First, I really want to say thanks for everyone who "stuck around" and slogged through the early chapters which were...rough to say the least. I'm a little happier with the quality of the writing (and spelling) that we're at now, I just wish I had more spare time to sit down and put out longer chapters.
Factious Day: I'm planning to keep Sigismund here for a little while longer yet. I'm not in a rush to get him home for curfew just yet :)
NuMo1: I'm so glad you and others enjoy it. Hope you and everyone else here is doing OK
heavenly777protector: You have to remember that this was during the crusade. Demons, imperial saints, and the rest of them did not exist yet, or at least "exist" in so far as the Imperial recognition of them. "Stuff lived in the warp", but that was about it. Dorn is also THE loyal primarch. Just as he said, it isn't for Sigismund to decide where and when he goes, especially because some lady told him he'll be needed. Dorn IS duty. Dorn IS the Emperors Son, and obeys without question. After the edict of Nikkeia (?), after the librarius was dismantled, Dorn did not even return his librarians to duty as standard marines. They all remained on the phalanx, segregated from the rest of the legion because they were Psykers.
RandomReader & solarblaster: I understand completely the thought process of going back before the black crusade, and other scenarios, and this will be explored in future chapters :)
Gul Morra took a small, deliberate breath, holding it for a few seconds before slowly breathing out. He tried not to show it in front of the crew, but he was anxious. It would soon be five years since he failed the State and was exiled by the Obsidian Order in disgrace. Five long years with a collection of other Cardassian exiles who shared the same, singular goal: return with honour.
If he succeeded the Order would have no choice but to forgive and re-induct him and his crew.
His second-in-command looked at him and nodded. The connection to the Enterprise was established and the image of his Federation counterpart was revealed on the main screen.
The image of the Enterprise second-in-command appeared on the forward screen. Negotiations could finally begin.
On the Enterprise, Riker straightened, drawing himself up. "This is Commander Riker of the USS Enterprise!" Riker declared, "to whom am I speaking?"
"This is Gul Morra of the Veklar. I believe you have something that belongs to us."
Riker resisted the urge to glance at Sigismund, and tried his best to ignore the quiet strain of the black chain links straining against one another. It was the sound of agitation. The sound of a key thrust into a lock that was not its own, and unable to do anything else but struggle against a situation it did not understand.
He had to focus on getting Captain Picard back safely, otherwise, either the key, or the lock would shatter and there was no way for Riker to be sure which would be more catastrophic.
"And what might that be, Captain Morra?" Riker said, pausing. "I'm fairly certain that it's you who have something of ours. I can clearly see Captain Picard bound there next to you!"
Riker stood up from the Captain's Chair and took a step forward, "I demand that you return our Captain at once. You have committed an act of unprovoked aggression, tantamount to an attack on the Federation itself!" He had to take control of these opening communications, for the safety for the crew, if not Captain Picard. There was no telling what Sigismund would do to 'resolve' the issue.
"This is where you're mistaken, Commander," Gul Morra retorted, "you have access to the codes for the command and control systems of the Terok Nor. Return them to me, and I will see that your precious Captain is returned...unharmed."
Riker felt the hot itch of irritation rise in his chest when he saw Captain Morra lean back in his command chair and interlace his fingers as if he had all the time in the world.
"I expect you will need some time to complete this task. We will reconvene...in two hours." The Cardassian said, ending the transmission.
"Data!" Riker called, turning to the android. "What the hell is the Terok Nor?"
Several decks below, Barkley half walked, half jogged down the hall towards the nearest elevator.
"Barkley, what have you got yourself into this time?" He asked aloud as the doors closed behind him. He had been about to key in his preferred holo-dec program when his communicator began beeping at him angrily. Barkley didn't make a habit of anthropomorphising things. At least he tried not to...but the communicator had been angry.
It incessantly repeated the same order, over, and over, and over again.
At first he didn't recognise who was ordering him to make ready a transport bay. It wasn't any identifier he familiar with. As he had stared dumbly at the communicator pinned to his uniform the realisation of who it was finally struck, and that was when Barkley got scared again.
He wasn't sure how Sigismund had done it, but he was patched into the ships' main communication suite. It was the only way to explain the abrupt communication from the obsidian clad terror marooned aboard the Enterprise. His chest felt like it would seize as Barkley fought to control his breathing. He tried to remember the coping techniques that Councillor Troi had taught him in their sessions.
"Inhale", he breathed in, "count to ten." His voice trembled, and the doors to the elevator closed. He pressed his back into the wall trying to ground himself. He fought to control his breathing, and felt the dank familiarity of sweat building under his collar. "Exhale"
The faint whoosh of air started to grow louder as the elevator sped up. Barkley felt as if the tens of motors propelling the chamber upwards screamed in his mind, their high-pitched whir suddenly louder than he had ever remembered them. The walls pushed against him, pressing in on him at the same time as the elevator interior began to stretch out almost to infinity. The urge to vomit bubbled up in his throat and Barkley fought to wrest control away from his panicked mind.
The doors to the elevator slid open with a mechanical hiss that made him jump.
Slowly, carefully, Barkley leaned forward and peeled himself from the wall. He shook his head clear, straightened his uniform, and stepped out into the hall. He felt the brisk circulated air begin to cool the heat seeping through his collar.
If following these orders meant Sigismund might leave the ship, he thought, then that could only be a good thing. The thought of Sigismund leaving calmed him down, and his shoulders relaxed.
Barkley started to run gingerly through the carpeted cream hallways of the Enterprise.
"Commander Riker," Data said. "The Terok Nor is the original Cardassian designation for the Deep-Space 9 installation orbiting the planet Bajor in Alpha Quadrant. It was recently abandoned by Cardassia after approximately 50 years of occupation."
