OCTOBER 2003

Author: Dennis Einhaus
Title: "The Forgotten First" a short story in 5 parts
ON: Part I

==USS LIBERTY==
==Doc's Quarters==

*Parties. Let them have their parties. Doc didn't personally feel like celebrating, not with so much work to review in the ship's Science section and with no answers coming about what tossed them all into some alternate reality of death, danger, and starvation. He'd even tried persuading his way into the team roster of those studying the alien vessel but didn't get anywhere. Then he's expected to celebrate the departure of someone he'd survived Hell with and also one of whom he was intimately bonded with -- if only briefly -- to make that desparate telepathic distress call. Roman Carter's departure is like losing the long-lost brother you just barely got to know -- a confusing state of both emotional attachment and apathy that Doc was glad to shed when a subspace communication called him away just before Roman's departure.*

*Taking the call in his private quarters, he's welcomed by grey hair, pointed ears and deepening wrinkles of a familiar face.*

Capt. "Ironsides" Einhaus, Ret. (NPC): ++How you doing, boy?++

*For even one who's only half Vulcan the old man doesn't speak in typical cadence or dialect, much thanks to Great Grandpa Einhaus' rural roots in Midwestern America and his dominance over his Vulcan wife. The now elderly son is much the same.*

Doc: Gran'pa.

Ironsides: ++It's nice to hear you're alive.++

*Not much emotion in his voice, but it's quite deliberate. It's practically sarcasm.*

Doc: I meant to call sooner, but debriefings, work...

Ironsides: ++Don't even try. For once, your habit of not callin' home didn't make anyone worry much more than usual. You just be glad your gramma' and mother don't even know you were missin'.++

*There's a silent pause allowed to let the guilt settle in as intended.*

Ironsides: ++Where did you vanish to?++

Doc: I'm not allowed to say.

Ironsides: ++One of those adventures, huh? Then be glad, too, you didn't end up like your cousin S'Rol.++

Doc: Who?

Ironsides: ++Exactly. ... . . .++


==April 9, 2336==
==USS KORYU (Ambassador Class)==
==Bridge==

"Captain's Log, stardate 13271.03... Another day, another Alpha Shift to begin, another sector to explore. All sections report normal, other than a few minor injuries acquired by Security in Cargo Bay 4 during a holographic training simulation. Personal note: whomever thought to include holograms in anything other than target practice needs to get a piece of my mind once I get back to Jupiter Station, which I suppose won't be for another 3 years, 3 months, 2 weeks and 7 days. Long range sensors show signs of recent interstellar traffic but no vessels at this time, so I'm hopeful that we'll have another successful first contact in Koryu's future. The question now is which to explore first, the Class O planet or the nebula?"

*The slender human male adjusts his position in the captain's chair to ease the pressure on one half of his aging posterior and to manually cease recording his log with a press of a button on the chair's armrest. The wrinkling around his eyes & forehead and the grey peppering the black in his handlebar moustache and very squarely trimmed "buzz" cut hair easily betray his 58 years of life. They, as well as the many other more youthful humans moving about or busily at work on the computer while he sits still, together indicate him to be the commanding officer. Yet, they're not all humans on this bridge. A young lieutenant from Vulcan (age 43 being young for a Vulcan) sits at the helm, oblivious to the suspicious eye always upon him. That eye belongs to the female Andorian seated beside him at the Tactical console. As supposedly racist and outdated and mocked as such beliefs may now be, Lieutenant(jg) Kya listened to her parents when they said to never trust a Vulcan.*

"Lieutenant, is there something wrong with Mister S'Rol's piloting?"

*That voice came from the Chief Science Officer, also known as the First Officer, Commander Shelly Wu.*

Lt(jg) Kya:*moves eyes back to Tactical console* No, Commander.

Commander Wu:*stepping from Sci station towards CO's chair* Then I suggest you keep your eyes on your own work.

*Her face and voice are stern and authoritative, but inside she's grinning at the sense of power. As small as this 32-year-old Hong Kong native may be in reality, it's these little moments that Shelly enjoys the feeling of being a foot taller that her position grants her every so often. She arrives at the captain's chair, greeted by the sound of what this relatively young crew has affectionately labeled "The Old Man", such old man being Captain Mario Delucci.*

Captain Delucci: Enjoying the fruits of promotion, Commander?

