Title: Pieces

IDP 2009

Something terrible can haunt a person even when they are not aware of it.

Fara Phoenix was haunted.

She still remembered that day a few weeks ago, the deafening noise, the slight drop of atmospheric pressure. She dug her claws into the bench and held on as tight as she could, until the atmospheric pressure was restored by an emergency force field. Air returned and everything was hot as if the deck had conducted a tremendous amount of heat from wherever the explosion had occurred. She stepped out into the core room of main engineering and her heart sank when she saw two people who were stationed on the upper deck were now gone. In the upper starboard part of the engineering compartment she could see stars through a rent in the hull.

In a daze she went to check on the three people who she'd just sent out through the starboard door to engineering, but as she touched the door it was ice cold and a thin layer of ice was forming on it. The computer warned her to step back because there was a hull breach.

Her ears were still ringing from the sound of the explosion and Jenna Rydel came up to her and said something but Fara just nodded still in a daze. She's just sent three people to their death.

There was something that had to be done…

The ship was still under attack..

An engine was gone, possibly both. She had to see. She walked over to a monitor by the core. There was a massive breech in the Raptor's hide from what she could tell.

That damn primary conduit, the weakness they couldn't find.

She quickly started the core back up trying to ignore anything else but that, she had to get the ship mobile again.

There had to be at least eight people on duty in that section.

The computer was not being responsive but eventually she got the core restarted. Everything up to that point was a haze.

Afterwards….

She was numb, she couldn't feel anything but anger and she did her best to repress it.

Bury it in work. She thought. Bury it and leave it that way.

And then the nightmares started.

The damage done to the Raptor by a fracture in one of its main plasma conduits had been worse then she had thought. As she and her crews assessed the damage they were all counting their blessings that the ship had even made it home at warp speed. The space dock was practically crawling with repair vehicles and crews as they tended to the damaged vessel. Panning down towards it we see Fara Phoenix and her assistant Knackt in vac suits standing on the edge of the gaping hole in the Raptor's hull.

The explosion had tore the ship asunder from the top deck clear down into deck four. If it wasn't for the heavily shielding around the antimatter pods, the whole ship would have gone up in one bright flash and no one would have survived.

"Sheeze loueese." Knackt said looking down into the hole. "We would'a been goners."

Fara nodded in quiet reserve as they watched the others down inside the hole scanning the structural damage to the ship.

"Man o Man this is going to be as big of a project as putting together the first time isn't it?" Knackt said looking at Fara who still didn't respond. Not getting an answer out of her he popped her environmental suits arm with his fist.

"What?" Fara said quietly.

"Wow toots your about as fun as talking to a bulkhead dis morning, sumptin wrong?" the rat asked.

"I'm really busy and you are interrupting me." Fara said glaring at him. "Don't you have an analysis to do?"

"You kiddin me?" Knackt said. "I already got that done, we're going to have to rebuild the entire plasma conduit end to end, no point trying to graft onto what's, well what's left."

"So instead of fixing it why are you bothering me.." Fara said going back to her work.

"Already on it toots." Knackt said.

"Stop calling me that." Fara growled. Usually Knackt's colloquialisms didn't bother her but today he was really, really getting on her nerves. "JUST GO BOTHER SOMEONE ELSE!" She shouted loud enough it made the mask on her suits helmet vibrate.

"Ok ok." Knackt said. "Sheesh don't be blowin' a gasket, I'm gone." Knackt said kicking off the deck and floating down the hole.

Fara watched him go and muttered to herself as she paged one of the repair crews. "Korin does that antimatter containment center need to be replaced?"
"Negative Chief." A voice said over the speaker in her ear. "It looks like the shielding stood up to the blast, we've been over it about three times and it seems ok."

"Good." Fara sighed at least that was one less thing to replace. This was going to be one hell of a project to just get the ship back in working order. The Starboard Nacelle was going to have to be completely rebuilt. and at this rate and she was really hoping that the heat from the blast hadn't warped the space frame. If it had the Raptor was going to be out of commission for awhile longer than she thought. After the repairs, it was going to still need a thorough servicing. There was going to be a lot of work ahead for her, she was hoping Starfleet would send adequate reinforcements so she could have time to get the ship properly mended.

She noticed something out of the corner if her eye and looked to see the stations bay doors slowly parting and spotted a Tri-Nacelle starship slowly gliding into the bay to dock beside the Raptor. She recognized it as an Akira class and she could barely make out the name "Aether" on it. The ship was a little large for the station but it could fit inside adequately enough albeit a little tightly. Akira class ships were pretty stout and she figured that it must have been the Raptor's current replacement for the moment.

She brought her attention back to the task at hand and sighed.

Midday.

"Fara you are just the perfect picture of quiet despair." Terri Lu said quietly across from her.

"I'm fine." Fara grunted wolfing down her food.

"Sure.." Terri said her voice still scratchy from the wound from nearly a week ago. "You haven't spoke to me since I called and asked if you wanted to go to the replimat?"

"Sorry." Fara said taking a drink. "I've got a lot of work ahead of me. How's your singing voice?"

Terri smiled finally getting Fara to focus on something other then the padd she had brought with her and the food she was inhaling. "It's doing fine, Dr. Okan did a good job, he said the scratchiness will go away in another few days if I'm careful."

"At least you get a break.." Fara sighed. "I really need to piss Harry off again or just take some damn leave."

"You know Fara you only run yourself down like this, you have a good group of people working under you don't have to constantly be there."

"It's my ship Terri, I built it, I don't trust anyone with it." Fara scowled.

"That may be so but you didn't build it all piece by piece you had your people do it." Terri said gesturing with her fork. "Everyone on your team works just as hard as you do and even they don't spend every waking moment on that damn ship. You need to live a little Fara."

"I don't have a life outside of that ship." Fara said.

"Well maybe you should try to get one." Terri said patiently.

"Speaking of life outside the ship, how did your date with stupid go?" Fara asked.

"That was a little uncalled for." Terri glared. "But it went fine, Jack is very sweet, we had a lot of fun."

"The guy is an airhead; I don't know why you'd waste your time with him?" Fara asked sincerely.

"Well maybe if you'd talk to him more besides berating him all the time maybe you'd learn differently, that's all I'm saying." Terri said curtly taking a bite of her food. "Look I know a new ship just came in which means there'll probably be some cute guys on board…" she said twirling her fork into her food.

"Terri….." Fara sighed. "I don't need to…"

"I just think you need to do SOMETHING other then spend time on that damn ship for once Fara." Terri said cutting her off. "Michelle and I are going out later tonight and I want you to come along."

"Going where…." Fara said warily.

"Anywhere that looks fun what does it matter?"

"Terri I really don't…"

"God Fara you are such a wet blanket sometimes. Just take the night off, put on something other then that damn lab coat and go out with us it will be fun." Terri pleaded with her.

Fara thought about it, it was better than going to sleep which would be the first thing she did if she went home.

"Fine…" Fara scowled.

"You won't regret it."

"We'll see.." Fara sighed.

"Good we'll swing by to pick you up around 1800."

"Ah Commander, thank you being so punctual." Captain Stiles said as Harry arrived in his office in the stations operations center.

Harry nodded and noticed there was a dark brown female echidna sitting at Stiles' desk with captain's pips on her collar. She looked to be maybe ten years older then him and her dark fur was like his meaning they probably came from the same part of Termia. "Sir." He said appropriately acknowledging her.

The other Captain stood up and said. "Lt. Commander I've heard a lot about you from captain Stiles here. You seem to have gathered yourself quite the reputation so far."

She offered him her paw.

He shook it. "It's never been my intention to gather a reputation sir." Harry said levelly.

"Well I want you two to spend a lot of time comparing notes. Captain De'sol is going to be doing your job for the next few weeks until the Raptor is up and operational again."

"I've read about as much as I can from your reports about Commandant Xox, however I would prefer working with your first hand experience in dealing with him." She said smiling.

"You want me to accompany you on the convoy's sir?" Harry asked.

"Not exactly her or me for that matter." Stiles said. "Starfleet HQ wants you to do it. Since your arrival you've been about as much of a pain to him as he's been to us the last several months so they want you to keep doing it. Since his behavior seems to show that he's more interested in you then harassing our convoys they think it would be best if you accompany Captain De'Sol on the Aether for awhile and provide your experience."

Harry raised his eyebrow. "There's something else isn't there?"

"I'll let her tell you son." Stiles said with an amused smirk.

