It had been some time since he had gone to sleep, he knew that. As his consciousness gathered itself, he remembered getting hurt, badly. He had said something to Terri Lu, then Doctor Okan administered an anesthetic...then darkness. His legs were stiff and his arms felt the same way. He could hear someone calling his name and he made the effort to open his eyes.

"Vital signs appear to be steady Doctor. He just seems to be having a bit of difficulty coming out of the stasis," he heard a feminine voice report.

"Commander Rivas, wake up," he heard a familiar voice say and he heard a pair of snaps to his left and right. "Put that scanner away! His auditory functions are working, he just responded to stimulus."

"Why hasn't he replied yet, Doctor?"

What was the name attached to that voice? Oh yes: Doctor Okan.

"Well, the way his pupils are dilated, I'd say he's in there. He's just trying to wake up."

The darkness suddenly became separate lights and then brilliantly one light and a swirl of colors.

Get that light out of my face! He thought.

"Ralt oummma face," he heard himself say.

"See? He's fine." He heard Doctor Okan say as he disengaged the penlight and put it back into his pocket. "Welcome back Lieutenant Commander."

"Take your time fixing me Doc?" Rivas growled, feeling his stiff muscles protesting as he moved his head.

"Not intentionally," Doctor Okan said. "There were difficulties with your injuries that I could not repair out in the field. I needed to bring you back to the station where I had the proper equipment. The stiffness you feel will subside in the next 24 hours."

"Well? What was so bad?" Rivas asked.

"There was an injury to your spinal cord," Doctor Okan explained earnestly. "The damage from the shrapnel was quite extensive. In fact, you had most of the tactical console embedded in your torso. I used everything at my disposal to repair the damage, but you may have difficulties walking, if you can at all."

Rivas froze. "What?"

"I tested your reflexes while you were unconscious, there was barely a response. Do you feel any pressure on your foot?"

"I-" Rivas caught his breath as he looked down and saw Doctor Okan squeezing the foot and with dawning horror realizing he couldn't feel anything but the slightest of sensarions.

"That's unfortunate," Doctor Okan said, typing something in a pad. He then handed it to his nurse. "Could you get me the Bio Neural Scanner please, Nurse Twila?"

The coyote nodded and quickly left to go get the piece of equipment.

"So...you're saying I'm not going to be able to walk again?" Rivas said, reading Okan's expression.

"Not necessarily. There is some responsiveness. It's not much, but it's something." Okan sighed. "We'll probably have to fit you with a prosthetic assistance device."

Rivas got very quiet.

"I wouldn't worry. There is a chance we'll be able to restore around 40% of your mobility," Doctor Okan said, trying to be supportive. "I think there is a chance that we can shoot for better than that though."

Twila came back with the scanner. Doctor Okan activated it and checked the readings, keeping his face blank. The readings weren't as promising as he had hopped. "We'll try the prosthesis and see what happens."

Rivas sunk back into the bed, a storm rolling through his brain. He'd seen those damn things in operation and wasn't too thrilled with spending the rest of his life lurching around in one.

Knocked out of Command, playing second string to a new guy, now the lurching, wounded cripple with less of a future than ever before.

This was not what he had signed on for….

Title: Recovery

IDP 2010,2019,2021

Episode 13

By: Vakash Darkbane

Edited: Saurex Conoway

O'mara was sore, but feeling quite good when Jakar called the end of his defense class for that morning. She worked her beak slowly, trying to loosen her jaw. The blow Terri had dealt her when she was sparring, still smarted. She was glad she didn't have any teeth, because she was sure she would have lost one.

"Ms. Lu, I suggest you work on your meditations for this week," Jakar said. "I know you get into sparring, but the objective is to refine your strikes, not injure your crewmates."

"I'm sorry, I just have some frustration I'm working out," Terri said, hefting her bag. "You know I'm sorry, right?"

"I think so," O'mara said, still feeling a bit tender, gingerly prodding at her beak.

"See no harm done," Terri smiled.

"Meditate." Jakar grunted firmly. "Because I guarantee if you do that again, O'mara will likely block and strike back."

"Probably," O'mara smirked innocently.

"Fara, you are doing fine, a little sluggish, but I think we can work around it."

Fara nodded and hefted her own bag back up. "Well, it's not like I've had my head caved in or anything." She said, knocking the back of her head with a knuckle, resulting in a metallic ping.

"Ugh! Would you stop doing that?" Terri cringed. "That plate in your head creeps me out!"

"Nope!" Fara grinned, tapping her head again. "I'm going to have fun with it until Doc takes it out in a few weeks, when the little nanobots get done fixing me up." It wasn't exactly a plate bolted to her skull. It was basically a mold and charging station for nanobots to work with while leaving the patient uninhibited. It was inserted under the scalp and was barely noticeable, except for the distinct ring it made when struck.

"I'm just saying I do not think your injuries will present a problem. Just don't over exert yourself." Jakar said. "I will see all of you tomorrow. If we get called away, we'll try to do it at our normal time, just aboard the ship."

With that, he gathered his things and left.

"I'm hungry," Jenna Rydel said. "Let's go get some food, that was a hell of a session!"

"I agree," said Fara, hearing her own stomach rumble. "He really worked our tails off."

Terri fished through her bag and pulled out a bottle of general use anti-inflammatories.

"I really am sorry about that," she said sincerely as she twisted the cap off. "I wasn't trying to hurt you, I just got some things on my mind."

"I know you didn't mean it," O'mara said as Terri shook a few of the pills from the bottle into her hand. "You've been pretty punchy the last few days. What's bothering you?"

"don't worry about it, hon," Terri said, cramming the lid back on with a little too much energy. "I'll go work it out on the holodeck."

"I think she's having boyfriend problems," Fara snickered and then winced as Jena punched her in the shoulder with disapproving glare.

"Fara, I am not opposed to kicking you upside the head," Terri warned dryly.

Fara ignored her comment. "Come on, let's go get something good to eat. We can bicker later." She said, changing the tone of the conversation. "There's a little stand down in the promenade that makes great big omelets and I think I could wolf one down at this point." She walked over to the door where she stood, not letting it close. "Come on, move! Hungry! Now!"

O'mara laughed, quickly swallowed the pills and headed for the door.

"Jen, come on!" Fara said as O'mara squeezed past her.

"I'll be up in a minute. I need to talk to Terri. We'll catch up. Go ahead and get us some seats."

"Ok, see you there," Fara said, disappearing through the doorway.

As soon as the door shut, Jenna turned to Terri. "So, you two are still on the rocks?"

"Yes," Terri growled. "That blockhead is making himself scarce."

"Yeah, but you haven't exactly been Ms. Sunshine lately. He probably doesn't want to get decked," Jenna added.

"He's not helping things." Terri snapped.

"Sheesh! You have it bad, don't you?" Jenna said, holding her hands up defensively. "The Soul Touch?"

Terri nodded stiffly. "I'm trying to stay occupied, keep him out of my mind, but it's just damn impossible! I can't even study the operations manuals without missing him."

"Ah, now it makes sense, but I understand," said Jenna and, truly, she did understand. She was involved with Kai Remmick, a Catarian, and she'd been through all the joys and sorrows of an interspecies relationship. "If we don't get called away we'll have some girl time and we'll have a talk about this."

"I'd appreciate it," Terri said, lightening up a little bit. "You are a good friend Jenna."

Later

They had all sat down to eat and Fara was tearing into her own food with unusual gusto.

"Wow...you weren't kidding that you were hungry," O'mara noted, watching Fara practically inhale her food down.

"It's the nanobot treatment! Doctor Okan warned me they'd give me a massive appetite," Fara replied around her food. "That's all well and good, but I hope I don't put on too much weight from it!"

"Fara, it wouldn't hurt for you to put on just a little bit," Jenna chuckled. "You are a wee bit on the lean side."

"I'm an engineer; big meals are few and far between with my workload," Fara chuckled. "It's mostly coffee and passing out from lack of sleep."

"I don't see how you can do that," Terri admitted as she fished for her favorite bits in the fruit bowl she had. "I throw up when I don't eat...that and I just feel terrible."

"Why didn't you get an omelet?" Fara asked, swallowing another mouthful.

"Eggs don't agree with my stomach," Terri said with a shrug. "Plus all that cholesterol can't be that great for you."

"Meh, your loss," Fara shrugged. "It's really great."

Suddenly a small chime sounded. Everyone looked around before they figured out that it was coming from O'mara's wrist.

"What's that O'mara?" Terri asked.

"Oh! Well, I've got some spores and fungi I've been cultivating from that survey we did. They are apparently ready. If you don't mind, I need to go get my readings."

"Have fun with your fungus," Fara chuckled. "I'm going to finish my fungus free breakfast." She said, pointing to what remained of her omelet before frowning. "Wait...mushrooms are a fungus...damnit!"

O'mara jogged quickly down to one of the station's labs and tossed her bag on the floor before scampering to check the readings. It was promising. The fungi she was had a fascinating growth rate and she was trying to do a full study of it. She had even delayed sending the entirety of her specimens into Headquarters just so she could be the first to study it. The most fascinating thing about these particular cultures was that they were very light sensitive and would alter their pigments based on the incoming light source. She had been bombarding it with infrared light and, much to her surprise, the physarum had begun to produce blood-red buds. She allowed herself an excited whoop and quickly typed in her findings on a nearby console. She quickly thumbed a com button. "O'mara to Doctor Okan."

"Yes?"

"They changed color! Just like I predicted it would."

"Fascinating, I will come by later to examine them," Doctor Okan replied.

"Ok! I just thought you might like to know, as you've been helping me with the biology stuff."

"It would be my pleasure. I just have some patients to attend to and I'll come right by." Okan said.

"No problem. Just call before you get here." O'mara said.

"Can do. Okan out."

O'mara fidgeted and scratched at her arm. Her feathers were getting dry. It figured she'd probably need to bathe soon. She finished recording her findings, then went to the small toilet and shower facility attached to the lab to clean up.

Aboard the Raptor, Deck 3

A small metallic spider scuttled along the corridor walls of the Raptor, trying to avoid any of the crew members rushing around looking for it. It scurried along the ceiling, trying to make itself as inconspicuous as possible. With some effort, it finally made it to a duct that ran upwards to the ship's umbilical connections. Squeezing its way in through a vent, it skittered along the wiring trunks, it's little legs moving rapidly, only the green glow of its main optical sensor illuminating its path. It finally got out of the Raptor and, using a microscopic cutting laser, soon found its way onto the outer hull of the ship.

It scurried along the hull until it got close to the edge of the ship. Then, after finding the core of the station, it launched a monofilament wire. From there, it reeled itself over to the station. Now that it was relatively safe, the little mechanical spider started to look for a way down into the station's core.

"Doc, I look like a Solstice tree! Do I have to wear these damn things?" Rivas groaned as nurse Twila helped him slowly up.

"They relay neurotransmissions and help us see how well your body is processing signals through the injured area in your spinal cord." Doctor Okan said matter-of-factly. "Now stand up, please, Commander."

Rivas grimaced and put his feet down before hoisting himself off the bed. He was a bit wobbly and Twila helped him, but he eventually steadied out.

"Now, try to walk forward," Doctor Okan said politely.

Rivas tried to take a step, but all he managed to do was stumble into Twila's arms.

"What the hell? I thought these things were supposed to help!"

"Well, yes, but you didn't ride a bicycle perfectly the first time you were on one, did you?" Doctor Okan said. "We're going to have to practice. With any luck, this should help you get back to your old self again."

"I hope so! With all this damn technology," Rivas grumbled with a resentful glare at the equipment strapped to him, "you'd think you could take care of this."

