Disclaimers: See part 1. Thank you on the behalf of my coauthor and myself to the three people who WROTE to us and said anything at all about part 1. Constructive criticisim and kind words are always appreciated at: adarkbow@yahoo.com



Pathfinder part 2


"Theodore, you getting any readings off those incoming alien vessels?" It would have to be a short tour, she knew that, but Maria wanted to show her crew that she wasn't being physically forced into this.

I really hate her, but for right now I need her.

"Yes, I have them. They're three and a half hours out Skip… er... I mean..." he trailed off uncertainly.

There would, Maria thought, always be time to deal with this Republic captain after the immediate danger was dealt with. Ignoring his problems with her current rank, since she wasn't sure about it either, she raised an eyebrow at the tall woman beside her. "I can give you a quick half hour tour, while we tow your ship."

Svetlana thought about the offer. She didn't like wasting time like this, but if her new XO thought it would be a good idea to keep her crew from storming the bridge, and therefore creating more of a mess, the new captain of the Pegasus was all for it.

"Very well XO."

"This way then, Captain." There was only the ever so slight edge to the title as Maria led the way to the lift doors. A glare towards Beaudrie kept him and his men where they were. She didn't want the five armed ex marines following them around everywhere.

She took the time in the lift to rattle off the usual facts, that the ship was a kilometer in length, her crew of nearly four hundred, the single fusion plant that powered everything from the hydroponics to the Nova Drive.

"We're built on the skeleton of the vigilant class navy carriers, but we're obviously stripped of all the armaments. They left us with just enough for some self-defense and the armor. We've two-dozen SAR shuttles in four bays. More or less, the crews split into three groups: engineering, medical and science, with the SAR personal are drawn from all three when the need arises."

"Do you still have the launching platforms for the fighter ships?" inquired Svetlana.

"Just the two dozen that we use for the SAR shuttles, the others were ripped out to make space in between the shuttles themselves." She'd programmed the lift to take them to Engineering and as the doors slid open she was glad she had. Sparky, a still space suite wearing Flash, and Carl her chief medic were gathered with a good three-dozen crewmembers. Each was carrying a bit of pipe or laser welder as a weapon. Groaning, she stared at the crowd that stared at her in shock. "Told you we had to take a tour," Maria muttered.

Svetlana looked amused. "It says much for your leadership abilities that your crew was this willing to help."

"They are a great crew," Maria muttered as she watched Svetlana head out into the crowd. Weapons shifted hands; a few people looked at each other a touch sheepishly. Flash, Carl and Sparky stared at her, obviously not quite sure what to do now.

She walked over to the crowd of people. "Hello, my name is Svetlana Nickolayevna Montastyrskaya. I am going to be your new captain." She flashed them all a charming grin, bringing her full personality to bear.

"Captain Ramirez is kind enough to give me a tour. Since you are arming yourselves, you might want to know that there are 4 unknown spacecraft heading our way at speed. Since we don't know if they are friendly or not, how about you save the animosity for them, then you can proceed to plot my overthrow?"

Maria had to admit, when she wanted to, the Republic Captain could be charming. Too bad she’s such a bitch.

"Not that I don't appreciate it, but all of you can go back to your duties." Maria paused. "Now." A bit of milling around and most of the crowd slowly started to head off.

"Captain Monova, let me introduce you to the rest of my senior officers. This is my chief Engineer, Spike Louise Beauchamp. The one trying to hide the laser scalpel is Chief Medical Officer Carl van Reiss, and that one still in her space suite is Julia LeClare, head of our SAR techs."

Svetlana leveled a glare at the smaller captain. "First Officer Ramirez, since my name is beyond your capabilities, how about we stick with just 'Captain' for now."

Completely innocent green eyes met Svetlana's glare and Maria nodded slowly. "I suppose that's not beyond my abilities." A raised eyebrow. "Captain."

"I'm going to have to come up with a way for you to remember my name," Svetlana smiled blandly at the smaller woman. She then turned her attention to her new officers. "Ladies and gentleman, I'm sure you have more important things you could be doing than talking to me. I leave you to them."

Maria muttered something that might have had the word tattoo and back of head, connected in someway. A nod to the still slightly stunned looking Sparky, Maria proceeded to shove both Flash and Carl towards the nearest lift. "I know you two have something to do and Sparky, it would be nice to have Nova drive sometime in the next few years. Get your people ready, we may be fired on soon." She could almost see the gears turning. "And no, not by the Republic ship." Again.

The auburn haired woman wondered if it was too early to start telling the Republic Captain, I told you so. Probably. "I hope you have some sort of plan on how to deal with these incoming alien ships."

"Have faith, XO, have faith," was all the captain said as she walked toward the lifts. "Now, were you going to show me the rest of the ship?"

Both eyebrows rose at the XO part, but Maria didn't say anything as they stepped into the lift. "Yes, although that probably took care of most of the people who'd try to storm the bridge."

