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Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Fri May 10, 2019 3:34 pm
by Steve
Other projects have kept me busy, and will for the forseeable future. To hold you over until then, here is Episode 3-19.


Personal Log of Julia Andreys, Captain. 28 October 2643 AST.

Leo's finally released me from the medbay, after four days of observation. I still have to check in with him daily but at least I'm able to live in my quarters again.

Well, quarters anyway. My quarters are no longer mine. I've been removed from command of the
Aurora. Because of… what was done to me. Command is mandating two months of medical leave. And I can't return to duty until I've passed physical and psychiatric evaluations to the satisfaction of Defense Command.

I understand that it's something they have to do. They have to make sure I'm still capable of command after going through that. But I… I hate it anyway. I want my ship back. I want to get my life back to normal… well, as much as this life's been normal anyway. Instead I have to go through this… process, and getting treated like a piece of china that's going to break if you look at it the wrong way.

In a way, it's like Fassbinder is still torturing me. Still hurting me. Even though he's not. <sigh> Alright, I need to finish packing. No more of this for now.

Julia picked up the photograph of her with her parents - and Robert, his sister Susannah, and Angel and Cat Delgado - that was taken after her high school basketball team won the state championship in their division. Seeing her parents always provoked a distant, sharp pain in her heart. If she'd known at that time they only had four years of life left… well, she'd have made different decisions. Robert undoubtedly felt the same way about his parents and sister, taken before their time.

It also reminded her of that frantic night. The tight game, the tension in the air as it went down to the wire, the jubilation when Marcy Lewis hit that three pointer with a minute left and they took the lead for good, and the satisfying swishing of the free throws Julia sunk at the thirty second mark to put the game away. At the time it seemed to be her greatest accomplishment. The idea that she'd end up captaining a spaceship that could jump across universes… that was insanity to the 17 year old Julia in the picture.

She never expected she would get tortured by Nazis either, Julia mused as she set the picture in the bin. She affixed the lid to the plastic container.

"I know the sentiment," said a lilting voice. From the other side of the room, Meridina looked up from the container she was gently laying Julia's trophies in. Meridina was in uniform, as Julia was, and now shared Julia's number of rank strips as well. For the time being, the Gersallian woman - and even after four years Julia was still sometimes put off by the thought she was alien - was the serving Captain of Julia's ship. Since Julia picked her to be the First Officer, it lacked the sting that someone else holding the post might have had.

"Your life hasn't taken the direction you expected either," Julia said, acknowledging the point. "Without us, you'd still be in the Order of Swenya. A field swev… sweev…. Knight."

"Yes. I had no inclinations to this kind of life," Meridina said. "Only to uphold the Code of Swenya. But our destinies are intertwined, and so I am here, a swevyra'se no longer."

"Do you miss it?"

Julia's question prompted a thoughtful look from Meridina. "Sometimes," she confessed. "When I am compelled to deal with the minutiae of command."

Julia smiled at that. "You're telling me the Order doesn't have paperwork?"

"Not nearly the same." Meridina matched the smile. "And do you miss the simpler life you might have had? Playing these sports?"

The answer was immediate. "No. Not at all." Julia picked up another picture, this one from high school graduation. Angel was in it as well, as was freckle-faced, red-haired Marcy Lewis and dark-haired, blue-eyed Jessica Rockledge, another member of the team. She glanced it over for a moment before setting it in her duffel bag, the last available container for her things. "I mean, the games could be exciting. And I had a lot of responsibilities as captain of the team. But I wanted more. I had faith in my ability to be more. Being out here… it's more than I ever dreamed of, and I'd never give it up."

"That answer is true to who you are, yes," Meridina said. "I can sense that. Hopefully it will not be long…"

"I won't be back until the end of the year," Julia said. She gave her quarters, now empty of her personal items, a look before asking, "So, when are you moving in?"

"I am not going to yet," replied Meridina. "Until Command confirms whether or not I will be held on as Captain of the Aurora."

Julia nodded stiffly at that. The thought stung. Even freed from Fassbinder, he's still ruining my life.

There was a little concern in Meridina's voice when she asked, "I am going to Deck 6 to visit Robert on another matter. Would you like me to escort you to your new quarters?"

Julia's first impulse was to say no, but she reconsidered. There were a few boxes to carry, after all. "Lead the way, Meridina," Julia said.

After aiding Julia to her new quarters, Meridina moved on toward Robert's. She met Gina at the door carrying Mastrash Ledosh's protective case. Robert answered the door wearing civilian clothing: a blue T-shirt with the faded insignia of what Meridina knew to be his former "high school" along with a pair of loose blue trousers of Gersallian make. He welcomed them in and to the middle of his living area, where he took a seat while they took the couch. Gina laid the case on the table between them and removed the two books within.

"So this is what Ledosh was working on," Robert said, picking up the newer-looking of the two books. He opened it and read the neat printed High Gersallian text within. "This looks like a book on language analysis," he noted.

"Yes, by a scholar from several centuries ago, Gartanam," noted Meridina. "He studied the dialects of Swenya's time."

Robert checked the other book. It was considerably older and more worn, but the cover still bore fine calligraphy. He read the title. "'The Life of Reshan.'"

"The only existing copy," Gina added. "The volume dates back to Swenya's time as well. It was one of a few books to survive the burning of the Order Library during Kohbal's uprising. Some time afterward, the Order Council placed it on a limited access list. Only a Mastrash of the Council was permitted to even touch it."

"Well, that's not ominous," Robert mused openly. "So Gartanam's book helps you read this one?"

"More than that," said Meridina. "Mastrash Ledosh noticed, and we have confirmed, that there are inaccuracies in the text. Words or lettering that have no place in contemporary language of the time, according to Gartanam's research."

"It appears to be intentional." Gina reached into the case and brought out a pile of notes, all in Gersallian. "Mastrash Ledosh believed they were a code of sorts."

"As in, the out of place letters and whole words are actually hidden text?"


Robert found that interesting. He looked over the notes. He knew enough Gersallian to understand what was written. "'The Circle'," he read aloud, looking over one of the notes. "Didn't that sympathetic Cylon say something to you and Talara about that?"

"She did," Gina said. "We don't know what it means, though."

"There's more to decode, I'm guessing?"

"Yes." Gina nodded. "Mastrash Ledosh's notes are allowing me to reconstruct what he learned. I know it was a weight on his soul."

"I'll give what help I can. Now…"

There was a tone from Meridina's omnitool, and a holographic blue light appeared over the back of her left hand. She tapped at it. "Meridina here," she said.

"We're only ten minutes out from our destination," said Nick Locarno, currently minding the bridge.

"Thank you, Commander," Meridina answered. "I will be coming up shortly."

When Meridina arrived on the bridge with Robert beside her, now in his intelligence branch silver-trimmed uniform with the aiguillette that pretended he was a mere staff officer, she found the rest of the command crew were already assembled and at their posts. Even Scotty and Leo, who normally remained in Main Engineering and the medbay, were present. While Ensign Rawlins, a young African-American officer from New Orleans in Universe H1E1, manned the helm Nick Locarno was seated in the First Officer's seat to the right of the command chair, while Lieutenant Tra'dur of the Dilgar was minding her post of Operations, Jarod's usual place.

Scotty and Leo were not the only visitors to the bridge. The allies the Aurora crew made in the rescue of Julia were around as well. Princess Ursa of the Fire Nation was seated comfortably in an anti-grav chair provided by medbay. That she was fit enough to be present was a good indicator from her recovery from the critical wounds she'd suffered in the rescue. Ursa's daughter Miko, rescued along with Julia, was at the chair's handles. The young woman showed keen interest in the Aurora bridge and those upon it. Both she and her mother wore a matching set of something like Japanese kimonos, colored deep red with gold trim, with Ursa's hair held at top of her head by a metal band marked with a golden fire symbol. Beside them, Yeshe Beifong was standing wearing a set of yellow and orange robes that left her right arm bare, revealing thin, corded muscle on the limb.

The three looked like ordinary Human beings, or to Meridina's eyes, Gersallians. Only she and Robert felt the difference within them. The peculiar energy each enjoyed, particularly Miko, that made them and their people such a unique part of the Multiverse. While there were many in all universes who could feel their connection to the Flow of Life, and use that connection to achieve all manner of things, Miko, Ursa, and Yeshe had abilities that were not quite the same, but just as extraordinary. They were known to the people of their world as "Benders": Human beings with the ability to manipulate basic elements with their wills. Yeshe could manipulate air, Ursa could generate and manipulate fire, and Miko could do both, for she was the Avatar, a being born and reborn to each nation of her world and the ability to "bend" all four of the Elements.

Truly the Multiverse is a magnificent place, with many wonders to find, Meridina considered. She turned her attention to more immediate matters, however. "ETA, Mister Locarno?" she asked.

"We're dropping out of warp in thirty seconds," he replied cheerfully from his chair. "You made it right on time."

"I wonder what the others will think," thought Miko aloud. "About this ship, and your people. We never imagined we would find anything like your Alliance in the stars."

"I only wish we had met your Alliance before we met your enemies," Ursa added solemnly.

"As do we," Meridina replied.

Nothing more was said before Rawlins announced they were dropping out of warp. The warp engines of the Aurora gently quieted and the Aurora was reduced to sublight velocity. Ahead of them a small garden world hung in the void, a distant moon beyond it and a bright yellow star similar to Sol shining in the distance. A series of space stations hung in orbit, two over the poles and three closer to the equator. The amount of space traffic was not quite the level of the most advanced Earths or of major worlds of the Multiverse such as Thessia, Minbar, or Doreia, but every indication was that this was a civilization advanced enough that spaceflight was a part of everyday life.

Tears were shining in Miko's eyes at the sight. "Home," said the young Avatar. "We're finally home."

Undiscovered Frontier
"Finding Peace"

For a short time there was quiet on the Aurora bridge as they approached the homeworld of Miko and the others. Most of those present were simply taking in the lines of the massive continent on the screen.

The first sound was a restrained little squeal of excitement from the port side of the bridge. Everyone turned to see Cat busily examining her screens. "These scans are incredible!" she said. "The stability, the wavelengths in the Groenitz-Hallen bands… this is so incredible!"

"Commander?" Meridina asked, inquiring with her tone.

"I'm reading three distinct energy patterns on the planet," Cat said. "Consistent with rifts in the basic fabric of space-time. But they're all fully stable! I've never even heard of anything like this! It's… it's not even like the Bajoran Wormhole! It's entirely new!"

"You must be referring to the Spirit Portals," Miko said. "They provide our link to the Spirit World."

Meridina considered what Miko said while her own senses felt keenly the peculiar diversion in the Flow of Life. It was not such a complete diversion as to leave her incapable of using any of her talents, but it was more significant here than any other world she'd seen in universe N1C4.

These portals, they seem to have a link to the Flow of Life in some way. As do the powers of the people here. There is much we have to learn, things about the Flow of Life we may never have imagined.

"Captain." Tra'dur spoke English with the same accent her mother used, with tones that Meridina knew to be associated with the Indian subcontinent of the Human homeworld. "We are receiving a hail from the surface."

"Put them on," Meridina answered.

The holo-viewscreen flashed to show a round table. Over three of the chairs, a flatscreen display showed the features of assorted people. Given the appearances, one was clearly related to Ursa and Miko. Two more of the chairs were occupied, one by a woman in a flowing crimson dress and blue-toned business jacket, the other by a man in a brown jacket and beige dress shirt. His lapels had an insignia, a circle with a square cut out of the middle of it.

Meridina spoke first. "This is Captain Meridina, current commander of the Starship Aurora of the United Alliance of Systems."

The brown-jacketed man nodded. "I am Sun Lan, Premier of the Earth Union and current Chairman of the Five Nations' Council. The Council and I speak for the Compact and welcome you and your Alliance to our Homeworld."

"Thank you for the welcome, Chairman," Meridina replied.

"We, and the peoples of the Five Nations, thank your people for your critical role in rescuing the Avatar. We are prepared to open full diplomatic relations with the Alliance of Systems."

"And we have come with a diplomatic team to do the same," said Meridina. "We will beam down shortly to meet with you."

"'Beam down'... ah, your teleport technology. Yes. Please, we await you in Council Tower, and look forward to opening discussions."

"We will be down shortly," answered Meridina.

The Aurora transporters created a spectacle for the assembly waiting for Meridina and the others. She, Miko, and an Alliance diplomatic first contact team led by a blue-skinned, purple-spotted and -haired Dorei woman, Yuria Tashke, materialized in bursts of white light in the South Garden of the Council Tower. Sun Lan was waiting for them with the woman in the red dress and blue jacket. While Sun Lan looked East Asian, she had a darker skin tone and looked more like someone from the Indian subcontinent. Armored figures stood with both, half of them women with their faces painted white.

Also present were news crews, a mix of camera-bearers, reporters for televised news service, and journalists. Meridina noticed the surprise and shock rippling through them. While she looked Human, Secretary Tashke was visibly non-Human, as was her chief of staff, another Dorei of light teal skin and dark purple spotting. One of the cultural analysts was a blue-feathered, gray-skinned Alakin.

Sun Lan was presumably better prepared for meeting alien life. "Avatar Miko. Captain Meridina and honored guests. Welcome to Republic City."

"Thank you, Premier. This is my superior, Yuria Tashke, of the Dorei species. She is one of our diplomats, a specialist in the field of first contact with new civilizations."

"Premier, a pleasure," Yuria said. "I come representing the peoples and species of the United Alliance of Systems, and our President, Henry Morgan."

A Human woman of East Asian background stepped up beside her, looking rather more normal for their hosts. "I am Council Representative Seong Yeo-reum, of the Council Committee on Foreign Relations. I also thank you for the welcome."

Sun Lan nodded again before indicating the woman beside him. "This is Priyanka Dravad, President of the United Republic and Vice Chairwoman of the Council."

"Welcome to Republic City," the woman said, nodding in turn.

As it turned out, the handshake was part of the culture here as well, and so all shook hands, the Dorei keeping their gloves on for the ritual due to their natural touch-based empathic abilities. All the while the cameras kept recording. Meridina sensed the anxiety and disbelief in the assembled, with an undercurrent of excitement that in some cases turned to a sort of giddiness. This was history in the making, something that was to forever transform this world and those who lived upon it.

After everything was complete they entered the Tower. A pair of lifts were waiting to take them up. Meridina ended up in a lift with President Dravad, Miko, and Under-Secretary Tashke. The lifts were windowed and, as they lifted above the structure of the bottom two floors, proved to be on the exterior of the Tower itself, giving an unrivaled view of the city.

"Yue Bay is beautiful," said Miko.

Meridina could not disagree. The waters bordering the city were pristine, a rich crystal blue. In the middle of the bay were two islands. One held the statue of a young man, little more than a boy, in robes similar to Yeshe Beifong's clothing. The other was a series of buildings, all of them being round in structure. Meridina's heart ached at how the architecture reminded her of the Great Temple of the Order of Swenya, now nothing but a memory due to the Cylons.

The bay was ringed by the skyline of a great metropolis. Great and tall buildings soared into the sky, some reaching the heights of the best in Gersal's capital Jantarihal, her hometown. Landward they were framed by the mountains in the distance, snowcapped and beautiful. Yue Bay aside, the city reminded her of Jantarihal.

Yue Bay… and one other thing. While the Bay was ringed by the metropolis, the great towering buildings were missing from the landmass between them. Flanked by two rivers, a peninsula jutted out from the areas to the east of the city center. Only shorter buildings were visible here in similar style to those of the island in the bay. The light of the day did little to obscure the pillar of golden light rising from the peninsula. Even here Meridina could feel a pull through the Flow of Life. Its energies were tied into the pillar at its base. "That is…"

"...the Spirit Portal, yes," said Premier Sun Lan.

"We detected it from orbit, but I was unaware it would look so… beautiful."

"It is the unique one. The portals at the poles are blue in color."

"How were such things made?" asked Under-Secretary Tashke.

"The making of the polar portals is lost to our histories," replied President Draved. "Supposedly the Chaos Spirit, Vaatu, made them long ago, before being defeated by Raava. This portal is far newer. It was created two centuries ago by Avatar Korra to save the city from the tyrant Kuvira's energy cannon."

"The weapon was overloading," Miko said. "Korra re-directed its energies, channeling them into forming the portal."

"I can sense it, even here," said Meridina. "The Flow of Life pools around it. Almost as if it is sustained by the energies of the Flow."

"What is this 'Flow of Life' you're talking about?" asked Sun Lan.

"It is an energy field formed by the life energies of all living things, through what my people call swevyra," Meridina explained. "Some beings, such as myself, have swevyra that is active, and can connect to the universe and the Flow of Life. It grants us abilities beyond the physical."

"It sounds like you are describing chi," said Dravad.

"Chi… I believe I have heard this word before. I may need to investigate further…"

The lift came to a stop, and with it the conversation. The groups filed out of the lifts and through the hall beyond into a chamber. The walls were polished beige and gold, and the floor a fine marble tile marked with the repeated motif of five symbols in an arrangement that brought to mind the pedals of a flower. Meridina recognized the five from the materials on this world already provided: the flame crest of the Fire Nation in black, the three spirals of the Air Nation, the blue cresting waves of the Water Tribes, the circle with an open square in the middle of the Earth Union, and the crest of the United Republic.

The same symbol was on top of a circular table with five seats. Attendants brought up many more for the Alliance contingent, albeit smaller ones.

Sun Lan sat in one of the seats and tapped a button. The screens came active, showing three more beings. One, a wizened old woman with many years showing in the wrinkles on her face, wore an elaborate series of red and yellow robes. A blue arrow tattoo covered her forehead, the blue line going up to the top of her head and the hairline of wispy white strands there. The second viewer was of a dark-tanned man with a bearded face, wearing an elaborate garb of blue and white. The third was another man, with a pointed beard and full mustache of gray hair. His clothing matched Miko's in appearance and coloration, and Meridina could see the family resemblance.

"My colleagues," said Sun Lan. "Master Gewa of the Air Nation, High Chief Iqnarak of the Confederated Water Tribes, and Fire Lord Daizon of the Fire Nation."

Tashke and Seong bowed in respect, as did Meridina and the others. Miko did as well, smiling softly at her grand-uncle's image. Meridina thought she saw his expression shift ever so slightly to relief, but whether she did or not, he remained focused on business.

One thing she did sense was an undercurrent of anxiety. Uncertainty. These people were still wondering what they were dealing with, it seemed, and diplomacy would thus be all the more critical.

Again thanks were given for their role in Miko's rescue. Tashke responded with, "We thank the Five Nations' Compact for their aid in the battle with the SS Exiles. It was the heroism of General Hanraq's fleet that saved the Starship Aurora, and granted the time for the enemy's jamming field to be lowered and our fleet to arrive." The Dorei woman nodded her head. "While our first contact was not made under the easiest circumstances, it is clear that our peoples share many values, and we wish to build upon that."

"Of course. And it would appear we have become part of a much larger community of nations," stated Iqnarak. "I hope you will understand some nervousness we may have at the prospect. Before our encounter, we had no idea that other Human life forms existed, much less species such as your own, Under-Secretary Tashke. The Multiverse is… a lot for our people to take in."

"We have seen such before," said Seong. "And we understand the importance of giving your people time to adjust. If it is your wish that we limit contact for a time, we will do so."

"That will not be necessary, I think," said Daizon. "Care will have to be taken, but your people fought and died alongside ours. We are bound by their sacrifices."

Meridina opted to bring up a question. "Then would your Council oppose my crew being granted leave rights, to visit your world?"

"They are welcome," Dravad said. "The matter that most concerns me is this 'city base' that the invaders were using. I am told that it is a technological marvel thousands of years old, with technology beyond even your own."

Meridina noticed the tension in the room spiking slightly. "That is what it appears to be," she confirmed at Tashke's nod.

"Then control of this city must be determined, and our rights to it guaranteed," said Sun Lan. "It is, after all, in our home universe, at the frontier of our space."

"It is," Tashke agreed.