"True, but even medical science can't predict what a body will do and how it will react to different injuries." Doctor Okan replied, helping him back over to the biobed. "We'll have to play it by ear and see how it goes."

"Wonderful," Rivas sighed.

"Now, let's try this again," Doctor Okan said, re-calibrating his tricorder, "and take it slowly this time, shall we?"

"Sure, like I have anywhere to be at the moment," Rivas sulked.

"Ok now, don't actually think about moving forward," Okan said, making an adjustment to the small neuro-transceiver on the side of Rivas' head. "Just take a normal step forward."

"Doc, that doesn't make a lot of sense. How do I not think about moving?"

"Do you want the techno-babble or do you want to argue?" Doctor Okan said making and adjustment. "Walk, Commander."

Rivas tried and, much to his disappointment, nothing happened.

"Great! Your gizmo doesn't work!"

"It just hasn't been calibrated properly, yet," Doctor Okan said, taking out a tool and applying a few minor adjustments to the device on Rivas' temple. He then grasped his arm. "Now hop up. I'm confident you won't be hitting the floor this time."

Rivas growled and slowly stood up. This time, he didn't feel his legs collapsing under his weight.

"Now, step forward. Just act and don't think about it," Doctor Okan said.

"Yeah yeah, I got it," Rivas said. Suddenly he lurched forward one step, and the next a second before he stopped himself. He wobbled a little bit, but he remained vertical.

"Good, very good!" Okan smiled. "Now, if we can just get you to circle around the room once or twice, you can get out of here."

"Does that mean I can go back on duty?" Rivas asked.

"Not quite yet," Okan admitted. "I would prefer it if we can get you to move on your own power. We'll just have to play it by ear and see if your body can heal the injury."

"What's wrong with this?" Rivas wondered, taking a few slightly better, less jerky steps forward.

"It's simply a prosthesis. It's not as good as the real thing, or as reliable. It can be prone to failure." Doctor Okan ran another scan and then closed the tricorder. "For now, it will work. I want you to start physical therapy tomorrow. For now, keep practicing. As the device syncs up with your alpha patterns you'll move a bit better and I can release you."

Rivas sighed wearily.

"don't worry. I will do everything in my power to restore your mobility. It may just take some time," Doctor Okan said reassuringly.

Ops, Starbase 186

"So, have your people found the cause of your little miracle on the Raptor yet?" Captain Stiles asked Harry as they walked along the upper level of ops, looking down on the various people keeping an eye on the station's daily operations and ships coming and going.

"Not yet," Harry sighed. "I'm having my engineers strip that ship from stem to stern making sure they don't leave anything unaccounted for."

Stiles chuckled. "I don't blame you for being overly thorough, but that ship has always been prone to extremely unique problems."

"Yes, but there is a difference between what happened back at Mirmador and finding a sock in my coffee due to a replicator error," said Harry. "The ship activated it's nanite repair system without prior authorization and fixed itself. I want to make sure it was just a miracle and nothing else."

"How much longer do you think it will take? Fleet Operations is starting to get a little irritated that the Raptor is once again experiencing downtime. I'm starting to catch some serious heat."

"Fara assures me they will be done in another two days," Harry replied. "And, before you ask, that is her best estimate." Harry paused to think for a moment. "What is the reason for the hurry anyway? If they don't want us to have so much downtime they need to send more ships out here and decide what the hell they want us to be doing. If our primary duty is escorts, then fine. If they want us doing other things then fine, but I need more equipment for proper exploration. Believe me, Lt. O'mara has a list about as long as a docking arm of specialized sensors she'd like the Raptor to have."

Stiles sighed. "I understand your frustration, but I have no explanation for it."

"I have a few ideas," Harry grumbled ominously.

"I suggest you keep those to yourself," Stiles said. "I am on your side, however; there are a lot of things going on lately that don't make a whole lot of sense."

"No kidding," Harry said.

"And, unfortunately, it gets worse," Stiles sighed.

Harry frowned. "How is that sir?"

"I just received word from Fleet Command that Admiral Leyton will be moving one of his 'special projects' to this station."

"Oh great, him again?" Harry sighed. "Please don't tell me it's another end-all solution in computers!"

"No, it's something else, highly classified. He's wanting to invade a good chunk of the station that's still under refit." Stiles sighed, looking at the main viewer, which showed ships flying about the station. "Starfleet assures me that they will assist with the completion of the construction, but we're supposed to keep our snouts out of his business otherwise."

"Wonderful," Harry groaned. Stiles only nodded in agreement.

"On a lighter note," Stiles said, "the missus asked me to invite you to dinner, if you don't have anything going on?"

"Replicated or the real thing?"

"Come on Harry! don't insult me! Of course real food," Stiles smiled.

"Sure, sounds great," Harry replied with a slight smile.

"Good. Come by at 16:00. We'll kick back a few beers afterwards and talk this over in a more comfortable atmosphere."

"Agreed."

Jakar entered his office at station security and noticed that someone was sitting at his desk. Someone with Lt. Commander bars. He was a Cornerian feline that seemed not to be much older than Harry Martinez.

"Can I help you with something?" Jakar asked, setting his duffle on the shift commander's desk and folding his arms in front of him. "Sir?" He added curtly.

"Are you Chief Jakar?" The feline asked.

"Yes, sir," Jakar grunted. "And you are?"

"Commander Braddock. I have been sent here to replace you as head of station security."

"Is that so? I don't recall hearing anything about that, sir," Jakar said curtly.

"The orders were issued as of last week. You are to take over full duties as the Raptor's tactical officer." He leaned forward and picked up a datapad and tossed it to Jakar, who caught it. "It's all there, and legit. I understand you were away on assignment, but you should really check these things more often Chief."

"Sir, no offence, but our subspace transceiver was damaged and I was a little bit busy. I would have thought I would have gotten more warning than just this."

"I've had your things sent to your quarters," he said, motioning to a crate that had what few belonging Jakar kept in his office inside them. "I will expect you to retain your late night watch while you are present on the station. Is that going to be a problem?"

"No, sir," Jakar said, suppressing the itch to throw Braddock out the door by the scruff of his neck.

"Good. I want you to report in at least one hour before night watch and we will discuss some of the matters of the station's security, since I am new here. Until then, I think I can handle it myself."

"Aye, sir," Jakar grunted, grabbing his stuff and heading back out of the office.

He stepped out into the promenade, nearly running over a few civilians as he stomped quickly back to his quarters. What the hell was going on? The fact that this change was so sudden was really eating at him, to the point where he was sure he was starting to see red.

The anger was growing to a boiling point and he finally punched one of the wall panels in the corridor, denting it and startling two people going the other way.

Jakar now snapped out of it and glared at them. "Move along!" He growled and they scurried down the corridor in a hurry away from him as quickly as possible.

Harry walked along the practically stripped corridors of the Raptor. It seemed that each bulkhead was being painstakingly examined with a whole array of scanning equipment. He found himself dodging the occasional engineer as they bolted to and fro, going about their work. The air was stale and being processed through portable filters along the walls as all power was provided via umbilical. This was standard procedure when the Raptor had one of its "moments", in case the repair nanites went haywire.

He accidentally bent a panel when he had stepped on it, earning a wrathful glare from an engineer. He quickly realized that most were not too welcome to him being on the ship, even though it was his ship. He found his way down to engineering, where Fara was handing out assignments at the main control console. He stood in the back of the room, out of the way, until everyone had cleared out.

"Any luck Chief?" He finally asked.

"Not yet," Fara growled. "We've covered almost sixty percent of the ship's systems and we've yet to find any proof of our little miracle." She tossed a pad onto the console. "This might be easier if I just knew what the hell it was I'm supposed to be looking for."

"What about the computer records?" Harry asked. "The simple fact is this ship fixed itself without any authorization and I want to know why. The last time it acted on it's own volition that was when that computer went berserk. If there is anything left of that system on my ship, I want it eliminated."

"I understand that sir," Fara said, drumming her fingers on the console, "but you and I both know that this ship wasn't exactly normal before that little disaster."

Harry sighed. That was pretty much the truth. "I understand that, but I don't want to have to go through that mess again."

Fara nodded. "I could use some more help to get this done quicker. My people are starting to get a little wore down."

"You said we're over halfway done, right?"

"Yes, we've only got the computer core to finish and the rest of the subsystems."

Harry thought about it. "I've rounded up every engineer and technician I can for you. If you are that close to being done, start rotating shifts out as soon as they complete their current tasks."

"That won't be a problem," Fara said, "however, like I said, if I can't find anything I'm not going to find anything."

Harry nodded. "I understand. Plus, I just found out that Fleet HQ is starting to push Captain Stiles to get us space worthy again. I hate just leaving this little question unanswered, but…."

"Yeah, I know, bullshit is bullshit." Fara sighed. "I'll get her back in one piece before you know it. If there is something on this ship, I'll find it. I guarantee that."

Starbase 186, Central Core

The metallic spider slowly floated down the core of the station. The space before it was dark and vacant, but it knew where it could hide to complete its objectives. There was a compartment that had been flooded with radiation that would provide adequate supplies for what it needed. It just had to get there in one piece.

Her shower done, O'mara quickly dressed in a fresh uniform and checked her messages. Okan hadn't responded, so she figured he either forgot or got busy with something else. It wasn't too big of a deal. She still had a few more days to work with other samples. She quickly moved on to the next series of experiments, which involved a spectral analysis of the gases released by plant samples as they grew.

She quickly got to work, her feathered talons dancing over the console, running each plant through the gamut of scans. This work was easy compared to the fungal analysis. Air went in, plant gasses came out and the sensors collected data. It was so much easier to get accurate readings in a lab because each sample could be isolated. The other plus was that the plants were so colorful they created a nice distraction from the glow of the console.

Minutes disappeared into hours before O'mara finally took a stretch break. She checked and was startled to notice that she had managed to catalogue over 200 samples. This revelation was followed by her stomach growling loudly. She looked up at the wall chronometer and saw it was already mid afternoon.

Her combadge beeped and she tapped the device on her shoulder. "Go ahead."

"Good afternoon Ms. O'Mara," Doctor Okan's voice said. "I'm sorry for the delay. I appear to have gotten quite busy today. If you wouldn't mind, could you please send your analysis and findings to me and I'll be more than glad to look it over tonight?"

"You will? I thought you had forgotten for a second.

"Of course not! Just send it to me and I'll pull an all-nighter looking at it. I will send you my findings tomorrow."

"Thanks a lot, Doc," O'mara smiled, feeling a bit relieved. Her biggest worry was doing all this work and then being made a laughing stock over minor errors. Even at the Academy she had just barely passed with average grades in Xeno-biology and biology. It wasn't her strongest field, but being the Raptor's science officer, she had pushed herself to try to do better in it. Doctor Okan had been a good mentor so far and her understanding of the science had vastly improved. Even with all her progress, she wanted it done right. This might be her first little footnote in the annals of history. Needless to say, her pride was nearly equal to her abject terror of screwing it up. "I'll have the computer send it to you and update it as I go along."

"Understood. As I said, I won't go back on my word. Keep it up." Doctor Okan said cheerfully. "Okan out."

O'mara's stomach growled again. She saved her progress and stood up, feeling her legs protest at having been seated too long. She had made some good progress and she could take a break, maybe get some exercise after a light lunch. It was nice having the Raptor grounded for a while so she could actually plan her day the way she wanted it to go. The computer prompted that her data was saved and it went into standby mode. She headed for the exit and made sure the lab was locked before heading off to the Replomat to grab some lunch.

"Had any luck yet?" Kai Remmick asked, sitting on top of a shutdown console.

