Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Grumpy Christmas Story

For several years my house became the mutually agreed assembly point for my in-laws and their overly complicated but short Christmas Day celebrations. At first I sort of enjoyed their company, most of my in-laws are highly intelligent and if we avoided politics the conversations could be quite stimulating. It sure as hell beat my family's tradition of spending several hours talking trash about whomever was being ostracized at that moment. A problem I solved by volunteering permanently for the job.

The other benefit of spending a holiday with them was the fact their usual habit was to show up on Christmas morning, spend precisely two hours catching up. Once that was out of the way the “experts” would proceed to the kitchen to either warm up something cooked earlier or outright prepare a special dish. The actual eating part of the ritual would just take about an hour with the following clean-up done by those lowly individuals who culinary inexperience would have resulted in bodily harm had they trespassed into the kitchen during the preparation phase.

The final segment lasted three to four hours, required because of the affect of consuming a near mutant turkey long overdosed with growth-hormones, consisting of everyone either on the couch or lying about the living room floor. Once everyone recovered their senses it was a mad dash to get back on the road or catch a Christmas Day flight to the other end of the country. The net benefit of those abbreviated warm family fuzzies was that no one was exposed to each other enough to fray nerves or set off a dormant desire to strangle the living shit out of a particular family member. I thoroughly enjoyed such visits since it allowed me to savor the rest of my Christmas holiday after they left in relative silence and peace.

Now choosing my house for all this unbridled affection had a lot of it had to do with the location of the retirement home for my wife's parents, which at first was an upper-crust golfing subdivision just off Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. If you've never been to Hilton Head it is not a terrible place to spend a holiday, but about fifty zillion other contentious human beings have already discovered that same fact with all them desperate to enjoy the balmy breezes and the overwhelming number of truly fancy restaurants.

I will say this, if anyone has a surefire scheme for suddenly jumping in front of a car and getting clipped for the resulting insurance money without getting killed, Hilton Head is the place. At any given moment you can throw a rock onto the crowded roads and easily hit an ultra-expensive Benz, BMW, Lexus, or any number of other supreme luxury cars. In fact, given the number of massive SUV's with suspiciously darken windows sharing the roads, a person could begin to believe some sort of summit of world leaders was taking place there. Believe it or not, Hilton Head was once the home of a thriving African-American community but the combination of golf courses, marinas, five-star restaurants, and full scale mansions has caused it to be overrun by the unabashed wealthy, not unlike how rats would act invading a full corn bin.

The second reason my house became the default meeting place was that my mom-in-law and dad-in-law eventually left Hilton Head and moved to Manning, South Carolina. Never heard of the place? No worries, it is a small town situated on the edge of Interstate-95 and has all the innate country charm its population of undereducated and overly religious folks can muster. Only the extreme Bible thumping Upstate of South Carolina can rival their growing enthusiasm for things like Donald Trump, civilian-owned assault weapon collections, and the impending second coming of Christ.

It was the discovery by my dad-in-law of a hidden lakeside golfing community that curled his toes in glee enough to make him decided to abandon the Hilton Head area. Since I'm not a golfer, I simply cannot appreciate how not having to wait long hours for a tee time can make someone like him want to move to such a backwoods place.

Now having the in-laws come to my house for the holiday pow-wow was not without its issues. The most memorable one happened about six or seven years ago when my dad-in-law somehow got a hair up his butt one Christmas wanting everyone to dress up for dinner. We're talking suit and ties for the guys and nice formal dresses for the ladies.

Right off the bat you have to understand the relationship the rest of my in-laws had with my now late dad-in-law. The best way to explain this is to compare him to a silverback gorilla with everyone else his troop of lower-ranking underlings. What dad-in-law wanted everyone quickly sought out to supply, even though they might bitch and moan to the point I began to believe they had been in contact with my blood relations. Honestly, I would not be betraying any secret if I write that neither my mom-in-law nor dad-in-law every had any overtly warm feelings about me. To them I was semi-redneck their precious daughter had the misfortune to meet at a Jimmy Buffett concert and decided to start dating.

Quite frankly, I was flabbergasted and befuddled by his desire to dress up for an occasion that every time before we all just worse things like slacks, polo shirts, and maybe shoes. My traditional Christmas dinner attire was jeans and a clean surfer t-shirt, and if the weather was warm enough I would ditch the pants for my comfortable cargo shorts. Putting it bluntly, I do not get dressed up for any normal reason. If I have to wear a sports coat I'm probably on a cruise ship enjoying tropical sunsets. If I have to wear a suit and tie someone has died or is getting married, which in truth I believe is essentially the same thing.

I quickly told my wife this suit and tie thing wasn't going to fly with me. Actually I compared it to such things as a heavy lead balloon floating up in the air or the success of a submarine designed with a screen door. She at first she just poo-pooped my objections, then after I didn't let the subject go sort of hinted that I would be rewarded with wild monkey sex if I went along. It was her failure to cement the promise which resulted in my withdrawal from the agreement. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice saying you have a headache I'll buy because I'm a decent guy, fool me a third time and I'm the blithering idiot.

Well, that particular Christmas Day finally came and the usual suspects piled into my house around 6:30am that morning. It was all a happy affair, with still no explanation as to why we had to dress up when the time came to eat. Since this shindig was happening in my house and with no real explanation as to the reason for the dress up party I would go along, in my own way.

By the time I arrived to the dining room everyone else was already seated. My wife's brother was wearing some nice suit with a tie that looked like rattlesnake skin. A good choice since few that know my bro-in-law for longer than twenty or thirty minutes consider him to be such a reptile. My wife, her mom and sister were all wearing dresses that would allowed them entry into one of the swanky restaurants to the already mentioned Hilton Head Island. My dad-in-law took the cake though, he looked like he was trying to impersonate Marlon Brando's character from the first “Godfather” movie.

His attire was appropriate since the look of surprise and then anger he directed at me would have scared most people. See, I decided to “dress up” for Christmas dinner by wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt, my cargo pants, and my docksider shoes, without socks. I do admit to having gone as far as ironing my cargo pants because they were quite wrinkly.

Dad-in-law's face turned rather red those first few minutes, enough that I sort of worried I might have gave the putz an aneurysm. No such luck, dinner eventually proceeded as usual with everyone doing the expected hasty retreat after recovering from the turkey induced fog. Dad-in-law did get over my protest actions enough to personally say goodbye to me as everyone filed out. A gesture that was unexpected, not because of my fashion antics but because he was usually the first person out the door.

No one should get mad at me for disrespecting the man back then or even now since he has passed on to the great Republican heaven/golf course in the sky. As the father of a rambunctious daughter I fully expect that holiday karma to come back to me in spades. Its just that I will welcome the aftermath still wearing my damn Hawaiian shirt.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Spockalypse Now-Idle Thoughts on Star Trek

With the new Star Wars film about to explode onto our neurotic society, most normal people probably missed the collective groan of despair and frustration that issued forth from a large number of Trekkers/Trekkies after the release of the trailer for new Star Trek movie. While only ninety-four seconds long, during that time we hear “music” from the Beastie Boys while catching glimpses of the starship Enterprise literally being torn into small pieces as if it's a dastardly banker's incriminating financial spreadsheets being fed into a paper shredder. Yeah, there are the ubiquitous brief scenes of the crew uttering clever one-liners while facing numerous dangers on a hostile alien planet. But the real puzzle for me is the scene where Jim Kirk for an unknown reason jumps over an odd obstruction using a trail bike from our era. We then cut away to see Kirk and some attractive but mysterious alien falling from the sky only to be suddenly transported away and plop hard on a transporter pad with the young captain give one final funny one-liner.

