Disclaimers: These are characters out of Windstar’s sick and twisted imagination. Any resemblance to anything I might have suggested is not true no matter what she says.

Sex: Yes, there will be. But this is not a PWP, so you have to wait beyond the second paragraph. It will be between 2 women, and if that offends you, how did you even find this story in the first place? No, really. Email me and let me know.

Language: It will mostly be in English, with a little Russian thrown in here and there. Thwap! Ok, sorry geez. So violent around here. There will be bad language. Not along the lines of a Limp Bizkit CD, but the characters are sailors. Hell, I’m a sailor. We have bad grammar and like to use Fuck to describe everything.

Special Thanks To: To Kaia, who went through and painstakingly added punctuation and grammar to this story. Any errors that you find are hers alone and I’ll give you her email address so you can flame her for bad English.

Feedback: Please send feedback to Sparky. Windstar doesn’t get any because her girlfriend told me her head is having trouble fitting through doors now. Unless it’s a flame. They can all go to her.

REAL Disclaimers. Can you truly trust anything someone named Sparky tells you? I mean, truthfully here people, there is a reason she's called Sparky. She’s not all there people! Help! She’s forcing me to go along with this insane scheme. All pleasant comments can be sent to adarkbow@yahoo.com, (notice how her email address is larger than mine?) Anything unpleasant you can go right ahead and send her way; come on, she needs more aggravation folks! Any resemblance with real people is purely coincidental and if you know people like those in this story, all I can say is: Cool. You live in a way better world than I do. As always this is for Angel. Thanks to CaylD for her help in reading my part of the story.

My coauthor forgot to add in a disclaimer, so I’ll just stick it in here shall I?

Violence: Ok, I admit, I am partial to a good blow them up movie. Yes, I know, violence is bad. But it's just a story right? The only one that got hurt in this was Sparky when I thwaped her for having a potty mouth.




Windstar and sparky




By groundside standards the quarters were nothing special. Old sea faring prints adorned the walls, pads, clothing, and various knick-knacks cluttered the floor and shelves.

The dim starlight streaming in through the view port was just enough to illuminate the bed amid all the disorganized mess. Blankets had been tossed aside much earlier in the night and the small woman now slept curled around a pillow, short auburn hair outlining her head against the white silk sheets.

The wailing snarl of the alarm jerked her from the depths of sleep. Years of drills had her up and moving out of the bed before she was even aware of what was happening.

She shrugged on her uniform while moving towards the com screen, even as she expertly negotiated the mine field that was her quarters. A quick punch of a button and the screen lit, the sudden brightness causing her to wince.

"Captain, this is Ensign Garth."

Resisting the urge to yawn, Captain Maria Exposito Ramirez nodded to the obviously excited young ensign.

"Davie, what do we have?"

"Search and Rescue, coordinates were relayed from SAR Command. We’re the nearest ship."

She finished buckling her belt while he was talking and then started tugging on her boots.

"We have a recording of the SOS?"

"CRC says they got something that they think was an SOS relayed from a deep space com array."

Maria grinned, he was doing good so far for his first scramble.

"Alright, get the coordinates into the navcomp, then tell the senior staff we’ll have a briefing in five minutes. I want the full report by the time I get to the bridge."

"Umm… Ma’am?"

The small woman had already been on her way to the door of her cabin by then and she had to take a step back to see the screen.

"Yes, Davie?"

"Well, it’s just that these coordinates put it right on the edge of Republic space."

"Just another day on the job, Davie. Have everyone in the conference room in five."

The confident expression stayed on her face just long enough for her to shut off the com screen, then she winced and headed for the door once more.

Oh yeah, this should be fun. Answering an unknown distress signal on the edge of Republic space. Great way to get shot at if they think we’re playing spy games or something.

The headache, started by the alert claxon, fertilized by the flashing blue lights along the sides of the corridor, started to grow at that thought. Crew members jogged past her on her way to the bridge, heading to their own stations. Many touched their caps in a sort of salute and she made herself smile and wave to every single one that she passed.

A full night’s sleep… that would be too much to ask for wouldn’t it?

Davie was still at his post when she passed through the bridge and she returned his eager smile.

It’s the kid’s first SAR mission, gotta remember that.

That she was the first into the conference room really didn’t surprise her too much, the captain’s quarters were the closest to the bridge after all. A quick trip to the small conference room galley and she had herself a cup of instant coffee, which she forced herself to enjoy as she took her seat at the head of the oval shaped polished wood conference table.

Our Fourth scramble in as many months, I sure as hell wish we weren’t the only SAR vessel out here in the ass end of nowhere.

The Pegasus was officially an exploration vessel, but she just as often got tasked with Search and Rescue missions for the only recently formed Coalition Rescue Command.

Maria took a sip of coffee and made a face at the cup. CRC so far had its collective thumbs up its backside as far as she was concerned. Other than a recently, desperately needed supply shuttle run, when she’d gotten the still wet behind the ears Ensign Davie to replace an experienced Lieutenant who’d been injured on a prior SAR, none of the crew had been given shore leave in almost half a year.

"Thinking about what’s her name again, Skipper?"

Jerking herself out of the depressing thoughts, Maria smiled at the woman striding into the conference room. Senior Engineer Spike Louise Beauchamp was as odd as they came onboard an Explorer ship. That was saying something since Explorers tended to attract an eclectic crowd of misfits. Her multicolored hair color was one of the woman’s least eccentric attributes.

"Her name, as you well know, was Helana. You’re up here quick, thought you’d be buried in an engine core."

Spike, who for some arcane reason was universally known as Sparky, waggled her eyebrows as she headed for the coffee.

"I was on my way to get a shower. Riiiiggghhht, I remember Helana. I also remember Helana’s husband."

"Not one of my better evenings, I have to give you that."

"Yeah, well it was fun at least. Never saw a planetary Governor go purple with rage before."

Maria winced, it was just like her larger friend to point that out.

"Don’t remind me. I was just starting to look forward to a bit of R and R again."

Snagging a cup of instant coffee, and scowling at it like Maria had, Sparky took a seat alongside the table.

"Bet I managed to fix those thoughts."

"You always were good at fixing things, speaking of fixing…"

"Yeah, yeah, don’t worry, Skipper, we’re good for Nova drive in a half hour, the generators are powering up as we speak. That’s why I was on my way to take a shower. Figured I’d earned one."

Over the next few minutes other members of Pegasus’s command staff began to filter in. Compared to Sparky the rest of them looked more sedate, which didn’t really mean a thing of course.

There was Carl "Baron" van Reiss, the ship’s chief medical officer, who insisted that his great, great grandfather had been none other than Manfried van Reiss. The most well known coalition hero of the battle of Terrill in the first war against the Republic.

Paul "Shakespeare" Theisman, minor stage actor turned ship pilot and navigator, who had the, well Maria would call it a quirk, of quoting archaic plays in the middle of plotting courses.

Julia "Flash" LeClare, head of the ship’s SAR techs, whose paintings and sketches were among the most beautiful, and sad, that Maria had ever seen.

Theodore "Socrates" Renault, head of the ships scientific community, as lost and intelligent a dreamer as Maria had ever met.

After another five minutes of chatting, and no sign of her one missing officer though, Maria started to drum her fingers against the tabletop. Murmured conversations slowly drifted away as everyone watched the captain, well aware of what was about to come next. Well, everyone but Theodore, who was busy scribbling another new idea on one of the portable computer pads he never was without.

"Where, pray tell, is my First Officer?"

Silence, as silent as deep space, settled over the room. Even the scratching of the stylus on computer screen stopped as Theodore figured out something was happening.

Sparky dipped her head at the gathering fury in the Skipper’s eyes.

Everyone found something else immensely interesting. Anything other than meeting her eyes and Maria ground her teeth. Pounding her hands on the tabletop, though physically satisfying, wasn’t what she’d call a proper leadership attitude.

Of course drawing and quartering her First Officer probably wasn’t either, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to do both.


The silence lengthened and Maria glared at the first person her gaze settled on.

Carl was actually sweating when he realized who the Skipper was looking to for an answer and he really wished he could sink a bit lower in his seat. Just his luck for being a full six foot tall, not that he wasn’t as skinny as a string bean, but coupled with his shock of red hair it really didn’t help him hide in situations like this.

"Lieutenant Commander van Reiss, where, EXACTLY, is my First Officer?"

Coughing and straightening in his seat, he desperately tried to catch the eye of any of his fellows. All of them were studiously looking elsewhere though and he accepted the impending sense of doom with a weary finality.

"Well, he’s, I mean that is to say that Commander Tom Whitworth is, ah, he’s… elsewhere?"

The glare from the Captain caused him to squirm in his seat, she was a pleasant woman usually, but if you managed to piss her off, even black holes were known to steer clear of her.

"How very eloquent of you, Carl. Would anyone like to elaborate on the Chief Medical Officer’s lack of an explanation?"

Sparky took her life in her hands and, tentatively for the large woman, spoke up.

"He said he had to check on life support, last I saw him."

The Captain stared at her.

"And, Chief Engineer, was there something wrong with the life support systems?"

Spark’s swallowed, ducking her head a bit to try and avoid a bit of that glare.

"No, Skipper."

The tightening of the jaw was enough for all of them to know that the Captain was as upset as she ever got.

"Well, we’ve wasted enough time as it is. I want to be ready to go the second we have Nova drive capability. Flash, fill us in on what we’ve got."

The slender brown haired woman leaned forward, nodding as she clearly mentally composed what she was going to say. Maria had never known the French woman to do anything without thinking things through completely first, invaluable in a SAR tech who’s actions would determine the life or death of someone else.

"The official Alert was declared by CRC at four fifteen AM, ship time. I’ve gone over the signal that was relayed to us. CRC’s calling it a fragmented SOS, but it doesn’t look like any SOS I’ve ever seen."

She paused and Maria watched her officer intently. The headache was pounding away with a vengeance, amazing how her First Officer could give her a headache even while absent.

"As you probably all know already, the signal was relayed by a com array near the edge of Republic space and the coordinates we have place the origin of the SOS close to the border."