A very quick tour through the engineering bay and Maria started to work them through the rest of the ship. The Pegasus was mostly broken up into four sections. The entire aft third of the ship was taken up by her massive Nova Drive, Fusion generator, normal space plasma drive, life support systems, and an impressive collection of tool shops designed to allow the Pegasus to repair all but the most heavily damaged ships. This was Sparky’s domain and every once in a while Maria caught sight of Sparky’s multicolored hair out of the corner of her eye.

Medical took up two entire decks in the middle of the ship and even by Coalition standards the medical services they offered were top of the line. This was Carl’s domain and the Chief Medical Officer was obviously keeping an eye on the two of them while Maria showed Svetlana through the triage units, operating rooms, and finally patient recovery wards. Even with the damage the Pegasus had so far taken, her wards were barely a quarter full.

From there it was up several decks, past the SAR shuttle hangers to the science section. There, through the dozens of specialized labs and research teams who either watched them curiously or didn’t seem to notice anything strange going on at all, Maria showed the other Captain a little bit of the Pegasus’s sensor capabilities.

Finally the tour ended in the belly of the ship in the large arboretum that took up almost the entirety of deck eight along with the hydroponics bays to supplement the life support systems. This was one of her favorite places in the ship and Maria purposefully avoided showing Svetlana the best spots in the gardens.

We managed to avoid running across the Admiral, probably a good thing. God knows what he’d make of HER. For all I know he’d attack her on sight.

The Admiral had come with the ship, the old retired navy man had taken care of the Pegasus’s arboretum ever since the ship had come onto active duty.

"That’s the quick and dirty tour. Are you going to clue me into what we’re going to be doing about those alien ships now?" A quick check of her chronometer showed that only twenty-two minutes had passed.

Three hours and twelve minutes until we might come under fire from a complete alien species. I hope they’re the peaceful sort, but my luck usually doesn’t run that way.


"Good. I will stay here to command the fight. Do you need a replacement pilot?"

Needless to say that was not the answer Maria had been hoping for. She'd hoped the tall Captain would go the hell back to her own ship for the fight at least. Grudgingly she slowly nodded. "Yes, Paul," blood splattered across the deck chair, lifeless eyes staring up, "our pilot died."

"I'm sorry." Svetlana knew how it felt to lose a good crewmember. "I will have Comander Borozodin send over a replacement pilot immediately. I will ask for our best. Lt Gorsky. The Kursk will not need him for this battle."

Considering the Kursk was dead in space that was true enough. Maria nodded, hating the moisture she had to blink away. "We should be getting to the bridge the..." A familiar figure was hobbling towards them at alarming speed.

Oh no.

This could get ugly.

Seeing the trowel still grasped in the old man's hand, Maria smoothly slid forward between the Admiral's path and Svetlana. "Admiral." A nod, she wouldn't salute no matter how many times he threatened to toss her in the brig.

Not that we have a brig, of course.

"Captain, what do we have here? Dear God above, that is not a regulation uniform! She should immediately be tossed into the brig." The elderly man shook the cane he had been more or less using on his walk over in Svetlana's general direction. The trowel waved at Maria admonishingly.

"Actually, my uniform is quite regulation," Svetlana returned with a small smile.

Maria mentally braced herself for the yelling that was sure to come, but to her surprise the old man simple chortled, "One of those Special section chaps are you? Well good for you! See, now these are the sort of people that will win the war, girl."

I'm going to kill him.

Svetlana didn't even bother to hide her smirk from the seething Spaniard.

"Don't make me hurt you," Maria growled, just low enough for the Admiral to miss what she said, as he started into one of his war stories. Hurriedly Maria began backing up if he went into one of those it could take all day. "Admiral, we're needed on the bridge. We may see battle soon."

That stopped him and the old man actually perked up. "Well why didn't you say so! Off with you both, give ‘em a good one two for me!"

"Quick, before he changes his mind," Maria murmured, hurriedly hopping into the lift as it arrived. "Bridge."

Svetlana hurried onto the lift, not wanting to be left behind anymore than Maria seemed to want to stay there. She looked at the smaller woman expectantly, hoping to get an explanation of what had just happened.

The smooth ride upwards towards the top of the ship, and the command deck, gave Maria time to study the woman besides her. She shrugged at the expectant look. "He's over three hundred, no one could convince him he needed to retire, and no one was going to force him to. So they sort of, well, stuck him on board. He's officially in charge of the Arboretum."

Svetlana's eyes grew big. "300, as in Earth Standard Years?"

"What, you people don't have prolong? Yes, as in Earth Standard Years." Although, to tell the truth, that was the oldest Maria had ever heard of as well.

"Yes we have prolong," Svetlana was insulted. What kind of barbarians do they think we are anyway? "I've never heard of anyone living to 300 ESY even with prolong. Though he is doing a good job with the Arboretum."