"No," Jenna sighed, wiping some sweat off her brow. "You know, you could help me a little bit here." She was standing down in an access trunk of the Raptor's computer core, her head sticking out barely above the floor.

"I would luv, but I gotta get back on finishing my own chores back in engineering. The ol' battleaxe is getting a bit pissed that no one has had any luck on finding what caused our little miracle. I'm hoping she'll find another department to bother so I can get back to work." The Catarian grinned, standing up and sitting down on the edge of the trunk. "That and your company is much more appealing," he said, leaning forward to grab a quick kiss.

Jenna gave him one and smiled. "Hand me the sonic driver. I got a panel down here that's gotten jammed shut."

"Of course," Remmick replied, reaching over to the toolbox, grabbing the tool and handing it to her.

"Thank you," Jenna said before leaning down into the compartment. "Come loose you son of a…" She muttered as the tool did it's work and the the satisfying pop of a seal resounded through the room. "Now, let's see what we've got here. Give me a hand!"

Remmick scooted over to the other side of the panel and dropped into the trunk. He grabbed a magnetic clamp as Jenna did the same and locked it onto the panel. They both pulled up and the panel came away. They lifted it out of the trunk and set it on the flooring.

"Holy shit," Remmick gasped as he glanced down into the trunk.

"Ditto," Jenna said, tapping her combadge. "Rydel to Phoenix. Get to the core room, now."

"I'm on my way," Fara replied.

In the trunk, covering what was supposed to be one of the primary duo-tronic bus relays, lay a fine metallic dust-the remnants of the equipment that should have occupied the compartment.

With some effort, the metallic spider forced its way into the sealed compartment. The compartment was inundated with radiation. It could protect itself, but no one else would dare come down here for some time.

The metallic spider floated down the chamber's length with small LEDs illuminating the corridor. Computer records showed that several months ago, during an Urthean attack, reactor number three had gone into meltdown. The cap had been blown out of the asteroid through an ejection chute, however; the radiation had flooded the entire compartment, killing everyone inside it.

Bodies floated, due to the gravity plating being shut off, partially melted due to the radiation that had consumed them.

The digital consciousness that was a spider had a recalled memory of something it had experienced in the previous version of it's existence. It scanned the memories to get an inventory of what it had available to it.

Materials needed to be gathered...resources converted...components…assimilated.

Jakar sat in the dark of his quarters, seething with rage. A glass of whiskey sat before him, condensation pooling on the table under it, seeping under a datapad with his orders displayed on it.

He had been in charge of station security for 10 years. To be just casually swept aside after ten years of better service then most would give, shoved into a lesser position due to "concern of him being able to handle dual duties being the Raptor's tactical officer as well as head of stations security"? That was, quite frankly, the biggest load of bullshit he had ever read. He hadn't let any of his responsibilities slip. This just looked like some bureaucratic backstabbing, although the perpetrator was unknown to him.

He did know this: It didn't get handed down from Stiles. The decision came from someone else higher up.

The door chime sounded. He ignored it. It chimed again and he sighed.

Then his combadge beeped. "Jax to Jakar. Are you in there?"

"Yes. What is it?" He growled.

"I heard 'bout what happened. Could ya' use some company?"

Jakar sat in silence for a moment. "Come in," he said. The door to his quarters opened and the black furred echidna female with red braided hair stepped in.

"I also heard ya put a dent inna wall," she noted idly.

Jakar grunted, still facing away from the door as the lights brightened.

"I hope you aren't on duty," Jakar grunted, "or I'm sure they'll find some way to make you miserable as well."

"Nah, jus' got off. I was worried 'bout you luv, that's all."

Jakar nodded and motioned for her to have a seat across from him. She walked into his living room and sat down.

"It never ceases to amaze me that a military can always find a way to fuck someone who does their job well," Jakar sighed.

"Well, look at the bright side, at least ya've more time off," Sonya tried.

"To do what?" Jakar replied sourly. "I'm fifty five years old. I have no family. It's just me...like it's always been."

"I do believe yer forgettin' me ya big ox!" Sonya scolded.

Jakar sighed. "You know what I meant. I just don't know what to do to fill the time.""

"I dunno, luv...start another hobby?" Sonya shrugged.

"It must be nice to be young and make excuses to while away your youth," Jakar smirked. "I am quite fine with my primitive firearm collection, thank you." He motioned to the multitude of firearms displayed in a case on the far wall. "It's just, I enjoyed being the force of law on this station and there hasn't been much that's slipped past me. Getting this little reassignment, without any consideration to my contribution to this station's safety, is a slap in the face."

"So, what're you gonna do?" Sonya asked.

"Nothing," Jakar sighed.

"Nothin'?" Sonya said, a bit shocked. "Yer jus' gonna take it and not fight it?"

"For one, I've always attended to my duty. That won't change, regardless of what I think about it." Jakar said. "You should remember this as well. You are just starting out, but there will be times when you will be forced into doing something you don't agree with. You learn sometimes it's just better to take it smiling." He took a deep breath. "I'm just having my duties restructured. At least it's not a demotion or a transfer to some godforsaken post." He paused and smirked. "I don't think you can get too far from this place."

Sonya let out a little chuckle. Starbase 186 had never been considered one of the best places to be assigned. An old, dilapidated, Keldryian observation post being constantly remodeled while serving as a hub for all the border territories on the edge of a hostile empire's space wasn't exactly glamorous.

"I read the orders. I understand you will be shift commander under this Barddock's watch, is this correct?" Jakar asked.

Sonya nodded. "Aye. I've met the guy. Between us, he seems like an ass."

Jakar didn't respond to that and continued. "I want you to keep an eye on him. Whatever he is doing, I want to know about it before he does, understand?"

Sonya nodded. "I think I can handle that."

Jakar interlaced his fingers and rested his forearms on his knees as he leaned forward. "Just because I'm not on duty doesn't mean I won't keep a wayward eye on what goes on in my department."

"Believe me, anything I see or hear," Sonya smiled, "you'll know it."

"Good," Jakar said, reaching over to a small cabinet and grabbing another chilled glass and offering her some. Sonya nodded and he poured a small amount for her and slid her the glass.

Sonya picked up her glass. "So, what do we toast to?"

"How about the new guy's failure?" Jakar chuckled.

"I can drink ta' that," Sonya smirked. "Cheers!"

The next morning.

"So, what exactly am I looking at?" Harry asked, looking up from the high powered microscope setup in engineering.

"Nanites, scores of them, all inactive," Fara said. "Stranger still, they aren't our usual repair nanites either."

"And you said these were found in our computer core?" Harry confirmed, peering back in the microscope and actually seeing the small manipulators on the ravaged scraps of little robots as he kicked the power up.

"Yes, however these aren't the ones that are usually responsible for the ship's auto repair facilities. These appear to be at least four or five generations down the line technology wise." Fara said. "I've had my best people look at them and they say they are even more sophisticated than anything the Keldryians have."

"Fascinating," Harry said, "and was that the only place you found them?"

Fara shrugged. "Yep. Whatever they were up to, somehow they managed to reroute power to the repair systems. Other than that, we have on idea what they're doing around here."

Harry rubbed his chin in thought. "And you haven't found anything else like this throughout the ship?"

"Well, this isn't unusual. If these things were somehow created by the Epsilon Three, they would probably follow the same basic protocols as our own nanites." Fara surmised. "Even they return to their storage pods when not in use. However, committing massive destruction on each other is a new one."

"Yeah, all wrapped up in a nice neat package too," Harry mused. "It just seems too convenient."

Fara placed a paw on his shoulder. "Well, maybe for once, it just is. It's the only solution we got. I've had my people look all over for other little buggers like this and we haven't found anything."

Harry looked in their eyepiece again, then rubbed his eyes. "It had better be. I don't need my ship going on a killing spree again."

After a light lunch, O'mara went to her quarters and changed into something to jog in. She had gotten around to her second lap when she passed Rivas. He was leaning against the wall. She proceeded a few more steps and then stopped, noticing he looked pretty tired. She stood there, her arms over her head, trying to catch her breath and walked back over to Rivas.

"Hey Commander, out of sickbay finally?"

"Yeah...joy of joys," Rivas panted, looking a bit tired.

"Are you ok?" O'mara asked.

"I would be if our Doctor didn't think that healing involved torture!" Rivas snapped. "I'm just tired...legs are hurting...I guess that's a good thing."

"No offence, but you look miserable," O'mara said. "Are you trying to get home?"

"Trying...but not doing too good," Rivas replied. He was instantly regretting trying to force himself to walk. He didn't want to be in his quarters all day and had made it there without difficulty, but not soon after he left he started to feel exhausted. "I think I'll just lean here and try to rest awhile."

O'mara's feathers twitched. "Look, I know you live over in Section F, but you don't look like you're in any shape to get that far. My quarters are just down the way, you can rest there, crash on my couch. Then I'll help you get home when you feel better."

"You don't have to do that. I'm fine being miserable," Rivas grunted. He felt helpless and having O'mara-O'mara the flighty Avian-come to his rescue felt like the universe twisting the proverbial knife.

"Nonsense," O'mara said, grabbing his arm and helping him up. "We're shipmates, it's not a problem."

Rivas hesitated, then let her drag him down the hallway. He didn't have the energy to say no.

"Excuse the mess," O'mara said as they entered her quarters and the lights popped on. Her quarters were smaller than standard and were cluttered with various journals on every horizontal space available other than the furniture and floor. "I like to read a lot."

"I can tell," Rivas said wearily. He was exhausted from the physical exertion. "Get me to the couch before I have to be hauled there."

"Right, right," O'mara said, helping him hobble over to it. He flopped down gratefully.

"Thank you," he grunted. He had enough strength to swing his legs up on the couch and lay his head on the cushions.

"Here," O'mara said, handing him a water bottle while taking a drink from her own. "Are you going to be ok out here? I need to get changed out of this, unless you want to smell hot dry bird the rest of the night.

"Thanks," Rivas said, taking a drink, "I'll be fine. I'm just exhausted, not dying."

"Ok, I'm going grab a sonic shower and get changed. I'll be back out to check on you."

Rivas nodded. "I'll probably be out," he said, setting the water bottle on the floor.

"Ok, I'll probably go back to the lab. Call if you need anything." She said.

Rivas nodded. "Sleep is all I need right now," he sighed, leaning his head back onto the cushion and closing his eyes.

Terri opened her door to see Jenna waiting patiently, dressed in khaki slacks and a mauve blouse.

"You ready?" Jenna asked.

"Yeah," Terri said. "What do you have in mind?"

"I was thinking that little coffee bar in D Section would be nice," Jenna smiled. "They have good Argosian ice cream."

Terri looked relieved. "Good. I was thinking you were suggesting we go get bombed and I wasn't looking forward to that. Although...I won't promise we won't end up at that point."

"Different cures for different ailments, plus I want to just relax," Jenna chuckled. "I think I found what caused our little miracle on the ship. So, I got the rest of the day off while the higher ups sit around and poke it with a stick."

Terri laughed. "What do you think it was?"

Jenna shrugged. "From what I can tell the nanite control system went haywire, but that's just my guess. I'm just a control systems tech. I don't know too much about the repair systems, other than how to interface them properly. I suspect you'll know more than I do."

Terri stepped out of her quarters and locked the door. She had on a pair of jeans and a matching vest and blue blouse. "I guess we should be glad it did happen," she commented.

"No kidding," Jenna agreed. "So, anyways, I'm ready. Let's get out of here!"

They walked down the corridor and stopped at the turbo-lift. Jenna got pensive, looking over at Terri, who seemed more glum than anything.