Hot looking female alien notwithstanding, unfortunately, the trailer for “Star Trek Beyond” makes it appear the movie is just another dumb-down action flick that happens to have characters from Star Trek.

Being open and honest, and showing my utter geekiness, I actually got excited when I learned of the trailer's imminent release a few days prior. The first two installments of the rebooted Star Trek universe known as the JJ-verse, while being financial successes, left many of the long-time fans as cold as a chunk of ice sitting on the surface of Pluto. For those people without an appreciation of that forlorn dwarf-planet's distance from the sun, that is damn cold! 

The buzz about the new movie, entitled “Star Trek Beyond” was that it would make up for the sins of both previous movies but mainly the horrendous “Star Trek into Darkness” that, among other travesties, tried to pass off the villainous, Khan Noonien Singh, as a white, British dude. How a seriously muscular guy that was supposed to be from south Asia became a wry but much smaller person from cloudy and drizzly England was never answered.

You know the reaction to the trailer was overwhelmingly bad when both the director of the movie, Justin Lin, and one of the screenwriters who plays Scotty in the new movies, Simon Pegg are immediately mobilized to play damage control with the hardcore fans. The problem is of course the diehard Trekker purists like me who see Star Trek as something other than a money making venture for the Paramount corporate suits residing in their ornate corner offices. As far as the suites are concerned they have the hopelessly addicted fans by the geeky balls and figure if you have control of them, their hearts an minds will follow.

Giving the JJ-verse devil its proper due, there are a few good things about the rebooted Star Trek. At the top of the list is the cast. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, and the rest all do a fantastic job with their characters and even fresh them out more given that Sulu, Uhura, and Chekhov were never more than glorified window dressing in the original series.

Secondly, while “Star Trek into Darkness” was a totally mangled homage to “Wrath of Khan” that in a wiser world would be flushed down a toilet and forgotten, it did have a moral message about the evils of militarism and preventive war that should have made any supporter of Bush/Cheney cringe under their theater seats. And you can curse me as a sexiest pig if you want but I did personally enjoy the scene where Alice Eve, playing a young Carol Marcus, showed off her athletic body to a visibly shaken Jim Kirk. Almost makes me feel sorry for the character of David Marcus, the future offspring of a carnal union between Jim Kirk and Carol. This offspring of the two first appears in “Wrath of Khan” and quite frankly I found David Marcus a whiny twit and was happy the character was killed off in “The Search for Spock.” 

Most important of all, despite their numerous and often fatal flaws both the JJ-verse movies are mega-parsecs better than that William Shatner directed abomination call “Star Trek: The Final Frontier.” Sometime in the late 1990's I attended a Star Trek convention where the original Scotty, James Doohan, spoke to the adoring crowd. During his much to short speech, we quickly learned William Shatner is a pretentious dick with delusions of godhood. That egotistical absorption is the only explanation I have for his attempt at writing and directing a Star Trek movie. The Great Bird of the Galaxy and creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, considered the story apocryphal and was about to sic his high-paid legal attack dog on Shatner to stop the movie but the Paramount execs stepped in and green lighted the project. Thankfully the next film,“Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country” was one of the best movies of the franchise and allowed the original cast to sail off into retirement in a dignified manner.

Arguably, the high point for Star Trek came during the third season of The Next Generation series. With the terrible first season and anemic second behind them it was during the third year that Next Generation took off to expand and further develop the universe Gene Roddenberry created. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” easily took over when Next Generation flew off the small screen to do movies. In fact I'd rate the character of Benjamin Sisko probably the best captain of them all. Look Jean-Luc Picard was awesome and Kirk could get the chicks, but when the omnipotent scalawag Q pops onto the station Sisko kicked his ass when his antics become too much.

Now, as much as I liked the character of Katheryn Janeway, “Star Trek: Voyager” did in fact have the most throw away episodes in the franchise. The one that about ruined the series for me had the crew of Voyager finding a 1940's American pick-up truck drifting in the depths of interstellar space. After bringing the truck on the ship they find it still containing water in the radiator and fuel in the tank. How such substances did not boil away in the vacuum of space was never answered but this assault on basic science was only made worse when one of the characters hops in the driver's seat and easily cranks the truck up. Adding even more icing on the implausible cake, a few minutes later in the same episode they find Amelia Earnhardt in suspended animation on some obscure planet. Interest in the early twentieth century aviatrix has long exceeded the attention spans of the population once concerned with her mysterious disappearance over the Pacific Ocean not long before the beginning of World War Two. But I did giggle a little while watching this episode given that Earnhardt's fate once spawned numerous conspiracy theories along with many futile attempts to locate her remains. Not one of those anxious zealots ever thought of looking on the other end of the galaxy, that's just sad.

Soon after that Paramount Corporation made an attempt to create their own television network and took Voyager off syndication and tried to use it as the cornerstone for the endeavor. It wasn't until I signed up for Netflix a couple of years ago did I get to view most of the series' episodes. Many are quite good and the holographic doctor is one of the best characters in the franchise.

The introduction of a new Star Trek series always forced the fans into an uncomfortable period of adjustment before finally accepting the characters and scenario. Unfortunately for the last series,“Star Trek: Enterprise,” exhaustion was setting in with the fans and general public. Combined with the fact that we were dealing with a prequel set over a century before the adventures of Kirk and Spock many of the fans went into shock and weren't not able to accept it. Which is sad because many of the episodes are some of the best in Trek. The biggest fault I had with the series dealt with the monochrome nature of the crew. With the exception of the helmsman and communications officer the rest of the crew screams an overabundance of North American white people. Such a situation was fine for the original series made in the 1960's but not the first years of the twenty-first century.

Long story short, what the Paramount execs and JJ Abrams failed to recognize is that while their new additions to the franchise fail on so many levels to many fans it's not those inaccuracies and mistakes that keep us coming back to Trek. Simply put what keeps Star Trek alive is its vision of a hopeful future where the human race has matured and makes most its decisions using reason and compassion.

Unlike Gene Roddenberry, who in the final years of his life was getting a little weird with his belief that by the 24th century all types of inter-human conflict would be long gone, I still believe that our species can rise above its baser, barbaric instincts. I recently had a chance to read a little of Martha Gellhorn's works, one of the greatest war corespondents in the 20th century and Ernest Hemingway's third wife. In her book, The Face of War she wrote that after years of disillusionment she didn't believe in the perfectibility of man, only in the human race. Contrary to the late Mr. Roddenberry's vision our species will never be free of greed, jealousy, fear, and hate but it is an innate desire to try and rise above those primitive feelings that is our one saving grace. Sure we daily fail at overcoming them and, even worse, at times disgracefully fall back and wallow in the worst aspects of our nature but deep down we all want something better for ourselves and our children.

We know which way we want to go make a better society and world but like a deficient child we just can't seem to find our way there. Religion, for the worst most times, wanted to show us the way but its followers often came to believe their faith made them special and above everyone else. This fallacy has allowed untold rivers of blood to be spilled in the name of some god who remains strangely quiet given how often we are told he wants us to love one another above all else.

