CO Captain Kathryn Harper

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Command After Hours: Poolside

Post by Luceo » Sun Apr 01, 2018 4:55 am

by Kuari, Alexis Wright, and Kathryn Harper

“You know,” Kate remarked, jabbing a bite of fish with her fork and then gesturing with it at the other two women at the table, “we really should do this more often.” After a drink of her white wine, she added, “Perhaps every Wednesday night?”

Kuari, having deleted the fancy Risian chair from her spot at the table in order to sit on the floor, turned her head sideways to bite a potato off of her plate. With her mouth full as she chewed it to pieces, she nodded vigorously in reply to Kate’s suggestion.

“Here, in particular?” Lexy asked, casually indicating their surroundings with a sweep of her arm before smirking at Kate and adding, “Not that I’m complaining, of course. I'd just be somewhat surprised if you, of all people, didn't opt for variety.” In the spirit of her own humorous intent, she gave Kuari a slight nudge and an exaggerated conspiratorial wink.

“Oh, no, this would not even be my first choice for a spot on Risa, but it was already made, and you know that I do love variety. My point was that we all gather, so as long as the place has some charm, where does not matter.” Kate ate the bite of fish off her fork and held it in the air as she chewed and thought, finally adding, “Perhaps Kuari could even create a program to show us her home planet?”

Lexy immediately brightened, holding up her hand to cover the mouthful of food she’d just taken, too excited to wait. “Ooh, yes! I’d love to see your homeworld, Kuari!”

Swallowing quickly, Kuari straightened up as she considered the possibility. “There are programs already made, actually. Mother told me others at Starfleet were curious and she and Father made them. They remember Ruka better than I do, anyway, so it makes sense that they should design them. Mother did give me a copy.” She looked between the other two, eager to be helpful. “I could load them into the holodeck, if you want.”

“Are you kidding?!” Lexy exclaimed, still covering her mouth before gulping down her bite. “OF COURSE, we want!”

“Oh! Oh!” Kate exclaimed, dropping her empty fork onto the table as she excitedly clapped her hands together. “And on the holodeck, we could fly WITH you!”

Lexy stomped her feet with giddy delight, making incomprehensible noises of glee.

Kuari grinned, their excitement contagious. The fact that she could make them both so happy made her happy. “Sure! I never thought about that before, but yes, you could fly with me!”

“Next week, then!” Kate proclaimed, then pursed her lips in thought as outlandish ideas flooded her mind. “I wonder if I should program myself some sort of wings like, what are those mythological beings from Earth? Valkyries?”

Somewhat abashed, Lexy immediately tried to banish all thoughts of high-tech polymer wingsuits from her mind. “...Right! Something like that would definitely work.” She pondered for a moment, then offered, “Maybe we could each come up with some sort of special setting? Take turns, that sort of thing? Although... most of the places that are dear to me are on Earth, but I’m sure both of you are probably sick of that place.” She laughed light-heartedly before stuffing another forkful of delicious rice pilaf into her mouth.

“Program yourself, you mean like...holo-wings?” Kuari asked, having not considered the idea before.

“Yes! Or I could give myself a holographic flying mount, like a drago—” Kate paused in consideration of her draconine friend. “Wait, would that be rude?”

Kuari cocked her head to the side. “Were you going to say ‘dragon’? Why would it be rude?”

Lexy watched the volley of this conversation move back and forth between her companions as she quietly finished her meal, somewhat baffled as to how they had seemingly ignored almost everything she said.

“I do not know, I just wanted to make sure that it would be alright to essentially create a larger version of, well, you, and ride it around. I mean, you have let me ride on your back on the ground, but, you know...” Realizing that she was rambling a bit, Kate concluded, “I felt that it would be polite to make sure.”

“A larger version of a Rucara would be...unsettling. The idea of riding a Rucara isn’t strange to me, though. I’ve given many people rides on my back before.” Kuari smiled, remembering a holiday party several years back. “Riding one in the air, well if it’s a normal-sized Rucara, it would just look really strong to me. That would be more acceptable. Besides, it is a fiction.”

Feeling a bit like a third wheel, Lexy sighed internally and signaled for the dessert tray with a wave of her hand.

“Then it is a date! Next week we fly on Ruka, and the following week, we will visit a place of Lexy’s choosing!” Kate pushed away her empty plate and triumphantly finished the last of her wine, finding the idea of a weekly standing night of fun with these two to be positively delightful.

“Sounds great! And I’m not tired of Earth.” Kuari looked pointedly at Alexis. “There’s so much of it I haven’t seen. Planets are big, after all. I’m mostly only familiar with the grounds outside Starfleet Headquarters…” Her voice trailed off as her eyes locked onto the approaching dessert tray.

So, they had been listening to her after all, Lexy noted with mild surprise. She’d started racking her brain for some exotic alien planets that she’d visited as soon as she heard Kate’s comments, thinking her own world so over-exposed as to be no longer novel or interesting, but Kuari’s words soothed her anxiety as they so often did. “Yes, okay!” she said, with a bright smile that was only partially attributable to the approaching cheesecake. “I know I’ve taken you there before, Kate, but… don’t you think Kuari would like the hike to Blue Pool?” Lexy was already mentally planning the picnic before either of them could respond.

“Oh, I am sure of it,” Kate nodded, eyeing the chiseled holographic Risian man who was bringing the dessert tray, intent on chocolate of any variety.

Kuari’s nose was almost on top of the tray as it arrived, sniffing for something in particular herself. “Chocolate, please!” A piece of cake was put in front of her, while the cheesecake went to Alexis. The waiter moved around to Kate and offered her a look, and it was not long before the Risan had selected a chocolate éclair. The trio shared jovial conversation throughout dessert and adjourned to the pool without delay, already suitably attired to dive into the refreshingly cool water.

Kate surfaced and slicked her hair back after having swum an underwater length of the pool from her dive in off the board, luxuriating in the sensation on her skin as she slid through the water. “Ahhhhh… That feels wonderful.”

Despite Lexy’s lack of reply, her agreement was evident in the zeal with which she was hauling herself up the ladder, dripping wet, and circling back to the diving board for a second jump into the shimmering pool. She paused, noting Kate and Kuari’s positions in the pool, and took a few steps back before running and springing into a giggling cannonball calculated to hit the both of them.

Kuari, having slid onto the pool’s surface from the edge, was gliding across it like a duck. The splash from Lexy’s jump sprayed all over her, forcing her to squeeze her eyes shut, and the surface carried her up and down as the wave passed beneath her. Other than flinging the water from her face, she acted like it never happened and looked down into the pool to find Lexy, but the water was rough enough that she couldn’t spot her.

Turning her face away, Kate laughed as the splash hit her, and then searched the water for her fiancée, intending to retaliate.

