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#1 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 17:26 (05:26 PM)

==After the Christmas Party==

 

It was early afternoon when a message was delivered from Senior Chief Petty Officer Killian, the Tactical NCOIC, requesting that Midshipman Nathan Ramius make himself available in the Gettysburg's gym immediately. Despite being from a different department, a "request" from a senior Enlisted to a Midshipman all but constituted an official summons, one that said Midshipman would be unwise to refuse or ignore. When Ramius arrived at the gym, he was directed to the area set aside for hand-to-hand combat training by one of Dawson's former marines in black fatigue pants and a sweat-stained shirt. The nearer he got, the louder the music, a variation of old-Earth Heavy Metal.

 

"You might want these."

 

The former Marine handed Ramius a pair of earplugs, the kind that would dampen the sound of the music but allow him to hear people speaking with clarity. Bleachers had been set up around the fighting area, and dozens of officers and enlisted alike were howling and screaming at the fight going on in front of them. SCPO Killian appeared to be running a book, taking bets from the crew, while a dark haired woman in her mid forties, Master Chief Special Warfare Operator Bartlett, was standing with her arms folded watching the bout as it progressed. The escort continued as he led him up the steps of the bleachers to a set of empty chairs.

 

"The Commander's been doing this every mission since the Avenger was destroyed. We try to make it more difficult for her every time; blindfolds, training weapons, multiple opponents..."

 

As they took their seats, the rationale for the event was revealed; Jenny stood in the middle of four of the Gettysburg's biggest Security personnel, she was stripped to a sports bra and shorts, leaving tattoos and scars alike exposed. Sweat covered her from head to foot, and she was breathing heavily with exertion. The four Security people were each armed with a rubber quarterstaff, while Jenny was armed only with something roughly resembling a Gladius. The Security team encircled her as the music reached a crescendo then dropped to a much softer and gentler tone.

 

[Tormented and wounded, branded and persecuted. Torn inside out yet here I stand...]

 

"We thought loud music would help...but...she knows the words, sir!"

 

Even from a distance, it was possible to see Jenny's lips moving in time with the music. 

 

[Fierce anger, blind madness, invoke the Beast of Darkness. No mercy 'cause they all must die!]

 

Jenny sprang into action as the music leapt into its finale. Going low, her rubber gladius swept the feet out from under one of her opponents while her free hand trapped the quarterstaff of the second and yanked it from its owner's grasp. Even with her back to Ramius, it was clear that of the four was Thorsdottir, who went in for the kill only to be pushed back by a brutal palm-strike to the chest.

 

[Like a hellraiser, monster of rage

Unleash the fury through your sword of hate
Destroy and murder, retaliate
Harness the power of the Beast In Black.]

 

Quarterstaff in one hand, gladius in the other, it was a massacre. Thorsdottir went down spitting blood from a spin-kick to the face, and the two remaining Security personnel who remained standing had neither the reach or pure physical strength as the Petty Officer. In a flash, the song had come to its conclusion and both were flat on their backs, and the crowd went berserk. Those who had (foolishly) bet against Braggins were handing large sums of credits to Killian, while Bartlett and a medic checked over the fallen combatants. Jenny dropped her training weapons and, discarding her blindfold, sought Ramius out in the crowd and beckoned him to join her with a finger.


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#2 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 19:02 (07:02 PM)

When Nathan took a moment to read the message from the wall panel, he was surprised that the request for his presence came from a senior Enlisted crewmember. Then his face scrunched up as he recognized the name – Killian was in Tactical and not Security.

 

“What the…?”

 

Begrudgingly, he returned to the table and put down the thirty-second assault rifle that he was cleaning that day. Before making his way towards the gymnasium, he cleaned his hands up, sighing at himself. There was a long, long, loooong line of assault rifles yet to go, and it wouldn’t be the first time he had been called away on a wild goose chase. It just meant he’d have to stay even later to continue his work. No doubt to the glee of many.

 

However, as he made his journey, the corridors seemed surprisingly vacant or, at least, less populated than usual. More so the close to the gym he got.

 

Weird…

 

The sound of music… caught his ears once he arrived. When the former Marine offered him the earplugs, Ramius ensured their prompt and proper fit before continuing further. When he entered, the sight struck him as bizarre. So many people were screaming and yelling, with the noise of the music nearly unbearable even with the hearing protection.

 

Is that Killian… is he taking bets? A senior enlisted acting as a bookie…

 

A brief frown formed on his head, but he quickly forced himself back to a neutral expression. Finally, they had arrived at a set of empty chairs, just past more former Marines and tough looking Enlisted folks.

 

"The Commander's been doing this every mission since the Avenger was destroyed. We try to make it more difficult for her every time; blindfolds, training weapons, multiple opponents..."

 

That brief bit of information piqued Nathan’s curiosity before the event itself was revealed. He watched, intently focusing on Jennifer, as she moved in the fight without sight. Every step, move, head tilt, and muscle action was analyzed and catalogued in Ramius’ head; the lack of clothing making it even easier to see what muscle groups did what work. She seemed to sing with the music, beating the ever-living snot out of Petty Officer Thorsdottir, who Nathan had more than just a healthy amount of respect for.

 

By the time Ramius was just getting into the fight, it was all but over: blood, sweat, and tears for the vanquished. Then the credits flowed, and the young Midshipman made a mental note of every person who seemed dejected – they were absolute fools to bet against Braggins, though the odds no doubt would have made for a dream payout had she lost. Nathan simply shook his head as he watched the fiasco unfold, but was certain to maintain a respectable appearance otherwise. Cogs and wheels started turning in his brain as Jenny summoned him.

 

****

 

There was a distinct hope in his mind that he wouldn’t have to fight her, even though part of him seemed to want a bout with the First Officer; a notion as foolish as betting against her.

 

“That was… beyond impressive,” he said as he walked up to the Commander,

 

“Four on one, blindfolded, deafened, and with Thorsdottir in the mix? Unreal.”

 

Inhuman.


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#3 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 19:55 (07:55 PM)

By the time Ramius had reached the mat, Jenny had been handed a towel and was using that to brush away the worst of the sweat. Her clothing clung to her body and her hair was a matted mess as she pulled it from her ponytail and shook it free, but she paid her lack of clothing no mind; Bryan seeing her in this state would have turned her the same shade of red as a tomato or pepper, but apparently her self-consciousness about her body image was now limited only to him and the way he looked at her. 

 

“That was… beyond impressive, Four on one, blindfolded, deafened, and with Thorsdottir in the mix? Unreal.”

 

Jenny shrugged as she discarded the towel and strode towards the changing areas, beckoning for the man to follow and giving him a good view of the tattoos on her lower back; forming part of the larger mural of art that extended from her left wrist up to her shoulder, down her flank, and down her leg to her ankle. The tattoo that would likely draw the eye, however, adorned her right bicep underneath a flag and a fading tattoo of an Aquila, the two-headed Eagle from legend. It was the standard Star Fleet Delta, surrounded by the wreath and stars of the Federation, and pieced by a dagger - the insignia of Star Fleet Special Operations Command. Entering the changing areas, Jenny continued towards the shower block and stepped into one of the stalls. Ramius' escort remained with him, preventing him peeking as she turned on the water.

 

"So, you've had a hell of a first trip! Sorry it couldn't be to a more exotic planet!"

 

With no time for a luxurious scrub-down, Jenny attended to the basics: ensuring she was clean. Her clothing had already been loaded into the stall's locker and, shower complete, she pulled on a pair of comfortable jeans, boots and what was becoming her signature clothing item: the black bomber jacket with the Gettysburg patch on one arm, and the Star Fleet Test Pilot Corps patch on the other. Stepping out and towelling her hair dry, she continued.