As corny and utter ridiculous as it sounds if there is one element of American culture that tries to make its presence known above all the static of banal self-absorption, glorified ignoramuses and egotistical drivel that is so common is Star Trek. Each series clearly states that reason, compassion, and intelligence should reign above just about everything else that governs our society today.

Treating Star Trek like some movie cash cow will never quite work to the degree it has with the far shallower Star Wars. People simply don't expect to hear Luke Skywalker or Han Solo say anything about homophobia or racism. As far as Princess Leia is concerned I didn't hear a damn word anyone said the first time I saw “Return of the Jedi” after seeing her in that shiny slave bikini.

Sure there are Trek television episodes and movies that are nothing but action but always at its roots is the desire to make a statement about our civilization or culture. Star Trek's basic statement is an optimistic view of our future if only we can gather the will and strength to take control of our fate. Given the flood of dystopic and post-apocalyptic movies made today seeing one quality made film where human civilization is successful is not a lot to ask.

Despite my low expectations of the coming “Star Trek Beyond” I will be in the theater the weekend it opens. If it does fail, I purpose a campaign be started to have Disney Corporation buy the Star Trek franchise from Paramount. They tend to make hopeful movies that do quite well in the box office. My other proposal is that Simon Pegg be forcefully renamed Jar Jar Binks and be left stranded on some deserted island. If anyone should be able to bridge the gap between movie cash cow and quality Star Trek, it's him. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In the Shadows-v2.0

(Author's note: This is a rewrite of a flash fiction story from 2009. Both the first version and this update are seriously dark and uncharacteristic of my usual crappy fiction. This weekend was busy and I had numerous interruptions preventing even the most basic proofreading.) 

As the late night thunderstorm raged outside her lakehouse, Donna Myers lay in her bed too terrified to sleep. It wasn't the storm that had produced the mind-numbing fear that clung to Donna' soul and caused her to break out into a cold sweat that had gotten so bad she could now feel the wetness seeping into the bed sheets. Donna was a far too rational person to be bothered by the whims of nature and understood the thunderstorm was just a product of the unusually hot and humid summer weather.

The storm had rolled into her area a few hours before she went to bed and stalled making it seem a pitched and bitter land battle was being conducted with numerous artillery pieces dueling for supremacy. After drinking several glasses of wine while listening to calming music, Donna believed she was ready for bed and walked up the stairs of her empty and silent house to the bedroom she shared with her husband.
Once in bed, the alcohol in her system caused consciousness to dissolve quickly and her last thought before sleep claimed her was a small plea to a deity she really didn't believe in anymore that the dreams would leave her in peace.

She wasn't that fortunate, sometime after dozing off Donna began hearing the screams of her first husband and knew in a way only possible in dreams that their two children lay next him as the serial killer that had once plagued the southeast region of the United States took his life. When Donna was able to break the grip of the dream the sounds of the thunderstorm greeted her return to reality.

It wasn't just at night that Donna was tortured, sometimes during the simplest daily activities she would be overwhelmed by the horrific visions of her dead children and husband. During those moments she would seek refuge in some quiet corner wherever she might be at the time. Several times she had been pulled from places like the storeroom of the nearby grocery store to an empty office in the public library. A longtime resident of Watertown area, stunned but caring residents would at first try to calm Donna then help her return to the lakehouse, the one place she felt safe during the daylight hours.

For those reasons Donna had become a recluse hardly ever leaving the Georgian-style home she and her new husband, Robert Myers, began building after they got married five years before. The house was a gift from Robert, a successful artist and her first husband's college roommate and longtime friend.

Eight years before, after Robert Myers heard of the death of his friend and his children he rushed to Donna's side to comfort and support her. Himself mourning the death of his best friend, Robert ended up clearing his schedule right after the murders and spending months in Watertown helping Donna to pick up the pieces of her life. Three years went by with Robert and Donna themselves becoming best friends as each helped the other find the courage to move beyond their shared loss.

Robert taught Donna the meaning of gentle patience, never demanding anything while always being there for her, even though it hurt his career, as the dreams began to plague her both day and night. Quite by accident Donna realized three years later that she had developed feelings for Robert. When told this, Robert confessed that he had fallen for her back during their days in college. That when Daniel and her became serious about their relationship he made a pledge to say nothing and just be happy for his two friends. After both confessing their mutual feelings the two proceeded slowly with exploring their growing attachment. Neither wanted to do anything that would seem disrespectful to the memory of Daniel or the children. But a few months later Donna felt she had to move on with her life.

A little over three years after the murders Robert proposed to Donna on the site where the lakehouse was to be built believing she was ready to have someone in her life again, Donna accepted without hesitation. Donna threw herself body and soul into supervising the construction and then the decorating of the new house hoping it would conquer the persistent nightmares that refused to release their grip on her. The only place Donna couldn't touch, or even visit, was the boathouse constructed on the lakeshore that Robert had built. It was his sanctuary and place where he did his work while at home.

For a while, all the planning and activity the construction demanded of Donna kept the dreams at bay to the point she began to hope that even that part of her past was beginning to fade. Which was a relief to Robert's agent who wanted the man to travel again because his prolonged absence was hurting his career.

Almost immediately after Robert resumed his travels the murderous dreams returned to haunt Donna both day and night. The only time they abated were the times Robert was home or the even rarer occasions when he took Donna with him.

As the thunderstorm continued outside the house Donna became uncomfortable with the emptiness on Robert's side of the bed. This time he was somewhere in Europe overseeing a showing of his paintings and sculptures and would not be home for over a week. Unable to sleep, she got out of bed with the intention of walking out on the porch and watching the storm. With the lightning cracking behind her she caught a glimpse of herself in the bedroom dressing mirror. She stopped to admire the tight and sheer nightgown she wore and the athletic body it revealed underneath.

After being married, Robert had strongly but gentle urged Donna to get into shape saying it would help her mental health and add passion to their sex life. Donna shivered in pleasure at the thought of Robert's eventual homecoming and the things they would do together. Part of Donna realized that their lovemaking was less a joining of two people celebrating their feelings but more a frenzied animalistic coupling whose only real effect has to hold her mental demons at bay for a few days.

Still looking at herself in the mirror, Donna saw how the periodic flashes of lightning illuminating half her body while leaving the other half mired in darkness. This caused her to reflect on the differences between the two men that she had married. Daniel had been a gentle, caring lover who only wanted to show his devotion to her. On the other hand Robert, not long after they had married, had begun asking Donna to experiment with her sexuality. She resisted at first, but Robert continued to be firm and it was out of fear of him walking out that Donna eventually surrendered. At first Donna just played along but under Robert's careful tutelage she slowly began to enjoy the new feeling and experiences he had opened up to her.

It was a massive crack of thunder that pulled Donna from her reverie. After grabbing her robe Donna hurried downstairs and went out onto the porch stopping briefly at the kitchen to pick up her cell phone. During the construction of the house she had insisted that the large porch that was supposed to only face away from the lake be extended nearly all the way around so she could sit outside and look upon the gentle waters of the lake and see the boathouse Robert used as his studio. During his days at home Donna would often sit on the porch and wonder what Robert was creating inside.

Taking a seat in one of the wooden rocking chairs, Donna look out upon the lake and dark boathouse. The storm had finally begun moving out with the lightning and thunder growing increasingly distant as the minutes passed. With the storm receding, the insects and frogs opened up with their eternal chorus bringing some peace to Donna's mind. A soft silver colored quarter moon sailed clear of the clouds providing an almost ghostly lighting of the area around the house.

