Lieutenant was asking to talk to him.

Javorian reached over and tapped a command on the console sitting on Wilson's desk, closing the doors, and sealing them so they could not be overheard or interrupted. "I need to you consider the fact that we've worked together long enough that you know I am far from prone to flights of fancy, and take what I am about to say as being deadly serious.

"Commander Winters and I need your assistance to try to defuse the situation that is occurring between the Ulysses and the Odyssey before it gets any further. We need to take down our shields long enough to beam Captain T'Prynn aboard so that she and Commander Sh'Elas can meet in person to attempt to resolve this incident with no loss of life," he said, his face its normal impassive mask, and his voice carefully modulated.

He hadn't told him everything, he felt that to do so would be to put the younger man at risk if their plan failed, and also, he didn't need to know the rest to make his decision anyway, so there was no need. "Will you assist us?"

Peter was quiet a moment. He was in deep thought and it was not being masked. His meeting on the bridge was not what he had expected. He knew he was not getting the whole story from anybody and that put him in a dangerous position. While he was not Vulcan, he did not enjoy making a decision without all the information. He turned around and looked at the blank wall in his office, his back to Travis.

He let out a sigh. "You know we could be charged with mutiny if this goes south right?"

Javorian didn't bother to pretend to give it some thought before replying. "Yes," he said. Short, sweet, and completely to the point. There was nothing else to say. Nothing was going to make it an easier decision, and it couldn't possibly be a harder one. Each and every person on the ship was, at that very moment, stuck between a rock and a hard place, whether they realized it or not. Something was going to have to give, and it wasn't going to be fun either way.

He stayed quiet a long moment in thought. He just told the Commander he was with her and now he was being asked to beam the focus of her anger onboard during a red alert. "Do you really think this is going to come to blows and Captain T'Prynn can deescalate this?" He asked turning around and facing him, seeing the red glow of the alert screens.

"I assure you, Lieutenant, I would not be here if I did not," Javorian answered. It was one of the only times in his life that he'd ever purposefully lied to someone, and he felt a pang of guilt at the thought of it. While he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was going to come to blows, he also knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that T'Prynn had no interest in deescalating, nor was that even a slight part of the plan.

Peter sighed. He figured as much. This was going to get messy and he did seem like he wanted this to end before there was blood. "Stuck in a rock and a hard place. Ok, I think I can help." He said and walked over next to Javorian and began inputting on a terminal.

"We're currently at red alert and shields are on full. Taking them down at all with be a red flag. Unless the Odyssey has some classified firepower, she can't take down our shields with a single shot, it would need to be a prolonged engagement before the shields will fail, also something we don't want. The shields going down short of damage would make anyone ask questions."

"This will need timing and it to be exact." He said finishing a command. "After the first strike of whatever the Odyssey throws at us, I will activate the MARS system and get us cloaked. It will throw off all sensor locks. I will keep it on for 10 seconds, then will turn it off slowly to make it look like we had a burnout. While MARS is active, the shields will drop. You need exactly 5 seconds for a start to finish transporter, so this has to be exact. If we're cloaked any longer, Odyssey will think we went rogue."

"Agreed, Lieutenant. Your plan is valid. I will ensure the timing is taken care of on the transporter end," Javorian replied. "Do you need any further support on your end?"

"No, I can take it from here and get things ready." He said and began working on some code, then stopped. "I sure hope you're right Lieutenant. If not, this won't end well for any of us." He commented and began to program key start-up sequences and triggers for them to start.

Never a truer word spoken.

All A Matter of Timing

Timing was everything.

Surrounded on either side by towering stacks of crates and barrels, without another soul in sight, Commander Winters made the final adjustments to the transporter. Her fingertip poised over the final command, biding her time. Too early, or too late, and the commanding officer of the USS Odyssey would meet a very untimely end. A scenario which would hardly defuse the situation.

Her tricorder chirped, the signal she was waiting for.

Initiating the transporter sequence she glanced over her shoulder as Lt. Travis came around the corner. She had been reliant upon him for so much, and for the past few minutes, to both keep watch and run some interferencce on the internal sensors. Turning back she watched as the familiar figure of Captain T'Prynn materialised.

"Captain," Winters greeted her, stepping around the transporter controls. She held a phaser out towards the Vulcan, "for you. We have a path to the Observation lounge cleared for now but tensions are... high. We have at least five minutes before the shield generator is repaired so any major problems, we can come back here and beam you back to the Odyssey. Hopefully, however, speaking face to face will allow you to find a resolution."

"Your efforts are appreciated," the Vulcan nodded in response before gesturing for the Commander to lead the way through the halls of the Ulysses. In doing so, she ensured that the Commander would be able to protect her if they came across any of the Ulysses personnel who might have been armed.

"Captain, this is Lt. Travis, Chief Science Officer," Aria informed the woman as they began heading for the exit. While he had seen her message, she had not - to her knowledge - ever met him.

Javorian gave the Vulcan woman a slight bow of the head. "It is agreeable to meet you, Captain. Welcome to the Ulysses."

T'Prynn nodded respectfully to the Science Chief and then set her attention back on the Commander. "Time is of the essence, Commander."

As they neared the door Aria checked her phaser again, an old habit, before calling out, "computer, initiate programme Aria One."

The programme would give them a path with the added benefit of throwing up a rolling series of forcefields and scattering fields determined by the location of her comm badge. It would also ensure the turbolift controls could not be overridden, leaving them trapped in there. That way they could not be beamed off the ship or be in any real danger from the rest of the crew unless, or until, someone worked around the programme. Or got exceptionally creative.

It complimented the work Javorian had done to ensure the captain's arrival was not detected and to avoid an intruder alert having half the ship descend upon them.

To T'Prynn she merely explained, "we took some additional precautions to ensure we reach the Observation Lounge safely."

"Prudent, to be sure," the Vulcan nodded and gave way to the Commander and her companion from the Ulysses. They were her ticket to achieving mission success.

[Sickbay, Deck 06]

Sickbay was eerily quiet. Jonathan had cleared his staff out, an oder that had raised more than a few eyebrows but none of them felt brave enough to question it but they knew something was afoot. The only people remaining were himself and a few of Lieutenant Dreik's security officers. She'd assured him that they were 'sound'.

All that was left to do was wait and see what, if any, moves the Odyssey's Captain made. Most likely with the help of the XO and Javorian. The XO was new enough that he might have assumed that she would side with Command and the Odyssey's skipper but he was surprised by Javorian. Obviously, like Captain T'Prynn, he was looking at this logically, dispassionately.

Jonathan only wished he had that luxury. This woman's life, who's name they still didn't know, was his responsibility and it was one that he took very seriously. Moving her was absolutely the wrong move both for her and for the larger investigation into what had happened on that planet.

Stepping out of his office, he stood silently watching his patient for a few moments. The rise and fall of her chest as she took her shallow breaths was almost imperceptible. But those breaths could certainly be heard, especially now with Sickbay so quiet.

A slight humming noise began to fill the room, the beginning of the dematerialisation cycle as his patient became enveloped in what looked like a shower of sparkles. "Computer, activate medical security program Hill One." His tone was measured and calm.

A transporter scattering field had been thrown up around Sickbay, preventing anyone from beaming her out. The doors and jeffries tube access points had been sealed and forcefields had gone up around each of them. Sickbay, a place of healing, had become a fortress. In time they would no doubt be able to break those defences down but it would take a time and effort.

With no choice, the Odyssey's transporter operator had to abort and returned the still sleeping patient to her biobed. Jonathan smiled and tapped his commbadge. "=/\=Sickbay to Bridge. Someone just tried to beam my patient out. Needless to say they've been unsuccessful...for now."

"=/\=Excellent work Doctor," the voice of the Andorian Commander declared over the comm, "monitor the situation and do everything you can to prevent them from getting her. I'm going to send Ensign Kedam down to assist you," she confirmed.

Jonathan shook his head, not that the Captain could see his movement. "=/\=That won't be necessary, Captain. I have everything in hand. I'll update you as and when it's necessary. Hill out." He closed the comm channel, nothing left to do but to see what would happen next.

[Engineering, Deck ]

Peter was looking at the conch in his office. He was trying to clear his mind before the craziness began using the skills the councilor gave him the day prior. It had been helping as his mind calmed down. Moments ticked by slowly until he felt a rock in the vessel. Then a voice called out from the main engineering console.

"Chief! They opened fire on us. Shields holding. They also tried to transport someone from Sickbay but there's a scattering field...and shields active now?" The Crewman yelled sounding more surprised and confused by what was happening.

Peter opened his eyes and stood up. It was time to get busy. "Ok boys and girls, this is it then. Time to get to work. Start ramping up power to Sickbay. Whatever the doctor set up, make sure it has full power at all times." He said the the Crewman who gave the report. "Computer, activate Engineering lockdown Wilson 2." A moment later the emergency blast doors closed and all access points into and out of engineering we're sealed.

"Ok everyone, security will be down to guard the outside. The Odyssey wants us and alive, meaning they will want control of the ship. That only can happen on the bridge or in Engineering. Be ready for boarding parties. You three," he pointed "help me run a final check on MARS. We may get our test on it sooner than we thought and I down want it burning out as soon as it comes in."

[Observation Lounge]

The journey to the Observation Lounge had been uneventful. While hastily thrown together, the precautions had at the very least helped to ensure they had not been faced with the need to confront or even fire upon their own crew. The closest they had come was passing within a few feet of security on a few occassions, yet they had been unable to come closer than that and had seemed content to keep watch from the enforced distance.

There had been little in the way of talk between them. And while the journey was in reality a short one, it seemed to take a thousand times longer than it should to reach their destination.

Using her tricorder to ensure the room was empty, Aria led their small group inside. From the windows, you could see the Odyssey in full view, lying in wait. She turned her back to the view, "Lieutenant Travis has served with Commander sh'Elas longer than I, so may be able to offer some advice. Like me, he has no desire to see our two crews pitted against each other. As he will attest, our commanding officer can be... stubborn."

Javorian weighed the words Aria had just spoken and nodded. "Indeed, stubborn would be an accurate word. But she is also devoted, and passionate. It can be an exceedingly potent combination."

"In this case, stubborn will alone will not be enough to save the Commander," T'Prynn countered, "I have my orders, Lieutenant, and so does your Captain. We must ensure they are carried out."

Javorian gave the Vulcan woman a raised eyebrow and coldly replied, "I know my duties, Captain. A reminder is not needed."

Watching the exchange, Aria remained silent. It wasn't the time for distractions. The safety of both ships was at stake. So instead she opened a channel to the Bridge.

"=/\= Commander Winters to Commander sh'Elas," the first officer stated as soon as T'Prynn was ready, "Commander, Captain T'Prynn is aboard and waiting to speak to you in the Observation Lounge. Please, join us so we can find another way to resolve this which doesn't risk the lives of our crews.=/\="


Commander sh'Elas was sat beside the ship's Counsellor, discussing the situation in sickbay when the comm array activated with the message from the ship's XO.

Paxton turned to face the CO, he didn't know what her move would be the pilot took the phaser from under his station and holstered it.

Tharia rose to her feet and looked at Elloyia. "You have your orders, Lieutenant. Use your judgment and do what you must to keep this ship safe," the Andorian nodded to her Betazoid colleague, and then a glance to the Flight Operations Officer. "Support the Counsellor the best you can, Lieutenant. I'll be in the observation lounge."

Elleese watched as the captain got to her feet. The Betazoid's odd-colored eyes were wary but resolute. She knew there was so much more going on under the surface of everything, and it made for a temptation to use her telepathic to find out what...but that would violate every single ethical code of her life. As a person. As a Betazoid. A counselor. And a Starfleet officer.

She simply nodded once. "Yes, sir," she acknowledged before her gaze followed to the flight ops officer as well. She didn't really know him, but it seemed they would be in this together.

"Let's just hope no one starts shooting," Paxton said turning his attention back on the readings coming into his station.

The Game’s Afoot

Location: Various
On: Day 9 at 1350

With Lieutenant Dreik off the bridge, conversing with the Doctor and putting their plan in motion, a trusted understudy had arrived on the bridge and taken over at Tactical in her absence. At the same time, Ensign Kedam had been drafted in to take over at Ops now that Javorian was at science.

Javorian. That was a touchy subject for the Commander given the lengths she had gone to in order to secure his transfer back to the Ulysses. Now, he had sided with the XO in rejecting the Captain's orders and had left the Andorian with, surprisingly, only the Tactical Chief and her Medical counterpart as allies at present, the Andorian having taken the decision not to fill in the rest of the senior staff in case they too sided against her. But, fate had a horrible way of intervening.

"Captain, we're receiving a transmission," Kedam called out from Ops, turning to face the commanding officer, "it's Admiral Azulas ma'am."

Rising from her chair, the Captain had little choice but to leave the bridge in the hands of the XO, but remained hopeful that she wasn't clued in to their operation. Acting as if nothing was happening, the Captain turned to Winters. "Commander, the bridge is yours. I'll take the transmission in the ready room."

“Yes ma’am,” Winters replied, wondering if the chill would ease with the Andorian’s departure. No sooner had the ready room door closed than Kedam spoke up again.

“Commander Winters, you have an incoming transmission from Captain T’Prynn,” the Ops officer reported before quickly added, “It is marked private.”

There was clear curiosity in her shipmate’s voice. Indeed Aria shared it. “Please put it through to my office. Travis, the Bridge is yours.” Confident the ship was in safe hands she retreated to her office, activating the monitor to accept the transmission even as she sat. “Captain? What can I do for you?”

"=/\=Commander Winters, it is agreeable to see you again, though I wish it was under better circumstances," the Vulcan spoke, the back drop on the screen showing the woman to be in her own ready room aboard the Odyssey.

Nothing good could come from a sentiment like that. She arched an eyebrow slightly, as concerned as curious now.

"=/\=Starfleet needs you to appeal for calm, Commander. If your Captain continues down this illogical path, then she will potentially place your colleagues in the unenviable position of having to fire on a Federation starship," the Vulcan commander of the Intrepid-class starship revealed, hoping to appeal to the XO's calm, rational nature.

Leaning forward, Aria frowned. “It would appear you have information I do not. I take it you have been made aware of her decision to keep the survivor aboard? However, it seems some distance away from firing on another Federation ship... may I ask why you believe that may become a possibility?”

"=/\=It would seem that Commander sh'Elas has kept you in the dark regarding her intentions. She has made it clear that she has no intention of following her orders. I have been authorised by Admiral Azulas to do everything in my power to ensure those orders are completed," the Vulcan revealed with a raised eyebrow. "Right now, the Admiral is giving the Commander one last chance to follow her orders. If sh'Elas rejects the orders of Admiral Azulas, I intend to act," T'Prynn declared, devoid of any emotion.

Well accustomed to a previous commanding officer who played lip service to the rules, Aria’s expression darkened. “She has not voiced that opinion or intention,” she admitted, “perhaps because of our objection to keeping the survivor aboard. Nor has she been happy at having a new first officer forced upon her. Has she provided any explanation?”

"=/\=She feels that the patients health and well-being can be best cared for aboard the Ulysses, whilst also indicating a desire to see the investigation through to its conclusion," T'Prynn revealed, not one to lie or withhold information, especially at a time like this. "The Admiral's orders are clear and your vessel has an engagement in the Mira system. Regardless of the Commander's feelings for you, you must try and appeal for calm and rational thinking," the stoic looking woman told with an expression of what could almost be labelled concern.

“Quite,” Aria muttered drily. From the little she had seen, her commanding officer was more attuned to doing what she felt was right. Or else she would not have about turned regarding the transfer of the survivor. “It seems I have a ... difficult, discussion with the Commander. But while I am first officer, the only way we are firing on another Starfleet vessel in this scenario is if she shoots me first. Although I’m not convinced that will make her think twice.”

"=/\=Be under no illusion, Commander. If I have to fire on the Ulysses, or send boarding parties to secure the patient, I will," T'Prynn told coldly, "I hope I can rely on you to try and talk the Commander down so that events do not overtake us?" she asked, but more in a way that implied it was a warning of sorts.