Lexy surfaced a few meters away from her point of impact and wiped water from her grinning face, looking around at her companions’ reactions. She couldn’t help but laugh at Kuari’s waterfowl-like serenity, though the Rucara had obviously been hit by the splash, and began to call out to her and playfully splash water toward her — until she noticed Kate approaching from the other side with a grin and a predatory gleam in her eye. Shrieking with delight and mock dismay, she quickly submerged and kicked toward the relative safety of Kuari.

Seeing Lexy go underwater, Kate followed and with a few practiced strokes surged forward, extending tickling fingers toward her target’s abdomen.

Swimming under the floating form of Kuari, Lexy clung to her as she surfaced, protecting her own belly. Laughing breathlessly, she cried, “Save me! Save me! Risians are expert ticklers!” Kuari, reacting more to being grabbed than her words, began to swim, unfortunately right towards Kate. Lexy screamed and kicked away from the grasping, tickling fingers that brushed her skin.

After a couple of seconds of tickling, Kate broke off her attack and surfaced, grinning through wet hair and streaming water. “Got you!” she mirthfully claimed before tossing her head back to clear the hair and water from her face.

Kuari had kept going, dragging Lexy across the water. Going for speed, she was now moving her tail in a fish-like motion, waiting for Lexy to let go. After a few moments she slowed down, realizing her instinct to swim when grabbed was useless in this case as it was only her friend hanging onto her. She grinned and turned to look at them both.

As they streaked through the water away from Kate, Lexy couldn’t help but gloatingly stick out her tongue over her shoulder. Laughing, she turned back to Kuari. “Thanks for saving me!” It was at this moment that she realized she’d been bodily clinging to her friend and released her in a moment of self-consciousness, treading water to back away slightly. “Um. Sorry!” She looked down, still smiling, but her cheeks reddening slightly in bashful embarrassment.

Having unintentionally taken Lexy’s side by rescuing her from Kate, Kuari considered what action she should take next. Her grin grew and she dug her wing into the water like a keel, using it to compensate for the purposeful swing of her tail through the water that sent an impressive spray in Lexy’s direction.

Caught off-guard by the rush of water splashing into her face, Lexy’s embarrassment dissolved into sputtering laughter. There was a part of her that was filled with the nearly-overwhelming sensation of warmth and acceptance that she was so happy to have in her life, but most of her was preoccupied with the playful spirit of the moment. She used her hands, inadequate though they were compared to wings, to retaliate joyfully.

Kate ducked underwater as the giant splash approached with the sudden realization that a water fight with a Rucara was an unwinnable battle. Resolving to go down fighting, she surfaced near Kuari and Lexy, then immediately arced over and dove again, kicking in their direction as her legs disappeared under the surface.

“Computer,” Lexy commanded, turning away from Kate’s churning splash, “create miscellaneous pool toys and water gun props!” She made her way to the edge of the pool both to distance herself temporarily from the splash fight and to collect a powerful-looking gun that had appeared nearby, but changed her course when she spotted the large inflatable unicorn with a water gun slung around its neck over in the deep end of the pool, not far away. She cackled with glee as she commandeered it, clambering aboard and strapping on the plastic weapon before carefully taking aim at her friends. “Now, you two listen up! I’m the law in this here pool!” She belatedly realized that her companions were possibly unlikely to get the joke, but was too lost in her own laughter to care.

Kuari blinked as she came to face Lexy, listening to her announcement. She turned her head towards Kate. “Did Lexy complete her sidearm aiming refresher this month? Wait, I should know that. Hm...I don’t think she did. I don’t know, do you think we should be scared?”

Slicking her hair back again, Kate eyed the inflatable unicorn rider with a feigned wary glance. “I think… that she cannot possibly shoot both of us if we rush her, and that it will be an honor if I go down fighting for the liberation of this pool while at your side.” The gravitas of her voice was absurd in this situation, and it required considerable effort for Kate to keep from ruining it with a laugh.

As they talked, Lexy initially planned to surreptitiously paddle herself closer to the edge to grab a second weapon just in case, but forgot her plans moments later when she had to hide her face in the neck of her noble steed in a fruitless attempt to hide her breathless laughter.

“Right,” Kuari agreed, having no laugh in her voice. She lowered her head to the water’s surface, both eyes narrowing in on her target. “You go for her. I’ll take on her pink squeaky mount.”

With a serious nod, Kate agreed, “That makes sense. On three.” She turned to face Lexy, finally letting a smile bubble through the act. “One… two… “

Lexy grinned in the face of her peril, wondering if this is what bonding experiences and camaraderie were supposed to feel like. She hoped so; it felt good. She leveled her weapon at them and fired, determined to stand her ground — or at least, her pink inflatable pool unicorn — for as long as possible.

“...Three!” the two rebels exclaimed in unison and rushed towards Lexy. Having no qualms about destroying objects created by the holodeck, Kuari opened her large mouth around the unicorn’s head and twisted. It squeaked in dismay as the air quickly escaped and the pool toy began to deflate from underneath Lexy. Kate leapt from the water and scrabbled for purchase on the slippery float, tackling a laughing Lexy in an attempt to dismount her from the rapidly sinking unicorn.

The battle continued until they had all tired themselves out, at which point it was declared a draw and the combatants amicably retired to a more comfortable setting. As they were relaxing in the hot tub, Kate found herself feeling incredibly lucky to be part of a command team formed of those she held so dear. Kuari was content as well, her head lying on the floor at the edge of the tub. Lexy drowsed in the heat, for once allowing herself to exist in the moment, her heart light with the happiness that comes with companionship.
"Come let us sail the boundless sea..."

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Singularity

Post by Luceo » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:38 pm

by Alexis Wright and Kathryn Harper

Breathe. You must remember to breathe!

Alexis was seated in the holodeck, her cello cradled gently between her knees, trying to look more relaxed than she felt. She’d set up the holodeck to look just like the small room in which she used to play with her mother when she was a child, which was an intensely private space for her — but the familiar acoustics calmed her nerves.

Even though she'd been warming up for half an hour, she tried to look as though she'd only been there for a few moments when the holodeck doors swished open, heralding Kate's arrival. Carrying a small case made of lacquered wood, Kate smiled as she looked around, realizing that the room her new friend had chosen for their musical meeting was far too detailed to be random. "Hello, Lexy."

— That beguiling pair of eyes had transfixed her while they played. Even then, it had been inevitable.

How close had she come to dying today? More importantly, how much closer had she come to losing her best and only friend? When she had seen Kate on the bridge, she had wanted to jump up and hug her, just to make sure she was real and alive and okay. A part of her still wanted to.

Was Kate more than just a friend? Was she developing… feelings for Kate? If she was, would they be welcome? Was she willing to jeopardize their friendship based on these feelings? How serious was she about them? She wasn’t sure. This was uncharted space.

— Those seemingly far-away tears had stung bitterly, but these are infinitely happier. Blink.