Whatever Tashke was going to say next didn't get a chance to be said. Miko spoke up. "There are so many important things we have to discuss. The city can wait. We already share it, don't we? There are Compact and Alliance personnel living there and examining the place. Why fight over it?"

Eyes turned to face her. Some were understanding. Many were not. Meridina felt the young Avatar's notice that her remarks were not welcomed, but nevertheless Miko didn't flinch from the negative attention. She felt her point was valid, and wanted it recognized.

Sun Lan did so with a nod. "The Avatar is correct. As things stand, both sides are holding the city. A final disposition can be settled once we have determined the nature of the relationship to come between the Alliance and the Compact."

"We are ready to discuss these matters at your convenience, Excellency," Tashke said in a quiet diplomatic tone.

That discussion picked up. As it did, Meridina pondered what else that the team at the old city had discovered in the time since the Aurora left them for the Compact's Homeworld.

Many light years away, the ancient city in question was in its twilight hours. With night approaching lights were becoming active at all corners of the structure and its five adjoining platforms.

The central structure was the tallest, and it was at the top floor of this tower that Jarod, Tom Barnes, and Lucy Lucero were gathered in a command room, looking over inactive displays.

Nearby, Komin Beifong, cousin of Yeshe, looked over a display of what seemed to be the city. The display, however, showed not five but six of the structures arrayed around it.

They were not alone. A number of personnel, some in Alliance uniform and some wearing the various uniforms of the Five Nations Compact, milled about checking and scanning things. Some of the officers came from the Aurora and others from one of the Alliance ships still present in the system.

Standing with them were personnel from the Maimonides. Commander Philippe Duwala, the First Officer and former Science Officer of the Challenger, was a familiar face, being one of the Facility's rescuees-turned-recruits in the pre-Alliance days. Beside him was Lieutenant Commander Treepk, an Alakin female and the Science Officer of his ship, and Lieutenant Tasina T'Seris, an Asari maiden and the Assistant Chief Engineer of said ship. Doctors Charles Talbot and Indira Vajpayee from the Maimonides science labs rounded out their contribution.

Jarod gestured to the data he'd compiled and asked them, "So, this is what we can estimate for how long this has been here."

"Twenty thousand years," Doctor Vajpayee remarked, astonished. "Incredible."

"So this was around long before the Darglan had their day," said Lucy. She glanced to Komin. "Your people, how far back does their history go?"

"The earliest records date to only ten thousand years ago, and beyond records concerning the Avatar, they're very rare," Komin replied. "We have little idea of what things were like before then. A couple of things. Avatar Korra's memoirs, for instance, describe a world overrun by spirits when Wan became the first Avatar, but the physical evidence just doesn't exist." He glanced back to the display. "You're thinking this city has something to do with our ancient past, right?"

"It's a strong possibility," Jarod confirmed. "There's no proof yet, but given your world's solar system and the dimensional phenomena of your world, it seems the most likely reason. It's why we need access to the computer cores so we can confirm it."

"Hard data is what we're here for," Talbot agreed. He and Lucy remained hunched over a console. "But accessing the data cores is difficult. The SS computer engineers were nitwits, one and all. They brute-forced everything, and there's no telling how much data they corrupted…"

"Nazis suck, but that's like saying the sky is blue," Tom groused. "Me, I want more info on those crystals from that power chamber. The power readouts on those things are insane. They're the best power source I've ever seen."

"The jammer is what is most important, right now," Jarod noted. "If we can figure out how it decreases the permeability of the interuniversal barrier in an area, it won't just keep people from jumping out, it can keep them from jumping in."

"And we would have a defense against further surprise attacks," Philippe said. "Have you isolated it?"

"We're still examining all of the city's machinery," Lucy said. "But we're pretty sure we found the emitters. There are teams checking the attached equipment to give us an idea on where the central core for the system is located."

"All of this technology." Komin turned away and looked into the empty central chamber again. "It's so much. Especially if this is tied to our past."

The others recognized the sound in his voice and knew the city was only part of it. With the fighting done and the danger out of the way, Komin was facing the new truths of his world. The existence of other universes, of other branches of Humanity and other sapient species, and technologies his people hadn't yet discovered… at some point the sheer weight of it would hit the thoughtful. And then it was all they could think about.

Lucy sensed the slight shift in Komin's thoughts. "What do you think those are for?"

She, Tom, and Philippe all noticed what he was looking at. In the middle of the central chamber, the floor was marked by a series of wide, short steps that abruptly stopped. A groove was visible in the floor there, as if something was meant to fit..

"Maybe it was a transporter pad of some kind?" Tom speculated loudly.

"Another mystery to explore," said Treepk. "Oh so many…"

"We'd better get back to work on the computers then," Jarod remarked. "Our answers could be in there."

A gentle smell from incense filled the office of Dr. Tusana, the Aurora's civilian psychiatrist and counselor. Her tanned complexion matched the color of the wood slowly burning in a bowl on the table nearby, the source of the scent. Julia found it relaxing, which she supposed was the point.

While she was officially on medical leave and forbidden from duty, Julia still appeared wearing her uniform. It was, for her, a habit on her ship she wasn't about to give up. Whatever Command said, she considered the Aurora her ship, and she would dress appropriately as the ship's captain.

Tusana noted that sentiment. Her telepathic talents let her sense everything on Julia's thoughts. Julia's frustration, her determination to return to duty, and the shadow of intense pain that still marked her psyche. She was not the first torture victim Tusana considered a patient, so it was a familiar mental wound to the Gersallian woman.

"You resent being here," Tusana observed.

"No," Julia insisted, and she meant it, whatever thoughts might go through her head. "I mean, I feel… I feel some, but that's just feeling. I know that it has to be this way."

"Does it?"

"Yes," Julia said. She sighed. "I was taken for a week. I was tortured, denied regular sleep, mentally violated by a machine, and nearly killed a couple of times. I can't just go back to my command without reassurances that I'm fit for duty despite all of that."

Tusana nodded. "It is good that you acknowledge the necessity for this, Julia. And just as good that you understand your own frustration."

Julia clenched a fist. "I… I want to be back in my command more than anything. I know I can still do this job."

Tusana considered that remark. She did find it convincing. Julia knew others would too. But Command couldn't return her to her ship based solely on her conviction. Julia had to be ready, physically and mentally, for the challenges of command.

Fine, she thought. I proved myself once, I'll do it again.

"You have survived much," said Tusana. "And I understand your feelings. I hope to work together with you on your recovery. Your admission is a vital first step."

"But not the only one."

"No. It is one thing to admit your feelings, another to live with them. What was done to you, it can bring fresh feeling of resentment, if you are not careful."

"What I need is something to do," Julia insisted. "I can't just sit around all day and stew about it."

"Agreed," said Tusana. "Please, tell me about your other activities…"

Julia explained her sports playing, and her martial arts training, and the occasional movie with friends. Robert was already inviting her to join him for a movie night, to rewatch things they saw as children.

Just as Tusana began to comment on this, a blue light appeared over the back of Julia's left hand. She tapped at it and her new omnitool flashed into existence. "Captain Andreys," said the person on the other end. The Turkish accent of Lieutenant Sabiha Neyzi was one Julia hadn't heard in a while. Ever since Tra'dur came aboard and Lucy Lucero went off to other duties, Sabiha's work was mostly off the bridge, minding the backup bridge or overseeing the rest of the operations department. Jarod being back at the ancient city-base Julia was freed from was the obvious explanation for Sabiha again being on the bridge, likely for Tra'dur's off-watch period in the shift. Once Julia gave her a note of acknowledgement, Sabiha continued. "I have Admiral Maran for you."

"Put him on," said Julia. The screen of the omnitool shifted to show Maran in his office at Defense Command, across the Columbia river from Portland. "Admiral, sir?"

"I won't keep you for long," replied the leader of the Alliance military. "But I felt you deserved the notice from me in person, not a recording or a note."


Tusana heard what Maran said to Julia, and breathed a small sigh at feeling Julia's heightened frustration.

With the others doing their own work, Jarod and Lucy found themselves the only ones still trying to get through the SS-installed operating software imposed on the city's computer core. For this work they were in the heart of the city's central tower, down toward the bottom where a large chamber held multiple columns that represented the physical cores of the computers. Each was at a screen examining the ongoing flow of steadily-decrypting data. Lucy was wearing an ops-branch uniform for the job, regardless of her new status on Robert's team.

"So, what do you think?" Lucy asked aloud.

"Hrm?" Jarod looked up from the console. "Think about what?"

"How Philippe's doing? And Nasira and Rodrigo too, really."

"Oh." Jarod tapped at a key, sending a new command into the system. "They're doing well, I suppose. Captain, First Officer, and Tactical Officer on a cruiser-sized ship."

"A science cruiser, but yeah, I had the same thought," Lucy admitted. "It's good to see our people moving up in ranks, y'know?"

"Agreed." Jarod thought back to some of the others they'd known in the pre-Alliance days. He'd joined just as the Facility crew started expanding from their own world to other worlds, such as the 1850s Earth of C1P2. In that time they'd saved thousands, and some of those in turn joined them. "We're not even a drop in the ocean in the Alliance forces these days," he noted aloud.

"We've still got a few. Li's still on the Shenzhou, Madeleine on the Challenger. Ibraham will have to be pried off of the Park's bridge, I think. Now Nasira has the Maimonides." Lucy thought back to some of the others. "What about Hava?"

"Hava Ostrovsky? Science Officer on the Atlantis now. Probably one of the oldest fleet science officers active."


"Peter Kpomassie, from Togo?" Jarod thought for a moment. "The last I heard, he was still in command track and is the Astrogation Officer on the Ambedkar."

Lucy was letting more names come to mind of those old comrades, but she stopped when her screen changed. "Jarod, it looks like we've got it."

Jarod came over and looked at what Lucy was seeing: the blocky German text was being replaced by alien text of some sort, completely unfamiliar to him. "I've never seen this kind of text."

"Neither have I."

Jarod used his omnitool to capture the text on the screen. "I'm linking to the Maimonides now, we'll run a search through the database. It should only take a few minutes at most, this language looks pretty unique…"

Twenty seconds later his omnitool flashed a result. Lucy looked to it with him and then exchanged a surprised expression. "That's… wow, that… I never expected that," Jarod admitted.

The screen displayed the result of the search.

Sample Match: Language matches samples of language of "Ancients" species, Universe R4A1. Initial samples provided through treaty-compliant research agreement with Stargate Command, R4A1 Earth.

Upon return from the diplomatic meeting Meridina went to the bridge. A quiet watch period would be just the thing to ease her mind from the quiet anxiety and tension she'd felt among the Five Nations Compact's leadership. It was never easy for non-farisa to understand the strain mindwalkers could be under even with relatively passive emotions, especially of that intensity.

Many of the Command staff were present. Tra'dur was back at Ops while Locarno was in the command chair. Ensign Rawlins was at the helm. Caterina and Angel were manning their appropriate stations. The moment she came through the lift door she felt Caterina's forming question. Just before Cat could speak it, Meridina nodded and said, "They have approved leave. We will be provided relevant packets to provide to those exercising leave so they know how to conduct themselves. A currency exchange has been established as well." She looked to Locarno directly. "With Jarod back at the city-structure, I will rely upon you and Master Chief Rohm to arrange leaves with each department."

"Understood," said Locarno.

"I can't wait!" Cat exclaimed. "I want to examine those rifts so much."

"As do I," Tra'dur added. "It is fascinating to know such stable rifts exist on a habitable world."

"This has the potential to change…"

Before Cat could finish, Tra'dur's station gave off a tone. "Captain, we have a ship anchoring to our jump drive."

Moments later Cat added, "Interuniversal jump point forming."

The point formed far from the orbiting stations and ships above the Earth-like planet below. The emerald vortex expanded from a point of light. From it emerged a large warship, larger than even the Aurora, painted in the earthy colors of the Dilgar.

Tra'dur was the most pleased. "It is the Wrath," she said. "Mother-Ka’s ship." A light appeared on her station. "We are receiving a hail."

"On screen."

The Aurora bridge's main holo-viewer blipped into existence along the front wall of the bridge module. On the screen was a Human woman in the impressive uniform jacket of a Dilgar Battlemaster, black and bluish-gray with shoulders fringed with golden material. Golden buttons went down the middle in two lines toward the edges of the gray material. Kaveri Varma's gray hair belied her age, but her skin looked young, from all her many years spent in spaceships. A lifetime aboard ships with little or no gravity also played a role in her frail physique, whatever her recent experience with ships employing artificial gravity.

But there was nothing frail about what was within her light brown eyes. Meridina once touched the mind hidden behind them, and knew the strength and belief in the core of the elder Indian woman as a being. One such sign of that belief was the red bindi prominent on her forehead, a mark of a practicing Hindu.

"Captain Varma," said Meridina. "Welcome."

"Captain Meridina." Kaveri was using the courtesy of Meridina's acting rank. "Namaste. It is good to see you and your people together after these past trials. Is everything prepared?"

"We are ready to beam you aboard, Captain, at your signal."

"That is good," said Kaveri. "Even with everything that has happened, we have much work still to do."

"I will have a report on the progress of the talks completed before the evening is out," Meridina assured her. "We will see you shortly."

"We will." The Indian woman nodded. Her image disappeared.

“Ka'var is coming aboard?" Tra'dur's voice betrayed her surprise.

"She's joining the opening contact talks?" Cat asked. "Or, what, representing Shai'jhur to the Five Nations?"

"No, she is not," said Meridina. She stepped up between Rawlins and Tra'dur and looked over the others. "Kaveri Varma is here to assume command. She is to be our new Captain."

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Sat May 11, 2019 2:26 pm
by Steve
Normally a Dilgar ship was commanded by a Battle Captain, or even in the case of smaller vessels a Battle Expert, with Group Captains leading sections below that level and acting as XOs of frigates. In the case of the Union, however, Kaveri Varma was a Battlemaster and still in command of a ship. That had generally only been the case with dreadnoughts and assault carriers, but the Sekhmets had been so rare it had included them as well.

That meant Mai’jon, as a Battle Captain from Tira, was a perfectly qualified officer for the role. The green-eyed Dilgar woman was in a line officer’s uniform, but wore the familiar badge of the Mha’dorn and intelligence flashes. She had been Kaveri’s Executive Officer for the entire duration of the six month, two week long commissioned life of the Wrath since her reconstruction.

Around them the familiar hum of the Wrath let them know she was a living ship. Fitted with both Darglan shields and Abbai Grav Shields, with an internal warp drive capable of driving her at Warp 8 (at least for a few minutes), and a heavy battery of Hyach spinal lasers, she was a beast by any measure, a capable warship even now. Her secondary batteries were mostly Alliance weapons. She was, in fact, the only Dilgar ship which was not lend-lease from the Alliance to have Naqia reactors (in part) and an interuniversal drive, though all of it had been scavenged excesses from Alliance repair and maintenance depots.

“Battlemaster,” Mai’jon saluted on her feet as she came to attention in Kaveri’s office. “We have arrived in the Five Nations’ Compact space as instructed, using the Aurora’s jump anchor.”

“Well done, Battle Captain Mai’jon.” Captain Varma had her hands folded behind her, grey streaked in her hair gleaming in the overhead lights as she glanced about. “Wrath and her crew have done everything asked of them in superlative fashion.”

“We were ably made into a single fighting body by your presence, Battlemaster,” Mai’jon answered. “I do not understand why the Warmaster has requested you assume command of this Alliance ship, but I obey in ignorance and am ready to take command.” As a Mha’dorn, her emotional state was reserved, but Kaveri had plenty of experience reading Dilgar and could tell she would have rather had Kaveri lead them back to the reserve depot and decommissioning ceremony.

“Such is a matter of duty. Another who has a harsher hand could destroy the cohesion of the Aurora and her crew, and… it will become clear, in time, as to why such is important.”

“I understand, Battlemaster.” Mai’jon was silent for a moment. Then, she gently growled and cleared her throat. “Battlemaster, it has been a considerable honour to serve with you. Of course, at first, the crew was terrified, I will be honest.”

“Terrified, Battle Captain?” Ka’var, which she had invited the Dilgar to refer to her as, raised her eyebrows in visible inquiry.

“Yes, Ka’var,” Mai’jon replied earnestly, wide eyes admitting no deceit. “They wondered if you were an officer of substance, or appointed for the Warmaster’s leisure. And they wondered, too, what it would be mean to be Dilgar serving in war under a human. You overcame both quickly, and now, the crew is sad to see you go; they know they are Ka’var’s children, and though I might share their fur, I am not sure I can be the same for them, in the short time before we stand her down.”

“I shall not be the same to the Aurora - a permanent command differs from a temporary one, Mai’jon. We need both time and stability to bind a crew together, when we rise to a captaincy.”

“It may be a while before I get my chance, then,” she replied softly. “They say the active fleet will be reduced to only a hundred and twenty-five ships, and most of them small for policing.” That was a bit more than a quarter of the mobilised size, and it showed how thoroughly Shai’jhur was trying to cut costs to let a Dilgar economy grow and motivate people to reproduce.

Ka’var grimaced. “I had intended to retire upon handing Wrath to the reserve depot. The Warmaster… understands what our people can afford to mobilize in peace. I cannot deny it will be painful, Mai’jon. There is an old human toast that describes the more juniour officer’s hopes in such a time; ‘to bloody wars and sickly seasons’.

“And this is why we are so similar,” Mai’jon smiled thinly. “I understand that sentiment perfectly. Well, what I hope, then, is that I have earned at least the chance to be Wrath’s designated Captain in reserve. Even if I am back on the family’s kraal on Tira, to bring her to life for the annual exercise, and the call of need, would be … I admit, I wish for it, badly. She has been a good ship to us.”

“I have formally put you forward in my last report to the Warmaster, Mai’jon. I have had the intention since a month into my tenure, that you would follow me in the command chair, as I humbly follow my predecessor.”

“Battlemaster An’jash…” Mai’jon shook her head. “Legends will always be whispered about this ship, Ka’var. But it is good we have added new ones. I don’t think Dilgar will quickly forget Wrath’s fight with the rest of our expeditionary fleet over Germania. I pray to the Gods it never be forgot.”

“There will be a triptych, I am sure. Balos on one side, Germania on the other, and Wrath in the centre. The Divine will never let her be forgotten as long as there are Dilgar to remember.”

“And we may have just insured that. Gods, I pray it so,” Mai’jon replied fervently.

“So do we both, so do we both.”

“Thank you for showing confidence in me,” Mai’jon added, her eyes shining. “I will bring her home safe, Battlemaster. But I do have one request for you. A Mha’dorn request.”

“I would not have recommended she be given to you otherwise… what is the request, Battle Captain?”

“You are going to a dangerous posting, the Aurora attracts danger, but especially operations with telepaths have lately been problematic in certain respects. You need protection, so our Warmaster is not to grieve in this short tour. You also need assistance in making sure that the crew walks a righteous course. Please take Group Captain Bei’tir with you from the Marines complement. She is a fully trained Category Six,” which meant P-7 in conversion, “as a combat telepath.” Her eyes flicked and she folded her hands. “We want to make sure you are safe, Battlemaster, but also that Dilgar interests are upheld where they can be.”

“A Mha’dorn request.” Kaveri leaned back in her chair, her eyes narrowing as she considered the matter. “Her experience outside the Union, Battle Captain, if any?”

“Just this deployment, Battlemaster,” Mai’jon’s lips twitched into a curled grimace. “I know, a more experienced operative in wetwork might be preferred.”

“My daughter needs Battlemaster Fei’nur more than I do. Given the Aurora’s reputation, I think she will do well, for what you suggest. She should be briefed, hurriedly. I will make her aware that some may see a more sinister element in her assignation, but… it will be good and welcome to have a fellow Wrather aboard.”

Mai’jon smiled tightly, and then rose. “Thank you.” She saluted. “Thank you. We are proud to have had you, and when it’s all said and done, we’ll organise reunions. Go in glory, my Battlemaster.”

“Thank you, Captain Mai’jon.”

