Captain's Personal Log

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Nora Gerhadsen
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170120.1458

Captain's personal log, supplemental.

I asked Hal to stay on the ship. Told him, more like. And threatened to lock him in his quarters when he protested. I don't need the distraction down there, especially if things do indeed go awry. And if there is a problem, I'd rather have him on the ship where he can do some good. They'll need the help.

Ever since that day in the Jeffries Tube, things have been different. They've been good! Just... Different. He must have the patience of the High Priest. With me, anyway. I don't know... Some things I am just having trouble making my mind up over. I haven't taken any of the Doctor's sedative... Yet... But I'm pondering it. It's a really big step. I want to make sure I will actually sleep peacefully through the night before... Yeah, that. And who knows how soon I'll be able to... Oh dear, this got awfully... Personal... Even for a personal log!

<A sigh is heard.>

I suppose all that can wait until we have gotten over this Privari hurdle. But for weeks now, Hal has been a perfect gentleman. He's been kind, he's been gentle, he's been caring. He's a great kisser, too. The fact that he's my species does help at some level. And if it comes to that, I did get all the proper treatments before we headed out on this trip. So did he, for that matter. Or at least he should have. That's standard procedure on a ship this size. We aren't set up to take care of children.

Time to get to the Transporter room. Maker bless us all.

James, close log, please.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
Commanding Officer, USS Maxwell NCC-21873
Chief of UF Starfleet Operations
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Nora Gerhadsen
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170317.2126

All right, James. I'm in my tub, and I'm finally getting used to being back on board. Better open that personal log, Stardate 170317. Back home, that's 27 Ogrut in the Fourth Year since Independence.

<there is a silence>

I don't even know where to begin! All my worst predictions for our First Contact with the Privari came true. The Archon tried to pressure us into joining his war against the Dulani. And when we refused... When *I* refused... He had us all arrested and sent to a place called Kirlep Prison. Frankly, we're lucky to have gotten out alive. We spent weeks there. Not as long as my... Time with the Nausicaans, and nowhere near as brutal, though they did have their moments. But they weren't trying to break us down into begging for death. They were trying to... Store us there for whatever purpose they might have had later. I sent the Maxwell away, of course, using that codephrase we put together before the Away mission. My people got hurt, though. I know it's the job, I know we had to be there, and I know I would make the same decision a second time. First Contacts must be done, and they must follow strict protocols if we are to keep our identity as the Federation. Still and all, I can't get the gut-wrenching feeling out of my stomach.

The weird thing was that I slept really well in Kirlep Prison. I have no idea why. I was really worried. I thought I'd be waking up every ten minutes with screaming nightmares... That they'd have to sedate me, even. Apparently I react well to custody. Or perhaps it's just the anticipation that's the hard part. Once your'e in it, you're dealing with it. You have a clear sense of purpose, and a strong need to keep your head about you. That's probably what kept me sane.

On the other hand, I think Hal is really mad at me. He hasn't said word one to me since we got back. I knew there would be a reckoning when I got back. We're on our way to the general area around Pinastri, though, so if there's to be a reckoning, it needs to happen before we get back. It's a long passage, though. So we have time. And that's a good thing, not just for Hal and me, but for everyone on the ship. We all need time to process what we went through. And not just the prison! But also the experience on Dantebbe II. Dealing with primitive technology and the possibility of being marooned on a hostile planet, surrounded by hostile military forces -- it was a stressful ordeal.

But it's over now. We were treated to the incongruous sight of the Dulani and the Privari fighting over us. I have never felt so naked as I did in the time between the moment the Privari patrol arrived and the moment the Maxwell extended her shields around us. That might have been the longest twenty minutes of my life. It even rivals my experience in the Battle of Uvloy, when the ship had been rattled by those Krenim interphasic disruptors. At least there we had a Fleet to support us. Here all we had for those twenty minutes was a Dulani ship of unknown intentions.

I will keep the story of the Athraxos with me the rest of my days, I am sure. One doesn't just forget that sort of thing. Meeting one of the Athraxos survivors' sister brought it all home. They lived, they loved, and they all died together. It's heart-breaking to think about. I hope the Privari and the Dulani can do something constructive with their story and their experience. Time will tell, I suppose. I am not sure when we will be out here next, but I look forward to seeing what happens with these two peoples in the meantime. I do hope to one day help them stop their pointless Forever War. But of course we can't do anything unless they want to stop it themselves.

We had some rather unlikely heroes in our Privari Anabasis. First off, our ship's cook Te'ellis, who partnered with a Privari nunnery to arrange the freighter, and who found a way to communicate with us in prison, and who finally transported us all out. She even piloted the freighter. I wonder what other hidden skills she has. Next, Jax and the crew of the Privari freighter Silverhawk, who helped rescue us, who fed and clothed us when all we had were prison uniforms. And finally to Jane Ferguson, who was getting pretty old for an Ensign, and was likely to be released from service after this voyage. She was the ranking officer left on board the Maxwell when we were all taken prisoner, and she never gave up on us, staying in and around Privari space, and finally coming to our very timely rescue. Lieutenant (JG) Ferguson will be staying with the Maxwell for the foreseeable future, I am certain.

Starfleet has already given us a new assignment: chase down some Annari signal in the Telos Sector, not far from Pinastri. But I have my people's mental health to think about. We're stopping off in the Toffani System for some well-deserved shore leave. I have no idea what I'm going to do there. I might just sit in a shady patch of beach and listen to waves for three days. And remember what it means to be free, healthy, and have the entire galaxy for the exploring. I have never been as keenly aware of my gifts as I am right now.