"I currently need a first officer." Jenna said. "Due to circumstances I want you to fill that position. It'll include a promotion and the paperwork has already been filed. And…" She trailed off then smiled. "Possibly a new posting on board the Aether."

Harry nearly fell over.

A chance to get out of this mess just presented itself.

"Really?" he said flabbergasted.

"I'd hate to loose you." Stiles said. "But yes the paperwork has already been done."

"I don't know what to say…" Harry said.

"Well a thank you would be nice for starters." Captain De'sol smiled.

"Thank you Sir, I'll think about it." Harry stammered. "This is just so sudden I need to think about it."

"Take all the time you need, you have until the Raptor is back up and running again." Stiles said. "But until then you and Captain De'Sol should get acquainted."

"Well I'm not doing anything at the moment how about I give you a tour of the ship? You are going to be on board for a few weeks, so you may as well get to know her."

"Yes Sir, I'd be delighted." Harry said suppressing his excitement.

"Come on people; let's get that damn coil remounted quickly!" Fara said over her com-link to her crews. "I don't want to be here all damn night."

She watched the observation from her perch on top of deck one as they lowered the replacement warp coils were lowered and inserted into the Raptor's starboard nacelle.

"Knackt are you and your team ready to mount that thing?"

"Don't worry about us.' The rat replied. "We'll get it taken care of."

Fara looked down into the hull and saw that the framework repair process was coming along well. The main bulkheads were being welded back into place, it was a slow arduous process. She glanced at the time on her padd. The end of her shift was approaching.

"What's the deal Chief?" Knackt said on a private com. "You've been in a hurry ever since you got back from lunch."

"I had something else come up and I need to take off as soon as I can after quitting time." Fara said.

"What are you taking a break or something?"

"Something." Fara replied. "I've already arranged for the station crew to take over tonight."

"So you are taking some time off?!" Knackt said. "Well about time!"

"Knackt just let it go, shut your trap and do your job." Fara sighed.

"Yeah yeah yeah."

Fara switched her channels to her computer techs. "Jenna how are the systems looking, I want the second shift to be able to start doing simulations on this coil asap."

"Remick and I have already got the main ODN trunk re wired so all they have to do is shunt the connections over to the main connections and there shouldn't be any more problems."

"Great." Fara said. "I'm going to knock off for the night, it seems like the whole engineering crew has everything under control."

"Ok, chief I'll see you later when I get off duty." Jenna replied.

A bit later.

It was later in the day when Fara finally got home. She still had plenty of time before Terri was going to meet her. She showered, and grabbed a nice little cat nap before she got up and stumbled over to her closet.

It was unusually barren for a woman's closet. It was mostly stuffed with tools then apparel. She glanced around her quarters and noticed they were pretty damn spartan and every table had some sort of component that she had taken home and worked on over the last few years on the Starbase.

Perhaps Terri was right, that damn ship was her life.

She couldn't remember the last time she spent the night with something that didn't have a capacitor or a resistor.

She sighed heavily; she literally didn't have anything to wear.

She walked over to the com panel and called Terri's room

"Yes? What is it?" Terri finally answered.

"Terri, I don't have anything to wear other then uniforms and stuff I'd rather not be seen outside of my quarters with."

"You're kidding me…" Terri said. "Sounds like you are trying to get out of this."

"I'm not trying anything I'm stating a damn fact." Fara growled mildly annoyed. "When I told you I didn't have a life outside that ship I wasn't joking."

"Oh dear." Terri said. "Ok we still got an hour or so I'll head down there."

"Ok, whatever." Fara said signing off.

She went to picking up her quarters it was bad enough Terri thought she was slightly strange then to see the piles of parts scattered throughout it. The soiled and dirty uniforms were tossed into the laundry receptacle quickly.

Terri soon arrived.

"Ok this isn't a problem." Terri said stepping into the quarters a small data chip in her hand. "I'd loan you something to wear but you are a bit taller then me however, I've got some outfits here we can replicate."

"I don't know." Fara sighed. "If this is going to be a pain in the ass I'd rather just…"

"You're going out with us and you are going to have some fun if it kills you." Terri said wagging the chip in her face before sticking it in the receptacle spot. "Now flip through this and pick out something we can make in your size."

Fara reluctantly did so. As Terri searched the quarters for anything to help the situation she finally gave up. "Fara you are utterly hopeless."

"I'm well aware of that." Fara grunted flipping through he outfits on the screen. "Here, what about this one?" She said.

Terri was busy replicating a few things and looked at the selection. "Looks good those slacks will look good with those legs of yours."

"Ok." Fara said replicating the outfit. "Now what do you got going on over there?" She asked looking at the little cases Terri had replicated.

"It's called makeup and no offence Fara, we got to do something about those rings under your eyes." Terri said.

"No way, I am not wearing that stuff." Fara growled. "It's a pain in the ass to get off."

"Fara have I ever lead you wrong yet?" Terri said feigning hurt.

"No." Fara growled. "I guess the more of a fight a put up with the more you're going to fight back."

"Exactly now grab a seat." Terri smirked evilly.

Harry was quite impressed; he forgot how much more spacious larger ships were. His quarters he was going to be assigned were nicer then the ones he had on the station. The ship even smelled nice and new and didn't have the occasional bizarre odor wafting through the corridors like the Raptor was occasionally prone to have. Also the faint acrid smell of burnt electronics was thankfully missing as well. The Aether was designed primarily for exploratory missions into deep space with the ability to provide military support if needed. Although he'd be assisting Captain De'sol, it should be a fairly quiet trip, Xox wasn't even aware of this going on as far as he knew, although he was certain he was lurking somewhere just outside of sensor range.

The tour had been interesting, he had yet to be on one of the newer classes of ship yet and he had to say he was definitely impressed. The bridge was fairly larger, he felt like you could probably hold a track meet in that thing. It was a nice change from his own fairly tight and claustrophobic bridge. The corridors were spacious and always seemed to be alive with people, Harry had to catch himself not doing the little step to the side maneuver as people walked past, as he had to do on his own ship. To him this assignment was almost like waking up from a bad dream, they had told him he may stay aboard if he wished. He would have to admit so far he was fairly tempted. A chance to go out exploring the stars again instead of having to deal with alien madmen and constantly diving into harms way. Captain De'Sol was very friendly, intelligent and he did admit so far he liked working with her, she was about 10 years older then him and probably more experienced as well. Her crew respected her greatly and also admired her greatly from the few he had talked too. It was very, very tempting.

When he arrived in his quarters on the Aether, he noticed on the table were his new pips with the three solid gold bars.

That part still had his head spinning. It wasn't that he felt he didn't deserve it but the suddenness was a bit overwhelming. Someone in the admiralty was looking out for him or he was just having a lucky couple of months.

The com chime sounded and Harry answered it. "Yes?"

"Ah Commander I hope you found your lodgings." Captain De'Sol's voice said over the com.

"Yes I did." Harry replied.

"Good. We're going to have a staff meeting about our Urthean problem at about 19:00 hours. I was wondering if you would care to join me for dinner so we could go over a few things first."

"It'd be my pleasure." Harry replied.

"I'll expect you by 18:00 sharp Commander, don't be late."

"Aye, sir." Harry replied.

It was definitely going to be a very different couple of weeks. He walked over to the couch and plopped down in it with a contented sigh.

Michelle O'mara and Jenna Rydel had arrived at Fara's quarters and were sitting on her couch as Fara got ready.

"Ok come on out." Terri said.

"No god damn, I look ridiculous." Fara growled from behind the wall.

"You don't look ridiculous you look great." Terri prodded her. "Besides we're running late quit dragging it out."

"Terri just wants to get her drink on before someone else can hit the bar first." Jenna said jokingly.

Terri stuck her tongue out her and made a gesture. "I'm on leave I can do whatever I want." She reached in and grabbed a hold of Fara's arm.

"Let go!" Fara shouted.

"Come on quit being a pain." Terri said dragging her out into the open. "You look nice."

"Well…" Fara finally fumed.

She was dressed in a nice red blouse with a ruffled collar and a pair of black slacks and heels Terri had even conned her into putting some clip on earrings in her ears. As Fara stepped out Terri slipped into change real fast.

"Wow, my god she can look normal!" Jenna laughed which she then had to dodge out of the way of a quickly launched hairbrush.

"You look very nice Fara." Michelle said. "I'd try to not scowl the drooping ears make you look mean."

"I'll try." Fara sighed. "Can we just get this over with, please? Why are you coming along I thought you had a boyfriend?" She said to Jenna.

"I'm going to meet him later tonight but when Terri called and said you were coming along I didn't want to miss it for anything." Jenna giggled.

