Federation protocol for red alert on most ships involve adrenaline-inducing flashing lights and blaring sirens. The calm shuffle of feet through the halls of the Manta-class dreadnought Liltha, however, bely the nervous tension running through every crew's veins. There's no running, no shouting, no deafening lights or blinding sounds, just a peaceful flow of people to their stations.
They split around you as you vacuum the corridor, some giving a shove or slap as they pass.
An eery silence pervades the starship. You continue to clean, making your way slowly down each corridor. When you reach a viewport, you pause to indulge in a glance to the battle being waged outside. Admiral Eleos's fleet is the finest in the Federation. And you're on his flagship. The ships outside swerve amongst the asteroids, performing evasion and strike tactics that would never be possible in any planet's atmosphere.
The battle doesn't last long before you see one of the enemy ships slam into an asteroid, its brakes destroyed, and the other two enemy ships shudder and come to a standstill as their engines are destroyed and grapples attach to their hulls to restrain them. The admiral is known for taking creative approaches to destroying ships, such as targeting the braking systems so that evasive maneuvers are impossible. Already there's several runabouts descending to strip the ships of valuable resources: water, atmosphere, weapons, fuel, graphite. The dread Space Reaper always takes whatever he can get from his defeated foes, but for some reason always takes the crews captive instead of killing them. He always manages to trade the prisoners for more resources, though, so nobody questions it.
You return to your cleaning. You'll hear about any excitement later in the mess hall. Hopefully this will be the last battle for a while. As exciting as battles are, you can't wait for the fleet to finally start exploring promising M class planets.
Admiral Papyrus Eleos, commander of the flagship Liltha and the Dragonfly fleet, paces in his office. His number one, dressed in the Federation-issued gold and black, waits stiffly for instruction. "What in the blazing stars is the High Council thinking??" Papyrus snaps.
"Unknown, sir." The commodore replies.
Papyrus glances to his number one's name-tag to be sure of which one they're using today before he addresses the half-Vulcan/half-Klingon again. "Figure it out, K'talla."
She nods, the ghost of a tired smile peeking through her fierce purple eyes. "Aye, sir."
Papyrus scowls down at the desk where the new orders float in crisp holographic detail. His fleet is tired. The ten ships have been campaigning for five years now, and they're all ready to take some well-deserved shore leave. But the damn Federation orders the fleet to keep moving, keep fighting, keep dying because everyone is exhausted. The last battle saw one of his ships nearly destroyed because of a few stupid mistakes that could have been easily avoided if the crew had just got the rest they needed. He won, of course, but not without taking damage.
"We'll set a course for Kavort-Nine." He decides. "We'll get repairs there and then make the trades for the prisoners. I'll speak with the High Council after that."
K'talla nods and tucks her naturally pink hair behind her dark-grey ridged ears. "Rifli bless."
Papyrus grunts gruff agreement and offers a gloved hand in dismissal. K'talla takes the hand and bows over it, planting a kiss in the air above his phalanges. "Out of my sight, petaQ." He snarls good-naturedly and K'talla smirks with her sharp fangs peeking out from pomegranate-red lips.
"Aye, sir." She turns and marches out, the door giving a satisfied hiss as it closes behind her. As soon as she's gone, Papyrus lets out a frustrated screech and spins to punch the wall. The plating shudders under his fist, which stings as the force jolts up his arm.
Damn the Federation. Damn those pencil-pushing bastard Vulcans who know nothing of the reality of space travel or of warfare. Even Klingons know to give their soldiers furloughs to keep them strong. And Ferengi! Ferengi know the value of vacations! Every thought only serves to make Papyrus more furious until he's close to considering mutiny against the High Council. But he can't do that. Not only would he be killed and his people be locked up, but Sans would be left without support and protection.