“The truth is that I really care about you. Maybe as… more than just a friend. But our friendship is more important to me and I don’t want to lose it even if you don’t feel the same way.”

Kate’s face seemed to light up, and she swept Lexy into a quick hug. After but a moment, Kate pulled back to meet Lexy’s confused look and gushed, "You really feel that way? I had dared to hope so, since I do feel the same way!"

Lexy blinked at Kate, her heart beating wildly as Risa’s ocean crashed upon the sandy shore near where they stood. She took a step closer so that their bodies were almost touching. “Tell me,” she whispered, meeting those tantalizing green eyes as she lifted a hand and tenderly brushed strands of hair from Kate’s face, “is this body language difficult to understand?” She cupped Kate’s cheek softly and tipped her own chin upward, slowly standing up on her toes, and closed her eyes at the last moment...

— She shivers in anticipation of soft warmth, curved into a smile. Blink.

Lexy wrapped her arms around Kate’s trembling form. “But I do need to,” she said softly, “I want to. I choose this. I won’t pretend to understand the hell you’re going through, but you don’t have to do it alone anymore. You have me, now.” She blinked away tears.

Kate’s wild, wet eyes pulled back and found Lexy’s. "But it is my fault that they are all dead! You said yes because of me, and if you die too, I could not bear…"

“It’s not your fault, Kate. And I am not planning to die.” She pressed her lips together into a grim line. “Like I said, we’re going to make it back home together.”

— Meaningful words that pierce straight to the core of her being. Blink. Yet, she still notices the birdsong.

Kate pulled her close into a reassuring hug. "At the time, I thought you asked that because of our reputation as a species, but now I understand." Pulling back from the hug to look Lexy straight in the eyes, she continued, "Do not worry. I will commit to you, and only you, as I said."

Lexy gave Kate a pensive look. “Even though I’m moving so slow? That was his complaint.”

"Mmmm, it is nothing," Kate purred. "Your ex-boyfriend was a pig, you know. I am comfortable with whatever pace you wish to take."

Lexy smiled brightly, her eyes shining. “Shall we head back to the house? There’s something there I… think I’m ready to show you.”

— Blink. The light, warm breeze is welcome. Everything is perfect, she muses.

“It’s okay if you don’t want me,” Lexy mumbled self-consciously.

"Oh, believe me, I want you," Kate growled, her voice acquiring an undercurrent of primal lust as the restraint she had been exercising around Lexy began to crumble. She dropped Lexy’s hands and pulled their bodies together with a surprising amount of force. "As for not knowing how to ‘have the sex with a woman,’ do not fret. I will. take care. of that." Each staccato assertion was punctuated by a light tap of her finger on the tip of Lexy’s nose.

A shiver of anticipation went up her spine at the sudden huskiness in Kate’s voice and the roughness of the embrace.

— She has never felt more beautiful in her life than she does now, standing with her beloved in this magnificent cathedral of nature.

“I’m fine, though I could use a shower.” Giving Kate an appraising look, Lexy’s brows knitted together with concern. “And you? You’re… all right?” she asked hesitantly.

“Yes,” Kate answered with a relieved smile, then added, “Somehow, after all of that.” The STAR mission was finally over, and it was a near-miracle that they were both unharmed.

They walked silently down the corridor together until they reached Lexy’s quarters; Lexy stepped inside and roughly pulled Kate in behind her, drawing her into a fierce embrace and fervid kiss before the door had even finished closing. Lexy’s heart raced as she clutched Kate close to her, kissing her with an urgent need like that for water in the desert. Her sudden passion caught Kate by surprise, startling her awake from the exhausted reverie that had carried them here. This level of intensity from Lexy was something new. Returning her embrace and kisses with equal ferocity, Kate answered with a fire of her own.

After a moment, Lexy began tugging at the fastener of Kate’s uniform while backing toward the bathroom. “Come on,” she purred, her voice low and husky. “I wasn’t kidding about that shower.”

Kate’s breath caught at her tone, also new and exciting. She reached for Lexy’s zipper, whispering against her neck, “That is good, because this side of you is really arousing.”

“Shut up,” Lexy whispered simply, covering Kate’s mouth with her own.

— The moment feels surreal. Exhilaration juxtaposes with serenity.

Kate was unable to suppress her laughter at Lexy’s wholly scientific approach to the future of their relationship. After a few mirthful moments, she finally answered, “Forgive me, please, I did not mean to offend. That was just so… scientific! And yes, I suppose your analysis is technically correct.”

Quietly regarding Kate, her sober expression unchanged, Lexy carefully considered her situation. Her true feelings ran deep and passionate; she suspected she was falling in love, but chose to keep that to herself for the time being, since she was now fairly certain that it wasn’t yet reciprocated. Her heart ached at the sudden realization, but she forced herself to focus on the ‘yet’. Given all of the variables, Kate was right — it would be better to slow down and build a strong foundation. It was just so hard to wait when you longed to be living in the house.

— Tree-dappled sunlight caresses her bare ivory shoulders. The golden hour.

“I’ve told you this before, but let me say it again. I won’t pretend to understand what you are going through, but please remember that you don’t have to do it alone. You have me now. Okay?” Blinking unbidden moisture away from her eyes, Lexy pulled Kate into a protective embrace, feeling helpless in the face of her lover’s despair over the pilots that had been lost in combat.

It was what Kate had been seeking, if only subconsciously, but the sudden offer of help gave her pause. Her instinct, as it had always been during the years since she had last been in a relationship, was to deflect. Now, she actively fought that urge as she began to speak, her voice tremulous. “Lexy, I am sorry that I have ignored you so much lately; it is not what you deserve. But you… you are not what I deserve, yet here you are. No — ” An abrupt sob and upwelling of tears choked off her sentence until her instinct reasserted itself and she finished, “I cannot do this now.”

Torn between a desire to be gentle to her lover and the fear that she was slipping away, Lexy agonized over how to respond. “Then when? Will it ever be the right time?” She shook her head, tearful eyes searching Kate’s stony face. “Please, please talk to me. If not now, soon. I… I’m so afraid I’m going to lose you.”

— Laced fingers, holding tightly. Blink.

Kate pulled back, offering a reassuring smile as she wiped at her eyes. “I am — well, I will be OK. Even Doctor Endilev thinks so. I just need a little time to sort myself out, but I will be alright.” With a gesture toward the intricately carved model of her lost Mustang that Lexy had given to her for her birthday, she added, “Right now, looking at the Boudica makes me a little melancholy, but overall, I am touched at how thoughtful of a gift this is… especially after how I have treated you lately.”

That’s what love is, Lexy thought to herself, but simply smiled at Kate, not wanting to press the issue. “When I said that you have me now, I meant it, darling. On Earth, there’s an old expression — to be there through thick and thin. Are you familiar with that one?”

“No, but I think I get it,” Kate answered quietly as her melancholia was washed away by a wave of warm affection. “Thank you.”