Cmdr. Wu: Sir, I'm not sure it would be appropriate. I doubt anyone aboard enjoys losing our First Officer, even if it is to a command of his own.

Capt. Delucci: Still, tensions with the Klingons could go either way and another frontier is being harassed by some grey-skinned species we've never seen before. No matter where they assign the Enterprise, it won' t be here and here is surely the safest place he could be.

Cmdr. Wu: All the more we should be sad to see him go, and... *leans in to whisper into CO's ear* Yes, yes, oh, yes! I am enjoying this. *stands upright & suppresses smile* Might I suggest, sir?

Capt. Delucci:*smiling* Go on.

Cmdr. Wu: Considering how recently we last had shoreleave, I think we should examine the nebula first. Neither it nor the Class O are going anywhere, and the two combined will take us several weeks. Long range sensors are already showing the planet to have a livable atmosphere, several islands with many lengths of exposed shoreline, and reasonably stable tropical weather. Assuming the planet proves safe, if we chart the nebula first and then finish surveying the planet we'll be ready for a fairly pleasant shoreleave by then _and_ in a position to readily enjoy it.

Capt. Delucci: Catering to my fondness for sun and sand, Commander?

Cmdr. Wu: It's certainly not any Italian beach, but I imagine it will do. *smirks*

*The previous XO & Tactical Officer would have held out any shoreleave suggestions for alpine skiing.*

Capt. Delucci: I like your thinking. Lieutenant S'Rol, plot a course for that nebula.

Lt. S'Rol:*seated at Helm* Aye, Captain. *fingers tap in navigation commands*

OFF

Lieutenant Commander "Doc" Einhaus,
Chief Science Officer, U.S.S. LIBERTY
=/\= See the USS Liberty Logs pages for parts II to V. =/\=

SEPTEMBER 2003

Author: Sean Skye
Title: "Two Far Away Times"
ON:

== Camp, That Night ==

Sean slowly walked away from the camp. He didn't want to be around anyone tonight.Too much on his mind made him wary of being around other people... and for Sean not to have a crowd around him was very unusual. Even from when he was a small kid his parents would sit up him on a counter in their ships mess hall and he would dance around and everyone would watch him and laugh. Sean, of course didn't remember this... he didn't remember much of his real parents.

Sean clear a small batch of trees and found the river side. He continued up it just walking in no particular destination. He thought back to when he last saw Amy. He was on the Liberty just leaving to go 'hunting' so to speak. Sean smiled as he used that term. Sean thought of how beautiful his sister was. She had long platinum hair just like he did, but his was in a buzz cut. She also had the same deep sky blue eyes.

Sean stopped walking and sat down on the riverbank. He looked down the river and saw one of the most beautiful waterfalls he had ever seen. The pink water cascaded down the side of the hill. Rocks separated the water at points but the unwavering strength of the water followed the body of the rock until if finally meet back with itself.

Sean took in the sight with pure awe. Sean didn't take his gaze off of it but it was merly put in the back of his mind. He wished Amy was there with him. While he was always the one to pull her through her problems when ever he had a bad day he would just talk to her and his day would go from the worst to the most wonderful at the simple sound of 'Hello'.

How he could have used a 'Hello' right now. Sean smiled at the thought of her graduating and marrying some really great guy he would have never approved of. Sean looked down as he realized he wouldn't get the chance to see her succeed in all the ways he knew she would. They were now in two far away times.

Sean: I... I will never see her again.

Sean came to the grim realization of this. His eyes closed and he brought up his hands to his eyes. They were fists by the time they reached his eyes. Tears flowed from his eyes. He wanted to hit something, he wanted to cry, he wanted to be back home but.... All he really wanted was to see Amy one last time and tell her that he loved her and to tell her goodbye.

All of a sudden all the rage in Sean came out. He jumped to his feet and found a rock. He picked it up and threw it at the waterfall. Sean put so much into the throw that he feel down after the rock left his hand. He fell to ground and continued to cry.