The coordinates were a touch more than close to the border. They were right on it and everyone knew it.

"I won’t know until we get in range what we have, but I’ve already got my people suiting up."

Maria nodded, that was of course all by the book. Time was usually of the essence during a SAR alert, people who got into trouble in space usually didn’t survive for long.

"Good, Carl, have your people standing by. Theodore…"

The older man beat her to it, a soft smile taking any possible sting out of his words.

"Yes, I know, I need to tell stellar cartography that they will have to map out the Choroid Expanse after we investigate the SOS."

The headache eased a bit and Maria smiled her thanks to the older gentleman. The scientists under his command might scream and bitch about the delays to their research the SAR alerts caused, but at least Theodore always understood that lives came first.

Now if the rest of the mission could only keep going on that note. She raised an eyebrow at her pilot.


The thin young man with a shock of black hair nodded vigorously to her unspoken question.

"Course is locked in. We’re a go for Nova."

"Okay, girls and boys, secure your sections for Nova drive. Our ETA is…"

Sparky tapped a command on her personal comp.

"Twelve minutes, forty three seconds."

"You heard her, people, get to it."

Carl lingered behind everyone else, frowning and she held up a hand to stop him before he even started.

"Not now, Carl."

"You have to deal with him, Maria."

"I know, but I can’t do anything while we’re out here."


"I said not now, Carl."

Her tone stopped him dead and he nodded reluctantly then left. He was right of course, she had to deal with her First Officer’s blatant hatred and disrespect for her sometime soon. It was starting to affect morale. The only problem, of course, was the fact that the second she tried her own career was over as well.

Groaning, she shook her head to try and dislodge the building headache once more and headed for the bridge. At least the SAR mission was going to take her mind off her other problems for a while.



"All departments and personnel report secured for Nova drive."

"Thank you, Sparky. Paul?"

The navigator looked up from his console and gave her a thumbs up.

"Course double and triple checked, Skipper."

She shouldn’t have been going through the checklist herself of course, but even if her First Officer was at his station next to her, he of course wasn’t going to do something so mundane.

Not a Whitworth of Branding of course!

Wouldn’t want to actually do any work would we now?

She cast a barely veiled scornful look at the tall blonde man’s back and then gritted her teeth and double-checked her checklist.

"Sparky, Nova Drive on my count. 3…2…1, Engage."

Pegasus was one of the newer generation Explorer ships, at almost a full kilometer long she was longer than most fleet vessels, only a dreadnaught could match her for raw tonnage. Unlike warships though, she was a rescue and scientific vessel first and foremost, and her hull was a long cylinder with sensor pods and the giant "wings" necessary for a Nova burst.

If she didn’t have the dagger sharp lines of a fighting ship she had her own graceful beauty and Maria loved every meter of her.

The rumble of those wings spreading reverberated throughout the hull and every eye turned towards the main screen. The hundred meter long wings unfurled along the length of the Pegasus and the power that had taken a half hour to build from the ship’s reactors was pulsed along their length. Lightning rippled along the edges of the gossamer thin fabric covering those wings and built to a critical charge.

The Universe exploded.

Pegasus created a carefully timed shockwave behind her, just as the ship slipped from her own dimension into another. Some people called it hyperspace, other’s more skilled in math and quantum mechanics, referred to it as an actual alternate universe.

For a long, endless, agonizing eternity the Pegasus heaved like a horse gone mad. She rode a shockwave of her own making through spiraling waves of energy, through a dimension not only alien to her and her crew, but hostile as well. Energy waves collided along the edges of the wings, which reradiated the energy into the shockwave hurtling the ship onwards.

It was a dangerous game, the deeper into the ever present energy storms a ship went, the faster it could travel as it used more and more energy to power it’s own shockwave. At the same time though, the deeper into the energy waves it rode, the fiercer the storms, the more likely something would go wrong and leave a ship stranded forever in this alien landscape with no way home.

An explorer ship like the Pegasus could cover light years in minutes, a freighter would go considerably slower, while a warship could have passed Pegasus without breaking a sweat.

"Power flux!"

Maria whipped her head around as Sparky screamed the warning, you had to in Nova drive, or else you couldn’t be heard over the groans of flexing metal.


"Wing four, nothing major, but we’re bleeding energy."

"Paul, what’s our ETA?"

"Four Minutes, Skipper!"

So she forced herself to clench her hands around the arms of her chair and look confidant. No one wanted to go through a Nova burst with an unstable wing, but if they came out now they could be anywhere. Only the truly desperate came out of Nova early, since you ran the chance of coming out right into a sun or a black hole for that matter.

The ship continued to buck, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary, and Maria forced herself to relax as the energy flux stayed at a manageable level.

A punch of a button and Flash’s face appeared on her command screen. The woman was already suited up, her helmet securely attached to her EVA suit and behind her the Captain could see others of the hundred strong SAR team going through one last equipment check. If the Nova drive bothered any of them, they were hiding it well.

"ETA’s three minutes now, Flash, we’ll get you as close as we can."

"No prob, Skipper. We’ll be ready."

Returning to their own universe was, as always, accompanied by the usual stomach jarring suddenness that was in a way worse than the entire Nova burst itself. One moment there was the constant shuddering of Pegasus as she rode the shockwave, the next she was back in normal space, her wings glowing brilliantly against the blackness of space as residual energy dissipated from them.


"We’re right on, Skipper. I’ve got the com array five million kilometers astern of us."

Which was pretty good navigation considering that the farther you went using the Nova drive, the larger the error rate. There was a limit of course, past which no one wanted to push the drives, but that was measured in the hundreds of light years.

"Theodore, any sign of the neighbors?"

The white haired man was hunched over his scanners doing his level best to use the ships massive sensor systems to make positive they weren’t walking into a trap.

"I am picking up a power fluxuation almost exactly on the boarder, as well as a garbled transmission. It’s almost definitely our SAR target. Other than that, the border looks quiet."

Not that that means too much.

Maria thought, ordering Paul to take them in at maximum. It had been a generation since the last Coalition-Republic war, but that didn’t mean both sides had forgotten how much they hated each other. There existed a constant state of high alert along both borders, and she was certain they’d be getting a visit if they stayed in the area long.

"Theodore, what kind of ship is it?"

The longer than usual pause brought her auburn head around and she arched an eyebrow in question. The senior scientist gazed at his instruments with what could only be described as a look of dismay.

"I don’t really know, Captain."

Both auburn eyebrows arched in surprise at that.

"Oh you old fool, let me look."

Since it was the first time her supposed XO had spoken up, she was caught a bit by surprise. Her mouth opened to snap at Tom for being dismissive of another officer as Theodore switched his readings to the main screen. Tom froze halfway out of his chair, her mouth closed with a click, and everyone on the bridge stared at the image in astonishment.

That it wasn’t human was obvious.

That it was ugly was hideously evident.

That she didn’t have a clue what it was either wasn’t particularly reassuring.

"As I said, I don’t really know what it is, Captain."

She was too busy trying to figure out which end of the thing displayed on the screen was up to catch the nasty glare her First Officer sent Theodore.

"It looks like a… what are those things that live in the sea?"

Thankfully Theodore seemed to have an idea what her Chief Engineer was talking about and answered what Maria suspected had been a rhetorical question.

"A sea anemone."

"That’s a ship?"

Maria didn’t begrudge Paul his doubts, she certainly had never seen something that organic looking floating in deep space.

"How big is it, Theodore?"

"From tip to tip of those big spines, a four hundred and twenty two meters."

That was the size of a modern destroyer.

"Well, someone over there is in trouble. Paul, get us close enough for Flash and her people to get to work."

The moment her tall blond First Officer started scowling and leaned towards her, she knew she was going to hate whatever words were about to come out of his mouth.

"You sure that’s wise, Captain?"

His tone implying that he was positive she should know better. Instead of smacking him, she deliberately kept her voice low and studied the readouts on her own command screen.

"We are on a Search and Rescue mission, Mr. Whitworth."

The frost on her tone would have stopped any other officer dead.

"That’s not a human ship."

Wow, you don’t say?

It was a struggle but she managed not to say that out loud.

"I fail to see the problem here, Mr. Whitworth."

That did get him to stumble a bit, and she watched him switch tactics out of the corner of her eye.

"Captain, maybe the risks outweigh the benefit?"

A mental roll of her eyes and she had reached her limit with her First Officer’s opinions.

"We are an exploration ship, Mr. Whitworth, unless you’ve forgotten? Making first contact is in our general mission briefing, if that happens to be while performing a SAR mission, then so be it."

"But, Captain…"

She ignored him and punched a button, a faint smile edging out the frown that had been building at Whitworth’s unwillingness to drop his carefully worded suggestions at Flash’s wide smile.

"We got a strange one, Flash."

"Yeah, so I saw, Skipper. We’re gonna have some fun on this one."

"You watch yourselves over there, have the Doc stand by, and make sure you tell him about any environmental conditions. You find a way in yet?"

"Yup, I’ve been going over Theodore’s scans, Skipper. I think we found what looks like some sort of access hatch."

A glance over at Theodore at that and she mentally shook her head at how the scientist was already engrossed in his own readings. He was probably classifying the ship for all she knew right now, but he was definitely in his own little world.


"Yeah, Skippy?"

She sent a dark glance at her unrepentant engineer for that one.

She knows I hate that nickname.

"Any sign of damage?"

"Nothing visual, but the energy readings off it are all over the place. If that were one of our ships, her crew would be in deep trouble."

"You hear that, Flash?"

"No problem, Skipper, we’ll stay on our toes."

Maria nodded, brushing a stray lock of hair from her forehead.

"Make sure you have someone taking recordings."

"Will do, we’re ready to go on your word, Skipper."

A quick glance at her readings and Maria turned back to the SAR officer.

"You and your people be careful over there."

The dozen specialized craft that exited the front hanger of the long ship were minuscule against the size of the alien craft. Maria kept her eyes firmly on the screen while the fragile SAR vessels sped between the Pegasus and the alien ship. Only when they’d docked without incident did she relax slightly.