James, go ahead and close log.
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170508.0823

James, open personal log. It's Stardate 170508, which makes officially way too long since I've done one of these. On Relos IV, it is 21 Huyli in the Fourth Year since Independence.

<There is a silence, and the light clunk of a small mug against the table.>

The best theory we have is that the Annari tore a massive rift in spacetime that goes all the way from the Telos Sector -- near Pinastri -- to Astraios in the Gamma Quadrant. That's something like 75,000 light years long. A couple of ships are tracking that down. If they can't find the Annari project in Telos Sector, they'll head to Annar Prime and politely ask them just what in Unmaker's Seat they were doing. I imagine that either intel assets or weapons fire might be involved. Or both. We have no idea how to close these rifts, or any way to stop the radiation coming out of them. A bunch of planets seem to be threatened too.

In the meantime, the ship is functioning well. And we have been all over the place since my last personal log. We went through a pair of wormholes to get to Astraios and help out with the clean-up there. We even stopped briefly at Deep Space Nine. We didn't have time to divert to Relos, though, or Earth, or any other system out in that part of space unfortunately. It's been too long since I've been home. Though the last time I tried going home a war broke out. Don't get me wrong! It ended up being a good thing in the end, and won us our Independence. But I could definitely have done without the actual fighting part.

Kaya has put her second application in to Starfleet Academy. They didn't take her the first time. Apparently her astrophysics just isn't up to snuff, but she has a bunch of other talents. I hope they take her. Though if they do, she won't actually be the very second Kin'Li in Starfleet. There's another in Academy now. I don't even know that one's name. I need to -- as the only other Kin'Li in Starfleet, I'll be the one to reach out to and mentor this new person. Unless they object, I suppose. There's a good chance that will happen.

What James? I'm avoiding talking about Hal?

<A sigh is heard.>

I suppose so. I don't know what to say about him. We had our first real fight. He was trying to tell me how to Captain my own ship. Second-guessing is something I really don't need. I mean... I don't know. I'm really conflicted. At times I really love... Having him around. On the other hand, sometimes I feel like he's just way out of his depth here, and it would be better for him to go home, back to his lab in Kelluet.

It would certainly be safer for him. And less distracting for me.

In the meantime, I suppose we have vastly bigger things to worry about. About 75,000 light-years bigger, in fact. Close log.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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170611.2033

Captain's personal log, Stardate 170610. And on Relos IV, that's 24 Fenroek, in the Fourth Year since Independence.

A lot has happened since I last sat down to do this. I mean... A lot. Some very good! Some really rather awful. So let's start with the awful.

<<the computer's voice is heard, muffled by not being directed at the log>>

Yes, James, I'm talking about the Ironforge Star. We lost three ships in that accretion disk. Under my command. And no... I realize there was nothing I could have done about it. But it could just as easily have been us. Why were we spared when those others weren't? I don't know. I'd like to think it was the Maker looking over us. But honestly? It was just sheer chance. We just weren't where the discharges were when they happened. I'm not supposed to feel that way. I'd get a bunch of people on my homeworld mad at me for saying it. But that's how I see it.

It's just as well that Hal wasn't on board. He gets to breathe non-processed air and eat real food. I mean, don't get me wrong... Te'ellis, for all her bluster and nonsense, is actually a pretty good cook. But she's only got stuff from long-term storage to work with. Of course everyone hates her cooking. We'd hate anyone's cooking with the ingredients we have most of the time. Dinner out of box can only be so good, right?

I can't get the image of T'Peren and the Kelvin out of my head. We went to Academy together. Same year. We were study partners for astrophysics, warp field theory... Lots of the physical sciences classes. All four years. I used to drag T'Peren to Kris's Parrises Squares games. She never saw the point. She's Vulcan, after all. Was Vulcan. Maker's breath. Was. They were cooked to death, basically. Lost their ablative shields and the metaphasic shielding... There was nothing anyone could do for them. The ship heated up until their warp core blew. The hull had turned black by then. It was hot enough to cook tritanium.

We lost three of our own in that maelstrom. A plasma fire on Deck 6. We're lucky more didn't die. Heck, we're lucky not to have been utterly destroyed. Cooked to death like the Kelvin or destroyed in a warp core breach like the Caernarvon.

We had rough return to Pinastri, too. We encountered an Ogla-Kzem vessel. It attacked USS Fossey, which was limping back to Pinastri not too far from us. We were in better shape, so we returned and helped out. We ended up drawing this bizarre, much-larger ship into a Mutara-class nebula and destroying it by fooling its sensors and making it run over a bunch of active torpedoes that we used as mines. Unfortunately, we had to drift around that nebula for some days repairing systems. At least nobody got killed. We've been losing enough people that I'm surprised anyone's willing to come to the ship.

After the nebula, our warp drive failed, and an automated alien Collector ship tried to harvest the Maxwell for raw materials! Huge, fast thing. And immensely maneuverable. We did manage to get away from it, but we need to get some healthy ships on this thing to track down what it is and where it came from. Talk about a menace to navigation.

I suppose it's supposed to be some sort of consolation that I got promoted to Fleet Captain? I don't know. It worries me that what it really means is that now I have a lot more people I can kill. I'm glad Starfleet isn't sending me on a diplomatic mission to the Annari Empire. I don't think I'd be able to keep myself from punching the sounds out of every Annari I met.