 

"As you're no doubt aware, Ensign Jelal was among the fallen. Bishtar religious practices demand he be returned to his homeworld within one standard week for burial if possible. Cultural expectations require that he be escorted by a senior officer and a colleague; you're the latter, and as you're the newest member of the department, you automatically drew the short straw. The exposure to other cultures, especially those outside of the Federation, will do you good; hopefully there will be less...mishaps...once you've learned that not everyone ascribes to the lofty idealism you do." 

 

The comment wasn't a biting comment, or even a snide remark, it was a simple matter-of-fact. Jenny wasn't from a Federation Member World, and though she believed in the Federation's ideals, she did not share the fanaticism that many new graduates or recruits did. In fact, she actually wondered how anyone could be that naive after half a century of on-again off-again conflict. The lessons learned in the Dominion War and afterwards evidently hadn't reached the general population, who still thought of planets like Earth as a democratic paradise, untouched by the incivilities of death and destruction.

 

"And here we are."

 

Jenny had led Ramius to the Shuttlebay, where a ship stood waiting. Unlike the Gettysburg's complement of Type 7 or 9A Shuttles, this was a Runabout, but it was not the Allegheny, Gettysburg's Type-1 Runabout. Instead this design was slightly blockier, with more pronounced wings containing integrated nacelles. Powerful engines sat at the aft. and the nose was blockier and more aggressive. It was one of the brand new Archangel-class Runabouts, and the name stencilled below the cockpit viewports read 'Lone Wolf'.

 

"We are departing immediately. Your bag has already been packed and stowed aboard, including your Dress Uniform."

 

Jenny paused and dipped her head slightly as an honour guard comprised half of Security and half of RRT members approached the aft of the ship with a modified torpedo casing on a hovergurney. Honours were rendered, and the gurney was floated aboard the Runabout to be secured for transit. With that duty completed, Jenny continued.

 

"Any questions?"


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#4 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.04 @ 13:33 (01:33 PM)

From head-to-toe, the woman was a machine. Nathan judged that, at best, she probably was half his weight, and was toned to a point that would make many jealous. If Jennifer Braggins ever decided that Star Fleet was not for her, she would easily make millions hawking fitness wares on the networks. Even her nonchalant, tetchy attitude would help there too. Then there were the tattoos, of which only one in particular really brought his attention. That she was branded as SFSOC wasn’t much of a surprise to Nathan, as her well-honed abilities that were partially innate, were doubtlessly further refined to a much deadlier dagger point by an elite group. Though it stood to reason, in his mind, that one could hide her true nature between the history told in the art on her body. Forged in the hellish fury of dozens, maybe hundreds of engagements, the stories of which were likely sitting in some secured vault, heavily redacted – the details only remaining in the memory of those who lived it.

 

As she entered the shower block, Ramius respectfully stopped and turned away, not needing the escort to remind him of her privacy, despite her seeming overall lack for the need of it. As the water started flowing, he couldn’t help but wonder what fresh hell he was soon to be tasked with. One didn’t just meet with the First Officer in a shower block to chit-chat about the ‘good ol’ times’, as if the Security Officer had any to be reminisced anyway.

 

"So, you've had a hell of a first trip!...”

 

An understatement.

 

“Sorry it couldn't be to a more exotic planet!"

 

Dipping his head, a condescending smile appeared. The woman knew how to get under his skin, and probably enjoyed it too. Though part of him wondered if she even knew she was doing it. Jenny’s casual attitude suggested that she might not.

 

Sociopaths usually don’t…

 

The water stopped and she had changed. Dutifully, he followed as she explained the situation. He admired the Getty bomber jacket that she wore, noting the Test Pilot Corps patch. There was so much history packed into such a small package. Ramius tried to consider if it was worth the pain of trying to befriend the prickly pear to uncover some amazing stories, and the wisdom embedded within them.

 

“…as you're the newest member of the department, you automatically drew the short straw…”

 

At that, Nathan controlled himself, stopping a loud snort; As the member of the crew with the fastest as*-to-grass record, I permanently hold the short straw.

 

“The exposure to other cultures, especially those outside of the Federation, will do you good; hopefully there will be less...mishaps...once you've learned that not everyone ascribes to the lofty idealism you do."

 

A brow raise was his only response as she had been surprisingly gentle with her wording. Braggins could have easily made fun of him, and poked his still oozing wound, but didn’t. Anyone else in the Universe could have said the same thing, but it wouldn’t have held the same meaning when it was Jennifer Braggins who said it. She believed heartily in the school of hard-knocks, it was apparent, and that often meant breaking down and grinding up little middies, to mold into something useable. That was still a possibility, but her missed chance to taunt Nathan was odd.

 

"And here we are."

 

Distracted, the young man had no idea that he had been led to the Shuttlebay. When he saw what lay within, he was gobsmacked. Nathan had heard of the Archangel project, a part of the Fleet Modernization Project, but he had never seen one before… let alone got to ride in one. He wanted to reach out and touch it, to feel the hull and the metal beneath, though that instinct was quickly overridden when he read the stenciled words ‘Lone Wolf’.

 

Lone Wolf, sounds like something she would use…

 

As the honor guard approached, Nathan stood at attention. A slight wince of his left eye was the only outward sign of the ache within as he watched the modified torpedo casing pass by: a reminder of the deadly events, and everything that day entailed.

 

“Any questions?”

 

May I pilot?

 

That would be a huge embarrassing no, so it stayed in his head.

 

“None at all. I am honored to accompany you and Ensign Jalal. I’m ready to assist in anyway that I can, Commander.”

 

With that, he readied himself – a rare eagerness spreading across his body. The excitement of getting to ride in the vessel, while tempered by the solemn task, was easily readable. Another aspect that was keenly intriguing to Nathan, was getting the chance to also watch the ‘Ace’ do her work: another learning opportunity that was too titillating to pass up.

 

Following Braggins into the craft was Ramius and a candid smile.

 


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#5 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.04 @ 15:02 (03:02 PM)

“None at all. I am honored to accompany you and Ensign Jalal. I’m ready to assist in anyway that I can, Commander.”

 

Jenny nodded slowly and ascended the boarding ramp through the narrow hatch, one of the several things the Corps of Engineers had neglected to change during the design and testing phases, citing that a narrower hatch was less of a structural weak spot than a wider one. Tactically it made sense, but in terms of comfort or ease of embarkation/debarkation, it was a nightmare. How they intended to use the Archangel as an effective MEDEVAC vessel, Jenny did not know; a single hovergurney with no extra equipment was a squeeze through the hatch, getting a full life support rig into the hold would be a logistical nightmare. Of course, the Lone Wolf wasn't geared up for MEDEVAC missions; as the racks of Microtorpedoes in the cargo bay attested - she was one of the Combat Retrofits, designed to patrol rear-area systems and interdict possible pirates or smugglers, or to gang up on larger vessels and shower them with miniature torpedoes.

 

"Make yourself at home."

 

Showing Ramius through the hatch into the cockpit, Jenny descended the ramp to the pilot's seat; giving her companion the opportunity to pick any of the three seats in the upper cockpit area behind her. Slipping into her chair, Jenny powered up the helm console and sealed the exterior hatch before initialising the engines. The spaceframe vibrated gently as main power woke the powerful engines, and Jenny breezed through the pre-flight checklist almost on autopilot, before slipping the harness restraints over her shoulders and around her waist; the Runabout had excellent inertial dampeners, but it never hurt to be safe than sorry.

 

"Lone Wolf to Gettysburg Control, requesting takeoff clearance."

 

[Granted Lone Wolf, safe travels.]