Thankfully Maria didn't have to answer that as the lift slid to a stop and the doors opened onto the bridge. Thomas looked up from his station, nodded and went back to studying the readings before him. "If we die, at least the Science sections going to die happy. That's the happiest I've ever seen stellar cartography."

"How do I contact your Engineering chief?" questioned Svetlana as she took in the activity on the bridge.

Maria actually bit the inside of her cheek to keep the answer she wanted to give from spilling out. I doubt, you don't, is a good answer right now. Later, remember, later. "I suppose you can contact her from the," she ground her teeth, "Captain's console. There are dedicated com lines to all major stations."

Svetlana took a seat in the Captain's chair, deliberately ignoring the wince from the former captain and the looks that ranged from shock to outright hatred from the bridge crew. "Engineering, this is Captain Montastyrskaya, I need to know if you can get us moving and at what speed?"

"Who the fu... oh, right." Sparky's voice sounded equal parts harassed and annoyed at the moment. "You've got best speed I can give you right now. We're still leaking drive plasma and half the power runs are out. DC is working on it, but I don’t know how long it will be before Damage Control's going to get it working again."

"They are going to have to keep fixing it on the run. We are dropping off the Kursk and heading back, now!" Svetlana looked at Davie, "You, I need you to open a channel to the Kursk."

Maria stalked to the XO's console, grinding her teeth every step of the way as she sat down and buckled in. It only took Davie a second of staring this time before he got to his task and had a channel opened to the Kursk.

"This is Captain Montastyrskaya, I need you to cloak and sit in wait for our friends, Bear."

Maria kept a good portion of her attention concentrated on what Svetlana was saying, even as she powered up her own console. It had been a while, but she'd spent three years as an XO on her previous posting, the position was familiar. "We've got seventy percent of our top speed and most of our maneuvering thrusters."

"Good, I have a feeling we are going to need them. What is the status on the alien ships?"

Maria had to not so subtly glare at Theodore to get him to realize that Svetlana had been asking him. "Unchanged so far, they'll enter extreme missile range in just under two and a half hours. What would be our missile range that is."

"Well, let's hope that they have the same limitations as we do. Grosky, take us on a reciprocal course back towards the alien vessel. We’ll put a bit of distance between us and the Kursk. You, ensign is it? Start trying to hail them."

Maria pulled up a duplicate of the pilot's display, keeping an eye on the new man that Svetlana had brought over. Since the Kursk had been towed by the Pegasus, it hadn’t taken the new pilot anytime at all to come over. Up until now she didn't trust him or his Captain as far as she could throw them.

The next two and a half hours ranked up there with the most stressful of Maria's entire life. Everyone on Pegasus suited up in case a direct hit might rip open compartments to space or life support failed. So she spent those two and a half hours in her suit, which never seemed to fit quite right in normal gravity. In between keeping an eye on the pilot, and their position, she tracked the damage control party's progress. It was slow, most of the power relays had completely fused, but they did what they could. Most of the ship's speed was back by the end, along with a good portion of her shields.

God, she's just lounging there in the command chair. She looks bored! Ugh, I hate her. Hate hate hate, bitch bitch bitch. The uncomfortable wedgy that her suite was giving her didn't help at all.

Svetlana was anything but bored. If there were 2 1/2 hours more nerve wracking than the one's she just spent, she'd shoot herself. But one mustn't lose one's calm in the face of adversity. Besides, she had to make this work, if it didn’t she probably wouldn’t survive her mistake. She was the only one on the bridge of the Pegasus without a suit on. Even Gorsky had brought his vac suit over from the Kursk.

Svetlana envied the little former captain her vac suit, and if their sizes had been closer, probably would have tried to take it.

Maria's conscience almost got her to offer the Captain a vac suit, unfortunately the only one's she could have offered would have been the big bulky emergency ones. Svetlana could never have sat down at the command console if she was wearing that. Davie's voice finally cut through the tension.

"I've got something, I think it was a transmission from the alien ships."

"Let's hear it."

Davie took Svetlana at her word, and played back what sounded, as far as Maria was concerned, like a lot of static that ended abruptly.

"Can the computers translate that?" asked Svetlana.

Davie shrugged, and looked towards Theodore, who looked up just in time to see the questioning look. "Sure, give me a few weeks and I'll get you something. Maybe."

Svetlana looked irritated. "I'm afraid we don't have a few weeks."

"If Theodore says weeks, then that's what it is." Maria wasn't going to let this foreigner start trying to bully one of her officers.

Svetlana took a deep breath and then let it out audibly. "That message could mean the difference between a shoot out and a salutations. Forgive me if I'm a little upset with our inability to distinguish the difference."