<<that muffled computer voice is heard>>

What's that, James? Lights? Punch the... Lights? Out of them? Whatever. I don't do this old Earth vernacular very well. Let's just say that my personal preference would be to take a big Fleet to Annar Prime and do some phaser and photon "diplomacy." And no. That's not very Kin'Li of me.

We had to unload our cargo holds to throw the Collector off our scent. So when we got to Pinastri, the crew hadn't had a proper meal in 36 hours. And when we came out of warp, the warp sequencer pretty much turned to slag. Did I mention that we had to cannibalize EPS conduit from systems that weren't working anymore to actually get the EPS system to work at all?

I worry about the grand old lady.

<<the muffled computer voice speaks again>>

Or Scottish Gentleman, I suppose. Sorry James. You're a mess right now. And hopefully we'll have a much quieter next mission and the Peedy Thor folks will get the Maxwell's systems back up and running. I might have to put a gun to Sandie's head to get her to take actual shore leave. I'd say we've all earned it.

Hal wasn't at Pinastri when we got back. I suppose he's enroute from Relos IV. Or maybe he's still there. I hope all is well with him

All right, James. That's enough of that. Let's close the log now, please.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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171113.2150

Captain's personal log, Stardate 171113. Back where I come from, that's 24 Hrumi, in the Fourth Year Since Independence.

I've been thinking a lot about home lately. I think it's the stress of potentially having a non-functional ship all the way out here, so far from the rest of Federation space. And so surrounded by potential enemies.

Our latest danger came to us in the rather prosaically-named Pumpkin Nebula, which is designated Hapke 162. It came to us in the form of glowing, semi-transparent crystalline arachnids that secreted an enzyme that dissolves tritanium. Apparently they eat the stuff. Oh joy. Needless to say, we're putting a warning on all star charts at this point.

Because of the damage we sustained in the Pumpkin Nebula, the Maxwell couldn't go above Warp 5. Our structural integrity field just couldn't hold without a good, strong hull and bulkheads. We had to essentially "beach the ship" and make repairs. So we went to a system to do that. Found asteroids with tritanium deposits, did some prospecting, and some refining.

Honestly, I'm pleased as a gili in late tinnec about the results. We actually mined and refined tritanium 'in the field,' so to speak. And then patched up the hull in a way that even the Cascadia inspectors shouldn't sneer at. The color isn't quite a match, I don't think. Sandie wants to paint. For me, that's a secondary concern, but I definitely don't want to go into spaceport looking like the ship has caught the phage.

The long and the short of it is that I'm way out here, and almost everyone in the universe shorter than six feet that I know is thousands of light years away. I miss them. I miss Bryden and home. I miss the smell of the house when we've had a good harvest and the fire's going, and we're drying herbs on the rafters. I miss the taste of tinnec just right, the way my Ma does it, and I can never get quite right. I miss a good rain. It never rains out here. Not on the Maxwell, anyway. Not for real. Only on a holodeck, and I haven't been in any hurry to go on one of those since the War.

They're getting ready for First Days back there. New beginnings, a new year, and a lot to look forward to. Children will be laughing, running about houses, barns and fields. A joyous ruckus. And me? Will I ever get to sit by the fire and watch my own children do that? Not that I have any. Will I ever? Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see home again. Will I make it back? Or will I die out here, killed by the next bunch of utter savages we try to treat with? I really just don't know.

But that's the job, isn't it? We come out here to find worlds that have never been seen before, at least by the Federation. I am doing what no Kin'Li has ever done. I suppose that has to count for something. It is the most amazing experience of my life. But also one of the most isolating.

Close log.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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180105.1230

Captain's personal log, stardate 180105. Where I grew up, that's 17 Bekli in the Fifth Year Since Independence.

A new year, a new enemy, apparently. A new enemy that specifically wants to kill me. The Karutak will have to get in line behind the Nausicaans, the Krenim, the Romulans, and the Privari -- just to name a few. They're really weird: obsessed with the hunt. Or, as our Security Chief so succinctly put it, obsessed with the kill. I can't even be mad with Tam Zhayton for bringing this bunch on us -- he's rotting in a Subere prison right now. But he can bet the farm that I won't be lifting a finger to spring him out of his cell.

I suppose we'll see just how tenacious they turn out to be, but my feeling is that we'll be seeing them again. We gave the one ship, the KNS Lrtaal, a bit of a bloody snout. One might hope that in their minds, it would have shown them we weren't exactly prey -- they seem to view the entire universe in terms of predator-prey relationships, with them as the predators. But I fear that all we did was enrage their Alpha, or captain.

The Karutak are aggressive, like the Klingons, but they don't seem to have the same sense of warrior code. The definitely have some sort of warrior code, but it's more like a predator's code. It is to be surmised that they view honor rather differently from many other species; in particular, they seem to think of themselves as 'alpha,' or as superior to all other species. I'd love to get a couple of Sovereign-class ships out here let them in on the secret that it's a big scary Galaxy out there, but then again... I'd rather not have them know that there is a great deal more technology that they should be getting their hands on.

Let's just say this wasn't a great way to follow up on First Days. I think that Krrg fellow wants to actually tear my throat out with his teeth. He did say as much. More than once. And he seems to have done so to one of his own crew, so it's not an idle threat. That's sobering. We'll be keeping an eye out, clearly.