He took in a few deep breaths and stopped crying. He swallowed hard as he let the sight and sound of the waterfall take him once again. He sat in the grass and just looking at it...

OFF:

Lt Sean Skye
ACMO
USS Liberty

AUGUST 2003

Authors: Roman Carter and Romanelle Podhigar
Title: "The Healing"
ON:

[Contintental mass]
[Day 7, late evening]

Most everyone else had settled down for the night, seemingly. Roman didn't really care at that point. He was fatigued, tired; physically and mentally. He'd spent most of the afternoon they had all traveled carrying his sister in his arms. He simply refused to allow anyone else to do so...he strongly felt the burden as being his and his alone to bear. But even he wasn't so irrational to know that the task he planned for tonight wouldn't require help.

The only one from the group he knew - and whom Trinna knew and trusted - was Vishaka Ramesh. She, as half-Deltan as well, had some of the skills required for the job at hand. The two of them working together might have a shot at bringing his sister out of her coma. Roman hadn't had a chance to hold a lengthy conversation with Vishaka for some time now so tonight was the only night they really had.

"I have to admit, Vishaka," Roman spoke to the woman in subdued tones, "I've studied and read and meditated a lot in the past couple of years but....I've never really done anything like this before. I don't even know if it's entirely possible, considering I can't control my abilities like normal Deltans. What if it....whigs out or something while we're attempting the proceedure?" He pointed a finger to his own head, wiggling a tiny circle in the air over his temple to reinforce his comment.

Vishaka: *holding out a hand to squeeze his* Nothing wrong can come off it for you, Roman, or for me. As for Trinna... She is young, resilient and from what I saw, she's also a very lively and intelligent girl. She could hardly have more odds in her favour.

"The other thing is, I've only ever read about the Sha'vala," Roman continued. "I've never done it nor seen it in action. I know what the proceedure entails, step by step, but....I'm sure it's not exactly like following the cooking instructions to chicken soup."

He took a long pause. "....But I'm desperate, Vishaka. I need to save her. I have to do something."

Vishaka: *nodding gravely* What we attempted on the ship had little chances for success. Now that we are in a more stable environment and... we have had a bit of time to settle in our new situation... It is time to act. Waiting more won't help. And don't you forget I'm a doctor.

She smiled up to him. Trying to lie to another Deltan, even a half one, was pretty useless and Vishaka had never fully mastered the art. Instead, her mind was working already, convincing herself this had every chance to succeed, gathering mental energy.

Vishaka: But I can't disperse my energy trying to convince you, Roman. It is important that you believe in our chances, in our success. You must go past worry and tension so that your energy.... *moving her hands expressively* springs like a fountain, a healing source.

Roman balled his fists and rubbed his knuckles lightly together.

Roman: Alright. When... and what?


=== next day ===

The hut was nothing much, but as such it had required hours to put together. When all was ready, everybody left them and retreated prudently where the wind wouldn't blow to them puffs of Deltan pheromones.

Neither Vishaka nor Roman was in the mood for jokes when they stripped to underwear and began feeding the fire in the corner of the hut, checking that the smoke evacuated properly. MacLeod had certainly stretched his skills since the beginning of the adventure. As the heat rose, Vishaka tended to Trinna, lying pale and unconscious on a makeshift couch a few inches over the floor. Roman was trying to relax. Months and years now of training to block his pheromones had to be forgotten and rejected, in the most unlikely circumstances he could have foreseen.

Vishaka was doing some light talk to break the tension she could feel building up.

Vishaka: I am going to use you as a focus. The procedure is always best performed when someone very close to the patient is involved. You two have such a strong bond that reaching to her mind will hardly present difficulties. It is there you know, just lying idle beneath the surface. We just need her to reach a degree of awareness when it all happens.

Roman: What will happen?

Vishaka: I examined her thoroughly. The problem lies in an oedema that is compressing a part of her brain. *She moved her hands gently over the bald head, with its amusing rubble of hair, to show the general location.* Blood flooded and got trapped. Many capillary vessels got damaged. What we need is to convince the rest of them in this region to work overtime. It is actually a security measure that had blood circulation sort of... reduced to a minimum. We need Trinna to know, to feel deep down, that she can let go. The heat and the chemicals we will be diffusing will help, but we need her to cooperate.