"Ready." Terri said stepping out in a small form fitting little black dress which she was still adjusting herself into. She'd even done something to her head fur to shine it up a little bit.

"Good god." Fara gasped. "You're going out like that?"

"Of course." Terri said applying some lipstick. "You girls ready?"

Michelle and Jenna both nodded and got up. "Then lets go." She said motioning to the door.

The four made their way through the promenade towards Hanger 97 one of the more well known social spots on the lower part of the cargo bay.

"We're going in there?" Fara whined really regretting going on along with this.

"Do I have to sedate you?" Terri said hooking her arm through Fara's. "Lighten up a bit Fara, yes we are going in there and if we have to haul you in there we're do it."

"Yeah between me and Terri I think we could muscle you in there." Jenna snickered doing the same.

"You really want to test that theory?" Fara growled.

"Um they can be very persuasive chief." Michelle snickered. "They are way stronger then they look."

"Come on its go." Terri said winking to Jenna and the easily managed to drag Fara forward even with her trying to drag her heals.

"This isn't fair!" Fara whined and then realizing the ridiculousness of her own actions she then started to laugh.

"That's better." Terri said. "Now stop fighting us."

"Ok, ok." Fara laughed trying to catch her breath. "I give I give."

They both let her go. "You damn echidnas and your stubborn persuasiveness." She grumbled.

"Girl you have no idea." Terri said with a wink as they arrived at the entrance.

Fara gulped at the sight of the two large Chyrosparsian's guarding the door. There was a line outside yet they seemed to be mostly a various mix of the local male populace who were paying them to get in. Since the place was a private business it was expected that some credits were to be spent to get in. Terri led her and the others right by.

"What, they aren't charging tonight?"

"Ladies night." Michelle added.

"Ah. Ok." Fara said still not too sure, this wasn't her usual forte anyhow she was being drug along with the flow of things regardless if she wanted to or not.

"You know I can make you pay for this." She said nudging Jenna Rydel.

Jenna giggled. "Yeah but it'll be worth it."

The club was a strange mix of organic and the modern with lots of actual living trees and plants adorning the place making it look like that someone had set a club up in the middle of a jungle. There was even a faux waterfall running down one of the wall splashing down some fake rocks sticking out among the cascading for water, Fara had to admit it was a nice effect. It seemed like the place was slowly filling up with people and they grabbed a table and Terri went to go get some drinks.

"Don't you dare get me some sort of concoction that's going to knock me out of my wits." Fara hissed.

"Ah ok one mind eraser coming for the new gal and the rest of us will have our usual."

"TERRI…." Fara groaned.

"Just relax Fara." Jenna giggled.

Fara again contemplated running for it but she was blocked in by O'mara and Jenna. "So what's the plan?"

Michelle laughed. "We've never really had a plan. Usually we sit here and have some drinks and a nice little visit and then eventually Terri drags me out there and tries to get me to talk to guys."

"Hey don't knock it." Jenna said. "Kai and I have worked out ok."

"Oh shit." Fara muttered putting her head in her hand. "the last thing I need is a guy in my life."

"No one's saying you need to have a boyfriend." Jenna said dismissively.

"Just maybe if you well… you know… let loose for once…" Michelle added smoothing her plumage. "Maybe you won't be so angry and grumpy all the time."

"I am not grumpy." Fara said now rubbing her temples. "You know I really need to be writing the next day's work schedule not killing time here."

"Fara you go home every day covered in starship lube and grease and everything else and all you do is work on that ship." Jenna said empathetically. "Then you go home and eat something and go to sleep. That's all you've done every day since I've known you. Believe me you are the only one out of all of use that has like no life outside that damn ship."

At that time Terri arrived with the drinks and from the look of the big one Fara was pretty sure the alcohol content was fairly high due to it's fine transparency even with it's red coloring.

Terri gave the others their glass and then set the other one in front of Fara.

"What is this?"

"Altairian Starburst." Terri said taking her seat. "You'll like it."

Fara sniffed it then pinched up her face. "It smells like parts cleaner."

"It won't taste like it." Terri said holding up her glass. "A toast, and Fara you have to take a drink."

"A big one." Jenna teased.

"To friends and to the hunt." Terri giggled

"The Hunt?" Fara said with her glass in the air.

"Just shut up and have a drink." Terri said. "Cheers."

"Ah Commander." A young ensign said answered. "Right on time if you'll follow me into the Captain's dining room."

"She has a dining room?" Harry said to the steward raising a brow.

"Of course." The steward said. "She is very busy and I take care of a lot of things she rarely has time for and preparing a meal is one of them."

"I'll be damned." Harry shrugged as he followed him into the small little dining room.

"Commander." Captain De'Sol greeted him sat at one side of it. "Do have a seat. I see you already have your material prepared."

"Yes, It took a little effort but I have been preparing something like this for months now." Harry said proudly.

"I'll have to come clean with you Harry." Captain De'sol. "There is no meeting until tomorrow. We're doing a brief rotation for shore leave and I'm giving a few of my best people some time off to fully enjoy it. I just wanted to see if you were as punctual and prepared as Captain Stiles said you were. You didn't disappoint Commander, now at ease and sit. Call me Jayna for pete's sake." She said smiling. "Have a seat and relax."

Harry sat his padd down and grabbed seat, somewhat thankfully to not have a staff meeting to look forward to for once.

"We'll be leaving for Starbase 200 tomorrow to escort a shipment of colony supplies to Renna 5. We'll have plenty of tie to cover our bases on the way over there."

"Ah so right into enemy territory then." Harry said.

"Yes that is the idea to draw Xox out." Jayna said. "but that is tomorrow like I said now is now." The steward came out and poured him a glass of wine and then went about bringing out their food.

"Thank you." Harry said as Jayna nodded.

"Well now that we're on more informal terms." Jayna said taking the barrettes out of her hair and letting her black as night hair cascade around her shoulders. "Tell me a little about yourself Harry."

"To be honest. As sudden as this is my head is still spinning, the Raptor hasn't exactly been my most glorious assignment and it's been the complete opposite of what I signed on for."

"The fleet was indeed established primarily for exploration indeed." Jayna said sipping her wine before cutting into her food. "But the part you play is equally as important." She took a bit and chewed.

"I understand that." Harry said as he began eating too, a small bite at first.

"It's not everyday a young Lt. Commander gets his first command so early in his career. The Raptor is a giant responsibility as well as a burden. Do you know that Starfleet is constantly keeping an eye on that little ship of yours to make improvements to the rest of the fleet."

"I'm aware that we're supposed to be test bed for new technologies in the next few months but I didn't think it was anything that well known." Harry shrugged.

"There are many eyes watching what goes on out here Commander." Jayna said quietly. "Probably more then you are aware of."

Harry stopped about mid swallow and had to get a drink of wine real quick.

"I'm not going to lie to you your assignment was a pick out of you and two others. They picked you because you showed you could be cool under pressure and had demonstrated that even with your lack of experience, you have done quite remarkably well."

"Thanks." Harry said and Jayna nodded. They ate in silence for a few moments. Jayna then caught her steward by the arm thanked him and asked him to leave. The ensign nodded and then excused himself.

"So your beads and your fur color, I take it your from old Ketha province?" Jayna asked.

"Actually yes." Harry replied.

"What part?"

"Western part, yourself?" Harry asked.

"I was born and raised down by the shore." Jayna replied. "I'd go surfing or swimming everyday. It was nice."

"I didn't get to go to the shore that often." Harry said. "Mom didn't like going near the water but my aunt used to take me once in awhile when I was real little. Do you ever go back?"

"When we go to Termia once in while I try to get down there and see the old place if I can." She said. "It's still as beautiful as I remember it."

"Can't say the same for my home, lots of hills and fields, but it never changes." Harry shrugged.

"Have you been back lately, to see the kin?"

"No, not for awhile, I keep in touch with my aunt. My Brother and His wife are there but we don't get along to well."

"At least you have family.." Jayna said helpfully. "It's just me anymore."

"Why?" Harry asked. "If you don't mind.."

"Victims of Reechi's Syndrome." Jenna replied. "I was the only one out my family who was able to get treatment."

Harry stopped eating and set his fork down. "My mother had that, it took her from me when I was ten. The next year my brother and I were able to get treatment when the cure became available."

"I am sorry to hear about your mother."

"It's ok… I'm over it now." Harry replied. "It was a long time ago."

"That stupid plague killed a lot of our people, all because of some stupid accident over a century ago." Jayna said thoughtfully then taking a drink.