All right, close log.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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Nora Gerhadsen
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180315.0944

Captain's personal log, Stardate 180315. Back home on Relos IV, that's... What, 25 Ogrut? What do I know. I'm trying hard not to think about it. But it's still the Fifth Year since Independence. That much is easy to remember, at least.

These Karutak... Maker's breath, they're persistent. We have been awfully lucky both times we have encountered them, but I'm not sure the crew understands that. They are the most advanced species we have encountered so far in the Hapke Cluster. Well, apart from the Ha-Erat, I suppose. They're a few decades behind the Federation, but that makes them potentially quite dangerous to us in numbers. In our last encounter with them, there was an entire wolfpack -- seven starships in all. Honestly, we were saved by the magnesite. They used it to hide themselves from us; then we used it to hide from them.

If we encounter something like that again in open space, we will have little choice but to run. Speed will be our only effective weapon against them -- those ships' combined firepower would reduce us to tritanium dust. If they really are hunting us, then we may have little choice but to withdraw from this part of the Hapke Cluster and explore a less-dangerous part of space. The only other option would be to come back with a powerful escort ship, or even multiple ships.

I hate to escalate the conflict, however: so far, it seems as though only this Krrg has a vendetta against us, and that this is not matter for the entire Karuun Nation (that's what they call themselves). I certainly don't want to see this turn into a war, though the distances involved would make it highly impractical. But there doesn't seem to be a ready solution: the choices are negotiate, submit, fight or flee. The Karutak have made spectacularly clear that they are uninterested in negotiations. Fighting does not seem to be an option, as this would serve to either put the ship in jeopardy or to escalate the conflict into a broader war (or both). Even submission is not an option: even if I could get a guarantee that they would allow the Maxwell to leave in peace after they kill me, we would only be setting up a precedent to encourage more aggressive behavior against future exploration ships.

And fleeing? Well, that might be a short-term solution, but for the long-term, I can't see leaving a whole region of space to their depredations. But it might be our only even semi-practical alternative.

In the middle of all of this, Hal asked to be put off the ship. I suppose I don't blame him. He's a sweet fellow, but I don't think being cooped up in a ship with these kinds of stresses, month after month, is really for him. He never really understood Starfleet's mission out here, and certainly did not understand my interpretation of it. Our relationship never really recovered after I yelled at him for second-guessing me in front of my own crew on my own bridge. In some ways, he was such a saint, too. I just couldn't quite give him what he needed, I suppose. I'm still just a little too damaged from the war. We dropped him off at a commercial station. He booked passage back to Suban, and he'll take a Federation diplomatic courier ship back to Pinastri. From there I suppose it's back to Relos IV, unless he decides to do something else. Either way, that's quite the trip ahead of him. I wish him all happiness.

If the Relosian Government tries to send someone else, I might have to just kill him. No, they won't do that. All the way out here, it's just grossly impractical. So my life's gotten a little lonelier, I suppose. In light of our issues with the Karutak, though, perhaps that's just fine. I need to be focusing on the good of the ship now.

Close personal log.
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180412.2118

Captain's personal log, stardate 180413.0053. On Relos IV, that's 26 Gamosh in the Fifth Year Since Independence.

We're in a system that on our star charts is rather prosaically called Hapke 5798. We don't actually have a better name for the system than that, despite how interesting this place is. There are three different inhabited Class-M worlds in this system, each with its own sentient native species. Hapke 5798-III is called Ako'e, and is inhabited by a humanoid species called the Fula'a. IV is inhabited by another humanoid species called the Turva. V is called Rrrgik, and is inhabited by a Lupinoid species called the Rrn.

I can now say I've been to Ako'e. It was quite an experience, even if it was only for a couple of hours. I'm in no hurry to go back.

This system must be unique in that it has three spacefaring, pre-warp species. As such, this system represents an immensely complicated Prime Directive conundrum: if we want to explore it, we must proceed as though trying to avoid surprisingly sophisticated sensor systems, and we deal with other spacecraft in-system... But it's all governed by the Prime Directive.

This came into stark focus today when we tried to check out a tritanium signal on Ako'e. It was actually under the surface of the global ocean. So it's a sunken starship, and judging from sensor readings, might well be of Privari origin. There are no habitable spaces on board, and nobody knows how long it's been there. Even the native Fula'a don't know it's there, but they do know that the region around it is where ships and aircraft have been mysteriously disappearing for a rather long time.

It's a pleasant place, though, and warm. Which is good for me, given what I was wearing down there! Or rather, not wearing. One of our shuttles, the Hawking, took damage from the Privari vessel and crashed on the surface. I led an Away Team to retrieve our people and deal with the wreck. We had to go incognito, and that meant finding roles to inhabit. The rest of the Away Team went as tourists, either Turva (in the case of April) or Rrn (Jak Forcella and Mr. Auranum).

But given that there are some Fula'a out there who are actually not much taller than I am, I decided to go as a Fula'a native. We were going to an area famous for its tourism, so I dressed as a native tourguide.

And that meant no real clothes. I wore a skirt made of large leaves, and the only thing I could wear above my waist were strings of flowers -- leis. With few options for places to hide technology, the only thing I could carry was a combadge affixed to the inside of the leaf skirt.

To say I felt exposed would be an understatement.

My people did well. We managed to retrieve our shuttle crew, and even get the shuttle repaired to the point that it could return to the ship. Our people had indeed encountered some Fula'a natives -- a pair of male tour guides -- but the inadvertent contact was limited to those individuals.