At least it didn’t open fire on them, that’s a good sign.

"Paul, rig for towing. If we can I want to try to drag that thing off the border, we don’t need this turning into an interstellar incident."



Svetlana Nickolayevna Montastyrskaya, Captain of the Republican Cruiser Kursk, sat reading a slim computer pad at her desk. Her blue eyes traveled swiftly across the display screen. Her Tartar heritage was plainly obvious in her dark hair, high cheekbones, and slightly slanted eyes. A cup of tea was set next to her red clad left elbow, still steaming slightly. A small chime sounded and interrupted the woman’s concentration. With a slight frown, she lowered the pad and said, "Come!"

"Excuse me for interrupting you, Captain, but we have picked up a signal," said a man in an identical uniform of a red tunic and black pants standing in the doorway.

The Captain stood quickly from behind her desk. "Is it a distress call, Sergey Ivonovich?" It had been almost a month since the last pirate attack. The Kursk was assigned to patrol the border, looking for pirates and smuggling ships taking advantage of the fact they things were less than cordial between the Republic and the Coalition.

"Nyet, Captain. Well, we are not sure what it is exactly."

The woman passed by her blonde Officer Of the Watch and out onto the bridge. "Well, what can you tell me about the signal, Commander?"

"It is on the border, Captain."

"Do you think it is an Alliance trap?" asked the Captain with no inflection in her voice as she sat in her command chair. She wanted her OOW’s honest opinion.

"No, Captain. I believe…" the taller officer squirmed a little, then sighed, "I believe it might be alien in origin, Captain."

She spun her chair around to look at the OOW. "Well then, Commander, we’ll have to go see your mystery then. Helm, plot a course for the source of the signal. Tactical, take us in to silent running mode."

"Aye, Aye, Captain. Stand by for silent running." The tactical officer turned on the klaxon and announced over the ship speakers, "All hands, prepare for silent running. Repeat, prepare for silent running."

"Captain, course plotted in for a rendezvous with the source of the signal in 3 standard hours." It wouldn’t be wise to Nova in. The opening of a wormhole was a gigantic light show to both visible observation and sensor. Since the whole point of the cloaking device was to sneak in the Kursk would do so under impulse engines.

"Engage, Helm."

If anyone had been watching the Kursk on a scope, they would have been shocked to watch it completely disappear off all of their screens. If they had looked out the window, and had been close enough, there would have been no change in the ship’s appearance. The ship was electronically cloaked, but not physically. After all, what was the point, since to see one little ship against the whole backdrop of space was next to impossible. Still, to insure against possibly being spotted by an alert crewmember on a ship that was being tracked, the shipyard painted all ships carrying stealth capabilities black.

Svetlana stood up from her chair and made her way back to her ready room. "Commander, you have the watch. I’m calling for a department head briefing in one hour, so prepare all of your information on your ‘alien’ signal to be presented at that time. If you need me before then, I will be in the Cherry Orchard with Chekhov enjoying my tea." And with a slight grin at her OOW, she returned to her ready room.

At 0200 standard hours, all of the department heads aboard the Kursk were gathered in the small conference area in the Captain’s Ready room. As they milled about getting tea from the samovar on the sideboard, Svetlana took a moment to assess her latest command team. Her first officer, right hand, and best friend was Fyodor Ivanovich Borozdin. His blonde bulk, towering over all of the ships crew and the thick beard, had earned him the nickname Bear. Her chief of Engineering and third in command, Dmitry Alexeyevich Sukhodolov, slight and red haired, was typical of most engineers. He was definitely uninterested in the command track and was happiest elbow deep in machine oil. Her doctor and newest member of the Kursk’s staff, Anna Mikhailovna Kovalyova was brunette and shorter than the Captain’s 175 centimeters, but still taller than Alyona Kapitonovna Kuzmin, the diminutive blonde Tactical officer. The last, and as far as Svetlana was concerned, most important officer on board was her Master Chief. Though not a commissioned officer, Viktor Rozov was still a valuable asset and a commissioned officer would do well to listen to his comments and suggestions.

Svetlana lightly tapped her teacup with her spoon. "Ladies and Gentlemen and Bear." There was a round of laughter at the introduction. Bear mocked glowered at her from his seat opposite hers at the conference table. "At approximately 1257 ship standard time, we received a signal from near the boarder. In response to the signal, we entered silent running and changed course to intercept the signal. Now I know how much we’d all rather be pirate hunting…" at this there was a round of agreeing noises, "But as everyone knows, the first rule of space is to respond to all distress signals. Besides, what would be nicer than rescuing an Alliance ship snooping around our boarder?" Svetlana bared her teeth in what could best be described as a wolfish grin. The looks of her command staff around the table mirrored her expression.

"Lieutenant Commander Romonov has a briefing ready on the signal. Commander?"

"Thank you, Captain. At 1257 we received a signal from near the border. Our computers identified it as a distress signal. Upon further study, I could neither confirm nor deny the identification. The signal repeats in a definite loop, similar to a distress beacon. The problem is, it is in an unidentified code or language."

"So how do you know that it is not some kind of Alliance trick?" questioned Bear.

"We could not verify that the signal was human, sir."

Murmuring broke out around the table at that announcement.

"What exactly do you mean by that, Sergey Ivanovich?" demanded Sukhodolov.

"Well, all human signals fit within certain logarithmic parameters. That is how we interpret codes. There are certain mathematical rules that are universal, or so we thought, to identify codes. That is how our ciphers come up with and crack codes. This signal is so… alien, we can’t classify it as anything."

"Preposterous! Humans have been exploring space for over a century and have not encountered another race yet!" declared Doctor Kovalyova.

"Then it’s about time we ran in to something, don’t you think, Lieutenant?" asked Rozov mildly. "Isn’t it kind of arrogant to assume, that in this great big universe, we are the only life form capable of space travel?"

Svetlana smiled. "What was that quote? Oh yes, ‘If there is a bright center of the universe, we are on the planet that is furthest from.’ Galactically speaking, we are on the far end of an arm, circling a gigantic mass of systems. Who would venture this far out into the end of the universe? Anyway, these questions are all irrelevant until we get to the source of the signal." The Captain stood up. "You are all dismissed for the moment, though I would like you all around for when we make contact. This is right on the border, so we may even have company in the form of an Alliance ship."

Her officers filed out excitedly talking with each other. Svetlana caught Lt. Comander Kuzmin’s eye and gave her a knowing smile. "Commander Borozdin, would you stay a moment please?"

"Da, Captain."

Svetlana waited until everyone had left. "So what do you make of this, Fyodor Ivanovich? Do you really think this might be first contact?"

"I don’t know what to think, Captain. You did send word back to section headquarters, yes?"

"Da. We went silent before the reply came back. I want to beat the Alliance to the ship. If it happens to be on their side of the border, we will sneak over and tow it to our side."

"Do you think that’s wise, Captain?"

Svetlana’s only response was an evil grin as she returned her teacup to the sideboard. All at once the captain’s demeanor changed to that of an excited woman. "Just think, Feyda! A First Contact! Me!" Svetlana danced around the room in excitement.

Bear laughed, "All right, Svetla, calm down. This is why you wanted everyone out of the room. So you could bounce around in excitement. Are you and Kuzmin going to celebrate later tonight?"

Svetlana gave Bear and impish grin. "Feyda, you know that a Captain must keep her decorum. It wouldn’t do for everyone to find out she squeals in excitement at the possibility of meeting an alien. And to answer your other question, none of your damn business."

Bear walked over to Svetlana’s desk and opened the bottom drawer. "You know this calls for a drink!"

Svetlana laughed as Bear brought over a Vodka bottle and two glasses. "You’ll use any excuse to get into my Vodka."

"Damn right," agreed Bear as he poured two fingers of the clear liquid into each glass. He handed Svetlana hers and lifted his up in a toast. "Shto tuie moomoo yebyosh!"

"That wasn’t a cow, that was your mother!" declared Svetlana after swallowing her drink.

"Hey! Don’t insult my mother!" said Bear.

Svetlana gave him a halfhearted shove. "Then find a new toast. That one was old before Mir went up."

"Let’s have another. It will help my creative process. Don’t you have any pepper?" grumbled Bear digging through her drawer.

"No more. I want to be sober for this occasion, and if I let you, you will have me passed out on the floor by the end of the hour. And before you ask, no. You can only drink my stuff with me."

Bear shut his mouth with a click and pouted. "It’s not my fault you can’t keep up."

"Feyda! You outweigh me by what, 45 kilograms? How am I supposed to keep up with you?"

"Sheer determination!"

Svetlana took the glass and the bottle from Bear’s hands and started pushing him towards the door. "Don’t you have something to do? If you don’t, I can always find something for you."

"Da, Svetla. I’ll leave you and your precious bottle alone. I’ll go terrorize the environmental techs again. I swear they haven’t got that mixture right."

"Commander Borozdin! You don’t fool me. You just want potatoes for your secret distillery, not for the dinner table. Go on with you. I have things to do."

After the hatch shut behind her first mate, Svetlana stood in the middle of the room and started spinning like a top. "First Contact! Weeeeee!"



"Captain, we are approaching the signal. It looks like the Alliance ship just warped in."

"Bring us in under impulse, Helm. It looks like one of their research ships. God only knows what kind of sensor package they have on it."

‘Aye, Aye, Captain."

"Captain! They’ve launched a dozen SAR shuttles and they’ re heading toward the other ship."

"Put it up on the main screen, Ensign Zorin."

"Aye, Captain."

"Bozhe Moi! What is that thing?" gasped Kuzmin.

Svetlana shook off her shock. "I don’t know, but get a weapons lock on that thing! Zorin, are you tracking those shuttles?"

"Da, Captain."

"I want to know exactly what is going on over there. Helm, plot an intercept course with that Alliance ship, I want to have a talk with her Captain. But slowly, we don’t want to spook anything."

"Da, Captain."

"Captain, the shuttle has docked with the alien ship."

"Open me up a channel to the Alliance ship, Zorin."

"Da, Captain, opening channel."