The senior-most bridge officers of the Aurora were gathered at Transporter Station 1 to welcome their new commander. Meridina, Locarno, and Cat waited patiently while the Caucasian transporter operator finished running her fingers over the controls. "Signal received, sir, beginning transport," she said in a slow, partial Southern drawl.

To their surprise, there was not one but two bursts of bright light that accompanied a brief buzz in the air. Within one light Kaveri Varma appeared, while in the other was a Dilgar woman. Both were still in the uniform of the Union, and carrying bags. The awaiting officers stood at attention. Kaveri stepped down from the pad first and looked to them before nodding. "Captain Meridina, Commander Locarno, Commander Delgado. Please, we may be less formal. This is a difficult situation for yourselves and your crew."

They relaxed somewhat, although for Meridina she retained the same stoic posture as always, not so much relaxed as at peace. She sensed the Dilgar was a fellow telepath. "Captain Varma, welcome again to the Aurora. It is good to see you." Meridina channeled her gift elsewhere. Given what happened before, and the necessities that occurred, she felt it inappropriate to come too close to entering Kaveri's mind, notwithstanding the telepath accompanying her.

"Welcome, Captain," Locarno added.

"Hello." Cat smiled at her. Tra'dur was her friend, and so she was basically meeting her friend's mother again. That said, she did feel a little awkward, as something within her felt off about everything going on. And she wasn't sure why there was a second Dilgar with Kaveri.

"I thank you all for your welcome, though I understand it is an uneasy time." Kaveri considered the room for a moment. She'd only been aboard the Aurora a few times. The initial visits were not happy ones, coming during the tension and violence over the Dilgar world Tira, and including the brutal assault that nearly killed Shai'jhur. Then there had been the surrender over Germania, a happier occasion certainly, if still as a conclusion to yet more violence.

And now, yet again, she was here in circumstances that were mixed, to say the least.

"This is Group Captain Bei’tir," Kaveri said, introducing the Dilgar. "She will be serving as my adjutant for the duration of my tenure aboard Aurora. I would request quarters to be assigned to her near those I shall be using, to the extent possible without disrupting the existing arrangements.”

Meridina nodded at the request. Deck 4 was senior officer and staff quartering by design. But there were a couple of open ones for visiting admirals and staff. "I will make the arrangements. She will be quartered on Deck 4 in the fashion you desire. Might I escort you to your new quarters?"

"Of course, Commander, with my thanks."

This was the cue for Locarno and Cat to return to duty, with Cat in particular urgent to finish her backlogged work and enable leave to visit the portals on the planet below. Meridina led Kaveri and Bei'tir out of the Transporter Station and toward the lifts. "I know this has been difficult for you and your crew," the Indian woman said to her as they walked through the azure-lined corridor of the Aurora. "New Liberty is a home for many of them. It is the work they put so much effort into."

"It has been difficult, yes," Meridina said. "Rescuing Captain Andreys helped, although we paid a cost." As acting Captain, Meridina had been the one to commit the ship's twenty fatalities to the void in a memorial service. Giving a funeral oration was not something she wished to repeat.

"I am aware my assuming command will cause issue," Kaveri admitted.

"They will adjust, just as they did when Julia assumed command from Robert."

"It is more than that." Kaveri stopped at that point, as they arrived at a lift. The three entered and Meridina instructed "Deck 4". With a gentle thrum the lift began moving through its shaft. "Your ship's command staff includes the leading lights of your Alliance. Its spiritual founders. The very beings whom its existence is owed to. I am an outsider to that, much more-so than you."

"You fear dissension from us?"

"I know you will not consciously attempt to undermine me. You all believe in the Alliance too deeply to be capable of such," Kaveri answered. "But subconsciously… I know it will be otherwise."

Meridina couldn't disagree with that. "It could be difficult for them, yes." She sensed Kaveri's instinctive desire to know which ones she would expect the most trouble from, but the older woman said nothing. "How well do you know them?"

"I am most familiar with you and Commander Delgado, to be honest. And I know something of Lieutenant Barnes' character."

Meridina knew her presence on the list to be understandable. Again, they'd touched minds, and not in an optimum way. James Hawk's accusation of Shai'jhur raping Kaveri in their first encounter, decades ago, with Earthforce official findings to back up the charge, was just the kind of thing that threatened the effort at Tira. Against her own wishes, and Meridina's, Julia insisted on Kaveri proving the charge wrong by allowing Meridina to enter her mind and verify the truth.

Meridina still felt haunted by it. Fewer were the times she'd ever come so close to violating the most important rules that the Farisa Genut laid out for telepaths of Gersal, and Julia's guilty feelings persisted for a long time afterward.

When it came to Tom, Kaveri had been the one to lay the Order of Valor on Tom's neck after Germania, so she knew what he was capable of, and the shy way he'd received the highest military decoration in the Alliance.

As for Cat…

"I imagine your adopted daughter has been fulsome with her experiences on the ship?"

"She has." A small smile came to Kaveri's face. "She can be reserved, given her upbringing, but Tra'dur is living a dream by being posted to the Aurora."

"She has proven very able," Meridina assured Kaveri. At that point the lift ceased and they stepped out onto Deck 4 and the officer quartering. Bei'tir remained close, but said nothing. "I imagine your familiarity with Caterina comes from her letters?"

"Yes. It seems that though your Commander Jarod is her immediate superior, Tra'dur spends more time in Caterina's presence, researching in your ship's science labs. And she thinks highly of Caterina as a fellow scientist."

Meridina nodded, aware of the truth of that fact. She often wondered if Tra'dur should be transferred to the science division, but Lucy's re-assignment to serve on Robert's operations team meant Tra'dur fit best with Operations. "Caterina would be pleased to know such, I am sure. She is quite enthusiastic."

It wasn't far from the lift to the Captain's quarters. There was no nameplate, nor was there need for any. "Captain Andreys already removed her personal belongings. The furnishings are standard."

"I will have to call on her at some point," Kaveri said. "But only after the change of command ceremony. I fear things might be too raw for her now."

"Agreed. And on that matter, I have scheduled the change of command to take place at 1200 hours ship time tomorrow. I imagined you would appreciate the evening to acclimate yourself and have time to review our reports on the ship's status."

Kaveri nodded. The doors slid open, revealing Kaveri's new living space. It was larger than she was used to in her Earthforce days, given the Alliance's approach to living spaces. "Very thoughtful of you. I shall see you tomorrow, then?"

"I will be here, yes." Meridina glanced at her omnitool as the screen activated. "And we have an open cabin for the Group Captain four spaces down, in the quartering for visiting senior admiralty staff. I will escort the Group Captain by your leave."

“So granted, thank you Commander."

After weighing a trip to the gym or a holodeck, Julia found herself alone in her guest quarters. They were a little smaller than her quarters as Captain had been. There were better quarters, of course, but Under-Secretary Tashke and her entourage took those rooms up.

Not that the bigger ones would make this feel better. She felt exiled on her own ship, sitting here as she did. There was nothing to do. She had no reports to read or write. No commendation reviews to approve. No requisition forms to sign off on. She simply had nothing to do.

Others might have welcomed the break from the grind of command. The relentless monotony of the paperwork, the quiet watches where nothing happened for hours on end. But Julia didn't. Sure, the watches could be boring, and the paperwork tedious… but they were part of the wider whole. They were part of what she was and wanted to be.

For the moment, Julia found herself at a loss of what to do.

The quiet was broken by the tone of her new omnitool. Even though she was on medical leave, she still had a Stellar Navy model device, made clear by the blue color of its holographic light. A blue circle started pulsing over the top of her left hand. Julia tapped at it with the index and middle finger of her right hand. "Andreys here."

"Captain, we have a signal coming in for you from the surface," said Tra'dur.

"Huh." She went to the desk in the quarters and sat there. "Transfer them to me." She tapped a key on her omnitool control to send the incoming signal to the monitor.

The monitor on the desk activated to show a man in a flowing red and gold-trim set of officious robes. He was in middle-age easily, with gray appearing on his mustache and beard, and from his shape it was clear he didn't let any soft living undermine his look. Dark red walls filled the space behind him.

"This is Captain Julia Andreys," Julia said. "How may I help you?"

"Captain. I am Kurato, Seneschal of the Fire Lord. I am calling to extend the Fire Lord's invitation. He would like to meet with you and personally express his gratitude for your instrumental role in Princess Miko's rescue."

Julia carefully considered her response. Even if the intention was a private one, this was nevertheless a diplomatic situation, and called for her to think like that. The slightest faux pas could cause trouble in the short and long terms for the Alliance.

Even with that consideration, she had no intention to say no. The chance to be even an unofficial diplomat was too much to pass up, compared to sitting around the Aurora until they returned to Alliance space. And declining could very well be taken as an insult.

With her moments of consideration complete Julia smiled politely and nodded. "I am grateful and humbly accept the Fire Lord's invitation."

"I will inform my lord of your response. Coordinates for your arrival will be transmitted shortly." With a final polite nod, the court functionary's image disappeared.

Julia's smile didn't quite go away as she went to find her best-looking uniform.

In the heart of the Ancient city-structure was the power core chamber for the city. It still bore the scars of the battle waged between Avatar Miko and her former captors, particularly the scorch marks from her flames and Erik Fassbinder's metaphysically-channeled lightning. Lucy felt the SS officer's former presence with ease, given her prior experience with it.. Fassbinder's dark energy was a shadow in the room, albeit the weaker of the remnant energies given those Miko left behind.

In the center of the room was a triangle-shaped platform. It had three slots for the city's power supply. Those were on a table beside it. Komin looked over the two remaining crystals, now a dull orange-ish yellow with black lines on the surface. They were inactive and had been since Julia pulled them out during the fight. "To think these things have so much power in them," he murmured. "I wonder how they work?"

At the controls for the core, Philippe looked up for a moment. "Professor T'Rya's theory is zero point energy," he answered in his Franco-Cameroonian accent. "That the devices act as a concentrator of sorts to absorb from the zero point field."

"That's pretty impressive. Although maybe not too surprising." Lucy actively scanned much of the room with her omnitool. "R4A1 has plenty of advanced civilizations."

"What is this 'R4A1' you speak of?" asked Komin.

"Another universe we know of."

"Of course." Komin chuckled lowly. "I'm surprised you people can keep it all straight. It's so much to grasp."

"It can be," Philippe agreed. "As for this power system, we should relay our reports so that the liaison officials in Stargate Command can discuss our finding with their authorities."

"Assuming all of this doesn't violate the Protected Planets Treaty with the Goa'uld."

Komin glanced toward Lucy. "What are these 'Goa'uld', and what kind of treaty do you have with them?"

He knew he'd touched a sore spot at the expression on Lucy's face, as it darkened from memory. "They're a species of parasitic worm, snake things," Lucy answered. "They can enter other life forms' physical bodies and take over. As in they basically hijack control of your body, leaving you a prisoner in your own mind while they use your body."

Komin swallowed at that. "It sounds vile. Worse even than these SS we fought. Why does your Alliance allow them to continue?"

"Because, to put it bluntly, they're strong enough that even if the rest of the Multiverse powers we're in contact with joined together to fight them, they might still beat us," Lucy said. "They have access to advanced technology equal to, or even superior, to Darglan tech, and a big fleet to go with it. The only reason we managed to get a treaty with them is because an even more powerful species from a different galaxy backs it."

"I… see." Lucy felt Komin's discomfort at that. It was sobering to think that a civilization like the Goa'uld might have that much power. "The Multiverse is not entirely a nice place, I imagine."

"It has its share of terrible powers," Philippe agreed. "The Goa'uld, the Dominion, the Eubians…"

"And this world you say Humanity comes from in your universes. Earth. What about our world's Humans?"

"From what I've heard, your genetics are a match for us, so you should be from an Earth," Lucy said. "And your language is such a close match to Chinese I can believe it."

"And yet, the Earth is not in this universe," Philippe noted. "Our long range scans have confirmed Sol itself is not where it should be, and probes jumped into the area show only a distortion in space-time."

Something about that tickled at Lucy's memory. It was familiar. Before she could mention anything of her thoughts, a voice came over their comms. "Treepk to power core team. Do you have the scan results for us yet?"

"Getting there," Philippe said back. "We are nearly done."

"Understood. And you may wish to return to the command center soon. We're expecting visitors."

The Aurora's transporters deposited Julia in the wide courtyard of a grand palace, like few she'd ever seen. The architecture was clearly East Asian, Japanese and Chinese, with red and various dark colors predominating. Around the towers and structures, the earthen walls of a caldera were visible on all sides. Beyond them, massive structures of gleaming glass and steel shot toward the sky, more Chinese-esque markings lining them at points in big, bold lines. It made her think of being in an East Asian metropolis like Shanghai or Tokyo, if any of those cities had a caldera in its heart.

She had just enough time to take everything in when she heard Miko's voice call out to her. She turned in the direction of said voice to face the main palace itself. Miko and Ursa approached, the latter still in the anti-grav chair from the Aurora and being pushed by what appeared to be a servant from the palace. Both smiled at her and she smiled back. "Welcome to the Palace of the Fire Nation," Ursa said.

"Thank you for the invitation," she replied.

"My uncle provided it, although I admit I was quite insistent upon it," said Ursa. "Please, follow us."

She did so. They entered the big double doors of the main building into a hall of red and golden coloring. Paintings and statuary covered both walls, and every few steps a figure in ceremonial red and black armor stood in quiet attention. Occasionally a figure in a red or black-toned robe would walk by. Some looked to be servants and some, Julia thought, might be clerks.

"How old is this palace?" Julia asked.

"The original version was built many centuries ago. For a long time, it remained unchanged," Ursa said. "But after industry spread across the world following the Hundred Year War, the pace of new technology quickened. Fire Lord Zuko oversaw the first reconstruction thirty years into his reign. His grandson Kuzon performed another a century later, to accommodate the new thinking machines of that era."

"Computers, in other words."

"Yes. The last renovation was sixty years ago, by my grandmother Fire Lord Masumi. She added the facilities for space-capable craft and new floors to the main palace."

"And the city grew up around the caldera?"

"Over time, yes," she confirmed. "When the years of peace expanded our industry and economy. The Republic became the most prosperous of the five nations, but the Fire Nation has typically remained close behind."

Julia considered that fact. "How do the other three nations feel about that? I can imagine it can cause resentment."

"It can be a source of some discontent," Ursa added. "The Earth Union, back when it was the Earth Kingdom, was hardest hit by the Hundred Year War, and since the Republic was formed from our oldest colonies on their continent, it's caused trouble before. Kuvira and her Earth Empire, Leng Tu's National Redemption Movement…"

"We are not entirely innocent," Miko pointed out. "We've strived to stay true to Fire Lord Zuko's vision of our nation, but Leng Tu would never have gained the following he had if Prince Zaiban hadn't schemed to detach Omashu from the Earth Union."

Ursa sighed, but there was a small grin on her face. "Komin has influenced you, my little sun."

Miko flashed a grin in reply. "Well, Yeshe too. Komin only cared about Leng Tu and Prince Zaiban because their war involved the first generation of stable Varrick reactors being used."

"Yes. But we can continue this later…"

They went through another pair of tall double doors and entered an audience chamber. At the far end a figure was seated cross-legged on a throne of simple crimson and gold design. A golden ornament in the shape of the flame crest present everywhere showed on top of his head, nestled in the man's hair. His garb was dark red with gold trim, as was those of the individuals around him. Many bore resemblances to Miko and her mother. A few did not.

Julia bowed at the waist, holding it for several seconds. When she looked up, Fire Lord Daizon was on his feet. He bowed as well, although not quite as deeply. When he straightened his back, Julia did so as well. "Captain," he said, his voice strong but not deep. "On behalf of the people of the Fire Nation, we are pleased to have you here, Captain Julia Andreys."

"I thank you for the invitation, Fire Lord," she replied.

"We have been made aware of your critical role in the escape of our grand niece from the invaders. For that alone, the Fire Nation is indebted to you. That she is also the Avatar extends this to our entire world."

Julia blushed a little. "Thank you again, but I cannot take too much credit. Miko did the lion's share of the fighting once we were free."

The bewildered looks on the faces of some of the court prompted Julia to kick herself in her mind. Metaphors like "the lion's share" were best minimized when speaking with newly-encountered cultures, since the context for their meaning was not always available.

One of the younger members of the entourage spoke up. "What kind of lion are you talking about? An armadillo lion? Or a saber-toothed moose lion?"

"Or a lion-turtle," added an even younger one. "Those are huuuuge."

Now it was Julia's turn to blink in momentary bewilderment. Alien animal life was one thing, but the translator didn't usually render names like that. Their language is related to East Asian languages from Earth… are they really describing hybrids of two different species into one? Once the thought went through her mind, she returned her attention to the conversation. "Um… it refers to lions from Earth. I apologize for the confusing metaphor. I meant to say that Miko did most of the fighting once we were free."

"Which cannot be held against her," Miko said insistently. "She suffered greatly at the invaders' hands, and still found the strength to defeat our guards and free me."

"So I am aware," Daizon remarked. He focused his amber eyes on Julia. "Captain, I invite you to stay as a guest of the Fire Nation for as long as you please. At your request a room will be prepared for you in the palace. Additionally, I have called for a celebration feast to commemorate the Avatar's rescue. The crews of the Aurora and General Iroh will be invited, and I wish for you and your officers to be among the guests of honor."

The red on Julia's cheeks intensified slightly. "I would be honored to attend, Your Lordship," she answered. "And I humbly accept your offer of hospitality."

"Excellent," was his response. Going by the look on her face, Miko felt the same way.

At least it'll get me away from those guest quarters, Julia thought to herself.

The work day was over for Lucy and many of the others. While they did their own thing, Lucy took the time to meet Talara and take her to one of the many empty rooms in the complex. Outside the window the sun was going down, creating a beautiful twilight sky.

One of the most daunting challenges Lucy faced in the training was precisely how to do it. Meridina's training of her served as a guidepost, but it could only be that. Lucy had to make her own decisions to fit what was best for Talara and her sensitivities.

The Falaen woman, a descendant of the last survivors of a people known as the Alteans, gave her an appreciative look from her eyes. They could have been Human eyes if not for the brilliant lavender point in the iris. Between her eyes and cheeks were blue half-moon marks, following the contours of her eyes, and the silver-blue hair was pulled back to reveal the points of her ears. The two were close in skin tone, although Talara's brown coloration was a few shades darker. "How shall we train today?" she asked.

"Meditation, I suppose," Lucy said. "This place has had enough violence that adding to it, even as training, doesn't seem necessary."

"I have felt it too. Not just the SS, but there is a shadow of violence on this place. Old."

"Yeah." Lucy stepped into the middle of the room and sat down. She sensed the shadow of violence regardless. This wasn't far from the barracks they'd fought in during the attack, and even SS men left the uncomfortable shadow of violence where they departed. "So we will meditate, and it will settle our…"

A tone came from Lucy's left arm, and blue light formed in a circle over the back of her left hand. She sighed and tapped at it. "Lucero here."

"Would you mind coming back up to the control center?" asked Jarod.

"Given we just started training, it'll be annoying. Why?"

"Because the Enterprise just arrived, and Captain Shaham is preparing to beam down some guests. You should be here."

"Fine, we'll be on our way. Give us a few minutes." Lucy stood back up. "Their timing sucks, by the way."

There was a chuckle from the other end. "Yeah, I suppose it does. Jarod out."

"We can simply meditate later," Talara pointed out. "This sounds important."

"It probably is," Lucy agreed.

Their arrival at the control center at the top of the tower brought Lucy and Talara into the company of the others. Jarod, Komin, Tom, and Philippe, along with the other Maimonides officers and scientists, were joined by Commander Zan Li, the head of the Compact's research and analysis team, and some of his subordinates from the various services of the Compact.

Jarod signaled the Enterprise they were ready. "Transporting now," came the reply.

