Title: Salvage

IDP 2005,2009

FOTR Side Story.

The repairs to the starship Aether were not going well.

Two weeks had passed and the ship was still sitting in dry dock at Starbase 186 awaiting repairs receiving repairs. There had been many setbacks and challenges in trying to get the ship back to operational status, but at times it felt like there wasn't any progress being made at all.

The worst part was she had assured Starfleet command that the vessel would be functional in one week, that had yet to come to pass.

Jayna De'Sol not accustomed to any member of her crew not meeting her expectations called a meeting with her Chief Engineer and her brother the Commanding Officer to try to figure out what was going on. Starfleet HQ had been on her case constantly wanting to know why one of their newest and supposedly best ships was laid up in dry-dock and she didn't have any explanation for them. She had her suspicions and she was determined to get to the bottom of the matter.

Engineering Section Aether.

"I know you are doing everything you can Donnika but what is the hold up?" Captain Jayna De'sol said patiently.

The Altairian female looked frustrated and her were flushed a dark green. "I'm tryink Keptain but I think Zee Raptor did a hell of a lot more damage then we realize." Donnika Korova replied. "The port side of the saucer section will have to be entirely rebuilt, the warp stresses as well as the damage has made it just not safe to use anymore. Not to mention, the power grid it's just a damn mess and the whole thing may need to be redone."

"I have been informed we have three more weeks to get this ship up and running, I know there is more to what you are telling me then what you let on." Jayna said patiently. "What exactly is the problem, Donnika?"

"Well at first we couldn't get a damn bay for several days because Admiral Leyton's Akira, had priority on repairs. Then when they were finally away the dock master informed me that our placement in the slip roster got lost somehow." Donnika took a deep breath she was obviously frustrated. "Not to mention, every time I order a part or something I need to complete the repairs it mysteriously vanishes or gets shipped off to some other place. It's like I can hardly do anything without any delays and the station itself is waiting on re-supply for their industrial replicators, because the repairs to Akira pretty much used up the supplies."

Jayna finally could see what was going on here, they were purposely being railroaded by Admiral Leyton because she didn't follow through with his orders earlier regarding the destruction of the Raptor during the devastating Epsilon Three computer tests. Even though the immediate investigation afterward showed she was within her rights to make that call, Leyton still was not happy about being disobeyed. At the current rate it could be several months before they would be mobile again, more than enough reason for Admiral Leyton to find another excuse to give her headaches.

"Ok so we're getting bureaucratically corn-holed." Jayna surmised. "Fine, we'll use other means of acquiring supplies, as we have in the past. Nikolai contact your man at Starfleet Salvage."

Nikolai nodded. "What for?"
"I know a good ship full of parts sitting out there just rusting that we could probably get our hands on. I'll talk to the station's Captain to find out what they're going to do with the hulk of the Fearless in bay six."

"Surely you're not thinking about cannibalizing that ship… so recently after…" Donnika said suddenly.

"I'm not thrilled about it." Jayna said. "But I want the Aether back up and running as quickly as possible, and sense it seems no one has made no effort to do anything with it other then sit there. I know it's been cleared out and it's just sitting there so it's fair game." She said thoughtfully.

"Captain," Nikolai Korova spoke up. "That is highly unorthodox, sir."

Jayna pursed her lips and drummed her fingers on the darkened engineering master control table. "Well, I do know of one other option… but it's a stretch."

"Hopefully it's a little less ghoulish." Nikolai replied.

"Maybe a lot less ghoulish, but more devious." Jayna said.

"What do you have in mind." Donnika asked.

"I hate to pry Nikolai." Jayna said. "How close are you and Mrs. Phoenix."

Nikolai's eyes bugged slightly and his tail twitched slightly. "Um… well that's still up for debate but we do keep in touch quite often…"

"Don't bullshit me Nikolai, I know you weren't in your quarters last night." Jayna said smirking. "I'll take it that you two have a thing and leave it at that."

Donnika gave her brother a quizzical look.

"Do you know who she is?" Jayna asked him.

"Well yes, but I don't understand what you are insinuating here Captain." Nikolai said a bit confused.

"She's the daughter of one of the largest starship magnets of the Lylat System. They also were contracted to build this ship. They've been doing business with the Confederation before they even joined us." Jayna stated. "This means she's probably got contacts to scrap yards and anything else that we might need." A wicked smirk crossed Jayna's muzzle. "That would give us a convenient way to subvert our dear Admiral's stupid little game. Do you think you can do that for me Commander?"

"I am not entirely comfortable with it Captain." Nikolai admitted. "Why not ask Commander Martinez to assist us."

"He will be too busy with his own affairs to help us out, the Raptor has been on constant patrols since we limped our way back here. Fara will be much easier to get to." Jayna said dancing around the question, in truth she was still angry at him for what had happened and hadn't convinced herself otherwise yet. Regardless Nikolai did hear her out.

"I just don't want to use her…" Nikolai said dejectedly.

"Might I remind you that shit runs down hill Commander." Jayna said. "And there is a lot of it coming this way if we don't get our tails moving."
"Understood." Nikolai sighed.

"Donnika, do your best." Jayna said walking over to her and patting her on the shoulder. "I'll do everything I can to help."

"Thank you Keptain." Donnika sighed.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have some new recruits I need to induct into our little family." Jayna said dismissing the two.

"Do you want me to come along, sir." Nikolai asked. "That is usually my job."

"No you do what I need you to do." She said sternly. "Keep in touch."

With that she left engineering.

She walked alone heading for the main docking section. As she did her thoughts drifted off to her missing crewmates on that served as her bridge officers. Arin Pasky, her navigator, so young only been with them for two years with so much ahead of him, but an excellent helmsman for his youth. Kelly Serin, one of the best tactical officers she ever had and a friend. Phillp Caz, another a reliable communications officer who always kept the equipment up and she never had to look over his shoulder. Then there were the ones she didn't know that well, Karlyle her science officer an Altairian and Miranda a Cornerian Feline her con officer. They had been recent additions and she just hadn't had the time to get to know them beyond their records. She had made plans too, they were competent officers, she had learned that one of them enjoyed racquetball and was planning on playing a game with them later that day.

That fateful day they were suddenly taken from her, and that only made her sorrow that much greater.

If only it had been his fault, then she could hate him for it, and get past it but it was that damn machine. The Epsilon Three computer, which had taken over the Raptor and mercilessly, cut her people, her friends down. Showing no more remorse then erasing a corrupt file. That is why she didn't want to talk to him, if only she could hate him for it, then she could move on.

Harry had told her he had done everything to stop that machine.

The officer part of her believed him, the woman part did not.

She glanced down at her left sleeve and saw the small tattoo on her arm.

John… were you wrong? She thought to herself ash she irritated pulled her sleeve back down to cover the small tattoo.

Suddenly a memory from her past flashed into her stream of consciousness.

"Your greatest weakness is your inability to detach yourself completely from your emotions." She remembered her mentor saying to her on the day she had obtained her first command. The Admiral had paid her a visit before the original Aether disembarked. She remembered he was starting to show signs of a slow incurable disease he had contracted off world. He still stood tall but she could tell he seemed to be in pain.

"I was one of your best students." She had said. "Why are you suddenly showing doubts in my abilities? Especially today of all days?!"

John sat stood looking at the small portal of her ready room. "When it comes to your ship and your crew. There is nothing but cold logic, but when it comes to yourself, your heart gets in the way and it conflicts with that part of you." He paused and then turned to look at her, his hawk like gaze boring into her making her feel like a cadet all over again. "Until you can overcome this, it will always trouble you."

She remembered being frustrated, how dare he pull this stunt on her ship!

"Then what do I need to do to overcome this?"

He walked over to her and gently grasped her arm and pushed her sleeve back. Revealing the puzzle piece tattoo. "I've already given you the answer to that, it's up to you to figure it out." He tapped his forehead knowingly, and releasing her forearm.

She had spent many years trying to find the mate to her piece and it was a great relief when she had found it. The one thing that bothered her was how did someone who didn't graduate till almost half a decade later from the academy wind up with that particular piece.

When she had found the one with the correct piece at last, she felt she had at last become complete but now she found herself doubting Admiral Kramer's nearly prophetic pairing.

She had to trust Harry.

If she ever hoped to overcome her weakness she couldn't just shut him out.

Then the memories of her friends moved to the forefront of her mind and again the flames of anger rekindled.

She was approaching the docking area and she would have to address her new additions to the crew soon so she quickly changed her train of thought back to the task at hand.

"Nikolai why are you acting so down?" Fara asked.

He had taken her to one of the stations nicer eateries and Fara had even put on a nice dress and her blonde hair had grown out even a bit more. He had complimented her on the look. Since the events of a few weeks ago Fara had been on a Psychiatric Furlough once again at the advisement of the stations counselor. Despite, Nikolai's concern, she seemed to be doing better then she had when they had met. So they had been spending a lot of time in each others company since. Unlike Captain De'Sol, he harbored no ill will toward the Raptor and its crew. All things considered, they did everything they could to try to stop the Epsilon Three. Nikolai often tried not to speak of his shipmates that were killed when the topic came up and Fara tried damn hard to try not to either, much to his appreciation.

"It's nothing; we're just having problems getting the ship put back together." He said trying to avoid the subject.

"Like what?" Fara asked pausing before she plunged her fork back into her pasta.

"We aren't receiving the parts we order, replication requests are being lost, the list just goes on and on." Nikolai replied.

Fara took a sip of wine and looked at him thoughtfully. "Might this have something to do with the Admiral's speedy repair and departure from the station?"

"I did not say that." Nikolai said blanking his expression.

"Oh I'm no stranger to Admiral Leyton's little stunts he likes to pull." Fara said quietly. "That bastard did everything he could to stall development on the Raptor, simply because Fleet HQ gave me approval for the new starship and totally shot down his weapons program he had planned. He made us pay for every inch of progress I made putting that ship together."

"Really?" Nikolai asked suddenly feeling not to bad that he had brought it up.

Fara took a bite of her food twirled her fork and then another swig of wine. "Hell to be perfectly honest with you?" She said leaning forward over the table. "I snuck aboard the Akira and replaced two coil mounts with some worn ones from the Raptor while they were getting that ship mobile again." She leaned back in her chair and let out a satisfied maniacal giggle. "He'll be wondering why they keep vibrating when they pass warp five for the next year or two till they have another refit."

"My dear vixen your capacity for vengeance astounds me."

"Better keep that in mind incase you want to break this off." Fara sneered at him.

"I assure you I am duly warned." Nikolai smirked.

"So what all are you guys needing? I can get my hands on practically anything." Fara smiled.

"Well we need to basically rebuild the Aether in the shortest amount of time as possible." Nikolai said.

"I'll need a list." Fara said. "Not psychic I can't read your mind."

"I'll arrange a meeting with my Captain. She seems to have an idea of what to we need."

"Fine, but it can wait till after our date can't it?" Fara asked.