"Alliance ship, this is Captain Svetlana Nickolayevna Montastyrskaya of the Republic ship Kursk. Do you need any assistance?"

There was silence across the com and Svetlana could picture the panic going on over the lack of sensor readings on the monitors. She smirked. Bet you didn’t know we could cloak, did you?

"Republic ship Kursk, this is Captain Maria Esposito Ramirez of the Explorer ship Pegasus. At the moment, we are responding to a distress call from that weird looking ship over there. We have everything under control and require no assistance at this time. You can go back across the border and we’ll forget we even saw you."

"Captain Ramirez, I’m sure you understand that I can’t do that. I’m obliged to respond to distress calls just like you are and besides, this is the demilitarized part of the border. It’s no man’s land here."

Svetlana signaled for Lieutenant Kuzmin to cut out the cloak.

"As you can see from you sensors any argument we decide to have is moot, Captain. How about we work together on this one?"

There were a few moments of silence on the other end and Svetlana could picture the hurried conference taking place over there. The Kursk was a top of the line Cruiser, designed to patrol the boarders and shipping lanes for smugglers and pirates and was armed to the teeth with missile launchers and lasers. The Explorer was a scientific vessel with enough teeth to keep all but the most foolhardy pirate at bay, but no match for a military ship.

"What do you have in mind, Captian Monta… Monto..whatever your name is?"

"It’s Montastyrskaya, Captain Ramirez. The way I see it, you can co-operate and we can jointly ‘discover’ this ship or I can blow you away and ‘discover’ this ship on my own. You have scientific resources that I don’t have, so it would be easier on me if we work on this together. Otherwise, I’d have to tow this thing into a base and frankly, I think that would be an incredibly bad idea."

"It looks like you leave me no choice, Captain," replied an angry Captain Ramirez.

"There are always choices, Captain Ramirez, just not always good ones. I thank you for your cooperation on this matter. Montastyrskaya out."

"She didn’t seem happy, Captain," remarked Bear.

"Well, I wouldn’t be either if I were her. We just swooped in and took her prize and she can’t do anything about it. Speaking of which, Zorin, make sure you are jamming her transmissions to anything other than the shuttle out there."

"Already done, Captain."

"Good boy! You are coming along well with your training. I will be sure that is reflected in your quarterly fitness report." Svetlana could almost see the young Ensign preen under her comments.

"Captain!" came an alarmed shout from Lieutenant Kuzmin. "I’m picking up a strange power flux from the alien ship!"

"Captain, there is some urgent chatter going on between the Pegasus and the shuttle!" added Zorin.

"Helm, back us up!"

"Captain, there appears to be some kind of energy wave emanating from the alien ship. We will be caught in it!" screamed Zorin.

Svetlana smacked her intercom button. "All hands! Brace for impact! Brace for impact!" As if to punctuate her words, the collision alarm went off. Svetlana hurriedly brought her shock frame down and locked and saw that her bridge crew was doing the same thing. "How long until impact?"

"It’s moving fast, Captain. 20 seconds," replied a panicked Zorin.

"Count it down, please, Ensign" said Svetlana calmly, while inside she desperately wanted to run around the bridge blabbering.

"15 seconds…10 seconds…9...8...7...6...5...fou…"

And the world dissolved into chaos.




"Flash, what have you got?"

There was a crackle of interference, then her chief SAR officer’s voice came through the com channel.

"It’s amazing, Skipper, the ship’s almost organic. We’ve found some remains, they seem like a cross between reptiles and spiders. Nothing alive yet though."

A glance towards Theodore, still studying his sensor readings with a zealot’s intent and Maria grinned faintly. The Captain of the first ship to confirm the existence of alien species, she rather liked the sound of that. Ignoring her First Officer and the calculating look in his eyes, she turned back towards the main screen. Still amazed by the sheer alienness of the craft.

"Keep your eyes open and make sure you keep your people from doing anything stupid, Flash. Make sure there’s no one alive, we’re going to drag the ship off the border."

"Will do, Skipper."

She knew she was smiling as she leaned back in her command chair, she knew it wasn’t dignified, but hell if she could help it. The significance of what they’d just stumbled across was starting to seep in.

Holy shit, my own little major discovery. With this even Whitworth’s parents can’t trash my career and I can get my parents out from under his parents’ thumb. This is perfect.

"Ahm, Captain?"

Uh oh.

She turned slightly towards the young ensign.

"What is it, Davie?"

"I, ah, I think we’re being hailed."

Both auburn eyebrows shot up at that. Whitworth beat her to the obvious question though.

"By the alien ship?"

Theodore was so engrossed by his mutterings and scans of the alien ship that Maria doubt he would have heard her if she screamed at him. Still the sudden intent stillness of the bridge as everyone waited for Davie’s answer caused even him to blink and look up from the sensor readings.

"Uh, no Sir, it’s… I think it’s a Republic ship."

Maria stared at the young man incredulously then swung around towards Theodore, who was already frantically adjusting his scanners.

"I don’t see anything, Skipper."

"Davie, put on audio."

An adjustment to his console and the slightly accented voice flooded the bridge.

"Alliance ship, this is Captain Svetlana Nickolayevna Montastyrskaya of the Republic ship Kursk. Do you need any assistance?"

Maria’s eyes widened even further.

"Theodore, where the hell are they?"

"I don’t know! I can’t see anything on sensors!"

Cloaked? Jesus, ONI said they were developing something but they didn’t think the Republic would have one working for another half year at least!

"Davie, open the channel."

She waited for him to give her a nod, gathering her thoughts and doing her best not to let on how nervous she was feeling.

"Republic ship Kursk, this is Captain Maria Esposito Ramirez of the Explorer ship Pegasus. At the moment, we are responding to a distress call from that weird looking ship over there. We have everything under control and require no assistance at this time. You can go back across the border and we’ll forget we even saw you."

If anything the female voice that responded sounded amused.

"Captain Ramirez, I’m sure you understand that I can’t do that. I’m obliged to respond to distress calls just like you are and besides, this is the demilitarized part of the border. It’s no man’s land here."

Theodore let out a yell of shock and warning lights flashed on every command board as a Republic Cruiser suddenly appeared to the Pegasus’s sensors. She was well within weapons range and Maria could feel her face going white.

"As you can see from you sensors, any argument we decide to have is moot, Captain. How about we work together on this one?"


A furious signal to Davie and the boy cut the com channel. Whitworth was the first to speak up.

"Captain, we should attack them immediately!"

Thankfully Sparky cut him down before Maria had to.

"Are you insane? That’s a Republic cruiser over there! She’d eat us for breakfast."

Maria smiled slightly at her Chief Engineer’s tone. That Sparky thought Whitworth was an utter idiot was quite clear. That the Captain agreed with the Chief Engineer didn’t help matters much though.

"We could leave?"

Paul hazarded, although he sounded as hesitant as Maria had ever heard him sound. His eyes kept returning not to the threat of the Republic ship but the alien ship that still hung there. Predictably it was Theodore who countered that option.

"No! Captain, this is our first contact with an alien ship or species of any kind. We HAVE to stay here and record everything. God only knows what those people will do if we leave them with it."


"What is it now, Davie?"

"We’re being jammed, I can’t even get a link through to the communications array."

She didn’t have much time and she snorted at the lack of options. The Republic ship could blow them to smithereens and no one in the Coalition would be the wiser.

This is why I get the big bucks right?

"Alright, Davie, open the channel."

At his thumbs up she spoke once more.

"What do you have in mind, Captian Monta… Monto..whatever your name is?"

Christ, how do you pronounce her name?

"It’s Montastyrskaya, Captain Ramirez. The way I see it, you can co-operate and we can jointly ‘discover’ this ship or I can blow you away and ‘discover’ this ship on my own. You have scientific resources that I don’t have, so it would be easier on me if we work on this together. Otherwise, I’d have to tow this thing into a base and frankly, I think that would be an incredibly bad idea."

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

The mental mantra helped a bit, even though her jaw was still clenched at the less than subtle threat to her ship and crew.

"It looks like you leave me no choice, Captain."

"There are always choices, Captain Ramirez, just not always good ones. I thank you for your cooperation on this matter. Montastyrskaya out."

The second the channel went dead she was up and moving, heading for Theodore’s station. A nod of her head as she heard Sparky say she was going to go down to Engineering and make sure the Nova Drive was ready, just in case. Whitworth caught up with her on the way and she could almost see the gears turning in her XO’s head.

"You’re agreeing to cooperate with a Republic ship? You know what that’s going to look like to the brass, Captain."

She didn’t even have to glance at him to know he was sneering as she looked over Theo’s shoulder and studied the sensor readings.

"Noted, XO."

"I think you should…"

"I said your objection was noted, Mr. Whitworth. You have duties to perform, do you not?"

A clench of his jaw and he returned to his station. That was going to cost her sometime soon and she felt a headache coming on again.

"Well, what do you think, Theodore?"

The older man was once more thoroughly engrossed in his precious sensor readings.

"It’s fascinating, Skipper. I think the ship may be alive."

"Why do you say that?"

"Look at these energy patterns, they’re too random to be machinery but they still have an organization…"

His voice trailed off as his console chirped a warning.

"Skipper, I’m reading a massive power build up over there."

Maria spun around at that, glad to see that Davie was already reaching for his com console. A part of her mind was pleased he was starting to learn.

"Davie, get Flash, tell her to get back here."


Theodore’s cry of warning wasn’t needed, she’d already seen the Alien ship start to glow. Maria watched in amazement for a split second as the image on the main screen began to glow, brighter and brighter.

"Paul, back us up!"

"I’m trying!"

The glowing pulsed and then expanded outwards, a sphere of brilliant energy sweeping across everything nearby. She had just enough time to hit the collision alert alarm and yell for shields before the energy wave slammed into the Pegasus.

The deck rose up and slammed into her and then she knew nothing else.

The first thought Svetlana had when she clawed her way to consciousness was, We have got to work on Zorin’s counting skills. Feyda can do that. My head hurts too much. Svetlana groaned and open her eyes. She could see some signs of life from her bridge crew, but there were an awful lot of lights missing on the boards and what lights there were seemed to be red and yellow. She rolled her neck, popping some vertebra back into place and hit her intercom key. "This is the Captain, all stations report in. All stations report in." The silence after her request was frightening.

