kerryball

Artemis Fowl 2020

3 weeks ago
The books were always a fun read. I’m wondering if anyone else read this series?

globallinkes

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

3 weeks ago
Amidst the constantly growing streaming service market, one platform—Кинoкрадко—has come to light as a shining example of diversity and creativity. With its huge selection of entertaining material and easy-to-use design, this massive Russian streaming service has won over hearts of viewers all over the world. Let's explore what makes Кинокрадко unique and why both casual viewers and movie buffs are starting to choose it.
Edited 3 weeks ago by globallinkes
Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

June 06 2024


WINNERS ANNOUNCED!



Thanks to everyone who contributed to our "Ensnared" writing challenge!  We loved reading all of the entries and invite you to check out the compilation of all of the submitted stories at the link below.  We'd also like to share our favorite stories with you and will reach out to the authors of those submissions to arrange delivery of prizes!  Everyone who participated will receive Stonewall Credits within a day of this post.  To spend them, login to this site with your account, click the drop down menu next to your profile picture on the menu bar and select 'wallet'.  

Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

May 12 2024

UPDATE!


Just a quick update to let everyone know that I got a little behind because of some significant work developments this last week, but will post results by the end of the week of May 13th.  Sorry for the delay!
Edited May 12 2024 by Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

May 03 2024
When Steve came to, his mind was full of fog. All he could remember was seeing Renato head for the gate. He’d hoped Renato had escaped and then suddenly he recalled the searing pain of the hook going through his chest. Just the memory brought him to his knees. “How am I still alive?” he wondered. He looked around to gather his bearings. The area didn’t look familiar, but he could see the generators he’d worked on before, and not too far off there was another exit gate. Maybe he just needed to get out through there and he’d finally be free.

Something within compelled him to work on the generator; he didn’t know what was wrong with it, but he began fixing the wires and tightening the bolts with his bare hands. Before long, the engine started to turn. There was something comforting about the engine slowly coming to life. When it was completed he heard a horn go off from the nearby gate and he dashed to it. He held down the lever, opening the gate and escaping as quickly as he could.



Steve felt lightheaded as his surroundings slowly faded from black. He looked around and yet again he was in an unfamiliar location. This appeared to be a very dilapidated school filled with nightmarish cages and chains. He slowly and carefully searched the building trying to figure out what was happening. 

In the far-off distance, he could see Renato! He was still alive and there with him. Yet again, Renato was in danger and Steve knew it was his duty to save him. A killer wearing some kind of mask was chasing Renato with a kitchen knife and it didn’t look like Renato had many options left. With a quick swipe, Renato fell to the ground and as the Killer picked him up, Steve dashed into place, shining the flashlight right into his eyes, but this time nothing happened. Somehow, Steve felt revealed.

The killer effortlessly hung Renato on the hook and quickly headed for Steve. Steve tried to hide around a corner, but the killer quickly found him. For just a second, he looked at Steve with a deep stare and then lunged for him. Steve didn’t have time to react. The killer plunged his knife into Steve’s chest, lifting him from the ground and dropping him back down.



Yet again, Steve came to. He could still feel the burning hot wound where the killer had plunged his knife into his chest, but after checking there were no marks or scars. Like it’d never happened, but the pain was still fresh in his mind. He stood in what was a movie theater at one point but now had a massive hole in the wall. The arcade machines definitely looked familiar, but couldn’t place it anywhere near Hawkins. Upstairs, the generator called to him and he began working on it. 

Once completed, he headed outside and down the stairs on the side of the building. Not too far off, he could see Renato being chased by a crazy woman throwing hatches at him. He ducked down low and watched the chase. He could see in the not-far-off distance someone working on another gate. As Renato dropped a pallet to block the killer’s path, she quickly threw a hatchet and Renato dropped to the ground. Once hooked, the killer headed to the gate and Steve made his move. He pulled Renato off the hook, grabbed his hand, and led him behind a bush. 