Roman: *stopping a gesture to wipe his brow* And I suppose the heat and lack of clothes is also meant to draw as much from us as we can give.

Vishaka handed him the jug of water. Roman's scent was a powerful one, and she closed her eyes with a feeble smile.

Vishaka: This reminds me... you remind me of my childhood and my brothers, when we would gather in the closed atrium for some bonding exercise. My mother... She was Indian and although she had accepted the Deltan way of life and found her own compromises.... didn't like bonding sessions. Her sense of smell was never good enough to let her feel good. When I went out, she'd push me into the nearest shower, saying I'd smell better if I tended to horses all day. I thought she was missing out so much. The smell in the atrium was so intoxicating. When you are part of an old houseold and the Atrium served many generations... you can feel the presence of the Ancient ones. Their strengths, their pains and joys, their desires.

Roman handed the jug back. She drank from it and put it aside, then motioned for him to give her his hands and started rubbing a particular spot, where his index and medium joined. This would in turn help sollicitate the gland most apt to produce the pheromone they needed in particular. The heat, the atmosphere, the repetitive touch all combined to make Roman feel slightly dizzy. Vishaka's dark shiny eyes slowly drew him in. There was no discomfort. Potential embarrassment was swept aside as he captured her thoughts and remembrances. The hut disappeared as he pictured the old stone and woodwork. It felt ancient, reassuring. There was very low chanting, so low one kept straining an ear to catch tantalizing words, a vague sound of drums that was, he realized, their hearts beating slowly entwining reason.

Vishaka: ~come to me my friend, let me show you the way~

Roman couldn't respond, as much as he wanted to, in any way for fear of breaking any form of focus he may have achieved up to this point. He hadn't realized how much tension he carried within him until after he stopped concentrating on keeping his pheromones in check. He'd conditioned himself for what such a long time to hold back, he'd never given it a second thought. Now, the way he was right now, he couldn't help but relish the sensation a bit. It felt good, liberating.

The warmth of Vishaka's hands on his, and the warmth that was her mind coaxing his, was soothing. She had such a strong presence about her that he felt shamed he'd never noticed before and, feeling it now, it was reassuring. It gave him hope that she...that they could help his sister and he clung to that hope. Vishaka sensed this and used it as a focus, guiding the other with her mind to his sister.

It was a surreal experience. The rhythm of their hearts providing the beat, the molecules of their pheromones mixing, intertwining together in a dance and their minds joined together on a quest. Before long, Roman could feel the beating of a third heart, small, somewhat faint yet still strong in its own way. Its pulse was beating a seemingly nervous, cautious rhythm that tugged at Roman's very soul.

Vishaka: ~Yes. This is her. Stay strong. Stay focus. Show her your love.~

Roman nodded, though his eyes were closed - at least he thought they were - and concentrated on the litle heartbeat, wrapping his warmth around it, bringing it into the fold of his and Vishaka's. The little heartbeat was still out of sync, but it didn't seem so unsure, so tentative anymore. It was as if it sensed something familiar.

Meanwhile, Roman and Vishaka's pheromones mingled together, permeating the room, creating the proper mixture of natural sedatives, inhibitors and activators. Trinna's sensitive nose took in all in, despite her shallow breathing, and the hormones made their way into her system. They quickly diffused into the child's system, filling every part of her, coaxing her body to do the things it needed to do to survive. This was where Vishaka's presence was felt the most. This was her forte, her field. She knew what to look for, what needed to be done and so Roman concentrated on making his sister feel safe, secure.

It was the most amazing thing Roman had ever experienced. Slowly, he could feel his sister's shallow breathing deepen, her heart beat strengthening even more, synchronizing more with his and Vishaka's. And he could feel a warm, familiar glow within his mind. It must be working....it _had_ to be working.

And then, just like Vishaka had described it, Roman could swear he heard and felt the presence of the Ancient ones. It was exhilirating and Roman felt reborn, seeing for the first time, first hand, what his rich, beautiful culture had to offer...what he'd been missiing out of. His thoughts and feelings of joy and love filled him, filled his sister and filled Vishaka, strengthening them all; helping them all in their tasks.