“Let us both hope the Commander is willing to listen. Is there anything else I should know before I speak to her?” Aria enquired.

"=/\=If it comes to it, and it appears as though Commander sh'Elas will not listen to reason, you must find a way to contact the Odyssey. Do not take any action that will potentially harm you or your crew. If sh'Elas is intent on pursuing this course of action, she must be the one to commit the crime," T'Prynn advised, coldly and rationally, "do not give any subsequent investigation any ammunition against you or your crewmates."

“Understood,” Aria nodded.

A silent nod from the Captain, and the Vulcan disappeared. The game, as the saying went, was very much afoot.

Crossing the Line

Leaving the sanctuary of her ready room after an extended stay in her private work space, the Vulcan Captain of the Odyssey stepped onto the bridge of the Intrepid-class vessel and glided towards the seats at the centre of the room, where her bearded executive officer waited.

Standing in silence, his arms folded across his chest, Commander Daniel Broderick, a man who had served with T'Prynn on the Odyssey for some time, watched as the Captain silently approached him. That did not worry him, since she was often a woman of few words, but it was the expression on her face that concerned him. "Captain? Is everything okay?" he queried, arms dropping to his side.

"No Commander Broderick," the Vulcan shook her head, "it most certainly is not. Commander sh'Elas has set us on a path from which there may be no return," she told somewhat cryptically before looking across the bridge at her Operations Chief. "Get me Admiral Azulas on a secure channel," she ordered.

Junior Lieutenant Ratix Qad nodded, the Bolian looking more than a little anxious as he carried out the Captain's orders. "Ye... yes ma'am," he spoke, turning his attention to his console.

"Captain," Broderick stepped closer to the Vulcan so that his words couldn't be heard by the others, the tension levels already increasing, "should I be worried?" he asked.

"We should all be worried, Commander," T'Prynn spoke, a noticeable frown of sorts on her face as she took her seat.

That did not make the executive officer feel any better as he took his seat beside her. He had dozens of questions to ask, as did most of the bridge crew no doubt, but he would wait until she had spoken with the Admiral - which did not take long.

"=/\=Captain T'Prynn," the spotted Rear Admiral smiled when she appeared on the main view screen of the Odyssey, "are you on your way back with your patient?"

"=/\=No," T'Prynn responded bluntly, "Commander sh'Elas has informed me that she has no intention of surrendering her patient to the Odyssey. It is her intention to take the patient with her and continue the investigation she has started whilst en-route to their next destination," the Vulcan revealed as she perched on the edge of her seat, hands gently grasping the arms of her chair.

Azulas looked more than a little concerned at the briefing from the Captain. "=/\=On what grounds?" she queried of her Vulcan subordinate.

"=/\=According to the Commander, they are of the belief that they can better cater for their patients needs whilst hoping she can provide them with clues and answers as to what happened on the planet," the Vulcan added the extra detail that the Admiral wanted, and now elaborated further. "I have informed the Commander that should she take these actions, she will be in contravention of her orders. How would you like us to proceed, Admiral?"

Azulas held up her hand to signal a pause in the conversation and, momentarily, she disappeared from the screen. Whilst they waited, Broderick lent towards his commander and whispered in her pointed ear. "Do you think sh'Elas is really willing to disobey her orders?"

"So it would seem," her response solemn and full of regret.

Once Azulas reappeared on the screen, their attention diverted forward again. "=/\=Captain, you are granted permission to use any means necessary to ensure the Commander complies with her orders. I'm going to reach out to her, to see if I can get her to see sense. Standby for confirmation before acting," the Trill ordered sternly, tapping on a data PADD and then hitting a final button. "I've sent you a copy of your orders, pending final confirmation," she concluded.

With a nod from her XO, who began downloading the given orders, the Vulcan nodded in acknowledgement. "=/\=We will await your confirmation, Admiral. Odyssey out." With the channel closed, the Vulcan adjusted her positioning slightly to look across at the Tactical Operations officer at the station near her ready room. She was about to give orders when she noted the worried expression on the Lieutenant's face. It was the same expression on everyone's face around the bridge.

Rising to her feet, the Vulcan was about to engage with her crew on an emotional level, a level she was unaccustomed to. "I understand that a number of you will be experiencing a variety of emotions regarding our orders. You must remember that we are Starfleet officers and it is our duty to follow orders. Commander sh'Elas and the crew of the Ulysses have decided not to follow their orders and we will do whatever is necessary to ensure that our combined mission objectives are completed. Put your emotions to one side, focus on your duties, and this situation will be resolved as quickly as possible," she advised in her calm, considered manner.

"Now," she said after a moment of silence, "Lieutenant Albright, prepare a number of armed boarding parties. Commander Broderick, have sickbay on standby to receive our patient. Ensign Davenport, be ready to pursue the Ulysses should they try to escape the area," she commanded from the centre of the bridge.

Statuesque and with an air of great authority, the Captain stood with her hands clasped together behind her back as she stared at the image of the Luna-class starship on the viewscreen. Closing her eyes, the Vulcan took a moment to focus all of her energies because, despite her cold, calm demeanour on the outside, on the inside her emotions threatened to boil to the surface. Commander sh'Elas had put her in a position no Starfleet officer could ever expect to be in, not even a woman with a keen eye for strategy like T'Prynn, and the Vulcan did not like it one bit.

"Captain," the XO spoke quietly as he stepped up beside his commanding officer and looked at her with concern. "These are our colleagues. Please tell me you're not considering firing on the Ulysses?" he whispered quietly, so as to not panic his crewmates.

"The line has been drawn, Commander..." T'Prynn's eyes opened slowly as she responded to his statement, but her gaze remained transfixed on the Federation starship that lay nearby, "...and I intend to cross it."

Bromance Anyone?

Location: Anthropology Lab
On: Day 9 at 1330

A final sigh: Mikah pel logged off the system of the transporter console and turned it over to the afternoon shift. He rubbed his neck, feeling a repetitive strain wanting to tense the lengthy muscles there. It had been a long shift and Mikah had been more in his head than usual today. Now that he was off, the two most immediate things on his mind were an hour of cello practice, and a bit of food. He's only had a protein nutrient bar.

Pel rubbed the pit of his eye and pivoted, deciding he'd go bother Robin Jackson down in Anthro. He took himself into a turbolift and called for the lab. It was a short trip. He got out in time as he undid his tunic neck just a little. The Betazoid passed into the lab, the doors swish-hissing before and behind him. He swung his gaze around, locating his fellow Non-Com.

Robin had heard the doors swish open, and glanced up just as Mikah walked in. A broad grin crossed his face as he recognized his friend. "Hey, Mikah! What's up?" he asked, his eyes sparkling in the dim light. It wasn't often that he had a friend come visit down here, and he couldn't think of any reason for Mikah to be there unless it was a social call.

Mikah's home was a museum, practically- though he jokes, more a Mausoleum. Stepping into the lab smelled much the same- of old things. Robin was right- he reason was all social, "Just off work," he said in a soft tone. "Strange day... there was mystery beam up straight to Sickbay." He glanced around the dim room, eyeing a bust of something that looked both old and ceramic. It had green chrome over what looked like closed eyes. "How's the world of dead civilizations?" Mikah smirked playfully at one corner of his mouth.

Robin grinned at the teasing tone his friend was using and waved his hand around the lab. "Fascinating as always. But then again I'm one of those really weird people that like this kind of stuff..." he said, motioning to a stone tablet on one of the tables off to his right. "It's nearly two millions years old. It was buried in a collapsed temple on a planet no one had ever even realized held ruins. Turned out that that temple was the only artificial thing on the surface of the planet and this tablet was the only artifact found inside. No statues, no books or scrolls, just stone benches, this tablet, and a stand nearby that it had been knocked off of. The stone doesn't even come from the planet it was found on and is almost as hard as diamond, yet they etched symbols and what appear to be letters into the surface. It's amazing." he said, his voice holding some of the glee his work gave him.

Mikah couldn't help but pivot his black eyes around him. He grin a toothy smile around his overbite mouth. He couldn't help but pop his eyebrows in surprise at something being two million years old. That was well before either of their species was really doing much more than pounding on flint. He chuckled, "This place reminds me of my Grandmother's study back home." Mikah went ahead and decided to take a look at the mystery tablet. "Have you run a material analysis to try and locate its planet of origin?" He asked.

"Sorry, I got a little carried away," he admitted with a sheepish grin. "So, just off work huh? I'm off as well, was just finishing up this last entry in the catalog. What you got going on?"

Mikah shook his head, "Unless you consider a cello between my legs something, no." He chortled with his nose bridge wrinkling. He folded his arms, straightening up from staring at the tablet. "I'll wait and have a look around if you want to finish."

"Oh, no, I'm done. I was just tapping the last command in when you walked in," Robin replied with a chuckle. "A cello between your legs... I am really not sure if I would consider that something or not," he added with a mischievous grin.

The Betazoid smiled bashfully, "It worked on those quiet nights," he said. "SO should we get out of here?" He touched over his stomach, "I'm really hungry actually. All I had today was one of those nutrient bars you find in survival kits."

"Aww, is somebody hungry?" Robin said, in a mock baby voice, playfully slapping his friend in the belly. With a robust laugh, he threw his arm over Mikah's shoulder and waved his other hand toward the door. "Lead on my friend, let us away!"

Mikah chuckled, "I feel like you're about to pull a Mercutio and say we need to find some saucy and toothsome wenches, but I know that's not what you're looking for." Mikah said as, with the extra heft of the broader man on his shoulder, Mikah led the way outside. The hissing doors signed off behind them and Mikah checked left and right. "He got his bearings and headed for a turbolift. "Mess," he stated to the computer. And with a thrum, the turbolift went into action. "Are you hungry?" He asked.

Robin pulled a funny, confused face, tilting his head to one side and scrunching his brows, "When am I not hungry? And no, no wenches. Maybe some pool boys?" he threw out as the turbolift began to move. He always enjoyed his time with Mikah, even though he still hadn't gotten a clear read on the other guy yet, he was still fun to hang around with, and he put up with Robin's more robust sense of humor and loud personality. Plus he was really sweet, which was always a plus.

Mikah wryly pushed a smile into one cheek, "Pool boys. OK, we'll go find you some pool boys." He smiled a toothy smile, "They're probably on the holodeck." His nose wrinkled, "Does the Ulysses have a pool?" Mikah waved off the idea.

"So, what you thinking for grub? Any ideas yet?" he asked, as he leaned back against the turbolift wall.

Most- not all but most- Betazoids leaned vegetarian. And Mikah was no different. The "passions of the beast" made slaughter an unsavory thing to Mikah's species. "What I want is something chocolate..." he mused. "But I probably need something more than that. "I think I want some kind of cheese and spinach crepes..." he nodded definitively, "Yeah. What about you?"

At the mention of him wanting chocolate Robin smirked and very obviously looked at his exposed deep brown skin and then back at the other man, waggling his eyebrows. "You want chocolate and I'm right here, and I know damn well I look like a snack!" Robin replied, and then burst out laughing. "I'm sorry, I had to. But no, seriously, the crepes definitely sound interesting, but not my usual fare. I'm thinking something a bit more hearty, probably something Italian, honestly. Maybe even some sort of alfredo..." he added, letting his thoughts trail off to the food choices he had to make before they arrived in the mess hall.

Mikah blushed, "Wrong kind of chocolate cake, Robin," he admitted. Mikah was a hard read not on purpose but because he spent very little time thinking about it all. He had desires and all... but it seemed tied up in ways that seemed more complicated than what most people liked. He smiled broadly nonetheless, "But if I ever get the craving I-I know where to go now." He shook his head at Robin's irreverence. He acquiesced, "Alfredo... that sounds nice. That can have spinach and cheese in it."

Robin giggled lightly at having made his friend blush, and then nodded along as he spoke. "Trust me, there's nothing wrong with this kind..." he said, and then turned his attention to the rest of what his friend had said. "And as for alfredo having spinach in it, yours can, mine most assuredly cannot."

Mikah wrinkled his nose, "You're going straight for meat and cheese, right?" The turbolift eased to a halt. With a hiss the doors opened. The slender arm of the Transporter Specialist gestured an "after you" for the Anthropologist to go ahead.

Robin nodded, "You know me too well," he said at the other man's comment about meat and cheese. His two favorite food groups. As the doors opened and Mikah waved him out he began making his way to the mess hall. "After all. I've gotta keep this figure somehow! I don't want to be all skin and bones!" He added, probably more loudly than was necessary.

"Or else you'll end up looking like me," Mikah self-deprecated, "There's only room for one stork on this ship." They trod the distance it took to approach the Mess, Mikah in a slight step left and behind his friend. As they entered the hall, the waft of food and drink was potent on Mikah's restless stomach. "Now I'm really hungry..."

Robin gave Mikah a slight glare. "You know I hate it when you call yourself that..." he said, letting his voice trail off. He had always been very protective of his friends, most especially when they were being self-deprecating. It made him very uncomfortable.

He was about to add to that thought when the smells of food hit him as well, and suddenly all he could think of was eating, as much, and as quickly as possible. "Me too..." he said, and made a bee-line for the nearest bank of replicators.

The Betazoid could feel the spike of frustration from his friend, even through his usual shield. His slender hand pat Robin's shoulder, "I didn't mean to work you up. When I was a child, I was always called things similar. Stick bug and stuff. I learned to own it. I am what I am." As they came to stand at the replicator banks, Mikah sidled up to the one on Robin's right. He tapped in several commands. "Alfredo, mushroom, spinach and asparagus." He smiled, "Garlic bread. And a half glass of Trebbiano di Lugana. Chilled."

Robin smiled at what his friend had ordered. It was funny how a simple suggestion, or not even really a suggestion, could turn into a craving for another person. He spoke to his own replicator, "Gemelli in cajun alfredo, with blackened grilled chicken, garlic bruschetta, and a mixed green salad with Italian vinaigrette, with a glass of unsweetened iced tea," he said, and then, with a sudden look of remembrance he spoke again, "and a chocolate raspberry torte."

Turning to Mikah as the replicators whirred into action he gave him a thoughtful look. "Sorry if I got a bit too serious back there," he said sincerely.

Mikah's mouth twitched upon its broad nature, amused by Robin ordering cake. When the other apologized, Mikah shrugged it off, "I know you mean well. You don't like your friends hurting. I sense that," he said. With his tray he gestured for a seat near a couch and chair. He began to lead them over. "You must be hungry tonight," he commented back, looking over his shoulder. His psyche flared to life at the last minute.

"Hey, watch it," a voice said as Mikah put on the breaks at the last moment. He'd nearly run into a near-Human looking man. His wine nearly lipped over its goblet as he fast blinked and tried to still his momentum.

"Sorry," Mikah apologized with a meek air.

The man suddenly looked incensed at the boy, rolling his shoulders as his face reddened.

Robin placed his tray down swiftly and darted between the two men, his face a match of fury to match that on the other man's face. "Hey, you watch it, buddy! If you'd been paying attention you could have sidestepped him instead of nearly letting him run you over!" he shouted, knowing it was the only hope of the two of them getting out of the situation in one undamaged piece.

Mikah was wide-eyed with incredulity, his mouth about to utter another apology. All he could feel, even through his usual shields- was an intense hostility aimed directly at him. At Robin's raised voice, his demeanor, Mikah moved to try to intervene. But the man suddenly relaxed his shoulders. He smiled. "Next time be careful," he said with an inexplicable smile. He pat Robin's shoulder and brushed by, leaving Mikah to stutter around his words.

"What just happened? I thought I was about to get airlocked..."

Robin let out a breath he hadn't realized he had been holding and rounded on his friend with a broad grin. "That was fun!" he said and chuckled. "Oh, and yeah, you totally would have been if you'd said you were sorry again. He'd have at least kicked your ass, but airlocking you might not be too far from reality either. Haven't you ever met a Zaldan before?"

Mikah hesitated and shook his head, "No." He said simply as he resumed his walk toward the couch and chair for them to sit and eat. "Is this something like the Romulan monks of absolute candor?"