Five pillars of light formed from nothing. As a buzz filled the air the light intensified until it fell away, leaving in place five people. The Aurora crewmembers present recognized the pale look of Ariel Shaham. The Captain of the ASV Enterprise was a lifelong space-dweller, being one of the five thousand surviving Jews of Universe S4W8, with its terrible history of Hitler's triumph over his neighbors and the ultimate conquest of Humanity by the legions of his ideological descendants. Now he commanded the first of the Alliance advanced star cruisers based on the Aurora.

It was the four individuals accompanying him that drew the attention of those who knew them, and curiosity from the others. While Shaham was in the black-and-burgundy-red of an Alliance command officer, these four were in camouflage field uniforms. All were Human or Human-looking, with the tallest and largest having a golden serpent insignia on his forehead.

"So." The oldest of the four, a man with a bird insignia on his field uniform, glanced around briefly before settling on Lucy and Jarod. "Interesting place you've got here," said Colonel Jack O'Neill. "Mind if we take the tour?"

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Sun May 12, 2019 2:37 pm
by Steve
Act 3

In the command center of the old Ancient city, Doctor Daniel Jackson looked over the data display Lucy brought up for him and the rest of SG-1. "It's definitely Ancient," he confirmed. "It matches every other example we've found of the language."

"So the Ancients either developed interuniversal drive or encountered a species that did," said Major Samantha Carter. She looked toward Jarod and Lucy. "That's… it's a profound discovery. We may have to completely reconsider what we know of their history."

"And what do you know of their history?" asked Philippe. "I confess I know little of these 'Ancients' you speak of."

"They had a large civilization in our galaxy thousands of years ago, before the Goa'uld," Daniel said. "They were one of the Four Races that maintained galactic stability."

"The others being…?" That question was from Lucy.

"The Nox, the Asgard, and the Furlings," was the reply. Daniel glanced over the screens again. Lucy felt his curiosity, but sensed he also had a nagging distraction. That made her curious.

"Can you read what it says?" Jarod asked.

"Well, some," he said. "I've visited the ruins on P4X-639 that the Alliance has been excavating, and exchanged several communications with the linguists working on the ruins." Daniel turned back to the screen. "It looks like a damage report. I can't understand the whole thing, but it clearly references major structural damage and a lost… platform? Pier?"

"It makes sense. There are five groupings of structures around the central tower, but the data readouts show six," Tom said.

"The commander of the city ordered structural repairs on what was left. Their power systems were drained but mostly intact, but their engines were disabled."

"So this place, it was a ship?" Komin asked, incredulous.

"It seems to have been, yeah." Daniel scrolled the text down to where it ended. "They considered this world the only realistic landing choice."

"It's a marginal garden world, so I can understand it," Jarod said.

"Not fully habitable, you mean?" asked Sam.

"Well, the atmosphere is breathable," Philippe noted. "But the planet's barely got enough land mass to not be considered oceanic. While that alone isn't a barrier to habitability, there's also trace amounts of acidic compounds in the atmosphere, especially concentrated in areas with significant biomass. The Maimonides' zoological and botanical researchers have already confirmed that the native life contains significant enough levels to be dangerous to non-native life forms. Even skin contact is ill-advised."

"So no stepping on the grass, for example," said Jack.

"Exactly," Philippe responded.

Jarod spoke next. "Around here it's not so severe. It's probably why the Ancients landed here. You would need to be left outside for significant amounts of time for the atmospheric concentrations to become noticable and even longer for it to be dangerous. At least a week of exposure before the compound would begin to penetrate human skin."

By the time he finished speaking, there was a frown on Jarod's face. "You seem troubled, Commander Jarod," noted Teal'c.

"It's because we didn't get that information from the Ancients," Lucy said, starting to frown herself. "The SS were the ones to discover how long it took for exposure to become dangerous. Through experimentation on captives." She swallowed. "It was one of the methods Fassbinder considered for killing Julia when he was done with her."

There was silence in reply. "So, how is she?" Jack asked, finally ending it.

"Recovering," Jarod replied. "And she'll be back when she's ready." Eying the growing impatience of Commander Zhan Li and his contingent, Jarod said, "Major Carter, I believe the power core chamber will be something you're interested in. Lieutenant Barnes can show you the way."

"In the meantime, I'll keep working on this," Daniel said. "The more we decipher of the Ancients' language, the more we can understand the remaining data. It could tell us more about what happened to their expeditions to other universes."

There was little noise in Robert's quarters on the Aurora, nothing but the faint sounds of the two Gersallian books on his desk being ruffled while he and Gina Inviere swapped back and forth. Gina was pleasantly surprised to find out that despite Robert's notorious difficulties with pronunciation of Gersallian, he was still quite capable with the language.

Due to their respective gifts, Robert caught that thought and looked up. "It helps that my grandmother taught me to read and write German from the time I was three. Learning multiple languages from childhood helps with comprehension."

"That makes sense," she answered.

Another period of silence continued until Gina held up one of Ledosh's surviving notes. "So far everything he wrote fits," she said. "The errors, when you put them together, are forming whole words. Sentences." She read from the note. "The opening is a statement. 'The true purpose of this volume is to be a guide to those still to come, who must close the Circle to keep our universe whole'."

Robert held up the note he'd been writing out, which said nearly the same, save a couple of wording differences from how he translated the Gersallian text. "What do you think this Circle is?" he asked. "Did any other Cylon mention it?"

"No," she said. "We were only told of everything being part of God's plan." An angry look came to her eyes. "The Inner Circle kept everything else from us. The truth of what they are, what we are…"

Robert looked to her with sympathy. "You were lied to," he said. "And you suffered for it. I'm sorry."

"I've found my new path," she said. "I worry for the others, though."

"I sensed that." After a moment's consideration, he asked, "Have you heard from the Agathons at all?"

"They emigrated outside of our home universe," she said. "To one of the Earths of the Alliance, so they could raise their daughter quietly. Occasionally we exchange messages, but they are quiet about where they actually live."

"I can understand the desire for privacy. I'm just glad they're doing well, and are outside of the grasp of the Cylon leadership." Robert considered another scrap. After moments of thought he flipped through Gartanam's book to confirm a translation, then through Reshan's to check the apparent code. "Well," he began, "that sounds good."

"What does?" asked Gina.

"The translation of the opening bits of the next chapter. If I'm reading this right…" He offered her the note he finished scribbling.

Gina read it aloud. "'The truth is not always what we may wish. Much of what you are about to read will dispel beliefs you may have long held. But it is the truth of the matter, and it is vital you accept that truth.'" She lowered the paper. "There is something more to this, then."

"And whatever it is, the Brotherhood wants to know," said Robert.

"Or already knows, and they wish to keep it from us." Gina looked back to the Reshan book. "Just to ask, are you going to be attending the transfer of command ceremony?"

"I don't see a reason to," Robert said. Even as he spoke, he couldn't quite keep the instinctive bitterness out of his voice. Sensing Gina's curiosity at it, he sighed and said, "I hold nothing against Captain Varma. She's a good woman and Maran chose well in asking her to take the post. I just…"

"It reminds you of what was done to your friend," Gina finished for him. When he nodded, she nodded back in sympathy. "I understand. But given your position on the ship, you may wish to reconsider. Until Captain Andreys can return, you will have to work with Captain Varma. It's probably best if you don't seem to oppose her being here."

Robert considered Gina's advice for a moment before nodding. With a bleary eye he checked the time and noted it was zero two hundred and three minutes. "Well, the ceremony isn't until noon," he said. "I'd better get some rest if I'm going."

"We both should," Gina said. She tucked the notes away in the Life of Reshan and closed the book. "We can continue tomorrow before the ceremony."

"I'll see you in the morning then," Robert said, before turning his attention to the same task of securing their materials.

As 1200 ship time approached, the bridge of the Aurora filled with all of the ship's major personalities. Even Hargert was in attendance, by invitation, with Scotty, Leo, Commander Richmond, and Major Anders all present and the Koenig officers and COB as well. Master Chief Levi Rohm, an Israeli-American ex-Navy man from the H1E4 Earth, was present as the ship's senior NCO, with Senior Chiefs Tahrana Fahraz and Isabela Talaverda representing the flight crew and the main crew respectively.

Kaveri arrived with Meridina and Group Captain Bet'tir with several minutes to spare, and the next lift contained Robert, now in his formal fleet uniform. He took up a place near Science, where Cat was seated, to watch the ship he once commanded be given over to another captain.

Meridina started everything at precisely 1200. With a digital reader in her hand she called out "Attention to orders" and won the attention of those present. She began to read aloud. "'To Acting Captain Meridina, Commanding Officer ASV Aurora, 29 October 2643 Alliance Standard Time. You are hereby requested and required to relinquish command of your vessel to Captain Kaveri Varma as of this date and upon completion of her oath of service as laid out in the Affiliated Personnel regulations. You will then resume your normal posting as the First Officer of said vessel. Signed Admiral Tashan Tiyari, Alliance Stellar Navy Personnel Command.'" Meridina looked up and faced Kaveri, ready to begin the extended section of the ceremony due to Kaveri's transfer between services. "Battlemaster Kaveri Varma, in view of your transfer request from the service of an affiliated state of the United Alliance of Systems, your record has been examined and your request accepted. Your experience and capability merit you the rank of Captain in the Alliance Stellar Navy. Do you accept this finding?"

"I do," Kaveri replied.

"And you are willing to provide an oath of service to the Alliance?"

"I am."

"Then please repeat after me." Meridina consulted her digital reader again, to ensure she got the words right. "'I, Kaveri Varma, do solemnly vow that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United Alliance of Systems against all threats, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the service to which I have entered."

With each clause, Meridina paused to give Kaveri a chance to repeat the oath. When it was done, she let Kaveri decide on her final vow. Most Humans she'd known used some variation of "So help me God". Her mind went back to the day, over three years before, when she'd given the oath. Her choice for the end was to state, "With the aid of the Light of Life", which seemed the best way for a swevyra'se already sworn to the Code of Swenya to do it.

Kaveri repeated the oath and added, “I do solemnly affirm and swear upon the Almighty.”

Once the oath was given, Meridina nodded and said, "Computer, this is Acting Captain Meridina. Transfer all command functions to Captain Kaveri Varma and restore my permissions to First Officer level, authorization code Meridina Sierra India Tango 3806."

The computer's feminine voice responded, "ASV Aurora is now under the command of Captain Kaveri Varma. Commander Meridina now listed as First Officer."

"Thank you, Commander," said Kaveri, quiet and easy formality in her voice. "You are now relieved."

"Thank you, Captain. I stand relieved."

Kaveri turned away from Meridina to look about the bridge at the assembled. "I understand this is a difficult time for you all," she said. "I have not come to make it more difficult for you. While I come from another world, another way of thinking, I recognize that what you have built with the Alliance is truly wonderful. I am honored to take part in serving and defending this grand dream. And I pray Captain Andreys' recovery will be complete."

At her nod, Meridina declared. "Company dismissed," and the assembly broke up. The assembled Chiefs and Hargert followed Meridina and Kaveri to the conference lounge, with Bet'tir still at Kaveri's side.

It was only when they were gone that the remaining command officers slowly looked toward one another. "So, this happened," Angel finally said. "They gave us a new Captain."

"They had to," Zack said. "Meridina doesn't have the experience, I'm a recovering alcoholic who drank while on patrol, and Julia's got two months of mandatory medical leave."

"Well, I mean, it could've been worse," said Cat. "Ka'var, she's a nice lady."

"'Ka'var'?" asked Magda Navaez from the Koenig.

"Kaveri’Varma's name as said by Dilgar," Tra'dur explained from Ops.

"I wonder how things are going to change," Angel remarked. "I mean, Julia handled things differently from Rob here."

"She did, and Kaveri probably will have her own habits," Robert said. "But I think we can adjust. It won't be for long."

"Will it?" Angel asked pointedly. "Do you really think Davies is going to give up on getting us split up by putting one of his people on the ship?"

"Likely not," mumbled Zack. He could remember Davies' attempts to butter him up and turn him against the others after 33LA. "The man knows how to peddle influence."

"Perhaps, but don't undersell the Captain," said Richmond. "If she's fit, they can't deny her the ship. She'll be back, that I'm certain of."

Anders nodded in agreement. "She's a tough one, yeah."

The others listened to the two, who were relative newcomers to the staff (with Tra'dur), and felt a stirring of quiet pride that they'd convinced them, especially the professional Anders, of their worthiness.

Robert's emotions were more mixed. He was proud that Julia had won such loyalty, but the occasion was the reminder that Julia was still leaving the ship. And due to his own duties, he wouldn't be able to be with her while she recovered.

It wasn't that he didn't have faith in her, because he did. That wasn't the issue. The issue was that Robert knew how much Julia still hurt, and a part of him wanted to be there for her if she needed him, not a Multiverse away.

I'd ask for time, but with the attacks… no. All of the Paladins are going to be busy. And Julie would never let me hear the end of it if I shirked work to hover around her.

Besides. with our connection, maybe I can still be there for her.
As he thought that Robert turned his attention to the holo-viewscreen, set to show the planet below. Due to the difference in time dawn was now rising over Republic City below, but it was still the middle of the night in the Fire Nation. She should be asleep…

And yet, he knew she was not.

The glow of the night-lit capital of the Fire Nation filled the sky, and thus the view from the balcony of the guest room where Julia was staying. She stood at it, the light from the city and the half-moon in the sky giving a bright sheen to her silver nightgown. The air was mild, not too warm or cold, which fit the subtropical climate of the capital.

The room was a splendid one, with a soft bed and pillows, silken sheets, and an elegantly carved design for its tropical wood frame. A work desk with a cushioned chair was off to one side, a wardrobe beside it. The bathroom had a big tub with a shower that she'd spent half an hour in before going to sleep.

In ordinary circumstances it wouldn't be so easy to sleep at this time, as this was the afternoon for the Aurora. Fassbinder's schedule for the torture sessions hadn't hewed to anything resembling a Circadian rhythm however. Her sleep pattern was all a jumble.

Which was why she was still awake anyway.

Julia stared up at the night sky, the stars hidden by the light from the capital, and found herself idly wondering what it would be like if things were still normal. I'd be on my bridge watch right now, or having a department head meeting.

Julia's fist clenched. Everything in her life was in turmoil now. Even being rescued hadn't ended that, not with her ship in the hands of another, and her future still uncertain in so many ways. Whatever her understanding of the regulations and the good reasons behind them, she couldn't keep the resentment out of her heart. She just wanted her ship back, not two months of mental therapy while another sat in her place.

"Dammit," she murmured to herself. "Damn you." She balled her fists and wished Fassbinder was before her, right now, so she could punch the bastard. To make him pay. To get some measure of retribution for how he'd disrupted her life.

The mere thought of Fassbinder made her skin prickle with the memory of the nanobots, and how much they hurt. All of that raw pain, inescapable, unavoidable, with nothing to do but scream. Fassbinder's yellow eyes came back to her, the way they gleamed with sadistic glee while he tortured her.

With tears streaming from her eyes Julia stomped off the balcony and into the room. She left the room and entered the halls, the interior lights glinting off the silver material of her nightrobe and pants.

With sleep eluding her and her thoughts so dark, Julia wandered the halls of the Palace. It was a grand home, fit for the royalty that dwelled within, and it made Julia feel self-conscious about her own place here. As a guest she had certain obligations of her own, and diplomatic necessity demanded she be careful in not accidentally failing said obligations.

Her wanderings led her to the reception room for the throne room itself. She looked over the statuary and portraits more closely than the prior day. In a place of honor, beside the entrance to the throne room, was a portrait of a man in the same regalia Daizon wore earlier. There was some family resemblance in the image, although the depicted man was younger. There was a warm look in his eyes, the same amber-like light brown as most of the other Fire Nation royals. The left eye was marked with a vicious, angry scar, a trail of red and pink around the eye trailing backward toward the temple of his head.

At the sound of a slight hum, Julia turned to her left. Ursa approached in her anti-grav chair. She was plainly tired and dressed for sleep, wearing a tan-colored nightgown with the Fire Nation crest in red over the heart. Dragon designs followed the trim lines of the gown and the cuffs. "You have difficulty sleeping as well?" Ursa asked.

"Yeah." Julia nodded. "How is Miko?"

"She is… recovering." A pained look came to Ursa's eyes. "I was holding her until she returned to sleep. She had a nightmare about that strange chair…"

"The Aurora Chair." Julia closed her eyes and felt a phantom pain drill through her forehead.

Ursa nodded. "What was it like?"

"Like having a power drill rammed into my brain," Julia answered. "And then something going through my head, dragging my memories out. Whether or not I wanted them. And all so those bastards could watch." As she spoke Julia's fists clenched. It was bad enough to have Fassbinder and his people seeing her deepest, most fond memories. Knowing that they were broadcast to that audience of Cylons and Aristos, that the latter especially were enjoying the violation and pain she suffered…

"You have both suffered a cruelty that I never imagined possible," Ursa said. "The nightmares are no surprise."

"Yeah." Julia rubbed her face, where the broken cheekbone she'd suffered from a blow during their escape was mostly healed due to Leo. "The physical wounds are the easiest, really. We're both going to need time to heal the mental ones."

That prompted a nod of understanding from the Fire Nation Princess, regardless of her own very obvious physical injury and the fact she was far from healed of it.

Julia looked back to the portrait. "So, this is one of your ancestors?"

"The ancestor, when you consider the modern Fire Nation," Ursa said. "That is Fire Lord Zuko, the peacemaker who ended the Hundred Year War alongside Avatar Aang."

"I notice he had his own scars to deal with."

"He did. The scar was a mark left by his father, the tyrant Ozai, to punish Zuko for a perceived slight." Ursa frowned. "Zuko had a hard life as a child due to his father's abuses. After being his father scarred him in an Agni Kai duel, he was banished from the Fire Nation, and sent on a hopeless mission as his only way to return home. Ozai intended for the experience to break his son, but Zuko proved stronger than he expected."

"What happened to Ozai?"

"He was defeated by Avatar Aang while attempting to wipe out the Earth Kingdom. Upon his defeat Zuko assumed the throne." Ursa looked intently at the portrait. "He was the first Fire Lord in over a century to promote peace and to improve the lives of his people. It took him years to overcome his father's influence, but with time he reinvented our nation from a military-dominated, authoritarian state into one devoted to peaceful industry. Even today his influence is strong in our people and we honor his memory." She glanced to Julia. "My parents named me for his mother, Ursa, the granddaughter of Avatar Roku of the Fire Nation." A wry look appeared on the older woman's face. "It is fitting, I suppose, that I was the mother of the next Avatar to come from our nation."

Julia nodded. As she examined Zuko's portrait further, her mind flashed back, briefly, to her conversation with High Lady Kamea Arano during the visit to the Aurigan Coalition. Barely two weeks had passed since, but for Julia it felt more like two months. "History chooses heroes. Sometimes I wonder what history will say about us?"

"From what I have heard, it will have much to say across this vast Multiverse your people have introduced us too."

"I wonder how much of it will be good." Julia looked toward Ursa and noticed her eyes were drooping. The older woman was clearly exhausted. "May I help you back to your room?"

Ursa's hand went toward the control for her chair, but she only set it gently against the joystick for a moment before pulling it back. "Yes. Mother's spirit would be furious with me if I broke one of the sculptures by running into it."

Julia mirrored Ursa's friendly grin at that while walking around her to take the grips for her chair. The anti-gravs did not entirely cancel out the weight, but Julia found it took little effort to push Ursa through the halls back toward their rooms.

With a buzz and a flash of light, Caterina and Tra'dur materialized in the Old Downtown section of Republic City. The sun was just above the snowcapped mountains to the east. Here, on the central peninsula, the structures were shorter than in the shorelines hugging the bay, and the architecture was different. It reminded Cat of older Gersallian structures, with an emphasis on round buildings and circular shapes. The majority of people around them were clad in the yellow and orange of the Air Nation. Several were bald and looked like monks to her.

Soon they were the center of attention. Drawn by the sound of their transport, passers-by were riveted now on the view of the two "Alliancers". They were in uniform, making identifying them easy, but as a non-Human Tra'dur stood out already.