Just seeing the boathouse did provide some extra relief to Donna but the menacing specter of her dreams never went away. Robert's hectic travel schedule was a mystery to Donna and she only vaguely knew that Europe was several hours ahead of the American east coast. Looking at the cell phone in her hand, Donna was tempted to call Robert just to hear his voice. Robert had never been away from home this long with seven or eight days to go before he returned.

Hoping she would not disturb him, Donna dialed his personal cell number and got only his voice mail. She tried four more times, leaving an increasingly desperate message each time pleading that he should call back so she could hear his voice. Realizing how she sounded, Donna became embarrassed and stopped calling and just sat in the rocking chair listening to the sound of a nearby bullfrog and watching the soft moonlight reflecting off the ripples in the lake. Under the influence of the peaceful setting, almost against her will Donna was overcome by sleep.

She again slipped back into the dream and found herself inside some sort of warehouse. As in all other times before, Donna was a formless entity that could see and hear everything but not intercede on events. In the dream Donna drifted towards the screams of her husband, Daniel and the children writhing in puddles of their own blood, their bodies grotesquely mutilated but somehow retaining the ability to plead for her to come save them. Despair welled up inside her bodiless form forcing her to retreat from the area. As in all the other times, Donna began to feel the presence of another entity, one that made her feel cold and corrupted. As she fled down the endless passageways of the warehouse, she could feel the dark force coming closer. Worst of all, as it pursued her, Donna would begin to feel a bizarre desire to become one with that darkness.

Donna suddenly awoke in the rocking chair momentarily not remembering coming outside at the end of the thunderstorm. When the disorientation passed she looked at the clock on the cell phone seeing only a little over an hour had passed with no messages from Robert. Still feeling as if the evil force in her dream was hovering not far away she began looking for another refuge.

Donna had no family or any real friends she could call. Her family never liked Robert and had drifted away as the years passed. What friends she did have weren't the kind who would come to her aid in the early, dark hours of the morning. The only place that did offer any hope was Robert's boathouse. While he had always made it clear that she was never to enter his studio, Donna figured it was the one place she could feel his presence and calm her panicked soul. With no where else to turn or run, she walked back into the kitchen and retrieved the set of keys to the boathouse Robert thought he had successfully hid from her.

Minutes later she is walking up the steps to the back entrance of the boathouse looking for the right key that would unlock the door. Robert was sure to be angry if he ever learned of her violating his privacy but Donna rationalized her trespass as a last desperate measure to save her sanity. She told herself that when she got inside she would use the time to calm down and wait for Robert to call, once he had chased away the demons she would leave making sure to leave no evidence of her presence. Despite the terror churning in her mind, a part of Donna was curious to see a place that had been forbidden for her to enter the entire time she was married to Robert.

After unlocking the door, she stepped inside and instinctively felt for the light switch and flipped it up. With the lights now on Donna saw numerous unfinished paintings along with with shelves with various supplies along one wall with a stack of blank canvases in one of the corners of the studio. To Donna most of Robert's works were highly abstract to the extreme and held little meaning for her. A few though, hanging on one of the walls were dark and sinister with glowing red eyes off in the distance watching an almost Norman Rockwell-like scene of happy and normal people. Donna had seen similar works when Robert brought her along on one of his promotional tours. Robert's paintings were often acclaimed by the critics for their primal, foreboding nature and she herself had come to enjoy the darker side of his character in their physical relationship.

As she studied the unfinished paintings, Donna noticed the door leading to another room of the boathouse. Figuring she had already violated the rule on entering in the first place, it mattered little if she unlocked that door as well and looked inside.

The room was windowless and the air inside was stale and heavy making it hard to breath. Turning on the light revealed a bookshelf with several rows of homemade DVD's stored inside neatly labeled cases. A medium-sized television was sitting on a small table with a cheap DVD player hooked up to it. Taped to the walls of the room were old newspaper clippings of various murder cases and crime scene photos.

Browsing the pictures on the wall Donna was shocked to find photos of her children and husband laying dead in the location their bodies would ultimately be found by the police. Confusion then a different fear welled up inside Donna as she realized that none of the photos were official police pictures, they all were taken with a cheap camera someone might buy at a drug store. Donna's mind went into overdrive trying to find a sane reason why Robert could possess such pictures. No longer worried what Robert might say about entering his studio, she tore through the collection of DVD cases looking for, and finding one with Daniel and the children's name attached.

She found the DVD case close to the end of the collection. Donna knew her marriage to Robert had long since changed her in ways that would have been inconceivable to the version of herself that had married her first husband all those years ago. But that morning the rest of her soul slipped away as trembling hands inserted the shiny disc into the player and turned on the television. Frozen to the screen, she watched and listened to Robert drag the unconscious bodies of Daniel and then the children to the place where they would be killed. His commentary a psychotic rambling of who he thought should live and who should die.

The actual murders of the her babies were relatively quick. But their screams of terror as the person they knew as “Uncle Robert” inserted the syringe into their arms that brought them to a final silence was everything Donna had heard in her nightmares. Robert didn't share that mercy with his supposed best friend, Daniel.

“You were never good enough for Donna,” Robert hissed as Daniel choked on his own blood from the near surgical cuts that his torturer had done on his body. “You could have done so much with her,” Robert continued on, “molding and shaping Donna to become a supreme individual. But what did she become with you? Nothing but a frumpy housewife, I'm doing her a favor by removing you and the children from her life. After you are gone and I send a few more sheep to the hereafter to throw any possible suspicion off me, I plan on going to her as the grieving friend looking just to help her through this nightmare. After that, she will be mine, I'll teach her things that you never could with your pathetic normal lives. She'll resist at first but I seen what lies deep within her soul, Donna is like me and I'll bring that out and we will live a full life together. Eventually, I'll bring her out on my little trips to further cull the sheep.”

Donna ignored Robert's continued rant and even Daniel's final moments on earth. Robert was right, he had ever so slowly but insistently changed her, molded her, and yes, brought out the lurking darkness that she knew always existed inside her. Donna's skin crawled to think not only what she had done to make Robert happy, but what she had come to enjoy. Donna felt more that violated, she felt infected by the monster that had taken the lives of her most precious family.

Donna knew she was ruined, her soul and spirit had long since been corrupted beyond true salvation. More than that, she knew Robert's last words were true, on a few occasions while accompanying him on his artistic tours, Robert had allowed her to taste ever so slightly the pain of others. She knew the cruel flame he kindled was not something that would ever go away. Her last revelation was the knowledge that the dreams that had plagued her for so long were not of her family pleading for her to come and save them. But one of warning, that she was being stalked by the creature that had killed them.

Donna knew her only hope of redemption was a plan that oozed like ice water through her mind, but it was the only way. She slowly left the boathouse, not bothering to either close or lock the doors she had opened. On the walk back to the house, she took time to enjoy the sounds of nature and the slight glow of light beginning to appear over the eastern horizon.

During her time in the studio Robert had left several messages on the cell phone, but she didn't bother to listen to them. Once back inside the kitchen she picked up the receiver on the phone mounted to the wall and dialed three numbers.