"Why of course." Nikolai replied.

"Good, although I'd love to irritate the admiral, this is our time." She said taking another bite.

Nikolai's tension let up, this was going much better than he had planned, with her actively wanting to help, he didn't feel any guilt.

After dinner they walked along the upper outer rim of the promenade looking down at the ships docked as they passed each window. Suddenly an alarm sounded.

"Attention All Raptor Personnel report to the Raptor immediately for departure." The stations deck master announced and then general quarters sounded and the people in the promenade started making their way to the interior of the station as the various shops began to close suddenly.

Fara flinched almost instinctively but caught herself. She didn't have to go this time.

"Are you ok?" Nikolai asked.

"Yeah, it's just a habit. Let's watch it leave." Fara said. "I've always wanted to do that."

"But we should probably get to your place before security finds us." Nikolai said.

"Don't worry about it, that alarm is just to get the civilians out of the way, we'll have plenty of time." Fara said dragging him over to the window and looking down at the Raptor as it was sat in dry dock its lights suddenly springing to life. Nikolai watched with intrigue as Fara seemed to be counting down something quietly.

"What is it you are doing?"

"Oh it's from one of our drills we have till the count of seventy five to make it on board the ship. Or you get left." Fara said. "This is probably the first time I won't be going out during an alarm."

She continued then right as she finished the count the deck shuddered suddenly as the Raptor disengaged from the magnetic clamps and station umbilical and slowly backed out of it's slip as its ablative armor engaged causing its shape to shift slightly as the armor slid over the more sensitive areas of the ship.

"Must be something bad." Fara mused. "Harry never throws the armor up unless Xox or one of his goons is blatantly charging the station." The ship soon disappeared out of site as it passed the stations major pylons.

"Well that's the show we'd better go." Fara said leading Nikolai away from the window.

The next day.

Nikolai, Fara and Captain De'Sol met shortly before lunch the next day on the engineering deck of the Aether.

"So this is Fara Phoenix." Captain De'Sol said after Nikolai formerly introduced her. "I heard a lot about you while Commander Martinez was on my ship."

"I hope it was all good." Fara smirked.
Jayna nodded. "So you think you can help us?"

"Sure just let me know what you need and I'll help you get your hands on it." Fara said. "Nikolai tells me you are very pressed for time."

"You have no idea." Jayna replied.

"What is it you are needing?" Fara asked.

"In short, I want to get my old ship out of the scrap yard, or at least the saucer part of the hull. Our current ship's structural integrity may be compromised and I think if we can simply swap saucer modules that would be half the battle."

"That shouldn't be too hard to do, come on Captain give me something else." Fara smirked.

"We may need a new bridge module and a whole lot more odds and ends." Jayna said reaching over and grabbing a padd on the master display table and handing it to Fara.

"Captain you insult me give me something hard to do." Fara grinned. "I'll get you all this stuff with one condition."

"Name it."

"He comes with me." Fara said pointing to Nikolai.

Jana looked mildly annoyed. "Fine, his knowledge of the ship is fairly extensive he would be better help than anyone else would." Jayna admitted, she was hoping to have him oversee the repairs and now she would have to do it. "He's not allowed to enjoy it too much."

"I'll make sure he doesn't."

"Just come through with your promise Mrs. Phoenix." Jayna said curtly. "Do not let me down. You have four days."

"Hah, prepare to not be disappointed!" Fara said. "Come on, Nikolai." She said turning and hooking her arm around his and leading her off. "We have a shuttle flight to book."

"What makes you think we'll be able to slip away so easily?" Nikolai asked intrigued.

"Oh trust me, I have permission from my head shrink to leave anytime I feel like it, she thinks it'd be a good idea if I got out of here for awhile." Fara said. "Besides it's been awhile since I've been home it'll be a treat."
"You mean Corneria?"
"Well yes, the main Confederation salvage yard is over in the Corsair system. We may as well swing by while we're there." Fara shrugged.. "It's been ages since I've been to the old house, I wonder if it's still standingt."

It didn't take much for them to round up a long range shuttle and within the next hour or two they were on their way heading away from Starbase 186 and into confederation space towards the Corsair system.

"I hope you brought your toothbrush." Fara said as she leaned back in the comfy pilot's seat in the shuttles interior.

Nikolai only grinned. "I don't know whether or not I should be grateful for you taking me along. The captain was not pleased with your request."

"She's a starship captain, she's dealt with worse." Fara smirked and then a look of horror crossed her face. "Erg… sorry…"

Nikolai was quiet for a moment. "Sometimes your bluntness does more harm than good."

"I didn't mean anything buy it." Fara said apologetically.

"It's ok… Myself I am fine." Nikolai said quietly. "My people believe that death is just another type of rebirth. When we are approached by death it is a mixture of both sorrow and rejoicing. I know my friends have moved on to their next lives by now. That does not make me miss them less but I know they have been reborn somewhere else."

Fara felt some mild relief. "Well I didn't mean to upset you of it did."
"Don't worry about it." Nikolai said checking the readings. "Have you already called your contact in the yard yet?" He said trying to gently change the subject.

"Yes I have, but I do have a few other calls to make." Fara replied. "Look I feel like a heel, do you want to talk about it?"

"There is nothing to talk about what is done is done, no point in dwelling on it." Nikolai said without looking at her. "I could use a drink though, is that replicator any good."

"Give me a few minutes with it and it will be." Fara replied.

"Altairian Whiskey then. Two glasses."

Fara felt a little relieved. She knew he wasn't terribly upset if he was wanting to drink and have company.
"I'll get right on it." She said with a relieved smile.

It only took a about six hours for them to arrive at the Lylat system at high warp..

Fara drummed her fingers on the console. She had just been on the vid-phone for nearly thirty minutes trying to locate the original Aether. The Altairian whisky had helped pass the time and she was glad Nikolai could handle it a lot better then she could or the shuttle would be flying itself.

"Ok, Fara I found it."

"Bronte, how the hell does a starship get lost in a scrap yard?" Fara growled.

"Because it's a scrap yard that's several thousand kilometers in area!" The elderly swine grumbled. "Besides as per Con-fed frickin regulations their stuff has to be stored properly! But I found her, they've pretty much gutted anything out of her of use except for a basic flight system and the star drive. To tell you the truth I was thinking of doing something with it myself being as they just threw it away."

"That's great as long as it's still space worthy." Fara said.

"That she is but young miss." The pig said leaning toward the monitor. "Money still talks out in these parts. You didn't think I'm going to let anything leave this place for free did you."
Fara's expression went to one of annoyance. "It's a starship…. You don't own it.."

"Actually I did as soon as they hauled it in here. Now I'm thinking maybe about 500 mil credits sounds like a good price." Bronte smirked. "And that's letting it go for cheap."

"That's a lot of damn money…" Fara growled.

"Well seeing as how you are needing this thing pronto, and I haven't got a chance to make anything off the salvage. I'm not handing it out for free." Bronte snorted.

"Well I can't just pull that much money out of my ass!" Fara snapped at the monitor baring her teeth.

"No need to get upset, it's just business Ms Phoenix." Bronte said.

Fara about said something else but she felt Nikolai's scaled hand on her shoulder and he knelt toward the monitor.

"Who the hell is he?" Bronte sneered at the monitor.

"Commander Nikolai Korova, Starship Aether. I have been sent here to retrieve our old ship we are in need of it as soon as possible."

"Is this some kind of a joke? I don't care about the uniform I'm not dealing with a stinking liz…"

"He's an Altairian." Fara said patiently. "He's not from Venom, and you'd probably better have some candor because anything you say to him, it will get back to Starfleet." Fara said cutting him off.

"We appreciate your cooperation." Nikolai said squeezing Fara's shoulder to get her to be quiet. "We will acquire the funds you need as soon as we can and get back to you as quickly as we can."

"Whatever, look either get me the money or I'll just misplace the ship again is that understood?" Bronte sighed leaning back still glaring at Nikolai on the screen.

"Perfectly, clear." Fara sighed as the channel cut off.

"What a charming fellow." Nikolai growled returning to the pilot seat. "Now what do we do."

"We go talk to my father." Fara sighed. "I'm damn glad you have that uniform on because I doubt your going to be mister popular back home."

"Whatever they say or do doesn't matter to me." Nikolai said sliding back into the pilot chair. "I'm not from this part of the galaxy."

Fara hoped he was right, Nikolai's appearance was a lot more draconic looking. when compared to the salamander like bodies of the Venomian lizards. Although things had been fairly quiet there was still a lot of animosity towards reptilians in the Lylat system.

That evening.

Jayna was in her station quarters fixing her supper.

She had gotten used to having her meals prepared for her but her steward…

She stopped the thought immediately and clenched her fist. Took a deep breath walked over to the record player she had transferred over from the Aether and started some music playing.

Regardless, she always enjoyed cooking, it was a nice way to distract the mind.

She had gotten Captain Stiles to give her full access to the stations resources and she already had the yard crews working on removing the damaged saucer section from the Aether.

She had tried to get her hands dirty to help but, her people were too damn good at what they did When she tried to jump in and help, often she'd find herself getting in the way and finally gave up, to go take care of other matters.

She was a bit upset with Nikolai but, on reflection, he'd probably be doing about the same thing she was about now if they had stayed. At least she'd have someone to talk to or to play a game of chess with. She smirked, he hadn't beaten her once, since they started playing almost four years ago.

She smelled smoke and snapped her attention back to what she was doing and turned down the heat on her stir fry meal she was making. An alarm sounded and she quickly hit the acknowledge key above the stove to keep her food from being doused in flame retardant foam by the fire suppression system.

She felt a shudder in the deck and looked out the windows of her quarters that looked down into the bay.

The Raptor slid gracefully in between the doors and disappeared from view as it returned to its slip.

She watched it disappear and then sighed returning back to the task at hand. Now she suddenly felt very restless, perhaps after supper she should take that run she'd been meaning to have. With her regular routine being interrupted as of late it probably would do her some good.

Fara and Nikolai's shuttle arrived in Corneria orbit.

The planet was in the middle of winter and it's sky's were filled with clouds obscuring the land masses below. The shuttle was buffeted by high wins as they entered the upper atmosphere.

"Great, we have showed up in the middle of a blizzard." Nikolai muttered.

"Well sorry, I've been on a space station for the last couple of years it's kinda hard to keep track of what the home planet is doing especially on a moments notice." Fara snipped as she called her father's estates shuttle padd.

"Are you sure we can't land somewhere warmer?" Nikolai asked. "Maybe the southern hemisphere, you know the part pointed at the primary!"

"Well that would be a good idea but there aren't any down there anymore." Fara replied. "It's been a rough decade for the Lylat system."

Nikolai eventually brought the shuttle through the storm and they were soon zooming over the pockmarked snow covered surface of Corneria, towards what appeared to be a large estate house at one time.