"Bear!" She unlatched her shock frame and stumbled over to her first officer. "Bear!" She shook his arm. He groaned and flexed his hands.

"What hit me?" he whimpered.

"I need you to go check on the rest of the ship. I’m not getting any responses to my com requests."

"Da, Captain. Let me locate my spleen first, then I’ll get right on that," mumbled Bear.

"Then you can come back and teach Zorin how to count," joked Svetlana weakly.

A groan from Ensign Zorin diverted Svetlana’s attention from her First Mate to her sensor tech. She walked over and started lightly slapping his face. "Misha, wake up. Misha!" He opened his eyes and stared at her dazedly.

"Da, Captain?" He coughed. "What happened?"

"You need to learn to count better." The captain smiled to take the sting out of her rebuke. "Commander Borozdin will work on that with you later. Right now, I need you to try and establish communications with the Pegasus and see what happened." She shifted her attention to her Tactical officer who was trying to free herself from the shock frame. "Kuzmin, I need a weapons status report immediately. I don’t know what hit us, but right now we have our pants down around our ankles."

"Da, Captain," replied Kuzmin, as she held her hand to her bleeding forehead. After a few seconds trying to stem the flow of blood from her cut, she turned to her station and started contacting her weapons’ teams.

"Captain!" came Bear’s voice from the speakers. "I am standing outside of bulkhead R 275. The pressure hatch is closed and the sensors indicate that there is vacuum on the other side of the hatch."

Svetlana’s blood ran cold. None of her crew had a chance to suit up except for her damage control parties and they were only suited up because of standard procedure for any type of contact.

"Understood, Commander. See if you can find an alternate path to engineering. They are not responding to my hails."

"Captain, my aft weapons stations are not responding to my hails. All forward and side stations are reporting slight damage but they are operational."

"Zorin, can you raise the Pegasus?"

"Da, Captain. They experienced the shockwave too and are assessing their damage at the moment as well. They have lost contact with their SAR party at the moment and are trying to re-establish contact. Our sensors will be online momentarily my techs report."

"Good, put the alien ship back up on screen when you can." Svetlana walked back to her chair and sat down. "Damage Control Central, report!"

There was a crackle of static then a slightly panicked voice came over the com. "Captain, this is Petty Officer Kurin, I am in one of the forward DC parties. I can’t raise DCC or any of the aft parties. I and my team are working our way back to DCC to see what they problem is. We have limited damage in the forward and side sections of the ship, mostly fried circuits and relays, a few people and objects damaged from the hit we took, nothing too severe in this part of the ship, but I think there is a serious problem aft. I can’t raise engineering at all and my sensors show that we have a massive venting to space back there. I have sent parties out to try and reach the aft portions of the ship and once they get around bulkhead R, the blast doors are sealed and report vacuum on the other side. We may have to go ETV through one of the weapons’ slots and enter Engineering that way."

"Understood, Petty Officer. Carry on." Svetlana felt a cold finger of dread work it’s way up her spine.


There was something wrong with her head, it hurt a lot, and she staggered to her feet in confusion. The main lighting was out, she noted absently as she staggered to her command chair and sat down. Emergency lights cast a blue pallor over the bridge, giving way to bright flashes as overloaded consoles exploded in sparks.

"Damage report."

Coughing she managed to croak it out, even while she dabbed at the wetness on the side of her head. Her fingers came away red and she grimaced in pain from even that slight touch.

Theodore was crawling back up from the floor and Whitworth was still sprawled against the far bulkhead and didn’t look like he was moving much. He was still breathing though. Davie was still in his chair, he’d been strapped in unlike the rest of them when the wave had hit. Paul was slumped over in his chair and Maria closed her eyes against the sight of the jagged pieces of metal that had impaled her pilot’s chest.

That he was dead was obvious, she feared how many others had joined him.

"Damage report."

Her voice was steady this time, even though she could feel the fear and sadness bubbling close under her surface. Paul had been a good friend, but she couldn’t let herself mourn yet.

Sparky’s shaken voice came over the intraship com system, weirdly distorted, but still there and Maria sent a silent thank you to whoever was listening.

"Nova Drive’s out, I’ve got casualties down here, Skipper. Damage control parties are starting to get to work, we’ve got reports of fires on decks three and four."

Those two decks were mainly crew quarters and Maria nodded grimly.

"Skipper, we’re being hailed by the Republic ship. They want to know what our status is?"

"Tell them we’re assessing our damage and try to raise Flash."

While Davie relayed her message she managed to get to her feet, pleased when the decking only tilted and didn’t try to rise up and hit her again.

"Theodore, what’s our position?"

"We’re still near the alien ship, Skipper, long range sensors are down, so I can’t tell you much more than that. I’m getting readings from all the SAR boats, so Flash is still over there with her people. Something strange about the Republic ship though. Dear god…"


Instead of answering he transferred the image he was looking at to the still more or less working main screen. Maria’s mouth opened silently and even the groggily waking up Whitworth was stunned by the picture.

The Republic ship hung against the stars, two thirds of it did anyway. Almost as if a giant laser scalpel had cut the back section of the ship off, only the bow and center portion remained and Maria swallowed. A lot of people were in trouble over there.

"Davie, relay our sensor readings to the Republic ship. You have Flash yet?"

"Just managed to contact her, Skipper."

"She okay?"

"Her people are stunned, but they didn’t feel it as bad as we did. They’re all alright."

"Good, tell them to stand by and offer the Republic ship our help."

As Davie bent to his new task, Theodore gave a snort of satisfaction. The lifts were out but the emergency passages still worked and Maria silently stepped out of the way as medics rushed onto the bridge to try and help the injured. They were far too late for Paul of course, and she kept her eyes averted as the gently lifted the corpse to the floor and placed a sheet over it.

"Some of the long distance sensors just came online, Skipper."

The way his voice died out towards the end of his sentence raised new hackles on the Captain’s neck and she watched with a sinking sensation as Theodore’s face drained of color.

"Captain, I think you better see this."

She checked his readings, double checked them, then triple checked them with him. Each time hoping that her unorthodox but definitely brilliant head scientist was wrong.

He wasn’t of course and she felt the sinking sensation congeal into a tight ball of fear in her stomach.

"Davie, get me a channel to the Kursk. I think her Captain and I need to have a talk."


"Captain, the Pegasus is sending us a visual of the external damage to the ship," reported Zorin.

"Put it on the main screen, Ensign. Let’s see what happened." Svetlana looked up from her repair job at the engineering consol.

The image on the screen was wrong somehow. She just couldn’t wrap her mind around what exactly was wrong. The groan coming from Kuzmin finally shocked her mind into interpreting what her eyes were seeing. The whole aft section of her ship was just…gone. Like some cosmic giant had taken a laser scalpel and just sliced off a bit of her ship. Her ship! Svetlana felt physical pain in reaction to the damage to her ship.

"Petty Officer Kurin," said Svetlana as she opened a com frequency. "I know why the aft portion of the ship is not responding to our inquires." She was amazed to hear how calm her voice sounded while she was screaming on the inside. "The engineering section, as well as the aft weapons section, most of the crew quarters and medical bay did not seem to make the trip with us."

"Captain?" Petty Officer Kurin sounded confused.

"We are missing the back half of the ship. Concentrate on the parts of the ship you can get too. Montastyrskaya out." The Captain put her head in her hands. She really felt like crying, but pushed down the sentiment. She looked up at the stunned faces of her crew, most with tears rolling unabashedly down their faces. "I know that things are really bad right now, but we need to pull ourselves together and figure out just how bad things are. Zorin, any luck with our sensors? Where are we?"

Zorin refused to look up from his consol. "Uh, I don’t know, Captain."

"Do you mean you don’t know because the sensors are still off line or do you mean you don’t know because …" prodded Svetlana.

"I don’t know because we are totally off our star maps."

Svetlana closed her eyes and sighed. This is a horrible nightmare. There is no way that this is happening. This is just a product of my overactive imagination. I am asleep in my quarters and Romonov never came in and told me about the alien signal. She opened her eyes. All of the bridge crew but Kuzmin was studiously ignoring the Captain. "Yes, Kuzmin?"

"Captain, there are four ships approaching that just crossed into sensor range. At their current rate of speed, I estimate that they will be here in 4 hours, 27 minutes. And on another bright note," the blonde grimaced, "We are drifting away from the Pegasus."

Svetlana slumped back in her chair, her right hand rubbing her forehead while she thought. I need to contact to Pegasus and explain to the Captain that I need to ‘borrow’ her ship. The Republic captain snorted. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

The tall woman opened a com channel. "Commander Borozdin, I need you to report to the conference room with as many officers as you can round up. Montastyrskaya out. Kuzmin, with me. Gorsky, you have the Con." Svetlana stood up and walked to her ready room, Kuzmin following the captain drunkenly.

After the doors to the ready room closed, Svetlana caught the swaying woman.

"Alyona, let me look at your head." Svetlana carried the injured woman to the closest chair.

"Nyet, Svetla. I’m fine," protested Kuzmin as she tried to sit up.

"No you are not! One pupil is larger than the other one and you haven’t stopped bleeding yet. Let me help you, Yona, please? I seem to be unable to do anything else at the moment."

Recognizing Svetlana’s need to control something, Kuzmin allowed the Captain to fuss over her, cleaning her cut, bandaging it, and getting her some tablets for her concussion.

"This is just to take the swelling down. I’m reluctant to give you any type of painkiller with your obvious concussion."

Alyona caressed Svetlana’s arm reassuringly. "I know, Svetla, it’s okay. What are we going to do?"

The Captain was saved from answering Kuzmin by the entrance of what was left of her officers. Master Chief Rozov was the first through the door. His steady manner was a calming balm to Svetlana’s jangled nerves. Bear was close on his heels, followed by Romonov entering with a slight limp and a bloody pant leg. The last officer coming through the door was a surprise. Svetlana knew for sure that Marine country was exposed to vacuum, but standing before her was her Marine Major with not even a wrinkle to her space black uniform. Major Ekaterina Dononov flashed her Captain a small smile and took a seat at the table with the others.