Lexy bubbled with laughter. “Are you sure you want to thank me? It means you’re stuck with me!” She flung her arms around Kate and hugged her close. “I mean it, though,” she continued once the giggles had subsided, “You have me through thick and thin, and that’s a promise.”

— Gifts are special things when replicators exist. Today, so many had been brought by their friends and families.

Lexy looked over toward where her everything slept next to her in the dark, quietly choking back tears of relief that they’d both survived the ordeals of the past year and were now here together. The comfort that this thought provided, however, was no longer sufficient to ease her mind. Kate was the Captain of the whole ship now, and Lexy’s troubles were obviously unimportant compared to that. Though aching for closeness, she rolled to her side and faced away, berating herself for the desire to bother Kate with her selfish needs. She so desperately wanted their relationship to continue, despite the fact that everything was different now and that this scenario was far beyond anything she was emotionally equipped to deal with… she felt obligated to hide her own struggles in order to be a supportive partner, but lacked the strength of will to do so successfully. I am weak and worthless, Lexy thought angrily. Kate deserves so much more than I can give her in her new life.

— No matter who is watching, those eyes are the only ones that matter. Blink.

“No,” Kate interrupted, since her meaning had not come across correctly. She stepped forward to take both of Lexy’s hands in her own and then began to clarify, “I would like it very much if —” Biting her lip as she found Lexy’s eyes looking up at her expectantly, Kate hesitated as a realization hit her. Since she had stopped drinking herself into oblivion and been able to see their relationship with mental clarity, the reason she was now feeling comfortable enough with it that she found herself about to ask Lexy to move in with her came into focus. Her true feelings were probably obvious by human standards, but her own were a bit more rigorous, and even through her mind’s constant issues with the flowery idioms of the English language, the word to describe what she felt was suddenly unambiguous.

In anticipation of what she was about to say, butterflies flooded her stomach with an intensity that she had not felt since her first relationships as a teenager. Willing her knees not to buckle as she fell into those eyes, Kate finally confessed, “I love you, Lexy.”

With those words, the puzzlement on Lexy’s face was immediately replaced with radiant joy, like a flower opening to the morning sun. Thoroughly unable to formulate words, she squeaked with pleasure and threw herself into Kate’s arms, her elated exuberance proving somewhat detrimental to Kate’s balance and ability to breathe. She eventually pulled back her arms, instead reaching up to cup Kate’s face and look into her eyes, wearing the most incandescent smile of her life. Drawing Kate down toward her until their foreheads were touching, she managed a whisper, “…Could you say it again? Please? I need to make sure I’m not dreaming this time.”

Having said it once, she now was eager to repeat it, or even to yell it, but Kate managed to keep to the tender tone of the moment. Her knees were still weak and her stomach continued to flutter as she softly repeated, “I love you.”
— After all, it was inevitable. They had passed the event horizon long ago. Blink.

Kate’s face fell, being as unaccustomed to rejection in romance as she was to nervousness. The sting was also evident in her voice as it grew quieter. “I do not understand, Lexy. We love each other, yes? At least among my people, this would be enough to live together, but perhaps you are not ready?”

The pain in Kate’s tone cut Lexy to the core, and her hands hurriedly scrabbled for Kate’s. “Please, don’t misunderstand me,” she pleaded, panic creeping into her tone with the conclusion that she had indeed said the wrong thing, “I love you, and I want this so badly that it almost physically hurts. It’s just that there has been a lot of change in the past couple of months, and introducing another variable at this stage is simply bad science. It’s so important to me to have this with you that I’m willing to wait until everything else settles down. Do you see my point? It kills me to do this, believe me, but… I think I should say no today. But please,” she begged, willing Kate to understand her, “Please please please. Ask me again in six months and my answer will be different.”

— Blink. That six months had seemed like forever, but they had passed… and had led to this perfect day.

“Look. You know that I trust your judgment and I would follow you anywhere. Right? It’s just that I don’t trust Vallero.” At this, she locked her eyes back up to Kate’s, radiating earnest sincerity. “I love you, Kate Harper. And if he betrays you… well, I can promise they won’t take you without taking me.”

With a squeeze of Lexy’s hand, Kate smiled through suddenly moist eyes, the unexpected profession of Lexy’s willingness to defend her catching her off guard. “I love you too, but please, do not ever —”

“Whatever you were going to ask me not to do, I’m sorry to disappoint,” Lexy interrupted, her voice soft but matter-of-fact. “It’s absurd to expect me to do nothing if they take you. If you would do nothing in the reverse situation, then I’ve dramatically misunderstood how this relationship stuff works.”

— She would have pursued her to the end of spacetime itself. Blink.

Bill smiled down at his daughter affectionately, almost as if he could memorize her face in this moment, before brushing the hair out of her face with his hands and leaning down to kiss her forehead. “You know, you’ll always be my little Rosie no matter what, but having spent time with your intended, I think you’re making an excellent choice. I’d be thrilled to have Katie as a daughter-in-law, and I know your mother would agree. In fact…” He paused, considering. “…I’ve been holding on to your mother’s wedding ring, but I think she would want you to have it. You can give it to your love when you’re ready to ask her. What do you think?”

Lexy looked at him in surprise, her eyes suddenly brimming with tears. “Oh, Daddy…”

— Blink. She is stunningly, breathtakingly gorgeous in that dress.

“Oh, really?” Kate jabbed. “Not how you wanted today to go? It certainly was not my plan for an ideal day either, so perhaps you should put more thought into how you treat others, Alexis!

At Kate’s words, Lexy suddenly shrank as if stung. She had tried to make their home together into a pleasant space, and this was the thanks she got? “Fine. Have it your way. I’m done arguing about it.” Brushing past Kate, she walked toward the bedroom, pausing in the doorway to cut off Kate’s immediate protest without turning around. “I’m taking your advice — I’m going to my room to think about what I’ve done, Kathryn.” Her flat tone carried an edge of snark, and further argument was thwarted by her disappearance into the bedroom, the door abruptly swishing closed behind her.

Kate angrily flopped onto the couch with her arms folded over her chest, fuming over what had transpired. A few minutes later, her anger had calmed to mere sulkiness, and she reached for the pillow Lexy had been using. Intending to lie down, she instead paused upon finding a wrapped package, formerly hidden behind the pillow. Opening the attached folded tag, she read the hand-written message: “Happy Birthday to my one and only, with love -Lexy”

“Oh, fuck me,” Kate said aloud.

— She is aware of every breath she draws as she wills this moment to pass both more quickly and more slowly. Blink.

“And your Lexy, we worried at first that maybe she was too shy, but when she came to us… she loves you, Kathryn. This is wonderful! Now we will have two daughters!” Jhnal’s excitement was nearly palpable, even through the screen.

