Part of USS Century: The Side Stories

A Tale of Daring Do…

USS Century
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Sitting in a booth near the rear of the Epoch Lounge, a group of young security officers crowded around a table headed by their department head and the Century’s Captain, who was himself a former security officer. Lieutenant Khar had floated the idea to his commander that a get together to share his experiences coming up through the ranks would do wonders for the young men and women who’d only just started down the path. After a great deal of deliberation on the part of Capt. Gar’rath, the Gorn finally relented and accepted the invitation, which culminated in the deepest part of the space being usurped by men and women wearing yellow uniforms huddled around a booth listening to stories of yesteryear.

Lt. Khar had just finished a rather rousing tale from one of his first missions when the Klingon turned to his Captain, “I’m sure there have been many times you’ve found yourself in similar situations.” The grin on his face spoke of his confidence in his assessment, though the Gorn himself seemed less than willing to simply go along with flow of conversation. He ran a knuckle under his maw in a contemplative manner before shaking his head.

“Very few missions aboard the Hades were so tumultuous… at least from my perspective,” Gar’rath said as he ran through the missions he could still vividly recall in his mind’s eye, “For being on a ship built with combat in mind, we did very little of it in my time there. Perhaps we were simply blessed with an overabundance of good luck.”

“Come now, Captain, there has to be at least one story you can tell about some hard fought victory on the field of battle,” Khar said loudly.

Again the knuckle found its way under the Captain’s maw as his memory stretched itself backward. In the depths of his thoughts, he finally found a rather old memory he’d not thought about in a long time… not since he lived the occasion to be precise. “There might be one story I can tell…”

 


 

Ensign Gar’rath clutched the phaser he’d carried with him from the ship in his clawed hand, his breathing ragged after having sprinted into a tunnel system after his team had been ambushed. The Hades had been called to deal with raiders on a colony near the recently destabilized Neutral Zone, and he and a dozen other security personnel had been dispatched to investigate at various sites around the area. When they’d found the raiders, a group of Romulans who most likely had taken up arms after the Empire had collapsed after the destruction of Romulus a few years earlier, they had also found a group of would-be vigilantes that had decided that everyone they’d come upon were the enemy. The Lieutenant JG that had been leading the team had tried to reason with them, only to get a disruptor bolt through the chest for his trouble. The rest of his team had scattered to avoid the hail of fire that commenced immediately after, leading the Gorn to the situation he found himself in.

The tunnels looked to have been carved into the landscape by exploitation mining equipment, making them tenuous at best and outright deadly in the worst case scenario. One misplaced round of fire from any side of the fight could bring their surroundings down around them. Having a moment to reflect on his choice, Gar’rath found himself overwhelmed with a sharp sense of regret, his grip on the hilt of his phaser tightening enough to make an audible creaking sound emit from it.

After managing to steady his breathing, the young Ensign pushed himself away from the tunnel wall that had been so gracious as to hold him upright and began stalking his way further inside, the hope being that he would find one of his fellow officers and be able to regroup with his team. The confusion that had brought him into the predicament he was now facing hadn’t afforded him any great look at where anyone else had managed to take refuge, nor was he entirely certain that anyone else had managed to escape the hail of fire, friendly or otherwise.  His shoulders slumped a little as he thought about such an eventuality, that he might actually be the only one left alive to deal with the situation.

As soon as that thought crossed his mind, his hand instinctively went to the combadge pinned to his chest. The flat buzzing noise that issued forth from the device made the Gorn’s eyes narrow, his attempts to raise anyone on the device were being interrupted in some fashion either artificially or naturally. This made him all the more agitated, knowing that he was cut off until he could actually lay eyes on someone from his team. His usually calm demeanor was starting to crack under the strain of his situation, his maw starting to flex in response to his unease.

Further inside the tunnel, he heard sounds like boot falls scuffing against the slightly damp ground. Gar’rath lowered his center of gravity a little, as if preparing for a brawl, and made his way as quietly as his environment would allow. He reached an intersection of two tunnels before finding the source of the noise, and the hand that held his phaser whipped up just as the Romulan he’d discovered caught sight of him. Both of them had their weapons drawn, both of them staring one another down in an effort to intimidate the other. When the Romulan man finally took stock of what was on the other end of the stand-off, he wavered just a bit more and broke the silence.