“Thank you”, Renato said as he wrapped his arms around Steve, giving him a tight hug. “I thought you were dead. I’m so glad to see you’re okay.”

“Thanks. I’m glad to see you too. Neither of us will be okay if we don’t get out that gate.”

He finished banding Renato up and again led him to the gate. Hand in hand, Steve and Renato slip-passed the killer. Glancing back, Steve saw the killer aiming her hatchet straight for Renato, who was about to make it out. Steve knew what he had to do and quickly blocked for Renato, taking the hatchet instead. He was downed instantly and tried to crawl out, but the killer grabbed him by the ankle, dragged him back in and buried a hatchet into his head.



As the lights faded in, Steve looked around and he knew this place. He’d been here before with Eleven and the rest of his friends. They barely escaped last time. The demodogs had taken over last time, but there were none in sight now. Scattered around, he could see the all too familiar generators. He knew those weren’t there last time. He began working on the generators, not knowing what was in store for him this time. Somehow, he knew Renato was out there and he longed to see him again. After completing a couple generators, Steve ventured farther out into the map.

Renato was on a gate lever while a killer chased a couple other survivors nearby. Steve began heading to the gate as he saw Renato open the door and the killer took notice. He dropped the chase with the other survivors and headed straight for Steve. He tried to dodge and weave away from the killer, but he had nothing to work with. After a couple quick swipes, he was down on the ground and shortly hoisted onto a hook. Luckily, he was near the gate and Renato was close by. Steve called out for Renato to save him; save him just as Steve had saved Renato so many times. Renato took a few steps towards him, he attempted to sum up the courage to save him, but succumbed to his fears as he heard the killer approaching. Staring back at Steve, he struggled on the hook, Renato slipped out the gate and left Steve there to die.



As Steve came to, his heart sank. That was Renato’s chance to save him, to repay all the times he’d risked his life for Renato, but instead, he just left him to die. Renato could’ve gotten Steve; there had been enough time. He felt almost foolish for risking so much for Renato.

Steve looked around and didn’t know where he was. A farmhouse in the distance beckoned him. Yet again he was trapped in this eternal nightmare from what seemed like there was no escape. Not even death set him free. He began to wander around, looking for other signs of life. He made it to the farmhouse and, yet again, found Renato.

“You left me!” Steve said, almost shouting. “You could’ve saved me and you left me.”

“I’m so sorry. I wanted to, but I was so scared! That insane man the cleaver was coming.” Renato said as he backed away from Steve.

“I thought you cared about me.” Steve pushes toward Renato, forcing him into a corner.

“I do care about you. I care about you very much, Steve.” Renato said, as he leaned forward and kissed Steve deeply.

The anger boiled inside of Steve, after everything he’d done Renato abandoned him. Steve wanted to recoil from his kiss, but feeling Renato’s body against him excited him like nothing before. He pulled back and looked at Renato’s shirtless body in his tight board shorts, Steve felt a deep attraction that even his anger couldn’t ignore.

He pushed Renato to the ground and [REDACTED].

The two of them quietly get dressed and head out, trying to escape from this enduring trap, together.
Unknown Person liked this
Edited May 03 2024 by nicholasjohn16
Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

May 02 2024


CHALLENGE ENDED!



Thank you to everyone who entered our Ensnared writing challenge!  Entries are now closed and we'll be enjoying your submissions over the next week and will post results of our writing challenge on or around May 10th!
Edited May 02 2024 by Voleron
Austin  Rockford

Gladiatorpope

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

April 30 2024
                                                                                                               Time Locked                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Captain's Log: The USS Stonewall Universe mobile starbase group has separated from the contingent of ships assigned to it, and has been given the mission to finish relocating colonists. We stopped after a distress signal came from a planet that was under a catastrophic plague and required assistance. The USS Trixie Mattel was put in charge of helping cure the afflicted using its superior medical facilities. We are hoping to meet up with them and the other ships shortly at our destination End Log.