“Please come,” she said in an eerily calm voice, “immediately to the Myer's residence on Lake Shore Drive, in the boathouse you'll find evidence to the identity of the serial killer from five years ago. Remember, go to the boathouse, that is where all the answers lie.” The duty officer on the other end began asking question but all Donna did was to lay the receiver on the kitchen counter. Donna then calmly walked back up to the bedroom she shared with Robert and sat in the reading chair next his nightstand.

An eternity later she heard the sirens and the sounds of tires on the gravel roadway coming towards the house. She waited until the cars stopped and them listened to the police moving towards the boathouse. The chair was Robert's favorite place in their bedroom, from there he could look out the bay windows and see his studio. Once Donna saw the police step inside the boathouse she leaned over, opened the top drawer to Robert's nightstand, and pulled out the revolver. As the sounds of the monstrous discoveries inside the boathouse reached up to the bedroom, Donna slipped the barrel inside her mouth and pulled the trigger.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Things that Can't be Unseen or Forgotten

The following event occurred over two years ago and is only now gotten to the point that my personal statue of limitation for uncomfortable and creepy situations has expired.

While I can never be called a prude or a strict goody-goody moralist for the most part I am not overly familiar with most people except close friends and certain family members. The best way I can describe myself is that I am quite formal around most others to the point I can seem standoffish. Over the years there have been numerous instances where my behavior and intentions were grossly misjudged which ultimately caused a considerable amount of hurt feelings.

I actually blame this on my size and appearance. See, I stand over six-feet, five inches with a body type that suggests a different life path could have saw me become an NFL linebacker. Add to that a general facial expression which one army drill instructor told me point blank would easily scary the hell out of an already nervous recruit tends to makes it difficult for some people to judge my true demeanor. In fact, one cold morning at Fort Carson, Colorado a rather meek second lieutenant came around the corner of a building in the motor pool and saw me pulling radio equipment out or a vehicle. Somehow I startled the guy because he immediately snapped to attention and salute me like I was a full bird colonel or something. One word of advice to any young soldier or potential recruit who might read this, if something like this ever happens to you quickly respond back the proper way because the last thing your budding military career needs is a bitchy little officer hounding your ass.

I'll also admit my own sense of humor is almost incomprehensible to many, which by itself throws a huge monkey wrench in how others relate to me. When the main form of humor of those around me involves fart jokes and funny events concerning their redneck adventures while I laugh at Monty Python and Patton Oswalt comedic routines its hard for either to identify with the other. Once again I'll admit that I am a pretentious snob who sees the zany antics of those appearing on such shows as Duck Dynasty frankly beneath me and anything else appealing to the lowest cultural common denominator.

Taking all this into consideration it shouldn't surprise anyone that when my son, Darth Spoilboy, started dating I kept a respectful distance from his various girlfriends. On occasion I've seen how other dads act around their son's girlfriends and while I'm sure it's all innocent and good-natured hospitality, I frankly wouldn't feel comfortable acting in a similar manner. So you might understand how the following incident totally creeped me out.

It started on a Friday with me going to the individual laundry hampers in each room and essentially dumping everything in the floor in front of the washer and beginning the weekly process. Since my workweek begins on a Sunday night Friday mornings are the start of my weekend. Unfortunately, during that time the other members of my family are either at school or work, which leaves me “free” to do the required chores. That always means laundry, and to be honest not only have I become quite good at the job it is not unusual for me to enter a zen-like state when folding the clothes. Believe it or not, I have actually found that the motions of taking a chaotic item out of the dryer and returning it to a state of order quite spiritual. I liken my folding of clothes to videos I've seen where Tibetan monks create beautiful and exceedingly intricate sand art only to destroy once their creation is completed.

During those moments time ceases to have any real meaning with the universe and I becoming one. In fact I often just sit on the floor in front of the dryer and just pull out and fold the clothes there and just use the laundry basket to transport everything back to the rooms they belong.

It was during one of those quiet and spiritual moments that I pulled a rather odd item out of the dryer. It was skimpy, lacy underwear that in all honesty probably came from a place like Victoria's Secret. Yeah, this was one of those times that proved I was never the sharpest knife in the kitchen drawer because I sat on the floor for almost a full minute wondering who that sexy undergarment belonged. Excuse the disclosure of far too much information but lets just say that as the custody of the family laundry I knew neither my wife much less my daughter wore anything like that.

When my poorly wired mind finally came up with a possible owner of such a mature and small undergarment I dropped the item and began crawling away from it as if I had stumbled upon a highly radioactive alien lifeform that wanted to drill a hole in my skull and suck out my brain like watery apple sauce. Okay, please no one write comments or send me emails trying to inform me what it meant that my son's girlfriend had her underwear in his dirty laundry, trust me I'm slow at times but this was a no brainer.

The problem I had was how to dispose of the garment since I sure as hell didn't want either individual to know I knew the damn thing, and possibly others, were in the family laundry system. The creepy part in all this was me sorting through the mound of dirty laundry on the floor in front of the washing machine looking for those particular items or anything else that might belong to my son's girlfriend.

After searching I came up with six items, not all of them undergarments, I couldn't readily identify and I threw them, and all my son's clothes, back into his laundry hamper. If young Darth Spoilboy asked me why I hadn't done his laundry my intentioned was to claim I forgot and tell him it was his chore that particular weekend. The two lovebirds showed up at the house a few hours later and I found that I couldn't look the girl in the face. There are just some things I DO NOT want to know about people and the style of underwear they like is quite high on that list.

Thankfully, the two broke up a month or two later, it was never more than a normal high school relationship with one of them losing interest. Needless to say I was quite happy with that turn of events since after the incident because I always felt I needed to leave the living room when they were at the house watching television.

My son is in his second year of college now and came home yesterday not only with a load of dirty laundry but also his new girlfriend. Old habits die hard and I think Darth Spoilboy believed I was going to include his clothes with the rest of the usual laundry. He was quite puzzled at my strong reaction when I told him I didn't care what possible events he had planned for his weekend back home, he was going to do his own damn laundry.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Hard Transitions: Part Two-Star Trek Fan Fiction

Art by KillaBC
(Author's note: Just for giggles here are the links to my first two Star Trek stories. Out of the Darkness and Hard Transitions: Part One.)

Douglas, Connor Edward: Captain, USS Saratoga NCC-31191-A
Birthplace- New Sucia Island on Izar (Epsilon Bootis 3)
Attended Starfleet Academy from 2360 to 2365

First assigned to the Excelsior-class USS Scott Carpenter, Ensign Douglas was tasked to ferry a Klingon delegate across Federation space in a long range shuttle to their consulate located in Shackleton Station in orbit above the planet Amaknak. While in route, Douglas' shuttle was attacked by Orion pirates and due to battle damage had to crash land on a nearby uninhabited planet. While on the planet's surface, Douglas and the Klingon, Grig of the House of K'pon, were able to at first evade then capture the ten Orion pirates still intent on killing them. After the Orions were taken prisoner, Douglas was able to hack into the communications systems on their ship. Douglas quickly learned that Grig's uncle hired the pirates to assassinate his nephew in an attempt to cover up his own involvement in the smuggling of illegal substances into the Klingon Empire.

Douglas and Grig formulated a plan to expose the conspiracy, but it required them to take the Orion's ship and fly to the Klingon world of Khitomer. After arrival there, the two sneaked onto the estate grounds of Grig's uncle and captured both the records and several personnel involved in the smuggling operation. Once exposed, Grig killed his uncle and turned over the leadership of the House of K'pon to his father.