When he's composed himself, he stomps out onto his bridge. His officers stand at attention until he snaps a salute and barks, "At ease!" K'talla has already gone back to her ship, the Raptor-class battlecruiser Ylmev. Papyrus adjusts the ragged crimson scarf around his neck, fixes the indigo cape which flows from his shoulders to his knees, and throws a hand out in a dramatic gesture. "Set a course for Kavort-Nine!" He commands, then shoots out more orders for his Coms officer, Lieutenant Dexi Qir, to relay to the other ships in the squadron. She, being Betazoid, bites her lip in concern at the dark storm building in his chest, but Papyrus ignores her, since all she'd suggest to do would be to see the counselor. He's not sure who the counselor on this ship is, and he doesn't care. He's fine. Everything will be fine.
"Fuck, dude, just tell her." You tell Thyr as they crouch on a loveseat that's just barely big enough to fit them. Agar, the male head, clicks his beak in frustration. Aras, female, lifts her wine-stained lips and hisses in disgust.
"We can't just tell Kyrie," Aras says, her voice rough. "No, we need to make it grand," Agar agrees in a contrastingly silky voice.
You consider the Fae sitting in front of you. Quetzal for Agar, cobra for Aras, and the shared lower half of a grizzly bear. They've been offered the use of a glamour but, like most other Fae, they refused.
"Duh." You reply. "So make it grand. Make it the best damn show in the squadron. Wine, stereo, lights, action."
When Thyr has left after brainstorming increasingly flamboyant ideas for confessing, you spin around with your chair thoughtlessly. Ever since the actual counselor accidentally spaced himself, you've been filling in. And as of yet, nobody has noticed that the bumbling moron has been replaced with a brash smartass. Counseling the crew has its advantages. You get to hear what's going on in the ship. But sometimes you wish you could just strangle some people. Particularly the ones who come looking for advice, but then never change anything, no matter how fucking great the advice is.
"Fuck you." You tell the intruder and continue to spin.
"great work so far." He says.
"Tell me something I don't know:" You reply.
"my bro needs some help."
You stop spinning to face the Fae and shrug eloquently, everything that could be said transmitted from your eyes to his sockets in a daggery glare. Damn bastard dunked your favorite blanket in plasma as a 'prank'. Totally unfair, considering that you only hid his coat for a week.
"it's your job." He says, his skeletal grin widening sadistically so that the gold tooth glints in the soft light.
"Su~re" You sing, trying to be obnoxious, "I'll help your widdle~ bwuthah. Bruh."
Sans's grin widens further, ignoring your rudeness. "thanks, pal. be good to him." You blink and he's gone, the smell of sriracha lingering behind.
Check the time, and it's already almost time for the midshift meal for the third shift. So you sigh and stomp to the galley to prepare food, your cheat sheet of everyone's likes, dislikes, and allergies no longer necessary as you have it memorized after four years of cooking meals since the actual chef ran off with a cute Rigellian boy.
You're not technically supposed to be on this ship. In this uniform. With these people. The only reason you even ever started being the janitor in the first place was because five years ago when the squadron's campaign began, the chief janitor was assassinated by Section 31 for being a Romulan spy. You just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Sans knows that, but he doesn't care. He just lets you keep doing whatever you're doing and calls in a favor every now and then. Usually it's help with a prank, in which case you gladly assist him.
The bridge officers are first to arrive in the galley for food. Ensigns, most of them. The third shift in space is comparable to night shift on a planet, and is often still called the graveyard shift. They serve themselves from the pots. Everyone is mentally worn out and snappish at you. You're used to being their scapegoat.
"Fuck, those bastards just won't cut us a break!!" A burgundy-hued Klingon slams his fist on the table he shares with two other people, his loud voice drawing the attention of the rest of the mess hall.
"Yo, we could be on Rigel right now, chilling with the babes!" An ensign purple-slime Fae calls out in agreement.
"I signed on for a three-year campaign." You lie glibly. "Thought it was gonna be mostly exploring the far reaches of the galaxy."