Nikolai saw the lights on the shuttle pad snap on and the controller granted them permission to land. As they passed over the ruins Nikolai noticed at least one wing seemed to be standing and showing some life despite the burnt and horrendously damaged rest of the structure.

"This was your home?" Nikolai asked.

Fara nodded. "Wars do that to places. Dad's managed to keep the one remaining wing open and hopes to get the place restored someday."

"It looks like it will take a considerable amount of time." Nikolai said.

Fara harrumphed. "You don't know the half of it. The ole home planet is not exactly one of the rising tourist attractions of the Confederation."

"Are those armed guards?!" Nikolai asked pointing through the forward view port at the heavily jacketed black clad guards patrolling the compound.

"Yeah, there are still raiders," Fara sighed. "Privateers and other scum that still cause problems, even with Confederation help it'll probably be years before Corneria is the paradise it once was again."

"I am not familiar with your worlds history, I will have to look into it." Nikolai said fascinated.

"Believe me you'll be better off doing it when you have a lot of free time." Fara replied as the shuttle touched down. "You get this thing powered down I'll go in the back and replicate you something for the weather. I don't think you'll be able to deal with it."

"Much obliged." Nikolai said with a toothy grin looking warily at the flurry of snow outside the window.

As they exited the shuttle, Nikolai in a parka and Fara in a wind coat, a tall red haired vixen greeted them who was also decked in winter garb.

"Mr. Phoenix sends his regards, but with his health he can't meet you in this weather."

"Hello Emillia." Fara said. "Nikolai this is my Father's .. personal assistant, Emillia Lockheart" She said with a strange emphasis on the word "assistant".

"P..P..P… pleasure." Nikolai said. "Ladies.. if we could move this inside."

Fara had to stifle a laugh, Nikolai looked absolutely miserable and had even wrapped his tail around his midsection trying to stay warm.

"Of course." Emillia said nodding. "This way please."

She led them down the pad into a somewhat sheltered walkway and finally into what remained of the once grand Phoenix mansion.

Once inside it was almost like they were stepping into another world, save for the ferra-plaster walls at the end of the hall with space heater running nearby.

"I apologize for the lack of a formal greeting." Emillia said slipping off her coat revealing a very lean and athletic build for a fennec. Nikolai also noticed she didn't seem too much older then Fara. "But your visit was very impromptu, Ms. Fara."

"Don't worry about it." Fara said taking her coat off. "I don't need any of that pizzazz any way.

"Is your friend going to be ok?" Emillia asked.

Fara looked over at Nikolai who now looked slightly more blue then his usual green. "On his planet, winter is something that happens to other people." Fara chuckled.

"We'll move deeper into the house, this hall is quite drafty." Emillla said leading them down into the wing of the mansion.

"I… I… hope you h.. h.. have a hot mud bath." Nikoali chartered.

"I'm sure you can be accommodated." Emillia said. "Your father will have rooms for the both of you."

"Much appreciated." Fara said as they rounded a corner and seemed to enter a study.

"Fara.." A raspy voice said happily as an emaciated figure got up from a chair next to the fire. A whir of mechanical motors could be heard as he moved towards them. As he drew nearer Nikolai could see he was walking with the aid of an exo-frame around his legs. "My dear… it's been so long."

"Hi dad." Fara said walking up and hugging him. "How are you doing."

Reginald Phoenix coughed and then adjusted his glasses. "As well as I can be. Whom is your friend?"

"This is Commander Korova whom we're helping get the ship rounded up for."

"Ah, yes. Forgive me, my condition has me in lots of pain constantly.. it is hard to remember things." Reginald said apologetically extending his paw.

Nikolai shook it and noticed that the old fox looked to be in pretty poor shape. He wondered what had happened to him.

"Your help is much appreciated but we have run into a small snag." Nikolai said.

"What would that be?" Reginald asked.

"The scrap yard man wants 500 mil credits. For the ship." Fara grumbled.

Reginald seemed to focus on a thought. "That is quite a lot of money, especially these days. It will take some time." He turned to Emillia. "Contact my accountant while I treat our guests to supper."

Emillia nodded. "It will probably be some time tomorrow, the storm is creating a lot of interference with global communications."

"Damn that weather." Reginald sighed. "I used to like winter… then the rain of death happened and the planet's never been the same since. Get to it as soon as you can."

Emillia nodded and then excused herself from the room.

"I did manage to have supper prepared, Fara if you wouldn't mind." Reginald said offering his arm.

"Sure dad." Fara said helping him as they moved towards the dining room, which had been at one time a type of observatory.

"Sir, if you don't mind me asking." Nikolai said finally taking his parka as he started feeling warm again. "What has you so ill? Surely with Confederation Medical care they can help you."

Reginald scoffed. "Their science has merely prolonged my life, not improved it. I'm afraid there isn't anything that can be done for it…" He paused for a breath. "I was the unattended target for an assassins strike on our president during the First Lylat War. A type of degenerative neruo-toxin, so they tell me."

"You are damn lucky they were able to at least save you." Fara said.

Reginald made a strange facial expression and then patted his daughter on the paw holding his arm. "Let's not talk of the ancient past, come let's eat, tell me what's happened since we've last spoke."

A run, turned out was exactly what she needed.

Thankfully someone along the line had decided to put a jogging path around the habitat ring of Starbase 186 so those inclined to do so would have plenty of room to go about their business without running anyone over.

Jayna had already got a good pace going and, whilst in her jogging get up was getting some unwanted stairs by starbase personnel as she went along. That was what she missed about her ship, every guy on the Aether knew better.

Although, it was flattering, for being in her mid thirties she could still turn the heads of greenhorns.

The run felt good she could feel some of the resent stress peeling off and her mind focused on something other than her current worries and she just listened to her steady solid breathing and the steady beat of her feet on the carpeted deck.

She rounded a corner and suddenly slammed into something and as she went down she heard a loud pop and felt an odd pressure in her ankle, causing her to yell out an expletive in surprise, not to mention falling onto her ass on the way down.

As the stun of the fall faded and her awareness came back her eyes focused on a face she had been trying to avoid.

"Captain… are you ok?" Harry said looking across from her.

"I'm fine." She snapped him. "What the hell are you doing in the running path, commander?!"

"I'm not." Harry said. "You went around the corner and plowed right into me." He went to gather up his padd that had went bouncing to the other side of the corridor.

She wasn't inclined to believe him but then noticed that she was indeed not on the marked jogging path.

"I was distracted. Sorry." She huffed trying to get back up.

"Do you need help?" Harry asked.

She shooed his offered hand away. "No, Commander that will be all." She huffed getting back to her feet. "I don't need your…. FUCK!" She yelped as she dropped to a knee again a surge of pain running up her leg feeling like it kicked her in the back of her head.

"I think your ankle is dislocated." Harry said. "It's not sitting at the right ankle.

"I think it is too." She grunted squeezing her eye's closed. "It's a damn old injury." She said almost half howling.

"Captain, being as I don't think you want to be beamed to sickbay," Harry said lifting the leg and observing it. "I could get it back in and help you limp to sickbay."

Jayna glared at him but then nodded in agreement. "Just don't OH GOD DAMN IT!" She yelped as she felt it go back into place.

"Got it." Harry said.

"Damnit Harry I out to kick your ass all over this corridor with that leg!" She snapped at him eyes tearing up a bit.

"Sorry," Harry said apologetically. "I thought we were only on formal terms lately."

"I'm going to formally plant your head in that bulkhead." She moaned feeling some relief at the stray foot being attached to her leg properly again. "Now help me up and get me to Sickbay, please."

Harry obliged her and helped her to her feet and she draped her arm over his shoulder. "This is very humiliating.." Jayna growled as they started to limp down the corridor.

"Maybe you'll watch where you're going next time." Harry chuckled.

"I have a lot on my mind." She growled, wincing as she stepped on her bad angle.

Harry merely nodded in agreement. "I've heard that you are needing all the help you can get getting the Aether space worthy again."

"Could be." Jayna replied as she hobbled along. "Please tell me there is a turbo-lift that will get us close, nearby."

"Just a little bit further." Harry answered her.

"Yes we need help, I've got your CO to give me a good chunk of your yard dogs to help but I have to basically take my ship apart, and put it back together as soon as I have the parts I need." She said wincing again.

Harry got her to a turbo-lift and they moved inside when it stopped.

Jayna leaned against the wall and took a deep breath.

"Sickbay." Harry said hitting the lift controls.

"You know I'm still very, very pissed at you." She glared.

Harry nodded understandingly.

"So don't take this as I'm ok with what's happened. Or that you and I are on any great terms either for that matter." Jayna grunted.

"I don't expect you too be." Harry said. "But if I'm going to help you we need to be able to communicate properly."

"Fine." Jayna agreed. "Don't expect anything more."

"Fine." Harry said flatly with no emotion and with that the turbo-lift slid to a stop and the door. He then moved to help her again.

"Can I ask one more thing?" Harry said.

"Don't push it."

"Can we at least try to maintain some professional cordiality towards each other?" Harry sighed.

"I'll think about it after the pain medication kicks in." Jayna said curtly as they left the turbo lift heading for sick bay.

Dinner had been quite interesting. Fara and Nikolai sat facing each other with her father at the head of the table. The meal had actually been some sort of steak but while Fara and her father ate theirs Nikolai had only a little bit and ate more of the salad.

"I'm sorry I forgot that Altairians can be a bit more vegetarian in their diet." Reginald said.

"It is fine, as you said the visit was very hastily planned." Nikolai said. "Now in regards to this little fee, what are you wanting in compensation, Mr. Phoenix."

Reginald laughed a bit although it sounded more like a coughing fit. "Commander, the Confederation has given me more then enough with my deals with them. They provide the weapons and armor for my guards, the heating units that are keeping us warm and power for this house. Not to mention an infusion of funds into the local proprietors, at least until Corneria is off the money standard and fully immersed in the Confederation of Free Worlds."

"How long do you think that will take?" Nikolai asked.

"Who knows, a lot of younger people left when the opportunity presented itself." Reginald shrugged. "I can't blame them, the Lylat System is in utter ruins, those who didn't go to the Confederation moved to the Corsair system or parts unknown." He sighed. "This house had been in my family for generations, now like me and my line, it's just another crumbling ruin on a once beautiful, now scarred world."

"Dad…" Fara said.

"Forgive me." Reginald said. "But to answer your question… I don't know when, there is so much discord on the surface right now. The Cornerian Military is about the only thing we have resembling a government or law and order anymore."

"That is very unfortunate." Nikolai said sincerely.

"It's a very long story and it would take way too long to tell." Reginald said.

"So, Fara why haven't you told me about the war? What were you doing during this time?" Nikolai asked.

"Me?" Fara asked. "Well we were on our way back from some preliminary talks with some people from Fleet R&D way back before Corneria was part of the Confederation. In fact we were discussing the plans that eventually became the Raptor project." She took a bite of her food chewed then swallowed. "We had a little stop over at Papetoon, and then our ship got Hijacked by Venomian troopers."