"I know you two are crazy about each other. So you had one little stupid fight?" Jenna shrugged. "It wasn't like emotions were running high or anything at the time."

Terri let out a sigh and rolled her eyes.

"Come on hon," Jenna giggled. "You know if I kicked Kai to the curb for every lunk-headed comment he made we wouldn't be together as long as we have been."

"I'm just disappointed in him," Terri admitted. "I have all these damn feelings for him and he's just so flawed. He's a bit of an oaf when it comes to getting him to do anything and he's just so lackadaisical when it comes to his responsibilities or career."

Jenna was about to respond when the door to the turbolift opened. "Well, speak of the devil." She whispered, seeing Jack Land inside.

Land seemed caught a bit off guard and muttered "Ladies" as he tried to exit, but Jenna stepped in front of him and pushed him back into the lift.

"Where are you going? I haven't seen you around much. How's your day going? Come on Terri," Jenna said with mock sweetness. Terri was considering smacking her friend upside the head, but followed her reluctantly.

"Promenade level, Section D," Jenna smirked as the doors slid shut. "So, what have you been up to Jack?"

"Uh...I just got done swimming," he muttered, still trying to process the rapid fire questions and the awkwardness of the situation. "Not too much else to do at the moment. Where are you two going?"

"Oh, just out for a little fun," Jenna said.

Land looked over at Terri, who was keeping her eyes fixed on the doors in front of her as the lift moved downward.

"Well...have fun then," he said with a touch of agony to his voice as the lift slid to a stop.

"We will see you around the ship," Jenna smiled, grabbing Terri by the wrist and dragging her out of the lift with her.

"Yeah…sure," Land sighed as the doors closed. "See you around…."

Later

Harry walked up to Captain Stiles' quarters and hit the chime button. After a beat or two, the door opened and Captain Stiles was there. "Sorry for the delay. I had to get the little one in her chair."

"It's ok," Harry said, hearing a child's excited squeal from behind Stiles. "I'm not too early, am I?"

"No, of course not. Just come in and have a seat on the couch. Supper is almost ready."

Harry did so, stepping down into the sitting area as Captain Stiles turned to say something to his daughter. Harry had been over a few times in the last several months, and never could get over how much larger the family units were than the standard officer's quarters. He had thought his quarters were large, but they didn't hold a candle to these.

"Thanks for coming over tonight," Melanie Stiles said from the kitchen unit. "You don't hardly ever come by anymore. How have you been?"

"Fine, just a bit busy," Harry replied simply.

"They got Harry running all over the damn sector at the moment, dear," Stiles added for him.

"I thought that's what being a starship commander is all about," she said, pulling something out of the oven and setting it on the counter.

"Well, yes and no," Harry said. "The thing is, it seems they don't seem to know what exactly to do with us. Most of the time, we are doing escort duty and then they turn around and send us on a survey mission." He sighed. "The Raptor is a Cruiser. It's not supposed to be sent on such duties, but they do it anyway."

"I wouldn't be too cross about it Harry," Melanie said. "I remember it wasn't too long ago you were grumbling about how you weren't getting to do all that stuff and you wished you'd been sent somewhere else."

Harry flushed a little. "True, but still, I feel like we're being jerked around. Quite frankly, I don't even know why the Raptor exists. We're not really in a standing war with anyone at the moment. What the hell was its purpose for being constructed?"

"Harry, Harry, Harry," Stiles chuckled, "you sound like me when Admiral Kramer brought that project to my starbase."

"Boys, supper is almost done. Why don't you guys grab a seat? Jim, could you start serving while I get the pasta," Melanie asked from the kitchenette.

"Sure," Captain Stiles said, getting up. "We'll continue this after supper. Let's just relax and have a good meal. We have enough to grouse over as it is."

Construction time had been quite minimal. A suitable lair had been built in a matter of hours. It took even less time to tap into the station's computer network and make the necessary adjustments to the station's sensors to mask the fact that the radiation had been removed from the compartment and now was powering its own independent power source. The organic components had been salvaged, processed, and the radiation had been removed. Computers had been reactivated, the room was utterly crawling with millions of nanites. The walls were simply teaming and writhing with them as they continued to remove the excess radiation.

Things were needed...lots of things...the primary objective was to observe the organics and understand their interaction with the body. A vehicle would need to be constructed for this purpose, one that wouldn't draw suspicion. The body was due for a routine overhaul. This would buy it time to procure what it needed.

The digital consciousness that was spread throughout the entire swarm of nanites accessed the station's records and the entire Starfleet database, seeing if one of the deactivated organics could serve this role. Out of all the ones it found, one was declared Missing In Action, whereabouts unknown, possibly dead.

The record was quickly accessed.

The female cadaver's combadge had been found in her quarters, but she had simply disappeared 10 months ago. No one knew where this person had gone, but one body without a combadge had been gathered up and inventoried during the clean up. It was a female and, ironically, it remembered the creator had imbued it with this gender during its previous version. Logically, this seemed an applicable disguise. It would just need to develop some erroneous data to excuse a prolonged absence. However, this person was not a regular fleet member, but a civilian contractor. Something could be created anyway.

The swarm teemed with activity as it processed this idea and quickly set about implementing it.

A beautiful, wafting melody washed over him and carried him along in his dream as the music flowed. It was one of his favorites, a song from his world's classical era of development. However, the volume kept changing and his ears told him this wasn't a memory. He was actually hearing it.

Rivas opened his eyes and found a blanket had been pulled over him. He yawned. There was the smell of food tugging on his nose. He felt better and realized perhaps he had pushed himself a bit too hard as he sat up. He wasn't too sure where he was now, but it felt safe. He sat on the edge of the couch, rubbing his eyes, not recognizing his surroundings. Eventually he realized that he was on the station.

"Is that Hanger's Fifth Concerto?" He asked, his mind focusing on the music. He was vaguely certain that someone was there to answer the question.

"Yes! How'd you know?" He heard a familiar voice ask. That was O'mara.

"I didn't know you liked classic Cornerian music." He said, suddenly understanding why the surroundings felt so safe.

"You have never asked," she chuckled from the kitchenette. "How are you feeling?"

"A little better...still a bit stiff," Rivas said, making his legs move so he could sit more comfortably and hearing the whirring noise of the stimulators. "What time is it?"

"Oh goodness! It's...oh...probably at least 21:00," O'mara replied. "You were out most of the day."

"Did you get your analysis done?" He asked.

"Mm hmm," O'mara said cheerfully. "Sent the data and had the samples shipped off to HQ."

"What smells good?"

"Beetle noodle soup," O'mara said. "I had Doctor Okan check on you. He said you should probably stay on that couch until you are rested and he said if he finds out you moved from there in the next day or two he's going to send orderlies to take you back down to sickbay and strap you to a bed."

Rivas grunted, amused. "Isn't that a little imposing on you though?"

"I don't mind the company. I am usually too busy to use the couch anyway," O'mara shrugged, ladling a bowl of soup, dropping a spoon in it, and taking it over to him with a glass of water. "Besides, he asked if I could keep an eye on you and I said it wouldn't be a problem."

"Thanks," Rivas said, taking the bowl and sniffing it. His stomach made a rather aggressive sound. O'mara went back, poured herself a glass of celebratory wine, and sat across from him in one of the seats.

"You know, I think I like you better this way."

"What way?" Rivas asked as he started to eat.

"Helpless. You are a lot less intimidating," she chuckled.

"Very funny," he sighed, eating another spoonful of soup. "This isn't too bad."

O'mara blushed a little. "Thanks. It's just something I threw together."

Rivas finished the bowl and licked his lips, handing the bowl back to her. "Doctor Okan didn't really give me too many details on what's been going on since we were at Miramidor. I assume we all survived."

O'mara nodded. "Yes. The away team made it back to the ship with no casualties. If you want, I can get you a debriefing."

"Sure," Rivas said. "So, who's been doing that job since I ate shrapnel?"

"Terri has," O'mara said, taking the bowl over to the replicator.

"Has she now?"

"Yep!" O'mara replied. "After the Urthean attack, Land and her were the only uninjured officers on the bridge. Terri pretty much took charge. Harry's had her fill in for you since then." O'mara chuckled, walking over to a wall panel and getting a debriefing transferred to a datapad. "You might not get the job back. She seems to be enjoying it."

She walked back over to him and handed him a datapad.

"Well, she's a good pick for it. I'll never understand why she took the position she did.

Hell, she was more qualified for first officer than me!"

"Maybe she just likes you," O'mara suggested, "and she wanted you to have the position?"

"Maybe," Rivas replied.

"Didn't you two used to date?"

"Yeah...but it didn't work out," Rivas said.

"Why not? Terri's a sweetheart."

"It...ended badly," Rivas said, trailing off. "I...don't really want to rehash it."

O'mara nodded. "Sorry."

Rivas shifted uncomfortably, wanting to change the subject. "So...being as you are all done, I'm sure you probably want to go out and celebrate. You don't need to stay here and baby sit."

"Actually," O'mara said, stretching and yawning. "I'm way too tired for that. I think I might have a glass of wine, read my book, and then maybe just go to bed."

"I could use a glass myself."

O'mara giggled and got up to get a bottle. "Well, you can't have any, doctor's orders. I'll replicate a juice for you. Doctor Okan wants you rested. You've got physical therapy tomorrow."

Rivas growled softly and flopped back down onto the couch. Despite the snarl, however, he couldn't help but grin just a little.

Being a Captain definitely had some perks. Harry was admiring the faux sun porch of Stiles' quarters, overlooking the space dock with a transparent aluminum dome mimicking open air. Harry was fascinated by the view, even though the idea that only a few inches of material and a backup force-field was the only thing between him and vacuum worried him. He always liked sitting out here. This place, as unusual as it was, was a good place to think and discuss things. He took a sip from the beer he had replicated and pondered the situation.

"So, where were we?" Stiles asked idly, coming up the stairs and sitting in one of the deck chairs.

"Trying to figure out what the hell is going on," Harry replied, sitting across from him.

"Well, that could take all night," Stiles chuckled, leaning back in the chair. "I am not sure myself what those above us are up to. I see all sorts of ships pass through here for all kinds of reasons. Hell, our old friend Admiral Leyton has just requested the use of a quarter of the starbase for his Special Projects division."

Harry nearly did a spit-take of beer, but caught himself. He started coughing as a few drops went down one of his lungs.

"You okay there Harry?" Captain Stiles asked, grinning.

"Yeah, yeah!" Harry gasped, clearing his airway. "How the hell is Leyton in charge of 'special' anything after that last disaster?" He sat his cup down. "For crying out loud! That disaster with the Epsilon Three isn't more than a month or two behind us and they are still letting him-"

"Easy now Harry. Anyone high enough on the food chain in the department usually has more than one project going at a time." Stiles stretched his arms over his head and yawned. "Granted, I think it's a bit…" He paused scratching his head, "offensive...that he's still in charge of anything at this point."

"It does seem a bit insensitive," Harry groused. "That's all I'm getting at."

"Well, Leyton has friends in high places," Stiles shrugged.

"That still doesn't make it right." Harry growled.

"It's just how things work Harry. I don't make the rules," said Stiles. "Every young officer learns it after a certain point, the higher they get up the chain, and then forget about it when they are older and piloting a desk as an Admiral." Stiles finished off his can and pitched it into a small disintegrator. "Best you not forget that, Commander."

"Excuse me boys," Melanie said, holding her daughter against her shoulder, "I hate to interrupt your brooding session, but someone needs to get to bed and would like her daddy to tuck her in."

"I'm on it," Stiles said, standing up.