At that Robin actually burst out laughing, leaning back in his chair. "Oh, boy..." he said, reaching up to wipe tears from the corners of his eyes. "No. Not that is not. Zaldan's are a species, and they view someone being polite as a grave insult. If you'd continued to try to smooth the waters it would have been seen as you intentionally trying to offend him, and it would not have gone over well," he said as he settled down a bit, taking a bite of the raspberry torte, the rest of his food sitting in front of him untouched so far.

Mikah meanwhile put a napkin in his lap and took a sip of his drink. "You're kidding," he said. He double blinked his surprise, "Betazoids believe in honesty... but... never taken to a level that's that level of blunt." He glanced back the way the Zaldan had gone. The crowd had resumed their eating and drinking as well, with a dull background murmur of chat. "Have you run into one before?"

"In person? No," Robin admitted. Then taking another bite of the delicious confection he continued, "But I've read a lot about them. You don't get through the Anthropology training without learning quite a lot about the more interesting species that make up the Federation. We spent an entire week on the Zaldan during my second year. Even had one in for a Q&A session."

Mikah just blinked and took it in. He did one last glance toward where the man had left and then picked up his fork to begin his meal. "So tell me more about your day, Robin." He said glanced sideways at his friend, "How's the torte?"

Robin licked a bit of the fudgy chocolate off the fork he was eating with and smiled. "Delicious!" he replied. "But then chocolate usually is," he added with a grin. "And as for my day, it was more of what you saw when you walked in. Cataloging various items we've taken aboard on our travels. Nothing super exciting to anyone outside my department I'm sure. But it was pretty interesting to me," he explained in response to his friend's inquiry about his day.

"It makes a bad day seem better," Mikah replied, "I don't know if its all Betazoids, but most of them I grew up with love chocolate." He smiled as he turned his fork in his fingers to wind pasta, "It's one of the best Human discoveries." He listened as Robin talked about his day, giving his friend a chance to voice and expound. Politely he shielded his mouth before he spoke, "Well your day had to be more interesting than mine. I ran diagnostics and swapped out bioneural gelpacks."

Robin considered what his friend had just said and nodded, his voice taking on a false solemnity, "Oh, yes, much more interesting than that. I'd never be able to do that sort of work..."

Mikah smiled at that. It was a tedious job, but someone had to do it.

Finishing his torte he pushed the plate aside and pulled his actual meal towards him, ready to tuck into the tasty alfredo and chicken. One bite in and he actually moaned, "This is amazing!" he said, leaning back and savoring the flavor of the food. "How do they get it so perfectly using resequenced proteins?"

Mikah eyed the last bite of the torte as it disappeared in his friend's mouth, while he had barely even managed a quarter of his pasta. His friend must have been even hungrier than Mikah. "It's from a good recipe probably. Something not generated by the Quartermaster or Starfleet Operations."

Robin considered what his friend had said while he finished chewing the bite he had just taken. "Probably pretty accurate," he said with a light chuckle. Taking a sip of his tea he leaned his head towards the other plates on the table, sat in front of Mikah, "How is yours?"

"Oh, its," Mikah looked down at his plate and realized that he hadn't been really tasting anything. His mind was pulled in all sorts of directions; his food had just become fuel. Mikah spooled some onto his fork and tasted it. His brows popped, "It's good... I..." he smiled with a flush, "Probably not as good as yours was." He added with a smile.

"I dunno, it looks pretty tasty, and you were eating it well enough," Robin replied. "Even if you weren't paying attention to it. What's got you so distracted?"

Mikah his lips, then twisted them in thought, "A strange beam in. Direct site to site to Sickbay." He shrugged, "My first. I hope she's OK." He spun his food on his fork. His smile, while reserved this time, turned upward, "And I have a special project going on in Engineering." Mikah took another bite and masticated thoughtfully. "But we don't have to talk about that... we can do whatever else."

Robin dropped the smile and gave his friend a half-lidded glare, "Oh, we are totally talking about it. Spill the beans," he replied. He knew Mikah sometimes thought other people found his job tedious, or boring, but, truth be told, he sometimes found it absolutely fascinating. It was all so alien to him, plus he liked seeing his friend's face light up as he discussed the things he was passionate about.

Mikah wasn't deliberately being coy, but he paused for a while, trying to figure out what he could and couldn't say. As far as he knew, nothing was top secret. "Well, we aren't to the holodeck testing stages yet. But the CEO wants it operational as soon as possible." He shrugged, "But it draws power... a lot of it. More than it should really need."

"Uh-huh, and this thing that draws a lot of power is?" Robin said, noticing that his friend had not really addressed that particular part of the topic yet. "Unless you can't talk about it, that is..." he added, suddenly realizing maybe he wasn't able to really go into detail.

Mikah grimaced. "I... I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about it. The thing is, I can only access some parts of it anyway. Whatever it is, it seems to be need to know." He shrugged a shoulder. A rueful smile grew, "I feel like I'm wedged between a couple of things just like it." Mikah sipped his wine and settled back in to the chair. "So are you dating anyone?" He wanted to change topic to something more fun for both of them.

Robin actually choked on his tea when Mikah asked him that. It wasn't that he was lacking in confidence, he had that in abundance, and it wasn't for lack of trying, but he hadn't had anyone show any interest in him in months. "Uh, no, I'm pretty sure you'd be the first to know if I was..." he said, trying to recover from his choking fit. "I keep trying to find someone to have some fun with, hell I'd settle for a quick fling, not even necessarily a relationship, but no one seems to want to even get to know me..." he added, looking slightly dejected, before going back to his default bubbly self. "What about you?"

His filters up or not, Mikah could feel a nuance of the dejection Robin let on about. The Betazoid shifted, no longer hungry. He put his plate on the table in front of them, then leaned back into the seat with his drink. In truth, as much as Mikah was from a species with infamous mental talents, he never much trusted his emotions either. Machines just seemed... easier. He waited to speak until Robin was done with his cough. "It's probably just a dry spell, Robin..." he tried to assure. "Everyone's focused on the mission and their jobs. When we come around to shore leave..." He tilted his head with a smile, "Does the Gamma Quadrant have a version of Risa?"

At the mention of Risa Robin sat up a little straighter, a distinctly mischievous gleam in his eye and a lopsided grin on his face. "Oh they better have! I went to Risa when I was sixteen with my brother and his friends... Remind me to tell you that story sometime!" he said, his mind obviously lost in thought.

The sense of impropriety wafting from his friend, Mikah shook his head, "What's wrong with telling me now?" He said, crossing his ankle over the other knee. He downed the rest of his drink and set the glass aside.

Robin chuckled, "It's not exactly a story you tell in public, especially as public as this..." he said, looking around the room. "Let's just say they call it a pleasure planet for a reason, and I took full advantage of both that and a forged ID chit I got before heading out... I'm really, really glad I never got caught. My parents would have literally killed me."

"Oh," Mikah blossomed a smile at that. "Yeah, maybe we should save that story for another time." He looked around, "Or place."

Robin smiled, "Don't worry, I won't forget to tell you all the juicy details..."

"So, dinner is done, what else would you like to do tonight? Or do I need to be letting you go, I'm sure you've got more important things to be doing," he added, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table, hands clasped under his chin.

Mikah considered the question: he'd planned on time with his cello, but with his roommates playing a great deal of Tongo these days, it wasn't an ideal environment. His phlegmatic side was perfectly happy to roll with whatever came. Mikah could sometimes be like water, going without resistance. He studied his friend's pose and couldn't help but chuckle at its characterfulness. "Well, there's the arboretum... I wouldn't mind seeing something green and alive..."

"Sounds good to me," Robin replied, standing up and making his way towards the doors that would lead them back into the ship's corridors.

A Line in the Sand

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 9 at 1320

Alone with the one officer in her command group who had seen fit to support her change of heart, the tension in the air was palpable. Commander sh'Elas had never expected Tequila Dreik to be the one to side with her, but it was the one silver lining in the situation and could, she hoped, prove to be a bridge between them.

Returning to her chair, the 'Ice Queen' reached out a hand and offered a seat to the Lieutenant stood opposite her. "Please," she smiled as she relaxed a little, trying to focus her attention on what was happening in the ready room, and not what might have been happening beyond the nearby doors.

The slip of the tongue had been completely inadvertent, she had hoped that it may have been overlooked, but clearly not. Tiki bit her tongue as she sank into the seat that she had been offered and waited for the chewing out to begin.

"I have to say Lieutenant, and with the greatest of respect," the Andorian paused for a moment, partially for effect, but also because she still couldn't quite believe it was the two of them present in the room, "I did not expect you to be the one to agree with my decision. It was brave to stand against your two colleagues, who had already shared their disagreement with my orders."

Tiki shrugged slightly. "It was the right decision to make," Tiki said simply. "If I thought you were wrong I would have stood with them. From a tactical and security perspective, your guest is safer on this ship, and our interests are best served if they remain on this ship."

"Then it is your job to make sure she stays on this ship," Tharia remarked quickly, sitting on the edge of her seat and clasping her hands together on the desk top. "I don't know Captain T'Prynn, but I can imagine she will do all she can to follow her orders."

"How much trouble do you expect?" Tiki asked simply as she leaked back in her chair, crossing her legs and watching the CO carefully, folding her arms over her chest.

"Anything from trying to beam our guest away to full on confrontation if I do not comply," the Commander revealed somewhat anxiously. "What I do know of the Vulcan is that she won't be swayed by emotion or feeling. She is a 'by the book' type of officer and will follow her orders to the letter," the Andorian added.

"Then it's a good thing I don't like to read," Tiki quipped. "I'd suggest we start by securing the ship. I'd also restrict communications. I'll speak to Lieutenant Hill about securing sickbay and our guest." She bit her bottom lip for a moment. "Do you expect your little goody goody club out there to tow the line or are they going to be a problem as well?"

It hurt her to think that they would go against her orders, but in reality, she had served with most of them for only a short amount of time, so how well did she really know them? "Honestly, I don't know. Winters is an anomaly, a wild card that I cannot yet predict," the Commander confessed as she lowered her head slightly. "Very well. Secure the ship and contact Lieutenant Hill. Do it quietly and away from the bridge. I'll do what I can to keep Travis and Winters engaged on something."

"That'll be easy enough to do," Tikii replied with a shrug, standing up from the seat. "I should be able to secure the ship quickly enough. I'll let you know when I'm done. If there's nothing else, I may as well get started now."

Getting the nod from the Commander, Tiki turned on her heel and started walking toward the door, pausing for a moment and turning back. "It must really frost your cookies... I'm the one you didn't want, and now I'm the one you have in your corner." She offered a sweet smile before turning on her heel and walking out of the ready room. She had work to do.

Watching as Dreik left, the Commander of the Ulysses now had perhaps the most important transmission of her life to make. She activated her computer console and put in her command access codes. "Computer," she called out, "open a secure channel to the USS Odyssey for Captain T'Prynn," she ordered before sitting back as a few last minute nerves threatened to engulf her.

"=/\=Commander sh'Elas," the Vulcan nodded respectfully upon appearing on the view screen. "I must say, I was surprised by the request for a secure channel. I assume you are ready to transfer your patient?" the Odyssey's Captain inquired from the visible sanctuary of her own ready room.

Sitting forward slightly, Tharia shook her head in disagreement. "=/\=I'm afraid not, Captain. There has been a change of plan," the Andorian revealed, which caused the Vulcan to raise an eyebrow in bemusement. "I've discussed our orders with the Chief Medical Officer on the Ulysses, and neither of us feel it is wise to transport the patient at this time. We will, instead, be taking her with us on the next stage of our journey," the Commander of the Ulysses revealed.

At this point, in an uncharacteristic look of utter confusion on behalf of the Vulcan, T'Prynn sat forward and lent towards the screen. "=/\=Forgive me, Commander, but I must have misheard you. It sounded as if your intention is to disobey your orders," the Vulcan remarked, genuinely confused for the first time in a long while.

"=/\=There is no confusion ma'am," the Andorian shook her head again, "I cannot, in good conscience, follow orders that I know to be wrong. It is our belief that the patient's interests are best served here, on the Ulysses, until our investigation is complete."

"=/\=That is not you determination to make," the Vulcan countered, a hint of a sterner tone about her inflection this time, "your orders are quite clear, Commander. You are to transfer your patient to the Odyssey and then proceed to the Mira system. Am I clear?" she queried as she at back again.

"=/\=As clear as the ice caps on Andoria," the Commander nodded, "but I will not change my mind Captain. Something happened on Xendi Sabu that killed thousands of people; I was tasked with solving that mystery, and our guest is a potential clue in that investigation. While the investigation remains open, she stays here."

"=/\=Tharia," the Vulcan spoke, inching forward again. The use of the Commander's first name suggested the Vulcan might actually be more concerned than she was prepared to let on. "Your actions, whilst commendable to an extent, are most illogical given the parameters Starfleet have laid before us. Disobeying orders will lead to severe repercussions for you, and members of your crew," the pointy-eared logician advised quietly, and sternly.

"=/\=I cannot blindly follow orders that could put citizens of the Federation at continued risk," Tharia responded before leaning forward herself, "I cannot believe a Vulcan as logical as you would so freely disregard the lives of Federation citizens. I urge you, Captain T'Prynn, think about what you would do in my position."

"=/\=I have thought about it," the Vulcan Captain responded quickly, yet as stoically as usual, "but our orders stand. And I will do what I must in order to enforce our orders."

"=/\=Then the line has been drawn, Captain," Tharia sat back in her chair, "we'll see who is willing to cross it first..." and with that, the Commander terminated the communications channel. Acting swiftly, the Commander rose to her feet and made for the bridge of the Ulysses.

There was much to be done, and acting fast would be imperative. Everything now depended on it.

On the Record

Following the departures of several personnel, some who seemingly didn't agree with the Captain's decision and others who had been transferred to the Odyssey at the request of the ships Vulcan Captain, the bridge was, for once, fairly quiet as the Captain arrived via turbo lift and made her way across the bridge via the command area. Headed for the ready room on the opposite side of the bridge, the Captain didn't even look at the officers present, simply calling out some names and expecting them to follow.

"Winters, Dreik and Travis; ready room.

With that, the Andorian disappeared inside and made her way around the back of her desk, waiting for her senior officers to arrive.

Rising from the command chair, Lt.Commander Winters sighed inwardly, wondering what had put their CO in such a wonderful mood. Ordering Ensign Fellows to take over, she led the way. “Something wrong, Commander?” She asked as she crossed the threshold into the Ready Room.

Directly behind Aria, Javorian entered the ready room, wondering the exact same thing. Normally Tharia was at least somewhat warm and friendly, in his experience. She certainly didn't seem to be in that kind of mood today.

Tiki cast a discerning glance at Javorian as she stood up from her console and followed behind the XO. "What did you do this time?" she hissed at Javorian, rolling her eyes exaggeratedly.

Once the summoned officers were inside and the door was shut behind them, the Captain took her seat at the desk. “I’ve called you all here to inform you of my new orders. If any of you object, you are urged to put your objections in writing, do you understand?” she told them somewhat cryptically.

“Understood,” Aria confirmed, wondering what was going on.

Javorian arched his left eyebrow, "Ominously put, but understood, ma'am."

With a shrug, Tiki clasped her hands behind her back, waiting to see what this was all about before she made any determination.

"I've just spoken with Doctor Hill," she remarked as she used her planted left foot to gently sway the chair from side to side, glancing across the desk at the three officers. "I've decided that I am not going to transport our survivor to the Odyssey."

“The reason being?” Aria enquired. It was a complete 180, given the briefing on the Bridge.

"Because, despite the way he went about sharing his concerns, the Doctor was right," Tharia frowned, stopping the side to side motion of her chair. "Our orders are crap. Our patient should remain here, under his care, until we have figured out what the hell happened to her. And to her planet."

Accustomed to a CO who did his own thing - and the fallout - Winters frowned. “Are we abandoning our new mission?” She asked simply. “Or are we just taking a passenger?”