Grig's father quickly petitioned the Klingon Chancellor to recognized his assumption of leadership of the House of K'pon to prevent any usurpers from coming forward. The Chancellor not only recognized the change in the K'pon hierarchy but had it join his governing coalition. In a show of appreciation not only did Douglas personally receive an award from the Chancellor but Grig's father honorary adopted the human as a second son.

The Federation ambassador to the Klingon Empire, not quite sure what to make of this entire event, pulled some strings and had Ensign Douglas transferred back to his homeworld of Izar where he was assigned to the Saratoga, then being built in orbit around the planet. Further complicating the matter, when the Chancellor learned of Douglas' fate he threw a fit over what he perceived was a dishonor shown to the young human. This caused Admiral Sponer, Third Fleet commander, where the new Saratoga would be assigned, to promote Douglas from ensign to lieutenant jg –far ahead of usual practices-to smooth things over.

Since Douglas' major at the Academy was warp field dynamics he was naturally assigned to Engineering helping to finish construction on the ship. As chance would have it, four of Douglas' friends from his Academy class joined him on the new Saratoga: Ubiad Sallem, Mya Farias, Zhao Shih, and Pujit Kothari.

During the rush to get Saratoga launched, Douglas and Farias developed a relationship and became engaged. The actual marriage had to be postponed when positions of the new Freedom-class starship, USS Justice opened up for Farias and Sallem. Later events during the Dominion War caused Douglas and Farias to end their relationship.

Shih, Zhao: Lieutenant Commander
Chief Engineer and acting first officer of the USS Saratoga
Birthplace- Anhui Province, Federal Republic of China, United Earth
Attended Starfleet Academy from 2360 to 2364

Zhao Shih comes from a family with a long history in space exploration that predates the establishment of Starfleet. One of Zhao's ancestors was the first person from the old nation-state of People's Republic of China to walk on Earth's moon. In fact, one branch of the Shih family was part of the first group of colonists to take up residence on that planet. Later members of the Shih family served with distinction in the Earth/Romulan War and the Four-Years War against the Klingons.

All this history contributed to Zhao at first rejecting any notion of applying to Starfleet Academy. A certified prodigy in multidimensional temporal physics, Zhoa graduated from Beijing University five years early with hopes of securing a slot at the physics research center in orbit around the planet-less star, LP944-020. Zhao's talents alone guaranteed his application to Starfleet Academy was immediately accepted.

As before at Beijing University, Zhao graduated the Academy early and had a short posting on the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), before it was destroyed.

Sallem, Ubiad: Captain, USS Justice NCC-81445
Birthplace- State of Palestine, Greater Levant Confederation, United Earth
Attended Starfleet Academy from 2360 to 2365

Always a bit of a restless spirit, Ubiad applied to Starfleet Academy to escape the boredom some associate with life on Earth in the 24th century. Having majored in studies of exobiology, Ubiad spent his first few years on the USS Charles Darwin surveying prospective colony worlds. The crisis years leading up to the Dominion War forced the Darwin back to Federation space with Ubiad jumping at the chance to serve with his best friend, Connor Douglas on the Saratoga. Ubiad was assigned to security while there but was soon transferred to the USS Justice and became one of that ship's tactical officers.

Like many others, including Douglas, combat losses at the start of the Dominion War turned into quick promotions for those with the luck and skills. Within six months after being transferred, Ubiad became the first officer on the starship Justice and later its captain after Robert Wingo became the commanding officer on the USS Lexington. Mya Farias was also reassigned to the Justice as the same time as Ubiad and the two became involved during the course of the war.

Farias, Mya: Lieutenant Commander,
Second officer and chief ship operations officer on the USS Justice
Birthplace- Rosario, Republic of Argentina, United Earth
Attended Starfleet Academy from 2360 to 2364

While born in the Argentine city of Rosario, her family moved to the asteroid colony of Asteria in orbit beyond Mars when she was six years old. Both of her parents had received their post-graduate degrees in life support systems management and the asteroid colony governments were always eager to recruit residents to replace those leaving the Sol system.

Mya attended the first two years of Starfleet Academy at the satellite campus on Asteria before transferring down to San Francisco. Graduating with a major in linguistics, Mya was initially assigned to Izar to assist the resettlement of Bolian refugees who were forced off their colony world due to massive volcanic eruptions. As the buildup to the Dominion War proceeded, she was transferred to the Saratoga where she became involved with Connor Douglas. The two became engaged a few weeks before positions opened up on the USS Justice with her and Sallem who were strongly urged by Starfleet to transfer over due to personnel shortages.

With the transfer to the starship Justice, Mya became entered a relationship with Ubiad Sallem.


Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Stardate: 53269.6

We are still four hours away from reaching the Mandith system. Renegade Cardassian forces have already arrived and in far greater strength than was reported. The Federation starships stationed in the system have engaged the enemy and as of our last communications are still operational but will not last much longer. They are pursuing a highly modified form of guerrilla warfare of attacking the larger ships then jumping to warp before they can be pinned down. Once clear, they turn around an attack another group before repeating the process yet again.

The static system defenses on both the various civilian habitats and drydocks have so far not allowed any enemy forces to gain a foothold. Klingon warriors and Federation Marines along with Cardassian locals are standing ready to repel borders once they beam over.

“Connor, you still with us?” LCDR Zhao Shih asked softly while looking at his friend and now captain.

“Yes, I'm still here,” Connor said turning himself in the command chair slightly to right to look at his first officer still growing accustom to the idea he was now the captain.

Connor didn't say anything else for a moment choosing to look around at everyone on the bridge performing their duties. The Saratoga's bridge now had more in common with that of its younger Sovereign-class sister ships. The only difference being that all the duty stations were now seated positions that included the automatic safety belts that were tied into the inertial dampers. Connor's thoughts were a jumble of different subjects but he couldn't help but wonder why in the hell it had taken Starfleet so damn long to include those features.

“Zhao,” Connor finally said, “be ready to head down to engineering if Lieutenant Axor needs help once we go into battle. He's a good kid but I'm not sure he is ready to head up your department while we're engaged in combat.”

“Aye sir,” Zhao responded not quite ready to remind Connor that the very same things had been said about each and everyone one of them at some point. Deaths during the Dominion War had caused untold thousands of Starfleet personnel to be promoted far ahead of schedule. Zhao had to admit that while the Bolian, Wren Axor was a genius with the ship's systems he had much to learn about how to handle those under his command.

With the return of combat the bridge fell silent again as all the personnel retreated into their duties. While first officer Connor kept busy making sure everyone stayed alert and ready to respond when the proverbial hammer fell. Now as captain, his private thoughts and memories kept him hostage.

Delta Acuben 4, Starbase 738
Stardate: 51251.2
Earth date-May 10, 2373
Seven months after the start of the Dominion War

The view from the window of the damaged laboratory showed a motley collection of battle damaged Starfleet vessels surrounded by a swarm of manned repair pods that looked like Terran bees. Several of the massive support and maintenance ships hovered nearby all with their various landing bays open allowing what amounted to continuous operations.

Lieutenant Connor Douglas' repair team were under orders to ignore the lab itself and just repair the optical data conduits that ran behind the bulkheads as quickly as possible. The recent engagement against a Dominion cruiser and its escort gunboats and was a success but the ship had still taken some heavy blows. While the Saratoga wouldn't need any outside support for repairs Captain Boone wanted the ship ready to join the task force being assembled to try and take the occupied Kotin system.