"See, even the moron agrees! But it's been five years with no pay and no fucking way out!"
You barely restrain yourself from screeching, wait, they don't PAY anyone?? What?? You have no way of accessing any of the records of the people you replaced, so pay is out of the question for you but you thought the Federation would at least pay their soldiers. "Yeah, no shit, the Fed's messed up." You say, throwing caution to the wind. "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we crashed on an M class planet? Y'know, just long enough to get some starsdamned rest?"
The Klingon nods slowly in consideration. The slime Fae burbles in agreement. There are mutters all around, but they're of thoughtful regard and not of dissent.
"You know one nearby??" Someone pipes up.
You smirk. "Actually." You do, indeed.
Papyrus wakes to the strident alarm in his earpiece, the Liltha's customizable version of the red alert. The soft whine coming from the walls is the universal alert, in case someone doesn't have their earpiece or badge on. Papyrus flicks his earpiece's alarm off and stomps out to the bridge.
He stops short and takes in the situation as it unfolds; several of the third shift officers whoop as they steer the ship into the atmosphere of an M class planet--the rest of the squadron is nowhere to be seen. "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS??" He roars. "DRAW AWAY."
The helmsman hesitates and the other officers stare at him guiltily. "NOW!" He commands and the helmsman obeys, pulling away from the planet just before hitting the atmosphere. Ensign Jazz, first shift helmsman, strides in behind Papyrus and shoves the third shift helmsman out of her way, taking control. "Set a course for Kavort-Nine to rejoin the squadron." Papyrus intones and Jazz nods once. "WHILE YOU IDIOTS WILL COME WITH ME." He turns and stomps out, expecting them all to follow him. The other first shift officers pass him on their way to take over the bridge.
When he reaches the brig, he turns and watches his guilty officers file in. He locks the cell on them and crosses his arms over his ribs. "What the HELL Were You Doing??"
A Klingon Ensign grunts, "We just wanted a break. The damn Feds have been riding our asses for five years with no pay, and we're sick of it."
Papyrus grips the bridge of his non-existent nose. "AND YOU DIDN'T THINK TO TALK TO ME??" He screeches. "I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GET THEM TO LET US HAVE A BREAK AND, YES, PAY US TOO, BUT NOW THANKS TO YOUR LITTLE MUTINOUS STUNT, NOBODY IS GOING TO GET A BREAK FOR AT LEAST TWENTY MORE YEARS!! AND YOU HAVEN'T JUST SCREWED YOURSELVES OVER, NO, YOU'VE SCREWED OVER MY ENTIRE GODDAMNED FLEET!!"
Somebody starts to whimper. Papyrus glares at each of the mutineers. "WHOSE IDEA WAS IT."
Everyone steps back and points to a crew in the back. They smirk and wave insolently.
Papyrus glares at them. He doesn't recognize them by face, but that could just mean they're one of the more obscure assignments. "NAME." He demands.
"Ryuk." They say, unflinching. "I came to explore, not fight for five years without rest."
"You're Responsible For Inciting These Idiots To Mutiny??"
"Yeah, I guess."
"You're All Detained Here Until I Decide Otherwise, Thanks To Your Friend Ryuk." Papyrus growls. "Be Thankful I Don't Report This."
Ryuk almost smiles, but manages to hide it. Not in time, though, as Papyrus fixes a scowl at them. "WHAT'S SO FUNNY??"
"Nothing, sir. Just wondering how your crew will like you after you've locked up the cook." They say with a glint behind the serious look on their face.
"You're Forgetting Yourself, Crewman." Papyrus says shortly. "There Are Plenty Of People On This Ship Who Can Cook." He turns and stomps out, leaving the mutineers locked in the brig.
He has to change around the assignments for the next couple months to make up for the loss of thirteen officers. When he's less tired, he'll deal with demotions and promotions, but not at the moment. Back on the bridge, he slumps into his chair.