"People, we have a problem. As you may or may not know, we have lost the aft portion of the ship. This includes engineering, medical, the crew quarters, and marine country. Our docking bay is intact, along with most of our weapons storage, and the parts of the ship that made that little jump are in relatively good shape. The bad news is we are so far off the maps, Zorin and Kuzmin can’t even find us, and we have four possible hostiles approaching. The good news is we made first contact." Svetlana smiled brightly.

The other officers sat stunned, looking around the table at each other. Finally, Dononov cleared her throat. "Captain, we need to secure the Pegasus. Either through cooperation or force, we need them to get home."

Bear sighed. "I concur. We don’t have engines, Pegasus does. We also need their scientist to figure out how to get home, if we can get home." He ran his hand through his blonde hair. "I don’t see them cooperating easily."

Rozov cleared his throat. "We could do what we did with those smugglers. The whole Trojan horse thing."

Kuzmin grinned. "That wasn’t a Trojan horse Rozov. That was a total bluff. We need to leave someone here that can convince the Pegasus it’s a bluff."

Svetlana looked up from studying her hands. "Rozov, I want you with me. Romonov, you as well." She held up her hand to stop the protest on the others lips. "Kuzmin, you can barely stand. Dononov, I’d love to take you, but I’m afraid you’d scare the crap out of the little scientist." The shorter, dark haired woman sat up a little straighter. If Svetlana actually thought the Major could be caught taking a compliment, she’d say Dononov was preening. "Bear, I need you to stay most of all. Because this is not a bluff." The others looked at their captain, shocked.

You don’t mean that," sputtered Bear. "Svetla, I could never…"

"Feyda, I know what I’m asking of you, but if they think it might be a bluff, that Captain is going to tell me to go fuck myself. She may anyway. I need to know that if it comes down to it, you will do what is right."

The tall man looked away. "Da, Svetla. I will do this." He looked up with tears in his eyes. "But you better convince her that your way is better, you hear me? I’ll follow you into the afterlife and kick your ass!"

There was a small round of laughter from the assembled officers. Svetlana looked around the table, and felt an overwhelming sense of pride for her crew. She wiped at her eyes, refusing to let the tears fall. "I just want you to know that I could never wish for a finer crew. I am honored to be your Captain." She stood up and placed a hand over her heart and gave her officers a small bow.

Her officers stood up and almost as one saluted her.

In an innocent voice, Rozov asked, "Since you are leading us all into hell, can I carry your coat?" The laughter broke up the tension in the room.

"Only if you are good," promised the Captain.

"Captain," came Zorin’s disembodied voice. "The Captain of the Pegasus wants to speak with you."

"Good, Zorin, patch it into the ready room."

"Aye, aye, Captain."

"This is Captain Montastyrskaya, go ahead, Captain Ramirez."

"Captain Monta-whatever," the other captain could not keep the derision out of her voice. "We seem to be rather far from home. Since your ship is incapacitated, I thought you might like to come over here and discuss our options."

"Its Montastyrskaya, Captain. Mon tas tyr skya. I’m sure you’ll get lots of practice while we struggle home. We were just discussing our options as a matter of fact." Svetlana wiggled her eyebrows at her officers. "I would be happy to discuss our next move with you. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather come over here?" She grinned evilly and Bear bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud.

"No, I’d feel much more comfortable if you and one or two of your officers came over here to discuss things."

Rozov’s eyes lit up with the invitation. He started rubbing his hands together.

"Would it be okay if I was accompanied by my Marine escort? I’m supposed to have one every time I leave the ship." Svetlana was glad there was no video link, because she just couldn’t keep a straight face.

"No, Captain Montague, I think you will be just fine with just two of your officers. I promise we won’t hurt you."

Svetlana rolled her eyes at that. Everyone of her crew had fought at least one engagement hand to hand taking control of a pirate ship. She had no doubt that anyone of her crew could take on any 10 of the Pegasus crew.

"That’s Montastyrskaya, Captain Ramirez. I will leave by then end of the hour. I hope that timeframe is acceptable to you."

"That’s fine, Captain Montalvo. I can hardly wait. Ramirez out."

"Suit up, gentleman. I want the whole ‘stupid Navy officer falls into evil smuggler’s clutches’ kit. I don’t think this group will even know how to properly search for weapons, but they might have one or two ex-marines on board. You never know. Meet me at the docking bay in 15 minutes."

The other officers filed out, Bear and Kuzmin staying behind. They glanced at each other and Kuzmin found something interesting to look at on the other side of the room.

"Svetla, you have to come back. I’m not explaining to your cousin that I blew you up!"

"Bear, if you have to blow me up, you’ll lose your ride home."

"Naw, we’ll go jump on that spiny looking thing. Maybe it will take us right back if we poke it in the right place." His expression turned serious and he grabbed Svetlana in a tight hug. "You come back to me. I’ll miss your vodka," he sniffled.

Svetlana laughed and smacked at his arms. "We’ll get out of this, Bear. Have faith. Am I not the luckiest person you know?" she sniffled. "Now get out of here and get everything ready." She gave him a shove out the door.

After Bear left, she went to Kuzmin and stood behind her.

"I don’t want you to go," said the small blonde softly. "I don’t have a good feeling about any of this, Svetla."

The brunette hugged her lover from behind and rested her chin on her shoulder. "I know our relationship is not one that we will ever declare feelings of undying passion and love, but you are one of my closest friends, Yona. I will try and come back to you, and know this; I care for you deeply. A part of me would die inside if anything would happen to you. I need to go and secure that ship if for nothing more than to get you to a doctor. You head wound worries me. Will you be alright to play your part in all of this?" Svetlana punctuated the question with a small kiss to the blonde head in front of her.

"Da, Svetla. I’m fine. Go get ready." Kuzmin pulled away from Svetlana reluctantly and exited the room. Svetlana stared at the door for a minute before crossing to her desk and pulling out her small plasma gun. She secreted it away inside her sleeve into the specially made holster that allowed her to snap the gun out. She had the idea after watching one of the old, twentieth century ‘westerns’. Svetlana secretly harbored an obsession for anything to do with films, holos, vids, whatever, and this little surprise had saved her life on several occasions. And to think my brothers made fun of my hobby. Where else would I have gotten such a great idea?

With a quick motion of her wrist, the gun suddenly appeared in her hand. Another twist and it was gone. Satisfied that it was working properly, Svetlana took one last look around her ready room. Regardless of how this turned out, she would be leaving her ship behind. She made a mental note to tell BuShips when she got back to never name any ship Kursk. It seemed that name was unlucky.


On her way to the only one of Pegasus’s shuttle bays that were still fully functional; Maria made a detour to the ships medical decks. The Pegasus with her duel Explorer and SAR roles, had two full decks dedicated solely to its medical role. If need be the Pegasus could very well fill the role of a dedicated hospital ship.

She ducked through the opening lift doors, then quickly back peddled to avoid being run over as two orderlies ran past. A burn victim making horrible rasping noises from the stretcher they whisked between them.

Carl would be busy, as the head surgeon onboard he would be supervising any critical injuries the crew had received. So instead of disturbing her head medical officer she grabbed the nearest nurse. With six full doctors, and nearly four times that in nursing staff on board, Maria figured Carl could do without the one she’d grabbed for a few seconds.

"Wha, oh! Captain, what can I do for you?"

"I need some painkillers, quick."

At the nurse’s quick visual once over, Maria sighed. She didn’t have time for this, the Captain of the Kursk was going to be in the shuttle bay in a few minutes.

"Look, I bumped my head when we got hit by that energy wave. It’s nothing serious, I just need something to get rid of the pain."

I need to be thinking clearly when I talk with this Captain Montastyrskaya. Ha, I final got her name right.

"Umm, shouldn’t I go get Lieutenant Commander van Reiss, Captain?"

Which will only lead to two hours of testing as Carl shows exactly how over protective he can be.

"No, I doubt that will be necessary."

"But, Captain…"

"Look, Nurse Lepeirre, I don’t have time for this. Give me the painkillers so I can get on with saving us from sudden attack by a Republic Cruiser."

Her voice might have risen a bit towards the end of that and a few of the nearby orderlies and walking wounded were looking at their Captain oddly.

Gritting her teeth she stared at the startled eyes in front of her.


Stiffly the Nurse complied, pressing the small hypo to the side of Maria’s neck with a bit more force than necessary. Since this was the one part of the ship that Maria had never had full command over, she suffered the small sting without a word. That the Nurse would probably complain to Carl was a given, that Maria could ignore his reprimand afterwards was also a given.

Rank does have some privileges.

"Thank you."

The Nurse merely nodded in response and by the time she did Maria was already moving back to the lift. The raging pain in her skull had flittered away, born by the painkiller. She’d probably crash when this current emergency finally ended, but right now the Captain of the Pegasus had other priorities.

Only one of Pegasus’s shuttle bays was still fully functional and it was there that Maria went. This would be, as far as she knew, the first time that a Republic captain had visited a Coalition ship without either side opening fire first.

Let’s hope she doesn’t decide to continue the tradition.

Even crippled as she was, missing her entire engineering section as far as Thomas could tell her, the Kursk was still quite capable of blowing the Pegasus to smithereens as long as the Explorer ship was nearby.

Ducking her head she skirted under a damage control party who were trying to fix a damaged power relay. Sparky had gotten main power up, thankfully, and at least the shuttle bay was well lit.


Maria smothered a smile at the sight of the five heavily armed and armored men waiting for her near the landing pad. They were, for all intents and purposes, the Pegasus’s security force and every last one of them were ex marines.

"Lieutenant Beaudrie, your men ready?"

She had to look up to meet his eyes, but the retired Marine was deadly serious as he responded.

"Yes, Ma’am, my people and I are prepared."

She cast a glance at the standard issue assault rifle he was holding and raised an eyebrow.