"My word, then what happened?"

"Well you know…" Fara started then catching herself. "I have a spot of fur that's missing on my stomach, now I don't know the details but I'm told I caught the wrong end of a laser blast."

Reginald nodded. "Yes, she was severely injured and had to be in intensive care for a long time."

"My word." Nikolai exclaimed. Well now he knew why she had a missing fur spot on her stomach.

"We are very lucky that she is among us now." Reginald said reaching over and touching his daughter affectionately on the arm.

For an instant Nikolai saw something in Reginald's expression, it was something unusual as he said that, something in the older foxes eyes but he couldn't make out what.

"Yeah so I missed out on pretty much most of the war, after I got recuperated, I was off to work on the Raptor project." Fara shrugged taking a long drink of wine.

"Will you need any other help on getting the ship you require back to star base 186?" Reginald ask.

"To be honest sir." Nikolai replied. "We need all the help we can get."

"Let me make some calls." Reginald said. "Arspace Dynamics has people all over the quadrant, I'm sure not all of them are terribly busy at the moment." Reginald said.

"I appreciate it but we are having problems with our own bureaucracy." Nikolai let on. "We have had nothing but delays in trying to get my ship back into working order again."

" My dear Commander Korova." Reginald smirked. "Arspace Dynamics functions within the Confederation and without its general procedures and channels it must follow. I can give you the man power and anything you need to complete my task, just say the word and you can have it."

"Well I have no idea what my captain has planned, other then she's wanting to bash the Aether back together as quickly as possible." Nikolai shrugged. "Time is not on our side either."

"I will try to get in touch with Captain De'Sol was it?" Reginald said. Nikolai nodded in response. "And see what I can do for you to, meanwhile while we are here try to enjoy the most of your stay here, unfortunately I can't do anything about the weather."

Emillia entered the room. "Reginald, our guests rooms are prepared and are ready for them."

"Very good." Reginald said. "I don't have much to entertain with, the library is still intact and we do have vidscreens to tap into the Confederation Network so you can keep in touch with your comrades, weather depending of course."

"If you wouldn't mind, sir." Nikolai said politely. "I would not mind seeing the library after dinner."

"Be my guest." Reginald said. "I could use some time to chat with Fara, help yourself."

After dinner Nikolai tried to contact Captain De'Sol but the communicators error code beeped that there were no connections available. He hoped the Mr. Phoenix was having better luck.

She would not be happy, but what else could he do at the moment. Hopefully the storm would dissipate soon and he could get back in touch with her.

The library was decent sized for a private collection and ranged from ancient leather bound tomes to a small digital data archive. He found himself digging through a book that was about the Global Civil war, apparently the last conflict on Corneria that wasn't extraterrestrial. He didn't like killing time with this with things as being tight as they were but he would just have to ride this out. He was still concerned with if the old husk of the Aether would be space worthy enough to make the six light year trip back to the star base, and even then the amount of work it would take to swap the two saucer sections. He sighed and shivered again feeling the cold in the house bite into him again.

"I hope you are finding something to your liking." Emillia said stepping into the room and closing the door.

"I have." Nikolai said looking up at her. "I'm a bit cold now."

Emillia nodded and walked over to a wall panel and activated the heated. "That should take care of it for now."

Nikolai felt warm air being pumped into the room and nodded in appreciation.

"Reginald and Fara wanted some time alone to catch up."

"So what all is it you do, for the Phoenix's."

"A lot." Emilia replied. "Since Fara has been to busy abroad I help her father manage his affairs here at home, I'm also his bodyguard."

"How long have you worked for them." Nikolai asked.

"Almost ten years now." She replied. "I was one of the few fortunate to survive the Rain of Death during the Venomian War. I had come here from Papetoon nearly a year or two beforehand looking for something better than a life of smuggling and dealing with raiders."

"I take it you are well taken care of?" Nikolai said.

Emillia nodded.

"If you ever get tired of it there is always the Starfleet." Nikolai shrugged. "It tends to be a little less dangerous."

"I've thought about it but, I owe Reginald a lot." Emillia said. "Although it sounds great, the Marines stationed here seem to be happy with it."

"There is a detachment here?" Nikolai asked.

Emillia nodded. "Who do you think they guys in the black coats are." Emillia chuckled. "Your people go to an awful lot of trouble to making my job easier."

Suddenly there was a bright flash and the roar of an explosion that illuminated the window and the whole frame of the house shook.

"Speaking of…" Emillia said putting a hand on the blaster holstered at her hip.

Soon the sound of weapons fire was heard and she bolted out the door with Nikolai following her.

"Damn Raiders are attacking again, you'd think they'd lay off for one night." She snarled as they ran.

"If you have a confederation phaser rifle I will assist you." Nikolai said as he ran along beside her. She pulled a comlink from her belt. "Reginald I hope you are somewhere safe."

"Fara and I are in the shelter, do you have any idea what happened?" Reginald asked.

"Not yet we're heading to the com center right now, I'll keep you posted." Emillia said as the entered another part of the building that seemed to be a more recent add-on made out of ferrocrete. Nikolai immediately surmised that this must be were the Marine detachment was as Emillia opened a weapons locker and tossed him a coat as well as a phaser rifle.

"I hope you are ready for a fight." Emillia said grabbing another coat and another rifle.

"I may as well assist." Nikolai said thumbing the weapons setting down to stun.

Emillia snatched a pair of headsets and tossed him one then went out side through the hatch. Nikolai looked warily at the blizzard outside and braced himself and headed out into it.

He followed Emillia up at catwalk and into a concrete bunker that thankfully had a space heater in it. Two marines were firing their phasers into the swirling mass of snow with the aid of eye scanners.

"Commander Korova." Nikolai saidd grabbing a headset from an equipment box on the floor. "How may I assist you gentlemen and how many of them are there?"

The marine glanced over at him.. "About twenty. We've been having problems with the shield generator I think they got your shuttle with an R.P.G."
Nikolai cursed in Altairian as he adjusted the headset and glanced out into the blizzard with his now enhanced vision as a volley of bullets ricocheted of the bunkers wall.

Emillia had already set up and was steadily pumping shots out into the blizzard.

Nikolai managed to pop up once and drop two with two stun burst from his rifle and he quickly dropped down as a grenade slammed into the bunker and nearly deafened him from the roar.

"I wouldn't advise stun sir!" One of the marines shouted at him. "They just come back for more of this!"

Emillia got a few more shots off and then dove for cover and then held her hand up to her ear.

"Gentlemen the shield will be up shortly we just got to hold them off for a few more moments." She reported popping up and downing two more raiders drawing close to the compound.

"I think we can handle that, are you ready commander?" The marine asked.

Nikolai nodded and again the popped up and fired at the advancing raiders who were firing blindly at the lights of the compound hoping to hit something.

Nikolai and the rest returned a volley of crimson streams and three more attackers went down and in the next moment the shield bubble popped up and the entire Phoenix estate was now enveloped in a force field bubble.

"Charlie niner to Delta six, are there any hostels inside the parameter?" The apparent leader of the Marine detachment said into a com set. After a beat he shut down his rifle. "All clear folks. Let's head inside before we freeze our tails off." He took off the mask that he had covering his face revealing him to be a Catarian. "Major. Karmak, sir." He said politely.

"A pleasure." Nikolai said.

"Thanks for the help, we didn't think you fleeter types could shoot a phaser rifle straight to save your own hides." He said packing up his equipment and motioning his men to do the same.

Nikolai slung his rifle over his shoulder. "We can continue this back inside this weather is not too good for me over prolonged periods."

Major Karmak nodded and returned to gathering up the equipment

Later, inside the house.

"Do those attacks happen often?" Nikolai asked.

"Off and on, depending on whatever it is they think they can get out of it." Karmak shrugged taking off his gear. "It just keeps things exciting that's all."

"I would prefer not to have the excitement." Emillia added.

"How many of you are stationed here?"

"About fifteen of us, their were more but lets just say initially the raiders got lucky." Karmak grunted. "Then they finally managed to get us a descent although somewhat unreliable shield generator. Now all we do is hold them off until that force field is back up."

"I'm surprised the situation isn't any better here." Nikolai said. "It's not like the Lylat system is on the fringe of our territory."

"Well that's not the problem. It's that the majority of the populace doesn't agree with the articles of the confederation because they simply don't trust their government." Karmak snorted. "Just a lot of bad blood on this planet it doesn't help that Mr. Phoenix is one of the targets of that."

"The threat is past, they don't have anything that can damage the shield." Emillia said. "You can rest easy now."

"Well with the shields up could I interest you two in a few drinks and a game of pool, not much else to do with the shields up and this storm, Commander?"

"Obliged but I must decline." Nikolai smiled. "I have my own matter I need to attend to while here."

"I would like to Major." Emillia replied. "But I too have some things I need to take care of as well."

"Suit yourself." Karmak shrugged. "Thanks for the help." He said walking away chatting with the others as they lugged their equipment down the hall.

"They are good people." Emillia said watching them go. "You look a bit tired Commander."

"All this excitement has been quite tiring, I think a full nights sleep would be a good idea, tomorrow we got to take off again and try to get most of a starship back to Starbase 186." He then stopped. "Blast it, that's right our shuttle got obliterated.".

"I will see that you have adequate transportation as well as personnel." Emillia said. "Mr. Phoenix seems intent on helping you to the fullest extent, when you wake up tomorrow everything will be taken care of."

"Thank you." Nikolai said. "I'll try to rest easy."

A bit later.

"Come in." Fara said waking up. She couldn't remember getting tired or how she got in her room again but maybe she just needed the rest.

Nikolai entered the room dressed in a single color sleeping pants and shirt. "Did I disturb you?"

Fara shook her head no and yawned and stretched. "What have you been up too?"

"Some reading, we no longer have a shuttle, some raiders attacked the compound."

"Wow and I slept right through it." Fara said. "The shuttle is just a shuttle, are you ok?

"I assisted the Marines and Ms. Lockheart in fending off some raiders." Nikolai replied. "It was quite exciting."

"Well I'm glad I missed it then." Fara said noticing now she didn't remember even changing into her sleeping blouse. "So what are we going to use to get around with now that we are shuttleless?"

"I was told it would be taken care of." Nikolai said observing the room. This place reminded him of her quarters fairly Spartan except for several sets of small hand tools. The wall had several merit awards from primary school and her diploma from the Cornerian academy. A few old toys were scattered about but the most used of the lot seemed to be a small tool bench with some tools placed with care on it.

"Let me guess this is where you spent a lot of your time?" Nikolai said picking up a small welder and looking at it.

Fara sat up in the bed and drew her knees up to her chest. "Yeah, I built my first anti-grav unit there." She said remembering fondly. "It only worked for about a day and then the transactor coil exploded."

"I always had to share with my sister." Nikolai chuckled. "She would hide my tools when I wouldn't let her use the bench."