 

With gentle adjustments of the power settings, Jenny expertly nosed the Runabout off the deck and out of the shuttlebay. Pioneer Outpost lay off to port, and the Sheridan appeared to be on a departure vector for destinations unknown, Jenny's former minion Jaxx Crandell now allegedly Chief Tactical Officer, a sure sign of Commander Boislevsque's desperation. Ahead, Pioneer's Transwarp Gate floated under the watchful gaze of the Light Cruiser Pegasus, and the Lone Wolf gracefully approached the enormous ring as it powered up.

 

"Lone Wolf to TW-Six. Requesting Gate clearance."

 

Jenny transmitted her flight plan to the Gate controllers, and waited several seconds for their confirmation.

 

[Gate clearance granted, Lone Wolf.]

 

It wasn't every day that a single Runabout was granted access to a Transwarp Gate unless it was on a priority mission, but this was technically a diplomatic assignment, granting her privileges she wouldn't normally have enjoyed. A moment of discomfort accompanied passing through the gate, until the Runabout emerged in the Bishtavrath system. The planet they were approaching was covered with dense rainforest, and Jenny called up an image of the capital city for Ramius' benefit as they neared orbit. It looked as though someone had built a Mayan city from modern materials.

 

"Welcome to Bishtar, Mister Ramius."

 

A pair of black shapes appeared off the Archangel's port and starboard winglets; delta-shaped craft, all sharp angles and edges, Jenny couldn't help but snort and grin as she pointed out their escort to her passenger.

 

"Bishtar Raptors. Nice to fly, I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of one in a fight, though."

 

The Raptors stuck with the Lone Wolf as it entered the planet's atmosphere and made a spiralling descent to the ground below. The city's spaceport was a large patch of open ground near the centre of the city, and the Lone Wolf's landing spot had been marked out with red lines and was surrounded by tiny specks; people waiting to greet the alien vessel. Passing five hundred metres, the Raptors both dipped their wings in salute and disappeared upwards at a sharp angle and incredible velocity. Jenny wished she could join them, but the demands of the situation precluded any messing around. The landing gear deployed and the Runabout rocked gently as it touched down, Jenny killing the thrusters before the ship had even settled. Unbuckling her restraints, Jenny rose from her chair and ascended the ramp, pausing by where Ramius sat.

 

"Whatever you do, do not stare."

 

Opening the rear hatch, the reason for Jenny's comment was revealed: the Bishtar people were uniformly tall, fair-haired, olive skinned, and gorgeous. Their almond-shaped eyes were all shades of the spectrum from deep purple to emerald, and only the guards surrounding the Runabout wore anything other than loincloths, bracelets and necklaces...


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#6 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.05 @ 08:40 (08:40 AM)

Jennifer seemed to slide through the hatch easily, whereas Nathan had to treat it more like a crawl through a Jefferies Tube. Whoever had designed it probably had a reason for it, but they weren’t getting the Security Officer’s praises just at the moment. Once inside though, the elation started building up even higher. With Jenny firmly in the pilot’s seat, Nathan took up the Tactical Officer position and strapped himself in. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the Commander. In fact, surprisingly, he had a lot of trust in her flying capabilities despite never seeing it first-hand; but he had heard of her talent at the stick of a fighter or any vessel or ship.

 

Pulling up the console, he made sure to also bring up sensors and Engineering, so that he could deal with those too, should the need arise. He had barely done all of those things by the time the Lone Wolf was heading out towards the Transwarp Gate.

 

Ugh, I hate this part…

 

Through the gate, it felt like his stomach had twisted in a knot. Yet, he didn’t show his discomfort and focused solely on the task at hand.

 

"Welcome to Bishtar, Mister Ramius."

 

Bringing up the passive sensors, he just about called out the Raptors before Jennifer did. But just about wasn’t fast enough, and it was obvious now that she had been here before. Nathan took in the sight of the Raptors, admiring their dark black shapes and angles. Little did he know that the Raptors weren’t the only thing he would be admiring.

 

Jenny’s steady hands guided the Lone Wolf through the atmosphere in a crisp and clean fashion. Ramius couldn’t recall any time that it felt so smooth and buttery to break down through the different levels, from exosphere, to thermosphere, and so on. Easily one of the most quick and enjoyable rides he had ever had. Though for petty reasons, he wasn’t ready to admit that to the Commander.

 

Or perhaps I should. Though she’s probably heard it so much she’d just shrug the compliment off. Better to keep it to myself I suppose.

 

Unbuckling, he finished pulling off the last of the harness by the time Braggins approached him.

 

"Whatever you do, do not stare."

 

“Oh-kay…” a slightly confused look was quickly shook away.

 

Once the rear hatch opened, it all made sense.

 

Oh…

 

The Bishtar were alluringly enthralling, and at best barely clothed. All at once, the Midshipman suddenly felt very overdressed in his uniform, and also uniquely aware of himself as he cleared his throat. Still, he maintained his composure by instead trying to focus on the one thing that Michelle Price wouldn’t yell at him for looking at of the Bishtar; their eyes. Each of them had enchanting gemstone colored eyes that seemed to catch the sun and reflect it back in facets.

 

He had the good sense to feel out of his element, but frequently watched Commander Braggins, taking his cues directly from her. If she moved forward, he moved forward. If she nodded, he nodded. Though he also was careful not to do anything that seemed like he shouldn’t do… if that happened, he would hesitate. And while doing all of that, he continued to invoke the image of Price watching from the sidelines, silently judging where his eyes wandered to. As they exited the craft, he made sure to tilt his head up ever-so-slightly, to make it easier for him to focus on things like the sky, or landscape, or at least keeping things head-level. If he felt like there might be a chance for his attention or gaze to wander, he blinked, and refocused his sight straight ahead of him.

 

Then, Nathan was able to remind himself of why they were here in the first place. A memory of the honor guard on the Getty floating through his conscious mind. It wasn’t to joyride, or sight-see, or to leer like a Cadet. It was to return the body of an Officer who bravely put his life on the line, and had faithfully served not just the crew with whom he worked, but the many thousands that were saved by the information he gave his life to protect. The somberness helped Ramius, and he now dipped his head back to something less awkward.

 

This is a ceremony, a ritual, which I will be respectful of.


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#7 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.05 @ 11:17 (11:17 AM)

“Oh…”

 

Jenny couldn't help but smirk at Ramius' reaction. "Oh..." was the reaction most offworlders got when they arrived on Bishtar, and they usually immediately jumped to the conclusion that the Bishtar were a sexually uninhibited species that made the Risians, Edo or Orions look positively Victorian in their sexual mores. Of course, that was judging a species by the way it looked, and unlike certain other individuals Jenny had met during her career (one Jordan Donovan, for example), Ramius at least seemed to be keeping his eyes forward. For now.

 

"Just remember, they're more scared of you than you are of them... Or is that spiders?"

 

Stepping around Ramius, Jenny opened her bag and dragged out her gunbelt. Wrapping it around her waist and trying it off at the thigh, Jenny dropped her customised P-1 pistol into it and sealed it before grabbing a standard-issue Type-2 Phaser and passing it to the Security man.

 

"Only Priests and Diplomats go unarmed on Bishtar. We're neither. Come on."

 

Taking a deep breath, Jenny unbound her hair from its ponytail and strode out across the landing ground, hopefully with Ramius behind her. He was in uniform, she wasn't, which would probably raise a few eyebrows among the Diplomatic Corps. A familiar face at the head of a group of officials made Jenny's face drop, and she groaned inwardly. The woman at the centre of the group, wearing a loose white tabard that made her the most-dressed Bishtar at the event, was Liasta - the young leader of the Bishtar people.

 

"Jesus Christ it's the Warlord herself... Jelal was her cousin..."