"Might I also inquire, along those lines, about the fact that a Starbase, which is where she was to be taken, would be infinitely better equipped to help her?" Javorian asked. He fully agreed that the orders were in the least troubling, but at least in regards to the medical treatment of the female in sickbay, the logic was sound. She would be much better off receiving treatment in a sickbay on a Starbase, with it's vastly expanded resources.

"You're right Javorian," the Captain nodded slowly. She was agreeing with a lot of people this morning. "But we're not just taking a passenger, nor a patient. We're taking an important clue in our investigation. We need her help if we are to ever get an idea of what truly went on down there. Doctor Hill knows her, has built a rapport with her and is probably the best placed person to continue her medical treatment," at this point, the Captain rose to her feet again. "So, I'm going to disobey orders and we're not going to transfer our patient to the Odyssey."

“Travis is right, we are not a starbase,” Aria sighed. She didn’t doubt Doctor Bill’s ability. It was the sudden change of heart. Of direction. On the Bridge her reasons had been sound. Necessary. This was not just reversing a decision. It was reversing it while making it clear orders be damned. “Are we intending to depart as planned for our new mission? Or are we remaining here?”

"We will continue with our new mission, as planned, but we will be taking our guest with us until such a time as our investigation, and her health, allows us to transfer her," the Commander was quite clear in her choice of words. "Something devastated that world and her people. We were tasked with finding out what and now, just as we have perhaps the biggest clue we could have hoped for, we're ordered to hand it all over to the Odyssey. Well, I for one don't like leaving a task unfinished," she declared. "If any of you wish to object to my change of plan, you can do so now and I will note it in my log."

With certainty that she was about to endear herself immensely, Winters spoke up. “I do.”

“While I have no doubt around Dr Hill’s ability,” Aria clarified, “I do believe a starbase, with their additional resources, is still the best option for the survivor given we don’t know what we will encounter moving forward. The decision is of course yours, Commander.”

"I too must object, Captain. It is irrelevant what any of us may like," Javorian replied, his voice nearly devoid of any emotion. "The facts, and the logic, both agree. Our passenger would be better served by the medical facilities on a Starbase, and, while she may potentially have information that could assist us in our investigation, we will serve no one's interests by allowing her to die because of what we wish the situation to be, instead of accepting it as it is."

Tiki waited for a long moment, until she was aware of the fact that her silence had unwillingly brought attention her way. Completely ignoring the Commanding Officer, Tiki offered another shrug. "I think she's right," she said nonchalantly. "Doctor Hill seems competent enough to treat our guest effectively, and until we know what happened on the planet we certainly don't serve her best interests in throwing her at the nearest facility and flying off into the starfield. Aside from the fact that she's the only surviving witness to possibly give any information on what happened, she's safer here with us than she is anywhere else right now." A pause, a scuff of her boot across the carpet and another glance. "Sorry, I'm actually with the ice qu... Commander sh'Elas on this one."

Tharia, who was not immune from knowledge of the fact that she had been labelled the ice queen by those on the crew, was a little taken a back at the slip of the tongue from the Tactical chief. That being said, she was more taken a back by the rejections of both her XO and, perhaps more hurtfully, her Science Chief. After all she had gone through to get him back with the crew, he now chose to stand against her on this matter. "Very well. Your objections are noted by me, personally and will be noted in the ships log shortly. If you two wouldn't mind, I'd like a moment with Lieutenant Dreik please."

"Of course, Captain," Javorian said, standing to leave. He had seen the hurt in her eyes when he too had voiced his objections, and wished he hadn't had to do that. He really enjoyed the friendship they'd built, and hoped he hadn't just destroyed it, but his first allegiance had to be to the truth, and to logic. All he could do was hope she understood that.

“Yes ma’am,” Aria replied as she stood. Certain she would probably be back on the Rhode Island within the hour. Yet she could not, in honesty, say nothing.

Turning on her heels she followed Travis out the door, wondering exactly what the repercussions of this meeting would be.

The Plot Thickens

With those on the bridge firmly on side, or at least so it seemed (though she couldn't be certain), Tharia felt significantly relaxed as she sat in her command chair. With one leg draped over the other at the knee, and her arms resting on the armrests either side of her, she looked more relaxed than she had in hours, perhaps even days - it was the power of believing in one's convictions. The power of knowing one's actions were just.

Quietly, the doors onto the bridge opened and the chief counselor slipped through them. That sense of "wrongness" she'd started feeling not long before was now even more pronounced, and she had finally been able to find the source...or perhaps it was just the largest concentration of it. Either way, she had brought herself to the bridge in an attempt to learn what was going on...

They had been waiting for a short time now; whilst Peter returned to engineering with a new set of orders, and Lieutenant's Dreik and Hill put their final plans in motion, they waited for the call. When the call eventually came, it was short and sweet.

"Captain," Nisha announced, "we're receiving a transmission from the Odyssey."

"Put it on screen," the Andorian instructed, lowering both feet to the deck plating and sitting forward on the edge of her seat.

When the Vulcan Captain of the nearby Intrepid-class vessel appeared on the screen, she too looked relaxed - at least as relaxed as Vulcans ever looked. "=/\=Commander Tharia sh'Elas. I am authorised to give you one final chance to follow your orders and surrender your patient," the pointy-eared woman told coldly.

With an unnerving smile filling her face, the Andorian slowly rose to her feet. "=/\=Centuries ago, our two people's fought at great cost. Andorians believed the Vulcans to be liars and untrustworthy - the placement of a secret facility on P'Jem proved it. Vulcans believed Andorians to be warmongers and savages. Again, battles of the time probably showed that to be true. But in the centuries since, Andorians and Vulcans have come to an understanding; our bitter histories put behind us," she declared proudly, "Until today. Today, you side against me, against my crew, and against the very Federation you stand for. If you attack us, if you send boarding parties aboard, you will be doing something no one has done in an incredibly long time... you'll be pitting Starfleet against Starfleet; my crew against yours."

Letting out a sigh, the Commander took a step towards the main viewer. "=/\=Someone once told me that Starfleet doesn't want officers who will blindly follow orders without analysing the situation. Well we have analysed this situation, Captain, and this time the orders are wrong. I will not blindly follow them in the way that you are doing," then she stood almost bolt upright, her hands clasped together behind her back and feet shoulder width apart. "Do what you must Captain, but I urge you think of the repercussions for your actions."

T'Prynn, to her credit, seemed to be giving the Commander's words the attention they so deserved, but eventually she shook her head. "=/\=A fine speech Commander, but you should have thought about that when you decided to ignore your orders," the Vulcan chided, "now stand down or we will open fire."

"=/\=Then I am afraid you will have to open fire," the Commander declared. A curt nod to Nisha, and the channel was closed. "Red alert, all hands to battlestations!" Tharia ordered swiftly as she spun on her heels and returned to her chair.

Elleese had watched the conversation proceed with confusion at first, followed by a strong feeling of...disturbance. What was going on? She knew about the survivor, but her department had not yet been called upon while the physical needs pressed more strongly...and yet now they were, what, about to go to war against another Starfleet vessel?

Given she didn't have a "battle station" per-se, she stayed on the bridge. The captain may need her counsel, after all, and she began to move that way--to try to ask what needed asking--but a call from the conspicuously-absent exec came in first.

"=/\= Commander Winters to Commander sh'Elas. Commander, what is going on? =/\="

Tharia smirked as she got comfortable. Predictable, the XO was. The Commander noted the presence of the Counsellor and, in an apparent gesture of good will (and in an effort to keep the Betazoid on side), sh'Elas gestured to the empty seat beside her.

Tapping the control on the side of her chair, the Commander activated the communications grid. "=/\=Captain T'Prynn has threatened to open fire on our vessel, and I mean to defend it with all the power at my disposal."

There was a long pause before the voice of the First Officer filtered back through comms. "=/\= Commander, please... stop to consider the ramifications of this. Is keeping the woman aboard worth an open confrontation with another Starfleet vessel? The people serving aboard the Odyssey are fellow officers, not the enemy. There has to be another way. =/\="

Tharia raised an eyebrow as her antennae dipped, showing her frustration. "=/\=How about you get on side for once," the Andorian responded angrily, "we have a job to do and I plan to see it through. If we go to battle, it is the fault of the Vulcan, not me."

“=/\= If we go to battle, it will be everyone’s fault. We have clear orders to transport the survivor and proceed to our next mission. We have to find another way to resolve this. =/\="

Shaking her head in frustration some more, the Commander simply terminated the comm channel to the XO.

Tiki stepped onto the bridge, making her way directly to the tactical station, casting a chagrined glance toward Commander sh'Elas. "Now I know you weren't going to party without inviting me," she said with a grin and a wink. Her demeanor was just as blithe as ever. No clear indication of what path she was walking, she just exuded her usual sass in spades.

Paxton's earlier remark aside, he really hoped the ships wouldn't come to blows, that being said, he would make sure the Ulysses came out on top if that came to it. He also couldn't stop thinking about the 150 or so crew the ship carried, I'm sure they thought they were intervening against a 'rouge starship' a place he had found himself in before aboard the Kumari. Despite what the records would say after this ended, however it did, he hoped it would be without bloodshed. "All engines at your disposal ma'am."

"Hold your position, Helm. Lieutenant Dreik," the Commander finally called out, "charge all weapons but do not lock a target. If anyone is going to be the aggressor, we're going to leave it to the Vulcan."

When indicated, Elleese took a seat in the empty chair on the commander's side. It wasn't unusual for a counselor to be on the bridge, but this situation was far, far, far from "usual" and she could only feel the tension around it. It was almost choking her; the emotion, the anger, the pride, the stubbornness, the fear... It was cloying and coming from every direction. To the point she wasn't sure who was feeling what.

"Commander," she whispered urgently, leaning toward the Andorian and fixing her pale eyes on the woman in charge of the vessel. "What is going on? The ship feels like it is ready to tear in half."

"We're about to go to war with the Odyssey, Counsellor. Captain T'Prynn has made the threat, and I will do everything in my power to protect this vessel," the Commander whispered in a hushed tone, before turning and looking at the Betazoid, her antennae dipped and an anxiousness in her eyes. "I need you to remember that no matter what you see and hear in the next few minutes, not everything is as it seems. When the time comes, I am going to leave you in command of the bridge and you will do nothing, no matter the urging or pushing of others. You will not flee, you will not fire. You will hold your ground until you receive orders from myself or Commander Winters. Do you understand?"

Elleese's blue-silver eyes held the commander's sobering gaze, and she could sense feelings--from sh'Elas, from everyone else on the bridge and on the ship--that were so strong, she could almost taste them on her tongue like ash. She knew the captain was in dead earnest, and she was not sensing...deception. Insanity. No, something was very wrong.

Her pale brows knit, but she gave one, small nod. "Yes, Commander," she replied in a whisper. "I understand." She wanted to ask so, so much more, but she suddenly had a feeling of...constriction. She knew she couldn't talk right here, right now. Too many ears. The layers to everything was...troubling, but she withstood the storm.

=/\="Engineering to Bridge. Warp core at peak efficiency,. We are green across the board Commander. All systems nominal." =/\= Peter announced from Engineering.

Within seconds of the engineer's report, the ship rocked slightly, drawing the Commander's attention towards the woman stood at the Tactical station. "Report, Lieutenant?"

"Phaser hit, forward shields. No damage," the Lieutenant revealed, glancing down at the Commander.

Listening to the brief report, a smile crept on the face of the Andorian, a smile that most would have considered peculiar given the nature of their situation. But for Tharia, it was all the ammunition she needed to put her plan into place.

The line had been drawn... and the Vulcan had been the one to cross it.

Mystery of the Survivor

The events had left Mikah Pel not so much shaken as deeply introspective. For the fourth time in under half an hour, his diagnostic tool chirped a time out error on his work with the transporter pattern buffer's cache realignment. He shook his head out of the reverie in his mind and dutifully reset his tool, this time trying to make sure he didn't drift. But he couldn't help it: the first warning, of course, had come from staff notifying of a beam up, and emergency protocols would send her directly to Sickbay. When he'd locked on to her pattern, she- they?- were coursing with radiation, so much that the computer wanted to clamp down on the beam out.

As a Transporter specialist, your job was specific- and the reality was, you weren't needed very often. It was an isolated existence. Mikah wasn't the first specialist to become mind-numbingly bored with a system that habitually didn't need him. Yet he could hardly sit in here with his cello between his knees, practicing all day. So, he didn't have to use his mind. Now his mind went around and around about this mystery beam up. Mikah knew he should have been focused on anything else- and then his diagnostic tool errored out on him again.

Slumping his shoulders, Mikah self-chastised a sigh. "Concentrate..." he muttered to himself. He reset his tool and began to realignment. When it requested further action, this time he did it. It felt like a small victory.

The youth leaned back on one coltish arm and tried to stretch his lower back in some sitting version of the camel Yoga pose. His stork-long legs had been folded in a butterfly shape for the better part of his time here.

"Computer..." he said, then he hesitated. He stared at the buffer data of the last transport. It chirped at him but he wasn't sure what else to say. Was he violating his pay grade? By even asking? "Forget it." He said. His black eyes blinked and narrowed as he leaned again back on both arms. He let his head loll and he closed his eyes. He rubbed his neck and plexed against his mastoid bone with a pair of fingers.

It wasn't often the Chief Medical Officer had reason to visit one of the ships Transporter Rooms but with the medical staff at work running a battery of scans and tests on their guest, Lieutenant Hill had struck upon the idea to take a look at the transporter log from when they beamed her from the Runabout to Sickbay. When he stepped inside he found, as he expected, the transporter specialist at work.

"Crewman Pel. How's it going?" He asked pleasantly. 'Better not to piss someone off when you're about to ask for their help.' Hill reminded himself.

"Sir!" The Crewman was up in a stiff stand when the Doctor came in. He raised his chin, "Apologies, Sir. I was just running a check on the buffer logs." He dared a glance at the man with his set of black eyes. Mikah had been in Sickbays somewhat frequently his entire life, on account of his heart condition, but it was seldom serious. And the Ulysses' Sickbay was still somewhat new to him despite his onboard physical.

Hill smirked at the sight of the young Crewman snapping to attention. He could remember doing the same thing anytime an officer came within visual range when he was a Private. "At ease, Crewman. I'm only the Chief Medical Officer, no need to stand to attention around me."

Mikah relaxed with a nod and was about to speak when the doors to the Transporter Room careened open yet again. Mikah swiveled his gaze to the second.

Javorian strode purposefully into the transporter room, nodding to the ship's chief medical officer, and one of the transporter techs whom he found inside. "Greetings," he said as he came to a stop a meter or so away.

The dark qualities of Mikah's eyes, upon seeing the second, held muted surprise at the sudden busyness of the room. He nodded at the new entrant, "Sir," he said. "How can I help you two?"

"Why don't you go first, Lieutenant?" Hill motioned for Javorian to proceed with his request first.

Javorian nodded again, this time to acknowledge the Doctor's offer for him to first. Turning to look at the Betazoid transporter tech he spoke. "I would like to review all sensor date available from the beam up of the patient currently being assessed in sickbay."

Hill smiled. He was here for exactly the same reason. "Oh. Well they say great minds think alike. I'm here for the same reason." He turned to Crewman Pel. "Can you help us out?"

"Of course, Sirs," the Betazoid said as he came back around to the standing console. Slender fingers went into motion: Mikah chewed at his lip in concentration. He reduced the work he'd been doing on the MARS system for the Chief and started to filter through the logs. "Here they are..." he murmured softly. He made a pinching motion, then a fling: a hologram of bathing yellows and oranges appeared before them, for all to interact with.

Javorian turned his attention to the hologram, letting his eyes roam over the various aspects of the information that was being displayed. He took various notes on his PADD, his face expressionless, and then moved, ever so slightly to see if he could gain any further insight from a different angle. It was a fully three-dimensional representation, with all of the extraneous surrounding material removed, leaving the beamed in body floating free, with all data showing in either color, or as scrolling text, and was an invaluable resource.