Roman understood. He finally understood the why of his heritage and what it meant.

Trinna's heart was now in sync with Roman's and Vishaka's. Her breathing was better than it had been. Whatever the doctor had done, it seemed to be working as well. The process was long, Roman had no sense of time passing, and intensive but uplifting as well. Trinna's body was on its way to healing.

Vishaka was weeping freely, tears rolling slowly on her cheeks, mixing with the sweat. Sha'vala wasn't a given. To reach such synchronicity that hearts and brains would resonate on the same, precise wavelength was something she had always failed by a fraction of an inch. And so, while she was so totally unconscious of herself, she wept at the fulfilling of her own caring nature, delayed so long. She felt the tug of suffering and answered it, coaxing energy to flood again, a path opener, a healer.

The high subsided at last. She slumped slightly forward, dizzy and exhausted, gathering her thoughts for a minute or two before she would open her eyes fully. Roman was still kneeling, entranced. This was the danger, when souls were so close... She fetched the water numbly, took a sip, poured some on her head, then rose slowly to pour the rest on his head and neck. It wasn't exactly cold, but the difference in temperature was enough to breach into his concentration. Vishaka started tapping in her hands on an asynchronous rythm, until he frowned deeply and gasped. Trinna took a sharp breath as well. Her eyes opened, then rolled up as she went to sleep instantly.

Roman: *appalled* Vishaka, she's dying!

Vishaka: *feebly* No... she's tired... she needs to sleep now.

She let him tend to his sister tenderly, and left the hut to face the cold and wet night. She welcomed the rain that washed away from her the dizzying atmosphere of the hut. Only two hours had passed, maybe, as much as she could judge from the night skies as they stood now, some 200 000 years in the past.

The clouds parted to reveal the stars above them. The two moons, so much larger than she rememberd them, were uncommonly close to each other.

Vishaka's eyes widened at the sight, and she did a very bad job of fumbling with her clothes at the same time as going back into the hut, ending up on her knees while Roman considered her with surprise and concern.

Roman: Vish, are you alright?

Vishaka: *going back to the only language that rang true in times of great emotion* Am enarsh'ani! Am enarsh'anvi!

Roman: Flood? What flood?

OFF:

Cdr Roman Carter
XO
&
Captain Podhigar
CO

USS Liberty

JULY 2003

Author: Romanelle Podhigar
Title: "First Day in Sealand"
ON:

=== Sea Shell, upper deck ==
=== After Einhaus's post ===

Podhigar sneezed, coughed hard and sneezed again as she stood watching the difficult rescue. While Stewart did his best to keep the safe boat still, Carter was trying to hoist Einhaus out of the water. He almost went overboard, twice, and the safe boat looked in peril for long seconds as the not so light body was finally yanked halfway overboard and pulled inside.

Vishaka approached her from behind and neatly cornered her against the railing, Podhigar's arm tucked under hers and Podhigar swearing in her back.

Vishaka: *angrily* Stop it! How much help do you think you'll be if you catch septicemia, handling dead with an injured hand?!

Podhigar: I thought our medical supplies should go to the ones who need it the most.

Vishaka didn't answer and resumed a more normal bedside manner in order to finally tend to the deep cut. Podhigar winced as she put away the improvised band. This and salted water had been her only medication so far, cold and general numbness acting as painkillers.

Vishaka: Sorry, it's going to... *yanking the cloth away* hurt. And as you said, painkillers are worth gold on this boat.

Podhigar swore between her teeth, her other hand gripping the railing so hard it went bone-white.

Meanwhile, the safe boat reached the Sea Shell, and the ensuing shouts proved that rescuing men at sea could prove hell till the very last second.

Vishaka released her just as they heard the ominous thumping noise of a body making it on the deck, pointed an imperative finger towards a steaming mug she had left on the side and left in a hurry. Before the doctor made it, though, people started streaming out from below decks. She cleared the way for Carter, who was doing most of the work of carrying Einhaus, helped Stewart who looked about to collapse and proceeded downstairs.