 

Jenny slowed her approach as more familiar faces appeared in the group. Mejulie, Jelal's grey-haired mother and Liasta's Guard Marshal, stood behind the ruler with her arms folded, armoured breastplate gleaming in the sun and white cloak billowing in the breeze like her hair. Mejulie's right hand rested on the pommel of her sword, and the older woman's eyes shone with unshed tears. They were getting close now, too close for comfort, and Jenny's heart pounded as she struggled to retain the words she knew must be spoken - usually her father had been the one to officiate 'The Return', but Jelal had been her responsibility on the Gettysburg, so she had volunteered for this duty herself; a decision she was now regretting.

 

"Do what I do, don't make eye contact, and don't speak until spoken to."

 

Well, here goes...

 

Coming to a stop, Jenny dropped to one knee with her right fist clenched against her left breast and head bowed to the stone floor. Liasta, fair-haired and violet-eyed, looked straight ahead as the breeze tucked at her tabard.

"Warlord Liasta, Anointed Leader of the Bishtar people and Chosen Warmistress of High Solus, in the honoured agreement between our peoples, I return to you the mortal remains of your disciple Jelal who fell among the stars. That he may sit at the right hand of Solus and crusade with the warriors of old in His name."

 

As one, the honour grad tapped their halberds against the ground in honour of their fallen comrade as several robed priests ascended the Lone Wolf's ramp and floated the hovergurney out. Mejulie stepped forward, hand still on the pommel of her sword, and spoke in a clear voice that all would hear. Jenny knew she hated the pomp and circumstance of such an occasion, she was a warrior not a diplomat, but tradition was tradition, and this was her son they were returning home.

 

"Jelal has been returned to us. His companions shall rise and be recognised!"

 

Jenny rose, not bothering to brush the dirt from her knee as she did so. Mejulie's eyes were watering now as the casket was floated past, the honour guard parting to let it pass through. Stepping aside as well, Mejulie let Jenny pass to approach the Warlord's retinue. Dipping her head respectfully, Jenny was surprised when the Bishtar ruler wrapped her arms around her and pulled her into a crushing bear-hug. There were quiet murmurs from the crowd and members of the priesthood, but Liasta had survived being Warlord for six years now, and they were getting used to her...unorthodox methods. Jenny could feel the other woman's tears in her hair, Liasta being a good eight inches taller than Jenny, and but when she was released, the warrior-queen was as composed as ever and cast an appreciating eye on Ramius.

 

"Will you not introduce us to your companion?"

 

Clearing her throat with an amused smile and a glance at Liasta that suggested she play nice, Jenny extended an arm to Ramius.

 

"My Lady, might I introduce Midshipman Nathan Ramius of the USS Gettysburg."


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#8 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 05:29 (05:29 AM)

"Just remember, they're more scared of you than you are of them... Or is that spiders?"

 

Spiders I can deal with. A culture I am totally unknowledgeable of, with social norms and values that likely differ from my own, with different consequences… that is different. And more interesting than spiders. Spiders are still cool though. Just not Bishtar cool.

 

Nathan took the proffered Type-2 and set it in his holster. He didn’t have to be told twice about arming himself, and honestly felt slightly more comfortable with it. Yes, Commander Jennifer Braggins could handle herself in a fight easily, but if s*** really hit the fan, it would be nice to back her up. More so, being the Junior Officer, it was his duty. Though, he did disagree with Braggins on one point: he was a diplomat even if unofficially. That was his idealism talking he knew, as he believed all Officers of the United Federation of Planets were diplomats, even if unofficially. Still, he understood what Jennifer meant, and simply nodded. It would do no good arguing the point with her anyway; they were out here, secondarily, to correct his idealism after all.

 

Following the Commander closely, he made sure never to be more than a few steps behind her. Not for fear per se, but because she knew these people. Keeping her near would keep him out of more trouble. The keeping out of trouble, that was important. Cause he nearly always found trouble…

 

Or trouble finds me…

 

"Jesus Christ it's the Warlord herself... Jelal was her cousin..." Jennifer’s face dropped and she groaned, which heightened Nathan’s own alertness.

 

Ramius stood up straight, and kept his body language open, but his expression neutral: he wanted to convey his respect for the Warlord without having to say it. But Nathan also became enamoured with the Bishtar even more as he saw the gleaming armored breastplate of the Guard Marshal, with a stunningly white cloak that caught the wind. The sword that rested on the hip of the grey-haired woman was something out of Earth’s medieval fiction, and the Midshipman struggled not to gawk with his mouth open. They weren’t just beautiful in body, but their aesthetics were pleasing too: at least to Nathan’s tastes. Of course, he wanted to ask Braggins more about the makeup of their society and military structure, but the group was approaching them quickly.

 

"Do what I do, don't make eye contact, and don't speak until spoken to."

 

“Understood,” he said quietly.

 

As the Commander stopped, so did Nathan and he immediately followed her lead by dropping to one knee, bringing his right fist to his left chest and bowing down to the stone floor.

 

"Warlord Liasta, Anointed Leader of the Bishtar people…”

 

Anointed Leader?! a bit of dust stirred beneath his nostrils.

 

"Jelal has been returned to us. His companions shall rise and be recognised!"

 

Nathan rose in tandem with Jennifer, being sure to keep his head solemnly lowered, his eyes flittering towards the ground. As the casket floated past, the memory of the incident whipped up a whirlwind of torridness, the heat of which managed to rush past his neck and into his cheeks. Nathan was grateful for his beard, hoping it would hide the reaction from the group, but especially Braggins. The last thing she needed to see was him having another ‘emotional reaction’. Plus, he was also hoping not to have to explain himself to the Warlord or her entourage, at least, not in public.

 

When Liasta hugged the tiny framed brunette, there was a shock in the eyebrows of the Security Officer.

 

Does she know Liasta well then? Perhaps that is a part of her history, here, that she knows these people so well. And so it would make sense, I suppose, if she helped them in some way… gained their trust…

 

"Will you not introduce us to your companion?"

 

Face growing warmer, he waited.

 

It is hot out here. Like, equatorial hot. Bishtar is tropical right? It isn’t just me. Surely it isn’t me.

 

"My Lady, might I introduce Midshipman Nathan Ramius of the USS Gettysburg."

 

Nathan even further bowed his neck in respect, but was careful to say nothing. Liasta had spoken to Braggins, not to him directly. It would not do, for him to break his silence yet, until he was actually addressed. Throat slightly dry, he tried to work up some saliva for the moment that he needed to speak.

 

Note to self, drink plenty of water before meeting new cultures…


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#9 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 17:43 (05:43 PM)

Ramius didn't say anything, and his face appeared to be going a strange shade of pink. Either he was embarrassed or was having some kind of stroke.

 

"Doesn't say much, does he?"

 

Jenny smirked at Liasta's comment, but her smile had no malice behind it. Ramius was no doubt obeying Jenny's orders not to speak unless spoken to, and unwilling to put his foot in his mouth like he had with Tyra aboard the Gettysburg mere minutes after poor Jelal's death. Liasta continued, her eyes running from Ramius' head to his toes.

 

"Nice to look at, though... Is he claimed?"

 

Jenny sighed and rolled her eyes.

 

"I wouldn't know, but the last officer you decided to entertain couldn't walk for a week. They don't make Terrans as resilient as the Bishtar."

 

"You're no fun."

 

Several of the assembled dignitaries were mortified at the discussion taking place before them; their leader and a foreign dignitary were freely discussing the sexual liaisons of the former at what was meant to be a funeral. Mejulie cleared her throat, an amused expression not quite breaking through her sorrow, and the two younger women nodded with rueful smiles. Jenny bowed at the waist as Liasta and her retinue departed. Jenny and Ramius were escorted to a small hovervehicle that transported them and their luggage the short distance to the local military barracks, where they were shown into a room reserved for them but unfortunately not as private as each of them would have liked; they had individual sleeping areas, but the bathroom would be shared. It wasn't as bad as some places Jenny had lived, but then she'd bunked with her fellow pilots; known quantities who weren't still so fresh from the Academy that they squeaked.