It turns out that the research into Fula'a clothing was not entirely accurate: I was obliged by local customs to give away my leis to my 'tourist clients.' Not to do so would have been considered impossibly rude, and could have blown our cover. As it is, I managed to pass myself off as a new, as-yet poorly-trained guide.

I distracted the two natives with a ceremonial dance while the rest of the crew made good their escape. Once the shuttle was gone, I too left (on foot), and was finally transported out once I had found a good spot to hide. I've read a log about a crew member of USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) doing similar activities to similarly distract inhabitants of a planet. I think I was wearing more than she was at the time, but she did have large fans or fronds in her hands while she danced, and I had no such similar devices. But now I have a fairly good idea of how Commander Uhura must have felt. Or maybe not. In that log, the good Commander is recorded has having greatly enjoyed her dancing. Me? Not quite so much. I might have liked it better had I had a pair of big fans in my hands. I suppose we'll never know.

I would very much like to eliminate the threat of the Privari ship. It would save Fula'a and other lives. But I'm not sure I can actually do it within the strictures of the Prime Directive. That derelict ship (surely it must be a derelict, though I suppose it needn't be) has been there so long that it's part of their folklore and history now. To remove it as a threat would be to change the culture, which we cannot do.

On the other hand, it is a threat to future explorers, and could expose the Fula'a and the rest of the inhabitants of Hapke 5798 to premature contact with warp-capable species. It almost accomplished that job today.

Close personal log.
___________________________________________________________________
Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
Commanding Officer, USS Maxwell NCC-21873
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180508.1606

<<The tiny Captain sits at her desk for what seems to be a long period of time, staring at the blank screen. Her face is flushed red, and it looks like she has been crying.>>

All right, James... Better... Better open my personal log, Stardate 180508.

<<There is another long silence.>>

I don't know why.

But this time it's different.

I lost half my people in the war. But this... This just feels different. I always try to make the best decisions I can, with the best available information.

<<Another silence, and then suddenly her voice has risen to a shriek.>>

They should have been safe! I was sending them to safety! Away from danger! And yet we're alive, and they're dead! They should have stayed! Why didn't I let them stay?

<<A sob, but then that voice returns to more or less normal, though somewhat hoarse.>>

Jane's dead, and ten others with her. The Meitner was destroyed. By the Karutak. By a ship that was going a whole lot faster than it had any right to. If we'd ever seen anything that fast in any of the encounters we've had... I wouldn't have sent them. They were supposed to be safe! We were supposed to be the ones in danger!

Nobody has any idea what happened to the other three shuttles. The Hawking already had damage; it would be a miracle if it survived. Unmaker's dirty left shoe, it would be a miracle for any of the shuttles to have made it.

But yet I'm alive. The ship hasn't even been hit by enemy fire. We're buried in a magnesite-rich asteroid. Nobody has any idea how long we can remain here before we're found. Of course, we don't know how long the Karutak are going to stick around here. They're persistent, sure... But if they think we're dead, they ought to head out. The open question is whether having no sign of us will convince them we're gone. My best guess is no. They won't be satisfied until they see chunks of hull plating.

I suppose it's lucky Te'ellis wasn't on a shuttle after all, or she'd probably be dead now. At the rate we're going, though, all we've done is buy a little time. I don't see an easy way out. If the Karutak wait for us, then it's ten to one. Even with the tech disadvantage they have on us, that's a whole lot more than enough. I may be forced to surrender the ship to save my people.

If killing me will satisfy them. It's a big if. At this point, it may be our only option.

We don't have long-range comms. With all the magnesite, sensor efficiency is incredibly low. Power is currently off line, and it's unclear whether we can even restore full warp capability. The only way we escape is if we can go to warp 9 or better before the Karutak realize where we are. I don't see how that happens.

We can't even call for the cavalry -- not even if we restore the long-range comms. That would only give the Karutak a nice bright beacon for our location.

No, the only option, once we get power restored, is to try to make our way back up the tunnel, through the cave-in, and place a directional transmitter on the surface. Well... Near the surface. On the surface might be too good a signal for Karutak sensors. Then we could... Assuming the asteroid rotates the right direction... Get a distress signal off to Pinastri.

The only other options I can think of either have very low chance of success, or mean that April has to take the ship back as its new Captain. I think there's a good chance I won't be making too many more of these entries.

Maker's blessings upon my people.

Close log.
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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180522.2116

Captain's personal log, Stardate 180522. And I am in Sick Bay.

I suppose it's not a bad place to contemplate our situation. And what's happened. What am I saying? It's a horrible place for it. It's loud, people bustle through all the time, and Maker's hangnail, I've gotten too used to being Captain! Here I'm just a patient. It's unnerving.

On the other hand, I really shouldn't have gone up to the bridge. Yes, I should have listened to the Doctor. Because I actually had a fracture in my cheek bone. Wow. Lesson learned. Anyway...

At least we got the signal out. We turn it off whenever we get signs of a Karutak ship coming close. They discovered it yet -- it feels like we're in the clear there. I just hope Fleet can make heads or tails of it. At the distances we're talking about, given the hardware we were able to drag out there and the interference from the magnesite... It's anyone's guess as to whether Starfleet will get anything intelligible.

I'm the one in Sick Bay, but I'm worried about April. She's been hallucinating. About an Ensign who died with Ferguson -- May McAdoo. Apparently it was a really high-quality hallucination too. She had a conversation with her. Amazing what the sentient mind will do to self-heal or self-soothe. I know the stress is getting to everyone, but... I need my Number One in good working order. Still and all, she got the signal out. She took over the Away Team after the Karutak tried to kill me and the rest of the team. She's good people.