"I have got to meet this woman." Fara chuckled. "Harry told me a little about her she seems like she's a handful."

"She means well, she just sometimes lets her good intentions get ahead of her job." Nikolai said. "I'm sure she's cursing me not being on board the Aether to help her."

"You'll be back soon enough." Fara said. "You trust your old crew don't you?"


"Then she'll be well taken care of." Fara scooting to the end of the bed.

There was suddenly a knock at the open door.

They both looked to see Emillia standing there. "Sorry to interrupt." She said apologetically. "I just have an update. Mr. Phoenix has a full crew rounded up of techs to meet you at the scrapyard and the funds have already been transferred. He's requested that I accompany you two back to starbase 186 to make sure that everything goes smoothly."

"That's fine, anything else?" Fara asked.

"I would prefer an early start, probably 0730 out of here by 0800 if possible." Emillia said.

"No problem." Nikolai said. "Anything else?"

Emillia shook her head no. "Have a good night you too, Commander I trust you enjoyed your mud bath."

"Madame you have no idea." Nikolai said appreciatively.

Emillia bowed. "Good night."

Nikolai waited until he heard her walk down the hall his tail twitching a bit.

"Something on you mind?" Fara asked coyly.

"Yes, the Heating Unit in my room will not turn up high enough." He said shutting the door. "I am not looking forward to spending the night in there."

Fara chuckled. "What you want to sleep in here?"

Nikolai nodded. "I don't think I will get any sleep if I stay in there."

"Is this a ploy to just get in bed with me or are you really cold."

"I am really, really, serious." Nikolai said drooping his ear flaps slightly.

Fara laughed. "Awww that's not fair you giving me the puppy dog look."

"What would your father say if he found out?" Nikolai said apprehensively. "We are in his house."

"So?" Fara shrugged. "I'm a big girl. He's learned to stay out of my business over the years. Oh let me guess it's a taboo on your world?"

"At least until we are …. Joined." Nikolai said. "It's a respect thing.."

"What you never stayed over at a girls house before?"

"I lived inside the last girl I slept in, she weighed several thousand tons." Nikolai chuckled. "Believe me until you came along I didn't have the time. Being an Engineer is not the easiest thing to attract anything substantial partner wise."

"Don't worry about it, Nick" She said standing up and rubbing the side of his muzzle. "I won't tell anybody. If you won't."

One of the things the Aether needed had been a set of new warp nacelles, seeing as the number would be dropped to two instead of three with the modified ship design as per Captain De'sol's orders, this was going to require some serious improvised engineering. Being as the only usable easily accessible nacelles were that from the wreck of the Fearless and the every decreasing amount of time to get flying again, she had little choice but to go speak to Captain Stiles.

"Captain De'Sol, come in have a seat." Stiles said warmly looking up from his digital paperwork. "I hope my station is treating you well, have a seat."

"As well as it can." Jayna said sitting in the seat across from him. "I have a big favor I need to ask of you."

"And that being?" Stiles said going back to his paperwork.

"I'll be right up front with you and speak one captain to another."

"Ok," Stiles said saving his work quickly and then interlacing his fingers and leaning his arms on his desk. "Shoot."

"I have an extremely tight deadline from Headquarters to get my ship operational. However, someone up top doesn't like me too well and every time my crew orders parts they mysteriously get lost."

"I see." Stiles said looking concerned.

"Now I'll really cut to the quick. The Fearless is sitting in dry dock collecting dust. She's a dead hulk but she has a lot of parts I need right now." She shifted still remembering how Nikolai had pointed out the ghoulishness of such a thing, especially considering the ship was still in the state it was found in after all the bodies of it's crew had been removed. "With your permission since according to regulations, it's yours to do with as you see fit. I'm aware of the ramifications of what I'm asking but I need the Aether back up and running as quickly as possible."

Stiles hmmed and leaned back in his chair musing it over. "That's probably the most unusual request I've ever gotten. Hell, Unorthodox doesn't' even cover what you are asking." He thought for a few moments. "What exactly is it you need from the Fearless?"

Jayna pulled a small data device from her pocket and handed it to him. "Just a little list of what can be pulled off of the Fearless. The nacelles, some power couplers major parts we're not able to get our hands on at the moment."

Stiles took the device and uploaded the list and whistled as he looked at it. "You are asking a lot here, I know I haven't had the yard dogs thoroughly salvage her and this is a lot to explain away as going to waste."

"Like I said ,one captain to another, I am asking you a big favor." Jayna said.

"This is a big favor, Captain." Stiles said that. "This even outweighs what my own people ask for me to do for them."

"Name your price that's all I'm asking." Jayna said coolly.

Stiles stepped his fingers and taped them together. "I hear you have a fine collection of old wines from across the quadrant. Or is that just a rumor?"

Jayna's face twitched, it wasn't that they couldn't be replaced it was it took a lot of work just to get what she had. The good stuff was kept in a storage facility back home on Termia. "It's not just a rumor." Jayna said after regaining her composure.

"Well I have an anniversary coming up and my wife loves Mangrovian wine. Do you happen to have a few hundred year old bottles."

"Yes." Jayna said forcing a smile. Damn. She thought to herself. She only had about four of them and that took a lot of boring dinners with the ambassador from that world to obtain. "How many would you like?"

"Two should suffice, one for us and one for my Dockmaster to keep his mouth shut and making this little list.." He said pointing to the printout on the screen. "Disappear and we keep this between us and hope no one starts looking too close. Do we have a deal?"

Two bottles, ugh, that's going to take some work to get back.. She thought. "Deal." She replied. "I'll have them sent as soon as I get the first wave of parts."

"I'll get my people on it right away, a pleasure doing business with you."

"Thank you Captain." Jayna said a bit relieved, it cost her but she now had what she needed and the stations yard dogs to do the work for her. She stood up to leave.

"I hope you don't need anything else but if you do, you know where to find me." Stiles said going back to his work.

"I surely hope not Captain." Jayna said exiting through the double sliding doors. She walked down into ops and entered the turbolift. "Computer Patch me through to Commander Nikolai Korova please." She hadn't heard from him yet and was starting to get a bit annoyed that maybe he was taking this little break a bit to seriously.


A communicator chirped on the floor of Fara's room.

"Nnnngh tell them to go away, we're not here." Fara groaned nuzzling her head into Nikolai's luke warm scaly chest.

"I can't." Nikolai yawned. "the storm must have let up I need to answer." He said trying to move to grab the device but Fara was being a dead weight. He finally just sat up and she yelped as she rolled of him and off the bed taking the covers with her making a muffled furry thump as she hit the floor.

Nikolai shivered realizing now that the portable heater in the room wasn't doing nearly an adequate job and activated the communicator as picked it up. "Korova here."

"I'd like a status report you are a bit overdue." Jayna stated.

"I am sorry Captain but we have been experiencing difficulties since we get here. Our shuttle was destroyed and communications with the satellite network have been dicey at best."

"Did we get the old gal or not, that's my main concern." Jayna said over the devices speaker. "I got the other needs taken care of I just hope we got that saucer."

"We've got it, I assure you Captain." Nikolai said feeling Fara toss the blankets onto the bed and snuggle up next to him pressing herself against his back, straddling his tail.

"How long until you get back?" Jayna asked.

"I'll let you know as soon as I do, I'm not sure of our exact methods of getting the old Aether back to starbase but I'll keep you apprised."

"She's very pushy isn't she?" Fara snickered.

"Are you alone?" Jayna asked. "I thought I heard something?"

"No, I'm not." Nikolai replied. "I have company. I would have taken this privately but the only video terminal is in a way colder part of the house and it's only o four hundred in the morning, sir."

"Understood, contact me in the layer I'll catch you up on what we've got accomplished back here."

"Aye sir." Nikolai replied.

"Good night, commander." Jayna said with a small inflection of amusement as she closed the channel.

"Yes she is very demanding." Nikolai said.

"Poor Nikolai, always getting pushed around by girls." Fara snickered reaching for a blanket and quickly wrapping them both in it noticing Nikolai starting to shiver.

"She's not just any girl she's my Captain, big difference." Nikolai smirked.

"And what am I? Just the Girlfriend?" Fara said tickling his ribs.

"You are whatever you want to be to me." Nikolaii smiled leaning back to kiss her neck. "But you can't nail me for insubordination."

"Wanna bet?"

Jayna entered her quarters shortly after getting off the lift. As she did she ordered the shutters to be opened and she replicated a cup of coffee and went to go stand by the windows overlooking her once beautiful starship now shot to pieces in front of her.

So far so good, the rest was just a matter of time and racing against the clock.

All there was left to do was to just sit back and wait.

Well that wouldn't do.

She finished her tea and set the cup down on a table and head down towards her ship, she was sure there was something she could do to help.

The next day.

Starbase 186's Yard Crews worked overnight to remove the nacelles from the damaged Fearless and send them over to be attached to the Aether. As soon as they were connected the Aether's broken nacelles were hauled off for scrap. They then proceeded to start discreetly stripping the Fearless of other needed parts and shipping them to the Aether's cargo bays via transporter.

Harry got the call early that morning from Captain De'sol to help her Engineer Donika Korova with attaching the older parts. Apparently the young engineer wasn't familiar with retrograding, and was having some problems attaching the older nacelles to the newer ships systems. He agreed to head straight down their to help with the repairs.

A string of Altairian curses echoed through the newly attached port nacelle of the Aether followed by a crash of some tools as Harry climbed down into the inactive plasma injector relay.

Two of the Aethers engineers looked in the sound of the noise with worry. It was never good when Donnika blew her stack however they quickly snapped to attention when they spotted him.

"Problem?" Harry asked recognizing one of them from his stay on the ship.

"We are having some complications getting the nacelles to integrate with the newer design." The crewman reported. "As I'm sure you can tell."

Harry raised a brow as he heard a new curse he'd yet to hear in Altairian that implied that the object of her anger tended to fornicate with flaming dead bodies of farm animals.

"At ease I'll take care of it." Harry said. "It's been awhile but I think I can still remember my way around an older J25 plasma relay interface." He said walking over to a ladder and climbing down inside the nacelle. "That is if she doesn't start beating on it first."

It was quite a climb down until he reached the base of the nacelle and Harry saw the tool kit that had been thrown in to the bulkhead and could still hear Donnika rattling down inside the open hatchway.

He walked up to the open hatchway and peered down inside of it. "Lieutenant?" He said patiently.

Donnika's head snapped up from what she was working on and she bared her teeth at him for a bit before she recognized him. "Commander Martinez?... Vat are you doink here?"

"I was told you need all the help you can get, Donnika."

"You know not zee half of eet!" She sighed.

"What is the problem?" Harry asked calmly.

"Zee plasma interlinks not wanting to sync up with zee metaphaseic inductors, two different ages of technologies they are! The time for this this… stupidity is not what I have!" She said frustrated.

"Let me get, your tools." Harry said. "I know a few tricks I could show you."

Donnika looked relieved. "At least someone does!"