"Are you seeing anything particularly insight giving, Doctor?" he asked, looking towards Dr. Hill.

Doctor Hill had been studying the data, rubbing his temple. "I'm feeling a headache coming on." He let out a frustrated sigh. "I hate these holographic interfaces." Jonathan gingerly reached out to manipulate the display. He brought up the results of her latest scans. "It looks like her body is adapting to the radiation. How in the hell is that possible?" There was no expectation of an answer from either man. "When we beamed her from the Runabout to Sickbay, she was a terminal case. Her life could be measured in weeks. Now," he paused, "I'm not so sure."

Javorian enhanced one of the color-coded areas, and then two more, "These are varieties of radiation I'm not familiar with," he said to the Doctor, by way of explaining why he'd done what he had done. "I have never seen them before, and can't explain them with any certainty. Perhaps one of those radiation signatures changed something within her body that allowed her to adapt. Perhaps it will continue to change her, in ways that may surprise us going forward. I will have to ensure I have a full data uplink to the starbase to continue to monitor that scientific studies..." he said, his voice trailing off as he continued to look over the data.

"I haven't seen anything that the radiation could have triggered that would cause this kind of mutation," Hill replied as he continued to study data. Glancing through the display at the young Crewman he asked, "Crewman, is it possible that something in the transporter interacted with the radiation in such a way that could have had this kind of effect?"

"I mean," Mikah paused as he gave the question some serious thought, "I guess anything is possible. When she came aboard, she had been transported to the Runabout via that ship's transporter system which is rudimentary at best compared to the complex systems on the Ulysses." He started pacing a little as he lifted a hand to his chin. "When she was moved from the Runabout to Sickbay, she was transported again, right?"

"That is correct, Crewman," Javorian replied, considering the information they'd just been given. "Doctor, I must admit, his answer makes a certain logical sense. The amount of cellular damage and the sheer amount of radiation contained in her damaged body could easily have overwhelmed some of the more sensitive components of the runabouts more simplistic transporter array. Perhaps when she was reassembled it created an anomaly that was then further enhanced when she was transported to sickbay..." he mused, looking towards Doctor Hill.

Doctor Hill rubbed his face. "Hang on. Are you telling me that by running her through the Runabout's transporter and then the ship's transporters, we've caused her body...to become immune to the radiation?" It seemed rather far fetched but at the moment he had no other theories.

"It is not beyond the realms of possibility, Doctor. Far stranger things have happened with regards to the transporters. Kirk was split into two completely separate entities at one point, several officers have been transported to alternate dimensions, I honestly don't believe this to be the most astonishing possibility," Javorian admitted, looking squarely at the data before them.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Hill closed his eyes. "Okay. What we have is a theory, and a rather out there one at that." He opened his eyes and glanced over at Javorian. "We need to determine exactly how the transporters did this; facts, not theories." Looking back towards the young transporter operator. "Transfer a copy of the transporter logs and the logs from the Runabout to Lieutenant Travis and myself. Thanks for your help, Crewman."

"As you wish, Doctor," the Crewman nodded in acceptance of his orders.

Catching Javorian's eye, he jerked his head in the direction of the door. The two Lieutenant exited into the corridor. "I'd suggest we put a research team together; medical, science, engineering, ops. See if our people can come up with the facts of how this happened."

"Agreed, Doctor. I will head up the science department, and I'll pull in Ensign Kedam as well. She's one of the best science officers I've ever seen. I'll reach out to Commander Winters about getting some other departments onboard and make sure we don't cause any scheduling conflicts. Do you have any officers in mind that you'd particularly prefer to have involved?" Javorian asked as they came to a halt in the corridor.

Jonathan already knew who to assign to the team. "Doctor's Jacobs and Soll are two of my best. I'll assign them to the team."

"Sounds good to me, Doctor. Just remember, once she is transferred off the ship the data will have to go with her. We can still monitor it, but it will no longer be our responsibility," Javorian said, hoping he wasn't going to offend the man.

The CMO grinned like a Cheshire Cat. "Don't worry about that, Javorian. Let's just get the team set up and have them start analysing the data."

Javorian nodded slowly, his brows drawn down in suspicion, a bit untrusting of the grin that had suddenly crossed the CMO's face. "Understood, Doctor. I shall begin making preparations," he said, and moved away to do just that.

"Actually," the Crewman interjected at the very last moment, "it is also highly possible that the more complex transporter systems on the Ulysses were able to filter out some of the affects of the radiation. Biofilters are miraculous things..." he added with a smile as he followed the two officers to the door watched the two disappear down the corridor in opposite directions. With a shake of his head, the Crewman disappeared back into the transporter room and began the process of transferring the requested logs.


Emerging from the ready room of the Ulysses, Commander sh'Elas looked less than impressed as she stood on the opposite side of the door and surveyed the bridge. Senior and junior officers alike worked away, demonstrating the kind of professionalism expected of a Starfleet crew, but that didn't stop the 'Ice Queen' (if she was going to be called it, she would own it) from questioning who would be with her in the moments to come. It was then that the Commander noted the absence of Commander Winters and Javorian sitting in the command chair.

Lieutenant Paxton was at the helm, the ship was still holding position waiting to transfer their guest before departing. He couldn't quite put his finger on it but there was a weird feeling on the bridge like something was going to happen.

"Lieutenant Travis," she nodded as she approached the command area, data PADD in hand, "where is Commander Winters?"

Standing from the command chair at the approach of the Captain, Javorian faced her. "Commander Winters is in her office, ma'am," he replied.

“Why?” the Commander enquired as she stopped suddenly in her tracks. With Aria off the bridge, it potentially complicated matters. “She should be here,” the Commander added.

"She received a transmission from Captain T'Prynn," Javorian answered. "She seemed to feel it more appropriate to take the matter to her office."

Shit. That really complicated matters, but it wasn't something she could let on to just yet. She had to maintain a semblance of calm if she was to achieve her objective, and that meant keeping things as normal as possible on the bridge for now. "Very well," the Commander nodded as she took over her position from the Lieutenant. "I'd like you to deliver this data PADD to the Commander please. It contains orders for you both."

Accepting the padd with a curt nod Javorian made for the turbolift. He watched the action on the bridge continue until the doors swept closed, leaving him with his thoughts, wondering how all of this was going to turn out. He wasn't telepathic in any way, but he could tell Tharia was upset, and anxious. He could have cut the tension with a knife of he'd had one, and it was deeply unsettling.

With Javorian and Aria both off of the bridge, and her plan in motion elsewhere, it was time to set the greater plan in motion, tapping her commbadge.

[Engineering Officer]

Peter had just made it to his office in Engineering. He had been running sim time in the holodeck, and was getting comfortable as prepared to look over the data. He glanced over at a Conch seashell and remembered to clear his mind before he started. "Ok, let's see this." He said to himself.

"=/\=sh'Elas to Wilson," the voice of the commanding officer filled the room, "please report to the bridge."

=/\= "On my way Commander."=/\=


Having just had a conversation with Lieutenant Dreik, Doctor Hill was hard at work. It would tip their hand too early if he just threw up a scattering field to prevent their patient from being beamed away. Instead that was but one of a series of security measures he was compiling that could be initiated with a single vocal command. The result of his efforts would be to completely secure Sickbay, isolating it from the rest of the ship and ensuring that it would be difficult to override his medical protocol.

Unusually, the Chief Medical Officer was armed while in Sickbay. Normally he only wore a sidearm when on an away mission. He also had his trusty Marine k-bar sheathed and attached to the back of his belt, just in case. He hoped that all of his would prove to be unnecessary but he was resolved to prevent them from moving his patient.

[Counseling Office]

Something was wrong.

Elleese was a Betazoid, but she was also a little bit more than that. This was a small thing, but there was... It was something different underlying with the normal empathic "hum" of the ship. The emotions of so many people at all times was a certain predictable ebb and flow, but this was a small stone that was obstructing part of the stream.

She couldn't know what it was, however, without violating very entrenched, clung-to ethical boundaries. She would not read minds and thoughts without permission, so all she had were emotions and impressions. It was a nagging little spot in her mind, though, and it was distracting. She wished she knew what it was about.

Although like with all things, she figured she'd find out soon enough. Things like this rarely stayed quiet for long.

[XO Office]

The screen had been blank for seconds, then minutes as Commander Winters considered the information passed along to her by the commanding officer of the Odyssey. While brief, the ramifications could be ... Taking a deep breath she attempted to take a step back, to consider options. It was far too late, she assumed, to take a demotion to ship's janitor. Although in hindsight she would still be cleaning up a mess of some sort.

As she leaned back in her seat her own reflection stared back against the mirrored black surface of the deactivated monitor. She was deeply in thought when the door chime rang out.

"Come in."

Javorian strode through the doors into Aria's office and gave her what, for him, was a look of consternation. "I was asked to bring this to you, and told it contained orders for both of us," he said, as he handed the padd across the desk. Everything about this entire situation was so strange it didn't even dawn on him that he'd just completely skipped any sort of formality, or respectful address.

"Actually, I need to speak to you," the first officer realised as she gestured to the chair on the opposite side of the desk. Inputting a command into her workstation to ensure they had privacy, she pulled the PADD towards her as she explained, "I just spoke to Captain T'Prynn and I'm going to need your help..."


Tiki had finished in sickbay, in fact, she had finished most locations she needed to be and was now back in her own office, going back over everything, making sure she had covered what needed to be done. It was difficult, being new, and with her existing reputation she would find it hard if push came to shove to have people on her side, but, well, it wasn't an unfamiliar situation, she would manage, somehow.


With Lieutenant Wilson joining them on the bridge, Commander sh'Elas finally felt comfortable enough to put her plan in to motion. "Okay everyone," she called out to those that were assembled, "It has come to my attention that Commander Winters and Lieutenant Travis are actively taking orders from Captain T'Prynn of the Odyssey. They mean to go against my standing orders and assist the Captain in kidnapping our patient," she revealed to all those around her. "A patient who we rescued from Xendi Sabu; a patient who is in the care of our Chief Medical Officer."

"Right now, Lieutenant Dreik and Doctor Hill are in the process of securing our patient so that we can continue her treatment and rehabilitation, but there is a very real risk that Captain T'Prynn may resort to violence in order to achieve her goal," the Ice Queen revealed from her position stood at the center of the bridge, surveying the people around her. "I need to know that I have your support in protecting our patient, protecting our mission..." hopefully her next words would seal the deal, "...and protecting our ship."

Peter looked around with a dumbfounded expression. His frazzled brain not sure he understood everything. He raised his hand from the back of the bridge next to his engineering station. "Umm. Ma'am?"

"Lieutenant?" she queried, looking at the Chief Engineer.

"I feel like I missed a briefing or five." Peter started. "So your orders changed from sending the survivor to the Odyssey to keeping her here with Dr. Hill and now we have the choice of either going with them in mutiny against you, or commit treason against the Federation."

He felt better for a moment after saying it, working the choices out verbally. Then it dawned on him what his logic just confirmed without even waiting for the commander to answer. Either answer was a legal death sentence. His face sunk at the catch 22.

"It's not treason," sh'Elas frowned at the younger officer's lack of understanding. Perhaps she had heaped too much pressure on him too soon? "We are refusing to go along with an order that jeopardises the safety of our patient, and the integrity of our investigation into the incident at Xendi Sabu."

"Do you think the Odyssey would fire on us?" Paxton asked.

"It is entirely possible, yes," the Commander confirmed solemnly.

Paxton paused for a moment, "Good thing you've got a decent pilot at the helm." He said.

Tharia couldn't help but smile at the reaction from the Chief Flight Operations Officer. She perhaps new him the least of all her people, but he was showing great loyalty to the ship, and to his crew.

"Having been on the team who brought our guest back here, I feel more than qualified to say that the orders are wrong, ma'am," Ensign Kedam declared from her seat at Ops, having spun around to look at the Commander. "We can't just give her up when there are so many unanswered questions."

Another smile filled the Andorian's face as Nisha stated her allegiance to the cause. That was two, now all she needed was the third. "Peter," the Andorian took a single step towards the Engineer, the eyes of her two comrades in arms drifting to him, "I need to know that I can count on you if things get hairy. Even if you don't agree with us, I need to know that you will keep this ship safe, and her systems running."

Peter was quiet for a long moment. This was a massive decision. At best it was disobeying orders and risk court martial and she did not counter the mutiny. He closed his eyes for a moment and envisioned the conch shell. He tried to clear his mind to think like the counselor had showed him. The silence dragged on for another uncomfortable moment. He had his answer before the Commander could ask him a second time.

"I'm in." He said. "If the doctor thinks a transport could kill the patient, and they still want to keep those orders, then we are committing cold blooded murder on the survivor. I don't know why the would want to kill her if she's been through all I heard about." He said and trailed off. "Count on me Commander."

Picking up a data PADD that was sitting on the vacant XO's chair beside hers, the Commander tossed it across to the Engineer. "Get down to engineering. I'm going to need you to keep this ship together when the Captain makes her move," she ordered with a swift nod in his direction.

Peter caught the PADD and saluted. "Aye Ma'am." And he turned and made his way to the turbolift.

"Okay then," with a smile, the Commander returned to the comfort of her command chair. "For now, we must proceed as if nothing is happening. We will hold position, and wait for the Captain to make her move," the Andorian revealed as she crossed her right leg over her left at the knee.

"The line has been drawn..."

While you are here...

Location: Counselling Dept.
On: Day 9 at 1230

On a list of departments aboard the ship, ranked in order of preference, the next stop was undeniably propping up the table. While fully appreciating the need to have a counsellor on board, Lt Commander Winters avoided this one particular section of any starship, base or facility like the plague. In that respect, the first officer knew she was not alone. It was akin to her childhood friend Bria and her complete phobia of dentists. But, alas, she could not keep avoiding this forever.

“Lieutenant Elloyia, do you have a moment?” She asked as she entered the woman’s office.

Unfortunately for this particular counselor, she was very aware of just how much how many people did not want to see her. The reluctance to be in her office rolled ahead of them like the foam of a wave before the wash of water behind it...but she was used to it.

Turning, she saw the ship's exec--who she had only really met thus far in passing. "Commander," she greeted with a polite bowing of her head. "I am free at the moment. How may I help you?"

"I wanted to check in, to make sure everything was okay. Department reports are great, up to a point so I prefer to drop in when I can," Winters explained as she moved further into the office. Mostly because, on her first ever assignment she had seen first hand how a group of engineers had created a pretty good distillery in one of the storage rooms. Out of sight, out of mind kind of deal. Neither the captain or first officer knew about it for months.

"It hasn't been the easiest mission so I'm sure you are being kept busy. But if you have any issues, any concerns that I can help with, I wanted to make sure you knew you could come to me at any time."

Elleese smiled warmly, sensing the curiosity and waved the exec into her inner office. "Come in," she said. "Have a seat, if you like." She followed her in, wondering just what was being looked for...but she didn't ask. "I appreciate that commander. I think it is very useful for the first officer and chief counselor to have a good, open working relationship, yes?"

“Of course,” Aria replied. She declined the seat, instead opting to take a moment to look out the viewport. Compared to other similar rooms she had been forced to endure this one was ... nice. Less formal. It felt more relaxed although that might be down to the counsellor herself. “I believe that’s true for every department- or else I wouldn’t be doing my job very well.”

"Agreed," Ell agreed easily, taking a seat in one of the office's armchairs as she coolly observed the first officer she knew little of beyond the personnel record. "How do you feel the crew has been handling all the changes lately? I am the counselor but sometimes people are reluctant to actually see me." She smiled slightly.

“I’ve not been aboard that long to judge,” Aria pointed out. “Sometimes they are as reluctant to speak to an XO as they would be to a counsellor. But from what I’ve observed the crew has responded with professionalism on this mission. I’d expect a few will perhaps benefit from your help in the coming days or weeks.”

The counselor nodded. "I am sure they will, and I will be here." She tilted her head slightly. "How are you settling in to your new post here on the ship?"