I mean, heck -- if my people on Relos could cope with me having dissociative fugue events in the middle of battle, what's a little harmless hallucination among friends, right? McAdoo was such a nice lady, too -- she's a wonderful thing to hallucinate.

Oh listen to me. I'm losing it.

The truth is that I'm scared. I'm scared for my people, but I'm also scared for me. At this point, I have faced up to the awful reality that we might have to surrender in order to save lives. Not my life, though -- it's forfeit once we surrender. But hopefully I can at least save the others. April is not coping with this reality. But I'm not going to let the crew die for their Captain who would then die anyway. What's the sense in a suicide pact? There isn't any. I'll die, that's all. It will be unpleasant, it will be awful. But at least the way they want to do it sounds pretty quick, if painful. And if everyone else gets to live? Then my goodness, why not? That's an easy call.

Because what other option would we have if it really comes to that point? I can't see any. We're badly outnumbered, and if we have no way to escape or fight, then surrender is the only choice. It is the last choice. I'll fight those fuzzy chee-ingur as hard as I can until that point.

Upon further reflection, I think Sick Bay is a great place to contemplate one's own mortality after all. In the end, we all die sooner or later. Not everyone truly lives.

Close log.
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180613.2004

Captain's personal log, Stardate 180613. And back home...

<A sigh is heard.>

Back home, back where there are trees and open air and nobody trying to actually murder me and eat my flesh... Well, I mean, apart from the eela bunnies and the leftover tuskers, and of course wild feneels if they get you... Whatever. Well, back there, it's 27 Fenroek, in the Fifth Year since Independence. Fenroek... One of the months of the Unmaker. A month of fear. If I'm superstitious, anyway. Maybe I am. Bad stuff seems to happen in Fenroek. And in keeping with the month... Here we are, right?

<There is another sigh.>

I will be called to answer for killing ten crew members with my poor decision. I know it's coming. Not here. Not with Starfleet. There was... There was no way I could know the Karutak had ships that could intercept the shuttles. There was no way I could know one was right on their path back to Suban. So Starfleet won't bust me for that decision. I made the best decision I could given the information I had. No... I will answer in the next world. For that crime and for all the rest. Just add those faces to the wall of dead faces that haunts my dreams. Jane Ferguson and May McAdoo join Thurandil Eo, Parven Higgits and all the rest. They stare at me. They accuse me. They won't rest until I finally join them. The worst part is that they're right.

I've been screaming again. I've had the computer start waking me up if I start doing that. I mean, it's not like Veracruz. I've got private quarters, and nobody can hear. But my sleep is falling apart, and I think it's taking a toll on me. I can't let my already poor judgment be impaired to the point that would put more people in peril.

We recovered Torgo. I couldn't believe it. He's a memory from happier times, made flesh. And shouting about Te'ellis, come to think of it. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised a Klingon thinks our Romulan wants to kill us all. He doesn't quite understand that she's had the opportunity a number of times. She saved us instead. Pretty un-Romulan behavior, perhaps, but there it is. I haven't done any Mok'Bara with Torgo. I suppose I should. It might help clear my head. Or just give me a false sense of security: it might just make me feel as though I'm actually competent, and that would be dangerous.

Because I'm not.

Maker help me.

Save my people from me.

What am I doing out here? Oh turn that darned thing off.
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180619.1028

Fleet Captain Nora Gerhadsen
USS Maxwell
Deep Space, the Hapke Cluster, Delta Quadrant

Johnathan and Ann Ferguson
Earth, Terra System

Stardate 180619

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson,

By now you will have received official word from Starfleet Headquarters on the death of your daughter, Lieutenant JG Jane Ferguson. But I felt the need to write to you personally to let you know what Jane meant to the Maxwell and all aboard her, and how proud we all were of her -- and how proud of her you can be.

Jane served on the Maxwell for over three years, joining the crew when the ship was taken out of mothballs at Pinastri. It must be said that in her early days in Starfleet, as you are no doubt aware, Jane had priorities other than her official duties which detracted from the quality of her work. Not that this is atypical of a recent Academy graduate: it is a natural reaction to finally graduating from that pressure cooker. But she did eventually overcome those impulses to become one of the most respected officers on our little ship.

Your daughter's transformation into a top-notch officer touched the hearts of all of us on board the Maxwell. She did not do it in any sort of normal way -- instead, she did it by disobeying orders, and bringing the ship back into a dangerous part of space to rescue the senior staff who had all been imprisoned by a hostile species called the Privari. Yes, she might have disobeyed orders, but she showed originality in her thinking, and loyalty to her ship-mates. As one of the people rescued by her actions, I will always be thankful to her, and thankful to you for teaching her the lessons she needed to become the woman she was.

You need to know how and why Jane died. She died following orders, piloting a shuttle, attempting to evacuate herself and nine other crewmates from a ship that we -- that I -- felt was about to be destroyed. She was intercepted by a fast warp-capable assault ship, and they attacked without mercy, without regard for the fact that it was merely a shuttle they were assaulting. They did not even give Jane an opportunity to surrender. But the Karutak are not like that. They do not share the same sense of honor or of fair play that we in the Federation hold so dear. Jane was successful in holding the Karutak off long enough so that the other shuttles could safely get away. Though she was unable to save her own life, she saved the lives of thirty ship-mates.