By this time, the Pegasus and the Kursk had both moved several hundred thousand kilometers from the alien ship that had brought them to this place far from home. The alien ships that were moving towards them arced towards the first sea urchin like alien ship first and Theodore gasped as energy beams slashed outwards. That the four alien ships hadn't used missiles was a good sign so far, maybe they were less technically advanced than everyone feared. Whatever Maria's response to Svetlana's statement might have been, turned out to be academic as the sea urchin ship disintegrated in a boil of bright light that had Theodore swearing. Some of the most delicate sensors onboard the Pegasus shorted out, others did the electronic equivalent of narrowing their eyes against the harsh burst of energy.

"Well, we aren't getting home that way," commented Svetlana. "Do you think that maybe they might be hostile towards us, seeing as how we came with that thing?"

Maria swallowed past the dryness in her throat and forced herself to concentrate on her console. A stab of her finger and the general quarters alarm blared to life throughout the ship.

Svetlana looked around for a shock frame on her chair. "Where's the shock frame?"

Maria looked at her a bit blankly then shook her head and pointed towards the six-point harness. "You're wearing it." The Pegasus had never seen anything besides a small pirate skirmish in the way of action before.

"Bozhe moi," muttered Svetlana, understanding now how her crew had gotten off more lightly than the Pegasus crew. That was something that was going to have to change. Provided everyone survived this encounter that is.

Svetlana watched the main screen as the alien ships advanced on the Pegasus.I hope they can't see the Kursk through the cloak. My crew would be dead in space if that happened.

"Captian?" The young ensign Davie, interupted her thoughts.

"I see them Ensign, Helm, come about to 345.563.90 and make best speed." The Pegasus trembled as she swung around and her massive engines boosted her back towards where the Kursk lay in waiting.

Maria forced herself to concentrate on the console in front of her. This couldn't be happening, her ship was about to be fired on by the first alien's, ok the second, that the Coaltion had ever made contact with. To top it off, she wasn't even Captain of her own ship! "We're being scanned." Theodore called out.

"I hope you know what you're doing." She muttered to the, for now, Captain.

"Me too." replied Svetlana, sotto voice.

Not the most reassuring thing that Maria had ever been told and she stared at the Captain in wide eyed shock. "I'm reading power build ups in each of the four ships." Theodore's voice actually cracked at the end of his sentence.

Fire wreathed the Pegasus's shields as the alien ships fired. Shield generators whined as they were forced to deflect the murderous fire and fragile freshly patched power conduits blew apart. A dozen crewmembers were injured across the ship, but the shields held…. barely, but they held and the Pegasus did not follow the sea urchin alien ship that had brought them here into death.

"Shields at forty percent!" Maria gripped her console, wincing in pain as the six point harness dug into her. The inertia compensators were trying, but they couldn't keep the crew from feeling the vicious shudders that ran the length of the kilometer long ship.

"Whatever the Kursk is going to do now would be a good time to do it!" Grosky whipped the massive ship through an evasive maneuver that Maria would have thought impossible and two of the ships missed as they fired. Thankfully, along with her engines, the Pegasus retained her carrier class shield generators and right at the moment that was the only thing saving them.

The third and fourth shots hit though, and a station behind her exploded in a shower of bright sparks. Primary lights failed and the bridge plunged into darkness before the blue emergency lights came online.

Theodore had to yell to be heard over the sizzle of circuits frying, "Shields down to ten percent!" By then the Pegasus had done her job. She'd lured the alien ships as far as she could and Svetlana's smile was cold and hard as she glanced at the readouts on her command console.

"Bear, time to snip some wings."

Maria knew what was coming; she'd known the Kursk was out there waiting where the Pegasus had towed her. Even though she knew all that, it was a surprise as the crippled Republic Cruiser appeared on her sensors. Theodore's sucked in breath told her she wasn't the only one impressed by the Republic cloaking technology.

The cruiser was beautiful Maria had to admit. Even missing her engine's she was sleek, slim, and seeming to speak of deadly intent. Whatever might have been wrong with her engines, she'd still had more than enough reserve power to hold the cloak for the time it took the Pegasus to draw her attackers near. Now what power was left was shunted from the cloak and to her weapons. Missiles launched from her weapons bays, engaging their own smaller engines as they cleared the bulk of their mother ship. Targeting computers on board each of the dozens of missiles came to life and locked onto the oncoming enemy ships and the missiles sped on their suicidal missions.

The aliens had never developed missile technology. Their beam weapons were strong enough to give the Pegasus's shields serious problems and if they'd had time they would have easily been able to pick apart the sitting duck that was the Kursk. Two of the ships actually turned towards the missiles and started firing at them with their primary beam weapons. Probably thinking them to be some sort of small fighter.

The Kursk carried the latest generation of missiles with the new mark twelve antiship warheads. The missile's sensors studied the alien ships shields as they closed and went for any weak spot they could find. At least six got within detonating range of each of the four Alien ships and surprise was total as they detonated. Fusion warheads weren't what you would call a subtle weapon. Upward of twenty megatons of force detonated with each missile and three of the Alien ships simply disappeared in boils of light and debris. The fourth blew in half, whatever it used for an internal power source obviously becoming unstable and rupturing the skin of the ship in dozens of places.




