Desperate Measures

Belly Of The Beast

Okhala had been a warbird gripped by a cancer. Tangles of mismatched machinations growing throughout its corridors as the disease of its misbegotten technologies spread like wildfire. Blazing out in all directions, haphazard 'upgrades' integrated with no thought to form, only driving single-mindedly to augment function. Okhala was a creation of brutal efficacy.

Daegnus was a magnum opus.

That was clear the first time Davin stepped foot in its obsidian corridors, more artery than walkway. And it was clear now, as he strode over gleaming black plate. The ship was death. Literally, Llaihr class, the ship was meant for one singular, morbid purpose. But it was not some piecemeal upgrade like Okhala. Daegnus was sleek, and sharp, and it's every contour spoke of its purpose, crafted with a singular intent.

"I could have killed you the moment I detected you, you know, " Daegnus spoke, clear as day. His mouthpiece was the spectre of Valdore that haunted Davin as he moved, indifferent, through the innards of the ship. "I could kill you now with no more effort. With all the holoemitters around you it would be simple. You could even pick! A Tal Shiar suppression squad, a war-dhael ten feet tall, even your mother! Rendered in impervious photons, how wonderfully poetic."

"Shut up." It was more response than Davin wanted to give the simulacrum, but he could not stop himself. There was no way his task would end well, he was sure of that. But perhaps he could shift the brunt of that unpleasantness to those more deserving of it.

"You can't kill me," the holographic Valdore chided. "You've tried, remember? Warp core overload, EPS inversion, ooh, and that time you tried to set me to Warp through a sun?" Valdore grinned in that vicious Romulan way. A raise of his hand shuttered the aperture in front of Davin, blocking the path.

Davin turned about. "If you wanted me dead, I would be." He reached up and adjusted the collar of his aging grey flight jacket. "But you've just been talking. You're bored."

"Of course I'm bored!" Valdore-Daegnus threw up his arms. "I can tell you, to the nano-second, how long it has been since I've talked to anyone. To you! And all you ever want to do is kill me!" The hologram huffed and stomped a boot on the deck. A spectacular tantrum, especially given the poise and prestige of its actor. "You stranded me here! You left me in the void until you could come back and kill me! Is that what this is?" The hologram lunged forward, grabbing Davins lapels, practically foaming at the mouth. "Are you finally going to kill me?"

"No." That stunned the simulation into silence. "I'm not going to kill you."

"Oh..." Valdore-Daegnus stepped back with a look of wide-eyed uncertainty. "Then... why are you back?"

Davin sighed, and grimaced. "I need you."

The holograms eyes lit up instantly, it's face contorting to a grin of childish satisfaction. "Oh. Well, then." Another wave of the holograms hand reopened the corridor. "We should get to the harness chamber."
Decrypted: Classified Ω-3, Republic Sig-Int

Personal log of Dr. Seleya t'Akann
Entry 001

The Tal Shiar can be a fickle patron. They will take you to the ends of the cosmos to see your work to fruition if they find value in it, but if you are careless you could find yourself sealed in a plasma expansion chamber during a singularity harness purge. My predecessor was careless. It doesn't matter whether he placed himself in that chamber of his own foolishness or if his indiscretions lie in those project logs which I am unable to access.

I tell myself this promotion is as much about my strength as his foolishness. Sometimes I believe it, too.

I'm pouring through what files I have access to, trying to get myself up to speed on 'Project Progress'. Its goals have shifted quite a bit from the initial attempts to modernize our fleet of drone ships. After the Irix Disaster command shifted priorities. They want some sort of autonomous or semi-autonomous long-range strike craft. To say their goals are lofty would be an understatement deserving of execution.

Adaptive shield matrices, regenerative hull plating, a fully combat capable computer system, something about 'plasmonic resonant recursion' in the weapons systems? What even is that? I don't know where to start, or what to say, I don't even have up to date schematics or a fabrication plan for these components.

But apparently the project is on schedule and progressing, even with me sitting here, reading, trying to get caught up. I haven't even seen the fvadt ship yet. I know our drones have a minimal cabin space and a handful of access corridors for repair in dry dock, but with all the technology they are trying to squeeze into this thing I can't imagine there is much room left within.

I'll have a tour scheduled once I've gotten through the first month's logs.
The Cusp Of Oblivion

All around were stars. Filling his perception, diamonds scattered on the obsidian velvet that served as the backdrop of the cosmos. Bare void touched him, radiation soaked his fair Romulan skin. He turned his head and the constellations shifted. He peered through depths laid bare, into shadows and the shadows within them deeper still. He stepped into the darkness and stars rushed past. Planets, nebulae, worlds inhabited and those that bore no life passed in a blur of motion that spoke of velocities beyond comprehension.

The feel of it was intoxicating. His heartbeat was the thrum of absolute annihilation, his eyes gazed with a resolution that surpassed biology. The darkness of the void was a tapestry of color, rendered spectra of wavelengths beyond mere light. He followed the current of the universe, a light-headed voyager drunk on the truth of a reality beyond his nature.

He was fast. He was strong. He was-

"Subcommander." Daegnus' voice drowned out the ether at chant of the milky way. His footsteps stopped, and the sphere of night sky fixed around him.

"What?" His tone was terse, but his words seemed hollow. He felt such power within himself, why didn't his voice carry the thunder he felt?

"We've arrived."