 

"Well this is cozy."

 

Tossing her bag into the larger of the two bedrooms, Jenny unclipped her holster and draped it over the back of one of the chairs.

 

"The ceremony will be at sunset, followed by a feast; lots of meat, lots of alcohol."

 

Shrugging out of her jacket, Jenny draped that over the holster and rummaged around in the small food preparation area. She let out a small cheer and emerged with a bottle of amber liquid and two small glasses. Pouring a measure in each, she placed both on the small coffee table and dropped heavily into the chair she'd put her jacket and holster on.

 

"If you have any questions, or want to get a nap in before tonight; now would be the time. I don't expect we'll be back here until sunrise at the earliest."


Edited by Cdr Jennifer Braggins, Star Date 21902.06 @ 17:44 (05:44 PM).

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#10 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 21:50 (09:50 PM)

"Doesn't say much, does he?"

 

I’m right here, you can chat with me…

 

"Nice to look at, though... Is he claimed?"

 

Even more so than before, the temperature rose.

 

Yes, yes I am claimed. If I even thought about… well, it just wouldn’t be a good idea to go there.

 

"I wouldn't know, but the last officer you decided to entertain couldn't walk for a week. They don't make Terrans as resilient as the Bishtar."

 

Ohhhh myyyyy. Sweet baby… okay. Just, don’t think of that… don’t entertain any thoughts on that subject at all… s***…

 

A large gulp moved his Adam’s apple, but he stayed silent. Whatever color he was turning, it didn’t matter so long as he could control his facial expressions. So that is what he focused on. Staying neutral, and not showing the wide-eyed wonderment that currently entertained his brain for the moment. Nathan also had to fight the urge to shake his head in his attempt to dispel his imagination. Thankfully, it was over just afterward as the sword bearer cleared her throat in an attempt to get the pair to move on. Which they did. Nathan, if he could ever express it, owed that woman a debt of gratitude. He was sure to bow at the waist as Jenny did, and then finally stood up and un-cricked his neck. The relief, not just from the stance, but the situation, was palpable.

 

Even as they rode in the vehicle, he said nothing, unsure if he should stay silent until they arrived at their destination or not. He wasn’t sure of the protocol and didn’t want to offend by being curious. There would be time for that once they arrived, and as he had so painfully learned recently, it was best to ask questions in private anyway.

 

Well then, back to the old Junior Officer style of living. Suits me just fine, though a little close for comfort considering it is Braggins and not Elias. Wow. That was a weird thought to make. Meh.

 

“It is, but not unlike the Quarters for me back on the Getty,” he replied to Jenny's statement as she tossed her stuff into one of the bedrooms. Nathan took the other one, placing his pre-packed bag on the bed before returning to the common area and sitting in a chair. He unzipped the top of his tunic a fair bit, thankful for the respite from the heat and the discussion that had just taken place.

 

"The ceremony will be at sunset, followed by a feast; lots of meat, lots of alcohol.”

 

Good… I wonder if I have to partake in the drinking? It might be fun, but I don’t want to be negligent either. Perhaps just a sip or two…

 

"If you have any questions, or want to get a nap in before tonight; now would be the time. I don't expect we'll be back here until sunrise at the earliest."

 

I have several actually, and not just about this trip, cogs of consideration creaked and crowed in his brain.

 

“Any protocol I should know before we go there? I doubt I’ll partake much in the beverages unless that will offend our hosts,” he reached for the glass on the coffee table, “thank you. Seems a little contradictory of me to imbibe now, but hey, I’ve been contradicting myself a lot lately.”

 

Lifting the glass up to his nose, he took a slight whiff of the contents – it was sweet in fragrance, and as he tasted it, it had a confectionary quality to it. All in all, unexpected.

 

“This is delicious, thank you again,” he set the glass back down on the table, letting the drink settle itself. Then he let out a small sigh before hopping up out of the chair and moving towards the middle of the room. Holding his head up like a philosopher, he considered his next words carefully.

 

“I… have to talk to you. But, I don’t quite know how to,” the start of his speech was not as smooth as the drink was.

 

Finding a wall to lean up against, he turned back towards Jennifer and rested himself gently on the supporting structure, releasing his hand from his face.

 

“I really should just come out with it. You and Captain Crawford seem to prefer straightforward talk, which can be refreshing, if intimidating at times.”

 

Pausing to find the right words, it started taking longer than he expected. There really was no good way to put what he was about to say, and really, if he tried to fluff things up, it could just lead to offending the Commander.

 

“I know,” he said, looking directly at Braggins.

 

“I’m not sure if Captain Crawford has said anything, about what her and I discussed in her Ready Room the day after the incident. But I am aware of… your true nature… I haven’t said anything to anyone, except Captain Crawford. I don’t know if anyone else knows, but I don’t plan on spreading it around. I… don’t know what or how I’m supposed to feel about any of it to be honest.

 

Save for your attitude on my arrival, which might have… was, earned admonishment on my part, you haven’t done anything to hurt me personally. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I am, apprehensive. Which, in and of itself is wrong. I know that. Because I shouldn’t judge you on what you may be, but instead I should strive to understand who you are… as a person.”

 

Sighing, he tried to read her then, wondering what he should say next... if anything.


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21902.06 @ 21:53 (09:53 PM).

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#11 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 23:26 (11:26 PM)

Jenny sipped at her drink, a local approximation of Terran Mead, and relished in the sticky sweetness of it. Her supply had run out months ago, and she didn't receive care packages from Bishtar like she did from home. In comparison, the still-illegal Romulan Ale was a breeze to acquire, especially from her acquaintances from her pre-Avenger days who often surreptitiously crossed the Romulan border. Making a mental note to stock up before they returned, possibly from Liasta's own reserve if possible, Jenny listened as Ramius began to ramble. The younger men had gone an alarming shade of red while being appraised by Liasta, and Jenny wasn't sure whether to pity the man or be proud of him for attracting the Warlord's attention like that. 

 

Pity. She breaks them, then complains she's unsatisfied...

 

“I know,”

 

Jenny froze with the glass half-way to her lips.

 

“I’m not sure if Captain Crawford has said anything, about what her and I discussed in her Ready Room the day after the incident. But I am aware of… your true nature… I haven’t said anything to anyone, except Captain Crawford. I don’t know if anyone else knows, but I don’t plan on spreading it around. I… don’t know what or how I’m supposed to feel about any of it to be honest. Save for your attitude on my arrival, which might have… was, earned admonishment on my part, you haven’t done anything to hurt me personally. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit I am, apprehensive. Which, in and of itself is wrong. I know that. Because I shouldn’t judge you on what you may be, but instead I should strive to understand who you are… as a person.”

 

Jenny remained frozen where she was for several agonising seconds, the emotions within her in turmoil, and torn between engaging with the man in rational discourse or ripping him limb from limb to preserve her secret. Jenny had known that Tyra had told the Midshipman, and had been furious at the older woman for it. Academically, she had understood why Tyra had felt the need to spill the beans, as it insulated the crew from any potential repercussions; including the people whom Jenny had come to consider family, such as Bryan, Eli McKenzie, and Cera. Still, the emotional turmoil was almost too much, and it took her a few moments to marshal her thoughts and clamp down on the voice in her head, the superior ambition, and silence it.

 

"That last remark is possibly one of the wisest remarks I've heard from a Midshipman in my entire career."

 

Draining the glass of the sticky liquid in one gulp, Jenny placed it back on the table and refilled it almost to the top. If Ramius expected her to discuss this, she was going to need a reasonable amount of alcohol inside her.

 

"You're right; we didn't get off on a positive note. That's as much my fault and the fault of the situation we were in as yours."