"Watch it!"

Maria dodged to the side just in time to avoid being run over by a group of damage control people carrying a large reinforcing strut on a counter grav bed. The Pegasus had taken some damage from the alien ship attacks, and the repairs were going on at an even more frenzied pace than normal.

There were, she acknowledged silently, quite a few reasons for that.

The last of the alien ships had limped away, too quickly for the Pegasus to follow, not that she dared too even if she could since she was unarmed.

Not for much longer though.

The red haired ex captain, now executive officer, actually groaned in relief as she stepped inside of her quarters. It had been a hellishly long three days since the battle had ended. In that time the Pegasus had completed most of her major repairs, including bringing her Nova Drive back online, and towed the crippled Kursk into a nearby star system. Currently the two ships were hanging in orbit above one of the four gas giants that populated the system. The two ships were linked in dozens of places by walkways, docking cables, and power lines.

The doors to her cabin slid shut behind her and she nearly cried in relief at the sudden blessed silence. The uniform jacket fell to the floor, followed by the top and pants, as she left a trail leading from the door towards the bathroom. Maria wanted to sob in relief as she stepped into the shower and let the hot water pound down on her aching back. Leaning her head against the wall of the shower she let the water rinse her clean, just letting her mind wander aimlessly.

The crews of the Pegasus and the Kursk had been working heroically around the clock for the past three days. They’d begun stripping the Kursk almost immediately after the battle, and the tempo had only increased since.

Blindly she reached out and lathered up a good handful of liquid soap, groaning as she rubbed her aching muscles then rinsed. It was almost a sensual pleasure to finally get a chance to clean her shoulder length hair, and she let the water run along her scalp for a long few minutes.

Having the Captain’s cabin had it’s perks, including the fully operational water shower. She knew that the sonic showers were supposed to be just as good as these, but they didn’t feel anywhere as good as this after a long days work.

Or three long excruciating days. God, I just want to sleep for a week.

Svetlana, Maria had secretly delighted in mangling her last name, had pushed them all hard. The armor and weapons from the Republic ship were being removed, or in some instances, cut away completely and transferred to the Pegasus.

The carnage that they were wreaking on the Explorer class ship made Maria want to cry. If it upset her she could just imagine how Sparky felt, the chief engineer had nearly gone ballistic when she found out what was being planned for the ship.

We don’t have a choice, we NEED those weapons and armor. Once we’re done I’ll see about getting back the Captain’s chair.

She’d thought the same thing the last few nights when she’d come back to this very cabin and collapsed for a dreamless few hours of snatched sleep. Tonight things were more or less in hand, and she expected a good six hours of sleep. Pajama’s were pulled on, and she vigorously finished drying and brushing her hair. Ignoring the bedraggled and worn out looking woman in the mirror she trudged towards the bed, leaving the towel where it fell. She’d spent half of the last three days in a desperately assembled design committee, who’s nearly impossible job was to come up with a plan for where everything from the Kursk would go, even while the construction was going on.

If Maria had a nerve left in her body that wasn’t either worn out or frazzled she certainly couldn’t find it. The com panel beeped as she crossed by it, and she stared at it blearily before she realized where the sound was coming from. Groaning the small woman made certain her silk pajama’s were more or less covering everything and accepted the com.

"Ah, Skipper?"

Just shoot me now.

"What is it Davie?" Sighing, Maria leaned her hip against the nearby dinning table, trying and failing to keep from yawning. Her body was demanding sleep and her mind had already crawled into the blankets as far as it was concerned.

"I’ve got a message for you, Ma’am."

Nooooo… I can’t handle anything more tonight without the use of stimulants.

"Is the ship going to blow up?"

Davie blinked, obviously unsure about that question.

"Uh, not that I know of Ma’am."

"Then tell me in the morning Davie."

"But, ah, that is, it’s kind of important…"

Maria hit the power button before he could go any further and she heard more. If she heard enough she’d probably feel duty bound to do something about whatever it was that Davie wanted to tell her. That would mean hours less sleep. As long as the ship didn’t blow up she could handle anything else in the morning.

Ignoring the com panel as it beeped again for her attention she wound her way through the messy quarters, finally finding her way to her goal. Tossing back the covers she crawled into the large bed and burrowed under the covers, her mind going over everything she’d done that day.

We’re halfway done on the missile launchers, those are going to really cut into our available living quarters. The energy weapons are next, although I think we’re really going to have a power supply problem. Then we take what life support equipment we can, see about salvaging that cloaking thingie of theirs, and we’re off.

A mental snort.

Like a herd of turtles.

It was frustrating to sit here for days, probably weeks, but they really didn’t have any choice. Yawning she shifted onto her side, pulled the blankets a bit tighter around her and closed her eyes, willing herself to sleep. Her body might have been exhausted but her mind was still whirling from the chaos of the day.