It was while his team was replacing one of the six junction assemblies that Connor saw the starship Justice from the window. The immature part of him immediately wanted to run to the nearest communications terminal and try and contact Mya. But he knew his duty would not allow such a distraction given the current situation with the Federation engaged in a battle for its very existence. With any luck, Connor thought to himself, Admiral Carter would call for a captain's conference before the various starships left the system allowing to have a few off duty hours.

Eleven hours later that is just what happened and as luck would have it the starships Saratoga and Justice ended up in nearby parallel orbits that permitted transporter operations. Connor easily got permission from the duty officers from both ships to beam over to the Justice.

The interior of the USS Justice had the same general appearance and layout of the much larger Galaxy-class vessels and he stepped out of that ship's starboard transporter room knowing the location of his fiancee quarters. Part of Connor's mind knew it was probably a bad idea to beam over without talking with Mya directly beforehand but time was critical and the saying, “fortune favors the bold” was running through Starfleet like a bad case of Rigelian flu.

The software that automatically opens the doors on the Justice immediately recognized Connor and allowed him entrance without even announcing his presence to occupants inside the quarters. That was when he saw both Mya and Ubiad on the bed with the sheets chaotically twisted and them caught in the act. For a long second the three friends looked at each other in the same sort shock and disbelief that had heralded the end of uncounted relationships from the beginning of humankind.

Connor just calmly smiled and shook his head before turning around and leaving. Ubiad quickly followed saying something but Connor didn't hear a word of it. When Ubiad came within range though Connor quickly turn and punched his former best friend in the chest just above the heart. The blow was one of those special maneuvers taught at the Academy that gave human a chance against stronger species. Ubiad immediately fell to floor unconscious with Connor only taking enough time to make sure the man wasn't dead. By that time Mya had come out of her quarters with one of the sheets wrapped around her body, the sweat of her and Ubiad's lovemaking still gleaming on her body.

“You could have told me it was over,” was all Connor said before returning to the transporter room and beaming back to his ship.


“All hands,” Connor said returning to the present, “this is the captain, we are fifteen minutes from dropping out of warp. Go to red alert and battle stations, sick bay and damage control teams be ready to respond because this is going to be messy.”

All told Starfleet had dispatched seventeen capital ships to help relieve the defending forces. The Klingons had sent ten as well but Admiral Cartwright's original idea was to hold them in reserve. The fact that the renegades had attacked with over fifteen ships instead of the six that intelligence said would appear throw that plan out. All the allied vessels would be engaged with everyone just hoping the Cardassian IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) systems on the static defenses mounted on the habitats and drydocks had been updated. While it was a certainty that the newly reactivated defense systems were updated for the Starfleet vessels already in the system if the Cardassian computers didn't recognize types of ships entering the area the renegades were going to be happily surprised at their good luck.

As the minutes ticked down with the flagship, USS Destiny, started transmitting real-time tactical updates and assignments for the other ships of the emergency relief force. Saratoga was tasked with repelling two renegade heavy cruisers that were attempting breach the defenses of a cluster of drydocks holding six deactivated Cardassian warships of similar size.

“Here we go people,” Connor called out, “tactical, open up with phaser strikes on the enemy ships but hold the photon torpedoes until we're five-thousand kilometers out. And tactical, set the torpedo pattern for sierra-six, that should confuse them both. Once the photons are fired, swing the ship around and put us on a course of 331 mark 061 at full impulse. Then I want all power to shields and forward phasers.”

The helmsman on duty was the young Ensign Reid who had long frustrated Connor Douglas with his silly but bloody gung-ho attitude. “But Captain Douglas,” Reid said while laying in the maneuver, “that will bring us under the two renegade ships.”

“Exactly Ensign,” Connor said, “you wished for a glorious space battle before the war ended and you're finally getting your wish. They're aren't any civilian habitats nearby and I rather blow those enemy ships away before they have a chance to reposition.”

For the entire voyage to the Mandith system Connor and Zhao had kept the tactical display on the main viewscreen at the front of the bridge. Connor switched it to a live forward view barely five seconds before dropping out of warp. As the warp field evaporated and space returned to normal there were the two renegade ships trading fire with massive drydock facilities. Hampered by the fact that the renegade forced actually wanted to limit the damage to the unmanned ships and other facilities they could only direct their fire to weapons systems and power conduits, both heavily protected by shields.

At precisely the programmed moment the phasers on the Saratoga hit the renegade ships at their weakest points. For one renegade ship that was an already damaged shield generator protecting a power conduit leading to a energy weapons array. The tactical officer, had already instructed the computer to take advantage of any new vulnerabilities and after the first phaser hit the shield generator again concentrated fire on that point. Before the Saratoga passed by that part of the renegade ship's shield collapsed allowing another volley to penetrate the hull. The resulting explosion ruptured containment on one of the secondary fusion reactors killing over a hundred Cardassians on five decks effectively knocking it out of combat.

The second renegade ship fared far better than its partner. Saratoga's phaser strikes didn't affect its shields beyond causing a significant drain of their available power. By that time Saratoga was beyond effective phaser range but hadn't yet reached the point where the photon torpedoes would be launched. The Gul1 of the renegade ship ordered his helmsman to pursue the Saratoga and open fire with all weapons.

“Hits on port nacelle and strut, shields down to 85 percent” tactical officer Lieutenant Kinyor said from her station after the ship shuttered. Just as soon as those words were out her mouth the aft photon launcher spit out six torpedoes set at maximum charge.

The first two torpedoes detonated on the renegade ship's forward shields sending a surge of power back through the emitters the buffers were only barely able to absorb. The third torpedo overloaded the buffers and the forth and fifth exploded on the hull thirty meters from the enemy bridge. The sixth torpedo wasn't targeted for the ship trying to pursue the Saratoga but the one they had already knocked out. That torpedo detonated over the bridge causing another hull rupture and the ship to explode in a fireball that bathed the other ship in hard radiation frying numerous systems including weapons and life support.

The Saratoga was still maneuvering around for its second pass when the first renegade ship exploded. “Massive systems failure on the second renegade, Captain Douglas,” LT. Kinyor said as her hands danced over her console.

“Doesn't matter,” Connor said, “execute the maneuver and lets take it completely out of the equation. But limit the strikes to its power conduits and weapons, I'm done with killing but I want that ship barely holding on with just life support.”

The second pass did the job with Connor having the Saratoga linger in place just long enough to make sure it wouldn't be able to return to battle.

“Captain,” Zhao said looking up from the small terminal attached to his chair, “the USS Gorkon2 is in trouble. She's been jumped by two renegade battleships and all the other ships including the Klingons are engaged.”

“Helm, get us to the Gorkon as quickly as possible,” Connor said.

With the arrival of the relief force in time to prevent the renegades from making off with the deactivated ships the battle was essentially over. The only question remaining to be answered would be how suicidal were the renegades.

The Gorkon had gotten in trouble getting between two battleships and one of the civilian habitats. The shields on the habitat had collapsed and the several hundred renegades had beamed over and were attempting to take control. Tactical communications told the story of Klingon warriors and Federation Marines battling the growing number of renegade troops. The starship Gorkon, one of the more recent Excelsior-class vessels was prevented from bringing it weapons up to full power because any damage to the renegade ships would probably impact the civilian habitat that was housing over fifteen thousand individuals.