"They are our guests, Lieutenant. I don’t want anyone opening fire, understood?"

"Yes, Skipper."

His tone might have been caustic, but she trusted him to keep his men in line. A few of them had faced Republic forces in the occasional border skirmish and there would be no love lost between them and the crew of the Kursk.

"Skipper, here they come."

She took her spot at the head of the five man honor guard and watched the brightly dressed LO, or landing officer, step out into the middle of the landing bay. The old fashioned light wands in the girl’s hands lit up and she held both straight upwards as the Republic shuttle edged its way through the force field separating the pressurized bay from the vacuum of space.

Neither her nor the honor guard behind her missed the fact that the shuttle was armed; it was pretty hard to miss the shape of twin plasma canons.

The LO slowly backed up, using the lit wands to direct the large shuttle in and then down to a steady landing. Only when the roar of the shuttles engines died did Maria approach the side hatch of the Republic ship, trying her best to look more confident than she felt.

I wonder if she’s as much of a bitch in person as she was over the com channel.

The honor guard formed up behind her and she waited for the door to the shuttle to swing open.

Her first impression of the Kursk’s Captain was that she was tall. Maria herself was a touch on the short side, mostly due to those long days in her childhood when there simply wasn’t any food in the house she suspected. Captain Montastyrskaya, and it had taken her the entire trip to the shuttle bay for Maria to more or less manage to remember that name, was tall and lean. Her uniform only seemed to accentuate her long legs and Maria blinked once in surprise at how young she looked. Prolong treatments could have accounted for a lot, but even so she couldn’t have been more than a handful of years older than Maria herself.

Maria was relieved to see that neither of the two officers accompanying her or the Republic Captain herself appeared to be armed. Imposing blue eyes met hers and Maria forced herself to straighten.

"Captain Montastyrskaya, welcome aboard the Coalition ship Pegasus."

The Pegasus wasn’t a fleet ship and as such Maria wasn’t a Naval officer, which is why she offered her hand instead of saluting. The Captain of the Kursk shook her hand without a noticeable flinch for the change in protocol.

"Captain…" she hid a wince as she realized she still couldn't manage the Republic Captain's name, "welcome aboard the Coalition ship Pegasus."

Lana hid a smile as she noticed the Pegasus's captain’s omission of her name. "Thank you, Captain Ramirez"

Yeah well my name can actually be pronounced. The honor guard was a reassuring wall of armor and weapons behind her as Maria waited for the other woman to leave the shuttle.

Lana eyed the so-called honor guard with amusement. "Now I know I was right to leave Dononov on the Kursk. She would have laughed her ass off and got us spaced!" the captain said in Russian to her two crewmembers.

Maria could feel Lieutenant Beaudrie and his men stiffen even more, if that was possible, behind her.

"They're our guests."

She reminded them in a sotto voice, taking the two steps forward necessary to bring her to the foot of the shuttle ramp

Svetlana noticed the reactions of the honor guard and flashed a look at her men. She noticed Romonov discreetly tucking away his weapon at her glare. "I am looking forward to cooperating with you on our little dilemma," said Svetlana in English.


Maria's hard smile didn't slip an inch. "You mean, your dilemma. Welcome onboard the Pegasus, if you'll follow me to the briefing room?"

Svetlana made a point to sweep her gaze over the dock, noting all the damage that was visible and the DC running around. "Yes, we do seem to be in a bit of a bind. How nice of you not to leave us in our hour of need."

"Must be my naturally forgiving nature." Already moving for the, thankfully, functional doors of the airlock. She didn't need to look behind to know that Beaudrie and his men were glaring at the Republic officers and definitely bringing up the rear.

Svetlana sent a look to her officers, letting them know she expected them to take note of everything around them. Romonov nodded his head slightly. The Master Chief gave the Kursk's captain a slightly insulted look.

"So, Captain Ramirez," said Svetlana as they stepped over a broken power relay and dodged around a hurrying group of techs, "What kind of damage did you sustain?"

Maria winced as two med techs raced by dragging a repulsor lift stretcher with a screaming woman on it. She was a scientist, Emily King, and Maria had played zero g hockey against her on a few occasions

"A few blown power relays." The shorter captain raised a challenging brow at the woman besides her, wondering exactly how honest she was going to be. "You?"

"As you saw, we seemed to have misplaced the aft portion of our ship. That was the part that held Engineering, Med Bay, Marine Country, and most of the crew quarters." But we won't mention the fact that almost all of the marines plus the off duty people were in the galley, watching everything on video once they figured out there was an alien ship to be found. Thank god for the swiftness of the ship grapevine. It turned out to have saved a lot of lives.

The lift arrived only a few seconds after Maria hit the button. She moved through first, courtesy had a limit after all and this was her ship. "Bridge."

The computer recognized her voice and as the last of the honor guard crowded inside, the lift jerked upwards

Svetlana smiled to herself at the little captain's breach of protocol. She's a spitfire. Too bad that I have to do this. Svetlana could almost hear the growl from the Pegasus's honor guard as they were forced in close to her officers. Romonov looked like he was going to make the one in front of him eat his rifle, but the Chief was his usual unflappable self

If it had been a military ship, everyone on the bridge would have risen as Maria entered. As it was, the Captain of the Pegasus got nods from everyone at there duty stations and the strangers got stares. Maria could almost feel the blush starting on Davie's face as he caught sight of the tall lean woman striding along beside her. Poor Davie, she is striking, I suppose.

The Kursk's captain was a little shocked by the lack of military protocol on the bridge, but let nothing show on the outside. Growing up as closely related to the ruling family as she had, her formal mask was as much a part of her personality as her smile.

"This way, Captain." A nod to Theodore, and the glaring Whitworth, including them in the invite as she headed for the briefing room

Hmm, he is definitely going to be a problem, but it's hard to tell who he hates more, me or his own captain. Wonder what the story is there? thought Svetlana as she followed Captain Ramirez and her officers into the Pegasus briefing room.

Beaudrie and his men stopped just outside the door at Maria's pointed look. The lieutenant obviously thought she was mad, but she didn't need the five armed men to make things even more tense. She was doing a wonderful job of that all on her own, she admitted wryly. "Can we offer you anything to drink?"

Theodore was watching the Republic members with something approaching scientific curiosity; Whitworth had stalked to a chair and sat down hard.

"Do you have tea?" inquired Svetlana. After noticing the XO's hostile looks directed toward Captain Ramirez and his attitude in general, Svetlana categorized him into 'spoiled rich brat' and dismissed him.

Oh god, she drinks tea. I should have known. Maria grimaced but went to the small kitchenette, a few seconds later she had hot water for tea and instant coffee.

The auburn haired woman took hold of the seat back next to Whitworth's. She'd be damned if she did anything but try to present a unified front. "Take a seat, Captain."

"Thank you, Captain Ramirez. Shall we discuss why we are here? I think that everyone is through with the forced pleasantries."

It was her ship, by god, and she'd be the one who decided what and when they discussed things.

Svetlana merely sat there gazing at the Pegasus's captain while she calmly sipped her tea. She had found, over the years, that the best way to deal with hostility is not to react to it. The calmer she was, the more upset the adversary would get, and thereby making a mistake she could capitalize on. Not to mention her amusement that came from all the interesting colors she could make people's faces turn.


It's like talking to a rock, Maria mentally sighed and took her own seat, a split second after Theodore took his own. The head scientist was unusually quiet, but she could hear Whitworth grinding his teeth.

"Shall we start with where we are?"

"Our position does not show up on any of our starmaps. Do you have an idea where we are?"

"Theodore?" At Maria's prompt the tall gangly man nodded absently and leaned forwards, a touch of a control brought up the holo display in the center of the table.

"It took a while, our sensors were having trouble with some of the left over interference from that energy wave. We had to..." Maria kicked him under the table and he got back on track. "We 're here." The Milky Way expanded on the holo display. A marker flashing on an arm of the spiral galaxy almost exactly opposite the arm they'd been on.

Svetlana could feel her eyes grow wide. "We're all the way over there? How can this be?"

Which was just the opening Theodore lived for. "Well." His brown eyes brightening considerably. "I and the others believe that was some sort of space fold device. Something almost like a wormhole, but not exactly. We're still going over the data of course, but it's very interest..."

"Theodore," Maria's tone cut him off quite efficiently.

"So that alien ship over there has the technology to jump like that and take us with it? Can we use it to take ourselves back?" We may not even need the Pegasus to get home!

This time the science officer looked at his Captain for permission before continuing. He fiddled with the stylus of his data pad nervously while he thought about how to phrase his answer. "I doubt that is the case. From what Flash has told us, the head of our SAR teams, that ship is alive."

Maria leaned back in her chair, studying the officers across from her, trying to see who would be the first to understand as Theodore continued, "We think that it's sudden jump here was a, well, a flinch. A reflex, since everyone over there is dead."

Svetlana blinked. "You are telling me that the ship itself is alive and that jump was an involuntary reflex, like a doctor hitting your knee in an exam?"

"We are so fucked," muttered Romonov in Russian.

"I, er, I mean, well yes, more sophisticated doubtless, but the principle is the same..." He trailed off and Maria let out a sigh, she knew that tone. He'd be coming up with theorems for the rest of the day.

"The bottom line is, unless you know how to use that thing, it might jump us to another Galaxy if we use it wrong." She hoped her tone was steadier than her thoughts.

"Maybe we could practice," suggested Rozov, speaking up for the first time with a thick accent.

"With time, perhaps we could manage something." Theodore nodded in agreement. "But I can't even begin to offer how long it would take. It might take years."

"And how long do you propose it would take us to get back using Nova Drive?" inquired Svetlana. Please give me an alternative than taking your ship away!

Maria kicked Theodore on the shin as he opened his mouth to talk again. "On Nova," Assuming Sparky can get the drives working again. "It would take us approximately three hundred years. Give or take a few decades."

"So why don't we spend few years practicing with spiny thing, then go home? Is good idea, yes?" asked Rozov.

Theodore hesitantly started to answer, and when no kick to his shins was forthcoming, continued, "Unfortunately we are no longer reading any energy signals from the alien ship. Of any sort."