Those who had made it upstairs stood in silence, watching the skies and the horizon for clues. It didn't last long, as more recipients filled with water found their way up and required their hands. Podhigar was too tired to feel much anymore. She didn't want, she didn't dare to think about Einhaus. She forced some of the hot soup down her throat, giving herself two minutes of respite, then passed the mug along to a young woman standing nearby.

Podhigar: What's your name... *tugging lightly at the torn collar atop the damaged uniform* Ensign?

Ensign (npc): Ensign Laetitia Arkis, Starbase 782, Ma'am... *taking the mug* Thank you. I was thinking, Ma'am, if I went up the mast, maybe I could see the land or... or something.

Podhigar: *gauging her* As long as you're sure you won't get injured...

Arkis: I'll be a lot better if I can get warm. And so something... anything.

Podhigar stood for long minutes watching her slow progress. The human chain carrying out water suddenly broke up, as the report came up that MacLeod had been able to set and start the pump. It meant he had been able to access the engines, and also that there was no impending threat from a major water way.

The Ensign remained some time up the mast, watching the horizon from several angles, and finally got back with a disappointed expression.

Arkis: Nothing as far as I can see, Ma'am. It's not natural, you know.... *Her face crumpled in distress* There are three large islands and lots of smaller ones within a 50 miles radius around Fabiola. I went down there with my friends all the time! Surely the storm didn't take us so far off we wouldn't see them?

Podhigar laid a hand on her shoulder, pushing her towards the stairs.

Podhigar: You should all get back inside and get warm, none of us is equipped to stand wet in the cold.

Arkis: The doctor said she needed the room, Ma'am.

Podhigar: And she does, for now. Try to clear a few cabins so that everybody can lay down a bit.

When the young woman was gone, Podhigar turned around and pushed away the bit of sail that had served to hide her grim task. Taking the limp body of the child, almost a teenager, by the shoulders, she dragged it all the way to the back and laid it down alongside three others, covering them back with a piece of tarpaulin. Before she did, she stared down a last time at their faces, knowing this was a sight that would follow her for the rest of her life.

She set off again toward the Captain's room and started clearing away the debris.

=== two hours later ===

Carter stared at the grim load stacked at their feet.

Carter: Funny. I didn't think we were so many to begin with.

Vishaka (npc) kept her voice a studied mix of doctorly detachment, with a tinge of softness. The stars be blessed, they had their training to keep their spines straight up and their minds focused at times like these.

Vishaka: The boat itself is meant for 20, passengers and crew. But we were not going on a cruise so we decided to up the numbers to 30. Dreyer and another couldn't make it in time, so we were 28, including four children.

Podhigar: And now?

Vishaka: By the latest count, 22. Stewart has the exact list.

Stewart: *looking pale and still frozen from the effort of helping with the rescue of Einhaus* We have Lieutenant Karraka-Betar and her husband. Commander Carter's sister. Dr Connley and Counsellor Kendrick. Lt Cdr Einhaus and Lt Jansen. Yeoman Calin. Lt Brandis. Miss Craig and Mister Bones. Lieutenant Sertak and PO MacLeod. This is for our own, 17 counting ourselves, otherwise... there is another child whose parents are not accounted for, an Ensign Laetitia Arkis (npc) from SB 782 who had been sent to watch over the guests, and two other civilians who seem to have been invited aboard by one of the younger crew... a Mr and Mrs Apfern (npc), grandparents to Ensign Apfern.

Vishaka: What about... *Stewart shook his head in silence*. I see. I stabilized her but without proper medical facilities, most of them didn't make it. Whomever is alive at this stage is out of danger, Captain. That's 21. *throwing Carter a look* Counting Trinna, I'm relying on her Deltan heritage to see her through this one.

Carter: Very nice of you. So, 21, plus four deceased onboard makes 25 - that's 3 unaccounted for. Captain, we have cleared most of the water and MacLeod checked the engines. According to him, the damage is not as big as we feared. He confirms the power cells are more than half full and as soon as we can deploy the remaining sails, we'll gather whatever solar rays wants to shine on us. He started on the repairs. We should be able to get going again before nightfall.

Podhigar: Let's talk in a more appropriate place...