“She does love me, yes. Me, of all people! I mean, you two are obviously biased in my favor,” Kate gestured at the viewscreen, “but I had given up on finding actual love years ago. But here… well, here she is.” Kate finished the thought quietly, now having to wipe a tear from the corner of her own eye though her smile remained intact.

Rolik leaned toward the camera, and although he spoke softly, he still maintained an air of gregariousness. “Kathryn… you were never like the other girls. Always with the playing of the sports, and the studying, and the music… but look what you have done with your life as a result. You have made all of Risa proud, not just us. To do all of that takes someone truly special, since such ability and insight is quite rare, indeed. But when you are so different, it is harder to find the right person to settle down with, though the one you eventually find is likely to be as special as you are.”

“Yes,” Jhnal added, nodding, “You and your Lexy are both special people. It is lucky that you found one another.”

— Lucky, indeed. It has all been more than worth it. She really is special.

“Despite our differences, you and I make a really good team when we actually work together.” Lexy paused, then added, “Maybe because of our differences. I guess that’s why we’re doing this in the first place, right?”

— Trembling smile as rings bind them. Lock gazes with her and speak vows eternal. Blink away tears of joy as two hearts spiral together ever faster. Blink.

Admiral Ian Blackthorne’s sonorous baritone resonates through the crowd. “By the power vested in me by Starfleet Command, and as one of my favorite duties, I hereby pronounce that you are married. You may kiss your bride!”

— A passionate, tearful embrace, somehow finding her lips for a breathless kiss. Eyes pressed shut, amplifying the sound of happy cheers that accompany their shared fall into singularity.
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Pillow Talk

Post by Luceo » Wed Dec 12, 2018 10:03 pm

by Alexis Wright and Kathryn Harper

Kathryn Harper crept softly into her dark bedroom, careful not to wake her sleeping wife. It had been an exhausting day, with the final battles against the Kvolir followed by the festival honoring them, and Lexy had already turned in while Kate was completing the last of the necessary reports on the matter. After detaching the finely-crafted sword given to her by Colonel Jaire from her belt and gingerly propping it in a corner, she began to undress. While quietly removing the Kvolir warrior garb that she had worn to the party—a short cropped studded-leather top with matching pants, and a bandolier with iconography representing her kills in her past career as a fighter pilot—she watched for any disturbance in the rhythmic rise and fall of Lexy’s sleeping form.

Seeing no change in her wife’s slumber, Kate added her underwear to the pile of her clothing on the floor and stealthily joined Lexy in bed, taking a moment to luxuriate in the sensation of the linen sheets against her bare skin, finding it incredibly relaxing after such a difficult day.

Despite Kate’s attempts to avoid disruption, she felt the warmth that was Lexy stir with the movement of the bedsheets and shift closer a few moments later, snuggling against her side. “Sorry… I tried to wait, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore,” Lexy murmured drowsily. “I left the nightlight on for you,” she added helpfully, as if this were not obvious.

“Thank you, love, and after today, who could fault you for falling asleep? I am almost there myself, but those reports could not wait.” Caressing Lexy’s hair, she added, “Sorry to wake you.”

“It’s okay,” Lexy replied, nodding while stifling a yawn, “And I understand. The higher my rank gets, the more paperwork I seem to have to do… I almost miss just being a scientist. I don’t envy your paperwork at all.” She snuggled closer, trying to add her warmth to Kate’s cooler skin. “Mm, I enjoyed watching you work tonight, though. You never cease to amaze me with how masterfully you handle situations like those.”

“You gave me the information I needed to do it, you know. That documentary you took from their network contained a wealth of knowledge about their culture, and without it, my attempts at diplomacy would have never succeeded.” She idly twirled a chocolate tress around her fingers and continued, “So, thank you, Lexy. I could not have done this without you.”

Kate couldn’t see Lexy’s grimace, but could hear it in her tone. “You’re welcome, of course, but I think I need to work on developing my skill set so I can be more helpful in the future. I think if you’d had someone more experienced at that sort of thing, you might’ve gotten more useful information sooner.” Her voice was still soft, but self-reproach and determination nibbled at the edges of the drowsiness.

“For a different definition of ‘useful’, perhaps.” Kate leaned up on her elbow and tilted Lexy’s face toward her with a gentle nudge of her fingers. “Such a person might have discarded the documentary as useless while trying to access weapons or defense systems. In the end, I needed cultural knowledge just as much as I needed to interrupt their drone network.”

Lexy favored her with a small smile. “Well… that’s what we said when we got married, isn’t it? We make a good team. I might not know much about accessing enemy systems—yet—but I do know you. I’m an expert in Kathryn Harper, and Kathryn Harper prefers to solve things diplomatically when she can. The harder the diplomatic nut is to crack, the harder she’s going to try to crack it.” She grinned at Kate, her mirth unmistakable despite the fact that her eyes were difficult to see in the dim light. “So, I just tried to get you the tools that you needed to do that. It was you that did the actual work of the thing.”

“Those tools were essential to successfully cracking the nut—the nutcrackers, I think you say? I could not have challenged Jaire as I did, or hosted such a celebration, or actually learned an alien ritual dance well enough to perform it, without you. And the rest of the crew, as well, but I will thank them later, since I do not share a bed with them.” Kate cut off her tired rambling and touched her forehead to Lexy’s before whispering, “We do make a great team, so thank you.”

Raising her hand to cup Kate’s cheek, Lexy whispered in reply, “You never need to thank me for that, my darling.” She tipped her chin up and stole a kiss before adding, “I made a promise that I would always be there to support you. And I always will be, for the rest of our lives.” Lexy gently pulled Kate back down and cuddled up against her, stifling another yawn. “But right now, I support us both getting some well-deserved sleep. Sound good to you?”

Kate tightened her arm around Lexy as she closed her eyes and, after exhaling a long breath, finally answered, “Mmmmm, yes.”

Lexy closed her eyes, relaxed and content. “Computer… Lights out.”
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Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Post by Luceo » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:07 am

Command After Hours: After-Party, with Kuari:
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=389&p=7165#p7165
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Re: CO Captain Kathryn Harper

Post by Luceo » Thu Feb 21, 2019 5:10 am

Bear With Me, with Linxi Jude:
viewtopic.php?f=22&t=431&p=7171#p7171
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Command After Hours: Down, But Not Out

Post by Luceo » Wed Mar 20, 2019 6:26 pm

by Kuari and Kathryn Harper

Once her wife had left to return to their quarters in hopes of getting some sleep after the traumatic day, Captain Kathryn Harper slid down into her biobed and pulled the sheet up to her face. Several minutes passed as she lay on her back staring at sickbay’s ceiling, as if the answers to the questions that would keep her from sleeping were written there. With a long sigh, she sat back up and let the sheet fall away; her mind was still racing with concerns and worries that would not permit sleep, at least not yet.