 

Jenny sighed and sat back in the chair, cradling the glass in her hands and staring up at the ceiling for a moment as she tried to organise what she wanted to say into a coherent sentence.

 

"I appreciate your decision to not spread it around. Most of the crew have already figured out that I'm not your average First Officer, and that I'm not just another case of someone being promoted too soon because of who their parents are... But I'm not sure revealing my 'true nature' to them would be smart; most probably wouldn't care, and the admission would probably make someone on the crew very wealthy. Some, on the other hand, like Ensign Crandell, would probably use it to their own benefit; they'd be more than willing to sell me and Tyra to SFSEC for a promotion."

 

The last comment was said with more than a little resentment, and not for the first time, Jenny wished she'd dumped the jumped-up Australian pissant out an airlock at the first sign of trouble. Why she'd covered for him and Pond after the Sickbay incident, she still didn't know. Was she learning too much from Tyra? Was she willing to protect every member of her crew, even those who didn't deserve it?

 

"But that's beside the point. You want to know who I am, not what. That's probably for the best, because what I am has many names: 'freak', 'abomination', 'monster', 'unnatural'. They're all pretty accurate, thanks to Sarina Kaur's children, Project Chrysalis, and the Eugenics Wars..."

 

Jenny paused and took a large sip of her drink.

 

"Would you be surprised if I told you that I was only eight Terran years old? That I was grown in a vat, the nineteenth attempt to create a viable clone for the express purposes of a madman's plot for revenge? Well it sure surprised me when I found out! Fortunately, I have a very supportive family, including the real Jennifer, and the Gettysburg crew are, for the most part, an accepting and agreeable bunch. I'm sure Tyra explained it to you, but the crew has been through a lot of crap in the last few years, which means we bonded together as a group and are instinctively distrustful of outsiders...especially outsiders who retain the fluffy idealism we've all lost..."

 

Jenny took another sip.

 

"Long story short, however: I was a fighter pilot for a while, then I became the Avenger's Helm Officer and then Chief Tactical Officer until she got blown to scrap by the Gettysburg. Moved to the Getty with the rest of the crew, and was promoted to Acting First Officer the day we left Starbase Bravo to report to Pioneer. The rest you know. It's funny, actually... People always used to say that I got my skills as a pilot from my father, and my musical and artistic talents from my mother... But how can I be sure of that? What aspects of me are natural, and what are the product of a diseased Ferengi with a vendetta and a God complex?"

 

Draining the glass, Jenny leaned forward and refilled it again. Ramius was still on his first glass. One of the downsides of being what she was, her body metabolised and processed alcohol differently, and she somehow doubted there would be enough alcohol in the bottle to make her truly comfortable with the topic at hand. There were other worries, too, worries that she couldn't discuss with anyone. Worries she'd not realised she'd even had until McKenna had announced she was pregnant. When they got back to Pioneer, she'd need to schedule a lunch date with Alex; her godmother would know what to do.

 

"Sorry, I'm rambling. If you have any specific questions, now is probably the time. I doubt I'll be in such an agreeable mood after the ceremony, or when we're back aboard ship."


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#12 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.08 @ 13:32 (01:32 PM)

The only reason Nathan had got up and moved was to have some amount of reaction time, should Braggins decide to beat him into a pulp. It wouldn’t have been much, but the distance would have given him at least a slight, negligible but slight, chance as opposed to being swallowed up by a comfy chair. Or so he thought. When he heard the first two sentences, he couldn’t believe the statements. In his head he wondered if this was the Jennifer Braggins he was speaking to. The same firebrand that seemed ready to obliterate the whole team that beamed over from the crew replacement shuttle.

Keeping a close eye on her movements, he tensed when she sighed and sat back into her chair. That was the second time now, the first being when she had refilled her drink. Now though, it didn’t seem like she was in a fighting mood at all, but actually wanted to talk. To discuss. Rationally.

I thought I was dead when she lifted the bottle for a refill if I am being honest.

Nathan moved back to the chairs and tentatively sat down as Jenny spoke, allowing himself another sip of the sweet beverage. But only a sip, as he didn’t want to get too far into the glass, for various reasons. That is when she went into appreciating his discretion, and a twinge of guilt struck him. He vividly remembered composing the beginning of a message to SFSEC himself, though apparently, he wasn’t wily enough to seek out dispensation like a promotion. In fact, that thought hadn’t ever crossed his mind for himself. To that, he made a mental note.

When Jenny paused, and took another swig, Nathan allowed himself another tiny sip, his glass barely touched compared to the Commander’s healthy thirst.

Then the real revelations began. The vat, her actual age, the sheer fact that she had been bred, yes bred, for a purpose. Only to reveal that this sole purpose was for something as base as revenge. More guilt assailed him as she spoke of family, and even though she didn’t say it outright, there were obvious elements of the crew of the Gettysburg she thought highly of. Tyra, surely, being one of them. Who else, however, he did not know. Then came the slight which was no doubt semi-directed towards him, or so he assumed. It made him chuckle loudly, particularly the ‘fluffy idealism’ part.

That, should probably be just modified to ‘idealism’ now. The fluffiness was singed off at the last mission, leaving some char behind…

The rest of her disclosure about herself was mostly career related, which nearly all of it made sense. From the Test Pilot patch, to her Tactical training, and then her position as First Officer. Yet her uncertainty of what was really ‘hers’, and what was a ‘gift’ from this Ferengi both made him sympathize for her, but also riled him up to a degree.

If Jenny were paying attention, just her line about ‘a diseased Ferengi with a vendetta and a God complex’ made him sneer. It was something he desperately worked on throughout his life and career, to not have such a reaction. Yet there it was, and nearly uncontrollable at that. It was his worst trait and he knew it. Still, the story only reinforced his feelings. That is where a newfound anger rose up in his chest, and he countered it with another, healthy swig this time, of drink.

“Tyra… sorry, Captain Crawford, had mentioned looking into things once we arrived at Pioneer. This vindictive madman with a God complex Ferengi… was he behind Monroe and Prittle? Or are they part of a different threat to you, and the Gettysburg now? The Captain never gave specifics, and maybe you won’t either, which is fine. But… after what I saw, I am genuinely concerned. For the ship and the crew…”

And for you I guess… now…

“And you, now,” Nathan said it aloud, because if he thought it, he figured he might as well say it, even if it resulted in derision from Jennifer.

"Then, if you wouldn't mind... do you know Captain Mihar Kata, on Pioneer? I don't suppose you could give me some insights or tips regarding working with her? I'm... supposed to report to her soon. For an... assessment. It is something I don't want to, or plan on, failing. So anything that would enlighten me would be great, er, appreciated."

“Lastly, before we get too far into a wispy web or dark conspiracy…anything specific I should know or worry about the ceremony tonight? Do I…” a slightly longer than usual hesitation spoke some volume about the next concern, and the slight embarrassment that went with it.

“…do I gird my loins? Around the Warlord? I am, for all intents and purposes, dating someone now. Michelle Price, from the Intrepid.”

Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21902.08 @ 13:52 (01:52 PM).

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#13 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.10 @ 16:37 (04:37 PM)

So many questions from the Midshipman, and in such a short space of time. Jenny wondered whether this was a peculiarity of the situation, Ramius himself, or Star Fleet Midshipmen in general; she'd never been the latter, so she couldn't be sure whether it was or was not one of the two former. She'd not missed the look on his face when she mentioned Ferengi, and silently made a mental note to see whether his instructors had noticed anything; there were a handful of Ferengi currently attending Star Fleet Academy, and she wondered whether he'd had a run-in with one or more of them. Of course, there was the possibility he was just a racist where the big-eared species were involved.

