You can’t take the sky from me

“Program complete. Enter when ready”

The air inside was dry with a distinct chill and a slight smell of dust. The platform was barely 5 meters across and there was no sign of the ground, just a red horizon fading to midnight blue overhead. The winds howled and twisted around the platform

It wasn’t historically accurate, it wasn’t completely physically accurate either. The atmosphere was ship-normal, but a high-altitude Martian atmosphere, a high-altitude, pre-terraforming Martian armosphere would have required an EVA suit and sometimes comfort took precedence over physical accuracy.

Stephan regarded the primitive craft standing on the edge of the platform. A light-weight metal frame with a several meter wingspan covered with fabric, no propulsion of any kind. It was a far cry from modern atmospheric craft. Just getting this far had required months of research. First with the shuttle’s limited computer while in the Gamma Quadrant, then with the main historical archives at Utopia Planitia. Either the early Martian expedition hadn’t recorded the complete schematics of the glider or the details had been lost during the Eugenics wars.

‘No time like the present.’ He climbed into the glider’s framework and pushed it off the platform.

Stephan fought for control as the wind tossed the glider around like a toy. After several long minutes he managed to wrestle the flimsy craft in-line with the wind. The ground, now just visible far below,  raced past at an incredible speed and the howling of the wind faded away.

“Yeeaah!”

Stephan tilted the wing very slightly downwards, dropping altitude would make the view of the ground clearer and with all the dust he couldn’t make out the features of the terrain below. Noctis Labyrinthus was to the North-West, but that left a lot of margin for error. He tilted the glider left, aiming it for a NNW trajectory. As he did so, an errant gust of wind caught the glider and spun it out of control. The fabric on one of the wings ripped away and the glider plummeted towards the surface. A second later the wind ceased, the wide expanse of the planet’s surface was replaced by the yellow and grey grid of the holodeck and Stephan fell 10cm to the floor of the holodeck.

“Damn it.” He pushed himself to his feet and leant against the nearest wall, willing his hands to stop shaking. “Computer, analyse the last 5 minutes of the flight, identify the cause of the structural failure.”

“Working”

“Back to the drawing board…” Stephan muttered to the empty room as he left.

 

Homeward bound

Personal log Stardate 52110.1

—- Text only —–

First time I’ve flown a freighter since I joined the Marquis. Was one of the motivations for joining, so bored of flying cargo ships. Still this one’s rather manoeuvrable for a freighter, I wonder if the insectoids used this as a blockade runner on occasion.

I like flying ships, but 3 months of 12-hour shifts is starting to wear. I hope those really are indications the wormhole is open, I don’t like the idea of spending another couple of months here.

Three and a half months. What’s happened back in the Alpha quadrant in that time?

Unwanted news

Location: Salva II

The transporter sparkles dissolved into a view of a small agricultural settlement, still showing the signs of the recent Cardassian occupation.

Lieutenant Commander Tony LeStrange, USS Boston, sighed and headed down towards the center of the settlement. Third and last visit of the day, then he intended to find a bar and get seriously drunk.

He checked his padd and looked around, but didn’t immediately see anyone matching the picture he had. ‘Excuse me,” he called out to the  nearest person, “I wonder if you can help me locate someone?”


Twenty minutes later, on the outskirts of the settlement, Cmdr LeStrange spotted the person he’d come to see. He was part of a group clearing away debris from what appeared to be a collapsed building of some form.

“Excuse me,” Cmdr LeStrange called out, “Mr Carthright?”

“That’s me,” the oldest man in the group answered, “What can I help you with?”

Twice that day and three more times the previous week and it never grew easier. “Mr Carthright, I regret to inform you that the ship your son was serving on has been declared lost with all hands. Starfleet sends their condolences and if there’s anything that that I can do to assist, you just have to ask.”

Malcolm Carthright took a step back, shaking his head, ‘I think you’ve got the wrong person, my son’s not in Starfleet.”

Cmdr LeStrange checked his padd carefully and frowned, “Lt Stephan Carthwright, Starfleet service number 28492992, born 2346 Salva II, joined Starfleet 2374 as part of the Correctional Service Amnesty Program. Assigned USS Rutan stardate 51834.” He looked up from the padd. Malcolm had gone several shades paler and had pressed a hand to his chest. “Sir, the USS Rutan was declared lost with all hands stardate 52002. I am sorry to be the one to inform you.”

‘No…” Malcolm staggered back against some debris and sat heavily, ‘No, no, no!!!!”