Svetlana closed her eyes in defeat; there was no avoiding the inevitable. She then took a deep breath, opened her eyes and leveled her gaze at her counterpart. "We have come up with a suggestion on what to do."

"It stands to reason that if there is one ship that can do what that one did, then there are others." Maria ignored the comment from the Republic captain and acted like Svetlana had not spoken at all. "We find one, or someone who can do that, and we get them to send us back to where we belong. In the meantime I’ll be happy to leave you and your crew on a nice little planet, or you can ride aboard the Pegasus." She ignored Whitworth's startled look at that.

"My plan is similar to that one, Captain Ramirez. I plan to take command of your ship, strip the weapons and crew off the Kursk, and see about finding a way home with your crew's assistance." The Captain of the Kursk sat back and waited for the explosion.

The sudden silence was deafening. Maria's thoughts actually slammed to a halt for a second as she stared at the other woman. "You have got to be joking."

Svetlana just sat there with a stony look on her face that was mirrored by her officers. "No, I am not joking."

"Captain Montoverta, you and your officers can go fuck yourselves in the corner if you think you're taking over this ship." Maria snarled

Svetlana depressed a button on the device on her wrist. "Now Bear," she said in Russian.

Maria's hand was reaching for her own console to call in Beauprie and his people to "escort" the Captain and her people out when it buzzed. She hesitated a second, glared at Svetlana, and pushed the button.

"Uh, Captain?" Davie's voice was even more nervous than usual.

"What is it, Ensign?"

"Well, we're, huh, being targeted by the Kursk. With, well it looks like everything they have."


Maria jerked her stare from the com unit to the Captain across from her, she could feel her lips curling into a snarl. "You wouldn't dare."

"Try me," said the Russian coldly. "My crew and I have nothing to lose. I’d rather go out like this than drifting in space while you dither along blindly trying to figure out what to do by committee!" Maria's stomach tightened, the way it did when the fecal matter was hitting the rapidly spinning air movement machine. "Theodore, Whitworth, go see to your stations."

"Rozov, Romonov, you too. Captain Ramirez and I have something to discuss. Oh and Rozov, play nice!" emphasized the Captain in Russian.

Theodore was still staring at the Kursk's captain as he headed out the door. Davie's crush had died a sudden, swift death. Having the object of your crush target your ship with missiles and plasma guns could do that. Maria waited for them all to file out, seething.

"A touch low, even for the Republic, hijacking a ship after trying to take away credit for their scientific find?" Maria could feel her lips curling in dislike at the composed woman standing across the table from her.

"I find that we are in one of those positions where all the choices are bad. This one, I believe, is the lesser of all the evils," the Republic captain replied coolly. "I have the experience to deal with armed encounters. From what I found in your database, this is your first command, and you've never been in a situation that calls for armed response."

The blatant admission that the Kursk had already hacked their database threw the smaller woman for a minute. "The threat of force your only negotiating tactic? We could Nova out of here and just leave you sitting." I was right; she is even more of a bitch in person.

"Can you? I think your ship is even more damaged than ours is. We came through with little damage except for the loss of our aft section." and a lot of good people thought Svetlana with a flash of sorrow. "You were closer to the energy wave and took the brunt of the impact. I saw the state of your relay lines walking from the docking bay to here. I don't think you have the ability to Nova. Besides, can you navigate that long a jump accurately?"

Maria's lip twitched and it was either turn away from the infuriating woman or try to tackle her. After weighing her odds for a second, the captain of the Pegasus decided to stalk to the small kitchenette and grab herself a coffee. It gave her time to think.

"Screw you if you think I'm just handing over my ship to you." Was the best she could come up with.

" I feel the best course of action, the course where the higher probability of both crews surviving, is to put the most experienced person in charge. Would you expect me to tell you how to properly handle a SAR mission? I certainly don't expect you to know how to properly handle a situation where multiple ships are firing at you. Step back and look at this logically. I'm not trying to take your ship away because I am a bully. I feel that the only way for all of us to survive is to do this. We must work together. My crew and I are here to protect you, you and your crew are the ones to get us home."

Shit, why did she have to bring in logic? Maria's hand actually turned white as she tightened her grip on the coffee mug. She took a sip and grimaced when the normally soothing drink did little but give her a sour aftertaste. Setting aside the traitor she glared at the impossibly long named Captain.

"You hurt her or my crew and I swear to God, I'll find a way to make you suffer."

Svetlana bowed her head in acknowledgement of her bittersweet victory. "I will honor your ship and it's crew. We can make this work. We have to."

"You're obviously more confident than I am of that fact. I don't have to tell you there will doubtlessly be some problems." The thought of what she was agreeing to do tore at her soul; she'd fought so hard to get Pegasus, worked so long to reach where she was. The slight woman had to turn towards the hatch to close her eyes against the sudden moisture. "Let's get this over with then." Her voice was bitter cold as she moved forward.

"Captain… Maria," Svetlana faltered at this. "It would kill me to give up my command. You are a stronger person than I am. I don't know if my pride would let me listen to reason." Svetlana laid a comforting hand on the smaller woman’s shoulder, but Maria shook it off.

The former Captain of the Pegasus didn't want this woman's pity; she didn't want anything from her besides the Kursk’s weapons to help get Pegasus home. "Save it for the moral speeches we're going to have to give."

Maria slammed her hand against the door button, and was through it before the doors had opened fully.

Svetlana followed the diminutive captain out the door to find her officers had been busy. "Romonov! Get off that guard! He's having trouble breathing. Master Chief Rozov, I thought I told you to play nice!" The Master Chief actually looked guilty at the scolding. He reluctantly let go of the XO's neck and lowered him to the floor. Svetlana tried not to look at the unconscious bodies on the floor around him.

Maria decided right then and there that she'd get to know the Master Chief well and soon. He seemed like a capable sort and one who knew what was going on. After all, anyone strangling her XO was a good person in her book. "Davie, all hands hail."

Davie was staring in shock at the unconscious people on the floor of the command deck and it took Maria a second of glaring to get his attention.

"Davie, all hands hail," she said through clenched teeth. This wasn’t going to be easy and Davie’s distraction was not helping.

"Umm, right, yes, Skipper"

The all hands hail sounded through all decks on the Pegasus, everyone not doing something urgent paused to listen.

Swallowing and keeping her face as composed as she could, while all she wanted to do was crawl into a corner and cry, Maria straightened. "This is the Captain speaking. As all of you know we've encountered an alien vessel." She paused to take a breath and sort her thoughts.

"What you don't know is we are no longer in the same arm of our galaxy. In fact we are nearly directly across the galactic core from where we started."

She imagined she could hear the gasps throughout the ship and wondered who would start to put it together first.

"We have little choice but to work together with the crew of the Kursk if we hope to survive the journey that lies before us. As such I am…" she struggled to keep her voice level, "turning over command to the Captain of the Kursk. The Kursk will be stripped of weapons, the Pegasus armed, and the Kursk's crew joining us. I expect you all to work towards getting us all home in one piece. Your department heads will have more information for you all soon." The shorter woman glanced towards Svetlana, clearly waiting for her to say something.

The Republic Captain opened her mouth to address the newest additions to her crew when she was interrupted by a strangled cry from the Pegasus's First Officer. "You Bitch!" he screamed as he threw himself at his now ex-captain. "Some fucking dyke with nice legs waltzes in and bats her eyes at you and you just hand over this ship? You should have never gotten this command. This ship should be mine! I'll kill you...." the rest of his tirade was cut off with a scream as his left knee cap disintegrated from a shot from Svetlana's blaster.

Maria's mouth opened in shock and the very first thought that entered her head was; now why couldn't I ever do that? Damn, I didn’t even know she was armed!

"Now listen up you sorry excuse of a human being. You gnaw leather chew toys, you stinking, manure scarfing, pig provoking, forlorn issue of an optimistic fatalist. No one and I mean no one insults any of my officers that way, especially my First Officer!" She glanced at him in disgust, debating on whether or not to waste the saliva to spit on him. "Someone haul that piece of trash off my bridge and toss him into Med Bay."

"First Officer?" repeated Maria in a daze.

Svetlana merely raised an eyebrow at her new XO. "The first thing we need to do is get your SAR shuttles back in. You, at the controls, I need you to grab the back end of the Kursk with a tractor beam and drag her to us and face heading 125.345.3. ETA on the shuttles, Com?" The bridge crew just looked at her in shock. Svetlana jumping in and snapping orders took even Maria aback. "I don’t know if you people noticed that there are four alien ships speeding our way. Now they may just be curious, but I for one do not intend on hoping these guys are friendly. Now move, people!"

Maria gave herself a little shake. "You heard the Captain, people! Now get to it!" The bridge crew responded immediately to her command.

Svetlana looked at her XO. "I hope they listen better than that when the missiles start coming in."

It was, Maria knew, an opening. A small one perhaps, but it was an opening, and invitation to at least try to strike up some sort of report with the tall striking new Captain.

The weight of what she’d done still rested like a stone in the pit of her stomach though, and Maria could barely manage even the small nod that decorum demanded.

I hope she doesn’t think we’re going to salute her; we sure as hell aren’t Navy.

Instead Maria kept her voice low as the slowly regaining conscious officers were helped to their duty posts or down to med bay, along with a still screaming Whitworth. The image of her former First Officer holding his shattered knee was soothing to some old deep aches that Maria hadn’t even realized existed.

"I know you don’t think this is important right now, but you and I need to take a tour of the Pegasus," the newly appointed XO said.

She paused and stepped aside as a damage control team got to work on replacing the pilot’s console. Most of it was beyond repair and they were simply replacing the entire unit.

Maria tried not to think about what the red stains on it were.

"And we need to take a tour, right now," She continued. "Before some of my officers or crew decide that you were trying to coerce me and come to try and "rescue" me from you and your officers."

She glanced at said officers and her mouth tightened as she wondered if they were armed like their Captain obviously had been.

"Which could get messy if your men are carrying concealed weapons also."

Next Part

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