Gladiator comes out of his quarters and is met by his Gorn boyfriend Ambassador Dirilth. They walked to the bridge catching up and even ran into the Romulan Ambassador Porama outside of the bridge. He gave them some coffee and then Gladiator went into the bridge leaving Ambassador Dirilth to talk about adding a Klingon or Romulan ship to the Mobile Starbase Group. The bridge was teeming with officers of all kinds and all species. The work they were doing was amazing and these long missions never seem to get old except someone was missing.
''Commander Vinbok where is Commander Iggst at?" Gladiator said as he sat at the Temporal OPS console.
"He's sick sir, something to do with his more alien physiology and Doctor Bashir says he can't leave sick bay" Said the commander back as he worked on the weapons console.
"I'll take over today since our other Operative is with the on the other ships." Gladiator replied as he moved the console to the captain's chair and as he did he noticed a strange flux in the Molecular Reconstruction console and other Temporal mechanisms.
Gladiator ran a Level 1 diagnostic test on the Temporal systems and found nothing. It was time to eat so he made his way to the massive mess hall and replicated some of the best ramen you can find in the galaxy . He ate and watched the colonists as they ate and mingled with everyone. Gladiator loved eating in the non-military mess halls because he wanted to get to know the people he was protecting on his ship and the seemed to like it also. Some officers even joined in as long as no work was conducted. Gladiator today was met with a couple of families who were human colonists going to the new planet. Gladiator welcomed the company but something made his Vulcan ears twitch about them; especially one of the children who was acting strange and not in a worrying way just yet.
Gladiator's break was done and he excused himself back to work; once there the helmsmen updated him that they'll be there in a day and Gladiator went back to his captain's chair and ran another Level 1 diagnostic and found nothing wrong but something about everything around him felt off. He sat back and tested every other system while still doing his captain duties. Commander Iggst was feeling better and allowed to take over. Gladiator was relieved by one of his commanders and met Ambassador Dirilth who was waiting in front of the massive windows.
Gladiator and the ambassador went to the Pike Restaurant which is a nice place that serves food that Captain Pike made for his crew and himself. They sat and ordered their food; they talked about their days while eating their delicious entrees. As Dirilth was talking he mentioned that he saw what he thought was multiple copies of the colonists that he was working with as they congregated in the shuttle bays, and he mentioned another weird occurrence.

"I was walking around observing the progress to make sure everything was in order for recolonization and as I did I felt a burning on my chest. So I went to the bathroom to check my chest and found a red scar but almost as soon as I saw it the scar disappeared. Once I got back it got stranger but I think it might be my imagination." Dirilth said, rubbing his head.
Gladiator tilted his head sensing something was deeply bothering him. "What is it hun?" Gladiator probed.
Dirilth leaned forward and said "I-I think I saw people twisted up and ripped apart and the shuttle being repaired by someone or something and going to warp. I still think it was my imagination because I closed my eyes and everything was fine, but it has me anxious nonetheless.
Gladiator could tell he didn't want to talk about it anymore and decided the perfect thing to do was to take his mind off of what happened. Gladiator slipped out of his and ran his foot up the Gorn's massive legs and thighs and rubbed his crotch teasing him. Gladiator grinned as he saw him relax and moan softly; he pulled away as the check came. They verified their credentials and Gladiator released his boot and left for his quarters. As soon as they got in they started making out, Gladiator stripped  off  Dirilth's clothes and then his own. Gladiator threw Dirilth onto the bed and licked down his scaly,muscular body and rubbed down as he shivered. Gladiator reached for his shafts and rubbed teasing and Gladiator could tell his claws were spreading from the tease; and as he was about to go in for a lick the room went red.

RED ALERT!
CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE!  