“Perhaps…” he muttered in a low tone, “we could… call a truce for the moment…”

Gar’rath’s throat emitted a guttural noise in audible response to his disdain for the suggestion, “Why would I be inclined to accept?”

The Romulan turned toward the tunnel he’d just come down in a manner that seemed to indicate he’d heard something. His next move defied everything Gar’rath had come to expect from a Romulan. The man lowered his weapon rushed over toward the Gorn, taking up a position just inside the shelter of the wall, motioning for him to mimic his behavior. Momentarily stunned, it took him a full minute to process what he was seeing, and by the time he’d come to terms with it, he’d just barely managed to duck behind out of view as three of the vigilante types ran by them, their attention focused on the tunnel ahead of them. After their footfalls faded away, the Romulan lowered the weapon he’d had pointed at the part of the tunnel they’d hurried into, slumping over in exhaustion.

“Those men aren’t going to discriminate,” the Romulan finally said after taking a moment for himself, “The choice between helping you to survive and being shot in the back by those bastards wasn’t a hard one to make.”

“You could just as easily do the same to me now that the danger has passed,” Gar’rath growled in a low voice.

“There are some instances where that might be true,” the man said with a small shrug of his shoulders, “This isn’t one of them. My chances of making it out of here alive are better if I don’t try to kill you. Besides…” The Romulan gave the Gorn standing next to him an almost exaggerated look up and down, “I’m not entirely sure you wouldn’t survive the first hit and tear me apart out of anger…”

The Ensign mulled the comment over a while before he finally nodded, accepting the proposal of a temporary truce. When he said as much aloud, the Romulan nodded and motioned for Gar’rath to follow, not wasting any time or effort to introduce himself or anything of that nature. His sole focus was on self-preservation, and while not completely convinced that trusting him was the best thing he could do, the Gorn couldn’t argue that getting out of the situation alive was much more important than pleasantries.

What followed from there seemed to blur together, as their fight for survival seemed to stretch on forever within the darkness of the tunnels. The passage of time felt so convoluted that the Gorn stopped trying to mark it, simply letting it slip by him as he simply lived in the moments that followed with the goal of coming out the other end alive being the only real thoughts in his head. The pair had several encounters with the vigilantes, all of them ending in a fight of one flavor or another, the details of them passing through Gar’rath’s recollection in a haze of disjointed images and emotions. 

When the two of them finally found others, it was clear that their little truce hadn’t been the only one to be formed in those musty tunnels. There had been casualties on both sides, and those that had managed to survive the ordeal parted ways without so much as a word of parting. Their truce had lasted exactly as long as it had needed to, and the very next day, the Hades had the unfortunate duty to hunt them down and destroy their ship. But for a moment, they’d been able to put aside their difference in the name of mutual survival.

 


 

“…I can’t even be sure that the ship was were forced to destroy even had the men we’d helped aboard. They may still be out there somewhere. Perhaps they stayed behind to hunt down the men that had ambushed us, or maybe they left the raider lifestyle altogether after that ordeal. Having never needed to ask for a name, it makes it impossible to know for sure. Nonetheless, for a moment, my enemy had become my friend and I managed to make it back home alive. The lesson in that, I suppose, is that you never know what a mission might hold in store for you and you may end up needing to make tough decisions to see yourself through to the other side,” Gar’rath said, wrapping up his somewhat lengthy narration.

When his voice finally fell silent, the men and women sitting around him seemed to react as if they’d been suddenly released from a trance. A buzz of conversation erupted, everyone gathered starting to comment on the piece of his retelling that captivated them the most. Lt. Khar sank back in his seat with a stern look of contemplation on his face.

“Something wrong, Lieutenant?” the Captain asked, turning to regard his Security Chief.

“I never would have thought a Romulan could act with such honor…” the Klingon muttered in disbelief.

“It wasn’t honor,” the Gorn said with something of a chuckle behind his voice, “It was self-preservation. If they had been honorable, they wouldn’t have turned to raiding colonies for things they could have worked for honestly to obtain in the first place. We simply found ourselves in a situation that demanded cooperation without treachery. I’m certain that had the circumstances allowed for it, I’d not have made it back to the Hades from that mission.”

“Yes… perhaps you are right, Captain…”