For the most part she’d found it relatively easy to work with the crew from the Republic ship. Even the officers weren’t too bad, although she wasn’t really certain about their Marine Major, Dononov. That woman scared her a bit. The blond, Kuzmin, was ok, and the pilot knew his stuff. Ignoring the memories of Paul, and the image of his death that was seared into her mind she kept on going through her mental checklist. Svetlana’s former XO, a man named Bear, she hadn’t had a chance to get to know at all yet since he was overseeing the dismantling of the Kursk. Then there was the large NCO, Romonov, who Maria was finding she could get along with quite well.

I think I like that guy, especially his method of motivation.

Even better as far as Maria was concerned, Romonov had taught her a few words of Russian.

Like suka, which means bitch. Useful word, I think I’ll be using it a lot.

The red head grinned evilly up at the ceiling above as she rolled onto her back, remembering the NCO’s method of solving a minor argument that had broken out between a Kursk and Pegasus crewmember.

I think I’ll just pretend I didn’t see him smash their foreheads together. Don’t want to have to try and write him up for assault charges.

Another yawn, she snuggled down into the nest of blankets she’d made and gladly let herself fall into an exhausted sleep.



Svetlana Montastyrskaya walked briskly down the corridor of the still unfamiliar Coalition ship Pegasus. A confident nod to the two unfamiliar crewmen she passed and an ever so faint smile to two from the Kursk. Just a few more steps and she’d be in the relative solitude of the Captain’s quarters. A few more steps and she could let her shoulders sag, collapse on the bed and pass out.

It’s amazing these Coalition people get anything done at all! They have a committee for everything!

At least now she had her own quarters to rest in over here. She didn’t have the energy to make it over to the Kursk, she barely even had the energy left to make it down the corridor.

I bet Maria had fun kicking that former XO of hers out of his cabin. He’s still in sickbay, she probably just tossed his stuff out the nearest hatch.

Grinning at that mental image she typed in a recently learned code into the door, and groaned in relief as they closed behind her. Alone, finally! She really wanted a shower, but she’d settle for whatever the Coalition gave their captains in the way of… Svetlana’s mind came to a stop as she stared at the bathroom.

It was huge!

Her cabin wasn’t much bigger than this.

Icy blue eyes lit up at the sight of the full shower. No communal shower rooms for a Coalition Captain, it seemed. The shower was a near orgasmic release from the stress of the days since the alien ship had brought them here. As much as she wanted to take her time though, she needed sleep, and the longer she spent in here the less sleep she got. As it was the Captain was going to be lucky to get six hours, and she knew it.

She hadn’t brought over anything to sleep in, and there was no way she was going to put on her uniform again so she just toweled off and headed for the bed nude as the day she was born. The area near the bathroom and the dining room were all right, a bit disorganized but nothing too extreme. The bedroom was a different story though and blue eyes widened at the chaos.

Eta komnatu ne ybrunu kak sledyet!

What a mess.

Stepping over and around most of the stuff strewn across the floor, Svetlana battled a yawn so deep it caused her eyes to tear up. Wondering why the blankets were all piled up along one side of the bed she shrugged and grabbed one up off the floor. No sooner did she lie down and draw the blanket around her, than she was asleep.



Sparky jogged down the hallway, dodging pieces of equipment and people, in that order. She'd been trying to get the Nova Drives back online when a call had pulled her out from the guts of the drive. Glaring at the bulkheads she was trotting past, she couldn’t help but remember the com.

"Hey chief, we've got a problem."

"Yeah, well I’ve got problems down here, so deal with it."

"Uh, Chief, we keep on blowing power conduits for like the entire front half of the ship."

She’d groaned and leaned her head against the bulkhead, then glanced over her shoulder at the rest of the engineering team that was busy trying to repair burnt out circuits and salvage what they could. None of them could be spared yet, so she’d reluctantly turned back to the com and told the damage control officer she was on her way.

So here she was running up the entire length of the ship, since most of the lifts were still out, to try and figure out why all the power conduits kept on blowing. Not that she didn't already have her suspicions about why that kept on happening. At the top of her list was the Republic crew and the weapons they were inflicting on her poor ship.

As she jogged down the passageway, she saw a knot of Republic crewman that were slowly making their way down the passageway, blocking most of the available space for walking. "Make a hole!" she called down the passageway, not breaking stride.

The front officers glanced up and acknowledged her approach, but did nothing to get himself or his associates out of her way. "Make a hole, damn it!" she snapped.

As she drew even with the Republic officer she noticed that the two in back were practically carrying a third, smaller blonde crewmember. "Didn’t you hear me? I need to get by!" the engineer reiterated. Just then, the blonde’s head rose and her light green eyes locked onto Sparky's brown ones. The engineer felt like a live wire had descended on the back of her neck and traveled all the way to ground through the bottoms of her feet. Just as the blonde officer shook off the arms of her fellows, and stood up to speak, her eyes rolled back in her head and she started a header for the metal deck.