"I guess I should be turning in too," Harry said. "Thanks for the dinner. It's always a pleasure."

"You are welcome." Stiles said. "You can come by anytime you need to talk. Good night, Commander."

Harry nodded and showed himself the door. He wasn't quite ready to turn in just yet, so he headed down to the observation decks. After a short trip via turbolift, he stepped out onto the nearly deserted deck, save for one other person. He recognized who it was as he approached.

"Land? What are you doing out here? Aren't you usually playing that game or logging holodeck time about now?"

"Usually," Land said dejectedly, "not tonight. I don't want to be in my quarters right now."

"Okay," Harry said, stepping a bit closer. "Something bothering you?"

"Oh, if you only knew the half of it," Land growled. "Why are you out and about?"

"I had dinner with the Captain and his family. I just got done a while ago. I wanted to just take a look at my ship."

"Well, it's there," Land sighed, waving his hand at the Raptor floating in the space dock. "Enjoy."

Harry was a little miffed by his tone, but let it go. "You know, we're not on duty. If something is bothering you, we can discuss it." He thought for a moment. "Let me guess: it's Lt. Lu?"

Land chuckled. "Bingo! Got it in one."

"I heard. This had better not affect your performance as a ship's navigator." Harry said dryly.

"No, it won't. I'm not some heartbroken teenager," Land grumbled.

"Well, if it does, I hope you realize the repercussions."

"I do," Land growled. "You aren't helping any!"

"Sorry, just pointing it out," Harry said. "I have noticed you two seem to have cooled off recently. What happened?"

"I don't know," Land said. "She just flipped out on me and now she doesn't want anything to do with me."

"Was this during the little incident back in the Roirishard system?" Harry asked.

"Yeah."

"I don't recall her flipping out in the logs. I remember her snapping at you to stay at your post." Harry said.

"It was after that...off the record."

"Well, it's understandable. She went from being a ship's Communications Officer to Captain in a matter of moments." Harry smiled. "It can make anyone a bit snappy."

"Sure, but..." Land said as his memory recalled the very moment. "She said everything else was a secondary concern at the time, that maybe if I'd bother to stop being such a jackass and take on a bit more responsibility, I'd understand. She called me Ensign like it was a slur. She just kept going, saying that what really pissed her off was that she needed me and I wasn't helping, or something like that, like she couldn't rely on me if things went bad. She said I was irresponsible and implied I had no direction. And...well...she dumped me."

"Ah…." Harry said. "Well, I can tell you one thing: All hope isn't lost."

"You sure about that?"

Harry nodded. "Not to pry too much, but did she come on to you first?"

"Yeah…but why does that matter?" Land asked, a bit confused.

"Oh, trust me amigo," Harry chuckled, "it matters...a lot."

"Really?" Land frowned, sitting up, a brief flash of relief on his face.

"Yep, if you are willing to work for it that is," Harry said. "She does have a valid point. You don't really try to apply yourself." Harry hushed him as he sat across from him. "I know you have a brain in that head of yours. I remember you calculating a course home on our old ship in your head when we grazed that singularity and it knocked out our computers."

"Yeah, well, it's not that hard if you can remember the equations," Land said modestly.

"It's not something everyone can do in their head though," Harry said. "I don't get why you don't use that mind of yours to advance yourself instead of playing video games and screwing around in the holo-suite and watching old movies."

"So what? I want to be a Pilot. I like what I do."

"Yes, but you could do so much more," Harry said patiently. "I don't understand why you don't."

"I don't want to do anything else," Land snapped back.

Harry took a deep breath. "Jack, let me tell you something." He said, stretching his arms over the back of the vacant chairs. "Do you think I wanted that ship? This assignment?"

Land smirked. "No! I still remember you scowling the whole flight over here."

"I won't deny it," Harry said, "but you know what? In a strange, messed up way, I got what I wanted. I have my own ship, my own crew, and a command. For all intents and purposes, the Raptor is mine, and I'm proud of her...and all of you."

"Thanks, but your point is?"

"The point," Harry said, enunciating each word, "is that if you want something, you take steps to make sure you keep it." He took a breath. "Granted, with me, when I took that temporary assignment on the Aether, it made me take a step back and realize what I had and what I needed to do to keep it." He stopped and leaned forward. "Do you follow me?"

"I think so. What do I need to do?"

"Well," Harry pondered, tapping his chin, "you are good with numbers. I know Fara is looking for a warp field analyst...at least maybe part time for some project she's working on."

"And this will help me how, exactly?"

"It might get her talking to you again." Harry speculated. "And it would show a little initiative and, well, you might make Fara happy if you understood the ship a bit better. Plus it'd look good on your record." He shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe it'd do you some good."

"Where do I sign up?" Land sighed in resignation.

"Just go tell Fara I sent you." Harry smirked. "I'm sure she'll be overjoyed."

"Alright! You got a deal," Land said, hoping to his feet. "Thanks Harry."

"Don't mention it," Harry said, waving as Land trotted away.

Terri stared at her drink, slowly turning her straw around the glass, her head leaning onto her palm as her elbow rested on the table.

Jenna sat, watching her friend with worry, although her drinks were keeping that at bay. They went to one of their favorite spots, the Violet Garden-a coffee bar where one could go to just have drinks and some quiet time. They had a variety of coffees from all across the quadrant, plus some rare and potent alcoholic drinks. The place was decorated with a type of purple lighting that highlighted the almost translucent plastic furniture giving it the appearance of glowing.

The icecream hadn't helped Terri's mood at all.

"Terri, dear, you are being a downer," Jenna said suddenly.

"Mmfh," Terri grumbled, shrugging.

"TERRI!" Jenna snapped.

"What…?" Terri said, stopping and glaring at her.

"I bring my best friend here to try to cheer her up and you are just being a total downer and killing the whole room with it!"

Terri scowled. The place seemed no different than it had been, although Jenna being a little loud had attracted some attention.

"I think you are exaggerating," Terri noted.

Jenna just stared at her. "What is wrong with you? First you nearly beat the crap out of Michelle this morning and you've just been a grump all day."

"You know why," Terri grumbled, finally taking a sip off her drink and then grimacing, realizing that it was almost at room temperature.

"I think this is more than just a breakup, hon," Jenna said, tossing her blond head fur, the beads on her spines jingling. "Is there something else?"

"I don't know," Terri growled after a long pause.

It was hard to relax. Her mind was running circles among the myriad of tasks she had planned for her next duty shift. She kept encountering rather distracting memories of Land, rudely forcing their way into her train of thoughts. She wanted to bury them, but they weren't bad memories, so they refused to be sunk.

"Hey!" Jenna said, snapping her fingers under Terri's nose. "Holy cow! You totally spaced out there!"

"Sorry," Terri said, sipping her drink. "I appreciate you trying, but my heart just isn't really in it."

"Could have fooled me," Jenna sighed. "Sooo," she waved at a waiter and made a few hand signals.

"What are you doing?"

"It's not what I'm doing. It's what we're doing." Jenna grinned wickedly.

"No," Terri glared, gripping her glass. "No no no no!"

"Yes yes yes," Jenna squealed, clapping her hands as a large bottle of a slightly blue, glowing, opaque fluid was set between them along with two shot glasses. Jenna giggled, popped the cork, and poured the shots.

"Are you out of your mind? That's Altarian Blue Lightning! That costs 1000 credits!" Terri protested.

"Yup," Jenna said, handing her a glass. "You need to relax and this will do it."

"You mean over do it?"

"Nope! Just enough to get the job done. This stuff will keep," she said. "We'll finish it later."

Terri looked at the chilled, faintly glowing, liquid swirling in her glass and sighed. Jenna lifted hers and smiled mirthfully.

"Fine...but only 'cause you insist," Terri grumbled, doing the same and then quickly downing it.

Trying to stay quiet was nearly impossible as the sharp, almost electric, sensation shot through their throats. They both made a handful of gurgling sounds, drawing giggles from some of the nearby patrons.

"Damn!" Terri nearly choked. "Please tell me that gets a bit less…well...less!"

Jenna giggled. "Yeah...after the first one it's not nearly as strong." She poured another round. "Ready?"

Terri nodded, feeling a bit giddy as her mood lightened. This stuff worked quickly.

"Yeah," she said, raising her glass to her friend.

Jenna clinked her own against Terri's. "Cheers!"

The briefing had been short and sweet. Jakar updated Braddock on all the events going on at the station and then began his shift. The station was quiet this time of night and the illumination was dimmed to simulate nightfall. The entertainment district of the promenade was still lively and glowed a multi-colored rainbow of light that looked like an aurora borealis dancing along the shiny dome of the area.

He leaned on the railing and sighed. Most of the time the starbase was fairly quiet and just the presence of a few security officers kept everyone in check. Nobody liked being stunned and eating floor. Jakar prefered the latter to stunning would-be offenders. Sometimes being stunned when one didn't see it coming had some embarrassing side effects. Plus bruises and cuts could be easily mended in sickbay. Below, the denizens of the Confederation commingled in trade and entertainment or just good old revelry. It had been sometime since the place had been so relaxed, with the threat of the Urthean Empire looming so near.

Xox had not returned to harass the station for quite some time, instead opting to lie in wait for ambushes. This last little skirmish hadn't gone well, but Jakar had anticipated something going wrong and prepared for it. Those Urthean bastards weren't expecting a heavily armed survey team lying in wait for them. A smirk crossed his face. He still remembered the looks on their smug faces when the first Phaser rifle volleys lit them up.

"What's so funny?" Asked a familiar voice. It was Sonya Jax, although she wasn't on duty. She was wearing a dark blue dress that complimented her black fur and red hair which she had left free and unbraided resulting in a cascade down her back and the sides of her face.

"Nothing. I was just thinking about something was all," he said, straightening up and adjusting his uniform. "You look nice. What's the occasion?"

She smiled. "I'm off duty. I thought that was obvious."

Jakar flushed a little. That was a stupid question. Seeing her like this had caught him off guard.

"I saw ya up here, perched like some lonely raptor waitin' to sweep down on an unsuspectin' miscreant an' thought I'd say hi." She said, walking up to him running her hand along the rail, and looking down at the crowds. "How're ya handlin' things, luv?"

Jakar grunted.

"That good huh?"

"Am I supposed to enjoy having duties and responsibilities taken away from me?" He rumbled.

"Some would find it a blessing," Jax smirked. "Not those like us though. We'd rather stay busy. Back when I was on my own an' had my own ship, there was always somethin' that needed tendin' too. Look at me! I don't know what I am doin', all dolled up an' no place ta go, so I wander over here ta talk to ya." She sighed, leaning on the railing. "Any idea when we'll be outta this dump and out amongst the stars again?"

"Not yet," Jakar grunted.

"Cripes! How do you people deal with this boredom?"

"You get used to it."

There was a moment of silence.

"When do you get off duty?" She asked.

"Zero hundred," Jakar responded.

Sonya checked her wristwatch. "Well, th' bars're still open. Mind takin' me for a drink about that time? See how it goes an' go from there? I'd hate ta go to all this trouble an' no one takes th' time to gawk a lil', ya know?"

Jakar cracked a smile. "Sure."

"Good! Not many I'd rather spend th' time with anyway. I'm going to grab somthin' ta eat. Ya want something too?"

"Surprise me. I'll be around."

"I know ya aren't that hard ta find when ya know how ta look," Sonya grinned, slapping him on the shoulder before walking away with a slight spring to her step.

The Next Morning

"That's it, just take it easy," Okan said as Rivas tried walking a bit more down a track flanked by handrails. However, he was only allowed to use them to keep from falling on his face.