Gladiator and Dirilth got up, got dressed and ran as fast as they could to the bridge. They got to the bridge and found every system going haywire, and in that moment the temporal systems spiked causing a shift in time. The ship seemed to shift forward and then backwards in time and at the same time several officers were caught and their whole bodies were twisted in grotesque ways by temporal push and pull. The shift happened again and the rest of the crew was twisted and ripped apart and this time the ship started crumbling and as Dirilth and Gladiator looked at each other; a metal sheet spun out and sliced Dirilth in the chest. Gladiator fell to the floor and saw the broken shuttle outside the view window and the ones flying it were the two families, and as they warped out the ship shifted again and Gladiator was burned as the Graviton Lance imploded and things froze...
Captain's Log: The USS Stonewall Universe mobile starbase group has separated from the contingent of ships assigned to it, and has been given the mission to finish relocating colonists. We stopped after a distress signal came from a planet that was under a catastrophic plague and required assistance. The USS Trixie Matel was put in charge of helping cure the afflicted using its superior medical… Pause log.

Gladiator stopped his log and looked around his cabin feeling uncertain and just when a thudded hit against his door. Gladiator got up going to his door and as he did Iggst, the Elachi Temporal officer fell in and Dirilth came in after him. 
He huffed and shaked a little. “C-captain something’s wrong, we’ve been here before.” He said as he stood up and sat in a chair. Ambassador Dirilth started to examine him, noticing how sick he looked. Gladiator looked at him curiously. “I’ve started to notice and have a strange feeling. Those colonists keep coming to mind for some reason. Ambassador, can you take Iggst to the Med Bay and meet me in the cargo bay when you are done? I wanna check out those colonists.” Gladiator asked as he got his gear together. 
“I’ll be there.” Dirilth said as he picked up the sick Elachi and carried him out.

Gladiator had security teams sent to all the major systems and the cargo bay to search and probe everyone and everything. Gladiator got to the cargo bay and started stealthily scanning all the colonists. Out of the corner of his eye he could see someone that gave him the chills so he made his way there and at that time one of his security leads called him on his com badge. “Captain, it’s the Na'kuhl '' he said. At that moment the colonist he was going towards had revealed herself and ran out of the cargo bay. Gladiator chased him into engineering and just as Gladiator came he blew up the temporal mechanisms causing time fluctuations; and just in the nick of time Iggst came in and vaporized the Na’kuhl infiltrator and then quickly reversed the damage to stop the disaster. Iggst fell to the floor next to Gladiator panting and exhausted. Dirilth came in and said. “They got the rest of them Captain and the Doc says Commander Iggst is in trouble for leaving” 

They laughed getting up and beamed to the conference room where they ordered the other higher ups to come for a debriefing.
“So what exactly happened here, Iggst?” Gladiator asked drinking some Romulan ale
“They have been trying to start a war or something but I think they were independent in their thinking. They seemed to have failed in their sabotage many times.” Iggst told them.
Ambassador Dirilth chimed in. “Many times? Are you saying we did this before?”
Iggst nodded. “I checked the chronometer and we’ve been ensnared for 30 days. I’m sure my sickness was connected to the loop. My connection to the mycelial network helped work though it.”
Gladiator asked as he sat up a little. “Do you think we are still in the loop?”
“No, I was able to reverse easily, that's why I think it was an independent attack.” Iggst answered as he did another engineering check.
After that an Ensign called in. “Sir USS TRIXIE MATTEL is hailing us.”
“Put it through please.” Gladiator ordered.
“Where have you been Captain?” Marshal Janeway yelled as she popped up in the conference room.
“Come with me and we’ll talk over dinner.” Gladiator giggled and stood up heading for the door.
“Good job everyone, especially you Iggst.”
  

The End
2 people liked this
Edited April 30 2024 by Gladiatorpope

Neoglyph

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

April 20 2024

Author’s Note: This story explores gender and sexuality themes. In telling this story, I have labored to abide by the community’s standards for good taste. This standard is subjective, and people differ in their journey on these issues. If you are too young to understand these issues or reading about sensitive topics or suggestive situations disturbs you, please do not read this story.

Ensnared


“I’m Chief Medical Officer of this starship, and this is a medical emergency! Beam Ensign Taleda to the medbay immediately!” I glowered at the Captain of the USS Stonewall.