There was a moment of silence, “still settling. I’ve probably been to every part of the ship by now, met a lot of the crew. It is a big change from the Rhode Island. She was a small crew, everybody knew everyone.”

"Yes, I can imagine that would be a big change," Elleese agreed with a kind expression. "Did you enjoy that on the Rhode Island? How everyone knew everyone? Some people would find that a comfort while others would find it constraining."

“At times it was both. We lived in each other’s pockets, but we also knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Aria conceded. “It was a family.”

Elleese tilted her head slightly. "People often find it difficult to leave their family," she said, her voice a little softer.

“Perhaps,” she conceded, “but we were weeks away from reassignment anyway. We were on our way back to Earth when we picked up the distress call from the colony.”

She was quiet for a long moment as she thought of the colony, more specifically the trip the Rhode Island team made down to the surface. The death, the brutal destruction as the world burned around them. She pushed it away. “Being assigned here was not under ideal circumstances but my hope is that the Commander will at least allow me to prove it was the right choice. Even if it was not her own.”

"Many captains are assigned executive officers rather than choosing them," Ell pointed out levelly. "The good commander is aware of that." She sensed a lot of emotion there, for a moment, but she chose to not poke at it...yet. "Are you and she getting along alright so far?"

"She is aware of it, but she doesn't like it," Aria sighed. "But for the most part, yes. We do what needs to be done. It is... very different, to being XO of the Rhode Island. For his faults, McLintock always welcomed and sought out my opinions. We were very much a team. The commander and I are still figuring that out. But then, it has only been a few days."

"These things can take time," Ell agreed. "How long were you the XO on the Rhode Island, with Captain McLintock?"

“Just over a year,” Aria replied, “and second officer along with my duties as Chief Science Officer.”

"How long, if you recall, did it take you and Captain McLintock to settle in with each other as a command team?" the counselor asked.

"Not long, but I was his science chief and second for some time before hand," Aria shrugged, "it was very different circumstances."

"It is, yes." Elleese nodded. Shrugs, she found, were always somewhat telling. Even if she hadn't been an empath, there was something about the body language of it. "It is easier to form a command team from a working partnership that has already been established rather than being thrown straight into hot water, it could be said."

"In any event," Aria said as she moved towards the door, "it will be fine and I have kept you from your duties. You know where to find me if you need to?"

The counselor's cool, silver-blue gaze followed the XO's sudden retreat to the door, but she didn't say anything about it. "Of course, Commander." She smiled. "And you know where to find me...if you need to."


Surprises Galore

Location: Sickbay
On: Day 9 at 1215

CAPTAIN Tharia sh'Elas, master and commander of the Ulysses, was literally and figuratively at a crossroads. When she had left the bridge, the Captain still had her mind set on her original course of action; she was going to follow the orders she had been given and transport their guest to the Odyssey. Then, the ship would depart for their new mission. But after arriving on deck six, headed for the holodeck and a bit of down time after a stressful morning, she'd found herself motionless at one of the corridor junctions. Turn left and she would be at the holodeck. That was where she was headed, that was where she needed to go. But turning right also had a lot of appeal as she started to question her orders.

Damn people in blue shirts! First the Doctor, publicly questioning her decision and orders, and then the science gang losing Lieutenant Genestra back to the Odyssey, resulting in Javorian's shift back to science. Now, she had a difficult choice to make. Did she go and enjoy her skiing trip on the Andorian glaciers, or did she go and confront the Chief Medical Officer.

Making her decision at last, the Captain began strolling down the corridor with purpose.

Having assured the XO that he wasn't about to make a snap decision about the future of his career, Doctor Hill returned to his work. He'd told Lieutenant Villa-Tesoro that they wouldn't be able to stall for long and they were rapidly running out of time. Jon was under no illusion; the woman would be transferred eventually but he wanted to give her enough time to recover as much strength as possible and to gather as much data about her and from her as they could.

Standing over the biobed, tricorder in hand, Jonathan was running scans of the tumors that riddled the poor woman's body. In centuries gone by, they would have been terminal. Thanks to the wonder of modern medicine, they were no longer the death sentence they once were. That said, her health was still at a tipping point. It wouldn't take much to tip the balance one way or another.

In the background, the doors to sickbay parted and closed again once the visitor had entered the medical bay. Stopping just inside the doorway of the room, the Andorian commander glared at Lieutenant Hill until he eventually looked in her direction. In silence, she pointed at the sickbay office and then stormed towards the private area.

Hill rolled his eyes before deactivating the tricorder and following the Captain into his office, steeling himself for yet another run in with the CO. "What can I do for you, Captain?" He asked as he moved into the office and walked around behind his desk. "I'm a little busy preparing to offload our patient on the Odyssey's medical staff."

Tharia threw her hands up to stop the Doctor from saying anything further. "Before I get to why I am really here, I have a few things to say and you're going to listen without any response being welcomed," the Captain told sternly, her antennae bowed and pointed like never before. "You were entirely disrespectful on the bridge, bordering on dismissal worthy insubordination. If it wasn't for the fact that I think you are one of the best physicians I have served with, I'd have had you hauled off the ship straight away, rather than giving you the choice of whether to stay or go. If you have a problem with our orders, you are fine to share your issues, but damn it, you do it in private! You do not undermine me on the bridge of my ship, in front of everyone else. Do you understand, Lieutenant?" she concluded, with the same emphasis on his rank that he seemed to enjoy putting on hers. Perhaps a reminder of the fact that he was an entire two rank grades beneath her was warranted in order to put him in his place for once?

As much as he hated it admit it, the Captain was right. He wouldn't have tolerated one of his Marines speaking to him the way that he'd spoken to the Captain. Hell, he would have snapped the little shit in two right there in front of everyone. Taking an audible breath through his mouth, he released it before replying. "You're right." He admitted, painful though it was. "I was completely out of line and I apologise, ma'am." Some part of him wanted to snap to attention but he resisted that particular urge. "I should have waited until the briefing was finished before raising my concerns privately." He hoped they could draw a line under this incident but that would depend on how merciful the Captain was feeling.

With her antennae stiffening, the look on the woman'f ace was almost one of shock. She had expected more resistance, more of a fight - the last thing she had expected was for him to agree with her. "Right, well, ummm..." she tried to compose herself for a moment and then nodded at the man slowly, "we'll just draw a line under that for now because, as much as I am sure you hate to admit that you were wrong, so was I," she frowned as she folded her arms across her chest. "Our orders suck," she added bluntly.

It was Jonathan's turn to be surprised. He didn't expect to hear the Captain admit that she was wrong but he certainly agreed with her sentiment. "Our orders do indeed suck." He slumped into his chair and silently offered the Captain one of the seats opposite. "My concern is that she hasn't regained enough strength and what's left of her sanity to deal with a change like this. When she wakes up she'll be in yet another unfamiliar place with yet more unfamiliar faces."

"The problem is, if we keep her here, we are taking her a long way from home. I can't stop us going to Mira," the Captain frowned as she took the offered seat opposite the Doctor. "Eventually, we'll have no choice but to ship her off to somewhere else..."

Jonathan snorted. "Not like there's much of a home for her to return to." Hill pointed out needlessly. "And I'm not opposed to moving her. It's moving her too soon, before we've had a chance to prepare her mentally for the transfer. When we move her, it should be to a Starbase with superior staffing and facilities not to another Starship." He told the Captain. "I had a similar conversation with the Exec a little while ago. Couldn't we keep her onboard until I feel that she's ready to be moved and then divert to a Starbase along our route to Mira?"

"Captain T'Prynn is not going to approve," Tharia frowned, before a reluctant nod signalled her approval. "I know she is in a bad way, but we'll need to make out its a case of life or death if we are to avoid transporting her."

For the second time in the same meeting, Doctor Hill was shocked. He sat up in his chair and leaned forward. "It is life or death," he lied, "she's at a tipping point and just transporting her could be enough to tip her over the edge."

Rising from her chair, a smile of appreciation on her face, the Andorian looked down at the medical chief. "I may need that in writing, Doctor," she smirked, "but I'll see what I can do. T'Prynn could have her men beam over and take our patient by force. We must be vigilant," she advised cautiously. It was highly unlikely another starships security force would be used in such a way, but anything was possible.

"Well I know a thing or two about combat." Hill told the Captain. "I doubt she would go down that route but if she does, she'll have a hell of a fight on her hands." He grinned and looked up at the Andorian Commander. "I'll submit my official medical report before you've reached the Bridge. It'll reflect the precarious position that she's in."

"I appreciate it Doctor, thank you," the Andorian nodded before turning to take her leave of the medical bay, astounded by the sheer amount of cooperation and agreement between the two. She did have one last thing to add though, so turned back for the briefest of moments. "Captain. Has a nice ring to it," she smirked playfully before turning and heading for the door again.

Doctor Hill smirked at the retreating figure of the CO. It seemed that the Captain was becoming ever more comfortable in her title. I'm going to have to find new ways to get under her skin.. Hill mused as he activated his desktop terminal and set to writing his report.

Checking In

Location: Sickbay | Deck 06
On: Day 9 at 1145

With the ship soon to be underway, Lieutenant Commander Winters ventured from the Bridge to check in with the various departments on board. After all, all the reports in the world could not paint a picture as well as her own eyes and ears. Naturally, top of the list was medical. Entering Sickbay, it seemed very quiet, even though she knew there would be lots of work going on behind the scenes to have the survivor transferred to the Odyssey. It was, she had no doubt, still a sore point for their Chief Medical Officer.

Approaching his office she found the door open so tapped lightly on the doorframe, hoping he wasn’t feeling in the mood to throw anything in the direction of anyone in red at present. “I come in peace,” she promised, holding up her hands, “I swear.”

With Lieutenant Tosoro co-ordinating with the Odyssey on the survivor's transfer, Jonathan was in his office studying her latest scan data, preparing to sign off on the transfer against his better judgement. He looked up at the Executive Officer, unamused. "What can I do for you, Commander?"

“I feel my white flag just got shot to bits...” Aria said slowly. “Okay, business it is. Is there anything you need to help with the transfer of your patient? And to make sure you were okay. But we can totally skip that part.”

Hill deactivated his desktop terminal as he sat back in his chair. "I don't need coddled, Commander. I've been in Starfleet for twenty one years, I know how things work. There was part of me holding out hope that the Captain would have a change of heart but sadly I forgot one key fact."

“That defying Clancy is a one way ticket to the end of your career?” Winters retorted. “That she has already had to deal with orders she doesn’t like or agree with? Me being case in point?”

The CMO smirked. "That she doesn't have a heart." The XO made good points but Jon was loathed to say it out loud. "Look, I'm not saying the Captain should just ignore orders whenever she feels like it, she wouldn't be in command very long if she did that. But there's no reason we can't keep that woman onboard and drop her off ourselves somewhere along the way. I'm sure there's gonna be another Starbase along, or close to, our route."

“True there are other starbases and with a detour we could take her,” Aria conceded. “But what if circumstances stop us from getting her there? We don’t know what we are flying in to. As for her heart, I do not know if you are right or wrong. Perhaps if she had been to the surface, or led the team that found the woman, well, maybe she’d be more empathetic but ... I don’t disagree with the call.”

Hill sighed as he leaned forward, placed his elbows on his desk and rubbed his face. "Truth be told, nor do I." He motioned to one of the visitors chairs, his way of silently offering a seat to the XO. "I don't agree with Starfleet's orders. I hope that there's good reason behind them but I'm afraid the Starfleet Command's track record isn't great. Just look at their decision to completely abandon the Romulans. But the Captian's hands are tied."

"That said, the best thing for this patient is to remain onboard this ship, under my care. That woman has lost everything she knew. When she wakes up on the Odyssey, nothing will be familiar to her. They'll have to find a way through to her again. Start from scratch, assuming the Captain hasn't already tipped her over the edge. But what do I know?" He sat back again and let out a frustrated sigh.

“You have her best interests at heart, as every doctor should. If I were in her place, I would be grateful for that care. That passion,” Aria offered. “Ideally yes, she would stay. It is not, however ideal. Nothing about this situation has been ideal. But never forget, your actions are the reason she is alive, take the win when you can.”

"Well it's not like I have much choice, is it?" Hill shot back. "All because someone higher up has decided that we're needed elsewhere on the chessboard."

“I am not the enemy, Doctor,” Aria reminded him, only the faintest hint of steel appearing in her tone, “but essentially yes. Only you can decide if you want to keep playing this particular chessboard. I hope you do, but these are the rules we follow.”

And there it was, the question that had been eating away at him for the past few years and had suddenly exploded to the forefront. "Starfleet's all I've really known. I enlisted right outta high school, it's been my entire adult life." He let out another frustrated sigh, he seemed to be sighing a lot these days. "The longer I'm in the service, the older I get, the less tolerant I seem to be getting of it." Jon finally met the XO's gaze and told her, "Maybe it's time to step off the chessboard and go do something different."

“Such as?” She asked, curious but also concerned at his growing resolve.

Hill shrugged. "There's no shortage of options. If I wanted an easy life I could set up a practice on Earth, Bajor, Risa. If I wanted more of a challenge I could set myself up as a good 'ole country doctor on one of the smaller colony worlds. And if I wanted a real challenge, I could go work for one of the humanitarian organisations operating along the former Romulan Neutral Zone." And those were just the options he could come up with on the spot.

“All very good options. You should consider them wisely. I know some people you can speak to who work with the relocated Romulan settlements. I would say this,” she urged, “please don’t make a decision in anger or haste. You will regret it and we would miss you. Perhaps stay until the Mira mission plays out and then go from there? If you want to leave afterward I will absolutely support you.”

The CMO shook his head. "No. I'm not going to make a decision as moments as this on a whim, or on my run in with the Captain. I'll carefully weigh everything up and come to a decision rationally. I will say this though, the way things are going right now, I don't see myself being in Starfleet a decade from now. I'd be surprised if I last the next five years."

“You are a wise man, Doctor,” Aria grinned, “unless there is anything you need I will let you get back to the transfer arrangements. But if you need anything, my door is always open.”

Hill nodded. "I appreciate that."

With a nod, Aria left him to his duties. Beyond making sure he knew her door was open and she was there if he needed it, she knew there was little else she could do. She just sincerely hoped this was a notion which would pass and they wouldn't find themselves down a brilliant medical officer.

Survivor Transfer

Location: Sickbay | Deck 06
On: Day 9 at 1130

Doctor Hill's good mood had soured. The Captain's order that they transfer the survivor to the Odyssey was a mistake in Jonathan's opinion. He'd argued against it, requested a temporary transfer to the Odyssey so he could accompany her to her final destination, Starbase 126 but to no avail. The cold hearted bitch had denied him at every turn. He was out of options.

He reentered Sickbay to find the Head Nurse working at the nurses station on the main ward. "Lieutenant Tesoro. You busy?"

Ignacio sat prettily at the station, his lips pursed with a deep thought. He occasionally tapped at a key and stared at a screen before he was just about to lean on a hand to study something when Jonathan approached. His nearly-black eyes flitted to the Doctor. He tapped his screen off, the blue light of it taking its azure cast from his features. "Just the work schedule," he said in his high tenor, "And working on some radiation inoculations. Preventatives." He turned his chair with his leg muscles to and fro, "How can I help?"

"How's our patient?" He asked, glancing round the corner at the primary biobed where the survivor remained sedated. "Has there been any change in her vitals?"

Ignacio swished his chair, "Stable," a sense of frustration was fleeting on his sculpted face, "The isotopes in her system are ridiculously high... going in there's like getting a little sunburn." He looked on with sympathy, "She cries in sleep... she calls out for Esme... Esma..."

"Yeah." Hill whispered before rubbing his face. During their brief conversation the previous day, it felt like he'd been able to connect to her, however briefly. And then the Commander had pushed her for answers. True, she had only pushed gently but it had been enough to send the poor woman into convulsions. Like she hadn't suffered enough.

The CMO hated what he was about to do. But what choice did he have? He could try and prevent the Commander from transferring the woman off the ship, but that would only be a stalling tactic and would likely create unnecessary stress on her body. He wasn't about to do that. "We've," Hill paused and swallowed hard, "we've been ordered to prepare her for transport to the Odyssey. They'll take her the rest of the way to Starbase One Twenty Six."