“Get the Saratoga between those battleships and the Gorkon,” Connor said to the helmsman. “Tactical, try and target the weapons systems and warp drives on the renegades. Zhao, try and raise the Gorkon, see if they can get any distance, we're all too close for comfort here.” Connor finished hoping it would be enough to save the damaged Starfleet vessel and the civilians.

Squeezing in between the opposing ships worked, but the Saratoga was being rocked by heavy weapons fire from the two renegades with no real way to respond. Things got so tight that the shields from the different ships started flaring from contact with each other. Despite the flaring shields and continued weapons fire the Gorkon was able to limp away from the area, its starboard nacelle growing red from the plasma fires raging in the warp coils but still engaging one of the renegade battleships with phaser fire.

“Captain, receiving a message from the civilian habitat,” Zhao said, “it's the Klingon general, Kartan, he says that the renegades reached the habitat's self destruct system and activated it.”

“Captain Douglas,” the new science officer, Lieutenant Sovan said from his corner of the bridge. “This civilian habitat is powered by four 500 terawatt helium-3 reactors. Given its position, the resulting explosion will not only vaporize it but at least twenty others like it, as well as most of the drydocks and unmanned ships. The renegades knew what they were doing when the assaulted this facility.”

“Alright,” Connor said, “tactical you're going to need to prevent the battleship we're engaged with from moving. Forget the weapons systems and start blasting anything that has to do with its warp drive or sub-light propulsion. This has become nothing but a slugfest.”

“Sovan,” Connor called out, “how long do we have before self-destruct?”

“Ten minutes, thirty-two seconds,” he said.

“Tactical, give me an update,” Connor said as the ship was rocked from the energy volleys being fired at it.

“Shields holding at 45 percent and I've been able to disable its sub-light engines but I'm still working on the warp drive.” Lieutenant Kinyor said from her station.

By this time many of the surviving renegade ships had heard about the impending explosion of the civilian habitat and began trying to escape. Admiral Cartwright sent many of the Starfleet and Klingon ships to hunt them down. Even the renegade battleship still duking it out with the Gorkon decided it was time to leave.

“Captain Douglas,” the ship's intercom blared out, “this is Lieutenant Axor down in engineering. What the fighom3 are you doing to my ship. I'm rerouting systems to keep you people going but even I can't keep this pace up for much longer.” Both Connor and Zhao looked at each other after noticing the arrogance of the Bolian's voice.

“No promises Axor,” Connor said, “if we don't disable the enemy ship we're engaged with in a little over nine minutes the Saratoga and everyone inside her will become super-heated plasma.”

“Captain,” Kinyor called out, “our combatant is trying to engage warp. I think its gul wants to save his or her skin.”

“Put a tractor beam on it and keep firing on its warp engines,” Connor said.

“Eight minutes, ten second before the habitat detonates,” Sovan said to everyone.

“Sovan,” Connor said, “look up the name and commanding officer of that ship. Connor said with an idea struggling to take shape in his head.

“Captain, that ship is named the Enduring Revenge and before the end of the war it was commanded by Gul Toohas.”

“Zhao, hail our friend, Toohas.” Connor said to his first officer.

“Channel open,” Zhao said.

“Gul Toohas, this Captain Connor Douglas of the Federation starship Saratoga, please be advised that you and I are going nowhere. I am the adopted son of the Klingon House of K'pon and today is a good day to die. I'm willing to hold your sorry ass right next the civilian habitat your soldiers have set to detonate. Somehow I don't think you want to die today, Toohas. Call your people and have them stop the countdown.”

There was no response from the Enduring Revenge, but two minutes later a call came out from General Kartan saying the Cardassian troopers had surrendered after deactivating the self-destruct.

“Now Toohas,” Connor said over the still open communications link, “power your ship down completely and prepare to be boarded.”

Captain's Log, USS Saratoga
Connor Douglas in command
Stardate: 53292.8

(Two weeks after the Battle of the Mandith System)

The aftermath of the battle had the ships of the task force either securing renegade ships or rescuing the crews of the three original ships assigned occupation duty in the Mandith system. Personally lucky for me the crew of the Enduring Revenge killed Gul Toohas after realizing what he had ordered the soldiers to set the civilian habitat to self-destruct.

Once the members of the Cardassian provisional government in the Mandith system took control of the Enduring Revenge I was able to move the Saratoga over to the location of the starship Justice. While Sallem and his crew totally exceeded expectations on keeping the renegades at bay until the relief force arrived, by the time I laid eyes on the ship it was pretty much a dead hulk with rescue personnel looking for survivors. Happily to my surprise, many of the crew had survive in harden section of the ship. This situation now forces me to do something I should have done a long time ago.

The deck-five, section green treatment bay of the hospital ship USS Anna Comnena4 held twenty patients all about to be released. The bio-bed display screens above the patient's head only gave the most basic of information to the various nurses and technicians on duty. Connor Douglas walked in looking for one person in particular and found her on the far end next the bulkhead. After seeing that the patient in the bed was still asleep he engaged the privacy screen and pulled out the small chair placed next the bed and began his wait. Two hours later she woke up quite surprised.

“Oh my god, Connor I can't believe it you.” Mya Farias said not quite sure what to make of her ex-fiance sitting next her bed.

“When I found out you had survived I knew I had to see last time.” Connor said looking at the woman he once thought he would spend the rest of his life with.

Mya was puzzled about what he meant, until she had a terrible thought. “It's Ubiad isn't it, he died.” Mya said with tears beginning to form on her face.

“No,” Connor said, “Ubiad survived as well but in far worse condition. He's still in the bio-tank and before he gets out will have a two new arms and a new leg. He was badly burned but his brain was intact and the doctors say with a couple of years of rehab he will at least be physically good as new.”

“Connor, I am so sorry Ubiad and I didn't contact you when our relationship turned into something more than friendship. I know we hurt you and that there is nothing I can do to make it better.” Mya said with the tears now flowing for a different reason.

“That's why I'm here Mya,” Connor said after gently grabbing her hand. “I was the one who was wrong, I never should have shown up like that. You're going to have to tell Ubiad when he gets out of the tank I'm sorry for sucker punching him in the corridor. For a second or two, I actually wanted Ubiad dead but when I saw him on the floor, I was terrified I killed my best friend.”

“Why can't you tell him? I'm sure he would love to see you again.” Mya asked wiping her face with a cloth Connor handed her.

“Mya, I'm the captain of the Saratoga now and I've requested a deep space mission. Given how my crew and I stopped the Enduring Revenge and essentially saved the civilian population of the Mandith system my reward is a seven year exploration mission into the uncharted regions of the Beta Quadrant. Making matters more interesting it will take the Saratoga a year to reach the red line marking the end of charted space. And I'm not including the time my ship will be in orbit around Mars in drydock getting refitted for the mission. I'm looking at ten to eleven years before I'll see any of the stars of home again.”

With nothing left to say two old friends whispered their goodbyes to each other and parted ways.

1Gul: Military rank equivalent to Starfleet captain or Marine colonel.
2USS Gorkon, NCC-40512 Named in honor of the Klingon chancellor who died in an effort to establish peace with the Federation. See Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country
3Fighom- Bolian version of hell or hades
4Anna Comnena: Eleventh century doctor who ran a hospital and orphanage in ancient Constantinople.