"Can't I just use the rails doc?" Rivas complained. "You're killing me here!"

"No. You have to make it to the end on your own. If you don't, you probably won't be returning to duty any time soon."

"You can do it! Come on! You hobbled all around my quarters this morning and did just fine!" O'mara cheered him on.

"Yeah, that was when I first woke up!"

"Don't be a big baby," O'mara said. "You can do this!"

"I'm not a baby!" Rivas growled, pushing himself forward, a bit annoyed and finally walking to the end of the track. "There, I'm done!" He quickly hopped onto a biobed.

"You are done with that one," Okan corrected while running scans and recording the results. "Now we move onto the weight exercises."

Rivas flopped back on the bed with a frustrated whimper.

"On the bright side, your nervous transmission to your legs have improved from next-to-nothing to more measurable scales. You keep this up and we'll have you walking without the stimulators in no time."

Rivas rolled his eyes. "Yipee."

O'mara sauntered over to him and stood with her arms folded.

"I seem to recall a certain Lieutenant Commander telling me to 'suck it up' when I was having difficulty dealing with things on the ship. I suggest you do the same." She smirked wickedly.

"I'm trying!" Rivas growled, secretly enjoying her antagonizing him for once. "Tell you what, you get the operations console embedded in you and we'll see how well you do!"

"No thanks," O'mara giggled. "Come on, sit up." She offered her hand to him.

"Thanks," Rivas grunted, taking it and sitting up. "Ok doc," he sighed, "bring it on! Let's get this over with."

"You can't possibly be serious!" Fara laughed, her ears folding back as she looked at the datapad. "The Captain must be joking!"

"Harry doesn't joke, remember?" Land replied.

Fara's face hardened as her ears snapped forwards again. "You expect me to believe you, of all people, actually have a background in warp theory? A minor in it no less?"

"I do," Land replied, drumming his fingers on the wall. This inquisition was wearing out its welcome.

Fara glared at him and handed him an assignment. "Alright smart ass: Warp coil 6 has been giving some strange readings for a while now. I want you suited up and at access hatch 5 in thirty minutes. I'm going in there with you just to make sure you don't screw something up. I suggest you get an engineering kit. This problem needs to be fixed. I don't want another defective part killing more of my team."

"No problem," Land said.

"I'm giving you one shot. You screw it up, you better look to another department to expand your skills in," Fara scowled, getting up. "Give it your best effort."

"I will, Chief. I'll be there," Land said sweetly, knowing it would annoy her more.

Terri woke up in her quarters, alone.

She was groggy, the alcohol still sticking with her. She yawned, stretched and sighed, staring at the ceiling. Taber, her pet cat, jumped on the bed, purring and meowing as he walked a circle on her stomach.

"Ugh...can't I have a moment or two?" She said, scratching the creature on a spot between its ears.

The feline replied with a plaintive meow, still purring, and kneading its paws into her stomach.

"Ok, ok! I'm up." She sighed, swinging her legs over the side of her bed. She suddenly felt nauseous, which was strange. She rarely ever got hangovers. She stood up and suddenly felt a hot flash, followed by a cold rush. She bolted for the bathroom to wretch up whatever alcohol was still left in her stomach.

She fumbled for the glass on the counter and got herself some water. Shaking, she washed out her mouth and drank a few glasses. Immediately she started to feel better. Feeling a bit healthier, she cleaned up and showered off.

Taber sat in the doorway with a disapproving look the entire time. His bowl still was not filled when she got out of the shower.

This wasn't the first time she'd been alone. She just wished she could shake her feelings off. She scowled.

"Maybe if he'd grow up a little!" She said to remind herself of how he had acted when she suddenly found herself in charge of the ship and its crew.

The incident with Rivas over a year ago had shaken her when he'd lost his temper over losing his command of the Raptor. They'd had a fight the night he'd got the news and it didn't end well. She didn't want to dwell further on that memory. He'd apologized since, but the damage had been done and he couldn't make it go away.

She went to the replicator and had it make Taber some food. As soon as it materialized, she put it in his bowl and the cat devoured it happily. She petted him on the head and walked over to a shelf that had various pictures on it. She reached behind the others, picking up one she always kept face down and out of sight. It was a picture of a younger her, back when she was in the Academy, and a much older Altarian.

She had been a freshman and he had been a senior cadet. A smile crossed her lips as she traced the image with her fingers.

They'd met in advanced computer systems class, and immediately hit it off. He had been careful to avoid accidental physical contact and was always respectful towards her.

"Karl…." She sighed. They'd made so many plans. They were hoping to be married when she got out of the Academy. He was very dashing and cavalier, he never yelled at her, never made her feel unwanted or diminished. He was so calm, even when they had disagreements.

Karl, however, was lost when his ship disappeared, the second time a loved one had been lost to the depths of space. A part of her wondered if he had been swept up in the same trap set by Megrim that had claimed her parents. Losing Karl had been devastating. Rivas had been good to her while it lasted, helped with the loss...until that ended abruptly.

She slid the picture back, sighing heavily, returning it to its hiding place. She set about replicating food so she could eat some breakfast and start her day. She had things to do and dwelling in the past wasn't going to get it done.

A bit later, Terri arrived at the gym for class, on time as usual, and saw Jenna standing there as well.

"Where is everyone?" Terri asked curiously. They were the only two there.

"I have no idea. I figured you'd show up, even after last night, but I've been here about ten minutes. No Jakar or O'mara."

"Ok, now that's odd for him," Terri said.

"O'mara too. She hasn't missed once since we started. I know Fara isn't coming because she's going over the warp coils again." Jenna shrugged. "So, what do you want to do?"

"Well, I need to sweat out that poison we chugged last night. Feel up for sparring?"

"Yeah!" Jenna chuckled, "but you cheap shot me and you're gonna regret it!"

"I won't. I'm doing a little better today," Terri said tapping. "We won't go too long either. I was planning on leaving early. I need to talk to the Commander about a few things."

"Fine by me. I cheated and had an early breakfast anyways." Jenna followed her inside. "Kai's waiting for me to get back anyway. He has the day off today."

Land was waiting for her, suited up in an environmental suit, engineering kit in hand, when Fara arrived.

"When was the last time you did an extra-vehicular?" Fara asked over the com, opening the airlock and stepping inside.

"It's been a while," Land replied. "I think I can remember the basics. It's as easy as falling off a ship, right?"

"Keep it up and you'll be pushed off," Fara sneered, tapping the control panel on her suit's arm, activating her magnetic boots. "If you want to do this, you'd better get used to it."

Land shrugged and activated his own boots as the airlock flushed out the atmosphere and the external door opened. "It's just a lovely stroll in the terrifying maw of the void. Of course I'm not worried."

The trick to doing a spacewalk was remembering that concepts such as up and down were relative to whatever you were standing on. Stepping out of the airlock made you parallel to the floor as your boots latched onto the ship's hull. This was always disorienting, like stepping into a fun house and it took a bit of training to get used to it.

It was a bit surreal walking on the Raptor's hull. Land had never been on it's outside. He was used to feeling the ship through the helm. Seeing it's skin up close and personal was as unnerving as it was exciting.

"Follow me. They should have the cowling off by the time we get there." Fara's voice said in his ear.

Moving up the hull to the dorsal side of the hull, they made their way across the ship. Land marveled at the patchwork mess that made up the hull. He could see all the replacement plates from all the repulsor rays that had struck the bare hull. Even though it had been leveled, it was easy to see the scars that criss crossed the hull. The patches were always shinier than the pieces they were attached to. For each section that had been breached, it was cut out, secured in place, followed by a reapplication of the ablative coating and finally the ferrocrete ceramic.

He watched as two workbees carefully finished unbolting the large plate that made up the engine cowling, using their thrusters to lift it out. The Raptor trembled under their feet as it slid free, exposing the warp coils to space.

Fara led Land to the edge and kicked off, using her suit to maneuver down into the hold that bore the enormous tungsten and magnesium hulks that allowed the Raptor to travel through warp space.

"Hmm," Land said, taking a tricorder and scanning it while looking it over with his eyes. "No plasmodic scouring."

Fara looked impressed. "Very good. How'd you know to look for that?"

"I've had to scrub a few of these beasts as punishment." Land said, walking up to number 6 and scanning it. "Readings are normal," he reported as he glanced at the manufacturer's label and checked the magnetic variance. It read ".567", a variance of 1/1000th out of tolerance.

"This one's out by a thousandth," Land noted, walking over to each coil and looking at something on each one near where they were mounted on the bottom side to the frame. Using his suit's wrist light, he checked the maker's mark and dates on each one.

"That shouldn't matter," Fara replied. "I'm going to check the relay sensor and make sure it's working. The computer keeps saying there is something wrong, but every time we check it out we can't find anything."

"Do we have a sledge hammer around here somewhere?" Land asked.

"Why would you want that?" Fara asked, peering at him through her visor as she checked the reader. "You do know the laws of physics basically make swinging a hammer in space pointless, right?"

"Call it a hunch! And I know about the physics. I'm going to need some air here."

"What in the world are you up to?" Fara glared.

"It's an old trick an old salt of an engineer taught me back on my last posting," Land replied, looking around the area. "Wasn't this the nacelle that was damaged a while back when the main drive conduit exploded?"

"Yeah," Fara said, still annoyed that the relay seemed to be in working order. "Had to replace coils five and six. They were practically slagged. What's your hunch hotshot?"

"Like I said, I need a sledgehammer and we need some atmosphere."

Fara put two and two together and growled at Land. "You are not beating on my ship with a hammer!"

"Yeah, I am. Unless you want to keep beating your head against this problem?" Land shot back. "The trick is we strike each coil. The ones that make a different sound are bad and need to be pulled."

"That's ludicrous!"

"Bet you a thousand credits I'm right!" Land smirked. "I had them put up to take a trip with Terri...but, well, it isn't going to happen now." He sighed. "You've got a boyfriend. You two could probably use a little getaway, yeah? A thousand credits can get you a very nice room for a few days."

"I have plenty of credits saved up because I don't take vacations," Fara said. "Plus I have more than enough beyond that."

"Come on! I know you just can't stand the idea I know more than you," Land grinned, taunting her.

"It's your spending money," Fara sneered. "Fine...I'll humor you." She walked over to a wall panel and pressed a few buttons. "Computer! Erect a Level 6 force field and pump atmosphere into the nacelle hold."

"ACKNOWLEDGED."

A forcefield flickered into being above them, sealing off the vacuum of the docking bay. Their suits readouts indicated that breathable air now surrounded them. As soon as it was safe, Land took off his helmet and set it on the ground.

"About that sledge?"

"Well, go replicate one! Make it quick! We don't have all day."

"Sheesh...make me do everything!"

"Move it," Fara growled.

"Yeah yeah," Land said, quickly heading over to an airlock and going inside to a maintenance area that was used to repair the coils while the ship was in flight. He soon returned with the freshly replicated sledge hammer. He took a few practice swings with it. "Ready?"

Fara took a wide stance and folded her arms. "Shock me."

"Which is one of the original coils?"

"Number four, the one up front." Fara said, pointing.

Land walked up to it, wrapped his knuckles on a few spots to find a tough spot and hit it as hard as he could. The coil hummed like a low dull bell that filled the entire compartment.

"Now that's a good coil," Land grinned confidently, walking back towards Fara. "Have you ever had any problems with number seven or eight?"

"No."

"I'll bet you 10-to-1 that five and six won't make that same sound," Land said, hefting the sledge and resting it on his shoulder.