 

"Prittle and Monroe are...what Star Fleet refers to as Post-Eugenic Augments. They are born naturally and enhanced at some point after birth, usually as young children... This can cause...issues... One of the most common and least legal is a process called 'Accelerated Critical Neural Pathway Formation'; it's meant to accelerate the growth of neuronal networks in the cerebral cortex, leading to increased intelligence in areas such as analysis, deduction, induction, and theoretical exposition."

 

Jenny took a deep breath.

 

"Unfortunately it doesn't always work, and more often than not leads to stunted emotional or intellectual development, or can render the subject permanently comatose. They're second-rate imitations of the original Augments, with most operations done in back-alley hospitals on worlds on the fringes of Federation space."

 

Taking a sip from her glass, Jenny leaned back in her chair and placed her booted feet on the table, crossing her legs at the ankle as she did so.

 

"I, on the other hand, was created in the same was as the original Augments but with a few twists. Genetically modified as an embryo, grown in an artificial womb, and artificially matured with Hermat DNA, hence the teeth.

 

To reinforce the point, Jenny gave him a smirk that revealed both sets of canines; razor-sharp for tearing flesh from bone, and the scars on the insides of her lips where she'd first struggled with them.

 

"A much longer and more complex method than what I assume happened to Monroe and Prittle, which from what we can gather, happened over the space of a week or so. Whoever worked on them... they've got the money, and they've got the skill... But I doubt Monroe and Prittle were anything more than footsoldiers."

 

Tapping her fingers on the glass, Jenny took on a pensive expression as she thought about who had turned the two rogue officers, and why; Intelligence and Security had asked a lot of pointed questions already, and the investigation was still ongoing. After recent events, the possibility of a traitor within the fleet couldn't be ruled out. 

 

"As for Mihar, I only know her professionally. She and the skipper go way back, though, so I wouldn't expect her to go easy on you. Liasta, on the other hand, would go very easy on you. I've heard she's an expert..."

 

Jenny gave Ramius a mischievous grin and sipped her drink, not commenting on the suddenness of his relationship with this Price woman. What was it with the Gettysburg crew and jumping rashly into romantic situations? 

 

"So long as you don't rebuff her advances publicly, you'll be fine. Bishtar men don't like their females being insulted, even if they are warriors themselves, and you're likely to end up challenged to a duel to the death. Aside from that, just prepare to drink a lot more of that, and eat a lot of meat. I often wonder if these people have ever heard of vegetables."


Edited by Cdr Jennifer Braggins, Star Date 21902.10 @ 16:38 (04:38 PM).

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#14 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.11 @ 01:52 (01:52 AM)

It felt odd, to be sipping on such a sweet drink, but for the conversation to be so dark and serious. Nathan was getting used to strong drinks for strong talk, and not vice versa. That being said, he was incredibly intrigued by how much knowledge the Commander had on the process the imposters likely went through. It was incredibly detailed, and there was so much that Ramius wanted to pull from her mind. He perked up at the mention of ”Accelerated Critical Neural Pathway Formation”, being sure to say it in his head several times to remember it, for future research and reference.

 

After all, he had promised Captain Crawford he would listen more, but she didn’t ask him to drop any of his more personal and indulgent investigations. So far, his notes were quite substantial, if threadbare on details that might endanger the true identify of his colleague. On the issue of Eugenics, and more specifically post-Eugenics, this conversation served to increase the research he needed to do. For the most part, he wasn’t incredibly knowledgeable in the fields of gene modification and therapy, among many others. Yet in his spare time, which being off-duty allowed him a greatly increased amount of time to putz around, reading Journal after Journal helped to mollify that disadvantage.

 

"I, on the other hand, was created in the same was as the original Augments but with a few twists,” that statement pulled him in even more, and he had to play it off that he was reaching for his drink.

 

“Genetically modified as an embryo, grown in an artificial womb, and artificially matured with Hermat DNA, hence the teeth.”

 

Nathan couldn’t help but stare at her teeth, and it caused him to flashback to the Observation Lounge. That cool and polite smile, the slightest hint of her teeth, gleaming under the lights as she interrogated them. It was off putting, the teeth that day… but it was her body language and attitude along with the fangs that really piqued his curiosity; and made him feel like prey.

 

Rightfully so, he thought as Jenny also showed the scars of her inside lips where the teeth had cut over and over again until she knew how to work around them.

 

“Whoever worked on them... they've got the money, and they've got the skill... But I doubt Monroe and Prittle were anything more than footsoldiers."

 

Footsoldiers for what though? I’m no closer to understanding who or what is behind the attack. Why go through all that trouble, augmenting disillusioned Officers like that? Seems a strategic error to reveal oneself in such a manner, despite still being cloaked and able to move in the shadows. It must have been a statement, then, that it could be done, and that their reach extended deeply within Star Fleet. Perhaps even the Federation. Either that, or a petty reminder to Braggins that she had not escaped her history just yet. Bastards.

 

“Liasta, on the other hand, would go very easy on you. I've heard she's an expert..." that pulled Ramius from his thoughts and nearly made him blush again.

 

"So long as you don't rebuff her advances publicly, you'll be fine. Bishtar men don't like their females being insulted, even if they are warriors themselves, and you're likely to end up challenged to a duel to the death.”

 

Great, so play along in public, and then decline in private? Easier said than done. Time to think of a plan B and C. I doubt Michelle would be pleased to hear about some Bishtar Warlord snogging my drunk a**.

 

Nathan let out a sigh. At least he knew what was coming, and he seriously considered putting together some sort of makeshift cod piece, or something to that effect. The thought made him down a sizeable amount of his drink, near half of it in one swig.

 

“We had just met, Michelle and I, at the Christmas Party. To say it is serious, well… we just met. But, it wasn’t just a ‘how do you do’, you know? The night went far too well, and there were so many unexpected twists that… well, I found myself captivated if I am being honest. There is this thing she does,” he smiled as he remembered, “where she tucks her hair behind an ear. It is adorable. But… I mean… I’ve seen other women do it, but when she does it, she sort of hides her eyes and it makes it just that much more charming.

 

Plus, it probably isn’t clever of me to be in a long-distance relationship, let alone in a relationship in Star Fleet to begin with. Still, the moments we shared were so engaging. And she is so... fascinating that I can't help but want... want to discover more about her. Perhaps I could ask you for some tips in the future?” he took a much smaller sip of his drink this time, a clever grin peeking out from behind the glass.

 

“I’d ask you more questions now, but I feel like that might be irritating, and I know I will need your help tonight. Plus, I honestly did not expect this situation to play out as it did. I will admit that I considered that I was signing my own death warrant by my admission to you. The Bishtar have no love for me, and diplomatic accidents are not unheard of, I am sure. But… I had to brooch the topic with you at some point, if for no other reason than to show that I am a non-threat. And to understand you, the person behind everything 'else'. That being said, I am direly interested in uncovering more about this nebulous outside force that threatens you and our crew. One part revenge, one part retribution, and one part…”

 

Nathan’s voice dropped, not wanting to admit that for some reason he felt compelled to protect Jennifer, despite her being more than capable of doing so herself. Yet as his understanding of the Hermat Augment grew, so too did his acceptance of her, and his underlying need to guard her grew with it. Even if his instinct still screamed an alarm every chance it had while he was in her presence.

 

“I, am going to have a shower…” he stood up, moving towards his bedroom before turning back to the Commander.

 

“…they do have showers in the bathroom yes? Unless you’d prefer to go first. Despite my brain telling me to be as disgusting as possible to prevent any… advances… my brain won’t allow me to be so grimy, sadly.”


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21902.11 @ 02:01 (02:01 AM).