In a few moments Harry dropped down into the conduit with her with her formerly scattered tools.

"Didn't you work on these when your brother was in charge?" Harry asked.

"He vouldn't let me anywhere near the old engines," Donnika sighed. "He didn't want me tinkering with vhat he said vas already perfect. Now before zee damn ince…" she caught herself.

"You knew how to work on the new ship.." Harry completed. "Now you are at a disadvantage."

Donnika sighed and nodded. "I have not much time to get this ship operational, I wish he was here to help."

"Don't worry Lieutenant," Harry said. "You will have all the help you can deal with and Commander Korova is in good hands in finding the rest of what you need to get up and operational again and as long as my crew and I aren't being interrupted we'll be helping with the repairs as much as we can. It's the least we can do." He looked down into the conduit and instantly saw what the problem was. "I see what your problem is, one you don't have it hooked up right. I'll show you how to do this and it's so simple you won't ever need to be shown it again."

"Thank you." Donnika said gratefully.

"Not a problem." Harry said setting to work and starting to unfasten a few connectors. "I'll need a virbo spanner and grab a couple of R type connecting circuits."

"Right I zink we have some up in the equipment room. I'll go get it." She said climbing back up the hatch.

Harry shook his head and humed as he worked. He always did enjoy working on the equipment that made up a starship and Fara was pretty adamant about letting just anybody touch any part of the Raptor with a tool in their hand.

Donnika slid back down the later with the parts and handed it to him, and Harry already had everything disconnected and ready for her.

"Now watch and learn." Harry said as she handed him the connectors.

Harry then to of the conduits and attached the connectors. He then plugged them into auxillary ports on the connect hardpoint. After that he locked them down and then pooped open the trunk they were connected two and pulled out two or three ODN chips and then a circuit board and worked on it. "Now get in close this is the tricky."

Donnika did told and watched as he used a small soldered to cross a few circuit ends.

"Why are you jumping the S13 circuits Donnika said leaning in a bit to close over his shoulder and their cheeks brushed each other and he caught a whiff of her Altairian pheromones.

Harry was suddenly not very interesting in what he was doing and started to shake his head.

Donnika blushed and backed up.

"Sorry Commander…." She said flushing slightly. "I'm just impressed by your knowledge…"

"It's ok." He said trying to shake off the effect and amorous thoughts about the younger engineer. "Get me a couple of k49 capacitors, if I remember right. And wait a bit so I can get some air. "

"Sorry again." She said blushing a dark green and scurrying up the ladder.

Harry smacked his muzzle and tried to shake off the effects but he knew it would be awhile. When he worked with her before he made sure to keep a respectable distance, to avoid that happening, the bio chemical release of pheromones with skin on skin contact with an Altairian could really pull a whopper on someone, not to mention the Altairian if their strange physiology determined them compatible mates. Although he wondered if he could get that close again..

Now that he was experiencing it, he now new why Fara was so loopy over Nikolai.

"Damn it!" He cursed as he set the circuit board down and smacked himself across the muzzle

"Are you ok?" Donnika called back down the hatchway. "I've got the parts."

"No I'm not ok." He chuckled rubbing the side of his face. "You got me pretty good." He said staring at her rump as she climbed back down the ladder.

"I am sorry." She said blushing again. "I really do…"

Harry held his paw up. "Don't lets just focus on what… we're doing. Not each other ok…"

Donnika smiled. "Yes of course."

He handed her the circuit board. "Let's do this, you do the work, like I planned and I'll stand over here and instruct you how to finish the repair."

"Ok." She said turning to kneel down to reach into the equipment trunk and walking with a bit too much saunter.

"I'm ready when you are Harr… Commander." She said.

"Ok.." Harry said trying to stay focused. "Take the caps and attach them to the board on the zz209 and tr456 junctions. After that …"

With the help of an Arspace Technologies starship transport vessel and a full crew of technicians assessing the Aether's space worthiness only took half a day. The ship had in essence been fairly stripped now. The bridges main consoles were now just bare hubs with hastily slapped on plates covering the holes.

"It's a shame.." Nikolai sighed as he and Fara stood on the bridge. "A shame we had to retire her, yes she was old but she ran like a dream now look at her."

"At least Bronte left the dame SIDF generators, deflector and warp core." Fara said. "And it looks like we might be ready to take off here in another few hours. If it weren't for the fact we had the S.S.T. we could probably take her home under her own power."

"About that how long will it take for us to get back?" Nikolai asked.

"About two days." Fara said. "That's the only downside, but it'd be the safest way for us to get the old Aether back to star base 186."

"What could happen?"

Fara laughed. "Well anything could happen, especially considering what happened last night and from prior experience." Fara chuckled. "I'd like to get back to home base with as little unnecessary craziness as possible.

Nikolai couldn't help but nod in agreement. "I can see your point." Nikolai replied.

Emillia appeared on the turbo lift and stepped out into the bridge. "Ms. Phoenix. We should be ready to depart within the next few hours the inertial clamps are soon after that."

"That's good news." Fara acknowledged. "That will give Nikolai and I time to examine the structural hard connect points."

Emillia put her hand up to an ear bud. "It seems we are receiving a long range communication addressed to you commander."

"That is probably my captain." Nikolai said. "Do we still have communications on this ship."

"Yeah," Fara replied. "Give me a second I just go to power them on." Fara said walking over to the rudimentary pieces of what was left of the communications console. She fiddled with it for a few seconds and finally the viewer snapped to life and Captain De'Sol's image appeared on the screen.

"What's your status commander?" she asked seeing Nikolai.

"Things are going fairly smoothly, and we should be their in approximately two days."

"Two days?" Jayna said a bit disappointed.

"Captain." Fara said. "We ran into a little trouble on Corneria and we're going to use a starship transport to ensure we get the Aether back safely. It'll take a bit longer for us to get there, but we're bringing extra help and we'll be sure the ship gets their in one piece."

"Very well we're getting ready to disconnect the hard points on the ship hear. I am trusting both of you to make sure that ship is in good shape."

"We already have a plan sir." Nikolai said crisply. "In fact we're going to give it a good once over before it even gets there."

"That's good to here."

"How is progress going, Captain?" Nikolai asked.

"The crew has managed to salvage two warp nacelles, the top torpedo array and some vital components from the Fearless, and yes I got authorization from command. I had to chew their ass out to get them and they let me do it grudgingly. The Raptor crew has been pitching in when they have time and we've actually managed to get them attached." Jayna said. "If we get that saucer, we'll have a whole starship again."

"And hopefully enough time to get back together with plenty of time to spare." Nikolai smiled his pointy toothed smile.

"We can only hope," Jayna replied. "Get your buts here as soon as we can we'll try to the Aether back together as quickly as possible and I really want you back to supervise it."

"Is Lt. Korova having problems?" Nikolai asked.

Jayna rolled her eyes. "She's trying but this is a little out of her league but Commander Martinez is helping her as well as some of the other Raptor personnel. The situation still is not the best but its better then it has been."

"We will be their in two days with an SST that will have the equipment we need as well as extra people to pitch in." Nikolai said.

"That's great news, we'll be awaiting your return." Jayna said. "De'sol, out."

Later after the repairs were completed Harry excused himself.

He had to get free of this compulsion it was starting to become very irritating so he made his way to sickbay. Although the further he got the more remorseful he became. He was somewhat relieved when the lift opened up and the stations infirmary was only a few steps ahead.

As he entered Dr. Okan looked up from some vials and bubbling flasks he seemed to be working on. "Commander, what are you doing here have you hurt any more senior officers?" He said with a chuckle

"Real funny, no this time I have a problem."

Dr. Okan grabbed a medical tricorder and began scanning him. "Well do tell."

"I got a dose of Altairian pheromones." He said. "It was a stupid accident.."

"Ah that would explain these readings." Dr. Okan said. "For a moment I thought you were having some kind of panic attack."

"Can you do anything for it?" Harry said. "I'm trying to help out the Akira's engineer get their ship together." He was again thinking some very interesting thoughts of Donnika and then shook his head to clear them. "I think I impressed her." He said absentmindedly.

"Oh dear." Okan chuckled closing the tricorder.

"What…. Does that mean?"

"Well usually just casual contact, such as an accidental brush in a hallway or a hand shake can be countered with Amilitriptin." He said. "However, in other "situations" where there is even a mild state of arousal in an Altarian of either sex who the contact is with. The only way to resolve it, is the way nature intended it too."

"You mean…." Harry groaned.

"Yeah," Okan asked chuckling again. "I can't really do anything for it Commander. The best thing I can say is hope for a call for us to board the Raptor or try to refrain from being around her, but it won't be pleasant."

"You aren't helping." Harry said. "They really need my help but… Donnika is a nice… competent at what she does but I don't want to do that."

"Well I suggest you figure something out because if you get around her it's going to be harder and harder to break free of it." Okan chuckled. "Look at Ms. Phoenix for instance, she's quite head over heels for Commander Korova."

"Arrgh, I don't need this." Harry said. "I have enough problems at the moment…"

"Sorry Commander, but there is nothing I can really give you to help." Okan shrugged.

"Ok, I'll manage…. Somehow…" He moaned. "Thanks Doc."

"Anytime, oh and Commander, tell Captain De'Sol to do the physical therapy I prescribed for her ankle. I don't think she took it to heart."
"I'll tell her.." Harry sighed leaving the infirmary.

He stopped outside sickbay and his combadge beeped.

"Martinez.." He said.

"Commander." Donnika's voice said. "I am sorry to disturb you again but we have another problem."

"Is it a "problem" problem or something else." Harry said catching himself before it was too late.

There was a pause on the combadge. "I need assistance changing over the main plasma couplers that will have to connect to the saucer when it gets here."

"I'll be there in a little bit." Harry replied.

"Thank you, sir." Donnika replied.

Regardless of how this was going down he was just going to have to ride this out of he could, he did promise Jayna he would help as best he could. He would just have to deal with it.

He would just have to keep his distance, Jayna was counting on him to help get her ship functional again, and he would just have to work through this little problem

Several hours later.

Nikolai and Fara had completed their inspection of the ship. Fortunately the ship was still structurally sound and would work as well as they hopped. They were both tired and exhausted because it had been a really long day.

"We really, really, got lucky." Fara said. "Usually when a ship like this hits a scrap yard it gets completely gutted for everything it's worth, I guess Dante was serious about keeping it." She then groused. "I hope he's happy with his damn money."

"The Happiness money brings is only fleeting, I'm sure you don't miss it much since you have been away from your home." Nikolai said.

"Well I never had to worry about it to begin with." Fara replied. "But yeah it is nice to just not really care about it, although we still have creds."

"Yes but we don't depend on them." Nikolai replied.

"Yeah, about the only purpose they serve is buying authentic non replicated stuff." Fara shrugged. "Like booze, souvenirs, art, whatever. Anyways," Fara chuckled. "So want to go grab something to eat? I'm starving."