"Oh." Below, between his boots, spun Jouret IV. A verdant little island in an ocean painted in invisible ink. He stared at it now, looking from this God's eye view. He could practically see to the ground, even through the smattering of clouds. It was the middle of autumn on Jouret IV, when the sky was more likely to be gray than blue. When rain fell freely from the cooling air. From his perch it was easy to pick out the storms that would soon merge into a supercell over the plains, and slam the coast with long nights of thunder and lightning.

A hand went to his collar, to the clasp at its front. The small yellow light depressed under his finger, and the thick metal band suddenly expanded with a hiss of gas and a metallic clank of shifting machinery. The spikes retracted from his spine, so sharp and thin that the entry wounds hardly even bled as the heavy harness fell away. A waiting hand kept the thing from bouncing off the floor, and leaned it against a console.

The vista of stars and open void was now a cramped room strangled with running cables and junction boxes. Davin pulled the lenses from his eyes. Everything seemed so much... flatter, somehow. Colors muted, features blurred. The feeling that he was only seeing a hint of the true world, that he was peeking through a cracked door, lingered in his mind.

And then he was staring at Daegnus, the ships AI in the guise of famed Admiral Valdore. "That is enough for today." Daengnus' holographic avatar grinned. "It would be such a shame to overtaxed our captain on his shakedown cruise.

Davis eyes lingered on the harness laying on the floor, the heavy backpack and the collar with its retracted needles. A gloved hand rubbed the back of his neck and came away smeared with a hint of green. "Did you render my quarters?"

"Down to the carpet," Daegnus said with a smirk, waving a hand to a nearby door. Davin let's himself be ushered in, watching as the door opens. It takes a moment to render, but soon the blank space within shifts, furniture and fixtures seeming to appear out of nowhere. Soon he is looking into a near-perfect replica of a Romulus ready room.

"Are you sure you do not need a bed?" Daegnus lingered in the doorway as Davin made his way to the sofa across the room.

"I'm sure. Now leave me."
Decrypted: Classified Ω-3, Republic Sig-Int

Personal log of Dr. Seleya t'Akann
Entry 004

The ships progress continues to astonish me. The ships existence continues to astonish me. Every time I look at it, I can't help but think that it could eat a T'Varo. Some days I think it may want to.

It has taken well to the scraps we've fed it. Bits of the recovered assault fleet, these mismatched components. It carves them up and drags them inside like some sort of exoplanetary raptor bloating itself on steel carrion. Every day it grows bigger, every day it has reconfigured itself into something just a little different.

I'm not sure why the Tal Shiar need me here. Why the commander insists I labor on her pet project. Indeed, the ship seems more a pet than a mere vessel. My predecessor was so adamant about integrating a holographic command AI. Why? Did he not expect the Borg-derived components to integrate the computer core? I worry that perhaps that was his intent from the start. I've not said it, not aloud, but by any reasonable metric this ship is alive. More than likely sentient. 'Project Progress' is handling it's own construction, working, so far as I can tell, to its own ends.

So why am I here?

The battle was a blur of motion and light, color beyond spectra and carnage beyond measure. The Heralds of Iconian resurgence had arrived over New Romulus.

And so had Davin Mandukar.

He stared out across the vista of space stretching before him. At his world in flames. At a fleet in tatters. At the mass of impossible ships laying siege to New Romulus. And something stared back. A burst of black light filled his vision, and a heat scorched at his shields. A familiar heat, one that Daegnus recognized and that he himself was all too familiar with; antiprotons.

"My turn."

His fury erupted in a howl of rage and a starburst of light, jagged talons digging into his wall of foes, hooking into metal flesh and ethereal armor and tearing them apart at their most fundamental level. The Heralds struck back with their antiproton lances but the Warriors of Iconia fell like Uhlan before the wrath of a rampaging d'deridex, the great war-raptor of ch'Rihan.

That was what Davin felt like, a raptor circling its prey, digging at its quarry with a razor-sharp beak as they struggled to respond in kind. His shields drew power from the Heralds strikes. His hull stitched itself back together with the nanites coursing through his veins. He swooped and dove and circled, picking his foes apart until all that remained was a tangled field of debris and the bloodied remains of the Republic Home Fleet.

"Sir?" The voice came before Daegnus had fully materialized in front of him, sharing the open expanse of cosmos, but soon enough the two figures stood together in the void.

"What." Davin glared at the ships holographic consciousness.

"I believe you are needed on the ground." Daegnus, wearing the features of Valdore, grinned. "I can handle the clean up."

Davin stared at the hologram, only slowly turning his gaze to the scorched planet below. "Fine. I'll stay connected. If the Heralds return beam me back up."

"Of course, Sir," Daegnus intoned. "One to beam down, then."
Decrypted: Classified Ω-3, Republic Sig-Int

Personal log of Dr. Seleya t'Akann
Entry 011

An interface. That is what I am here for. That is what my predecessor neglected. His intent was for this... thing... to be fully autonomous. The Commander thought differently.

I am starting to understand this project more and more, and that is truly terrifying. Dr. tr'Kovahl's 'brilliant' design was merely the product of these second generation nanites. It wasn't a schematic, it was a projection. He was nothing more than a babysitter, but I..

I suppose I should be honest. This revelation is no great epiphany. The Commander pulled me aside, and... Void, she is a terrifying woman. But she laid out her plans for the ship, and my role in accomplishing them. Why she did this only now I cannot say, but...

This station feels wrong. The crew feels wrong. I know I wanted more field work with the Star Navy, but right now I would take the redeployment center on Rator over this place. I will do my duty, I will finish this project, and then I will take the first shuttle off this forsaken outpost.

Then again, they may just kill me.