They were quiet for a moment and they both resumed eating.

"It is said every piece has its place Harry." Jayna said carefully gauging his reaction. "All of them shaped to form a purpose…"

Harry stopped eating for a second and put his silverware down. "and each never aware of the greater picture." He dabbed his muzzle with a napkin. "It's been a long time since I've heard those words."

"Prove you've heard them by letting me see your tattoo." Jayna said.

Harry rolled up his sleeve on his left arm and on it was a puzzle piece with two gaps and one peg cut out of it. Jayna did the same and they compared them. "Interesting, your piece mates with mine. What class were you?"

"Class of 37." Harry said.

"31. Myself." Jayna said rolling her sleeve back up. "They call us legends you know that?"

"The Fab Fifty five." Harry said. "Yeah I've heard." He sighed. "Admiral Kramer is one tough calculating son of a bitch in Candidate school."

"That he was, so few pass, his tests tend to be hard on students." Jayna said. "Eccentric but a genius in his own way."

"I won't argue that." Harry said feeling a lot of tension seep away for the evening. Kramer had been one of the harder teachers at the academy to take your final courses under, and it wasn't by your choice either. He selected you weather you knew it or not. He was a much older echidna well into his later life but as sharp and guileful as any cadet under his teaching. It was an advanced 2 year class at the academy, those who didn't pass under him would usually end up having to take the instruction over again under another teacher. However up until the end his term at the Academy only 55 cadets ever successfully passed his class out of several hundred.

The pieces represented passing their final test of command which was usually a rather surreal experience to say the least. Most broke because they couldn't make the tough necessary decisions to overcome the test. It wasn't that it was un beatable it was just when it happened you were never really aware it was happening. Admiral Kramer believed in using holographic technology to its fullest so he could observe his students reactions under real stress and situations.

He tended to construct the test around overcoming the one thing that would be a liability to the student in an actual situation. If they passed it they received their small little marking as a reward as well as their papers to graduate the academy with the highest honors. If not, it was a repeat course under another instructor for another 4 years. It wasn't easy; you had to work your butt off to even maintain a passing grade.

The pieces however, represented something other then overcoming their weaknesses, it also represented a bond they all had in common. It also meant that regardless of ranks they were equals. Also how they fit together depending on the people caused Harry to raise a brow at the interesting possibilities that presented.

Apparently to Jayna who was acting less formal by the minute she was mulling them over as well

"I was one of his earliest students." Jayna said taking a sip of wine. "One of the first to pass his tests, actually. It was an experience that too this date I have none to compare too yet."

Harry nodded in agreement.

Jenna suddenly got up and walked over to a cabinet in the wall and opened it and pulled out a ancient record player.

"What's that?" Harry asked.

"This is an authentic antique turntable its several hundreds of years old." She flipped through some sleeved objects sitting beside the player. She pulled out what looked like was record and set it on the player and started it. "How about some music, I never did like the digital sound of this stuff it's too clean." . Soon the sounds of string and wind instruments filled the little cabin.

"That'd be wonderful." Harry said.

Jayna smiled and sat back down across from him. "It's been awhile since I've had anyone over, it's nice." She said quietly. "Usually I eat here alone and Boward fusses over me."

"I've had many a meal like this myself." Harry said. "But not as nice though."

Jayna smiled. "It comes with being a Captain."

"Ah." He said. "About this promotion…"

"Harry don't worry about it." Jayna said dismissively. "You have earned it I know it seems sudden but the closer you get to the top the faster things happen. Your life will become more focused around what you're doing and not what you might do. Like I said someone up in the admiralty is watching you and thinks you can handle it."

Harry nodded, even with her reassurance he still felt like it was a bit rushed. "I'll take your word for it."

"Good, I don't need my potential first officer sitting around second guessing himself. You should know better like any of us."

"I'm not perfect." Harry said in his defense finishing off his wine.

"Few are." Jayna said reaching for the wine pitcher after finishing off her own. "More?"

"Yes. Please." Harry replied.

After about half a glass of Altairian sunset, Fara was feeling pretty good.

The club had managed to get pretty packed full of people within the next hour or two. The music was playing and Fara seemed happily dazed by all of it.

"Oh I totally would…." She slurred. "He's cute even with those weird eyebrows."

This got a laugh out of the other girls.

"If I'd known the chief would be like this we shoulda drug her out here a long time ago." Jenna giggled.

"Wheresh, Terri at?" Fara asked. "She'll be back around in a moment." Michelle said. "She's looking for someone."

"Good evening Ladies… whoa." Kai Remick said seeing Fara as he came up. "Is that…"

"Yes."

"HI KAI." Fara said a bit wobbly.

The Catarian tried to smile but it looked like he was terrified. He wasn't expecting to run into his boss in this of all places. But soon it turned into a mischievous smirk. "Wow how much as she had?"

"Enough." Jenna said scooting out of the booth. "Thanks for being on time." She said kissing Kai on the cheek. "Tell Terri I had to go will you."

"Don't worry about it I'll keep an eye on Fara." O'mara smiled. "You two have fun. See you later."

"They are a cute couple." Fara said as they walked off.

O'mara sighed and ran her hands over her head feathers.

"Ah C'mon what's up with that, I thought this was my party." Fara said hiccupping.

"It is, I just get a little lonely sometimes." O'mara said. "I'm fine."

"Pssh, believe me it's better then having the baggage that comes with that crap." Fara said.

"What haven't you ever had anyone once?"

"Once.." Fara said stretching. "But that was a long time ago when I was in school."

"What happened?"

Fara shrugged. "Don't know, a war broke out, you loose track of people."

"Oh." O'mara said. "That's kind of sad."

"Meh, it's in the past it doesn't matter, or at lest." She slurred. "It shouldn't, where is Terri I want another one of them damn drinks."

"I don't think so." Terri said tapping her on the shoulder. "Come on I got something for you."

"Ok ok don't get pushy." Fara said getting up as Terri led her away into the crowd. They wandered through the crowd to one of the little sidebars where Terri sat her down.

"What the hell did you drag me over here for?"

Terri ordered two drinks and paid for them. "You'll see, look over there in the corner."

Fara took a sip of her drink as the bartender handed it to her and looked where Terri was pointing.

"I see a palm tree…" She sighed.

Terri popped her in the shoulder. "To the left of that."

Fara looked again. She saw a brown colored Altarian Male sitting off by himself working diligently on something.

"What about him?"

"Well I talked to him a little bit, he's an Engineer like yourself." Terri said stirring her drink. "He got drug here by his friends too, you might want to go introduce yourself."

"Terri…. C'mon…"

"Fara just do it." Terri sighed irritated.

"Ugh. I don't know. I mean he is cute for a reptile but…"
Suddenly she felt a pair of hands on her shoulders that gave a gentle squeeze

"Hey babe, how about you and me get acquainted?" She heard a voice say behind her. She smelled some really bad cologne at work behind her.

Fara tensed up and saw a bull dog attached to that arm.

Terri already knew what was going to happen and tried to keep a straight face.

"Babe?" Fara said flatly.

"You heard me gorgeous." The bull dog said trying to be suave.

Fara's eye darted at the paw on her shoulder. "One second, bartender can you get me a bag of ice." The bartender looked a bit confused but nodded in acknowledgement.

"What's that for?" The canine asked.

"You'll see." Fara said. The bag was soon quickly delivered.

"Ok I'm ready." She said hopping off the barstool much to the canines surprise but she then reeled back and punched him right in the nose. The canine stumbled backward and fell into a table. He made a yelping noise as blood came out of his nose. Fara grabbed the bag of ice and tossed it to him. "Don't ever touch me again or I'll do worse." She snarled giving him a solid kick to the ribs.

The whole bar around them went quiet but then everyone went back to having a good time. Apparently things like this weren't uncommon.

She then sat back down next to Terri as security rushed in and the bartender had them haul off the brash canine.

"Wow." Was all Terri could say as she started laughing.

"I hate jerks, now where were we?" She said the adrenaline pumping through her system mixing with the alcohol already present was making her feel pretty bold at the moment.

"Well I was going to goad you into talking to the Altairian but now I'm afraid you'll kick his ass." Terri chuckled. "I know we spar in Jakar's class but I had no idea you were that strong."

"Try hauling around drive components for a few weeks, it's a good way to build up some muscle." Fara smirked as she downed the rest of her drink in one gulp, wiped her mouth and then slammed the glass on the bar. "Fuck it, I'll do it."

"You will?"