Jane was one of the most human officers I ever met. She embodied the best qualities of the species: a sense of fairness, an inquisitive innocence about the Universe, and a zest to live life to its fullest. She was our heart, she was our soul, and everyone on board the Maxwell, everyone who ever knew her, mourns her passing. Our days are less bright; our hearts are heavier for her absence.

Knowing all of this will, I fear, bring you scant comfort. Just understand that Jane was a treasured member of this crew. I sought to evacuate her to save her life. She died a Starfleet Officer, and a very fine one at that. Her star has set far too early, and I ache to know the Jane that could have been. We are all diminished by her loss.


Very sincerely,


Fleet Captain Nora Gerhadsen
USS Maxwell, commanding
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
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180703.2041

All right, all right. Personal log entry, Stardate 180703. And back home... Well... Here... That's 17 Eyla, in the Fifth Year Since Independence.

And... Yeah... Here. I can't believe I'm recording a Starfleet personal log entry on the top of Blossom Hill. But there we are. It feels like only yesterday that I was on the Maxwell's bridge. And the reason for that, truly... Is that it was yesterday! Which is kind of funny, all things considered. I just got here a couple of hours ago. Funny how my parents didn't actually try to sit me down or pepper me with questions. They just fed me some tinnec and when I got that look in the eye, they just shooed me out the door, up the Hill.

I've got some sort of to-do in Kelluet in a day or two, but everyone's being strangely obtuse about what it's going to be. Even my parents don't know what it is. Hopefully I'm not about to get ambushed by Halthed Spriggan or something awful like that. I haven't heard from him since the Hapke Cluster. I don't even know if he's planetside.

In the meantime, I'm just living in the moment, in true Zen fashion I suppose. The flowers here are an unexpected joy. Unexpected in that I thought it might be years more before I saw them and home. Starfleet put me on a fast diplomatic transport. So the mystery of my sudden transport here is quite deep, it seems!

I just met the new farm hand -- Jep Felbin. If I had to use a single word to describe him, it would be "solid." Not just that he's physically strong. Of course he is. After all, he's a professional farm hand! No... I mean... His outlook. He's incredibly steady. He doesn't talk about the war at all. I wonder if he was at all involved. But he's quiet, almost mute... I wonder if he ever smiles. By the way, Jep is short for Jeppotuk. And I have to be completely honest here -- the farm looks great. Better than ever, really. Jep and Da do really well together. Da even lets Jep plow he fields. By himself. According to my Ma, anyway.

That's definitely something.

Kaya is apparently supposed to come by at some point in the next few days. Apparently, despite the fact that we'll both be in Kelluet, we won't be able to see each other. More obtuseness and obfuscation. Why am I going all the way to Kelluet, but I have to come all the way back here to see her? I mean... She's in Kelluet, after all! She ended up not actually going to Starfleet Academy. She's commissioning into the Relosian armed forces. She's going to be some sort of pilot. She already flies on the Kelluet Academy formation squad. That's some fancy stuff. Better than I could ever do, anyway.

So I suppose I'm catching up on life here. Or starting to. At some level, I still can't quite believe I'm here. It seems a strange thing to suddenly be back... Well, home, after the recent ordeal. After the Karutak, and after all those dark, awful things. It's a huge universe out there, but Blossom Hill still stands, the farm is better than ever, and so at some level, the Universe... My Universe, anyway... Seems to be all right.

Which is odd considering what a mess I am. But. I'm going to cut this off. There's a shrine to the Maker down the other side of the hill. And I... Kind of feel like paying a visit. Strange, huh?
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
Commanding Officer, USS Maxwell NCC-21873
Chief of UF Starfleet Operations
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180704.2033

Personal log supplemental.

I'm in Kelluet now. It's been a weird, weird day. I mean, I didn't even stay at my parents' house. At all. It's been that kind of weird. I went down to the shrine to the Maker, just on the other side of Blossom Hill from the farm. I've been there a million times, it feels like. But I hadn't been back in a few years. Not since my last visit home, actually. And this time, I even went of my own accord. Nobody had to yell at me to go. I'm not even sure I know when that happened last.

Well, there I was. And it was raining. It's important to understand that the shrine isn't actually a church or anything. It's just this open structure. But I decided to carry on anyway, because that's what you do when you go to the shrine. You go and do your bit. You meditate on the Making, or pray, or whatever it is you've decided to do, and you do it. Regardless. So that's what I did.

So I was kneeling on the stones. In the rain. Wet. Praying. Because it's been a long, long time since I did any of that. And I have a lot to pray about, frankly. Which is why I never noticed the arrival of the group from Kelluet. So I was pretty surprised when I turned around. Almost had a heart attack, really. Thing is, I never know what kind of welcome I'm going to get on my homeworld. I've got plenty of detractors, and plenty of them are in the Church. So sure, I was a little shocked when I turned around to see a bunch of priests.

It's just not something you see at a small family shrine out in the boonies. But there they were.

And now I'm in a room in the main temple complex in Kelluet. It's not a prison. I think. To be honest, I'm not really sure. Everyone is extremely polite, which means either things are really good, or about to get incredibly bad. But nobody's saying anything except that they're... Really glad to see me.

Which is the weirdest thing yet. I'm waiting for the hidden camera to come out and for everyone to tell me it's a gag or something. No. That's not the weirdest thing.