A similar look of incredulity crossed Ignacio's face, a vague notion like someone had just struck him across the face. "Is she even stable enough to travel?" Ignacio himself stalled, his dark eyes flitting behind the Doctor.

"Barely." The CMO replied. "She'd be better off remaining here until she reaches the Starbase but apparently Starfleet Command needs us on the other side of the Quadrant because, somehow, there are no other ships in range so we won't be reaching a Starbase for the foreseeable future." Hill sighed and folded his arms. "It's times like this I think a nice, quiet private practice back on Earth would be preferable."

Ignacio looked like someone had just placed something unpleasant under his nose- and it was the callous quality of Starfleet's non-medical personnel. He could sort of see Starfleet's logic- but was it more important than a life? Why couldn't they delay awhile? "They call it paradise for a reason," Ignacio said. He swiveled out of his chair and stood, placing his hands on his hips. He eyed the woman that they were to move. He sighed. "The transfer won't kill her... but it's not going to help." He rolled his eyes, "Assuming she's going to cooperate."

The young Lieutenant made a good point. "We'll keep her sedated until the transfer is complete. I want you to co-ordinate with the Odyssey's medical staff. I'll make sure the patient is ready to go.

Ignacio nodded, his fingers delicately spanning over his hips, "I'll get Dr. Savage on subspace," he said as he swiveled into motion, back around to his desk. "We should site to site her with the transporter," Ignacio suggested.

"Agreed. We'll hold off on transferring her until the last possible minute but we won't be able to stall for long. I'd say we have an hour, tops." Hill told the young Lieutenant. "I want you to make sure the Odyssey is fully prepared to receive her before we beam her over."

"I'll get the show started," Ignacio assured as he swiveled forward into his chair and started to access the subspace transceiver.

Hill nodded. "I'm going to review her latest scan results before I begin preparing her for transport."

Ignacio nodded his head, "Understood Sir."

How Bizarre

Location: Turbolift 2
On: Day 9 at 1120

Tiki shifted her position just slightly, adjusting her balance as the turbolift glided to a halt. With the heels of her boots resting against the turbolift wall where her head should be and her hands firmly planted on the floor in a strong handstand, her black hair pooling on the floor below her. It was only as the turbolift doors parted to reveal a slim brunette waiting for the lift that Tiki looked up, offering an easy grin before she spoke. "Going down?"

“Quite.” Unable to hide her amusement at the unusual sight, Lt.Commander Winters did not so much as miss a beat as she entered. The doors sliding closed she ordered the lift to main engineering before turning to regard the lieutenant with evident curiosity. Clasping her hands behind her back she frowned, “is it helping?”

"Nah, but the reactions I get from others are priceless," Tiki replied with a laugh. "Lieutenant Tequila Dreik, new girl. Want to join me?"

“The new department chief,” Aria tilted her head to the side, “you look a little more red around the face than your file image... I will pass. Good luck though. I have an uncle who absolutely loves hanging upside down for hours on end. Says it helps him think. Then again, he is four hundred and fifty three next month so he has a lot to think about. Mid life crisis apparently.”

Sitting down, cross legged on the floor she considered the other woman for a moment, the hint of amusement still there. “I assume you did not try this approach when you met with the Commander?”

Tiki laughed in response. "Now why didn't I think of that?" she asked. "She probably would have thrown me off the ship and had me committed instead of just throwing me out of her office. You're uncle is a very wise man, it always helps to get a new perspective on things," Tiki threw a cheesy grin at Aria before continuing. "My Grandfather would tell me that this is highly illogical and serves no purpose other than filling an empty void with pointless self gratification."

“That is illogical,” Aria countered. “You are exercising muscle groups, obtaining perspective... that it also provides you with amusement is neither here nor there. I am curious though, are you intending to stay in here all day? Or do you have actual duties to attend to? Given our current mission, I would sincerely hope the answer to the later is a yes. If not, I am sure we could put you to good use assisting another department. Otherwise the Commander may just throw you off the ship after all and we do not want that.”

"Oh, I was on my way to my office," Tiki would have shrugged except she couldn't move her shoulders easily. "I got into the turbolift and decided to do a handstand... I mean, really, haven't you ever just felt like doing a handstand before?"

"When I was eight," Aria confirmed. "Rarely since then."

"You really don't know what you're missing out on, seriously. It's positively invigorating! You sure you don't want to join me? There's plenty of room on the wall here!" Tiki's voice was almost cajoling as she spoke. "Come on, you know you reeeeeeeeally want to!"

"Perhaps another time, for now I have some engineers to speak to," came the reply as Aria stood. "But I am glad you are invigorated. Perhaps next time you could try going for a run? Or the gym? Or playing the ukulele in the mess hall?"

"Ooooh! Playing the ukulele in the mess hall, that's a great idea! I'll have to remember that one!" Dropping her feet to the floor, Tiki stood up and brushed her hair back from her face. "I think I might go speak to that hottie from Operations, see if he can hook me up with a ukulele. Enjoy your Engineers Commander," she added with a wink.

Aria laughed, “I’ll try.”


Pacing the bridge of the Ulysses had seemingly become a favourite past time of the commanding officer in recent days. Either that or she no longer felt comfortable in her command chair given the fact she had spent more time wearing a hole in the command centre's carpet. She'd never noticed before how cold the room felt compared to the bridges of ships she had served on previously, but that was primarily down to the colour scheme chosen for the Luna-class starships. Her mood this afternoon was not helped by the transmission she had received in the early hours or the orders would have to give the medical staff as a result of that transmission.

To say that Doctor Hill would be upset was probably one of the more likely underestimations one could make, but orders were orders, right?

Stopping her stroll around the bridge, standing behind the tactical rail and alongside Lieutenant Dreik, the Commander looked down towards the two forward most stations. It was great to have Lieutenant Travis back aboard ship, even if it was at a different position. Sat alongside Lieutenant Paxton, she had two experienced officers she could rely on.

Glancing across the bridge, she then caught sight of their newcomers. Lieutenant Lon Genestra was a welcome addition to her team. If anything, his arrival and Javorian's transfer to Ops had probably strengthened the bridge crew. Then there was junior Lieutenant Tokala Brant. Still a bit of an unknown entity, the Commander was sure he would be an asset to the crew, once she had developed a relationship with him built on trust and experience.

The two officers she perhaps remained most wary of were the other women on her bridge crew. Commander Aria Winters and Lieutenant Tequila Dreik. Both were new, and both had been foisted on her without any input of her own. Both were no doubt talented officers, but that didn't mean she had to accept them being sent to her by random Starfleet admirals. For now, she would have to work with them, and she would do her best to welcome them into the fold, but that didn't mean she had to like them or trust them. Not yet, anyway. Perhaps, in time, when that trust had been earned.

Fortunately for them, there would no doubt be ample opportunity to earn that trust in the days to come, given their new orders. Glancing briefly at the tactical officer, the Commander started giving her instructions. "Lieutenant, kindly have Doctor Hill and Lieutenant Wilson report to the bridge." She requested of the tactical chief before walking back around the wooden railing and to her command chair. "Lieutenant Genestra, find me everything you can about the Mira system. Lieutenant Paxton," she called out to the conn as she resumed her chair at last, "how long would it take us to reach the Mira system, traveling at cruising speed?" she queried.

"About six days ma'am," Paxton reported from the helm.

"Aye Commander." Lon acknowledged the order, already working through the available data-banks.

Tiki resisted the urge to wince. She could almost feel the ice cold coming from the Commander as she was addressed. "Aye Ma'am," she replied accessing the internal ships communications summoning both the Chief Medical Officer and the newly promoted Chief Engineering Officer to the bridge.

Doctor Hill had spent the morning in an uncharacteristic good mood following his first good night's sleep in days, at least one that wasn't chemically induced. He was certain his good mood was scaring the hell out of the junior officers. When the voice of Lieutenant Dreik summoned him to the Bridge, his curiosity was piqued. He figured that if this had been about questioning their guest again, the Commander would have come down rather than summoning him to the Bridge. Minutes after receiving the summons, Hill emerged on the Bridge. "Doctor Hill, reporting as ordered." He announced as he approached the command area of the Bridge.

"Welcome, Doctor..." Tharia nodded in greeting as she rose to her feet again and this time, offered her seat to the CMO. She'd have to look into getting some extra seats installed in the command area when they were next back at spacedock. She was certain that the Doctor would gather what she had to say would be bad news, but it would wait until everyone was present.

Peter got off the turbolift and took a left and headed down the ramp. He had his head down reviewing a tech sheet on his PADD while he walked. He got halfway down the ramp and looked up confused seeing someone at his ops station. He then remembered that was not where his station was now. "Oops, sorry Commander, habit." He said and sheepishly walked his way back up behind tactical and started activating an engineering console.

Winters offered a small nod in greeting in the Doctor’s direction. From her position, she had been monitoring the department updates, the latest science department analysis, and the near constant pacing.

The CMO mimicked Winters' greeting and eyed the Commander's chair for a moment. It would be his only chance to sit in 'the big chair' but he didn't move toward it. Glancing around the Bridge he told the CO, "Well, I don't see any injuries that require medical treatment." He steeled himself for what was to come because he was getting the sense that he wasn't going to like it. "So, what can I do for you, Captain?"

Now that everyone was present, she decided to do away with precedent and opted to conduct her staff briefing on the bridge. "Clear the bridge of anyone who is not a department head," she declared sternly, walking to the front of the command center and standing between the forward stations and the viewscreen as a few non-senior crewmembers left the bridge as instructed. When the senior staff were alone, she began her briefing.

"We have new orders," she began, hands on her hips, antennae lowered, and a look that said she meant business. In truth though, she was readying herself for the inevitable backlash that would come her way in mere moments. "We are to take the Ulysses to the Mira system. Doctor, you are to prepare your patient for immediate transfer to the Odyssey. Captain T'Prynn will take her to the nearest Starbase for medical treatment whilst we continue on our way."

Hill knew what was coming the moment the Andorian used the phrase new orders. A better man, a more professional man would have waited to speak to the CO in private. Jonathan Hill was neither, not anymore. The Captain had barely finished speaking when he forcefully shot back, "You have got to be kidding. To move her now would be dangerous and counterproductive."

Adam listed to the exchange, hearing Jonathan's outburst he knew it wasn't a smart move professionally, but he also was willing to bet that he was spot on with his medical assessment.

Peter looked confused and mouthed to himself, "Patient?" He had locked himself in his office and Engineering the morning following the promotion to start getting up to speed. He knew there was an away mission but beyond that, he ignored the gossip.

Tokala was caught in a sticky situation. He didn't know much about the patient. Only that she was seriously injured, so he had to agree with the doctor's message, even if he delivered it poorly. He also saw the need to follow orders, unless they were illegal or immoral. He saw neither of those as likely here. So fOR the moment, he remained silent.

Tiki turned away from her console and watched everything playing out. Hill's reaction was exactly what she would have anticipated. Her gaze turned just enough to focus her attention on the Commanding Officer, one eyebrow raising slightly as she watched carefully for the response.

"Dangerous it may be, but the Starbase will have better facilities to look after her," the Andorian countered sternly, "our orders are going to take us far from here. We have no right to take her so far from her home, no matter the state it is in."

Adam wanted to say something but he didn't feel it was the place, but the entire mission, in fact, his entire time aboard the Ulysses it had felt like a constant string of contradictory orders like there was a group of Admirals who couldn't decide what to do with the ship. They launched without a full senior staff, then Starfleet replaced their XO, sent to one place only to have them hand off the mission to another ship and be reassigned. There was practically a rotating door of senior staff, and he had to feel for their CO.

'Ours is not to reason why.' The favourite quote of his old Gunnery Sergeant came to mind again. The Gunny had clung to them when Starfleet's orders made little sense, or when they seemed completely incomprehensible. "Our orders are idiotic." The CMO announced, quite happy to reason why in this instance.

Hill fell silent momentarily as he worked some things out in his head. "Hang on, isn't the Mira system on almost the other side of Federation space?" He asked. "There's no way we're the closest ship to deal with whatever is happening there. Surely we'd be better served by continuing with our current mission, figuring out what happened to the planet and her population and delivering the survivor to the Starbase ourselves?"

Javorian had stayed silent through the exchange, though he wholeheartedly agreed with the ship's doctor, he also saw the logic in having the woman moved to a starbase for treatment. Now that they'd gotten down to the strange part about their orders, however, he had to add something to the conversation. "Your assessment of the situation only makes sense if you know that the two missions are not related, Doctor. Perhaps Starfleet has gained insight through something discovered in the Mira system and wishes us to investigate further as a precaution."

"I'd be inclined to believe there was a link if Xendi Sabu and Mira were even remotely in the same region," Hill replied, his tone much warmer and more friendly than when he'd addressed the Captain. "How about it, Captain? Is there a link?" He added particular emphasis on 'Captain'. It was clear that the Andorian was no fan of the ancient Earth Naval tradition of addressing a ship's CO, regardless of rank, as Captain and right now he took pleasure in getting under her blue skin.

“I believe it is fair to say none of us are thrilled at the idea of leaving here,” Lt.Commander Winters interjected, her voice calm and tone in complete contrast to the physician’s. “Especially those of us who have seen the devastation first hand or been involved since day one trying to unravel what happened. However, we have orders, Doctor.”

In truth she absolutely shared his feelings. To abandon this now... her short time there would be burned into her memory for the rest of her days. There was so much they still did not know. So many questions. Yet she knew this was always a possibility, the admiralty repositioning the fleet like pieces on a chessboard. Right now they were apparently needed elsewhere. Besides, glancing at the Andorian woman, it would hardly be the first time she had orders she did not like.

She just hoped the doctor realised the fine line he was walking.

"It would be really nice to have slipstream at a time like this." Adam chimed in, a true statement but hoping it might diffuse some of the tension.

Lon watched the discussion if one wanted to use a polite word for what was transpiring between the commander and the doctor, only intermittently. He was new here and had yet to fully meet most of the other senior staff so he saw no reason to interject his opinion.

"Our orders come from Fleet Admiral Clancy herself," the Andorian let out a sigh as she looked around the others on the bridge, but making a point to ignore the Doctor for now. "The 11th Fleet have been given a new mandate and, as part of that mandate, we are being sent to the Mira system. Whether the missions are related or not, I don't know. What I do know is we have our orders and until such a time as I feel they put this ship or crew at risk, we wil follow them, regardless of any misgivings anyone here may have." Then, there was a purposeful stride around the helm console and towards her command chair - slow, and clearly in no rush. "As the Doctor has pointed out, I am the Captain of this vessel and our orders stand. If anyone," she then looked towards the Doctor with great purpose, "...anyone, has any issue with carrying out my orders you are free to leave the ship now and travel with the Odyssey to the nearest Starbase." Once she reached her command chair, she stood in front of it, almost ready to sit. "If our recent changes have proven anything it is that no one on this crew is irreplaceable." Then, with the greatest sense of pride, and more than a hint of defiance towards the Doctor, the Captain took her seat.

There was no getting around it, Doctor Hill had been beaten. Leaving the Ulysses would have been a career ending move and everyone on the Bridge knew it. He looked around for support but found none. Few would even meet his gaze. His shoulders slumped as he let out a sigh. "Well it would seem I have little choice." He conceded as he met the Andorian's cold gaze. "If you'll excuse me, I need to prepare my patient for transfer." Without waiting to be excused, he turned on his heel, re-entered the turbolift and ordered it to Deck Six. As soon as the doors closed behind him and the turbolift began it's descent down through the ship, Hill slumped against the door and rubbed at the throbbing pain in his temple. His good mood had been short-lived.

"Anyone else?" the Captain queried, looking around the bridge somewhat. Would anyone else be brave enough to voice their concerns?

"I assume we'll be briefed more enroute?" Tiki asked calmly from her seat at the tactical station. "I'd like time to prepare for whatever fresh hell we're in for this time." Given that the orders were coming from Clancy directly, she had no doubt that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park.