"I feel like I could do anything at the moment." Fara wobbled a little bit and then caught herself.

"Well good luck." Terri said smiling. "Try not to kill anyone on the way over there." She said crossing her legs perched on the barstool and sipping her drink.

"The night is still young!" Fara said making her way into the people who were wisely getting out of her way.

She approached the lone Altairians table.

"If you're looking for a fight I will advise you against it." The Altairian said not looking up from the padd he had in his hand. His voice was heavily accented, deep gravely with precise enunciations on each word as he spoke.

"You saw that?" Fara said.

"I saw someone getting what they deserved." He said with a slight hint of amusement as he looked up at her meeting her eyes with his own golden colored slotted ones.

"Well if you aren't a jerk you don't have anything to worry about it." Fara said confidently. "Name's Fara, Fara Phoenix." She said sitting across from him at the booth. The Altairian eyed her and then smiled with amusement. "Nikolai, Nikolai Korova."

"Are you a fleeter?" Fara asked.

He stopped what he was doing and sat his padd down. "Why yes I am."

"What ship?"

"Aether, I'm the Chief Engineer."

"What are you doing here in this god awful hole of all places."

"I am on shore leave for the next few weeks." He said. "The Captain decided that I needed a break from my assistant."

"You got an assistant that drives you crazy?" Fara said.

"Yes, but she is my twin sister." He said flatly. "She is driving me crazy, thinks she knows everything."

"I could probably relate to that, mine is just a giant pain in my ass who's good for getting into tight spots. He complains constantly, want to trade?"

"What is it you do Fara?"
"Well that big hulk of metal in bay 4 you saw is my ship." Fara said. "The one with the giant gaping hole in it." She sighed trying not let that to little thought eat through her buzz. "I built it and am the Chief Engineer on board it."

"Ah the Raptor, yes." Nikolai said nodding. "I've heard of it."

"Yup that's what I got to look forward to for the next few weeks." She said thinking of a way to change the subject. "What do you got there Nikolai?" she said snatching the padd and stylus before he could say anything.

He flushed a bit out of frustration but then sighed. "I am having trouble trying to get the Aether's dilithium matrix to align properly. It's a brand new core and I've had nothing but problems with it since we got it."

"Ah yes." Fara said skimming over it. "I had the same problem on my ship. I had to build a computer controlled adjustment assembly just to get the damn thing to work right. Strangely enough with all the other problems the Raptor's been having, that hasn't been one that's come back."

That got Nikolai's interest. "Really?"

"Hell I'll build you one I just need to know what type of core you got." Fara said shrugging.

"It would be appreciated."

"No worries." Fara said handing the padd back to heim. "So enough about work then huh?"

Nikolai nodded in agreement. "I really appreciate it. It's nice to meet someone who isn't intimidated by how daunting a starship can be to maintain."

"Or look at you like your crazy when you bring schematics everywhere you go." Fara chuckled.

"Exactly." Nikolai smiled a toothy, but nice grin. He couldn't help it being a reptilian humanoid. "So why are you here?"

"Friends drug me here told me I work to much."

Nikolai laughed pleasantly at that. "Same here, they all ditched me though."

"I don't think mine were planning on it unless I was utterly hopeless." She said looking over to across the way at Terri, who was trying to be as un-interested as possible.

"That woman is she a friend of yours?" Nikolai asked.

Fara could feel the bile in her stomach at that question and clenched her fist. Typical, ask about the prettier girl.

"You could say that." Fara said trying to remain pleasant.

"She is quite pushy and obtrusive; I never have liked that about Termians." He said. "And I'm sure she's well aware of it."

"Yeah, that's Terri alright." Fara smiled unclenching her fist. "She's our com officer."

"A job very suited for her she likes to talk." Nikolai said smiling.

Fara nodded in agreement for some reason as she breathed she kept smelling something sweet as if it was almost just on the edge of being detected.

"Well since I have been ditched, may I suggest we continue this somewhere less noisy?" He suggested.

"You know I couldn't agree more." Fara said.

They walked side by side along the upper level of the promenade which was must quieter compared to the rabble below. They'd been taking a stroll for the last half hour just quietly talking to each other. Various things were talked about, their home worlds, their families, amusing stories swapped. Fara was relaxed and had even put her paw in his taloned hand as they talked. The feel of it was slightly cooler than hers but and his scales felt like silk. The more they talked the more she liked him, and she felt that Nikolai felt about the same way.

Despite being a bit bigger than her he was very gentle and intelligent, two qualities she had liked since she had started talking to him. She was more surprised she still found herself attracted to him even as the alcohol started to wear off.

The night went on and finally he took her back to her quarters.

"Fara my dear it has been wonderful getting to know you." Nikolai said.

"Yeah you too." Fara said pensively contemplating what to do now the sweet scent she had smelled earlier she had determined must be him because it had been with them the whole night. It was driving her nuts the longer she was around it, she wasn't sure if it was the pheromones or the fact that she actually felt desire for the first time in awhile that was driving her nuts.

"So…" she said pensively trying to make up her mind and gently touching his arm that felt nice and muscled under the fabric of his clothes. "Do you… want to …"

He put his hands on her hips and she felt a shudder as he did so, it wasn't a forceful gesture but it felt nice. "Only if you wish too." He said his tail flicking back and forth

Fara took a deep breath, this was going to be different, it would be nice to just let go for once… "Yes." She said hitting the door panel making the door swish open. "I do."


The Next Day.

The Aether had left space dock the following morning. At brunch Harry had been introduced to most of the Senior Staff and they had their meeting about Xox. They discussed some strategies in dealing with some of Xox's ploys and tried to develop some counter strategies against anything the Urthean my throw at them. To test the water they had agreed to take the ship close to the border to see if they couldn't draw him out.

Harry's mind was still swimming with memoires of the night with Jenna, he had to admit it had been quite memorable and he was in high spirits till they started to leave. He saw his ship on the viewer and his posture changed ever so slightly as he sat beside the Captain's chair as they passed it.

"Penny for your thoughts number one?" Jayna said snapping him out of it. "Something wrong?"

Harry smiled and looked at the console beside him. "Oh it's nothing, just thinking about the future." He said dismissively. Despite what had transpired the night before Jayna was keeping herself detached and professional.

She did smile. "They always say the first command is the hardest to forget." She said looking at the ship. "Don't worry you'll see her when we get back." She said stepping down from the command platform and walking up to the helm. "Once, we're out Helm, set course for Starbase 200 warp five."

"Yes sir." The Catarian Lieutenant replied.

Harry lost sight of the Raptor as they cleared the doors of the Starbase and the ship began a gentle 180 turn moving out of the way as another starship moved to dock with one of the outer moorings. It was comforting to know that for once Fleet HQ was actually providing effective support for Starbase 186 other then the Raptor for once. He tried to push the strange feeling he was having aside as best he could. Here he was at a crossroads of making a decision that would change his career in the direction he'd like to go, and all he could do was miss that damn ship.

The trip had been finally uneventful for the first hour of two.

"Coming up on a course correction for Starbase 200, Ma'am." The helm officer reported.

"Belay the course correction, we're going to take the shorter scenic root." Jayna said. "Commander Martinez has already sent you the route we are to take."

"Sir this will take us dangerously close to the Urthean border."

"The captain is aware of that." Harry said levelly.

"Proceed Mr. Pasky." Jayna added. "Increase speed to warp 8."

"Aye, setting new heading new speed." The Catarian said.

"Think this will work number one?" Jayna asked.

"Oh, I'm sure anything we do especially a Starship tearing through a shortcut would definitely get his attention. I know he's out there, somewhere."

Xox was enjoying his mid day meal when his com went off.

"Yes D'jonn what is it." He rumbled.

"That Battle cruiser that left the Starbase you've been having us track has now cut though the Septoris sector, travelling at a high speed of warp."

"Really now?" He said tapping his fork on the com unit. "Any theories as to what they are up too."
"Considering the damage that the Raptor suffered I can only assume that they are probably filling in for it on escort duty." D'jonn said flatly.

"Hmm could be could be." Xox mused. "What do we know of this one?"

"It is commanded by a female named Jayna De'sol. The ship is barely a year old other then that not much."

"A woman? Very interesting." Xox said. "Follow it at maximum distance and set the Scutta commanders about laying traps for this new Captain. New battleship or not it makes no difference. Understood?"
"Affirmative, should we follow it?" D'jonn replied.

"Of course!." Xox said thoughtfully. "Take the usual precautions."