Going away

———————   Subspace message Stardate 51833.8 ———————
———————–    Destination: Ivor Prime Colony     ————————
———————–       Recipient: Sarah Rotheford      ————————

Congrats on the promotion. You’ll be running the entire colony in no time I’m sure.

I’m going to be out of contact for a while, should just be a couple of weeks. Can’t say more, you know how it is. Please tell Ken I wish him a very happy birthday in advance. I’m glad he’s feeling better than when I last saw him. Oh, and he doesn’t owe anyone anything. Personally I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy a stay in a Cardassian prison. I told him that when he was onboard the Agora, maybe he’ll believe it if it comes from you. If he insists on doing something, he can send a ‘thank you’ message to Captain Jason West, USS Rutan. It’ll get to us eventually.

I will speak with Father again when I get back, if only to stop you nagging me. I don’t know what you expect to achieve, but you were always the peace-keeper in the family, even before Mother died. Honestly though, he’s made up his mind about me, it’s going to take some significant event to make him reconsider, you know how he is.

Look after yourself and the brats, love to you all, I’ll call when I can.

Excitement, adventure

Personal log Stardate 51885.2

——–Text only ————–

I joined the Marquis for the excitement. I was bored, I wanted to see the galaxy and I wanted to do it on my terms.

I told myself at the time that it was for good and noble reasons, defending our homes, resisting Cardassian aggression, that kind of thing. Told anyone else that would listen that as well. But that doesn’t make it the truth. I wanted the adventure, the resistance against Cardassia was just a convenient excuse.

Was that really less than three years ago? It seems like a lifetime. So much changes in just three years. I’d like to think I’ve changed as well, but am I just deluding myself again?

Suicide mission?

Personal log. Stardate 51962.1

————— Text only ———————

In retrospect, I suspect that was a suicide mission. Well, not exactly, that’s not Starfleet style. More like a mission where the expected probability of success is expressed in single digits. Small ones.

It’s understandable, they’re not going to send their best ships or best crews on such a mission, but did they really have to give us a bunch of kids just out of the Academy? This was Ensign Kulia’s first combat mission. He’s still having nightmares.

To be honest, he’s not the only one.

I keep thinking back over that battle, if battle is the right word for it, was there anything we could have done differently. It all went down so incredibly fast, one moment everything was fine the next every alarm on the ship was blaring. I’m sure I saw stars for a second just as the transporter activated, literally, where the port bulkhead should have been.

That Vorta had better be worth all of this. Otherwise I’m throwing him out of an airlock myself.

So far it’s been a month since we left Doza. The less said about the trip, the better. Current estimates are another two weeks back to the wormhole, and that’s assuming we don’t have any technical problems. I’m going to strangle Hagen well before that.

Aftermath

———————   Subspace message Stardate 51690.8 ———————
———————–    Destination: Ivor Prime Colony     ————————
———————–       Recipient: Sarah Rotheford      ————————

Hi Sis.

I know you’re following the news on the war, so I thought I’d send you a message before you start worrying.

Yes, there was an attack on Betazed, the entire system is under Dominion control. Two fleets were sent in to reclaim the system, including the one we’re part of. I think someone under-estimated the Dominion’s resolve, thought they’d pull back if hit hard enough. Didn’t quite turn out that way, the Dominion reinforcements were far faster and stronger than anticipated. The battle to reclaim the system turned into an attempt to evacuate as many as possible.

We were quite some distance away when the invasion started, so we weren’t part of the initial battle, we were tasked with evacuating some people from one of the outer planets. I won’t bore you with the details, it was similar enough to the Salva II evacuation, just more people, more ships and more enemy resistance. We did have one encounter with a couple of Jem Hadar ships on the way in, took a bit of damage, nothing too serious.

It does mean that we’ll be spending a few days at a starbase again. I might be able to call on Danny’s birthday, but I can’t make any promises.

To answer the question you so carefully danced around, yes I did speak with Father while he was on the ship. Eventually. We’re never going to get along well, it’s too late for that, too much water under that bridge. We didn’t end up having a shouting match in the middle of sick bay, so I guess that’s something.

I didn’t tell him about what happened to the rest of the Marquis or about the prison time. I didn’t tell him about being in Starfleet either. I don’t know if he guessed or not, I mean there’s not that many other reasons why I’d be on the ship, but he didn’t say anything.

He insisted on going back to Salva II, nothing I could say would dissuade him. Old fool.