They walked towards the prow and into the Captain's room. Half the windows had exploded, but she had done a good job of tidying the place, and spent the rest of the time thoroughly checking the console and automated systems while Carter cleared the rest of the deck. The initial agitation had subsided on the ship as soon as the water had been bailed out. Apart from them and McLeod busy in the small engine room, the exhausted crew had assembled downstairs alongside the injured. Only Trinna had been laid aside in one of the cabin, constantly watched over.

Stewart: If you don't mind my saying so, you could all use something hot and filling, or the medical staff will never see the end of their day.

Podhigar: *smiling through the corner of her mouth* I didn't know you for such a mother hen, Quartermaster. We'll soon join everybody else downstairs. You can get something ready for us.

He had barely left when Vishaka spoke up grimly.

Vishaka: There is something absolutely abnormal going on.

Podhigar: You can say that again. I checked that communications are working. We are emitting but there seems to be nobody to receive. Satellite uplinks, starbase, spaceships... Nothing.

Vishaka: And not only that, but look at the sun. Rome, I spent the past two years since I left you mostly on SB 782 and Velosia. If it wasn't for the colour of the sky, I could swear this is not the same planet. The climate is completely wrong, the sun is wrong...

Podhigar: And so are the stars. I had a good look around dawn.

Carter: *with a distant look* Even a storm couldn't possibly lead us more than a few nautical miles from Fabiola. That would put us in view of at least three other islands. Ensign Arkis climbed up the mast and there is no land as far as we can see. None of our commbadges work. So, as nice as it would be to have engines working again, where do we go from here, Captain?

Podhigar: *snapping* Straight ahead in the direction Fabiola is supposed to be, Commander. Where else?

He blinked, lost for an answer, and instantly fell back into the blank that was his state of mind at the moment. Whether it was still shock, or sheer exhaustion settling in, was hard to tell.

Carter: Of course... if you say so, Captain.

Vishaka: *tiredly* Stewart is right... We haven't stopped for hours. We need to get warm again... Get something to eat... *turning to Carter and grabbing his arm to catch his attention, her weak mind reaching out to his* And if Trinna doesn't work it out by herself, I'm going to need you, Roman. I have studied and practiced Deltan medicine but my capacities are limited. You and I together though... I know we can do it.

He barely nodded, looking numb and curiously grey under the dark tones of his skin.

=== below decks ===

Podhigar left Vishaka to practically spoon feed Carter and endeavoured the jaunt to the engine room. To say it was cramped was an understatement, and MacLeod seemed to fill most of it. He was cursing almost continuously while moving his big frame around the place. He stopped dead when she called from the entrance, and grabbed the hot coffee and bun with a shadow of his usual good-humoured grin.

MacLeod: If you're trying to bribe me to fix the bathroom, Captain, I'm afraid it will be a while before I can tend to it.

Podhigar: Just tell me what we have here.

MacLeod: No water way, that's the really good news. They sure built her to take a beating and then some. But three out of the nine power cells got drained in some way and another one burnt out. We have engines, automated, not much more. About 75% of ship's systems. For 4, maybe 5 days though. That should be more than enough to get us back.

Podhigar: Let's not bet on unknown factors. Let me help you.

He threw a dubious look towards her bandaged hand, but she squeezed inside and avoided him to add to his already numerous bruises by handing him whatever he needed. When all the panels were back in place, she let him wrap the toolkit and slumped against the bulkhead for a second or two.

Podhigar: Right... Up we go.

=== middle decks, saloon ===

The room was nothing like it had been the first time she had seen it - ages ago, before the guests came aboard. Thin mattresses from the bunks had been used to convert the tables into beds, so that Connley and Vishaka could keep an eye on all at the same time. Vishaka was not in the room though - presumably gone checking on Trinna. People were sitting on chairs, stools and on the floor, passing around steaming mugs and what looked suspiciously like a bottle of whisky. Many still looked in shock, draped in covers, while others had cheeks flushed by the warmth of so many assembled in the same place.

An elderly couple was half lying, propped on cushions, holding each other's hands. The woman cried softly, intermittently. Next to them, a boy of about 12 was curled up, sleeping so deeply he didn't seem to hear any of what was going on. As much as she didn't want to, she made way towards the elderly couple and offered her condolences. There was no trying to lure them with false hopes. Einhaus had been very lucky. He had been the only one.