A familiar face emerged from one group of Air Nomads. Yeshe approached and smiled. "Welcome to the Air Enclave of Republic City," she said to the two. "Please follow me."

"Okay." Cat looked around her and waved. "Uh, hi everyone. We're here in peace and stuff. Nice to meet you!"

As they followed Yeshe into the largest of the nearby buildings. The inside was beautiful, reminding Cat of images of Tibetan monasteries with the architectural style, with the emblem of the Air Nation etched into the design repeatedly. Bushes and flowers were planted along the walls, giving the place a natural feel. "You really like your circles," Cat said to Yeshe. "It's in almost everything you build."

"Airbending is based on spiral movements," Yeshe said. She circled her finger in the air and generated an air current. "As the air itself is in constant motion."

They continued on through the chamber. In the middle was a large statue of a man in Air Nation robes. His bald head was marked with an arrow. Noticing their interest, Yeshe said, "This is a statue of Avatar Aang, the seed from which the Air Nomads rejoined the world."

"The face looks familiar," Tra'dur said. "That statue in your bay…?"

"Is Aang as well," Yeshe said, nodding. "As he looked when he defeated Fire Lord Ozai and ended the Hundred Year War." She led them on through the structure. When they paid some attention to another statue, with a resemblance to Aang, Yeshe said, "That is Master Tenzin, Aang's youngest son, and the first Airbender born in over a century. His older brother Bumi became an Airbender as well after Harmonic Convergence awakened the power in individuals across the world, his statue is on the other side of the dome. Tenzin's daughter, Master Jinora, is over there." She pointed to a statue of a serene middle-aged woman.

"You said Aang was a seed?" Tra'dur asked. "What do you mean?"

Yeshe's expression turned somber. "About four hundred years ago was when the Hundred Year War began. Fire Lord Sozin began the war during a time when a comet was passing through the atmosphere. The heat of the comet blazing in our atmosphere acted as a second source of power for Firebenders, greatly strengthening their abilities, and Sozin's armies used this power to annihilate the Air Nomads."

Cat gave Tra'dur a sympathetic look. Tra'dur's feline eyes grew distant.

"They were trying to kill Aang, so that Sozin's plan to unite the world under Fire Nation rule had no opponent. He did not know that Aang panicked on learning he was the Avatar and fled the temples." Yeshe turned and noticed the look on Tra'dur. "What is wrong?"

When Tra'dur did not reply, Caterina did. "The Dilgar were nearly annihilated by their star shedding its outer layer and irradiating their homeworld. And some of their old enemies recently tried to complete their destruction. We stopped them."

"I see." Yeshe gestured toward the exit. "Let us proceed." The subject change was obvious.

Through the exit they arrived in a park. Beyond it a solid beam of yellow light shot into the sky. The walk through the park was quiet, and nobody spoke until they arrived at the edge of a crater covered in grass and vines. Cat's eyes widened at the sight of a sphere of yellow light in the middle of the crater, the source of the beam.

"Yeshe, these are our guests?"

The speaker approached. He was an elderly man, bald like many of the others they'd seen, with sky blue eyes. A blue arrow was tattooed on his head, the end of a line that went down the back of his skull and neck to his back. Smaller arrows were visible on the backs of his hands, their lines disappearing into the sleeves of his garment.

"Master Gyatsun," Yeshe said, bowing once in respect. Gyatsun returned it. "These are Lieutenant Commander Caterina Delgado, the Science Officer of the Alliance void cruiser Aurora, and her compatriot, Lieutenant Tra'dur." She turned to them. "This is my teacher, Master Gyatsun. He is one of the leaders of the Air Nomads."

The two matched the bow Yeshe made. Gyatsun smiled and returned it. "Welcome, friends. You came to see the Spirit Portal?"

"I've been scanning it since we arrived in orbit," Cat said, her tone breathless. "I've never seen anything like it in any of the universes."

"Well, allow me."

As they journeyed toward the middle nothing was said. The two Airbenders kept looking back and noticing that Cat was busy with her omnitool, holding her left hand out at times. "The distortion level is much weaker than I imagined it would be," she said. "It's almost like something is bracing the portal in space-time."

"Really?" Tra'dur activated her own omnitool and confirmed the results. "This defies virtually every aspect of physics. A dimensional breach like this shouldn't be this stable."

"Like I said when we made orbit, it's more stable than the Bajoran Wormhole." Cat was so engrossed in her readings that she nearly ran into Gyatsun, who was no longer moving forward and in fact had turned to face her. "Oh, uh, oops."

"It is alright," the elder Airbender said with a gentle tone. "I am unfamiliar with your technology, may I ask what you're using it for?"

"Well, our omnitools are specialized with improved sensors for scanning, so we're scanning the area to learn more about the portal," Cat said. "And this portal, it's simply… amazing."

"Usually the people who come here for the first time can't keep their eyes off the portal itself," Yeshe said. "They are captivated by its presence."

"Well, I mean, it's beautiful, and I'm glad to see it. I'm just interested in these scans too, which are beautiful in their own way." Cat triggered her omnitool to expand its scanner display with the holographic function. It showed a stable pattern of yellow and red within a field of blue. "Normally disruptions in space-time aren't so, well, they don't look like this. This is a perfect field. It's not even fair to call it a disruption, or a rip. A hole, maybe. Or a tunnel."

"The papers we can write, they will be profound." Tra'dur's voice betrayed similar awe. "This kind of phenomena will astound the cosmological community across the Multiverse."

Cat felt self-conscious at the way the two were looking at them and lowered her arm. A blush formed on her cheeks. "Oh, I'm… I'm sorry. This is sacred to you, isn't it? Here I am, having a science geekout over something that's important to you spiritually."

At that Gyatsun laughed. It was a friendly laugh. "It is okay, young lady. You seek knowledge for knowledge's sake. It is a pure endeavor. One many Air Nomads throughout history have worked to fulfill. I could never hold offense."

"You refer to yourself as the Air Nation and the Air Nomads, is there a distinction?" Tra'dur asked.

"Not truly. Once upon a time, it referred to how small the numbers of Airbenders were after Harmonic Convergence. But we have grown and thrived. Our numbers travel the world and the worlds in the void, fulfilling the ideals of Aang, Tenzin, and Avatar Korra."

"Korra was… Water Tribe, right?" Cat asked. "According to the cycle you have."

"She was. And when she was still a young woman, she offered her life freely to save the reborn Air Nation," Gyatsun answered. "While she survived that choice, we consider it a duty to honor her decision by helping the Avatar keep the peace and the balance of our worlds."

Yeshe noticed the look on Tra'dur's face. "You seem thoughtful."

"Yes. My people came close to extinction as well, and it makes me glad to see your example of coming back from that fate," replied the Dilgar woman. "It makes me imagine a future where my people enjoy the same recovery."

"That future will come," Gyatsun assured her. "Now, if you are hungry, our meal hall is this way."

"Oooh. Yeah, that works for me."

"I hope you will enjoy our traditional dishes," Yeshe said.

They were led to the meal hall, another round structure in the complex. It reminded Cat of a cafeteria, as a row of food preparers kept a line of food trays loaded with meals. As they went down the line, Cat accepted something of everything. She noticed Tra'dur was looking from tray to tray with growing desperation. A realization came to Cat and she turned to Yeshe. "Uh, your people… you're vegetarians, aren't you?"

"Yes," Yeshe answered. "It is not our way to eat the flesh of other creatures." Yeshe looked past her and noticed the look on Tra'dur's face. "Is everything okay?"

Cat was prepared to be honest about the Dilgar - namely that they were preferential carnivores - but before she could speak Tra'dur declared, "Oh, it is fine! Everything is okay. I look forward to trying your… cuisine."

Yeshe was clearly uncertain of Tra'dur's insistence, forced as her words were, so Cat said, "It'll be okay." When Yeshe accepted and got a final item for her meal, Cat looked back to Tra'dur and whispered, "I'm sorry."

"I pick our next meal," was the response.

In light of the atmosphere the small group that assembled outside were wearing full suits. Lucy checked the reading on her omnitool and nodded. "The acid content is barely registering," she said. "It must be the wind patterns."

"Well, nice to know the atmosphere won't melt our faces off," Jack noted. He, Sam, and Teal'c followed, with Talara and Komin along. "So, this 'Bending' stuff. How's it work?"

Lucy gave Komin an amused smile, and he nodded. "Well, it's like this," he said. He assumed a martial arts stance before stomping his foot on the ground. A chunk of rock erupted in front of him. As it was reaching the apex of its climb, he kicked at it, his foot nearly making contact. The rock went flying until it slammed into the wall of one of the city structures. The impact broke it into several pieces.

"Wait, how did he do that?" Sam asked. "Some kind of telekinesis?"

"Bending is linked to chi," Komin explained. After stating this he made two punching motions. Smaller rocks tore from the ground and smashed against the wall. "Each style has its own form that makes it work. Earth is rigid and strong, you have to stand your ground with it."

He performed another series of moves, pummeling the wall with more stone, until with effort he made a lifting motion and pulled out a large boulder's worth of rock from the earth, at least two meters in diameter. He thrust his palms forward and the boulder shot into the air, eventually landing nearly a hundred meters ahead.

"Woh." Jack smiled thinly. "Now that's cool."

"It is indeed most impressive," Teal'c agreed. "How does it compare with your own gifts, Lucilla Lucero?"

"There's a connection, I can tell you that much," Lucy said. "I can sense it when he or another bender uses their powers. But while it's related, there's some kind of difference between us."

Sam nodded. After a few moments Lucy felt her accept what visual evidence confirmed. This capability existed, the facts were there, so as outlandish and impossible as it seemed, it was a scientific fact. Immediately her mind went to other places. "So what are its limitations? Does it work with refined ore? Do you need raw earth or can a refined material be manipulated?"

"Refined materials are harder, and not every Earthbender can Metalbend," Komin said. "But I've been trained in it." He made a motion and pulled a metal plate from his suit. It followed his hand around as he swept it in the air a few times. "We can bend the impurities inside of metal Even slight impurities. Only the most purified metals and alloys are outside of a Metalbender's ability."

"Huh. Not bad." Jack glanced to the others. "I wonder how they'd do against the lego bugs."

"The what?" Lucy asked.

"The Replicators," Sam clarified. "They're a machine collective that the Asgard have been fighting for millennia. They rebuild themselves from whatever material they can find, so they're often made of metal."

Lucy nodded in understanding. "Explaining why the Asgard haven't put the Goa'uld down. I always wondered what was holding them back."

Komin, meanwhile, was more interested in the very idea of such creatures, although they sounded like a threat as well. "There is a lot of such things in the Multiverse, it seems."

"Well, machine bugs that want to eat everything is on par with some of the nastiest things," Lucy said.

"Yes. There are also things like the Reapers," said Talara. "And those cyborgs from the S5T3 universe."

"The Borg," Lucy said. The Aurora had been on its exploration mission in the Tanatis Sector in A7R6 during the last Borg attack on Earth. Several Alliance ships were lost or damaged in the fight, although under Captain Picard the fleet ultimately destroyed the Borg cube. "And that doesn't count other threats out there. The Multiverse can be pretty dangerous."

"My people learned that before we even knew it was a Multiverse," Komin remarked.

"So, where's Doctor Jackson?" Lucy asked the others. "Is he devoted to the computer readouts?"

"Likely, but he's got some family issues going on," Jack said. "To put it mildly."

"Oh? Oh. Marriage problems, right." Lucy nodded. "Those happen in any marriage, or so I'm told. Anyway, I'm sure Jarod and Tom are waiting for some help with the tech analysis, and Talara's due for training soon. We should go back inside."

"Yeah. I told that redhead from your other ship I'd be joining the exploration teams for the base," Jack said. "What's her name, one of those English cities…"

"I believe you are referring to Lieutenant Manchester," Teal'c offered.

"Right, her. I should probably find where she and that big German guy are at now. Coming, Teal'c?"

Teal'c nodded and joined Jack in returning inside. The others followed to see to their tasks.

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 2:10 pm
by Steve
After the meal with Yeshe and Master Gyatsun, Cat and Tra'dur took a ferry over to the southern side of the city along Yue Bay's southern coastline. "Apparently this is the city's financial center," Tra'dur noted, reading information from a tourist guide that her omnitool was translating. "Republic City is the center of the entire planet's financial system."

"Huh. So, why are we here?"

Tra'dur smiled. "To make up for that no-meat meal we just had to endure"

Cat winced. She'd spent the entire meal worried Tra'dur would break down and start gagging. "I'm really, really sorry about that!"

"I know, and I do not blame you. I understand some species and cultures do not appreciate meat, either replicated or made."

"Yeah. Although… huh. I wonder if the Air Nation will amend its rules to account for replicators? It seems to be a case of them not wanting to kill animals for meat, I mean."

"It will make any future dinners with them palatable." Tra'dur's feline grin took a slight edge. "Ugh, it reminded me of some of the ration meals I had to eat as a kit."

"Yeah. Not a lot of meat can be raised underground, I guess."

They walked through the busy city streets, watching the passing sleek forms of vehicles. Cat blinked at the peculiar sight of some of them having the emblem of a cabbage on them. "That's just weird."

Their walk eventually brought them to the edge of a park and a bustling commercial area. It was here that Tra'dur sniffed the air and a gleeful, satisfied smile came to her. "Come on, this way," she said urgently. Cat followed her down one sidewalk and then across the busy street, taking advantage of the crosswalk and the stopped traffic.

Around one street corner were two stands, twenty meters apart. The first one had produce, mostly big heads of leafy green lettuce or cabbage, but the proprietor's attempt to get their attention failed utterly. The second was Tra'dur's stop. Her feline eyes nearly shined with joy at the sight of the rotating chunks of meat over a low flame, glistening from the juices of the meat. With the auto-translator active, she asked the proprietor, "Excuse me, but does any of this contain beef? That is, meat from a cow or another bovine animal?"

At the incredulous expression on the proprietor's face, Cat added, "She has dietary laws from her religion. She's not allowed to eat meat from cows."

"Oh. Like how Air Nomads don't eat meat at all?" The proprietor was bronze-skinned and wore a blue and red outfit. His eyes were a gray color. "Huh, you look like someone crossed a cat and a Human. Are all aliens like that?"

"No, we Dilgar are more Human-like than some other species," Tra'dur explained. "Some species are not even bipedal."

"So… ah, I'm not sure what a 'cow' is, really. Something like a hippo cow?"

"A wha?" Cat blinked and then laughed a little at the mental image of a cow and a hippo combined. "I guess? Just without the hippo part."

"Well, I mostly go with smaller stuff. How about some picken-ka-bobs? Only three yuan apiece!"

Given the first contact was still ongoing an official currency exchange wasn't yet in place, but the Republic's government was authorizing an exchange rate for the Alliance crew on leave thanks to Meridina's efforts. Tra'dur was more than capable of paying for four of the shish-ka-bobs, and Cat decided to nibble on what looked like a Cornish hen on a stick, which she was informed was an arctic hen.

Cat received the hen on a stick and turned to find Tra'dur already gleefully chowing down. "This is delicious," she said after swallowing. "It tastes like pork, but the texture is like chicken."

"Mmm." Cat took a bite of her choice and found that it tasted mostly like chicken, maybe a bit saltier. They walked past the first stall, whose proprietor was loudly proclaiming the quality of his cabbage heads. "So they have hybrid species, but not hybrid plants."

"Yes, very weird," Tra'dur managed between greedy bites.

They got across the street when they heard a loud electronic horn. A loud crash filled the air, the sound of metal and plastics smashing and breaking, followed by another crash. Both turned back to see that a traffic collision resulted in one of the vehicles slamming into the produce vendor's stall. He looked over the broken refuse of half of his inventory and put his hands to his temple in a gesture of hopeless despair. "No, not my cabbages!" he wailed.

Cat and Tra'dur exchanged glances. "Do you think there's something we can do to help?"

"I'm sure their authorities have it well in hand…"

One such authority appeared in the form of a human figure in a green outfit with a metal vest swinging down from above via a wire. A couple more joined in the following seconds.

"So… where to next?" Cat asked Tra'dur. When she received no answer Cat turned and saw Tra'dur chowing down as if she were starving. She giggled loudly. "Alright, I'll pick then…" She brought back up the guide and looked it over. "The Future Industries Air and Voidflight Museum looks interesting…"

The sun was coming over the horizon when Julia stirred from sleep again. There were no nightmares this time, no dreams filled with terror and panic and pain, and the sleep she'd enjoyed as restful.

The shower awaited her, but first came her morning routine. Now that she was physically recovered from her captivity, Julia felt capable of resuming that routine to its fullest. With her robe tied close at the waist she walked out onto the balcony and took in the dawning sun for a moment, centering herself.

When she was ready Julia raised her arms into a ready position and assumed her first form. It'd been nearly two weeks since she last practiced and her movements were stiffer and less smooth than usual. But the muscle memory was there to guide her through the exercise. She followed her preferred flow of t'ai chi to mok'bara stances and back again, fusing the Klingon martial art Commander Worf introduced to her with the one she'd learned since she was a preteen. The differences were there, but the principles were compatible, indeed nearly the same, allowing a flow of movement. Sleep faded from her mind and she felt ever more ready for the day.


Julia stopped and looked to her right. Across the open air of the courtyard below was another wing of the palace, the wing reserved for the royal family. And on a balcony at the same level of hers, Miko was standing, her arm waving. She had on a black and tan-colored set of clothing, pajamas Julia guessed, and her hair was in something of a disheveled mess. Julia waved back and watched Miko take a few steps back.

Then Miko burst into a quick run and leapt from the balcony. Flame erupted from her feet, acting like jets. Her arms whirled in mid-air and a gust of intense wind blew Julia's own hair into her eyes. Through the strands of blond-colored hair Julia saw that the gust was from an intense pocket of swirling air that caught Miko as she landed, cushioning that landing for her. Julia used a hand to brush her hair out of her eyes. "You could have just walked around," she pointed out.

"Ugh, no. My grand-uncle's people would be clinging to me the whole way," Miko answered. "Besides, this way is quicker. And I've done it plenty of times."

"And annoyed your mother every time?"

"Yeah. I always loved that growing up. Annoying Mom was something to pass time when she wasn't dragging me to royal functions." Miko shook her head. "I wasn't the best daughter, I guess."

"Parents understand." Remembering her conversation with Ursa during the night, Julia asked, "So, bad dreams?"

A wan look came to the young woman's face. "Bad ones, yeah," said Miko. "That chair. You too?"

Julia nodded. Over the past couple of days she'd had a few dreams about the chair. As if her subconscious couldn't quite comprehend she was no longer a prisoner. "It wasn't the only way he hurt me, but that chair, it just won't go away," Julia confessed.

"Yeah. I wish we'd smashed it before we left. Maybe the dreams wouldn't be so bad then. Or feel so real."

"Maybe. But dreams don't always make rational sense. That chair left its mark on us and I don't think it'll go away so easily."

Neither of them were interested in continuing that conversation. Miko began the change of subject. "What was it you were doing? I mean, the movements you were making?"

"Oh, my forms? For the last eighteen years I've practiced t'ai chi," Julia explained. "It's a martial art from various Earths that originated in China. I use it as part of my morning routine."

"Oh." A certain look came over Miko. "Because it looked really familiar."

"It did?" Now Julia felt curious. Given the other signs of a link between this world's Humanity and Earth, this could further elaborate on that link. "In what way?"

"Well…" A small blush appeared on Miko's cheeks. "Actually, it sort of ties into my problems."


It was clear Miko felt some kind of shame or embarrassment about what she was about to talk about. Julia was about to give her assurance when Miko said, "Because the way you moved? That's how Waterbenders move."

Julia blinked at that. "Huh?"

"Each Bending style, it… it has its own movements, it's own forms."

"And the people who manipulate water like you do fire, they move like they're practicing t'ai chi?"

"Yes," Miko said. "I mean, I've seen Waterbending. It's the next element I'm supposed to learn. But I've had trouble with the teachers, and how it works."

"By trouble you mean?"