Jake faced me with the steady gaze of a Starfleet Captain that I adored–except when I defied him. He raised his palms. “I’m sorry, Teslus. I can’t allow that.”

“Consider yourself overruled, CAPTAIN.” I put my fists on my hips and raised my chin.

Jake winced. “The order isn’t mine, Tes–”

“DOCTOR TESLUS ELBRUN!” I said.

“Admiral Yesper ordered us to let the Meklia treat Ensign Taleda.”

Jake’s words knocked me back. “What? They’re . . . they’re . . . circuits and electricity. What do they know of human physiology? Nothing!” I threw my hands in the air and let them fall to my sides with a slap. “Ensign Taleda sacrificed themself to shield Ambassador Toorok. They deserve . . . Ugh! Words are so limiting! So help me, Jake, if you had just a scintilla of psionic ability, I’d give you a piece of my mind!” I turned away from Jake and pounded the medbay console, which set off an alarm that I smacked off.

Jake’s voice softened. “I’m not happy about this either, but Admiral Yesper has a point. Treaty negotiations with the Meklia are in a fragile state. They’re mortified by the attack and want to make it right.”

“Admiral Yesper trades lives for political favors.” I crossed my arms and huffed. “The Meklia failed to protect their capital from an attack by one of their own. How can we trust them to save Ensign Taleda?”

Jake scanned the medbay to ensure we were still alone. He approached and wrapped his arms around me. “I know you care; I love that about you. You said the Meklia have stabilized them. The best thing we can do for Ensign Taleda now is send their medical records and any other information that will assist the Meklia in treating them.”

“This isn’t over,” I turned in Jake’s arms. My body shifted toward his embrace. I tried to pound Jake’s chest, but the stress of the last few hours had drained me to the point that my fists collapsed into a plea. I spread my palms on Jake’s regulation compliant chest. Fifty push ups everyday along with all the other exercises mandated by Starfleet regulations. I softened more. Though he wielded the piercing gaze, sculpted jaw, and commanding presence of a Starfleet captain, Jake Beck wasn’t one of the maverick miracle-worker captains extolled in Risian ballads. He was the get-it-done-by-the-book type that Starfleet depended upon but no one noticed. His swagger was fake; his protocol obsession genuine. Jake’s steadfastness anchored me against the chaos that would sweep me away. That the same protocols Jake used to protect me now blocked me was infuriating. I collapsed into his embrace. “And you can’t fix things just by hugging me.” You know he knows it works.

“Right, I get it. I’m sorry; I’m still trying to adapt to your Betazoid powers,” said Jake.

And I’m still trying to resist yours. “It’s one of your most endearing qualities, really. You have no mental barriers at all–like an infant.” For the first time since the distress call, I smiled. After a moment the feeble curve in my lips faded. Wait. I scowled. “Seriously? You’re thinking about sex now?” I pushed him away. “Get out. I have work to do.”

__________


“Captain, I’ve completed my preliminary examination of Ensign Taleda. I have something to show you.” I released my comm button and looked over my shoulder at the ensign. They rested under light sedation in the biobed.

Jake strode into the medbay. “What have you found?”

“Well, the Meklia saved Taleda’s life, but . . .” I expanded a scan on the med console’s screen, “those machines botched tissue regeneration.”

“What am I looking at here?” Jake stepped closer to the screen. “Is that a tentacle?”

“This structure here,” I traced an oblong mass coiled inside Taleda’s groin, “is composed of a complex arrangement of muscle tissues, blood vessels, nerve endings, and sensory organs. The structure reminds me of a tongue; however, the muscle configuration suggests prehensile capabilities.”

“So a tentacle.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes, Captain, the Meklia generated a tentacle inside the ensign’s groin.” Humans. “Stop thinking you’ve got this. I’m calling it a phallix because I believe the organ is analogous to a phallus but originates from the base of a cervix.”