Kate raised a hand to feel her face, idly wondering if its swelling had gone down any. Although her broken jaw and cerebral edema from the Ykavosh’s brutal surprise attack had been surgically repaired, her face remained swollen and slightly bruised. She opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, once again testing her jaw, and her tongue subconsciously found her broken teeth. Those were due to be repaired tomorrow once the swelling subsided, and she found herself grateful that she could not feel her face or her teeth, thanks to the wonders of 24th-century medication.

The door to sickbay swished open as Kuari trotted through, her eyes actively seeking out Harper’s position. She was eager to give her good news, but selfishly, she wanted to see how her friend was doing. Moving through the corridors was a welcome reprieve from worrying about an imminent attack, but that didn’t make the matter any less pressing. Kuari had handed off the bridge to the night shift, and even though it would be difficult to sleep, she had to keep the rotation going so that she could continue to command the next day.

It didn’t take long to find Kate, sitting up in the bed as she was. The overhead light, though softly luminescent at the late hour, showed just how different Kate’s face looked, making her at first unrecognizable. Kuari hesitated very little, though, coming to Kate’s side within seconds, a look of concern in her expression. “How are you feeling?”

“Heeey, Kuari! Thank you for coming!” Kate’s face brightened at the sight of her friend and executive officer, and with a jagged smile, she answered, “As for me, well, I do not feel anything, thanks to the doctors. I am much better than I was when I got here, though.”

Kuari could better see Kate’s face since she had stopped bleeding, but the swelling had not been there when Kuari had last seen her, so she had to take Kate’s word for it and offered her a smile. “I’m glad to hear it. I thought you would want to know, I talked to Admiral Blackthorne. He’s sending reinforcements to protect the colony. There’s been no sign of the Xovul.”

“Thank you,” Kate said as she closed her eyes and let out a long breath. “Knowing that will help me sleep a little better tonight.”

Kuari gazed at Kate’s face for a moment more, her own stress reflected in her friend’s expression. She lowered her hindquarters to the floor, deciding she should at least get comfortable for a few minutes. Her eyes darted aimlessly around sickbay as she thought, her tail finding the biobed behind her and tracing its mounting. Kate had to be even more frustrated than she was. Kuari could command the ship while waiting for the Xovul’s imminent attack, but she didn’t want to. Kate wanted to command, but she was unable to. Kate also was attacked by their leader, and she would no doubt be taking it personally, at least in part. She had a score to settle.

She looked back to Kate, offering a heartening expression. “We’ll be ready for them when they come back.”

“Yes, we will,” came the captain’s simple answer. The statement hung in the air for a few moments until Kate noticed that she had subconsciously clenched her fists, tightly squeezing the sheet into wrinkled disarray. With this realization, she dipped her head and, without looking away from the disheveled bedding, confessed, “I should have seen it coming. How did I miss it, Kuari? Did our recent two successful first contacts cause me to ignore the red alert klaxon blaring in my head the entire time the Ykavosh was explaining their inflexible beliefs, thinking that I could befriend them anyway?” Kate finally turned her head, her moist eyes finding Kuari’s, seemingly pleading for reassurance.

Kuari stared back at Kate, eyes unwavering and unblinking. “I didn’t see it coming, either.”

That came as a surprise to Kate, and it took a moment for it to sink in. Kuari was usually on guard, vigilant against threats to her captain and crew, always a Marine despite her new rank and position. If Kuari had truly not anticipated this either, then that was at least a small comfort, albeit one that did not change the situation. “He was sizing us up the entire time, seeing if we would just accept their ways, and if not, how much trouble we would be. There was never any intent to peacefully coexist, and it makes me feel…” She trailed off before almost whispering, “Foolishly naive.”

Kuari looked away, nodding, her heavy eye ridges furrowing. “Which we shouldn’t be, given our experience. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking while you’ve been recovering. We’re wary, yes, but we also represent Starfleet, and the entire Federation. Our founding purpose is to meet new races and accept those that wish to join us, to be diverse but united, so that we are all stronger and live in harmony. It’s a principle the Rucara agree with, and if our planets were closer, I have no doubt Ruka would join.” Kuari turned to meet Kate’s eyes. “If that makes us naive, then so be it. The Ykavosh is treacherous, and if we didn’t see it coming, then neither will other species like us. We have to fight back for them, and when the Xovul return, the Federation will show them what we’re made of.”

She was right, of course. In her time as XO, Kuari had shown a knack for putting things in perspective that Kate had come to rely on, and this was no different. Some might even mistake the Rucara’s boundless optimism for the naiveté Kate had just accused herself of, but Kuari was correct in stating their duty to defend others from the Xovul, hardly a naive viewpoint. After drying her eyes with the edge of the crumpled sheet, Kate looked back to Kuari and said, “You are right. It was not foolish or naive to attempt to befriend them, even if it seemed unlikely. We tried, and we have their answer. Now, we have a job to do.”

Kuari sat up a little straighter on the floor, her wings pulling together behind her back, and nodded curtly, wearing her best Marine expression. “Yes, we do.”
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Blue Clouds

Post by Luceo » Thu Aug 29, 2019 1:53 am

by Kuari and Kathryn Harper

In the aftermath of the battle at the Xovul station with sufficient repairs made, the USS Atlantis sailed smoothly through slipstream towards Trondheim. First Officer Kuari had the bridge, having caught up with reports and the status of repairs since being released from sickbay. She lay prone across her backless seat to the right of center, staring ahead at the slipstream tunnel on the main viewer. It wasn’t at all like warp with the stars streaking by. Even though they were going exponentially faster than warp, the effect seemed slower and more relaxed, a calm passing of blue clouds. A freeze-frame of it reminded Kuari of looking into the detailed irises of Lt. Commander T’Lira’s eyes.

Kuari shifted an elbow on the firm front edge of her seat. Further back the seat was softer, and she was especially glad for it with the discomfort in her belly from her injury. Starfleet’s top doctors had healed her up and this gave her peace of mind, but it would take some time before it stopped reminding her of what had happened on the Xovul station.

Her right eye shifted to the ready room door. Captain Harper had disappeared beyond it some time ago, and Kuari thought it a good time to check in with her. She turned her head towards Commander Wright, carefully stepping over and off her seat. “You have the bridge, Alexis.” She was aware of Wright’s professional confirmation in the back of her mind, but her thoughts were already on their captain as she made her way a bit slower on all fours than usual towards the ready room door.

In the ready room, Atlantis’s captain was also watching the slipstream effect out the window behind her desk. Her mind had wandered away from the after-action report she was preparing for Admiral Blackthorne, and the serenity of the view was a welcome diversion from worrying about her injured crew members and what she had been forced to subject them to aboard that Xovul shipyard, along with the pending task of writing letters to the families of those they had lost. Captains tended to stare out their ready room windows in thought, perhaps searching for an answer out in the void, but Kathryn Harper was no closer to whatever she sought when the door chime startled her. With a deep breath, she turned to the door and answered, “Come in!”