Fara awoke later in the day and found herself with her head on Nikolai's chest. They were both naked and she had one of her legs coiled around his and his tail around her. At first she panicked for a moment and then she remembered what had happened.

She smiled as the activities of the night came back her and then felt a little embarrassed she had drooled on him in her sleep. He felt his hand on her breast and it did a gentle caress as he slept. She looked at the clock and realized she had missed Jakar's class and decided she'd make up for it later. Even though she felt a little sore and tired, in a good way, she didn't feel like working out after a night like that. Nikolai was not only a good engineer but from what she could tell a pretty good lover as well. It was a wonder they ever got to sleep. She sighed contentedly and decided to let Knackt deal with the mending of the Raptor for awhile. The best part was she actually got some rest, he dreams were calm and she was contented, she had not idea how long that would last but for the moment it was nice to have peace.

"You're awake." Nikolai said sleepily.

"Yeah." Fara said nuzzling him.

"Don't you have to get back to your ship."

"I don't have to be there…" She said quietly. "I just need to show up sometime today." He kept up his gentle caress and Fara mrred happily.

"Well I have nowhere else to be my lovely." He said grasping her paw and kissing it. "My ship left a few hours ago, and they're going to be gone for nearly a month."

"How terrible for you." Fara said.

"How will I ever pass the time my sweet vixen." Nikolai said smoothly.

"We can pick up where we left off for starters.." Fara grinned crawling up to give him a kiss.

"Excuse me." Jakar said as he came up to the table in the replimat where Terri, Rydel and O'mara were having their breakfast. "I am looking for Chief Phoenix have any of you seen her."

"Not since last night." Terri said. "Why?"

"She assaulted a merchant, and he is wanting to press charges." Jakar grunted. "I have to speak to her immediately but she is not responding to hails.

The three exchanged glances.

"Well to be honest, the jerk had it coming." Terri said. "He just walked up and started touching her out of the blue, and she didn't take kindly to it."

"Yeah she broke his nose." O'mara said with a slight grin.

"That may be but I do need her statement." Jakar said none to amused.

"Well if she isn't answering she's probably preoccupied." Rydel smirked.

The others started to snicker as well.

Jakar still not amused. "If you see her; tell her to come to my office at her earliest convenience." He then paused. "Also if any of you would like to submit statements it would probably help if you have nothing better to do.

"We'll be down there after we're done." Terri said reassuringly. "I was right beside her when it happened."

"That will help." Jakar said with some gratefulness in his voice. "I hope she is ok she wasn't in class this morning."

"I'm sure she's fine." Terri said with a slight smirk. "Probably better then fine."

More bemused laughter among the girls.

"Very well, I have other matters to attend to please pass the message along." Jakar said as he turned to leave.

"So did you have any luck last night ?" Jenna asked Terri.

"Naw, Fara wore me out dragging her all over the place, plus I just couldn't get into the mood for some reason." Terri admitted taking a bite out of her melon she was eating.

"Wow first Fara now this, I think the universe is coming to an end." Jenna sighed.

"Hardly, I'm just not feeling it is all." Terri said. "Maybe I'm just taking a break, ever think of that hmm?"

"I think someone likes a certain navigator." Jenna said teasingly.

"Maybe, maybe not." Terri replied nonchalantly chewing her melon.

Harry was taking a casual stroll around the bridge , he had got tired sitting and forgot how easy it was to get board when you weren't in the big chair. He was standing by the Tactical station when an alarm sounded.

"Commander." Tactical officer Serin said as he walked by. "I've picking up an unusual reading on long range sensors."

Harry stepped over beside her and looked down at the terminal. The purple feathered avian female looked frustrated at the readings and Harry wondered if looking jittery was just something Avians seemed to do. Although unlike his science officer she didn't stutter, and she definitely she had no problem with self confidence.

"At first I thought maybe we were throwing off some unusual warp field energies but I checked with engineering and they say nothing is wrong." Serin said irritably. "I can't really tell what it is."

Harry checked the readings he made a few adjustments to the sensors. Soon a faint image of a ship appeared following about a half light year behind in their warp eddy. "Captain, our guest is following us."

"Are you sure?" Jayna said looking over at them.

"Yes, he's using his field scattering device he thinks make him hide from our sensors, and it works if you don't know what your looking at."

"What do you advise?"
"Well usually by this point we start shooting." Harry said. "I'm sure he's curious as to what this ship is doing out here and thinks he's just being sneaky about it. "

"What do you suggest we do?" Jayna asked.

"Stay alert but since you're new to the block he'll probably be cautious at first."

"Noted." Jayna said. "Tactical go to yellow alert. I don't want us getting caught with our pants down if he does get a bit too curious."
"Aye sir." Serin acknowledged.

Harry folded his arms behind him and returned to his post.

"You seem worried number one." Jayna said.

"Pensive is more like it Sir, I've learned to not totally be at ease when he's out there."

"Probably not a bad strategy." Jayna mused writing in her log and handing it off to her steward. "Well be at Starbase 200 in an hour or two, lets just try to enjoy the quiet while we can. I'm sure it won't last long if he's already poking around."

Harry nodded in agreement.

"I hope you do know number one I hope he does try something." Jayna said. "I've been itching to break this new ship in."

"I'm sure you'll get your chance Sir.' Harry said.

Everything went according to plan. The convoy ships were rounded up and the Aether was joined on the escort by seven other ships.

Harry attended to his duties and made sure all the convoy ships were aware that Urthean activity had been spotted in the area and that they were to maintain formation regardless of what happens. A few of the cargo ship captains already knew him from prior convoys and they said they'd keep the new guys in line.

The convoy was a big one, the containers were transporting a lot of equipment, people, and supplies to Renna 5. Harry had been the before and it was a fairly prosperous settlement thus far. Where it sat it allowed for a lot of trade and interaction between the Confederation and some of the non aligned worlds outside of its borders. Because of this a new Starbase was being constructed to support the planet because there was always a confederation presence in the sector to keep the Urtheans at bay.

Within the matter a few hours all the various cargo ships had been rounded up and the Aether, the other escort ships and the freighters were well on their way towards Renna 5 at Warp 6.

Captain De'sol called for a quick meeting while they got under way before they got to far along on their journey.".

Harry was sitting to her left in the conference room with the Acting Chief Engineer Donnika Korova. If he had one word that came to mind after a few moments of discussion "Feisty" popped right in there. She was an greenish colored Altairian female who seemed a little too twitchy at times.

Lt. Commander Serin sat across from him as well as a the young pilot Lt. Pasky. The rest of the command staff was there but Harry was embarrassed that he couldn't remember their names.

"… Now there is a high possibility we we'll be attacked on this convoy. On our way here Tactical Officer Serin spotted a sensor anomaly that according to Mr. Martinez was the local trouble maker, Commandant Xox. What I need to know is since this ship is fairly new and for a few of you in here this is your first command with me as you superior officer, what I need to know is are we ready. " She looked over at Donnika. "Chief."

"Been all over ship. Ewery ting is fine! Systems check out I pity anyvone who would even take a …" Donnika started rattling.

"Donnika," Jayna said cutting her off and then smiling. "A simple answer is sufficient."

Donnika flushed under he scales and then nodded. "Ewery tink is good." She slunk down a little bit looking slightly embarrassed,

"Ms. Serin." Jayna asked.

"We have a full complement of photon torpedoes, and I have personally inspected ever weapon this ship has since the transfer." Serin said proudly. "I've even managed to get a few tests shots off the new mark 7 phaser banks. I think you will be pleased with the results."

"Tests?" Jayna asked . "When did you test the new phaser banks?"

"I did it during the night shift last week when we were passing through that asteroid belt." Serin replied.

Jayna raised a brow and then smiled at something. "Very well, your thoroughness has always been greatly appreciated Kelly."

"Thank you sir!" Serin said.

Harry looked over the others reports as Jayna continued doing her own verbal discussions with the other senior staff. He scanned through the articles again trying to remember something he had saw in one of the reports until finally he found it. At this time Jayna was pretty much done and turned to him.

"I just have one question to ask, Lt. Korova." He said looking at the report. "You didn't mention the point 5 phase invariance in the forward shield generators. Why didn't you mention it?" He said turning towards her.

"Vell Commander I didn't tink it vas important."

"Urthean Repulsor beams can breach a shield bubble easily with that much variance. Weren't you paying attention during my debriefing earlier."

Donnika looked like she'd just shrunk about five sizes. "Vell, I … I… to be honest… shield generators aren't… really my…"

"That's enough Lt." Harry snapped cutting her off. "Were you going to mention it or not."