"Sir! We're on our way to Kavort-Nine." Ensign Jazz Kirk pipes up, her normally cheerful voice now deadly serious.
"You should get some sleep, Admiral." Dexi Qir says gently, leaning over him, her dark brown eyes watery with concern. Damn Betazoids- actually, the Trill inside her might have increased her empathy as well.
"I will sleep later. I need to fix the schedule." Papyrus replies.
"I can do that!" His Chief of Operations, Lieutenant Esther, says.
"Go. You need to take care of yourself." Dexi says.
Papyrus sighs heavily. "I don't suppose ordering you to let me stay up here would do any good."
"I can call the Doctor up here, and they would agree with us." Qir grins wickedly. As the Coms officer, she has access to every crew on the ship.
Papyrus flips his officers off and they salute back. "You dastardly scoundrels, conspiring against me like this!" He says tiredly. "Very well, you win. I will retire to my quarters. Don't disturb me unless it's an emergency."
Being stuck in the brig is the most boring thing ever. You stay huddled in the corner as the others shoot glares at you. You pull your deck of Cardassian playing cards from your jacket, deciding to make the best of the situation. "What's that, moron??" The Klingon, Fred, asks and snatches them away as you shuffle them around. The next weeks are spent eating, sleeping, and watching your cellmates play different card games with your deck.
The boss skeleton comes in several weeks after the event, and you quickly snatch the cards back to hide them. He scowls at everyone. "We have been preparing for the next mission, and my officers have voted that it would be best if all hands were on deck." He says. "To that end, I have some further punishments to hand out."
The prisoners wait in silence. Everyone knows he's talking about demotions. He opens the door. "You may all leave. You will receive your new assignments at your quarters."
You can tell that quite a few of your brigmates are relieved that he's not making it a public affair. "Great!" You cheer, despite having a bad feeling that you should probably keep your head down. You've already incurred his wrath. You don't need to draw any more attention to your illegal existence on this ship.
"You will stay here." The skeleton stops you with a severe glare.
He scowls deeper at your light attempt at humor. "You are not one of my officers." As if that wasn't obvious. "I have no need for a cook in this mission, so you will be staying here and I will deal with you further afterwards."
"No prob, cap." You snap off a mock salute.
For some reason, the skeleton looks immensely insulted by that. You can't imagine why. It's not like you're being incredibly insubordinate or anything. "You Have One Chance To Refer To Me By My Proper Title."
"U-uh- sorry, Captain." You reply, not wanting to get in any more trouble.
The skeleton sneers, somehow, you're not sure how he manages without lips. "I AM NO MERE CAPTAIN, YOU FOOL. How did you even get into Starfleet??" He points out the badge on his uniform. "I am an Admiral."
You try desperately to think of something to say to lead him away from the obvious and correct conclusion that you're not actually supposed to be here. "Eh." You say intelligently. "Does the distinction matter?"
The Admiral looks like he may very well explode. "YES??" He screeches. "ADMIRAL IS A HIGHLY EXALTED POST AND I AM THE MOST DESERVING OF ALL THE ACCOLADES THAT COME WITH IT! DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF CALLING ME A MERE CAPTAIN AGAIN!!"
"Ye-yes, sir." You find yourself saluting. "Understood."
"A FEW MORE WEEKS IN THE BRIG SHOULD SHARPEN YOUR UNDERSTANDING QUITE WELL, I THINK." He replies hotly, then stomps out, his cape fluttering behind him.
You're left to play card games by yourself.
"wow. you really fucked that up." Ugh. Sans.
"Yeah??" You snap without looking up from your game. The cards glow indigo and fly out of your reach. "Hey!" You grab for them desperately but they slip through the forcefield and you get zapped. "Ow." Glare at him. "Rude. Give them back."
Sans grins at you and shuffles the cards in the air without touching them. "that was my bro."