Kuari’s practiced eyes were already focused at Harper as the doors swished open. Seeing her looking back told her it was probably a good time, so she walked in all the way to the desk so the door would close beyond the length of her tail. Sitting on the floor, the tail wrapped tightly around her paws. She was still eye level with Harper and she offered a small smile to her friend, a contrast to her professional greeting. After Kuari’s last mission, she knew Kate had worried about her, and they hadn’t yet had a chance to speak in private. “Captain.”

Still grateful to see Kuari back on her feet, Harper subconsciously smiled back and lowered the formality with her reply. “Hi, Kuari! How are you feeling?”

Carefully taking in a deep breath, Kuari’s thoughts turned inward. “Not my best, but good, considering. I still need time.” Her eyes met Harper’s. “I’m no stranger to battle, but being trapped in that room, outnumbered with the Xovul against our Marines...well, I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it out alive.”

Kate’s face sank at seeing her usually unflappably optimistic friend in such a state, and Kate found herself fighting suddenly misty eyes with several quick blinks. “I am sorry, Kuari,” she quietly began, her tone having shifted considerably from her hopeful greeting, “I never want to send any of my people into such hellish situations.”

The Rucara’s heavy eye ridges lowered in a frown, and her chest puffed out a little. She didn’t expect Kate to feel responsible for what happened. “I hope you’re not apologizing for sending me. I would have rather gone through that over another of our Marines. I’m strong, and I’m proud to have brought the Federation’s justice upon the Xovul!”

That was a bit more of the Kuari she knew, and it did actually help Kate to see it, if only slightly, but her voice remained resigned. “No, sending you gave us a better chance of success, and I hate that it sometimes just comes down to cold, heartless numbers. But it never gets easier seeing your people get hurt, or worse… and having to send them anyway, knowing they may not come back. It just pains me to see one of my best friends suffering, regardless of your willingness to do so.”

Kuari nodded her understanding, her posture and expression softening. After a few moments of gazing at Kate’s face and studying the pain she saw there, she added in a resolute tone, “Put the blame on the Xovul where it belongs, not on yourself.”

She had always admired Kuari’s way of putting things right into perspective, but in this case, it was not a new one. Kate did blame the Xovul, and as someone who prided herself on her diplomatic acumen, that was not a welcome thought. She even now accepted that no level of diplomacy short of total capitulation to their strict belief system would have avoided this confrontation, but doubt occasionally surfaced as she replayed their first contact in her mind’s theater. With a deep sigh, Kate answered, “Oh, I do blame them. They have put us both in sickbay now, after all. I just hope this was enough to convince them that an all-out war with the Federation is a bad idea for both of us.”

In a perfect universe, Kuari would want to avoid war, too. Her species in general was peaceful, and their ideals matched up well with the Federation’s. Some species were driven by instinct and were bred into a culture that praised aggression, however, and they could only view peace as weakness to be preyed upon. Kuari had to learn this fact as she grew up, and she imagined Kate and most other peaceful people had to as well. Still, they had to try. “I hope so, too.”

Kate looked down at her desk and, remembering the experience of seeing the bloody battle play out on the bridge’s main viewer along with its deeply unsettling effect on her, quietly confessed, “Watching that battle through Colonel Wolfe’s helmet cam, the sheer brutality of it… I do not know how you Marines cope with it, Kuari.” Marine, in this case, being a mindset, since Kuari had transferred to regular Starfleet when she was promoted to XO, but they say that there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine. “I have taken lives, of course. Shooting down another fighter usually kills the pilot if they are unable to eject, but it is so much more impersonal than what you have to go through.”

Nodding again in full agreement, Kuari found herself recalling her training. “Yes, it is. Not only do Marines train in physical routines, we do it with a specific mindset. When ordered to attack, the enemy has no value, and simply must be neutralized.” Kuari smiled a little, attempting to soften her statement. “An even greater challenge is being able to switch that off and resume your normal life, full of compassion.”

Kate wasn’t sure whether she should be envious of Kuari’s ability to compartmentalize that aspect of herself, or grateful that being properly horrified by the realities of face-to-face military combat had never been trained out of her. Regardless, she was thankful that there were people like Kuari who could maintain that duality and still somehow remain well-adjusted and moral, so that was worth reinforcing. “And you succeed admirably, Kuari. Thank you.”

This time Kuari’s grin was broad, stretching back behind her big eyes. It was brief, though. “Someone must protect those I care about. It might as well be me. It’s do or die, sometimes. I have to keep that scary image of my friends dying from becoming a reality. Despite my training though, this was very real, and if the Marines didn’t put everything they had into this battle, our mission could have failed.” Kuari dipped her head to Kate. “I’m the one who should be thanking you. Just talking to you has helped.”

“No thanks are necessary, and it has helped me, too.” Adding a hopeful smile, Kate added, “You will let me know when you feel up to going for a swim together, yes?”

Kuari brightened and opened her mouth wide, but she stopped herself. She was going to say that now would be a great time, but when she thought about how carried away she tended to get in the water, swimming would probably not count as “light duty”. Smiling sheepishly, she replied, “I definitely will.”

Turning to gaze at the ready room window, Kuari watched as the clouds of the slipstream vortex wall floated by for a moment. The view had come to make her feel safe, and she still marveled at the power the technology granted them, being able to travel so much further than many species could. Even with that power, they were still mortal and could die. Opportunities they never believed possible were presented to them now though, and their decisions could have an even greater effect because of it.

Taking in another careful deep breath, Kuari’s head swiveled back to Harper, her eyes turning down with curiosity at her desk. “How goes the report?”

It took Kate a moment to remember the unfinished work on her terminal after the heavy discussion. “It is… strangely difficult to write for a successful operation. It feels like every sentence should have a footnote containing a caveat, even though that is not true. But, we accomplished our mission, and I know the Admiral will be pleased with our performance.”

Kuari nodded. “I read the reports, what happened while I was in sickbay.” She smiled proudly. “T’Lira handled the situation on the station well. We secured it and captured all the civilians. Mission accomplished, even though neither Wolfe nor I were conscious to see it through.”

“You did your part, nonetheless.” Kate turned toward the terminal and tapped the screen a few times, making minor adjustments to a couple of things that caught her eye. “Everyone did wonderfully, and part of writing these reports is conveying that fact to command. We have four ships full of Starfleet crews that gave their all for this result, and four captains making sure that the admiralty knows it.”

The proud posture returned to Kuari’s sleek form. “We did good. Judging by the Xovul’s behavior and what we’ve heard of them, it’s about time someone showed them decency towards other species. Our alliance will grow with others in the region.”