Donnika glared at him but finally conceded. Harry felt like he was kicking the groups puppy but an oversight like that could prove fatal out in this part of the galaxy.

"No sir." She finally said.

"Then I suggest Ms. Korova that in the future if there is anything that important that you notice and you are not comfortable with handling it you need to bring it to your Commanding officers attention next time."

"Yes, sir." Donnika said quietly.

"Fortunately, my Chief on the Raptor has lectured me and showed me enough times on the Raptor that I can show you a thing or two about shield generators." Harry said. "When we are dismissed I will help you correct the problem." Harry then loosened his expression slightly in a well practiced movement. "No one is perfect Lieutenant, if you need help don't be ashamed to ask. I suggest if you have nothing better to do on this mission you take the time to study up on them is that understood."

Donnika nodded not feeling the world come crashing down on her as hard as she first felt when he called her out. "Yes, sir. Thank you sir."

Harry nodded and settled back in his chair.

Jayna gave him a slight nod of approval. "Thank you number one and I trust Donnika you will do as asked."

The Altairian nodded curtly.

"If there's nothing else then, let's hope for the best, dismissed people."

Everyone got up and left and Jayna motioned for him to stay behind.

Harry did and Jayna waited till everyone else was there. Harry told Donnika to wait for him outside he had to have a few words with her captain.

"You did a good thing there Harry." She said. "Donnika can be a bit of a "know it all" sometimes, and she's been gunning for her brothers job ever since we got the new ship."

"I take it you let her slip up and see if I would catch it." Harry said.

"Perhaps." Jayna smiled. "She's generally well liked by the crew, and her eagerness can sometimes be a bit disarming, it gets to me sometimes. I look at her and I see a lot of myself in her when I was her age."

"Well if she wants to be Chief Engineer on any ship she's got to be very thorough." Harry said. "Anything else sir?"

"No." Jayna smiled. "You'd better get those generators fixed."

Harry nodded and headed for the corridor.

Fara and Nikolai finally managed to get around to getting showered and dressed again, it was already into mid day so they went ahead and ate lunch together. Nikolai asked if he could come see her ship and Fara agreed to take him on a small tour. However he had to go in uniform even if he was off duty. Nikolai didn't really seem to care either way.

They went together down to the ship and entered through the airlock. Immediately Nikolai's nostrils flared and he covered them. "My God what is that smell?" he asked.

"It's bio gel pack residue." Fara said laughing. "Mixed with standard starship lubricant smell and various other sundry items the Raptor is made out of. Here." She said taking a small tupe of petroleum jelly and handing it to him. "Not to mention the stench of burnt conduit is pretty bad right now Put some under your nostrils you won't smell it as bad."

"Agh it's terrible, please tell me you get used to that?" Nikolai said doing as instructed.

"Most people do within a week, don't worry I'm not insulted." Fara said. "It's just particularly bad when we're not underway. "

Nikolai sniffed. "That's better."

"Ready?"

"Lead the way." He said. "What's your performance on this ship?" He asked curiously.

"We can maintain warp 9.6 for about six hours tops." Fara said as they walked deeper into the ship. "Watch the port way." She said hopping over a part of the floor paneling that had been removed.

"9.6 is pretty good for something this small. How do you do it?"

"Well I managed to wrangle a much better power core then what this ship had originally come up with, and flipped it 90 degrees to boot."

"What model of ship was this it looks like my old one."

"It used to be a Darrian class but it's heavily and I stress heavily modified."

"Ah I had wondered. What model."

Fara scratched her head. "I think it was a Mk 2b. I managed to get the shell from a scrap yard, it think it used to be called the Phoenix, so you can see why I picked it. All it was doing was rusting when I found it."

"I do hope you thoroughly gutted it first!" Nikolai said as Fara came to a ladder."Those Old Darians had lots of wiring problems.'

"Of course, after you." She said holding onto the ladder. "Go up to the next deck and then head right.

Nikolai nodded and climbed up the ladder. Fara followed him. They arrived on deck 2 and Nikolai helped her up to the next deck and she thanked him.

"I noticed there isn't a lot of activity, do you think there will be anyone on board."

"Not anywhere near where we're going." Fara said. "The engine room is probably deserted right now. Come on."

They arrived in the Main Engine Room and the motion sensors kicked on the lights. The room was cool and the core sat dead and dormant. As they walked past the main pool table display.

"This is my home most of the time." Fara said.

"It's very quaint." Nikolai said checking out the console. "You have a several subsystem display's I'm not familiar with what are these?"

"The Raptor has a "Attack Mode." " Fara replied. "It's not normal for starships just this one. Due to a lot of the experimental items on this ship I can't really go into it but I can tell you this it basically changes the whole operation of the starship."

"Interesting." Nikolai said. "Well if it's classified I'll mind my own business then."

"Yeah you probably should." Fara shrugged. There was a dull thud as something thudded into the hull. Sounds of heavy equipment could be heard resonating through the hull above them and through the walls near the gaping hole in the Raptor's body.

"Well the rest of the ship isn't hardly anything to look at." Fara said. "Pretty typical except we do have a gym and a holo-deck."

"It's impressive, I've gotten too used to my rather large Engineering deck it's spoiled me. It's much easier to misplace tools and equipment on a larger ship."

Fara laughed he had a point. On the Raptor if something was misplaced it didn't take you too long to find it. "Well do you want to see the repair work first hand?"

"Sure." Nikolai said smiling. "Like I said I'm on Vacation."

Fara smiled and hit the dimming switch on the lights and then stepped into the main room and opened the floor panel. "Just slide down the ladder and follow me." She said sliding down the hole.

They arrived in another room below the core which had two large strange pieces of equipment with many different colored lights as well as green. On the starboard side of the room the walls had been repaired and sealed with a temporary permasteel patch. The room was cooler than the rest of the ship Nikolai landed and looked at the door with the strange symbol on the door. It had two triangles pointing in opposite vertical directions on a red chevron.

"What's behind this?" Nikolai asked.

"Trust me you don't want to know." Fara said. "Come on." She said eagerly.

They went to the Airlock, changed and went outside and within about 20 minutes they were out walking along the hull towards the damaged part where all the equipment and vehicles were zipping about trying to rebuild the damaged section of the ship.

As they approached Knackt saw them and came over to them.

"Hey Chief where've you been and whose the Lizard?" He said indignantly.

"Lizard…" Nikolai said a bit insulted. Fara put a gloved hand on his arm to urge him to have a little restraint.

"I don't have to be here every waking moment Knackt, and this is a guest of mine. He's the Chief Engineer of the Aether and he's on shore leave I'm giving him a tour." She glared at him.

"Oh." Knackt said un perturbed. "Well we do have everything going pretty smoothly, we had a little snag. I tried to call but you wouldn't answer, but I figured it out anyway."

"Well good I'm sure the Raptor is in very capable hands." Fara said. "What's done so far."

"Ah we got most of the deck 4 and three damage patched up. We're going to put in the new plasma transfer channel in later today." Knackt said. "You really don't need to be here unless you want to terrify the troops but I'm doin a good job of that as it is."
"No that's fine that's great." Fara said. "I'll just do a visual inspection and make my presence known that way they keep up the good work."

"Whatever works for you." Knackt said suddenly looking like he was distracted. "God damn it I gotta go they're having problem getting the shield generator loaded in.

"Go ahead." Fara said. Knackt quickly turned and used his suits boosters to maneuver him towards the hole and then he slowly floated down into it and out of site.

"That was a little uncalled for." Nikolai spat. "I'm not a lizard. Do you think that of me?"
"No." Fara said. "Some Cornerians, can't let go what happened, and they don't think when they see another….." she had to think about how to phrase this. "reptiloid, that they're not the same as the Venomians. Just ignore him."

"Hmmph." Nikolai growled. "If you insist, I'd still like to give that little rodent a thumping."

"Trust me he wouldn't learn anything from it." Fara said. "Come on let it go." she said leading him around the edge of the hole.

As they slowly walked side by side she could see on his reptilian features he seemed bothered. "Tell me." He said as they walked. "This isn't some cheap thrill was it or are you actually interested in me, We're from two different worlds and I do have a fondness for you even in such a short time."

Fara nodded in response. "I do too."

"I have not met too many women who have such knowledge of starship technology that you do. I find it refreshing, very refreshing."

"Thank you." Fara said blushing.

"I've had women approach me before simply because they think we Altairians are exotic, a cheap thrill, and they don't want to deal with me when I have my duties to attend to it often leads to aggravation." He said with a slight growl. "I am hoping that this is not the case, I find your company very pleasing."