I tapped the screen to the left of the tentacle. “This structure here is a uterus without ovaries or fallopian tubes.”

“What was their birth anatomy?” asked Jake.

“Male. They went to Mekla with a penis; they returned with this.” I drew the sheet back from Taleda’s lower half. How would I feel if my penis was replaced with . . .

“Are those lips?”

“Yes and no. The muscular and nerve structure resembles a vagina internally; but the exterior musculature and tissues mimic lips but with a much greater ability to . . . uh . . .” I shrugged, “dilate. I’m labeling it the oralva because it shares properties of both the human mouth and vulva.”

“Did the Meklia regenerate an alien reproductive system in Taleda?”

I shook my head and covered the ensign. “I don’t think so–at least I don’t think that was the Meklia’s intent. My analysis of Taleda’s DNA shows it is perfectly human.” I turned to the med console and moved two DNA scans side by side onto the screen. “I took the DNA scan on the left when Taleda joined our crew–standard procedure. I like to create a baseline. The DNA scan on the right is current.”

“They look identical,” said Jake.

“They are nearly so.” I magnified the same section in both double helices and added contrast. “This one small section in red here is different. The scan on the left that I took for a baseline shows damage at the molecular level. The one on the right shows no signs of damage.”

“Are you suggesting the Meklia repaired the ensign’s DNA and this, “Jake waved at Taleda’s groin, “is the result?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “All I can say at this point is that Ensign Taleda is the healthiest they have ever been.”

Jake pinched his fingers together. “With a slight change in genitalia.”

“Oh, and hormones. I almost forgot about the hormones,” I said. “Their hormonal profile is radically different from both human males and females and includes a molecule not previously documented in humans that looks like something between estrogen and testosterone.”

“OK, so no big deal.” Jake tapped his comm badge. “Sato, open a channel to the Mekla ambassador and transfer their transmission to the medbay when you reach them.”

“Yes, Captain.”

“What are you sensing from the ensign now?” asked Jake.

I stared at Jake.

Jake stared at me.

I raised a brow. “I’m sensing they’re sleeping.”

“Captain, I’m patching Ambassador Mek0359 to the medbay,” said Sato.

A cube-shaped machine appeared on the screen. The machine’s face contained a sensor array composed of lenses, sampling ports, and antennae; a speaker; and a viewscreen, which was blank. A single green light blinked on the top of the cube. The machine had no visible appendages or means of movement. “This is Mek0359. State your query,” said the Ambassador.

“Greetings Ambassador, thank you for making the time to speak with me,” said Jake.

“The manufacture of time is infeasible,” said the Ambassador. “State your query.”

“Yes, well, I’m contacting you to understand how you treated Ensign Taleda’s injuries,” said Jake.

“I did not treat Ensign Taleda’s injuries. Medical care is not my directive,” said the Ambassador.

“I understand,” said Jake. “You see–I mean discrepancies exist between Ensign Taleda’s state prior to the attack and after your treatment.”

The Ambassador remained silent for a moment then spoke. “The Meklia ran healing protocols to rectify the damage caused by our operational failure.”

“Thank you–er, we thank the Meklia for saving the ensign’s life. We need help understanding the state changes in Ensign Taleda. May my chief medical officer speak with the Meklia that treated our ensign?” asked Jake.

“One moment,” said the Ambassador.

The green light on top of the Meklia in the transmission’s image powered down then powered up. Jake and I looked at each other.

“This is Medical Unit Mek4628. State your query.”

I stepped into the console’s view. “Hello, um, Doctor. I am Chief Medical Officer Teslus Elbrun. I wish to understand the anatomical and physiological changes to the human patient you treated–Ensign Cameron Taleda.”

“Medical Unit Mek4628 repaired Ensign Taleda to the specifications you transmitted,” said the Medical Unit.

“That may be what you think you did; however, substantial changes occurred as a result of your–er, repairs,” I said.