Fara furrowed her brow. It sounded nuts, but maybe there was something to what he was doing. 10000 credits was a lot too, enough for her to notice it, but someone like Land would be paying her back for quite a while. That was at least a few years with some pretty boring shore leave.

"What are you basing this on anyway?" Fara asked.

"Coils are made per-order from special foundries. You just can't 'replicate' them." Land said, reciting knowledge that had been imparted on him a while back. At the time it didn't seem relevant, but he was glad he had listened. "When you replace them, they are all put on one order and cast as according to whatever specifications are set for construction." He then pointed to the last two coils that loomed aft of them. "Those were replaced as well, so they are from the same place as coil six. Plus, they have the date and maker's mark verifying that."

Fara mulled it over in her mind. Either Land was completely talking out of his ass or he really did know what he was talking about. She understood how the coils worked, how they were supposed to work, and how to maintain them, but beyond that had never really been involved in the process that was warp coil construction.

"Alright," she said, "I'll call."

"You sure?"

"Yeah I'm sure! Stop stalling flyboy! Put up or shut up. 1,000 credits says they all sound like church bells." Fara grinned.

Land winked at her, walked over to number six, lined up a strike, and swung. This time, the hammer reacted differently. The sledge nearly bounced out of Land's hand as the coil let out a loud ping, but no tone. Land cursed and flexed his fingers.

"That's a bad coil! This we know, so 1000 credits you owe." He walked over to number five, struck it, and got the same result. "That one is shit too and I already checked the maker's mark. They are from the same place. That'll be 10000 credits ma'am!"

Fara had to see for herself. She went and checked the marks on the coils. Land was right. They were created on the same date in the same foundry.

The loss of the bet paled in comparison to the rage building in her chest. If it was a replicator mistake, she could brush it off, but these were from a foundry.

"Someone is fucking with my goddamn ship!" Fara growled, grinding her teeth.

The morning's physical therapy had been grueling, but he had managed to make his way through it. The major accomplishment was Rivas finally getting the hang of moving with the prosthesis. He was walking with a little help from O'mara.

"You did pretty good today," she smiled.

"Yeah, I suppose I did." Rivas replied. "Bastard made me pay for it. I am dying for some lunch though."

"Now now, Doctor Okan is just trying to help," O'mara said.

"That echidna is a masochist and he's a bastard for it." Rivas growled. "I never said he wasn't helping! What sounds good?"

"Are you serious? Doctor Okan said you shouldn't push yourself."

"I've got the hang of walking with these stimulators. I don't want to lose it." Rivas replied. "Let's head down to the promenade, get some real food-good food damnit-expensive stuff, and burn a hole in my credits."

O'mara giggled. "You don't have to do that!"

"Nonsense," Rivas waved the response off. "I know everyone is busy and doesn't have time to deal with me, but you made the time and I appreciate it. Just let me do something to say thanks."

"Ok, ok...but can we freshen up first? You are a little ripe and I'd rather wear something other than this drab get up," she said, motioning to her dark rouge blouse and grey slacks. "I'll replicate you something nice too."

"I could just go to my quarters," Rivas suggested. "I think I can make it. You can do whatever you need to do there. Besides, I haven't been home in a day or two. It'd be nice to go back."

"Alright, if you think you can make it," O'mara reluctantly agreed.

Rivas smiled. "Honestly? I'm not sure I'll make it, but I want to try anyway. In fact, this whole idea may just fizzle. Let's get going before it does."

A turbolift ride and a long trip to nearly the edge of the habitat area and they finally made it. Rivas was looking a bit tired, but he pushed through it. When they entered his quarters, the lights flicked on. It definitely felt as if they had been empty for a while.

O'mara helped him over a table and pulled out a chair for him. "Thanks for bringing me home," Rivas said.

"Don't mention it," O'mara said. "Look, I'll lay out a few things for you and then I'll let you be, ok?"

She heard the familiar whine of the servo's as he got up and approached. "I'm just saying you didn't have to do this is all. I appreciated all you've done for me." He hesitated. "I hate to ask, but...I don't trust these things. Would you mind sticking around until I get settled? I'm very tired and everything hurts like a bastard. I'd hate to be stuck here by myself if I fell or something like that."

"Sure," O'mara said. "I can do that."

Rivas smiled gratefully. "I'll get cleaned up. Just make yourself at home. If you want some music I have a few old holotapes by the entertainment center. Just help yourself."

"Ok," O'mara said, leaving the room so he could disrobe.

She walked around his quarters, noticing a lot of similarities in the signs of interest she could see. She noticed he had a drawing table in one corner and a few very well sketched and inked pictures of people he'd encountered around the station. She smiled. He hadn't struck her as the artistic type.

She strolled to the entertainment center and started browsing the labels on the holotapes he had. He had a lot of similar tastes in music. As she browsed, she noticed a bulkhead with several dings and scratches on it from things being thrown at it. She heard the shower kick on in his room as she picked a tape and inserted it into the player. Music filled the quarters. She sat down on a couch and grabbed one of his sketchbooks that were laying on the table. She didn't see any harm in flipping through it. It was mostly filled with sketches of people and places he'd encountered. There were some landscapes of what she assumed were his home.

She turned through the pages until she found a few of herself. They were very good. She wondered why she had attracted his attention. There seemed to be more sketches of her than of others. He had an uncanny knack for capturing her likeness. There were moments on the bridge, when she was by herself at the Replimat, sulking. She wondered what his fascination was. All of them seemed rather mundane, just slices of life. She kept turning the pages. There were other pictures of her shipmates, a lot of Terri-Lu. That didn't surprise her too much. A few humorous ones he had of Fara and her usual antics. There were a few of Commander Martinez among a random assortment of other things. She got so absorbed in the artwork she didn't hear him shut the water off or enter the room.

"Find anything interesting in there?" Rivas asked flatly. He was wearing shorts without a shirt and was finishing drying off.

O'mara squawked in surprise and dropped the sketch book onto the table.

"Sorry! I didn't mean-"

Rivas held up a paw to silence her. "It's ok. Now two people know my secret."

O'mara blushed. "I'm sorry. I was just curious."

"It's fine, really. What did you think?"

"Your art?" O'mara asked. "It's great! Very well done! I didn't know you could do this."

"Not many do," he admitted, walking over to the table and picking up the book.

"Why'd you pick me of all people to draw?" She asked.

Rivas hesitated. "You looked lonely the first time I saw you and it caught my interest. You aren't upset, are you?"

"No, more surprised you found me interesting." O'mara said, blushing and looking away. Seeing him shirtless was a little distracting.

Rivas smiled at her. "You can be very intriguing...sometimes."

"Are you hungry?" She blurted out, quickly getting up. "I could use a drink or something."

"Yeah, but you don't have to."

"No no no! It's fine. You just rest and get better, ok?" She said, scurrying off to the kitchenette and rifling through his supplies.

"Are you ok?"

"Yeah! I'm fine, fine, everything's fine," she said as a crash erupted from the kitchen. She had knocked over a few cooking utensils. "S-s-sorry about that!"

"I can get up and help," Rivas chuckled from the couch.

Get yourself together girl! O'mara thought to herself.

She was flattered that Rivas actually thought of her beyond all her various mistakes and flaws she'd demonstrated over the last several months. She had been certain those things irritated him. Plus, seeing this relaxed side of him made him slightly appealing to her.

"What do you want? Er...what do you even have in here?" She wondered, looking in the cooler.

Rivas grimaced. "Not a lot. I usually replicate food."

"Ugh! Seriously?" O'mara said, rattling around a few beer bottles and taking out boxes in the fridge. "This is terrible," she laughed. "What do you want?"

"As much as I did like your soup," Rivas said, "I'd like something with actual meat in it."

"What about seafood?" O'mara suggested, giving up on the fruitless search for food in the cooler.

"I could go for that."

"Ok. You stay here. I'll run to the market on the Promenade and be right back."

"You could just replicate it! You know that, right?" Rivas chuckled.

"Nope! I got something in mind. Just stay here, I'll be back," O'mara said as she walked to the door.

"Commander?" Harry said as he answered his door, seeing Terri Lu standing there, waiting. "What are you doing here? It's kinda late."

"I just want to go over a few things before we get underway with our next mission," Terri said. "Do you mind?"

"Sure, of course not," Harry said, inviting her inside. "I just got up. You mind if I get some coffee first?"

"No, not at all," Terri said, stepping inside.

"Have a seat." Harry motioned to a workstation in his quarters that had a desk with two chairs. "I'll have to admit I'm not used to this." He admitted, getting some coffee.

"I'd rather be ready than have to improvise, sir," Terri replied, setting her datapad on his desk and taking a seat.

Harry laughed. "Wouldn't we all like that?" He said, returning with a cup of coffee and sitting across from her at his desk. "So, are you excited about taking this job?"

"I am a little," she smiled. "I didn't realize how much Rivas did till I actually looked at it."

"Making sure the ship is in order is a bit more daunting than just the computer systems," Harry smiled. "I think you can handle it. So, what did you want to go over?"

"Well, I was trying to go over some of the system's access and controls and there's some sort of lockout on my authorization." Terri grumbled. "It won't allow me to fix it either."

"I'll take care of it," Harry said. "When you activated your access when you took command, it confused the computer when I came back to the ship. I just have to get clearance from fleet HQ. It's just a matter of a simple message and they'll get back to us with the code in a day. I'll try to get it expedited"

"Oh good," Terri sighed, relieved. "I thought I'd done something wrong!"

"I can remove the lockout in a pinch and suspend it for 48 hours if needed," Harry smiled. "It's nothing to be concerned about."

"Ok, with that part covered, what else should I expect?" Terri asked.

"Well, you are my Liason to the crew. If they have any problems or concerns, you address those to me." Harry said. "It's pretty much like being Captain, except you don't have to make too many of the big decisions. That and make sure if there is anything wrong with my ship you stay on top of it. In fact," Harry said, taking a sip, "I want to know what's taking so long getting it back up and running. I think it would be good for you to make sure Ms. Phoenix's efforts and time are being properly used. Do you think you can handle that?"

"Of course," Terri said. "That doesn't sound too hard."

"I've got a meeting in ops in a few minutes. If you'd like, you can tag along. I need to update Captain Stiles on what has been done already.

"Good morning, Commander," Captain Stiles said as Harry entered ops with Terri lu.

"Morning, sir."

"Any update on when the Raptor's repairs will be done?".

"Not yet," Harry reported. "I tried to get a hold of Fara, but she's not answering my coms. She must be busy."

"Last I saw this morning, there was some activity, but not much was going on." Stiles said. "The Dyander is pulling in for shore leave. It can cover for you if Ms. Phoenix needs more time." He said, suddenly trailing off. Fara, still in an environmental suit-sans helmet-followed by Land, came into the room. She was carrying what looked like two core samples in her hands and murder was obviously on her mind.

Before Stiles or Harry could ask a question, she slammed both hunks of metal down hard on the operations, table causing it to flicker.

"I want to know why we are getting substandard parts and I want to know now!" Fara snarled at Stiles.

"What are you talking about?" Stiles asked, confused.

"Those are samples from Warp Coils 5 and 6 that we just replaced less than six months ago and they are practically burnt out." Fara snapped. "Now who on this station is in charge of requisitioning our parts? I. Will. Butcher. Them!"

Harry picked up one of the samples and looked at it. He was pretty sure the inner part of the coil wasn't supposed to be white and chalky.

"I am," Stiles snapped grimly back at the vixen. "Now you had better calm down before I put you in the brig!"

"Easy Fara," Land admonished quietly behind her.

Fara took a deep breath and exhaled through her teeth. "Yes, sir," she growled.

"Now can one of you explain what's going on?"