Tharia nodded. “I am assured that more mission details will become available as we get closer to our destination, but rest assured, this is part of a concerted, fleet-wide mission. How? Why? We’ll find out in a few days.”

Paxton returned his focus to the helm station, "I've plotted a course, ready to engage on your orders following the transfer."

“As soon as the Doctor is ready, take us to Mira,” the Captain agreed.

For now, it seemed like the ship would be going on it’s travels, but whether it went with their full crew remained to be seen.

Prodigal Son Returns

Location: Rhode Island
On: Day 9 at 1040

In a time of crisis, such as the one that the crew of the Ulysses had been navigating for the last 9 days, it was unusual for a commanding officer to take time off of the ship for personal reasons. Commander sh'Elas wasn't a normal commanding officer and these were far from normal circumstances. Her visit to the Rhode Island came at the very last minute before the three ships from the task group were scheduled to go their separate ways, but it was a visit she couldn't pass up.

After hours of haggling with Commander McLintock and, eventually, having Captain T'Prynn act as a mediator of sorts (the Vulcan did have her uses after all), the Andorian had finally been granted permission to make a personal visit to the Nova-class starship. Walking deck three of the small starship, the Commander approached the primary science lab on the ship.

Javorian had only been on the ship a short time, and he hadn't been happy about it at all during said time, but he had work assigned to him and was making the best of the bad situation. He noticed movement out of the corner of his eye and glanced up to see his former commanding officer as she entered the science lab area.

Standing up he paused the computational rendering he'd had running on the screen and walked around the desk to greet her.

"Commander, is there something I can help you with?" he asked, with the briefest of smiles.

"I come with news that could hopefully help us both," the Andorian grinned as she perched on the edge of a console. "Nice little lab you have here," she mocked, looking around the room, less than impressed by the craft so far.

Javorian also glanced around, a less than enthusiastic look on his face. "It is woefully insufficient for any serious scientific work..." he said. "What news?"

"How do you like McLintock?" the Andorian queried, changing the subject for a moment, for no reason other than to torture her friend.

"Competent, and amenable. I haven't been here long enough to form a real opinion beyond that," Javorian replied, and then looked her straight in the eyes, "What news?"

"Ensign Kedam is doing a great job in your absence," the Commander told as she folded her arms across her chest in childish defiance; she was not one to be rushed.

"Ensign Kedam was born for the role, Commander. That is neither unexpected nor newsworthy," Javorian replied. He had worked with the woman long enough to know she was chomping at the bit to tell him what she had to say but also liked to toy with people. "Now, the news?"

"What news?" the Andorian asked, a quizzical look on her face, suggesting she had no clue what he was talking about. Of course, that wasn't true, and the epiphany-like expression on her face seconds later said so. "Oh! THAT news," she smirked, "well, it took me a while, but I think I've got you a way out of here..."

Javorian offered the slightest of smiles at her attempt to be convincing. She'd failed miserably, but he really doubted she'd truly been trying in the first place. "Oh?" he asked, genuinely intrigued at the idea that she might be able to get him back to the Ulysses.

"Commander Walker will be transferring to the Odyssey, and then here, to the Rhode Island, to help with engineering issues," she revealed, her eyes trained on the man for any trace of reaction. "That means I've had to do some reshuffling. You can come home, to the Ulysses, but to do so I need you to trade in your nice blue uniform for something a little different," she told him, a sadistic smile creeping over her face.

"Which department will I be switching to?" Javorian asked. The only department he had ever worked in was science, but he was not in any way averse to change if it would allow him to reach his goals.

"I need you at Ops," the Commander finally revealed, putting an end to the game she had been enjoying. "Truth be told, we just need you back on the ship, but Ops is where we most need you. We're not sure where this investigation is going to lead us, but I know I'll be happier having you on the ship to get us through it."

Javorian glossed over the praise. Truth be told, it made him quite happy and validated him immensely. This woman had shown herself to be an amazing commanding officer, and to hear that he was that important to her was gratifying in so many ways. "When do I leave?" he asked, hoping the answer would be sooner rather than later.

"Is now too soon?" the Andorian grinned as she pushed herself off of the computer console and looked around the science lab. "Doesn't look like you have much to take with you, and we never got around to transporting your personal belongings anyway," she added.

"Nothing would be an overstatement..." Javorian replied with an ironic grin. "I'm ready when you are."

"Then let's get out of here," the white-haired, blue-skinned woman in red grinned, slapping the man on the shoulder as she guided him towards the door. "Today is a good day," she added happily.

Transporter update

Location: Main Engineering
On: Day 9 at 0830

Mikah Pel felt the turbolift slowing its descent- and with it came the inevitable pop of his ears. He widened his eyes and tried to roll his jaw to make his other pop- then he ventured out of the close space toward Engineering. Against his open palm he tapped his PADD, his lips having a piece of music silently playing out the rhythm. He sidled by a pair of Engineers going over a systems diagnostic, and rounded toward the CEO's office. "Sir," he said, rapping his knuckles against the bulkhead, "I have the morning diagnostic on the transporter systems."

"Good morning Crewman, come on in." Peter said and took a deep draw of his coffee and set it aside. He offered a chair and reached out for the PADD. "Anything off?" He asked.

The thin being sidled inside and gracefully settled like a crane and its long legs atop the chair offered. "It's all pretty standard today, Sir," Mikah admitted. What was worse than a report that said absolutely nothing of interest, because the system was nominal? Mikah paused at that thought. Mikah smoothed his hands down his thighs and then laced his fingers, "I swapped out a couple of the bio-neural gelpacks... alpha 11 and delta 8. During the diagnostic the polarization threshold of the nodes was too high... I didn't want to risk loss of buffer integrity."

Peter started skimming the report. "Did the repolarization go smooth? Good idea replacing those packs. Looks like they were getting do for replacement anyway." He looked over a moment. "I'm sorry Crewman, what was your name? New department and trying to remember everyone's name."

"Pel, Sir," Mikah said, "Mikah Pel." They had not really met in any capacity yet to exchange such things, "Once I did the swap, everything was alright. Optimal."

Peter offered his hand. "Peter Wilson. Nice to meet you." Peter looked over the PADD some more. "Fantastic. Can't go wrong with a 'business as usual' report. Quick question, how much do you know about energy regulation?"

"Nice to meet you as well, Sir," Mikah replied with an easy, overbite smile. His brows popped at the question. Mikah combed his long hair behind one ear, "I'm a Matter-Energy Specialist. But I cross-trained on Transporter operations. It was the only job available when I applied to the Ulysses." He tilted his head curiously, "Why sir?"

"I'm having a time with a project the Commander gave me. She wants a new system operational but wants it done on side time. I'm having some issues with power regulation. The new system is an energy hog and I'm having a time getting the right flows through the EPS while still keeping other systems going. This is not in anyway a requirement for you, but if you get board one night and your interested, give me a call. I'd be glad to get the assistance." Peter answered.

"I'd be happy to take a look, Sir." Mikah swayed with a smile, "Lately my private time's been down to bothering our Archaeologist, or losing my monthly allotment of Latinum to the two Tongo sharps I call my roommates." Mikah was already formulating strategies to experiment with, but he knew he needed to see the schematics to get a better idea of what the system was even for.

"Sorry to hear about the sharks. Learned my lesson not to play in the academy." Peter said and reached over for his PADD. "Let me transfer you my current schematic of the cable I've pulled and the estimated power demands. And so you know, this is considered a classified project so unless another department head asks about it, clear it through me or the CO who you talk to about it with." He said sending the file.

"Take some time and look things over. This MARS system will take every ounce of juice we can pull and I'd like to see how close I can get to operations before we do holodeck simulations. Which I'll be glad to have you there to help adjust power flows." Peter said with a smile. Happy someone is interested in a new project.

Mikah agreed with a nod, "I'll pull up the schematics and see what we can do." His brows lifted, "Will there be anything else, Sir?"

"I think we're all set Crewman. I appreciate your help both in this side project and getting me your daily reports to me so quick in the morning. It helps my schedule flow tremendously. Do you need anything from me while your down here?" Peter asked.

Mikah shook his head, "No Sir. I think everything is fine up in the Transporter Room. And I'll look through those plans when I get some downtime." He smiled- because downtime in a Transporter Room, once the daily diagnostics and maintenance was done, was abundant.

Peter smiled. "Sounds good then. Carry on Mikah, if anything changes and starts giving you trouble just let me know. Thanks again for getting me the daily report so early." Peter said and moved the PADD to his to read stack


Location: Personal Quarters
On: Day 9 at 0430

"Computer, lights!"

Tangled in the bedsheets, breathing hard, Lt.Commander Winters watched as the darkness and then the shadows abated. Heart racing as remnants of the dream clung to the edges of her consciousness - fear raging a war against logic and reason. She was in her quarters. Safe. There was no danger. It had been another nightmare. Nothing more.

For a moment she lay back, allowing her heart rate to settle enough so that it didn't seem to be bursting from her chest. Chiding herself for letting a dream, even one as bad as that, to unsettle her so.

Thirsty she sat up and moved to get up. Yet the moment that her foot touched the ground it felt wrong. Cold. She had no time to consider this as a hand, all the fingers elongated and darker than night, reached out from beneath the bed and grabbed her ankle in a vice like grip. And with one tug of inhuman strength she was dragged down into the cold and dark...


With a startled cry, Aria sat bolt upright, the computer automatically raising the lights as she kicked off the covers and grabbed for her ankle. Not a mark, nothing. Of course there wasn't! She threw herself back on the bed, resigned to the fact she was now absolutely, positively awake.

"Computer, time?"

"0430 hours," came the helpful reply.

"Can you say that in a less cheerful tone?" she grumbled as she climbed out of bed and headed for the replicator. Some hot chocolate maybe. With her drink in hand she hit play, resuming the news broadcast she had been watching the night before. Realising that was perhaps the reason for her disturbed sleep.

A news reporter, who looked far too young to even be out of school, was standing in the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters, the livery clear in the background even under the glare of the sun. "...refused to comment. Instead, the Media Liaison team here in San Francisco advised that the loss of the USS Challenger and most of her crew remains an ongoing investigation and stated that former Lieutenant Sara Rhodes does not speak in an official capacity and was dishonourably discharged."

Turning it off, Arai sank into her chair. She considered reaching out to Sara, to find out what was going on. What was happening inside her head. But then again, Sara had cut herself off from everyone. Found a new friend at the bottom of every whisky bottle and ended her career by trying to steal classified data on their last mission. After that she had disappeared. Truth was, she had no idea where she even was. But clearly she was somewhere, spouting conspiracy theories again.

Aria refused to go down that rabbit hole. Instead she sipped her drink for what felt like forever but was in actual fact ten minutes, before showering and deciding that - if she was awake anyway - she may as well do something productive. And while paperwork was not entirely productive, watching the pile shrink definitely improved her mood.

Briefing with the Brass

Location: Captain's Quarters
On: Day 9 at 0235

"The only things that can save me from the demons of my tomorrow is sleep. A rested mind will have the sharpness to make the kind of decisions that could be the difference between promotion and being fired. In my youth, I was the kind of person who slept all night and well into the morning, irking my mother no end. In my twenties I was up with the call of my alarm, reluctant and sleep-drunk. Now I cannot make it past three a.m. After a tumultuous few hours of vivid disaster-fuelled dreaming I am more awake than if a gunshot was fired by my ears. Commonly I remain in the inkiness, willing myself to return to sleep, unpleasant though it is. But I cannot. I can lie still, becoming more irate at my sleeplessness, or I can rise and start my day. I get a lot done before the sunrise: exercise, food preparation, cleaning. My personal organization is the envy of my friends; but I'd give it all away to slumber until breakfast..."

Tharia slammed the heavy book shut in anger and tossed it on the end of her bed before throwing off the duvet, spinning on her bottom so her feet dangled over the side. Scrunching the blue toes of her feet in the fluffy rug at the side of her bed as she clutched the mattress either side of her body, the commander of the Ulysses let out a huff of frustration. She'd only been reading the blasted book because she had been in bed for nearly three hours without any sign of finding sleep, very aware that the so called demons of tomorrow lurked closer than she would have liked.

Slipping her feet into the nearby slippers, adorned with the face of some Earth character of fiction called 'Shrek' (they had been a gift from a colleague prior to their departure from the Ulysses), the Commander hobbled out into the living area of her quarters, nearly walking into the glass coffee table in the middle of the room on her way to the replicator.

"Computer, warm milk, large," she requested.

Truth be told, she knew exactly why she couldn't sleep; the thought of what the poor woman in sickbay must have gone through to end up as scarred and disfigured as she had. Her pain and suffering was all the motivation the crew needed to try and figure out what the hell had happened down on Xendi Sabu.

She was almost back in her bedroom, sipping the warm milk gently when the internal communications array chirped and stopped her in her tracks. "=/\=Bridge Commander sh'Elas," the voice spoke.

Diverting her steps, the Commander walked to her desk and pressed one of the buttons on the console, a single beep indicating that she could respond to the mystery voice. "=/\=sh'Elas here, go ahead."

"=/\=We've got Admiral Azulas for you on subspace, ma'am," the voice told in its matter of fact way.

sh'Elas let out a sigh as she placed the glass on the table top and moved around the desk to her chair. "=/\=Put her through down here. sh'Elas out." As she adjusted her chair and got as comfortable as she could, given she was in her nightwear, the Andorian was ready just in time for the screen to change and show the face of the Trill Admiral who had dispatched the Ulysses on her mission.

"I hope I didn't wake you, Commander," the Trill woman smiled sheepishly as she made note of the Andorian's evening wear.

"Not at all Admiral," Tharia shook her head slowly, "what can I do for you?"

"I read your report on the survivor," Nilani frowned as she looked down briefly, ""I can't believe she is the only survivor from that colony," she added.

"We're still working out theories of what happened, but so far we've come up with nothing concrete. Until we can stabilize her and see what she knows, we're stuck," the Andorian responded, slouching back in her seat, her antennae bobbing and dipping at will along with her frustration levels. "We're headed for Starbase One Two Six where we hope they will have better luck managing her condition and offer her the kind of rehabilitation she needs."

"I know this is going to frustrate you Tharia," Nilani started. The use of her first name caused the Andorian to bristle slightly, but she remained silent and listened to what was going to come next. "but you are going to have to carry on this investigation on your way to your next assignment. "

Next assignment? They hadn't finished this one yet and already they were being moved on. Sometimes, it was hard not to question the logic behind some of Command's decisions.

"You'll get more details tomorrow, but for now, I want you to transport your passenger to the Odyssey when it is safe to do so and then set a course for the Mira system," Admiral Azulas told, looking off screen briefly which allowed Tharia to make a quick note to look further into Mira. From what she could recall, it was a great distance from where they were currently.

"Forgive me Admiral, but if I remember rightly, Mira is a long way south of here. Surely there are other ships nearby who could respond to whatever situ..."

"Of course there are, but Fleet Admiral Clancy has chosen the Eleventh fleet for this mission and thus, Admiral Quinn has chosen the Ulysses," Nilani butted in, to express the apparent will of the Starfleet Commander in Chief and the leader of the Eleventh fleet itself. "Like I said before, I'll have more for you tomorrow, Commander. For now, I advise you get some rest," the Trill smirked. "Azulas out."

And just like that, before Tharia could protest further or seek any additional clarification of her orders, the Trill had vanished from sight. "Of course it makes sense to travel hundreds of lightyears when there are other ships in the area," she fumed as she picked up her glass of milk and downed it before heading back into the bedroom.

Collapsing onto the edge of her bed, she performed the ritual of earlier, but in reverse; Shrek slippers off, scrunching toes in the fluffy rug before sliding her body round and laid her head on the pillow again, pulling her duvet cover over her.

Hoping that she could forget about the demons of tomorrow for at least a little while, she closed her eyes at last...

...only to open them a few seconds later with a startling realisation.

"Great," she moaned, "now I have to go pee..."

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