“Unit Mek4628 documented molecular damage that existed prior to injuries sustained by the Ensign Taleda unit in the attack resulting from Meklia operational failure Z71. Unit Mek4628 received Mekla directive A7C85Y instructing Unit Mek4628 to repair all damage to the Ensign Unit as a gesture of good will.”

“Can you send me all the data pertaining to treatment of Ensign Taleda?” I asked.

“Transmitting.” The medical unit paused. “Transmission complete. State your query.”

“Thank you Unit Mek4628. We have no further query.” said Jake.

The transmission ended.

“We’ll they’re a helpful bunch,” I said. “Maybe the data will–”

A loud bang jolted me.

We turned. Nurse Abrams stood at the medbay entrance. A dented containment vessel rolled away from her. She staggered forward, eyes wide and fixed upon Ensign Taleda.

“Abrams!” I rushed forward as Rachel Abrams lost her balance. I caught Abrams before the nurse hit the floor.

“Elbrun! Something’s happening to Taleda,” said Jake.

I glanced at Taleda; they writhed like the woman in my arms. “Hold them on the biobed. I’ll be there shortly.” I braced my back and placed Abrams on the biobed next to Taleda. Abrams moaned and fought my hold.

“Computer, activate restraints on biobeds one and two,” I said.

“Patient restraints activated on biobeds one and two,” said the Computer.

I grabbed a scanner and moved it over Abrams. “Pulse spiking. Respiration approaching hyperventilation. Pupils fully dilated.” Abrams bucked against the force field holding her. “Administering sedative.”

“What’s happening?” asked Jake.

“Not now, Captain.” I turned to Taleda. “Rapid pulse. Fast respiration.” I lifted each of their eyelids. “Dilated pupils.”

Taleda moaned faintly and squirmed. Their phallix had uncoiled and now undulated beneath the sheet. The tip periodically made circular whipping motions as if searching for something.

“Increasing Taleda’s sedation.” I returned to Abrams who still writhed under restraint. “Hormones are spiking. Increasing Abram’s sedation.”

I stepped back and watched the biobed monitors for a moment then brought up new diagnostics on both and shook my head.

Jake watched and waited.

I picked up a medical tricorder and transferred the biobed sensor cluster readings; then I grabbed a psycho-tricorder from storage and scanned both patients. “Fascinating.”

“Doctor?” asked Jake

“Sorry, Captain.” I looked up. “Both appear to be in a rapid-onset state of extreme arousal.”

“Are you telling me they’re super horny?” asked Jake.

“That would be a crass understatement.” I watched the real time biomarkers. “The level of sedation I gave each of them should have placed them in a deep sleep; yet clearly their drive to mate has broken through.” I watched both patients for a moment then shrugged. “No other diagnosis fits.”

“Are they in danger?” Jake furrowed his brow and crossed his arms as he watched the two struggle against their bonds. “Is it contagious?”

“They’re not in danger; prior to sedation, they’re hearts beat at a level commensurate with intense aerobic exercise with corresponding respiration . . . uh, heavy breathing.” I looked at Jake. “As for contagion, that is unlikely. Taleda was beamed directly to the medbay from Mekla. The transporter would have automatically screened viral and microbial pathogens; and, if that failed, the medbay would have automatically deployed a medical quarantine field to block airborne disease sources.” Airborne sources. I snapped my fingers. “That’s it! Computer, raise a medical quarantine field around biobed one then filter all organic molecules from the air in the medbay and inside the quarantine field.”

Jake moved away from the biobeds. “Teslus?”

I sampled the air with my medical tricorder.

“Talk to me, please!”

“OK, pheromone levels have dropped.” I watched Taleda and Abrams. “Looks like my hunch was correct. See how they’ve calmed?”

“Yeah, they look like they’re sleeping,” said Jake.

“Exactly. Their biometrics indicate they’ve entered a state of deep sedation, which is what I expect.” I turned to Jake. “I hadn’t thought to measure pheromones, which are airborne chemical signals produced by an organism, animal, person–whatever–to entice a potential mate to copulate. In humans, pheromones produce a subtle effect, mostly subconsciously. The best genetic matches are more attracted to each other by their pheromones, but never to this degree.”