"Well, the way you move, they move, it's too slow, and it doesn't feel right," Miko said. "Firebending is quick and aggressive and direct. And Airbending is really mobile too. It's about spiral movement, being light on your feet. But Waterbending is… well, it's not those things."

"I see what you mean. T'ai chi isn't aggressive, and it's not so much mobile as fluid. You don't attack or evade, you change the flow of their energy," Julia explained. "You stick to a foe and redirect their strength so you don't have to meet it head on."

Miko nodded in understanding. "It's like that. But I'm a Firebender at heart. I meet power with power. I try to hit harder."

"Well, I can see why…"

There was a knock at Julia's door. Miko went silent while Julia stepped back into the room and went over to the living area of the guest chamber. At the door was one of the domestic staff. "Captain, His Highness the Fire Lord requests your company for breakfast with the family," the man said eloquently. Spying Miko through the door, he added, "And Princess Miko is requested to attend as well."

"Uh, right. We'll be down shortly," Julia said. Once the door was closed she turned back to Miko.

"For you it really was a request, at least, as far as Uncle Daizon is concerned," Miko noted. "But not for me."

"Yeah, I got that feeling. And since I'm a guest in his palace, I can't really deny him and not look like a bad guest." Julia went back to her room. "Well, I'm going to go shower, you should probably return to your room."

"I'll see you at breakfast," said Miko before she went out onto the balcony. With a blast of flame beneath her feet she leapt away.

Julia sighed and smiled softly. "I am never going to get used to that."

After the rounds of meetings with the department heads, Kaveri returned to the ready office off of the bridge. The furnishings were nice and there were clear spaces where Julia's mementos were removed.

It was a rather stark reminder of these circumstances. Julia Andreys was no longer captain of the Aurora not due to her own deeds, but to the captivity she endured. Kaveri felt nothing but sympathy for her plight. Kaveri knew enough of the younger woman to know being taken from her command, even after rescue, was not easy.

Such consideration brought with it the reason Kaveri was here. Why Maran asked for her to command, and the secrets he confided to Kaveri's wife, and thus to Kaveri herself. Kaveri's finger found the control for the ship intercom. "Varma to Meridina. Commander, I would like to see you in the watch office."

A short time later the door chime sounded. At Kaveri's prompting Meridina entered. "You wished to see me?"

"Yes. To clear up an important matter, Commander. Please have a seat."

Meridina nodded and took one. Aware of Meridina's telepathic gifts, Kaveri began to recite entries from the Bhagavad Gita in her head, meeting her telepath subordinate halfway as she always tried with the military telepaths she'd served with in her career. Meridina noted the act. "Those are entries from your holy book, are they not?"

Kaveri nodded. "They are."

"I see. You have my appreciation." While Meridina had adjusted to dealing with stray thoughts, it was comfortable to not worry about them for the moment. "Is the ship's readiness to your satisfaction?"

"Yes. You have done well in your time as Captain of this ship. What I would like to speak with you is of a more delicate matter."

"I see. And that is?"

"The Prophecy of the Dawn, and its nature."

Meridina remained still for a moment. "You have been informed?"

"I have. Admiral Maran shared his views on the matter with my wife, and she with me. And your enemies certainly seem to believe something about it." Kaveri folded her hands together. "When they attacked Gersal, your foes were not just launching a terror raid, were they?"

"No. They were not. They were after specific objects. We believe they failed."

"Oh? And what were they looking for?"

Meridina pondered the question for a moment. She felt no deceit or duplicitous purpose from Kaveri. But she was used to not discussing the Prophecy of the Dawn with those outside of the circle who supported it. Even sympathetic Alliance supporters and authorities might have trouble accepting it.

But her own swevyra, it made her feel comfortable with the idea of sharing information with Kaveri.

"They were after the Life of Reshan, a biographical work of Swenya's mentor and teacher, and Swenya's Blade. We know they did not claim them, as Swenya's Blade was already missing when they came for it, and the Life of Reshan is in our possession. We have it now in Robert's quarters."

"Do you know why they wished for these things? One is a relic, the other a book."

"The relic I am uncertain of at the moment, but the book is more than it seems," Meridina shared. "With the aid of a scholarly work on the Gersallian language of that time, we have learned that the Life of Reshan contains hidden passages, disguised as errors in the language and syntax of the period. This hidden information is what we are still decoding."

"Then it is relevant to your Prophecy?"

"Likely," Meridina said. "Although how it is, we are unsure. For the time being the book remains aboard. We are still deciphering the hidden text."

"Please keep me apprised."

"Very well. Would you like me to assign help in bringing your things to your office?"

"No," said Kaveri. "I see no point in it."


"I am not here to be in command on a permanent basis, Commander," Kaveri explained. "I am a caretaker for this ship and crew. I have no desire to settle in, nor provide the impression that would be given in so doing."

Meridina nodded in recognition. "Because you see this as a temporary stop before you return to be with Shai'jhur."

Kaveri didn't have to answer. Her desire to return to her loved one, after decades apart, was clear through the verses flowing through her mind. Meridina already knew something of that love, and how strong it was, from the telepathic scan to confirm the contact was consensual.

You have served so very long a career, Kaveri Varma. With a devotion worthy of the Order's finest.

Meridina hadn't quite intended to broadcast her thoughts. Perhaps she hadn't, and her expression betrayed them. Kaveri reacted with a pleasant look. "I am kshatriya, Captain. Duty is my calling."

"It is."

A tone sounded from the desk. Kaveri tapped the blinking key on her desk control panel. "Captain Varma here. Proceed."

The voice on the other end was Lieutenant Sabiha Neyzi's. "Captain, Under-Secretary Tashke is ready to resume the talks with the local government."

"Understood. Commander Meridina and I will meet her and her team at Transporter Station 1." Kaveri hit the key again to end the call. She tapped a final command into her datapad and stood. "My thanks to you on your report on the talks, Commander. It brought me up to speed."

"Thank you, Captain." Meridina said nothing more while following Kaveri out of the ready office.

The family dining hall in the Fire Palace was small, compared to the banquet hall anyway. It was still large enough to fit the Aurora's conference lounge and the Lookout together. At the central table Lord Daizon sat at the head seat. To his right was his wife Ty Lin, a thin woman with ash-gray hair arranged in a braided tail. To his left was the seat of honor which went to Ursa. Miko was beside her mother and Julia beside Miko. Other members of the family were on both sides of the table, about twenty in all. A variety of pastries and meat dishes, as well as some citrus, were the offered breakfast fare. Julia picked that which seemed the most appetizing for her plate. She waited quietly for Daizon to have the first bite. After he swallowed everyone else dug in.

Julia was finding Fire Nation cuisine to be on the spicy side, which was fitting in its own way. It wasn't quite as hot as Thai, just hot enough that Julia was frequently relieving her taste buds of the heat with the water and tea set before her.

They were well into the meal when Daizon, his plate finished for the moment, looked to Miko and asked, "The Council has asked me to look into how you are progressing, Miko."

Julia could tell Miko wasn't happy to hear the question. "Uncle, I love you, but please don't mince words. They want to know about my Waterbending training."

Daizon nodded. "Yes. I personally understand that you need time, but the Council are concerned with your development as the Avatar. You finished Airbending rather quickly, but now you seem stuck. And given Chief Lantak did not work out… I recall you sought out a trainer on Tangshan?"

"I did. Her name was Jenna."

A cousin further down the table gave Miko a bewildered look. "Jenna Kamak? The former Pro-bender?"

"And one of the most accomplished Waterbenders alive." Miko's eyes fell. "At least, she was."

"Fassbinder and the SS killed her, didn't they?" Julia asked.

"Yes." Miko's eyes teared up. "Her, her husband Hunan, and their children. They lined them up and shot them, and they just… disappeared. As if they never existed."

"You surrendered to spare them, didn't you?" Ursa asked.

Miko nodded. Her fists clenched. "I wish I had burned that yellow-eyed monster to ash," she rasped angrily. "He… he promised he'd let the people of Tangshan go. Instead he made me watch, just to be cruel."

"What kind of monster was this Fassbinder?" another member of the family asked.

"Infected with evil," Miko insisted. "His spirit is dark and hideous."

"Fassbinder's people, they represent a movement that thankfully failed in other universes," Julia said. "The Nazis believe in the racial superiority of their nation. They consider themselves supermen, and other peoples and species are thought to be inferior to some degree or another. There are few atrocities, if any, they'd refuse to commit against a people they think is inferior. Even in my history, where they were defeated, they invented industrial mass murder. They'd march people into gas chambers, kill them, and then burn the remains. They murdered millions in just a few years. The Nazis of Fassbinder's universe? They've slaughtered billions over the centuries. They exterminated entire species, wiped out whole nations of Humans they considered inferior. Other peoples they forced into zoos, making them live like animals. And the SS are the fanatical heart of their movement."

"Monstrous indeed," Daizon said. "Their attacks on our colonies made it clear they were a savage and cruel people, but the depths of their depravity were unknown to us." He looked again to Miko. "I thank the spirits of our ancestors that you were freed from them, dear Miko."

"I do too." Miko closed her eyes. "I only wish I could have saved the people of Tangshan."

"The survivors spoke of your heroism, and of your willingness to sacrifice for them," Ty Lin said. "You have nothing to regret."

"Don't I?" Miko asked bitterly. "Had I refused to surrender, had I kept fighting, maybe we would have held out. Maybe…"

"No." Julia shook her head. "Fassbinder would have just kept killing your people until he took you. And if he couldn't, he would have destroyed Tangshan from orbit. You can't be blamed for not knowing what he, what his people, are like, Miko." She set her right hand on Miko's shoulder. "It's not your fault, Miko. Although I know you'll feel otherwise for a long time, you have to remember that. You acted to protect people at your own expense, and if you ask me, that makes you a hero."

Julia spoke the words calmly, and with utter sincerity that none at the table doubted. Miko heard them and nodded in acceptance. It wouldn't stop her from feeling terrible of course, but it would help.

"You speak with wisdom, Captain," Daizon said. "And from what the history files your people provided the Council show, you are deserving of the same title of hero for your deeds."

Julia blushed slightly. "Thank you, Your Highness. My friends and I, we just came out here to do the right thing. To help people."


"I would say you have been quite helpful," Ursa remarked.

One of the younger princes looked theri way from further down the table. He was in his mid-teens, from the look of him, a cousin of Miko's. Julia didn't recall his name at the moment. "The news services are saying a lot about your people. And they showed you have aliens that look like Humans. Are they really aliens?"

"The Gersallians? Yes," Julia said. "Externally they look Human, but there are physiological differences under the skin. And they're not the only ones. The Betazoid, for instance, also look completely Human, except they have dark-colored eyes. And are completely telepathic."

It took a moment for the others to parse that, or at least the term that the auto-translators used in their language for the idea of telepaths. "People who can look into your mind? Really?"

"Yes. Betazoids can do it. Some Humans from the S0T5 and E5B1 universes can too. In fact, most species from E5B1 have some telepaths in their populations thanks to genetic engineering by an ancient race known as the Vorlons."

By this point even Miko's attention was focused entirely on Julia. "I noticed there were other species on your ship," Ursa said. "Your Alliance has four, right?"

"For now. We have Human member systems and nations and the Gersallians, Dorei, and Alakin."

"The Alakin are the bird-people, right?"

"Yes," said Julia. She turned her attention from her meal, recognizing that the others were starving for more knowledge of the Multiverse. "There are also other species that are considering membership, and some of them are already serving in the Alliance. The Falaen, for instance, a species once known as Alteans…"

The Future Industries Air and Voidflight Museum was a treasure trove of information on the progress of the planet's technology. Cat and Tra'dur wandered its halls and exhibits. "I really should get Tom to come here," Cat said. "Or Lucy."

"It is interesting to see where their designs differ from the Humanity of Earth at these stages of development," said Tra'dur. A torpedo-carrying biplane was in the exhibit before them. Their omnitools provided a translation of the exhibit display, remarking that it was an authentic replica of the Future Industries Mark I Torpedo Aircraft. The unfortunate history of the aircraft, designed and built for the benefit of the failed Equalist Revolution, was laid out.

"'Equalists'?" Cat's brow furrowed in thought. "I wonder what they are?"

"We do have an uplink into the planetary extranet," Tra'dur said. She tapped at her omnitool control. "The Equalists…" The holographic screen shifted to show a man in a hooded suit. A white mask with a red circle on the forehead was hiding his face. Text rendered into Dilgar characters was beside it. "Apparently they were an anti-bender political movement from two centuries ago. Their leader, a man named Amon, could take away the metaphysical abilities of benders, and vowed to do this to every bender on the planet to create an 'equal' society. He was revealed to be a Waterbender capable of..." Tra'dur made an unpleasant face. "...of bending the blood inside of Human beings."

"So, equal except for him, I guess," Cat said with evident sarcasm. "And the whole thing about manipulating the water in our blood? That sounds really scary. And creepy. I mean, with how these powers work, you could twist someone up like a pretzel."

"All of these metaphysical powers have some kind of terrible potential, it seems," Tra'dur said. "Which is no different from science, if you think about it."

"I suppose…"

They continued on from that display to find an aircraft marked as the first jet aircraft. It had the jet engines underslung from the wings like most early jet craft from Earth's history. This led to more advanced jets and a scale model replica of the first rocket to make it into orbit. The image beside the model showed a picture collage of the real one. In the middle was a shot of the rocket in the distance with a group of people standing in front of it. The figure in the center was a green-eyed elderly woman in a dark suit with red shoulders. There was an insignia on the shoulders that the angle partly obscured. Her wrinkled face was split by a happy smile. The engraved plaque below the image identified a list of names. They connected faces to names, with the woman in the center listed as "Asami Sato, President of Future Industries, Design Team Lead".

"Sato? Isn't that the name they use on their warp drives?"

"It is," Tra'dur said. She worked on her omnitool again, but Cat beat her to it. Tra'dur looked around Cat's head and shoulder at the English text shining in blue holographic light. "Ah, quite impressive, I think?"

Cat read off the entry. "Daughter of Future Industries founder Hiroshi Sato, Future Industries President, CEO, and lead designer, wife of Avatar Korra… Look at these accomplishments. The first mono-wing plane, the first generation of flying suits for the Air Nation, co-designer of the first supersonic jet engine, design team lead for the first three rocket types… Tom would fall in love with her, I mean, if she were here…"

"And heterosexual?"

"Well, maybe she was bi? But anyway… ah, here. Under family."

Cat highlighted the extranet link for Tra'dur's benefit, listing under "Family" a link for "Yasuko Sato, theoretical physicist and creator of space-warp drive theory". Upon activating it a new page appeared, depicting a woman of dark brown eyes and coloration with thin features. She looked thoughtful and a little stern. "So she's the grandmother for the lady who first proposed warp drive."

"Impressive, certainly." Tra'dur glanced at the next exhibit down. It was a fixed wing craft, or rather the model of one. "Their first orbiter, it appears."

"First reusable one, yeah," Cat agreed. "It's just so interesting… do the Dilgar have anything like this? Something to trace your history of flight?"

"Not any longer," Tra'dur answered.

"Hopefully you'll be able to build something like this one day. Maybe on Rohric after the spores are gone?"

"Or Omelos, if we can reclaim it," said Tra'dur. "But yes, we will. While we have much to be ashamed of in our history, we should honor those who brought us to the stars. The crimes the Imperium committed were not theirs."

Cat nodded in agreement and they continued on.

At Daniel's call, the others headed to the computer access room. They found him looking up from the displays. "Well, it took some doing, but I think I found more files for you."

Samantha and Jarod each took a station and went to work. "This definitely looks like a file directory," Sam noted. "Well done, Daniel."

"Well, it wasn't too hard. Just a few hundred translations I had to figure out…"

"Now you're just grenade-fishing for compliments," Lucy teased. She felt further concern when Daniel, despite his usual readiness to spar wit with wit, only flashed a small smile. "So, what else do we have?"

"Well, we already know this was a ship," Jarod noted. He brought up a full display showing the city and platforms with engine ports underneath. "It looks like the Ancients used them as mobile bases."

"Them, as in plural?" asked Tom.

"They definitely had a fleet of them," Daniel said. "Unfortunately some of the data is just gibberish, from what I've seen."

"The damage to the databank, not to mention what the SS Exiles' engineers did with their methods in asserting control, may have corrupted some of the data," said Sam. "But look at this astrographical time stamp."

Jarod did so and whistled lowly. "Twenty thousand and twenty years since landing. Just as we thought."

"I wonder what happened to them?" Lucy asked. "Why didn't they repair the city to fly again?"

"I'm not sure." Daniel tapped at his screen. "I do know that they came here to monitor planets in this universe."


"It doesn't list them," said Daniel.

"Let me try." Jarod went through the unlocked files. "Even with the corrupted data, there could be a remnant log… found it."

With a key press Jarod brought it up on the screen. Daniel and Samantha looked at it with no obvious recognition. The others weren't sure either.

It was Komin who spoke up. "That's… that's our world."

Everyone turned to face him. "It is?" Daniel asked.

"Yes. I… I can make out the continents easily, even with the different… yes, it's our homeworld," Komin said.

"I've found another planetary profile too," Samantha said. "The data's badly garbled, but I think I can bring up the planet itself." At a nod from Jarod she did so.

The second planet appeared. This time Komin was the one uncertain to what he was seeing. "I've never seen that world before," he said.

"That's okay, because we have," Lucy told him.


"It's Earth," said Daniel. "The Ancients were monitoring your world and this universe's Earth."

"Then… Earth once existed in this universe," Lucy said. "But why is it gone now?"

"If the Ancients knew, it must be in one of the corrupted files," Jarod said. "As it is, all entries seem to stop about twenty thousand years ago."

"That was when the plague hit," said Samantha. "The plague that wiped them out."

"They last for thousands of years, then get wiped out within twenty years of showing up in this universe," Jarod observed. "Do you think there might be a connection?"

"It's possible," Sam said. "But we don't have any evidence either way."

"Still, we're at least a step closer to the truth," Daniel said. "Let me keep going, I'll see if there's anything else."

After breakfast Julia considered what she would do for the day. Miko and her mother were off to a meeting with members of the Fire Nation's legislative council and she still knew little about the rest of the family.

After taking some time to check in with Leo, who wanted her back up for a checkup before the day was over, Julia decided to perform extra training. After donning her white gi and cloth belt she traveled to the ground floor of the palace and out to the gardens. Cherry blossom trees were budding, soon to bloom, and the grass was soft under her sandaled feet. The air was warm and the wind cool, coming off of the pond in the middle of the garden. She stepped up to the side of the pond. Nearby were a line of ducks with turtle-like shells on their backs. They clearly had no issue with Humans as they waddled past her feet and entered the water. As they swam on, quacking much like an Earth duck would, Julia found she was regretting not bringing some bread to feed them.

Instead of assuming her starting stance Julia sat down at the edge of the pond. The beauty of the park and the fresh scents were calming, and something to enjoy. It wasn't often she got to view real nature like this.

"Oh, there you are."

Julia turned and watched Miko walk up. She was still in a formal court robe with the national sigil embroidered in gold on the dark red silk. Her hair was wrapped into a formal bun that she freed with a yank of a ribbon, allowing dark hair to settle on her shoulders. "I see you found the old turtle-duck pond." She sat down beside Julia. "Mother always brought me out here to feed the turtle-ducks when I was little."

"I'm still getting used to your world's hybrid species," Julia said. "On Earth we have several species of ducks, and several of turtles, but I don't think anyone's mixed them."

"You've seen alien animals before, right? How is this any different?"

"Well, alien animals tend to be alien. Sure, there can be some similarities. Targs from Quo'noS, the Klingon Homeworld, look sort of like boars. Big ones, I mean. Varren from the M4P2 galaxy are like big dog lizards. But there's always something different about them that makes it clear they evolved on another world. These are clearly ducks, and they clearly have turtle shells. It's… a little weird, even when you count aliens."

"Maybe I'll feel the same when I see species from Earth," Miko wondered. "I can't imagine a turtle-duck without its shell."