Sarah, promise me one thing. Don’t come back. Not now, not until this is over, it’s not safe in this area. With Betazed under their control, the Dominion can strike at half a dozen of the core worlds, not just at the border.

Take care of yourself. I’ll call when I can.

———————–       Recording terminated        ————————

Confrontation

Stardate 51481.7 Location: USS Agora Sickbay.

“… and when are you going to stop dilly-dallying around the galaxy and make something of your life?” Even with the aftereffects of radiation sickness, Malcolm Carthright still had the presence and bearing he’d cultivated over many years as a colony administrator, though his voice was no where near as strong as it used to be.

“Make something…” Stephan Carthright leaned against the bulkhead, resisting the urge to raise his voice. “What do you think I’m doing here? If I was just drifting around the galaxy for my own amusement I’d hardly be in the middle of a war zone!”

“Knowing you, as little as you can possibly get away with”, there was a mixture of anger and disappointment in Malcolm’s voice, “Same as you’ve always done. When I was your age I was building up a successful colony and planning a family.”

“I know, I know, uphill both ways in the snow, you’ve told me enough times.” Stephan turned to leave. “I don’t know why I bothered.” he muttered softly, turning to leave. He stopped just before the door, “So what are your plans now?”

“Plans? I’m going back to Salva II of course. Pick up the pieces, rebuild what the Cardassians broke, get ready for the next planting season.”

“Go back?!?” Stephan exclaimed, “Salva’s right on the front line. Cardassians aren’t going to give up this easily, they believe the system is theirs, they’ll fight for it and the Fleet can’t be everywhere. Can’t you stay with Sarah or visit Earth or Vulcan until this is all over?”

“I will not run and hide!” Malcolm exclaimed with surprising hostility, “I spent over thirty years of my life building that colony, I will not abandon it. Now get out! Get out!”

Stephan left Sickbay without another word. A corridor away he spun and slammed a fist into the bulkhead “Damn him! Damn him,” a second punch, “damn him.”

What does the future hold?

Personal log. Stardate 51477.8

I don’t know why I’m recording this.

I never used to worry too much about the future. Now with all the current mess, I look at the holo that Sarah sent me of Danny and Alyssa and I wonder what the galaxy will be like when they grow up. Is a Dominion victory inevitable as that Doctor seemed to think, or do we have a chance of maintaining our way of life? At least they don’t face a future without their father, that’s one thing.

Computer, add to todo list for tomorrow, record and schedule message for Sarah and ask Commander Ruork for some advice on arranging long-distance transport for…

And that’s another whole issue right there. Last time I saw my father he called me a dirty rotten traitor, among other things. He didn’t exactly approve of the Marquis, understatement of the century. Well, technically he didn’t approve of my conduct at the Academy either, but that’s old details at this point.

I’ve been down to sickbay four times in the last two days to see him. Got as far as the door each time. I fear that he may well feel the same way as last time we spoke, if screaming insults can be considered speaking. If I want to trade insults with someone I’ll go harass the Cardassian. However, if he doesn’t feel the same way, is that just because of the uniform, or…..

Leaves

I swept the last of the leaves into a pile and leaned on the rake, sighing softly. The large garden, such a verdant sanctuary in the summer months turned into a torture device in late autumn. Fallen leaves covered the entire garden several layers deep, except for the small area that I had already cleared. I leaned the rake against the nearby tree and turned to go back to the house. There was a bottle of apple cider in the fridge with my name on it. I was no more than half way to the porch when I heard it. A giggle. It was unmistakable and came from the direction of the pile of leaves. As I turned back, I saw the pile erupt like a volcano. Leaves scattered everywhere and I heard the giggle again. Then, from the base of the pile came a creature from legend. She was tiny, no larger than a month-old kitten with hair like grass and a dress that appeared to be made of the leaves I had been sweeping up. I was too shocked to react and just stood there. She looked up at me and, clear as anything, whispered one word, “Oops.”

She edged slowly around what was left of the pile of leaves, then broke into a run heading for the thick hedge at the bottom of the garden. I ran after her, why I now do not know, I had no intention of capturing or hurting her. Neither option crossed my mind. For such a small creature, she was incredibly fast, easily keeping ahead of me. Just before we reached the hedge she glanced back at me.
“Bye bye,” she called. She dived into the hedge and disappeared.

I’ve looked every autumn since then, but I’ve never seen her again, but I know one thing for sure. Fairies do live at the bottom of my garden. I’ve seen them there.