"No, well ok maybe a little bit, but." Fara shrugged. "Mulling it over I'm not looking for anything too stressful at the moment, but… I wouldn't be opposed to seeing again you when you are in the neighborhood." She smiled.

"Is that because of the job?"

Fara motioned to the ship. "A lot of it is, I don't really need a lot of pressure put on me from something else, I'm afraid it' result in me doing something really, really stupid." She nudged his suit in the arm with her own.

"I can understand that." Nikolai laughed slightly. "When you have a ship to look after you may as well be involved with it."

"It seems that way sometimes." Fara said. "But I could use someone in my life, if just for a little companionship once in awhile. Someone I could relate to as well as the other stuff."

"The gymnastics, as you called them earlier today." Nikolai snickered.

"Yes of course…" Fara blushed turning visibly red even through the mask of her pressure suit.

"Then I think Chief we have an agreement on how we should proceed about this." He said with a wink. "My sentiments are very similar to yours. The Aether not to mention my sister keeps me extremely busy as well, it would be nice to have a place to come to after a long tour."

"Well I'm usually here." Fara smiled.

"If you wouldn't mind, to be perfectly honest with you, would you mind my assistance. At least maybe part time?"

"Sure why would I, Having another Chief around would make my life easier, we could maybe go over it this evening at supper."

Nikolai looked relieved. "Much appreciated, up to this point I'm caught up on reading my technical journals and I've pretty much ran out of things to do."

Suddenly Fara heard a com chime and she answered it. "This is Phoenix what is it."

"Chief I need you to come down to Security, I need to discuss what happened last night." Jakar's voice said slightly irritated.

"I don't know what your…." Then it dawned on her. "Oh yeah that, ok I'll be there shortly I'm on a walking inspection at the moment." She lied.

"Very well but do not dally, the man you assaulted is wanting to press charges, however.." He paused. "It doesn't look like he will have much success I already have testimony from the people you were with last night I just need you to come in and get this resolved. I would appreciate it greatly."

"No problem Jakar." Fara said shutting off the channel. "I guess we gotta go back."

"So back to … well us I guess." Fara said. "How far do you want to go with this?"

"Let's just see where it takes us and go from there." Nikolai responded with a smile.

They made they made their way back to the airlock. Got out of their suits and when Fara stepped into the shower she found Nikolai had snuck in behind her and shut the door.

Oh the hell with it. She thought as he started kissing her as the water rained down on them. Jakar's waited this long, he can wait a little longer…

On board the Aether.

"Just a little bit more." Harry said as he stood beside the console of the shield generator.

An loud clang was heard as a tool slipped out of a hand and a yelp followed by a long string of Altarian curses flowed out of the small crawl space of the field generator.

"That isn't going to finish this project." Harry said patiently. "Just another point 07 to go and you've got it, this is the last one."

Donnika cursed one more time inside the cylindrical object and made the adjustment. Harry checked his readings and nodded approvingly. "That did it come on out."

Donnika crawled out of the generator dragging her tools behind her.

"Now was that so hard to do?" Harry asked.

"No." Donnika said looking at a cut in her hand that oozed orangish blood. "I tell you vut, I ahm not doing zat agin."

"You shouldn't have to, it's just when Fleet Ship's roll off the line they don't bother to make the adjustment, I don't know if it's an oversight or just laziness." Harry said logging off the station. He hit his com badge. "Captain the adjustments have been completed."

"Excellent Number One." Jayna said. "Just in time we've just detected several Urthean ships approaching you'd better get up here." Jayna replied and then cut it off. Just then the Red Alert klaxon sounded.

Donnika looked a little perturbed but she tossed her tool kit into the locker and quickly bandaged up her hand with some gauss. Harry went on out and headed for the bridge.

Harry exited the turbo lift and walked down into the lower half of the bridge.

"Tactical, how many ships?"

"It looks like four Scutta class." Serin replied. "They're coming in hot too."

"This is only a probing run, helm maintain formation Ms. Serin this is all your show. Target the lead ship and fire with Phasers full force."

"Shouldn't we hail them first?"

"Negative." Harry replied. "Transmit a audio warning only for what good it will do, after that eng.." He had to stop himself, the Aether didn't have an attack mode. "Fire as soon as you see the whites of their eyes."

"Yes, sir." Serin said glancing at her captain who nodded in approval.

"Acquiring target lock." She said typing away at her console.

"Engineering equalize all power to all shield fronts, they are going to try to nail us as the pass from behind." Harry said hitting a com button.

"Aye, Sir." Donnika's voice said over the com.

"After that when they make their first pass give the other two ships a taste of photon torpedoes." He then walked over to his station and hit the ship to ship communication button. "I advise we stick together and keep moving." He said to Jayna. "They expect one of us to give chase."

Jayna nodded. "This is Captain De'sol to the other escorts hold formation and fire on the Urthean Vessels when they get within range.'

The Four Scutta's dove right for the Aether and opened fire with their repulsor beams. The Aether opened fire and quick barrage of continuous phaser fire disabled the lead vessel and it tumbled out of warp space. The other three pounded away at Aether's shields, as predicted and finding their attacks not having any effect one of them took a several solid phaser hits on it's aft shields followed by a direct hit to it's stern with a photon torpedo and it tumbled out of warp space spinning end over end. The other two passed the Aether and started to target the freighter but the other two escort ships made quick diving motions to intercepted it and one Scutta took several direct hits, broke off it's attack. The remaining one exploded as two phaser beams from the escorts coupled with the freighters minor defenses breached its shields overload and caused it to explode.

"That was ineffective." Jayna said amusedly.

"That was just round one." Harry said. He was not used to being on a ship large enough not to get jostled by repulsor beams like the Raptor did. "He'll send the Hunter Class cruisers next." Harry said. "And he'll probably send a few of them with more Scutta's to boot."

"Wonderful, how tough are those hunters?"

"The Raptor can handle at least 3 of them." Harry said. "But we have to employ non traditional tactics."

"Well then this will be a refresher course for you on starship tactics." Jayna said.

Harry nodded in agreement and headed back to his station on the command platform and started to give out instructions to the other ships. Two of the vessels were Darrian Class ships (Torris and Agemon), three Ishaka Class ships (Fearless, Dauntless and Prowler) and one of the newer Tobor Class ships named after it's class.

Harry had to admit it was a pretty motley crew. The two Darrians were a well overused and fairly common type of starship used for many things. The Ishaka's were equally about as old but reliable. The two newest vessels were the one he was on and the Tobor. Hunter Class ships weren't anything great compared to what they were on but they could take a hellacious beating sometimes. He checked the convoy's ETA.

They still had many light years to go, and a few round trips and this was only the beginning.

"Ok all I need is your statement." Jakar said looking at the two of them rather annoyed that Fara had been intentionally putting him off. The security office was rather small but fairly busy today.

"He touched me and I retaliated." Fara said flatly.

"He did lay his hands on her and made an unwanted advance." Nikolai added.

"Did you warn him first or did you just haul off and hit him." Jakar asked.

"I got him a bag of ice it's not my fault his dumbass couldn't but two and two together."

"Chief handing someone a bag of ice after you break their nose is not a logical progression." Jakar said.

"He probably had it coming."
"As well as the bruised ribs?" Jakar asked.

"He slipped." Fara shrugged.

"You kicked him." Jakar said flatly.

"Tomato, Tamato." Fara shrugged.

"Chief, you aren't taking this seriously." Jakar shrugged.

"I shouldn't have too, now quit screwing with me and tell me am I going to be in the brig or not."

"No." Jakar said mildly annoyed. "You are fortunate that enough witnesses collaborate your side of the story. I would suggest next time you exercise a little restraint."

"I did, he still has his teeth." Fara sneered.

"Just sign the damn padd and get out of my office." Jakar said. "We're done you can go."

Fara signed the padd and slid it back across the desk. "So can we go now."

Jakar nodded.

Fara and Nikolai got up and left.

"Well that was exciting," Nikolai said as they left station security.

"That will be the end of it." Fara said. "if it isn't I've got people who'll make sure it is."

"You have some connections?" Nikolai asked.

"Obviously my name doesn't ring a bell with you.." Fara said glad it didn't. "But yes I do."

"I apologize," Nikolai said.

"Don't worry about it." Fara said grabbing onto his arm affectionately. "Let's get some coffee."

She led him off into the crowd of the promenade and they both disappeared into it as they walked away.

To be continued next story….