Sparky quickly caught her before the Republic officer could crack her head open on the floor. That damn wire came back to bite her when she felt the blonde's skin come in contact with her own.

The power conduits would have to wait. Engineering was not what one would call a sedentary career choice, and with a grunt Sparky managed to pick up the unconscious woman. "Ok, you guys follow me, we're heading to Medical."

She didn't care if they were following her or not, but she changed course and headed back the way she'd come, carefully trying not to jostle her burden.

She's really pretty, I wonder what her name is?

Craning her head at a really odd angle she tried to get a glimpse of the dog tags the woman wore.

KUZMIH? What sort of name is that?

She also managed to get a glimpse fair skin and a long regal neck that managed to get her pulse going even faster than it had been. Without realizing it she moved faster, intent on getting to the Med bay quickly.



Alyona woke up feeling like she had been out on the town parting, but honestly couldn't remember what she had been celebrating. "Ugh" she moaned as she opened her eyes and quickly closed them again.

Immediately, there was a straw thrust through her lips and she greedily sipped the cool water. A voice murmured softly to her, and it took a moment for her clouded brain to translate the words of caution.

She tried opening her eyes again, and immediately shut them on the assault of colors to her confused and hurting brain.

"She's stable, we relieved most of the swelling. I'm going to keep her here for observation though." There was movement, and then a female voice answered.

"Thank you Carl, can I stay with her for a while?"

"Alright, I need someone to make sure she doesn’t go back to sleep anyway. Keep her awake for at least another hour. I need to let the new Captain know one of her officers is down. Her name’s Kuzmin apparently."

Carl made a note on the chart in his hands, behind him someone started calling out for his attention. Things had not been peaceful in Medical either, and he was being flooded by a lot of serious and not so serious injuries as the work parties pushed the limits of human endurance.

"Da. Spaceeba, Doktor" Kuzmin managed to crack her eyes open and focus on the two figures in the room.

Both Sparky and Carl looked at her, with Carl moving to check her readings while Sparky tried to figure out what she was saying. "How are you feeling?" Carl asked, hoping the woman understood him. He'd been running into the language problem, as had most of the rest of the Coalition crew, quite a bit these last few days.

"Very bad," replied his patient in slightly accented common.

"Hmmm..." Carl checked her vitals once more, nodded to himself and patted her shoulder. "You've had a concussion a small hemorrhage inside of your skull. I've stopped it and the pressure on your brain is back to normal levels. We need to keep you here at least overnight. I'll be back shortly." He hurried off as another nurse once more called out for his attention.

Kuzmin closed her eyes against the pain.

Sparky shifted on her seat at the end of the bed, she'd managed to get another member of her engineering party to go take a look at the power conduits. "Hey, the doc said not to let you go back to sleep for a bit."

"Who are you?" asked Kuzmin, trying to decided if she could ignore this person who looked a like a child's drawing come to life.

"Spike Louise Beauchamp, people call me Sparky though. Here, do you want some more water?" She was ignoring her duties to sit at the bedside of someone she didn't even know! It was insane, but Sparky didn't even consider leaving yet.

Kuzmin accepted the water gratefully, and tried to make sense of the name the strange person had given her. "What does 'Spike' mean?" she questioned, wondering if her hurt brain translated the word correctly.

"It means my parents hated me." Sparky tried to joke, helping the blonde to take a few sips of water. "You know, a spike, like a sharp increase of something?"

"Oh," Kuzmin knew all about parents saddling kids with awful names. Just take her siblings for example. "So you are called Sparky?"

"Yup, I had an incident with a live power coupling on my first training cruise, and the name stuck. I think I like it better than Spike." She was babbling and she knew it, but Sparky just couldn't seem to stop.

Kuzmin longed for sleep. The extra effort of speaking in her third language was draining. "Can you ask the Captain to come down when she is available?" she asked her colorful shadow.

Ignoring the pang of sadness at that request, Sparky nodded, reluctantly standing. "Yeah, no problem. I think the skipper said that the planning meeting had broken up and they were trying to get some rest. She's probably snatching some sleep somewhere."

She thought about what she’d just said.

"Oh, you mean your Captain." Sparky winced. "Sure, I’ll remind Carl to get a hold of her."

"I need to get rest so I may begin my duties converting the Kursk's weapons systems to your ship." The blonde closed her eyes against the pain and could feel the darkness creeping up on her.

"Hey!" Sparky reached over and tugged on the blonde's hand. "No sleeping yet, Carl said you had to stay awake for now. Come on, open those pretty eyes."

The darkness was so inviting, but the woman's voice wouldn't let her sink into oblivion. Kuzmin reluctantly forced her eyes open to focus again on the monstrosity that was the woman's hair. "What happened to your hair?"