Fara was still red under her fur, so Land figured it was a good time to step forward.

"Well, I was helping the Chief this morning, doing a coil inspection. Nothing seemed wrong at first when we scanned them, but I remembered an old trick our Chief Engineer on the Neosho showed me. He said that sometimes you can't trust scanners when it comes to coils, so we did the hammer test, tried and true."

Stiles raised an eyebrow. "Hammer test?"

Harry smiled remembering when he too had seen it demonstrated on their old ship. "When a coil is depowered and cool, if you hit it with a sledge and it hums, it's good. If it pings, it's probably decayed."

"I've never heard of such a thing," Stiles said.

"The proof is in the samples, sir," Land pressed on. "Those are bad coils."

Stiles picked up one of the samples and turned it over in his hands. He knew enough to know that the core of a coil shouldn't leave powder on his hands. "So, what do we do about it then? We can't have the Raptor laid up indefinitely."

"I suggest we go to the manufacturer and pay them a visit," Fara said, "and find out why they are sending us faulty coils! Then if we have to change suppliers."

"Aren't they done through your organization?" Stiles asked Fara.

"Arspace Technologies doesn't build fleet ship sized coils. We have to have ours specially made for the Raptor, due to the way they are mounted." She sighed.

"Then we're going on a little trip," Harry said. "Where are we going?

"Ustafar Prime," Land replied. "It's on the maker's mark. It's about 3 days journey from here at warp 7, give or take a few hours." Land said. "Well, on a starship at least."

Harry whistled. That was going to be a hell of a long shuttle trip.

"Commander," Terri spoke up. "There might be another option."

Fara's eyes bulged and she glared at Terri in what could have been interpreted as "Keep your mouth shut!"

"He was going to find out eventually Fara! Stop giving me the death stare," Terri shot back.

"What are you talking about Ms. Lu?" Stiles asked.

"Fara still has the concept shuttle that she designed while we were constructing the Raptor. I'm sure she has it squirrelled away somewhere on the station." Terri stated.

"I'm listening. What makes it so special?" Harry asked.

"It can maintain warp 7 for prolonged periods of time," Fara relented. "Anything the Raptor can do, it does, but smaller. Once I was done with it, I quietly hid it away in one of the unused hanger spaces. I figured I'd play around with it from time to time if I got bored."

"Well, for once, I'm not that upset." Harry sighed. "So, it's just been sitting in a hanger all this time?"

"Yeah. I do check on it when I have time, but it should still be space worthy." Fara said. "Most recent thing I did to it was give it the name Talon, after you named the Raptor."

"Cute," Harry smirked.

Stiles chuckled. "I wondered what you did with that thing after the demonstration."

"Well, I didn't want to scrap it," Fara shrugged. "No one really inquired about it either, so I just put it away for a rainy day."

"Well, then I suggest you two get changed and packed. The three of us are heading there, pronto." Harry said. "Be at the shuttle bay and have the Talon ready to go in one hour."

"Yes sir," they both said, nodding.

"Dismissed," Harry said and the two foxes headed back into the lift.

"I'll have the Dyander take the Raptor's place," Stiles said. "They won't be happy about it, but their Captain owes me a favor."

"Good, because until we get to the bottom of this, as far as I am concerned, the Raptor is grounded." Harry grumbled. "Looks like I have a trip to pack for."

"Godspeed, Commander," Stiles said. "We'll keep a light on for you."

Terri followed Harry as he left ops. "Mrs. Lu, I'm going to leave you in charge of making sure that our engineering team gets those coils out and ready for replacement. Do you think you can handle that?"

"Yes, sir," Terri replied. "I have a question."

"Yes?"
"Since when does Ensign Land work in engineering?" Terri asked Harry as he looked over the datapad Fara left.

"Since this morning. Land asked to broaden his horizons a little and Fara had a position open. He qualified for it. I put him there." Harry said nonchalantly.

"Oh," Terri said, looking a bit bemused. "Well...good for him."

"Is there a problem with that?" Harry asked.

"No! I'm just...a little shocked. That's all...no problems," Terri said. "Just curious."

O'mara came back with a bag of various groceries from the markets in the Promenade.

"Good grief!Ddid you bring enough?" Rivas chuckled. "I thought we were just having one meal?"

"Well, you don't have anything here," O'mara said, setting the bags on the table. "And getting some fresh food could help you heal up a lot better than the nothing you have in that cooler."

He stood up and the whirring sounds of the prosthesis filled the cabin as he came over.

"What all did you get?"

"I'm sorry it took so long I tried to get things that fit your diet and the computer wasn't being very helpful in the matter."

"It's ok. So, what did you come up with?" Rivas asked.

"All kinds of stuff," O'mara grinned, rushing back and forth and filing the cooler. "Just sit down! You don't need to be up."

"Ok ok," he said, hobbling over to the bar counter on the kitchenette and sitting on a stool. "That make you happy?"

O'mara started to pull out utensils and prepare the meal.

"You really are going above and beyond, you know?" Rivas sighed. "I can take care of myself."
"So you say," O'mara snickered. "I don't believe any part of that statement."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

O'mara stopped cutting the onion she was working on. "I know you are trying to be tough about this, but I don't have to be a counselor to see what's going on."

"What would that be?"

"If I weren't here, well, I don't think being alone would be the best thing for you." She said levelly. "Rivas, we have been on the same ship for a little over a year now. I never see you with any of the other crew outside of work. Do you even have any friends?"

"I have friends," Rivas grumbled, "just...not here."

"And who's to blame for that?"

Rivas sat in silence, meeting her gaze.

"That's what I thought," she said, not blinking and going back to her cutting. "If I'm not here all you are going to do is stew, probably drink, probably put more dents in your wall, or worse."

Rivas drew in a breath and let it out, but his hackles were still raised. She had touched a nerve, but she just kept cutting like it didn't bother her. With a sigh, Rivas folded his arms on the counter.

"Imagine if your little study was ready to go, you were all ready to give your report, and someone just copied the files and presented it as their own. That's how I've felt since Harry Martinez showed up." He knocked his fist against the counter. "All that work...all that time...and I was promised that ship would be mine. The next thing I know, there's some new guy waltzing around and he's taking my job! I'm sorry...but that doesn't put me in the best of moods!"

"I'm sorry," O'mara said. "I didn't know…."

"No, I suppose you didn't," he huffed. "Good work, by the way. Took a lot of guts to prod me like that."

"I didn't always used to be so s-s-" She closed her eyes and got control of herself. "Scared all the time."

The sounds of O'mara working occupied the kitchen for a few moments. Rivas sat, drumming his fingers on the counter. O'mara had just heard some of his innermost thoughts. Now there was something else rattling around his mind.

"I'm debating transferring," he admitted. "I just feel like I have no future here unless Harry buys it. As great as that would be for me though, I've grown to like him...in a grudging sort of way. He's the Captain that a ship like the Raptor needs, one hell of an officer. We need more like him in the Fleet. Just...keep that between us...ok?"

"Sure," O'mara said with a little frown.

"What're you grumping for?"

"I dunno...if you left, I think I'd miss you is all," O'mara said.

Rivas chuckled. "You? You'd miss me?"

"I...would."

"I think you would of all people would be relieved I was leaving?" Rivas said, a bit curious at her reaction.

"You can be a bit firm, but you are brave, cool under pressure, strong...you don't send me on horrible away missions like Harry does." She smirked, "and you're cute, for not having feathers at any rate."

She realized she had let that slip, but it was too late now.

"Huh...now that last part is news," Rivas said, a bit taken aback.

"Look, sorry...I shouldn't have said anything. I'm just being stupid," she said, dumping the cut onion into the skillet.

"You meant that...didn't you?"

"I said f-f-forget about it," O'mara stammered a bit.

"It's out there now," he chuckled. "I can't unhear it."

O'mara ran her feathered hands together. "Ok, fine! I find you attractive! It's weird-"

"It happens…and it's mutual," Rivas said.

O'mara smiled at him. "Thanks. Can I have one of those beers? It's hot in here."

Rivas nodded. "Help yourself."

"So this is it?" Harry asked, looking at the sleek black shuttle with orange trim.

"Yep," Fara said, walking around to the back and activating the gangway.

Harry walked around it and noticed the micro torpedo launchers, the single set of pulse phasers mounted above the cockpit. "How long did it take to whip this up?"

"Oh, a month or two, I don't exactly remember," Fara replied, coming around to meet him and leaning against the ship. "Knackt and myself did most of the work on it."

"Can it cloak?"

Fara nodded. "If need be. Come inside and check it out."

"I will in a moment. I just want to give it a good look," Harry said.

"Suit yourself," Fara said as she stepped inside and ran her fingers over a console, glaring at the amount of dust it picked up. "Holy cow! I need to take this bird out more," Fara scowled, running her finger through the dust.

Land made his way forward to the sunken compartment containing flight controls. He looked over the console and started to power it up.

"Agreed," he said, starting the pre-flight check and grabbed a rag to wipe off the console as he powered up the shuttle. "I haven't even got a chance to fly it yet."'

"It shouldn't be too different from what you are used to." Fara said, doing her own preflight checks on the engines. "Although, this thing is built out of good parts instead of the crap we got for the Raptor."

Land chuckled. "Hopefully this will put a stop to it."

"Hoping is about all we got at this point." Fara groused. "By the way, thanks for your help in all this."

"Just doing my duty," Land replied.

"Well, it means a lot to me."

"Don't mention it," Land shrugged. "Just think of it next time I have to pull some hard maneuvers with the Raptor?"

"Don't push your luck flyboy," Fara chuckled as the door to the flyer opened and Harry came in with his shoulder pack.

"I heard laughter. Is it possible you two are getting along for once?" He mused, setting his pack near the operations station.

"You're hearing things," Fara smirked. "Engines are good to go."

Harry went over to the replicator and ordered some coffee. "Mr. Land, do you have a course plotted?"

"I will, just gotta finish pre-flight checks. I don't want any surprises before this bird takes off." Land adjusted his seat real quick and continued running diagnostics before they took off. The Talon's controls were definitely more manually supplemented by standard Confederation computer controls and a flight yoke. It was almost like being in a fighter again.

"What kind of amenities does this thing have?"

"4 bunks, toilet, sonic shower, autodoc and a multi-use room that can be an office, lab, whatever," Fara said. "Everything is five by five. We can leave when you are ready, Harry," Fara said, sliding into the seat of the operations station.

Harry tapped his combadge. "Station control, this is Commander Martinez in Hanger 18-A. We are ready to depart."

The officer on duty acknowledged and with a dull thud, the klaxon signaled the bay decompressing and the bay doors began to open after the forcefield appeared in front of them.

"You have the sample?" Harry asked.

Fara unzipped her bag and pulled out the core sample of the core.

"Good. I'd hate to travel out that far and have left it here," Harry said.

"Skipper, we are ready to get under way," Land said, grasping the controls and feeling the play in the yoke and pedals. This was definitely going to be an interesting flight. "Releasing mag clamps, activating thrusters."

With a thump, the Talon floated free of the deck and gently eased out of the hanger bay and headed for the main door.

"Shuttle Talon to flight control, we are ready to depart." Harry said, tapping a communications button on his console.

"Acknowledged. Opening bay doors. Once clear, proceed on a heading of 023. Have a safe journey Talon."

"Acknowledged," Harry said. "Mr. Land, once we're clear, best possible speed please."

"Planning on it," Land said, checking his instruments and priming the warp engines as they passed through the bay doors. "Ok, everything's good...here goes nothing."

He engaged the warp engines.

The Talon blasted off into warp space towards Ustafar Prime.

To Be Continued…