"It was constructed by Bajoran slave labour, and the original purpose was to serve as both a mining outpost capable of processing and refining over six and a half thousand tons of uridium ore a day, and a command post for the military occupation of the planet.
What is most interesting is that the space station observes a 26 hour day, mirroring that of the pla-"
"Enough data, Data. Stay on track here!"
"When the Cardassians left Bajor, the Terok Nor was left behind. Just as the Cardassians ravaged Bajor and its native population, they similarly did the same to the station, most equipment was destroyed."
"You would think they would just scuttle the station," Riker muttered.
Data's eyes jittered side to side as he considered Rikers' thought.
"Supposition, the Cardassians never thought to completely abandon the Nerok Nor. Perhaps it was believed that without their presence, Bajor would collapse into civil war, driving out any existing Federation presence. Cardassian rule would then be welcomed back as a restorer of order on the planet."
"I remember Bajor," Riker interruped, "we helped repair some of their..." the sound of servo motors interrupted his train of thought, and Riker once again successfully fought the urge to turn to look at Sigismund.
"Aqueduct systems," Data finished.
"A few months ago, exactly, thanks Data" Riker said, half hearing the sound of the bridge door opening and closing.
"With a strong Federation presence to help mediate there's not a chance of that civil war happening."
"Correct, however in the event the Deep Space 9 installation is destroyed or damaged beyond economic repair then the federations ability to hold a permanent station in nearby space would be severely impeded. The next nearest station would be Starbase 375."
"That's over twenty-five lightyears away from Bajor!" Worf exclaimed as he stepped out from behind his console.
"Commander Riker," Worf said walking towards Riker and Data. "We cannot hand over the command and control codes for Deep Space 9. If the Cardassians successfully use them to scuttle the station, the cost of leaving the Bajorans is too high! They are far too close to Cardassia prime."
Commander Riker turned, "I understand the danger, Wor-".
Riker's heart seized in his chest.
Sigismund was no longer on the bridge.
Morra idlily tapped his thumb and index finger on the arms of his Captain's chair.
"Captain Picard," he said, absent-mindedly. "Who was that on the bridge? The android."
Picard looked up at Morra, "that would have been Commander Data, why do you ask? Do you plan to abduct him, too?"
His response seemed to wake up Morra from his internal musing, as he noticed he had spoken out loud. "No," Morra said, shaking his head. "I'm aware of who Lieutenant Commander Data is, and he is of no interest to me."
Gul Morra leaned down towards Picard.
"Don't be coy. I'm asking about the other one. I'm well aware you currently have functioning eyes. The one with comical amounts of armour plating. I didn't think Star Fleet operated self-defence androids on their ships." Of course, Morra knew it wasn't an android. Of course it wasn't. But he wasn't sure what it could have been. He'd never something like that before.
Captain Morra expected something from Picard. A snide remark, a wall of stone. What he didn't expect was the brief look of fear flash across the Federation Captain's face.
"Sigismund is a...temporary guest aboard the Enterprise," Picard answered slowly, as if speaking the words for the first time as he answered the question.
Captain Morra didn't hear Picard's reply or his explanation of who Sigismund was. His mind was already elsewhere, resting its gaze on the memory of the armour-clad 'knight' straight from the human medieval period.
Except the knight was large. A veritable giant, it was far too large to be human.
What Morra dwelt on most were its eyes.
Eyes of the fiercest blue, they were just barely visible over the grotesquely over-engineered gorget of midnight black, its surface pock-marked with layers of brutal circuitry. The eyes had bored into Morra with a look of depthless hatred. Hatred beyond comprehension.
It was a stare of resolute assumption of Morra and his species, a prejudice incapable of change. A prejudice that they did not belong in the universe. Rage that would see Morra and its crew destroyed beyond erasure. An unending fury that burned brighter and hotter than anything Morra had seen in all his life.
The mere remembrance of the black knight sent a shiver down Morra's spine, leaving him cold-blooded.
He glanced quickly to his right, checking the Velkar's shields were still up, and let out a slow, shallow breath through his nose when he saw they were.
"Glinn," Morra called, looking at his first officer.
"Yes, Gul Morra!"
"Under no circumstances are these shields to go offline. Is that understood?"
Gul Harda nodded in acknowledgement, and began relaying the order to the remainder of the crew throughout the ship.
"Absolutely, Gul!" A cheery voice called out from the rear of the bridge, "that's funny. You're title's also a bird!"
Picard's eyes widened in shock and he half turned, half flailed his body around to look behind him, letting out a primal yell of ear and desperation which startled everyone around him. Most hastily drew weapons, training them on a Starfleet Admiral in dress uniform who had inexplicably taken the place of the tactical officer.
On the Enterprise, Worf's bandaged fist crunched into the face of the Cardassian that had silently materialised on the bridge next to him.
The Cardassian crashed to the deck, and Worf nodded silently to himself. He wasn't useless just yet. "Take this one into custody!" He yelled to a security officer, still not having processed why or even how that officer made it onto the bridge. The shields were still up, he had checked them himself after Picard was stolen away.
Aboard the Veklar, the situation grew dire. "Q, no!" Picard pleaded, the miasma of despair expounded unhidden from every word he spoke.
"Picard, you do so wound me!" Q exclaimed as he waved incoming phaser stun blasts into non-existence around him. Picard saw he held an old alarm clock, which was ticking down fast.
The bells on the clock began to trill. "I'm only trying to help."
Q smiled, and pressed a button, bringing down the Veklar's shields, and plunged the bridge into darkness.