The weirdest thing is the reading material they gave me: the Book of Dorel. The original. It was waiting in my room when they brought me here. Like one of those copies you see in a cheap hotel room, except that this one is the real thing. The one I found. No protective boxes, no security fields, nothing. Just the Book and a priest telling me I should give it a good read.

I'm not freaking out, but I'm definitely puzzled. No, no... I am definitely freaking out. Someone better start talking or I'm going to brain them with the Book of Dorel. I don't care how many thousands of years old it is. No, that's stupid. It's far too small to do any real damage. Dorel produced a Book that could be easily carried. It's expensively made (latinum in the ink!), but the idea was to be able to carry it while traveling the world on foot.

Why in the Unmaker's snood would they give me the bloody Book? So I can scribble notes in the venerable margins? Odd thing, though... Apart from my PADD, it's kind of all I have. So yeah... I've been thumbing the pages. I'm a little surprised nobody snatched the PADD, but then again -- they're being awfully polite. Nausicaans they are not.

There are definitely parallels in many holy books. Not that I'm a scholar of comparative religion or anything, but this bit from Passage H.32 probably appears in some form elsewhere: "Awaken then to righteousness, and destroy nothing wantonly. For in that wanton Unmaking is but death and evil. Instead know the paths of the Maker, walk in them with full heart. Destroy not that which exists in the material world, but that it be done for righteous purpose; destroy not the hearts or souls of your fellow beings; destroy not a family, or child, or nation. Hold to your heart, and destroy not your own righteousness."

I know, I know, religious... Stuff. It must exist in thousands or even millions of religions all over the Galaxy in some form. Just change some superficial words, keep the concepts, and you've got a universal commandment to be good to everyone.

Well, apart from that we do differentiate between Unmaking that should be done 'for righteous purpose' -- stuff, like buildings or scrap metal or whatnot -- and things that shouldn't be Unmade for any reason, like people and children in particular.

Oh listen to me. They stick me in a room in the temple with the freaking Book of Dorel and suddenly I'm some sort of prophet? Certainly not. Unmaker's dirty left shoe! I'm cracking up already.

And it's only been a day. I've got to get out of here. Hey wait a minute, someone's at the door.

<the entry ends>
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Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
Commanding Officer, USS Maxwell NCC-21873
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180705.2043

Personal log entry, Stardate 180706. Or, in local terms, 19 Eyla in the Fifth Year Since Independence.

And at least questions are being answered now. Sort of. But it's only leading to new questions.

But let's back up a moment. I've been in Kelluet the last couple of days. But honestly, I might as well be in the Hapke Cluster. I lived in this city for two years attending Kelluet Academy before going to Starfleet, but I never saw this part of it. Ever. I've been in Kweuloo Temple Complex, but I'm not in the part that gets visited by... Well, people. Anyone. I'm in the part nobody ever sees.

It's actually pretty, sort of. It's an old set of buildings, of course, over 1500 years old. I mean... The very first Temple was at Banath, and that area is completely surrounded by Kweuloo. But I'm straying from the point. Which is that I finally found out why I'm here. I think. I don't understand it, but at least they've told me.

Dwalo Guffin is dying. I don't know His Eminence well at all. Heck, I've spent more time with him in the last 24 hours than I've probably spent with all priests combined. At least, since going to worship as a kid. And before I got back a couple of days ago. So many priests lately...

So he's dying. It's called Threlingkel Syndrome. There's no cure -- even Starfleet Medical could not do a thing for him except make him more comfortable. His body is dying around him, even as his mind is clear. But soon... He'll die. It's a horrible way to go, all things considered. Whether he loses the power of speech before he dies is anyone's guess. He already can't move his hands anymore. Or walk.

So now we get to it: they need a new High Priest. Or in local terms... A new Tiarnsag. I suppose a more literal translation of that is a "Lord Priest," though we don't really do noble titles. Anyway, they need a new one. Traditionally, the Tiarnsag doesn't really have a say in his succession, because, well... He's dead. It's really unusual to have a Tiarnsag knowing he's about to die.

And he asked for me. He told me why, and I think the Threlingkel Syndrome has hit his brain: he wants me to help the priests choose the new Tiarnsag! What I could possibly do to help them is well beyond me. They can't even discuss the succession until he's dead! Maker's elbow.

At the moment, I'm all gussied up in a white Temple dress, carrying around the Book of Dorel like I'm some sort of life support and transport system for it. I'm spending a lot of time with Dwalo Guffin. In fact, I need to get back up to his chambers. But it's tough up there. The Threlingkel Syndrome basically kills off the body, and so... Well, he's kind of rotting. He smells horrible. The whole place smells horrible. Poor guy. Everyone keeps going out -- we don't wear masks in there, and even with perfumes and odor killers, it's still pretty rank in there. So we keep taking turns heading outside, like I am now. Poor Dwalo Guffin obviously can't.

So for now, I'm some sort of holy hospice nurse, listening to everything Dwalo Guffin tells me before he dies. Poor guy is wasting his time. I'm no priest. I can't understand half the stuff he's saying. And I keep trying to find passages he wants me to read from the Book of Dorel, but honestly... It would be a lot easier with an annotated copy, not the... Danged original. I've got my PADD with me, and I'm recording what he says for people who actually know what it means.

I need to shut this off and get back up there. I'd complain about the impending assault on my nose, but... It's nothing compared to what's happening to the Tiarnsag. Poor guy.
___________________________________________________________________
Rear Admiral Nora Gerhadsen
Commanding Officer, USS Maxwell NCC-21873
Chief of UF Starfleet Operations
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