"Aw, shit." You groan; you really should have guessed from the shared skeletal nature, but Fae are so weird that his bro coulda been a slime for all you knew. "I realize I fucked up, please can you give my cards back?"
"you shouldn't have these." Sans replies with a shit-eating grin. "they're illegal."
"I'm in the fucking brig, the legality of having cards is really not the issue right now."
"oh yeah?" He says lightly. "what's the issue, then?"
You backtrack immediately and put on a contrite face. "I- That is. I'm sorry, I was stupid."
"yeah, ya were." He agrees. "but i ain't gonna throw you off the ship for this one mistake."
You grin smarmily to hide your relief. "I knew you wouldn't ice your ol' buddy! Can I hav-"
"but the next might be your last." He grins back and pockets your cards. "have fun, buddy."
And then he's gone. You slump onto the cold hard floor in despair. Yeah, you're having so much fun right now.
The viewport shows the enemy Alliance ships descending into Thorn Brand, a dangerous area of nebulas, asteroid fields, and rumors of wormholes. Jazz looks to Papyrus, who nods. "Maintain pursuit."
Papyrus look around to the rest of his officers. Dexi keeps the rest of the fleet updated, ready to relay his commands. Ensign Esther, meanwhile, keeps tabs on the operations of the Liltha. Lieutenant-Commander Se'Vir, Security Chief, leaves to make rounds and prepare the boarding parties. Lieutenant Suzy, Tactical Chief, runs simulations in preparation for the upcoming battle.
"Ready to give'em hell, sir?" Commander Luon, Chief of Science, adjusts his sunglasses and grins with sharp teeth.
"Bet Your Asses On It." Papyrus hisses gleefully and throws out a hand in a grand gesture. "We'll Slit The Alliance's Goddamned Throat."
Behind the asteroids of the Thorn Brand, hidden amongst the nebulas, several starships lie in wait. The insignias on their sides are rusty and scratched out, but the build and make of each ship is unmistakably Alliance. The fleet being chased by Papyrus approaches and boarding parties are swapped between the two fleets as a heavy-interference jammer creates a wide field of zero-contact.
Unaware of their impending doom, the Dragonfly fleet flies straight into the pincer jaws of the two fleets. Ten ships versus thirty. Two Dragonflies are dead in space within the first thirty minutes of the battle. The Alliance descends on the Dragonflies, forcing them deeper into the Thorn Brand. A third Dragonfly is crushed by asteroids. A fourth is boarded. The remaining six manage to destroy twenty-two enemy ships by hiding and picking them off.
But finally. One by one. Each remaining starship in the Dragonfly fleet is either boarded or destroyed. The Alliance takes the victory.
In a galaxy far far away, several be-tentacled aliens argue in their language of signing and clicking.
In a star system several million light years away, the Vulcan High Council, the organization in total control over the Federation, agrees on a cease-fire with the Alliance.
But in the Alliance starship anchored barely three thousand meters away from the Liltha who floats dead in space, none of that matters. A scarred and fearsome Fae stomps down the ramp into her bridge, her golden eyes bright above a shark-toothed grin. "Fuhuhuhu, if this is what it takes for a family reunion, I shoulda done this YEARS ago!!" She yanks the chain in her hand, which is shackled to a groveling dinosaur, who giggles wildly.
In the Queen's brig, two massive goat-lion Fae huddle on opposite ends of the cell, glaring anywhere but at each other. In between the two, a Human sits and sulks. In another cell, a marvelously fabulous Android paces, his four arms gesturing with increasing fervor as he plans his great escape, playing to the security cameras.
And in the Liltha, two brothers stare across the room at each other, sockets widening almost comically in sync as the magisuppression kicks in and they both fall to their knees.
The Alliance soldiers truss the two up, dragging them down to the brig of the Liltha, since the Queen wants to speak to the brothers before she lets them on her ship. Every single crew on every single ship in the Dragonfly squadron has been neutralized, whether by surrender or death. There is no hope now.