"Maybe you will." Julia reached down and ran a hand in the cool, clear water of the pond. "So, is everything okay?"

"Oh, it's the usual," Miko said drolly. "A bunch of old people telling me how important it is that I learn Waterbending. How I can't be a good Avatar without it. As if I didn't just spend weeks as a prisoner getting my mind drilled by a machine."

Julia gave her a sympathetic look. "It's alright. Take your time. Rushing into a decision isn't going to help."


Something in Miko's voice drew Julia's attention. The young woman gave her an intent look. "I haven't said anything, but I have been thinking of who could teach me. Someone I think I can learn from."

"Oh? You found someone?"

"I think. But I have to ask first."

Julia nodded. "Alright, that makes sense."

"It does. So…" Miko didn't look away. "Julia, will you be my Waterbending teacher?"

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Mon May 13, 2019 7:15 pm
by Shroom Man 777
But how?!

How can a tai chi practitioner teach water-bending when said practitioner can't actually do the water-manipulations? Unless Miko's OK with the elemental chi manipulation, which she is, and thus her only hurdle is the movements... but nonetheless there's undoubtedly a lot of theory involved and how can Julia get that? Unless Miko already figured that out, or was taught that before, and she was only figuring out the kinesthenic/movement aspects before... yeah the Nazis killed all her waterbender teachers.

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Tue May 14, 2019 3:57 pm
by Steve
A silence filled the air between Julia and Miko, only the distant occasional quacking of the turtle-ducks swimming in the pond. Miko's request flashed through Julia's brain once, then twice, as she made herself certain of what the young woman asked her.

"You want me to teach you?"


"To teach your world's Waterbending arts to you."

"Yes," repeated Miko, who nodded.

"Even though I'm not actually a Waterbender? I don't have these powers you do."

Miko shook her head. "Bending comes from the movements and the mentality. That's where I'm having trouble. And you said you've studied the style for years, right?"

"Well, I have," Julia admitted, still quite surprised at what was being asked of her.

"If you teach me the forms, how you move, I think I can put together the rest." Miko shrugged. "If anything, maybe it'll at least get me to a point where even a stuffy old Waterbender like Chief Lantak can bring me the rest of the way."

There was something in the younger woman's eyes that made it hard for Julia to dismiss the request. A vulnerable, needing look. As she considered that look Julia thought she could understand it. With everything that had happened, Miko was looking to get her life back on track, and to do it her way. Having lost control of her life, Miko wanted to take it back.

It was a familiar feeling.

It's not like I haven't trained anyone before. Lucy, Robert, Meridina… I've shown them how to do this. Angel too, even if she prefers mok'bara.

But there was a bit of doubt. Those had been brief teaching exercises, little more than showing the basics. Miko was asking Julia to be her teacher, full stop. That required… quite a bit more than showing the basics. Could she even do this right?

Some of the uncertainty must have shown in her eyes, as Miko shook her head. "I understand if you've never taught before, maybe it you're nervous, but Julia… I think this must be some kind of destiny. Something put our lives on course to meet like we did. I trust you in a way… I know we just met, but I trust you more than most other people I know, and I'm not even sure why. Maybe it was because of how we met each other…"

That was likely. Julia nearly pointed out that their "destined" meeting was hardly a positive one, and that the only hand in it was likely Erik Fassbinder's. But she stopped herself. There was something earnest in the way Miko was asking. Something that didn't deserve a cynical rejection.

"You know that in just a couple months I'm going back on duty, right?" she asked Miko. "When I get my ship back, that's going to demand much of my time."

"Yeah, but that's two months from now," Miko pointed out. "By then I might know enough to make this work. Or at least be closer to the answer I need."

None of the earnestness went away. Miko wasn't begging either, but she was being insistent, in that willful way she was so capable of. Julia considered the request for several moments before saying, "I'll think about it, okay? And I'll let you know by the time of the feast your grand-uncle is throwing."

Miko's face brightened. Julia imagined she felt this was just a deferral of a "yes". "I understand. Take the time you need," she insisted, starting to move her legs as she did. She stood to her full height. "I'll see you for dinner."

"Sure." Julia watched her go and checked her omnitool. Leo would be leaving the medbay for the day pretty soon, as it was getting toward 2000 hours on the Aurora. She should see him for that checkup.

Cat entered the conference lounge off the bridge as the last member of the Aurora command crew to arrive. She took her usual seat beside where Jarod would normally sit, a seat currently taken by Bet'tir, Kaveri's telepath adjutant. Meridina was back in her place across from Bet'tir, at the Captain's left.

A holo-viewer screen was active along the interior wall, showing the command center of what was now known as an Ancient city-ship. Jarod, Lucy, and Tom were present, with Major Carter from SG-1. "So with Doctor Jackson's help, we've deciphered more of the older programming and data in the city," Jarod explained. "The Ancients were here for at least twenty years about twenty thousand years ago, then they abandoned the city ship."

"The timing matches up with what we know of the end of their Milky Way civilization," Samantha continued. "That a plague spread through their worlds and destroyed them."

"Completely?" asked Kaveri.

Sam answered, "There are some indications some of their ships fled to another galaxy, but we haven't found anything to confirm it."

"The most important news is that we've located the mechanical systems for that jamming device the SS used to block our comms and IU drive," Lucy said. "It's going to take some time to examine it. The Maimonides technology and artifact lab teams will be focusing on that until a full team can be permanently assigned."

Kaveri nodded in acknowledgement. "Under-Secretary Tashke is still in talks for a final dispensation with the Five Nations Compact. That will determine the state of a final team."

"Far be it from me to question the diplomats, but I hope they don't take too long," Lucy said. "This could be what we need to stop another surprise attack. These jammers, theoretically, wouldn't just prevent IU comms or drives from operating within the field, it would also prevent incoming jump points from forming. It would either hit the other drive with feedback or force the point to form outside of the field. That means warning time."

"Agreed," Meridina said. "But it is important that we take care with diplomacy first of all. The people of this universe are understandably seeking a measure of security and we should aid them in finding it."

"I can't argue with that. The teams here are getting along, but they're assertive about equal access to the findings," Jarod said. "Anyway, I figured we'd give you a heads up before we left. The Enterprise departs in four hours."

"Of course. We await your arrival, Commander. Aurora out."

The holo-viewer screen shut down. "I am aware it is getting late by your ship's clock," Kaveri said to the assembled. "So you are dismissed."

The SG-1 team was waiting in the command center when the four Aurora officers, with Komin Beifong, arrived to beam out. Nearby Philippe and his commander, Captain Nasira Fanous, were waiting. The Captain of the Maimonides was not a big nor tall woman, but there was a passionate intensity in her eyes that Lucy remembered first seeing years before when the acid-scarred, defiant Coptic girl they'd rescued asked to join the Facility crew. Despite her age - she was about Cat's age, the time with the Doctor not counted - Nasira becoming a commanding officer was no surprise to them.

"Nice to see you all again," Lucy said to them. "I'll tell Zack you said hello, Colonel."

"I'm glad to hear he's doing well," Jack said. His voice was somber. "Tell him that next time I'm around the beer is on me."

"Root beer would be better," Lucy murmured quietly, just loud enough for them to hear. She looked to Daniel. There was something off about how he felt, and it didn't feel like marital problems. "But I'll pass that on."

"Good luck with everything." Tom shook Sam's hand. "It kinda sucks that we won't get to see more of the place."

"I'll pass on anything we find before we leave," Sam promised. She shook hands with Jarod next. "Commander, good luck out there."

"Good luck to you too, Major," Jarod replied.

Talara sized up Teal'c, who looked her over with curiosity. "You are not an elf," Teal'c said suddenly.

"Well, no," Talara answered, confused. "I am a Falaen. Or an Altean, as we were once known."

"Colonel O'Neill and I have a standing wager on when elves will be encountered in the multiverse. He proposed it after we met Secretary Onaran."

"I… see."

Daniel and Sam exchanged knowing, bemused looks.

Nasira and Philippe approached the group. "It is good to see you again," Nasira said to them. "I wish we had more time."

"Congratulations, Nas," said Tom, who offered his hand first.

"Thank you," she said.

"You're off to explore in this universe, right?" asked Jarod.

"We are. It will be the Maimonides' first long-term mission. We are not due to return to Alliance space for six months."

"Good luck with that," Jarod said.

"I'd love to check a Juvap out at some point," Tom said. "I always wanted to see how adjustable nacelles would work."

"You do not have to maintain them, Thomas," Nasira responded. "Lieutenant Tagiya wishes they had simply accepted the reduced warp performance of the lower arrangement."

"I heard you had some trouble after leaving New Liberty," said Lucy. "Is everything okay?"

"It is." There was grief in Nasira's being that she was adjusting to. "We lost people in a fight with slavers."

"I see." Lucy, having nothing to say that wouldn't sound pat, embraced Nasira to give consolation. "Eubians?"

"Eubians," Nasira confirmed.

"Who?" asked Jack.

"The Goa'uld aren't the only civilization with mass slavery," Lucy said to him after pulling away from Nasira. "And they're not biologically hard-wired sadists who torture telepaths for the intense pleasure it makes them feel."

Daniel winced. Jack rolled his eyes. "Oh, for crying out loud, first Nazis, then genocidal robots that look like people, and now this! What's next, horrors from another dimension that eat planets or stars or something?"

Jarod and Lucy exchanged uneasy glances. "Uh, no comment," Jarod finally said.

Jack leveled a glare at him.

"Enterprise to Commander Jarod. We are ready to depart," said a male voice with a Chinese accent.

"Understood, Commander Xiu." The five lifted their duffel bags. "We're ready to transport."

The five figures disappeared in bursts of blue-white light, a buzzing sound filling the chamber.

"Colonel." Nasira gave Jack a nod. "The Greek will be here tomorrow to pick you up and return you to your home universe."

"The Greek." Jack blinked. "Should I be expecting gyros and hummus with olive oil? Or some mob guy offering me deals I can't refuse?"

Daniel gave him a look. "I don't think it means people from Greece, Jack. Or mob nicknames."

Nasira's barely-stifled laughter subsided. "It is an Alakin warbird," she explained, a brief giggle escaping with the words. "We have to find a ship that is compatible with the Goa'uld treaty, and my ship has other orders. Now, please pardon me, I must go and meet with Commander Li from the Compact."

The two officers departed as well, leaving SG-1 to themselves. "Well, now I'm in the mood for a gyro," said Jack. "Let's go see if their replicators can manage to make a good one."

After satisfying Leo on her physical recovery, Julia checked in with Dr. Tusana. To accommodate all three shifts on the ship the Gersallian psychiatrist kept an open door policy and revolving shifts. Julia idly wondered if it caused her any trouble with rest in the moment before she stepped into the room. Tusana was lighting one of the incense candles when Julia stepped through the door. "Captain." The therapist turned to face her. "I hear you are staying with Miko's family?"

"By invitation. And usually it's best to accept, for diplomatic reasons anyway." Julia took her seat. Tusana took her own a moment later. "Not that I don't prefer it right now."

"Instead of being a guest on your own ship." Tusana nodded in acceptance of the thought. "And yet, something has happened?"

"Yeah, definitely." Julia gave a short nod. "I've been asked to do something, and I'm not sure if I should say yes."


"Miko wants me to train her in t'ai chi," Julia explained. "Apparently it's related to the style that the metaphysically-powered people from this world use when manipulating water. Miko's having a lot of trouble with the style and thinks I can help."

Tusana nodded in understanding. By now the room was fully in the embrace of the gentle smell of her incense. "And you are not sure whether to accept."

"I'm not sure I should," Julia elaborated. "You don't teach t'ai chi in two months. What happens when my medical leave is up and I'm captaining a ship again? I doubt they'll let her come with us. Her own people, I mean."

"Your precaution is understandable, even if premature." Tusana folded her hands together. "Sometimes it is best to leave the future to itself. I presume that Miko, with her status, can easily find another to teach her this art?"


"And she choose you. She clearly trusts you to show her what she needs."

"But I can't," Julia pointed out. "When I go through my forms, I don't move water at the same time! I don't know the slightest thing about how their metaphysical powers work, how they really work I mean. I can't teach her that."

"Perhaps that is not what needs to be taught," said Tusana. "Your art is more than movements, is it not? It is a way of thinking. Of ordering the body and mind. It may be that this is what she needs."

Julia nodded once. "I suppose it could be."

"I would advise you to consider the request," said Tusana. "Not just for your friend's benefit, but for your own mental health."

Julia looked at her without saying a word.

"You are clearly restless," Tusana said. "And I suspect you are not content with your leave. You wish to be acting constructively. To be accomplishing something."

"What I wish for is my Goddamned ship back!"

The exclamation escaped from Julia before she stop it. Tusana said nothing at the ferocity of it, the pent up resentment in the words.

"I know, we went over it before, and I said I understood why I've been relieved. And I do." Julia's heated words carried through the room. "But I… I don't want medical leave, I want my ship back. I want to move on with my life! And I can't because my life hasn't been given back to me! It's here, on this ship, with my friends and my crew!"

When Tusana remained silent a dread came to Julia. Would this be held against her? A sign of unhealthy fixation? Inability to accept what happened?

Tusana shook her head at those worries. "This resentment is natural, Julia," Tusana said calmly. "You seek a return to normal. That is natural for someone who suffered an ordeal like yours. That you are being denied this, even with justification, that is a natural cause for resentment."

Sighing with relief, Julia sat back in the chair.

"Do you object to the idea of teaching Miko?"

Julia gave her head a quick shake. "No, not at all," she asserted. "I'm honored. Flattered, really. We just met this civilization and already one of its most important figures is asking me to help them? To train them? I'm just worried that I can't give her what she needs."

"I understand that worry, and it speaks well of you. Would you like advice?"

"By all means."

"It is just what you need," Tusana said. "I think this would help your recovery immensely. I would accept. But it is your choice, not mine."

"It is," Julia agreed, thankful for the advice.

With no further patients after Julia, Tusana decided to take a meal. She departed her office and walked to the Lookout. She found Meridina eating a late meal as well. Albert was quick to arrange food for Tusana, who approached Meridina. Go ahead and join me, Meridina cast mentally.

Tusana did so. You are having a late night she observed.

The talks ran long. We are making progress at least.

That is good
. Tusana's food arrived a moment later, a plate of liyume with lentils. She started eating away at the contents while her mind remained in contact with Meridina's. I do sense you are doing well. Are you pleased to be relieved of the Captain's place?

I am
, Meridina admitted. And I believe Captain Varma's sincerity in working with us.

She began mental recitations of verses when she learned I was a telepath. It is not often you find Humans who do such to make farisa more comfortable.


And you, Meridina? How are you feeling? About the attacks?

Meridina let out a small sigh. I mourn the lost. I wish we could have saved more. But I am coming to terms with what occurred. I know no blame falls upon me.

That is progress
, answered Tusana. And it is good to hear.

Personal Log of Julia Andreys, Captain. 31 October 2643

Today looks to be the same as yesterday. I spent the morning, Fire Nation time, having another breakfast where Miko's cousins barraged me with questions about the Multiverse. Miko herself is waiting patiently for my response to her request to be her
t'ai chi teacher. I am still considering it.

Enterprise is expected to arrive soon with Tom, Jarod, and the others, and just in time for Lord Daizon's celebration dinner. I'm sure the others will have some difficulty from the time difference, but everyone is going to attend at least, with a skeleton crew coming over from the Enterprise to watch things for us.

I'm told Tom has inquired about costumes, since this is Halloween on the Alliance calendar. Now I have a mental image <giggle> in my head of Tom showing up as a zombie <louder giggle> like he did for that high school party. Diplomatically mortifying <laugh> but I'm laughing anyway.

<Deep sigh> I want to give Miko her answer today. But I have a couple of conversations to handle first.

As part of getting her routine back, Julia left the medbay from her daily checkup and went straight for the gym. As usual it had the conflicting scents of sweat and other perspiration from the Aurora's various species. In the nearest ring a new Falaen crewman was showcasing Falaen-style fighting in a bout with a Dorei Marine. A number of others were using the weight machines in one corner, or the treadmills in the other.

The punching bags were mostly open, so Julia stepped up to one and shed her white gi, revealing the burgundy-colored sports bra underneath. She checked her hair to make sure the pony-tail she'd pulled her hair into was secure. After some warm-up movements she pulled on gloves and started to punch the bag.

Punching something felt good. It had a degree of catharsis to it. If she had a picture of Fassbinder to attach to it, this would be even better.

"So, tired of the palace life?"

Julia heard the words between the sounds of her fists on canvas and turned to where Angel was stepping up to the bag beside her. Unlike Julia she didn't need to pull off a robe or jacket as she was quite happy to stroll through the ship in sports bra and shorts. Showing off her muscles was never something Angel would shy away from. "I thought Leo told you to take it easy?"

"He did," Julia confirmed. "But I want to get back into routine."

"I can understand that." Angel gestured toward one of the rings. "So, want to get in a match? Best of three? It'll really get you back into shape."

"Somehow I don't think Leo would approve," Julia noted wryly. "Can you imagine his reaction if I have to go back to medbay today because I took one of your kicks to my ribs?"

Angel could imagine the reaction. "Oh yeah, he'd be ticked, wouldn't he?"

"He'd probably confine me to medbay again."

The bag beside Julia's shook under Angel's first blow. She gave it a few more before asking, "So, what are you doing for your leave? Go find a beach somewhere and try to get a tan?" She grinned and shook her head. "No, that's not you. You need someone to boss around or you'll go crazy," she teased.

Julia struck the bag again before giving Angel a playful glare.

Angel winked and returned her focus to her bag. After landing a few more punches she held back and glanced Julia's way again. "Seriously, knowing you, you've got to find something to do during your leave or you'll go mad, then they'll never let you come back. So got any plans?"

"Well, there's always going to New Liberty to help with rebuilding," Julia said. "But I've actually gotten a job offer of sorts."


"Miko asked me to train her in t'ai chi."

"Huh." Angel thought for a moment before nodding. "Well, yeah, it sounds good. Especially if you get to live in that nice palace."

Julia rolled her eyes. "It's about more than that actually. Which is why I haven't said yes."

"Well, what else is there to it?"

"Because there's a… metaphysical side to it, you'd say. Their abilities to manipulate elements are channeled in a way that is linked to martial arts, to different styles, I mean. T'ai chi is apparently just like moving water. But Miko's an aggressive fighter. She's a bit like you, in that respect."

"Ah." Angel nodded. "And I've never been one for that 'sticking' and 'softness' and redirecting power that you like to talk about."

"Exactly. She's had trouble with trying to learn it. It's why she was out on that colony when she was captured, she was trying to find a teacher."

"And she wants you to teach her?"

"She does."

Angel finally turned back to her bag and gave it a few punches, prompting Julia to do the same. As Julia's blows picked up in pace Angel spoke up, not letting her own rhythm stop as she did so. "Okay, well, you were her connection when she was a captive. I mean, you two, you bonded, you gave each other someone who was sympathetic. I can see how that would work."

"Can you? We still just met. Come to think about it, there's not a lot we really know about each other."

"Yeah, but there's still a bond there, so it could work."

"You think I should do it?" Julia slowed her punches, trying a few stronger ones.

"Honestly? Yeah, why not? If it works out, hey, good for both of you, and you just made relations with these people even better. If it doesn't, well, you at least tried."

Julia's punches became a little fierce. "Except I don't move water when I do my forms. I don't know the least thing about actually sensing how these powers work!"

"Maybe you don't need to know. She does two elements already, right? I'm sure she'll know what she's feeling."

The point was a good one. Miko likely had some sense of when her movements were actively channeling her powers. Even if Julia wouldn't feel anything, she should. Julia found herself tilting more and more toward agreeing to train Miko.

But she wasn't decided just yet. And she knew just who to talk to to help her make the final decision.

Robert's focus on the Life of Reshan was intense enough that he almost missed the door chime. "Come in!" he called out without looking up, the fingers of one hand closely following words while the other hand scribbled away at an anachronism in the text.