"Do you like it? I got it done on Antirus prime, it's all the fad there these days apparently. I think it's better than the neon pink I had before." The chief engineer sat back down, she wasn't about to leave this woman now that it was obvious she'd fall asleep the moment she was left alone. That would be bad, right?

"No," replied Kuzmin, taking the woman's question seriously. "It makes my eyes hurt."

"Oh." The normally unflappable Sparky deflated at that, at a loss what to say or do. "Sorry." Maybe it would be best to let someone else do this until she could tone down the hair color.

"Maybe you could put a hat on or something," suggested Kuzmin. "That way it would be easier to keep my eyes open."

There weren't any hats nearby, but she did manage to find a surgical cap, which hid most of her hair. Anyone who knew her would have been amazed that she was hiding her hair, but since she was alone she decided to humor the injured woman. After all it would make it easier to keep her eyes open, so that was good. Now if she could figure out why she was still there by the pale haired woman’s bedside, but it had been a long day and she decided to just go with it for now and enjoy the somewhat one sided conversation.


Dear god, would someone shut that thing up?

Blearily the smaller woman grabbed a hefty little stone statue from besides the bedside and launched it across the room at the sound. Something shattered and the sound stopped, that was all Maria cared about as she curled up back in the warm comfortable place she’d just been in and tried to go back to the most wonderful dream.

She’d been back home, but her parent’s house had seemed much larger and more welcoming than she knew it was in reality. Her bed had been huge, and she’d been laying in it enjoying the warmth of being wrapped in the arms of another person.

Wait a second…

One green eye sprang open as she felt the warm surface below her cheek move. Arms were apparently wrapped around her, just like in the dream, and just like in her dream her own arms were snuggly wrapped around the other person as well.

Both eyes widened as she focused on the object just in front of her nose, and realized she was staring at a naked breast.

A nice one, mind you, but her body went stiff with shock as her mind frantically tried to figure out who’s chest it was that she was sleeping on, why they were naked, and how they’d gotten that way.

"You can get off me now."

If anything that low purred voice sent Maria into an even deeper panic.

Oh god, please, don’t let it be…


The Republic Captain was watching her with equal parts amusement and embarrassment as the shorter woman half sprang half tumbled from bed. She’d tried for a jump, but her legs were still wrapped up in the covers and she tumbled to the floor rather ungracefully.

Gasping and managing to get to her feet while backing away until she was leaning against a wall, Maria tried to gather her wits about her.

"Wha-what are you doing in my ROOM?"

Her voice went up an entire octave at the end as her eyes wandered down the length of the supple long body still lying on her bed. Blushing furiously she tossed the covers at the taller woman, while a part of her mind insisted that she should just enjoy the view.

A dark eyebrow arched as the other woman sat upright wrapping the blanket around herself to Maria’s relief.

"I should ask what are you doing in my room?"

"Your room! These are my quarters!"

"Which one of us is the Captain?"

Maria blinked, well aware that her mouth was opening and closing in a good imitation of a fish out of water.

"B-but… I… I mean these…"

If anything the dark eyebrow arched higher.

"Didn’t your Davie give you my message?"

Maria swallowed as she remembered how the young ensign had indeed attempted to give her a message but she’d cut him off.

To her eternal gratitude the com panel chimed again, and while she remained frozen in place, Svetlana rose smoothly from the bed. The blanket she had wrapped around her trailed along the floor behind as the tall woman glanced over her shoulder at Maria, questioningly fingering the large scratch across the center of the screen. When all that served to do was to cause the XO to blush further, the Captain shook her head and accepted the call.

"Doctor, what can I do for you?"

Thanking the gods that she was out of the range of the video pick up, Maria managed to snag some clothes and started to slip towards the doorway. Mortified beyond belief all she wanted to do now was bolt.

"I have one of your officers down here, she suffered a head wound that I just finished treating. She asked that you be notified."

Maria paused by the door, interested in the way Svetlana’s posture changed from one of complete dominance to sudden worry.

"Which officer is it?"

"Kuzmin I believe is her name."

"I’ll be right there Doctor."

"Understood, Carl out."

The screen darkened and Maria met suddenly ice cold blue eyes.

"I require the Captains quarters if I am to be Captain, correct?"

Anger flared once more and Maria took comfort in what was rapidly becoming a familiar feeling around this woman.

"Fine, I’ll move my things today."

"Make certain they are gone before the end of the work shift."

Once more Maria’s mouth opened in shock, when she could think of no answer she stormed for the doorway, not caring that she was still wearing only her silk pajamas. Witworth was about to lose his quarters. If she couldn’t have the Captains quarters, she damn well was going to have his!

Suka, suka, suka.

She’d have to thank Romonov for teaching her such a useful word. She was going to be thinking it quite a lot around the new Captain.

Right up until I don’t need her anymore, then we’ll see who gets what quarters.


To be continued…

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