“Yes, from the Kvolir to the Free Fleets, and perhaps to even those we have yet to meet, it must be good to see someone standing up to the Xovul. And as for the Xovul, I hope that our sparing of their civilians will not go unnoticed.” Kate refrained from mentioning that she also hoped that the aggressive species would not see that as a weakness to exploit in potential future conflicts, and instead offered, “If all goes well, perhaps more peaceful missions await us.”

“We can only hope,” Kuari replied. She was happy to see the more positive side of her friend and captain. Her eyes dropped again to the report. “Also...unless we’re ordered somewhere new, I think the crew could use some leave after a battle like this.”

It was one of Kuari’s duties as XO to report on crew morale, and she was right; it had been a significant length of time since their last shore leave, and the crew had been through a lot of stressful situations. As she leaned forward and pinched her chin, the captain’s mind briefly wandered to thoughts of spending vacation time with her wife, or to hosting one of her beloved crew functions. Kate admitted to herself that she could certainly use some true leisure time, and if she was feeling that way, then the crew must be long overdue for it. “I will include the request in the report. It depends, of course, on the Xovul reaction to our mission, but Atlantis has been away a long time, and we are not the only ship in the fleet.”

Kuari nodded, considering. “We could start at Trondheim. Communication has mostly been war talk, and we could use time to catch up with them. Celebrations of victory together are good at uniting peoples. Atlantis would be in orbit in case the Xovul decide to come back, and we could quickly mobilize if necessary.”

“Trondheim would be a start, yes,” Kate nodded. “But it would hardly be a real vacation since we have been out on the frontier for almost eleven months. I would like to see us get some time closer to home.”

“Yes!” Kuari agreed whole-heartedly. The idea of being in the heart of secured space was very attractive to her in her compromised condition, and comforting thoughts of her family back home made her smile. “That does sound very good.”

“Then, I should get back to this report,” the captain stated, gesturing at her terminal screen. “For some reason, the idea of including a request for shore leave has renewed my enthusiasm for completing it.”

The Rucara stood back up on all fours. “I’ll let you get to it, then.” Dismissed, Kuari left the ready room and returned to the bridge. With a smile, Kate regarded the serene cerulean slipstream effect for a moment longer before diving back into her work.
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Duty to the Xov

Post by Luceo » Sun Sep 01, 2019 3:10 am

The Xovul officer, formerly a prisoner aboard the Federation starship Atlantis, now stood on the bridge of the Ykavosh’s flagship, holding the weapon of his dead commander. At its essence, the weapon was simply a spear, but technologically, it was much more than that, a highly-advanced device containing several ways of killing an opponent. Symbolically, the spear was an honor only afforded to decorated field commanders, and the officer still did not find himself worthy to hold it. The human that insisted he take it said that the Ykavosh demanded that it be delivered to him, so that duty he would perform, and here he stood, about to complete it.

Something was not quite right, though. He knew that he did not really feel like himself, but attributed it to his capture and imprisonment, which was a blow to his morale despite the good treatment he had received aboard Atlantis. He could have done without seeing that traitorous heretic scum that now called himself Vance, though; that human had worked among them for years, claiming to follow the Xov, and only now revealed himself to have never believed, likely to endear himself to his own kind again to save his skin during the battle. Pathetic.

Vance… the encounter with him was short, but he remembered waking up in a small room, possibly an interrogation chamber. It would make sense that the Federation would want to question him, but why had he been asleep in the first place? Had they drugged him?

The Ykavosh nodded with pride and extended his hand, expecting to be given the spear. “You have done well to survive and deliver this weapon to me, away from the unwashed hands of the Federation. They do not comprehend its worth or significance, and allowing them to keep it as a trophy would be an unforgivable insult.”

This defeat was his fault, and he leads you into ruin. The best thing for all is to kill the Ykavosh.

The officer blinked several times and took a deep breath, tightening his grip on the spear, wondering where that thought had come from. He could no more kill the Ykavosh than he could kill himself; such thoughts were against everything he believed. Straightening his posture, he started to raise his arm to place the spear in the Ykavosh’s extended hand and fulfil his duty.

The Xov itself has failed you. Kill the Ykavosh with the spear, now!

His arm stopped moving as he gasped in surprise. Whose voice was that in his head? It was not his. And questioning the Xov? He had never done so before.

The Ykavosh’s eyes narrowed as he asked, “What is wrong? You have done the Xovul a great service today by returning this to us. Give it to me and complete your duty.”

All Xovul will benefit if you run him through!

He fell to one knee, suddenly breathing heavily and astonished at how much he now wanted to kill the leader of the entire military sect of his society. Fighting the intense urge took every ounce of willpower he had, and his breaths acquired an undercurrent of guttural growls. One of the bridge officers, a doctor, rushed to his side, but he pushed the doctor away and regained his feet, then spoke through clenched teeth, “I try to obey.”

“You will obey,” came the Ykavosh’s assertive reply. “You have not yet earned the right to wield that weapon.”

What are you waiting for? Kill him, now!

“NO! TO BOTH OF YOU!” he roared. Security officers drew their sidearms, but hesitated as he waved the spear at them, fully aware and respectful of the weapon’s capabilities.

“You overstep your place in the world,” the Ykavosh asserted. “That is an irrational act, so you clearly need help. The Federation must have done something to you. Give me the spear, and you will be helped.”

Yes, give him the spear! RIGHT IN THE FACE!

“Help… yes, I need help,” he panted, still brandishing the spear, turning it to slowly point at the Ykavosh. A war raged in his mind between his usual self and this new insurgency that sought to topple everything he held dear, and he started to wonder if he had the strength to win it. “Help me, please.”

“I will. Put the weapon down, and I will personally see to you getting the help you need.” The Ykavosh took a step forward.

Fire the lightning! KILL THE YKAVOSH.

“No! Stay back! BE QUIET! The re-education camps are not help!” The Ykavosh and the security officers paused as he waved the spear at them, eyes wide and wild as his chest heaved. The voice in his head thundered, and his will began to falter. Perhaps the voice was right, and the Ykavosh had brought this defeat upon them. But how could the Xov have failed them in this way? The code of beliefs that governed every aspect of their lives was infallible… or at least he had believed it to be up to this moment in his life.

QUIT STALLING! Kill him now now NOW NOW NOW NOW

“SHUT UP!” No one else in the room had spoken, so the Ykavosh gave his security officers a quick glance. As they started to raise their weapons, he lifted the spear and extended it straight toward the Ykavosh. Its tip trembled in the air as his arm shook. “Weapons down! I will kill him!” he yelled, and they complied.

“You will not kill me,” the Ykavosh confidently stated as he stared down the length of the deadly weapon. “Your duty is to the Xov, and you will perform it.”

It is your duty to the Xovul to kill him kill kill kill KILL KILL KILL

“My duty,” he quietly confirmed through haggard breaths as he lowered the spear and turned its tip toward himself, “is to the Xov.” The Xovul officer pressed the button to activate the lightning.

A white-hot flash, then merciful oblivion. The voice was finally quiet.
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