"Sounds good to me." Nikolai smiled his toothy grin.

They walked a little further along and stopped at an access way that was standing open.

"Nick, did we open that?" Fara asked.

"I don't believe so." Nikolai said activating his tricorder and running a scan. "Very unusual."

"Could be the magnetic lock disengaged." Fara said closing it and then looking the device over. "Looks like it could have shorted." She said as the door slowly swung back open.

"Quite unusual." Nikolai said thinking back to their earlier encounter, yet his tricorder showed nothing unusual.

"What is it?" Fara asked.

"Perhaps being a bridge officer has made me a bit paranoid." Nikolai growled closing the tricorder and deactivating it.

"Paranoia isn't really a bad thing." Fara shrugged.

Nikolai shrugged. "No, I suppose it isn't my love. Lets get something to eat."

After a nearly a whole day of fighting the affliction, Harry was exhausted and down. He felt like he'd been fighting and uphill battle all day, and he was tired and exhausted.

He was walking down the docking corridor when he ran into Jayna who was approaching from the other direction.

"Commander, if you don't mind me saying. What happened to you?" She said a bit concerned. "You look like hell."

"It's taken most of the day to get those nacelles up and running." Harry said. "We got it done.. all we need is … is.."

"The rest of the ship." Jayna finished. "Are you ok ,you look miserable and you're flushed."

Harry groaned and leaned against the wall. "Altairian pheromones…" He groaned.

Jayna started to laugh, she couldn't help it. "Oh that's just rich!"

"It's not funny I feel miserable." Harry groaned.

"I'm sorry, it's just that, wow." She started laughing again, with a laugh boisterous enough it sounded like she hadn't had a good one in awhile. "So what are you doing? Just slugging it out? Commander Martinez is just too tough to give in to a biochemical compulsion."

"I'm trying too and not succeeding, to well."

"She must have got you good." Jayna chuckled. "You should get a medal for sticking it out this long." She smirked. "You know it's only going to get worse… When they get you there is only one way out."

"Don't remind me…." Harry groaned. "She's a beau…. Good officer and I want to.. don't want to complicate matters."

"Yeah you are doing that just fine the way it is." Jayna laughed. "Come with me, I was looking for you anyway, there is one way that might help but it's not recommended by your physician."

She did honestly feel sympathy for him, those little contacts were quite nasty to deal with she could only imagine he felt as miserable as he looked. One part of her found that very amusing and him deserving of it.

"I really do not care, anything at this point." Harry sighed.

"Ok, I was going to make supper, usually Nikolai dines with me." She said offhandedly. "I would appreciate the company, and I don't think you need to be left alone." She then giggled again. "Especially in that sorry state."

Harry nodded, an olive branch being extended.

"Well come on or are you going to stand there looking back at the ship wistfully for the rest of the night." Jayna said patiently.

Harry snapped out of it, that was exactly what he was doing. "Yeah, get me out of here."

"I'll escort you home first Commander." Jayna said as they started heading down the corridor. "You could use a shower."


The food, as usual had been good.

The wine flowed quite well as well.

Jayna and him talked as if it were back on his brief stay on the Aether. They caught up on what was going on and just the simple mental distraction was keeping his mind from wandering, that and the occasional toe of a boot to his shin.

Harry was concerned, that she seemed to be purposely avoiding any conversation pertaining to recent events but at least they were talking. They did discuss the last stage of the repairs that would involve breaking the Aether into it's modular hull components and making the ship whole again with the functioning parts from the older vessel.

Harry helped Jayna clean off the table and put the dishes away in the replicator for reprocessing.

"Now what?" He asked.

"You still tripping?" Jayna asked.

"A little bit." The effects were finally starting to wear off, either that or the wine was numbing his senses to it.

Jayna chuckled. "Damn it, that was the good stuff too." She said setting the wine bottle back in a cabinet. "Believe me Harry, I can empathize."

"Really you've been through this?" Harry asked.

Jayna nodded and chuckled. "Yeah Nikolai accidentally got me a month ago.."

"How'd you deal with it?"

Jayna blushed a little bit. "The way you're supposed to.."

"You are kidding…" Harry said.

Jayna shook her head. "It was that or wander around being miserable like you."

"Probably better not ever let Fara catch wind of that." Harry joked. Cornerian's weren't nearly as open minded as echidnas when it came to intimacy, that and by this time it was well known that the Aether's former Chief Engineer and Fara were and item. "How did it happen?"

"He was gallantly trying to save his captain from getting hit by a blaster bolt." Jayna replied. "One of the Coroli factions thought trying to assassinate a Starfleet captain might make us back off. In the jostle we had accidental contact and well …" she laughed. "I'm sure you can understand."

Harry nodded in agreement and they were quiet as they finished cleaning up the dishes and table. "Now what?" Harry hiccupped.

"Well back in the day." Jayna said. "When Admiral Kramer would run us cadets nearly nuts we'd play a game. It's a good way to kill a few hours."

"Dakort?" Harry nodded. "Yes I know it." He hiccupped again. "I've played it a few times."

"Are you on duty?" Jayna asked.

"What day is it?" Harry asked. "I'm having trouble remembering that."
"Ilesday." Jayna said.

"Well… I usually go help the captain with some of his tasks but I suppose I could ask for a bit of a late start." He really didn't feel like stumbling home at the moment.
"Ok fine we'll play it dry and cut back on the booze." Jayna shrugged.

Harry nodded. "Fair enough he replied. Deal." He said walking over to the couch and coffee table and sitting down.

The night went on, several hands had been played and Harry proved to be fairly adapt at it. Much to Jayna's annoyance.

"I should have made you keep drinking." She hissed picking up the cards and shuffling.

"Well you could saved yourself the trouble if you'd asked me earlier." Harry smirked.

"You beat me in chess too, I thought I'd change it up on you." She said dealing out another hand.

Harry picked up his cards and tossed two and drew two more.

Jayna looked at her hand and did the same as they began to play.

"Commander, may I ask you something." She finally said after an intake of breath.

"Shoot." Harry said as he waited for her move.

Jayna put three cards down and then drew three more.

"Back during the … accident." Jayna said looking at the cards she drew and then cupping the cards in her hand. "When did you notice there was trouble?"

Harry glanced down at the cards face up in front of her, it was a strong lead, it did not look good for him this turn.

"Jayna there was a whole board of inquiry over this I don't want to go over it again."

"I want to hear it from you directly, not a god damn report." she said coolly, her body language showing she was not expecting him to dodge out of this. "I appreciate your help to me and my crew but I want to put you to the test." She said her eyes locking onto him. "We are going to play a game." She said. "You don't know what I have in my hand." She said holding up her cards showing at least five in her hand. " but I assure you that my victory is most assuredly imminent this hand."

Harry rose an eyebrow intrigued. "So you've been lulling me into a sense of false security?"

Jayna nodded. "I am going to give you a chance." She said. "I am going to ask you some questions, the first one has already been asked. If I am satisfied with your answer I will play a card to weaken my position. Else I won't" She then smirked confidently. "However you will not be able to tell with the cards I have in my hand."

"That hardly sounds fair." Harry replied.

"That's for me to decide, this is a game of trust." Jayna said. "Draw your cards and answer the question."

"And if I lose?"

"Then anything we may have shared or had, is lost." Jayna replied her face devoid of emotion. "You will leave here, and we will never speak again outside the confines of the uniform is that understood?"

"Ok, and if I win?"

"We shall see." Jayna said wrapping the table with a knuckle indicating for him to play.

"The first time I noticed a problem was when the computer was shutting down areas of the ship. My orders were to see that the test performed successfully and stay out of the way. When the computer attacked a defenseless vessel I ordered it's deactivation." He glared. "However the Epsilon Three had tricked us and maintained operation even after our attempts to disable it." He looked at his hand and pulled up the few he thought to play. "Believe me we were doing everything we could to try to shut that machine down and finally once I convinced it, that what it was doing was wrong. It destroyed itself."

He played his card to set up the appropriate strategic blocks but his position on the table was very weak. He drew a few more cards. "Go."

He frowned as Jayna made the appropriate plays but did not capture the high card and remove it from play. It was an unusual strategy but she still had the upper hand.

"Did you do everything you could to try to contact the other ships?" She asked after drawing her cards and wrapping her knuckle on the table again.

Harry tried to read her but her facial expression and even her posture was a blank. Her breathing was steady and she seemed calm.

"I had my best people working on the communications systems at the time." Harry replied. "Due to the computers integration into our systems it had everything locked out. We had no way to warn off the other ships."

Again he made his play and he was still no better off then he was last hand, things did not bode well for him at all.

"If you knew something was wrong, and your instincts were obviously telling you to act why didn't you?" She said levelly playing her last set.

"I was under direct orders from Admiral Leyton not to interfere with the tests, provided there was no danger to the participants. At the time, during the first instance of problems there was not direct threat to anyone. I was assured by the doctor that everything was fine despite my own misgivings. If I would have known then what I do now I would have pulled the plug on that infernal contraption immediately."

"Do you have any idea what your failure to act cost me, Harry?" Jayna said with a tinge of anger in her voice. "Not the damage to my ship, ships can be repaired, but the lives of my people who are now gone, destroyed because you failed to act." She was obviously becoming a bit more enraged but her trying to maintain control. "And the lives you have damaged as the result of the deaths of my crew." She wrapped her knuckle on the table.

Harry folded his cards, made his final play and then leaned forward. "I know as well as you the cost of that accident. Not only the lives of the other two ships but Pasky, Serin, Caz, Karlyle, and Miranada were good people and fine officers and we're all the better for knowing them and the lesser for their absence." Harry took a breath. "And if you don't think that I haven't thought about it every moment since it happened and don't feel any regret then I may as well go through that door and never come back."

Jayna glanced down at the table. Harry made a bold, if not desperate play for the game. It was a gamble, if anything but a well thought out gamble.

She glanced at her hand.

Two cards would decide his fate.

"Are you feeling lucky Commander?" She said coolly.

"Luck has nothing to do with it." Harry replied levelly. "I don't like to lose." He held up his final card with the back facing her. He laid it down on the table.

He had to be bluffing.

Or he was just crazy. She couldn't tell.

She already had a winning trump in play. After running the math of the cards through her head he couldn't possibly have anything high enough to make his even viable against her own.

Unless she had lost count, that was possible.

"It's a game of trust remember, make your choice." Harry said as she went for her card.

He had to know he was going to … She thought. He couldn't win and he knew it but he was bluffing anyway. He was putting himself, literally on the chopping block.

She drew her card and did the same.

"You know you can't win." She said coldly.

Harry shrugged. "I know you, and that's what I'm counting on."

They sat in a stand off each of their eyes locked on the others.

"Concede." Jayna finally said withdrawing her card and she started to scoop them up.

"Wait that's it? All that build up?" Harry inquired. "What did you have in your hand?"

"You first." Jayna replied.

Harry flipped it over, it was a 3 star card.