Of course, he didn't need to look up to know it was Julia. But he did anyway. As she approached he stood from his chair, leaving the book for Gina to continue. "You're looking better."

"Feeling a little better," she said.

"I know that you're not," he replied. "At least, not entirely. You're resentful and upset."

"That's cheating."

To that he smiled and shook his head. "I don't need metaphysical powers to know you're upset, Julie. You want to be back here, on your ship."

"I do," she agreed.

Noticing she was eyeing the couch in his living area, Robert brought her over and they sat down beside each other. "I'm sorry I've been occupied lately," he said. "I figured after all of that time in medbay you'd want some distance.."

"We said what we needed to, it's fine." Julia glanced back to where Gina was working on both books. "What are you doing? Research?"

"Part research, part decoding," Robert answered. "We think that whatever the Brotherhood and Cylons are up to, we can figure it out if we finish translating and decrypting the Life of Reshan."

"Ah. That does sound important." Julia nodded in approval. "It's good to do important things."

"It sounds like you're worried you're not."

"More like I'm worried I'll say yes to it and mess it up."

Robert's curiosity picked up. "Oh?"

Julia nodded. "A couple of days ago, Miko asked me to train her in t'ai chi. Well, to be exact, she wants me to teach her to Waterbend, which I obviously can't do."

"I think I see her logic, though. Their abilities are tied to martial arts styles. If she's struggling with this one, getting a teacher she feels a bond toward might make things easier." Robert grinned at her. "It's not like you haven't tried to teach it before. You just haven't had a dedicated student."

"And the fact I can't actually do anything metaphysical?"

"Honestly, I think the important part is the mental element. The mentality of the art. Teach her that, and everything should work out," Robert advised. "You're already thinking of saying yes."

Julia gave him a droll look. "Is that intuition or powers?"

"Both," Robert admitted.

"It's been a hard year for the two of us to be together as much as we used to," she observed.

"It has. But I already knew you were going to have to leave the ship. If you remained aboard for your medical leave, if you even could, that wouldn't be good for you." He set a hand on her arm. "I'll miss you, of course. The others will too. But go ahead and take the time to heal, and while you're at it, helping Miko will give you something to focus on."

A slow, understanding nod was Julia's immediate reaction. "So, when I get back…" She put a hand up to his chin, feeling the coarseness of stubble. "Is this going to be back?"

"Only if you want it," Robert said.

"I don't," she laughed. "But don't keep it off on my account."

"It's fine," he said. "I probably did let it go too far."

Playfully Julia teased, "You did. You looked like a hermit. And that's the last thing I want you to be."

"Don't worry. Umintamil was bad enough. No hermitages or abbeys for me," Robert promised, grinning widely. "So, you'll be at the honors table down there?"

"We all will. I've seen the seating arrangements."

"Between our crew and the Iroh's, that's about three thousand people…"

"I've seen the place, Rob. Trust me, there will be even more there, and we might still have room to spare."

"Then I look forward to seeing it."

The courtyard of the Fire Nation palace was filled with tables and chairs covered in foods and drinks. The palace entrance was obscured by the platform on which some of the tables were set, including a chair clearly meant for Daizon. The command officers of the Aurora, Koenig, and General Iroh were seated to Daizon's left, the attending family members to his right. Julia and Miko occupied the positions of honor to each side.

Aside from the tables and chairs, a stage at the far end of the courtyard was ready for performances by entertainers. Paper lanterns in red, gold, blue, white, and green were strung up on wires all around the courtyard. Everywhere liveried and finely-attired servants stood ready to begin attending to the gathered attendees.

The scope of it was astounding. Julia suspected Daizon must have spent enough money to build a starship to assemble all of the food and materials and people to make the function happen.

Robert sat to Julia's left, with Captain Saizen to his left, Kaveri to Saizen's left, then Meridina, Zack, and the others on down by rank. Past Miko was her mother Ursa, then Daizon's wife Ty Lin, the rest of the family on from her.

On both sides were some low levels of conversation, but not too loud. "There's enough food here to feed both ships for two days," Julia heard Zack say.

Silence reigned with the sound of a bell. Daizon stood from his seat. A cleverly-hidden microphone ensured his voice would boom across the courtyard. "People of the Fire Nation, of the Compact, and those from beyond our stars, I welcome you to this celebration. We are here to commemorate the recovery of our Avatar, Princess Miko, from the captivity of a vile and cruel invader. The brave beings who dine with us tonight have earned our gratitude and hospitality through their bravery and skill. We are grateful for their service and sacrifices."

"But there are those who are not with us today." When he finished, Daizon looked to a group of elaborately-robed men. Several turned away and thrust their palms in the air. Flames erupted, crossing together and merging into a whirlpool of red flame that reached a series of torches erected in the courtyard. The fuel within them caught alight. Julia marveled at how carefully designed the display was, as it was not a group of simple torches, but used different kinds of fuel to generate different colors. The colors that formed depicted the five symbols of the Compact arrayed beside the Alliance torch insignia burning in blue, green, and white. "In this way we pay homage to the honored dead of the Five Nations Compact and the United Alliance of Systems, who fell in battle with the invader. Through their common sacrifice we stand at the dawn of a new age for our people. We are now part of a greater community of nations, of species, many of them united by common ideals that we too cherish. In the spirit of this new age, let the festivities begin!"

With that announcement a series of sparking trails flew into the sky, exploding into fireworks. On the stage opposite a group of performers started playing music, accompanied with dancers who literally trailed flames from their hands as they moved. The skill of the performers brought applause and cheers.

Everyone commenced eating on their own time. Conversations picked up among the guests until there was a general din of noise, while the sky continued to light up from fireworks.

"Sometimes it astounds me," Robert said.

Julia glanced to him. "What?"

"Everything." He smiled and shook his head. "The Multiverse. The alien worlds, the different ways life can develop. Worlds like this one, with powers and things I never imagined growing up."

Julia nodded slightly. "Yeah, I can understand that."

"I still remember the first time I met Meridina. The idea of someone who could read my thoughts, do the things she does… and when I got used to that, other things came along. This world and its people, its uniqueness, it adds to it all. Sometimes I wonder if anything is possible. Whatever Tom or Scotty say about the laws of physics."

"I suppose everything is possible, in some way," Julia said, smiling. "Do you think it makes everything bad we've gone through worth it? If you could wish away finding that pressure plate on the old mound, would you?"

Robert closed his eyes. Instead of answering his hand reached over and gripped hers. "I… I'm not entirely sure. With what just happened, I mean. And all of the fighting, the violence, the death…"

"It's okay," she assured him. "I don't think I'd change what happened. Even with all the things we've gone through. The good makes it worth it in the end."

"It often does," remarked Daizon. The gray-haired and -bearded Fire Lord turned his head to face them. "My ancestor Zuko was known for saying that good things come from the bad, so long as you didn't let the bad change you for the worse."

They looked back, uncertain of what to say.

Their silence prompted a short laugh from Daizon. "Surely what I said was not that profound? I may be getting on in years, but I am hardly the elderly master dispensing wisdom. Or so President Dravad has said to me in Compact Council meetings, often." An amused look betrayed the humor of the monarch.

"It was profound enough," Julia assured him. "There was little point in us repeating the idea."

"Now you flatter me. But I am not so humble that I can't enjoy it." Daizon gestured to the rest of the celebration. "I believe the next act are dancing otter-penguins. It is quite good…"

Taking the hint, they returned their attention to the festivities.

After some time passed the celebrants started to leave their chairs and mingle, all while performances continued on the stage. Feeling quite satisfied with her share of the dinner, Julia left the table in search of Miko.

She found Miko by the turtle-duck pond in the gardens. From here the lights and sounds of the festivities were muted. Miko was looking skyward and in thought. She turned at hearing Julia's footsteps. "Is everything okay?" Julia asked her.

Miko gestured toward her court finery. It wasn't a dress so much as a formal robe with the Fire Nation sigil etched into the right breast. Miko's hair was kept in a tight bun held in place by a metal band with a pin. "I don't really like wearing these things," she confessed.

To that Julia grinned. "Uncomfortable, right?"


Julia gestured to her own dress whites. "Trust me, there is worse."

Miko laughed. "Since we're the guests of honor, you'd think they'd let us come dressed as we pleased."

"I know, right?" Julia laughed lightly as she took the final step to stand beside Miko. The stars in the sky weren't visible due to the lights of the capital, even if the fireworks weren't going off again. "The answer is yes."

Miko looked to her and Julia thought she could feel the elation filling the younger woman. "You'll train me?"

Julia nodded. "At least until I'm back in command of my ship. We'll have to see what arrangements are necessary after that."

"That's okay. We'll make it work. And I'll tell my mother and Uncle Daizon. Are you going to stay here, then?"

"I might as well," Julia said. "For a while anyway. But I do want to go back to New Liberty at some point and help in the rebuilding."

"I'll go with you," Miko pledged. "Not just for training, but maybe I can help. I know a little bit of Earthbending, actually…" She blushed. "I'm technically not supposed to, but being around Komin all the time…"

"Yeah. I think I understand." Julia offered her hand and Miko took it, exchanging the handshake. "Well, for the rest of the night have fun. We start bright and early tomorrow."

"How early?"

"Dawn sounds good."

"Oh. Only dawn." Miko let out a relieved sound. "Gyatsun would sometimes wake me up two hours before dawn for morning practice. He likes to meditate when the sun's coming up."

Julia chuckled at that. "No. That won't be necessary. And, honestly, I've lived on a spaceship for four years now. I don't get to see dawns very often."

There was a gentle rippling in the pond water that drew their attention. Despite the lower light level they could make out the cyan-colored form that emerged, as if a primordial slime creature was leaving the lake like in a cheesy horror movie. The shape made a "glurp" sound and a device moved across its surface, viewing them both with a blue eye. "Oh, pardon me," an electronic feminine voice trilled from the device. "I didn't mean to startle anyone."

Miko was staring in surprise, which only made Julia's following laugh all the stronger. "This is Doctor Ke'mani'pala," she explained to Miko. "I'm guessing Cat didn't take you down to meet her?"

"No." Miko shook her head. "And it, she, is... a member of your crew?"

"A civilian science specialist," Julia clarified.

"Greetings, young Human. I am a Gl'mulli," Ke'mani'pala informed Miko politely. "And I must say, your pond is quite well-stocked in delicious microbes. It is not often I get to enjoy such a meal!"

"You… ate from the pond? Not the banquet?"

"Oh, seas no! Your foods would be a pain for us to digest, and much of it we cannot."

"I… see…"

Ke'mani'pala trilled with amusement as she walked off, looking like a gumdrop with two stubby wide legs at the bottom.

"The Multiverse is just wonderful," Miko said. "Are there other life forms like her?"

"Yes," said Julia. "There are plenty of life forms without what we'd call humanoid shape. Or even distinctly bipedal shape."

"I… see. There is so much I still have to learn about the Multiverse."

"We all do," Julia assured her. "And we'd better get back to the party before your family sends search parties."

"Yes, I suppose we should," Miko agreed.

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 2:40 pm
by Steve

It was late in the Aurora's day when the feast started to wind down and everyone began returning to the ship. Robert checked up on the repairs to the Jayhawk and used its secure systems to check the official traffic he was eligible to receive from the Alliance's military and intelligence services. He made sure to take everything that related to slaver activity in E5B1 and relay it through channels to Beth and Dr. Meier.

Afterward he returned to his quarters and found Lucy, Meridina, Gina, and Jarod there. They were all arrayed around his table, covered in the two Gersallian tomes and the associated notes. Jarod was busily checking both and scribbling something down. "What's up?"

"I wanted something mentally stimulating after that feast," Jarod confessed. "Not that I didn't like it, but it put me in a creative mood."

"Well, that sounds good."

"Commander Jarod is finishing his decoding of the next chapter's message," Meridina said.

Jarod looked up. His expression matched the deep shock Robert felt filling him. "Okay, this… it's… big."

"What is?" Gina asked.

Jarod finished scribbling and passed the note around. Lucy's eyes widened a little at the contents, Gina's a lot more, and Meridina gasped. Robert took the slip and read it.

"This book's text is nothing but the protective curtain, hiding the truth from those who must never know it. It bears falsehoods for the same reason. The falsehoods are a necessary evil for there are dark forces that would attempt to use this knowledge to prevent my great work from coming to completion. This is no mere boast for the completion of the Circle is the greatest endeavor I have ever attempted in my life, and with the greatest stakes. For the sake of all of our futures the Circle must be completed." Robert read these lines and so far wasn't certain why the others seemed so shocked. It was important, but it didn't seem earth-shattering.

Then he kept reading, and the shock told on his voice.

"If all goes as planned and foreseen, I know you are reading this, Dawn-Bearers of the Allied Systems. Meridina, Robert, Lucilla, Jarod, Gina." He read off their names with increasing surprise. "A great task lies on you. You must find my Temple before the forces of darkness do. Or the Circle will be broken and everything you know will be utterly destroyed." By the time he finished Robert's hand trembled. "This… this is…"

"A profound truth," Meridina said.

"It's our names? In archaic Gersallian?" Lucy looked to Jarod. "I mean, the sounds don't always…"

"That's just it," Jarod said. "It threw me off for a brief moment, since it didn't make complete sense in actual Gersallian. The Gersallian lettering doesn't work quite the same. But if you transliterate those parts of the code into the Latin Alphabet, then our names are spelled out."

"This is… " Gina took in a breath. "Mastrash Ledosh knew. He knew…"

"It looks like this was one of the last bits he translated before…" Jarod stopped there, for their sakes. "He knew our names. That's… how did a Gersallian from three thousand years ago know our names?"

"It is more than that, Jarod," Meridina said. "The book was written over the course of Reshan's known lifetime. These chapters were supposed to have been written when Swenya was just a child. Long before she wrote the Prophecy of the Dawn."

"Some have always said Reshan passed the prophecy to her," Gina pointed out.

"But the Prophecy doesn't refer to us by name," Lucy pointed out. "It makes allusions to sisters of fire and heart and leaders and forgers and stuff. Reshan knew our names."

"This truth, it is… astounding," Meridina said. "His ability to sense the future through the Flow of Life was so profound he knew our names in the distant past. This is the kind of truth that would change everything we know about Reshan."

"A truth that could divide the Gersallians when they learn of it," Robert pointed out. "I mean, one of their greatest historic legends identifying us as the Bearers of the Dawn, and by name? How many would assume this was some kind of trick or forgery? Especially with the Great Temple destroyed and all of the library records to prove this book's authenticity."

"Which is why they must not, for now anyway," Meridina insisted. 'Not until we have learned more about this."

"And it'd be nice to figure out which dark forces he warned about," Lucy added. "Did he foresee the Brotherhood and Cylons? The Nazis? Or maybe those 'Pretender' things that have attacked us over the year?" She shook her head. "Until we know more, we have to keep this secret."

"Agreed. This doesn't leave the room," Robert said.

They all nodded. Even Meridina, who was already wondering how much she could safely tell Kaveri Varma.

Julia made a final check of her guest quarters to reassure herself that she had everything. Almost everything, anyway, save those things being shipped to New Liberty for storage. After her examination was over Julia pulled on a backpack full of things, slung a duffel bag over one shoulder, and clasped a suitcase with the opposite hand.

She approached the door in time to hear its chime go off. Instead of answering she simply stepped up to the door to trigger it to open.

Kaveri stood in the hall. She nodded at Julia. "I hoped to see you before you departed the ship."

"Well, you're right on time," Julia assured her. "Have you settled in?"

"I have." The two began walking toward the nearest lift. "I hope you understand why I have not spoken to you until now."

"I do, and I'm thankful for it." Julia's tone was quiet, meant to be reassuring. "It's not easy, I admit."

"I would think not. And I offer you my promise that I will take care of your people and your ship until you return."

"Thank you." It was a relief to hear it. Julia was aware that, whatever her attempt to instill more professionalism in how the ship was run, other commanders would go yet further, and alienate the others in the process. "I know we don't run things on the Aurora as Earthforce would, but it works well enough, even if a lot of people don't recognize it."

"I confess I find your uniforms lacking, and it is clear some of your crew would not function well in a more military environment," Kaveri admitted. "But I saw your mettle at Tira and over Germania. That is all I need to know. Please do not let worry over your people complicate your recovery, Captain."

"Being the 'mother hen', as Leo likes to call it, I admit I'm always a little worried," Julia confessed. "But I know you can take care of them, so it'll be easy to deal with."

They stepped into a lift and rode it to Deck 3. The lift opened and two lines of senior crew and officers were waiting. Master Chief Rohm, the Senior Chiefs, Hargert, all gave her a farewell. Hargert personally added a strong embrace and handed her an insulated tub. "Stew," he said kindly. "For when you wish a taste of home."

Julia took it and found room in her duffel bag for the sealed container. With Kaveri behind her she moved on, shaking hands as she did. Lieutenant Takawira, Lieutenant Neyzi, Chief Hrakee, Doctors Singh, Opani, and Walker, and yet more. At the door, Commander Richmond and Major Anders bid her farewell.

In the Transporter Station room her friends and others were assembled. Tra'dur was standing beside Cat, Talara and Gina were with Lucy. One by one she hugged them goodbye. Robert received the last hug, and the tightest, before she stepped up onto the pad. "Take care of yourselves, please," she said to them. "And take care of each other and Captain Varma." Focusing on Kaveri, she added, "Good luck, Captain."

"We plan on it," Jarod assured her.

"Aye, now get yerself th' rest ye need," added Scott. "Our girl will be ready an' waitin' for ye tae come home, Captain, that I promise."

After a further chorus of agreement, Julia looked to the silver-horned, purple-skinned Dre'kari crewman and nodded. "Energize."

"Yes Captain." A few key presses came, and with them Julia was whisked away by a burst of light.

For a moment there was silence. Meridina spoke first, saying, "She will do as she needs, and so shall we. Beginning with our departure." After accepting the nod in her direction from Kaveri, Meridina added, "You are all dismissed."

Kaveri tapped at her omnitool's comm key, opening a channel to the bridge. "Captain Varma to Bridge. Take us out."

The Starship Aurora pulled away from the orbit of the unique planet below. The night lights of Republic City and the other cities and towns of the Republic and Earth Union twinkled below as they cleared the orbiting stations and the spacecraft of the unique civilization, the latest of many they had encountered in their time. Once the kilometer long ship was clear, a point of emerald light formed ahead of her, expanding into an interuniversal jump point that took them off to another universe.

The dawning sun shined lush yellow rays upon the great spires of the Fire Nation capital. Gradually the brilliant orb rose high enough in the sky to reach the palace within the caldera at the heart of the city. Some of those rays shined through the open doors of one of the palace's many rooms.

Julia stepped in through one door and found Miko entering the other. The latter was wearing the same outfit as Julia, a white gi with sashes tied around their waists. Both had their hair pulled back into buns, Miko's arranged closer to the top of her head and Julia's toward the back of her neck.

They stopped about three meters from each other. After a second's pause, Miko bowed at the waist, putting her hands together in a gesture that seemed to emulate the flame insignia of the Fire Nation. "Sifu Julia," she said politely. "Good morning."

"Good morning, student," Julia replied with as much politeness. She bowed and emulated the same hand gesture. "Are you ready to begin your studies?"

"I am, Sifu."

"Good. To begin, T'ai chi ch'üan is more than a martial art. It is a method of meditation, an exercise in mind and body. There are many forms and styles. I've done some checking on your world's Waterbending styles so I'm going to start you with forms that fit them the best…"

The two were soon moving in those forms, Miko closely following Julia's movements. The rays of the rising sun around them continued to banish away the lingering coolness of the night, warming them in the process.

And with it came a kind of peace, a soothing balm to their tried, wounded souls.

Re: "The Coming Storm" - "Undiscovered Frontier" Season 3 (Multiverse Space Opera Crossover)

Posted: Wed May 15, 2019 4:45 pm
by Shroom Man 777
That's actually a very sweet and perfect bookend IMO. No need to belabor the mechanics of the training, since one might trip in the details.