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#15 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.11 @ 18:45 (06:45 PM)

==Skipping ahead to the ceremony.==

 

The days on Bishtar were hot, humid, and short. Barely an hour after their discussion, dusk was settling over the capital and preparations were being made for Jelal's final journey. From the window in her room, Jenny could see the torches being lit along the trail that led through the forest up to the peak of the inactive volcano from whence the species' reverence (or fear) of nature and their worship of Solus had sprung. Though she'd not participated in a Bishtar funeral before, her parents had attended the funeral of Guard Marshal Manerian hours after they had saved the world from the rogue Daimon Whodat, the man who had created Jenny in an act of revenge for that interference. Towelling the last dampness from her hair, Jenny ran her brush through it and bound it into a tight ponytail with a black hairband. Her Dress Uniform, its off-white body and red trim, was going to be uncomfortably hot in the Bishtar evening, and would no doubt end up badly stained by the end of the night; sadly, this was a formal occasion, so she had to wear it.

 

At least it's thinner than my other uniform; it's nice back home where it's freezing even in summer, but here... I'd melt...

 

Pulling the chest flap tight and securing the pressure seal and complicated (and unnecessary) shoulder clip, Jenny attended to the other parts of her attire; the ones the Bishtar would appreciate more than a rack of medals that they knew nothing about. Her sidearm sat in a more intricate black leather holster at her right hip, and onto her belt at the left, she had buckled her sword; it was not one of the paired Mek'leth she had taken from a Klingon smuggler not long after joining the Ticonderoga, this was the twin to Liasta's own sword, a reward for Jenny's part in preventing all-out civil war between Liasta and her brother. Completing the ensemble was the white cloak, identical to that of Mejulie and the other Royal Guard; the entire Ticonderoga crew had been inducted into the Guard following their previous visit, and all were entitled to wear the white cloaks on formal occasions. Star Fleet viewed the arrangement with some scepticism and it had given more than one Diplomatic Corps official a migraine, but aside from one or two minor incidents that might have broken General Order 21, it had been a beneficial process.

 

Leaving her room, Jenny gave herself a once-over in the mirror, and waited by the door for Ramius. Then they would join the procession leading up the mountain, a five mile walk by foot, the ceremony would take place, and the feasting would begin. Hopefully Liasta kept her hands to herself, otherwise Ramius was probably going to find himself in an awful lot of trouble; either at the hands of a wrathful girlfriend, or an offended warrior.

 

I think I'd take my chances with the duel to the death, if I were him...


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#16 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.12 @ 22:56 (10:56 PM)

It wasn’t just Nathan, it was in fact Bishtar. Having stepped out of the shower, and started getting ready, he felt the humidity cling to him despite toweling off several times. In the end, he decided to preen with just his towel on, as it did nothing to get clothed if he was just going to be soaked again. It also wouldn’t do for Nathan to try too hard with his hair either, as the dampness would affect that too, and so he went for a more natural look without the use of any product.

 

Finally, he donned his Class-A uniform, which was the only option for a formal event of this nature. The Midshipman hoped that the evening might cool some, so that he could feel somewhat comfortable in an uncomfortable situation; though the tight-fitting uniform wouldn’t help either. He hoped that the Warlord Liasta might not keep the same attention for him that she had when they first met. Nathan wasn’t good with that sort of interest in him, particularly when it wasn’t reciprocated. That wasn’t to say that Liasta wasn’t attractive, because she was, but that there were more than a few reasons for him to say no. Michelle, first and foremost. Plus, the fact that he didn’t know the Warlord either. It seemed, to Ramius, somehow wrong to just have a fling. It wasn’t quite the way he was built.

 

Or is it? The Christmas Party might have something to say about that...

 

The Security Officer let out a massive sigh. He tried to wonder what anyone else would do in his position. Though that thought experiment cut off quickly with a very simple answer to the problem. He couldn’t do that though. In the end, he would probably have to accept the advances publicly, and then see if he could decline privately. That seemed the most diplomatic way to handle things should Liasta still be… eager. Otherwise, he would get into a fight tonight, and that didn’t seem like the way to handle things.

 

It is their way though… even if I decline privately, there might be no escaping a duel…

 

That thought caused him to crack his neck, once for each side. With the looming possibility of a duel circulating in his brain, it prompted him to grab his holster and buckle it up. A quick double check of the phaser, to ensure it was in working order, did little to ease his anxiety.

 

*pfffhwwwwwwww*

 

Looking into the mirror, the face that looked back seemed dower. A perfect expression to carry him through a funeral. He paused, to commit to a self-affirmation in the mirror. It was something he tried to do more often, since talking with Elias, so that he wasn’t so harsh on himself all of the time, just some of the time…

 

Nathan stepped out and saw the Commander waiting for him. He nodded, and followed her lead.

 

As before, earlier in the day, he said nothing and kept his eyes to himself as they joined the procession. It was a long walk, and the heat of the day seemingly had dissipated little. Whatever effect the shower had done to cleanse him, it would be worthless by the time they reached the place where the ceremony would take place.

 

The walk, however, was beautiful. Torches lit their way up the mountainside, and as they broke through the first bit of forest, the view was astounding. Nathan made sure to take in the sight, as he found Bishtar (and its inhabitants) beautiful. Despite the anxiousness that plagued him, he still was able to find a moment to be thankful for the trip. It wasn’t something he had said yet to Jennifer, and he probably wouldn’t until after they got back to the Getty… after all, the night was too young to know where all the chips would fall…


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#17 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21902.18 @ 00:22 (12:22 AM)

The march up the mountain began as the sun set and the planet's two moons rose in the sky, the torches providing the only artificial illumination as the temperature dropped just enough to make such exertion bearable for a woman used to the artificial environment of a starship or the frigid climates of Andor or her homeworld. Conducted entirely in silence, the hour-long climb taxed Jenny's patience more than it did her endurance, though some of the older Bishtar appeared to falter every now and then, before straightening and carrying on out of sheer pride and determination. The procession finally reached the top, where a bier had been created with the shrouded remains of young Jelal resting on top. Mejulie and Liasta stood by the bier with a priest, the latter's intricately woven loincloth flapping in the breeze and sweat sheened his naked torso in the heat generated by the magma flow bubbling beneath the rocky ground.

 

The ceremony lasted only a few moments, with a group of priests chanting in a language Jenny did not comprehend but assumed must be Ancient Bishtar, meaning she and Ramius had just joined a very select group of offworlders to hear the words. When the chanting finished, Mejulie and Liasta stepped away from the bier as the near side was raised and the shrouded body slid off the end into the caldera; disappearing from view and being consumed by the lava flow many hundreds of feet below them. The High Priest and Liasta led the procession away from the edge of the volcano and about a quarter of the way back down the other side of the mountain to a large hall made from the wood of the local trees. It was a squeeze, but everyone fit at the long bench tables, each well-stocked with meats and jugs of the local alcoholic beverages. As everyone sat, the High Priest rose from his place at the head of the table occupied by Jelal's family, arms outstretched.

 

"High Solus has received our departed son, now we honour his memory with food and drink. Let his arrival be heralded by laughter and joy, with song and story."

 

Serving girls in white tabards began moving between the tables with trays of bread and to refill the rapidly-emptying jugs of mead. One, a dark-haired beauty with emerald green eyes, smiled shyly at Ramius as she filled his tankard; giving her a clear look down her tabard at her more-than-ample cleavage. Jenny smiled and shook her head; the young ones were always the most enamoured with the offworlders, and Ramius was attractive enough that he was drawing more than his fair share of attention.

 

"Seems like Liasta may have to fight her own duel for your affection."

 

Taking a deep drink from her tankard and splitting a loaf in half to share with Ramius, Jenny continued.

 

"Despite the obvious similarities to old-Earth Mayans, Anthropologists also draw comparisons between the Bishtar and the Vikings, especially the feasting. Personally, I think that this may be what Humanity might have been had Pangaea not split during Earth's Triassic Period; a unified race with strong religious history and practices, content to understand the space they inhabit, but in no hurry to conquer the stars."


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