She was about to turn to address them all when something strange happened. All body heat seemed to desert her, and her knees buckled despite firm orders. Someone caught her in time and pushed a chair beneath her.

Stewart: I told you, you needed to eat, Ma'am.

She had to make a conscious effort to grab the bowl, then separate her lips. The hot soup burnt her mouth and throat, ending up as a warm pool in her stomach. For a moment, she entertained vague thoughts about how the room would have been even smaller when they had need for a galley, now replaced by a replicator in the wall. After a few more gulps and a couple minutes, she was able to talk again.

Podhigar: I won't lie to you. Something very big has happened. We are not quite sure what, or why. What is about sure by now is that we can't rely on exterior help. We are going to try and steer this ship to the nearest land mass. There, we should learn a bit more.

Arkis: All the islands in this sectors are inhabited. We would at least find shelter and some clues. Do you think the planet is under attack, Captain?

Podhigar: It is one of the possibilities, although the nature of the attackers and their weapons would remain to determine. We have a few hours of daylight to go. We need to use that time to stitch the sails back together so the ship can gather some added power and speed. MacLeod will supervise this part. Quartermaster - I would need to know what is the sum of our resources. There is a storage space next to the engine room filled with the kind of equipment tourists would use on a cruise. Take June Craig with you to gather everything we can use here, and note down the rest.

Stewart: Aye, Ma'am.

Podhigar: Calin... When you feel like being on your two feet again, or at least pretend you can, we are going to need clothes. There should be a few seamen outfits in the smaller cabins, and as for the rest, we'll use curtains or whatever we can dispense with. You'll have to improvise a sewing kit I'm afraid.

Nobody smiled at the notion. The force of the water had practically wrenched clothes from a few backs, other had their uniforms in shreds, tainted with blood and still wet. Some harsh feats of coughing were heard here and there.

Podhigar just wanted to lie down and close her eyes, but she needed to keep going. All eyes were on her, expecting answers, solutions, of which she had none - just an infernal dread at the pit of her stomach.

Podhigar: Jansen, you should find a cabin and rest for now. I'm going to need you on watch tonight for a bit of stellar cartography so that we have some additional clues as to our bearings. You will find charts to help you on the computer, on the sun deck.

Vishaka had been standing behind her for a couple minutes.

Vishaka: I have spent the past two years on SB 782 and Velosia... dragged around by the CSO most of the time. I know a good deal about the planet. If there are sightings of birds, fish or anything of the kind, just let me know - it could be a precious indication.

Podhigar blinked and turned to see her, answers about astronavigation dying on her lips as she watched the woman's wan face.

Vishaka: *murmur* Nothing definite for the moment, just... a hunch. I really can't tell more.

Podhigar nodded and refocused, for long enough to distribute a few more orders. Keep people busy... Give them a sense of purpose, so that some order seemed to be restored in the chaos their lives had become over the past hours.

She was still talking when MacLeod came back from the upper deck with a dark face.

MacLeod: Captain, if you'd take a look outside... It looks like something is catching up with us, fast.

=== sun deck ===

It was midday. The skies were far from clear, and clouds coursed low on the horizon, pushed by the strengthening wind. Still, they were not long in catching sight of what MacLeod had noted.

Calin: *pointing* Antles!

There was a whole herd of them. Practically flying above the waves, they seemed on an interception course with the ship. Vishaka galloped on the deck, pushing a few to get a better view, and put a visor on her eyes.

Podhigar: So? Are antles supposed to be dangerous?

Vishaka answered after a long silence and several minute changes of settings on the visor borrowed from the child sleeping below.

Vishaka: I don't know if these are Antles, they look almost twice the size of the biggest one I've ever seen... but I would worry more about what's coming after them. They are on defensive formation, with the young in the middle...

Then she saw it. The incredibly thick tentacle extended high in the air, swooshed around one of the young in a powerful move and drove it under. The big Antles honked in distress and scattered wildly while more tentacles thrashed about purposefully. Sick with the shock, Vishaka almost threw the visor away.

Vishaka: Some kind of giant squid... several of them... Get us out of the way!

OFF:

Captain Podhigar
USS Liberty




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