"You are nuts." Jayna said. "Calling like that with not nearly enough to back it up. With that drop of points you wouldn't even be able to play a contesting hand!"

"What did you have?" Harry said.

Jayna showed her cards.

"Damn." Harry sighed.

"I guess that means I trust you." She said getting up. "Let me show you something."

She walked over to a cabinet and extracted a data chip. She then grabbed a small padd and inserted it into the back and activated the wall monitor.

"What is this?" Harry asked.

"Hush and watch."

The Confederation Logo appeared and a star date dated nearly eight months ago appeared underneath the logo indicated it was a prerecorded message.

The video flickered and revealed the image of their teacher and mentor Admiral Kramer sitting at his desk onboard his vessel.

"Captain De' Sol." His raspy gravelly voice said politely. "It has been a long time since we last talked. Encrypted in this message is a task of up most importance, I want you to do for me." He leaned forward and keyed something and on a small window Harry could make out his own personnel file. "A long time ago I told you that you needed to seek your own answers. This Lt. Commander Martinez may have some of these for you. He is currently in charge of the RAPTOR a new prototype vessel. As you can see from his record that he is an exemplary officer, that has due to some complications been stalled on his advancement up the command ladder. I feel that at this time due to circumstances he is beginning to feel encumbered by his current assignment. I need you to guide him Jayna, guide him to understanding his place in the greater scheme of things. You like him share the distinction of being one my most promising of students. You like him also share a common bond, one which neither one of you can begin to imagine. I have already gone through the appropriate channels to promote him. I will need your signature and approval to finalize his promotion"

Admiral Kramer then winced and quickly injected himself with something. Harry recalled he had been effected by some sort of mutagenic radiation that had caused a type of untreatable cancer to slowly ravage his body. Often causing him to be in great amounts of pain. He slowly regained his composure and continued his message.

"I need you to guide him Jayna, he is more important to you than you know. I need you to trust him, trust him implicitly.

I wish we could communicate in person but I understand you have your duties and obligations. I will trust you to carry out this assignment. Admiral Kramer out."

With that the message terminated.

They both sat in silence. "This was a bit before he disappeared wasn't it?" Harry asked.

Jayna nodded and pulled the data chip. "For once, with that man, I wish I knew just what the hell was going on, in that mind of his."

"You and me both." Harry said pondering.

"I hope you can now understand my dilemma with you and why we had to do this." She said putting the chip away. "Jon seems to believe in you and he wants me to as well."

Harry nodded. "Before I came to the Starbase I was happy where I was, next thing in know I'm being transferred halfway across the quadrant to this ship." He groused. "It would be nice to know who the hell thought I ought to be put in charge of the Raptor."

"Believe it or not, the beloved Admiral Leyton." Jayna sighed. "I've had my sources check it and that guy has a serious grudge against Admiral Kramer."

"What for?"

"The Raptor's development was Kramer's idea." Jayna said. "Fleet HQ took his proposal over one of Leyton's weapons projects and Leyton had to scrap years of development." Jayna said walking back to the couch and sitting beside Harry. "You unfortunately are the only one out of all of us that he can really torment and you being the Raptor's commanding officer." She sighed. "I'm sure he was enjoying making you miserable being transferred to a project that was starting to be seen as a failure until you turned that around. In short, you should watch your back around Leyton, Harry. I'm sure this little incident has him gunning for you harder then before." She sighed. "He'll be off licking his wounds for the moment, which is why he left the Aether and I, high and dry, but I assure you he will be back."

"I don't know what worse he could do to me." Harry said with a slight chuckle.

"Who do you think has been submitting the shipping routes through this quadrant deliberately placing you in harms way." Jayna shrugged. "Sure it looks safe on paper, but any Captain worth their salt knows the best way to avoid the Urtheans is to stay as far away from them as possible." She sighed. "I know this, which is why I took the steps to get some relief sent to this sector for you and your crew. You owe me a lot."

"I can see that now…" Harry said. "I have noticed my life has gotten slightly easier since we've crossed paths."

Jayna nodded. "I need to apologize to you, considering what has happened I hope you can understand why I had my doubts."

"I understand, and I forgive you." Harry replied.

"About this whole damn mess." She said intertwining her fingers and stretching. "What really digs at me is it was just a stupid accident…." Jayna muttered. "A stupid fucking accident that should have never happened and there is really no one to blame." She growled. "Sarne… it'd be nice to blame him, but the poor bastard was being pushed too hard and he took a chance and got burned for it."

"Believe me he didn't handle it all that well." Harry recalled. "We had to sedate him."

"Just be alert and keep your head up, ok." Jayna said sitting beside him. "Admiral Leyton is up to something and every instinct I have is screaming that at me. I do know he was backing the Epsilon Three project and I'm sure he was one of those forces of pressure on Sarne.

Another pause.

"Are we good now?" Harry said finally.

Jayna nodded and reached over squeezing his leg affectionately. "Yeah, I think so.."

"It's getting late Jayna. We've still got two ships in multiple pieces we got to put together starting tomorrow morning."

Jayna nodded as Harry got up to leave although wobbling a bit. Even though he had cut off the wine it was till making him a bit wobbly.

"Harry…" She said quietly. "You don't have to leave, you can stay here. I want you to stay here."

As he stood he noticed now that he was moving his balance wasn't the greatest. "Only, on one condition."
"That being?"
"Shower, then bed." Harry said. "We've got a ship to put together hopefully tomorrow morning. And I hope you have some detox pills."

"With the way things have been going Harry." Jayna said. "I don't think that will be a problem."

The next day.

The Arsapce Dynamics ship transport arrived at the station early in the morning. The old Aether was towed inside and immediately disassembled for the parts that were needed.

The whole process took an impressive four days to at least get the ship bolted back in one piece. Everyone who could help did and worked in rotating shifts. With such a tight schedule everything was checked and double checked with the proceeding shift before they were rotated out. There still was lots of work to be done as far as getting all the systems reintegrated but the ship was once again in one piece. It looked like a strange amalgam of two designs and the old saucers paint job did not match the engineering section. Plus the older nacelles on the newer pylons looked a bit on the small side. However ugly Captain De'Sol was pleased that the Photon Torpedo Launch platform that had replaced the top nacelle. It gave the Aehter a bit more fire power in exchange for the speed.

A test flight and structure test would need to be done and unfortunately their interior of the ship was going to be another matter, but due to the rushed circumstances it would have to do. The stations yard dogs, the engineering crew of the Raptor and the additional crew from Arspace Dynamics worked on getting the ship operational again. Captain Stiles was more then happy to offload a few older but functional heavy duty inertial dampeners as well as a few other essential parts that the station just had sitting around in its inventory that it had failed to get rid of over the years.

Jayna had a mountain of paper work to submit now but that could be delayed for a bit. The bureaucrats at HQ would be pitching a fit just because of the drastic change to the vessel itself. However the powers that be were allowing it to let this little detail slide and approved the transfer of her command to this different vessel. The registry numbers for the newer Aether were patched over the old ones on the older components and a prominent if not crudely painted suffixed II added to the end of the ship's name.

Everyone put forth their best effort, and Jayna trusted that everyone was doing their part. They would need to get under way to their next destination in the next couple of days if they were going to make it. She was grateful that so far everything had gone so smoothly. Regardless of what they did at starbase 186 the real shake down would unfortunately have to be when they got underway. The next day the final connection had been checked and double checked and the newly assembled Aether II exited the Starbase with the Raptor trailing behind as escort.

"Everything going fine over there?" Harry asked on screen.

"So far so good everything seems 5 by 5." Jayna replied. She nodded to nikolai beside her.

"Engineering are we ready to go to warp?"

"As ready as we can be bridge." Donnika replied.

"We'll be going to warp 6 and heading to the following coordinates Raptor do you copy?" She asked.

"Yes, we'll be following right along behind you if you need any help." Harry responded on screen.

"Much appreciated. Mr. Jaynan do you have our course plotted and laid in." Jayna said to her new navigator.

"Yes sir Bearing 312 mark 75 at Warp 6." The Bem officer replied his four hands dancing along the control console. "Awaiting your mark, Captain."
"You are sure we're going to stay in one piece?" She whispered to Nikolai. "You did check her work I hope."

"I have the up most confidence in Chief Korova." Nikolai replied calmly.

"I'll hold you to that." Jayna said making note to try to acquaint herself with some the newer bridge crew members. "Engage."

The ship at first lurched forward and the engines thrummed to life and after what seemed like a stall the stars in the viewer began to streak buy.

Jayna and Nikolai exchanged glances.

"Are we at warp?" She asked.

"Aye, Sir." The navigator replied.

"Donnika, what was that?" Jayna asked.

"It appears vee have some adjusting to be doing." Donnika replied. "All gauges show green though."

"I expect a full report." Jayna replied.

"Don't vorry about that." Donnika replied. "I'll get right on it."

"How is the SIDF looking Nikolai?" Jayna asked.

"We seem to be maintaining good structural integrity." Nikolai replied. "All stressors appear nominal and no reports of any noticeable damage upon jumping to warp.

"Well so far so good." Jayna she didn't like the way the deck plates rattled but at least she had a ship again. It was strange being on her old bridge again. She had gotten used to the sleek lines and openness of the her ships previous incarnation. "I think we're going to try to push it just a bit harder."

"Well be right on your…" Harry said suddenly muting the channel.

"I'm sorry Jayna but we're being called away.." Harry said. "A scutta Raiding party has been spoted in sector 316 we being ordered to investigate."

"Don't worry we'll just take her around the block in the safer part of town." Jayna chuckled. "Happy hunting."

Harry nodded and the screen went blank. On the screen the Raptor's shape changed as it's armor engaged and it started to veer off course as it's cloak engaged causing it to disappear from sight.

"Should we continue the tests Captain?" Nikolai asked.

"Might I remind you Mr. Korova, we are extremely pressed for time." She said getting out of the Captain's chair.

Nikolai nodded understandingly.

"So we do what we always do, we press on. Helm, increase speed to warp 8. Let's see what she's got."

"Aye, Captain." The helm officer replied.

Again the deck plates shuddered but the ship held together as the streaks of light passed by more quickly on the screen. She glanced at Nikolai and he simply gave her a thumbs up to indicate that everything was operating properly.

They had other duties they had to attend to. There was still business back in the Coroli system where their presence was being requested at up most urgency by the planets government. Once again they would have to jump into that matter, with a cobbled together starship and a good chunk of new inexperienced crew. She was definitely going to catch some heat for her acquisition of the older Aether but fleet HQ had been on her to get back up and running on the double.

A few more days of testing and some hard drilling would hopefully get the ship and crew back in proper running shape.

Out of all that had happened recently she had salvaged what she could and had gotten her ship back. Despite her own feelings she had managed to salvage her relation ship to Harry, something that brought her some relief. She no longer felt betrayed, and could now move on towards whatever lie ahead of her in the future…

The End.