I showed Jake the readings on my medical tricorder from Abram’s scan. “This data shows that Nurse Abrams has entered her ovulation phase after exposure to Taleda’s pheromones.”

Jake shook his head. “Couldn’t she have already been in that phase before getting close to the ensign?”

“No.” I smiled. “We got lucky. Yesterday, I scanned her in biobed four to recalibrate the sensor cluster. Less than twenty-four hours ago, she was physiologically at least two weeks away from ovulating.”

“OK, weird. But that doesn’t explain Taleda’s extreme response.” Jake gestured toward the sleeping ensign. “I mean your scans of Abrams showed she was normal right?”

“Correct, but Abram’s pheromones clearly produced a reciprocal effect. I think we may have to change our perspective on normalcy.”

__________


“How are you feeling, Ensign?” I asked.

Cameron opened there eyes slowly and blinked. “Am I alive, Doc? . . . The explosion . . . Is the Ambassador OK? The last thing I remember . . . noise . . . and heat and pain. Burning–everything burning. They reached for their side.

“You’re safe and, um, healed. Ambassador Toorok survived because of your actions, Taleda. You honored Starfleet with your courage, and we’re all grateful you’ve come back to us.”

“I . . . I didn’t have time to think. I don’t know . . . It’s all so confusing.” Cameron rubbed their head, further mashing their curly purple locks into a runaway tangle. They looked at me hopelessly.

“You’re a hero,” I said.

“I don’t feel like a hero. I just feel like me.” They shrugged.

“Well, given the circumstances, that’s a good thing,” I said.

“What circumstances?” asked Cameron.

“You’ve been under sedation for several days. The Meklia treated your injuries; however, we need to discuss some complications from your treatment, but I don’t want to overwhelm you.”

“It’s OK, Doc. I feel great.” Cameron smiled, yawned, and stretched their whole body. “What the–” Cameron yanked the sheet off of them. Their phallix lay extended on the biobed. They shrieked. “What is that?!” Cameron scrambled on their back to the head of the biobed. “Get it off me!” Their phallix moved with them and began to recoil into their oralva. “GET IT OFF ME!” Cameron raised their fist.

“Wait! Stop!” I lunged forward.

Cameron screamed and doubled over in pain with the blow to their phallix.

“Is that part of me?!” They cried out and sobbed. Tears streaked their cheeks. “What’s happened to me?”

I grabbed a dermal regenerator. “I’ll explain everything; but you have to follow my instructions, and–keep an open mind.” I repaired the tissue damage. “Is the pain gone?”

They nodded through tears.

“Take deep breaths. Focus on breathing. Calm yourself.”

Tremors cut off their deep breath.

“May I assist you telepathically?” I asked.

Cameron nodded.

I entered the Ensign’s mind and projected calmness. Once their frenetic thoughts slowed, I focused their attention on deep breaths.

“I’m feeling much better, thank you.” Cameron smiled at me sheepishly.

I studied Taleda. Physically, they present as nondescript. The type of person you overlook in a group, party, or crowd. Slight of build. Average height. Generic face. Underdeveloped muscles. Interacting with Taleda, however, changes one’s assessment. Their facial features are delicate and paired with penetrating brown eyes that induce the intoxicating sensation of being seen.

I placed my hand on their shoulder. “I’m here to care for you.” I looked down the biobed. The Ensign had brought their knees up and kept their feet apart to avoid contact with their phallix, which still lay extended on the biobed for a full meter from their body. “Do you trust me?”

Cameron nodded.

“OK, you need to retract your phallix. Try to do that,” I said.

Cameron shook their head. “No way. Nah ah.”

“I understand this is confusing and scary, but you must master retracting your phallix to protect it. Will you try?”

Cameron grimaced and nodded their head. After several deep breaths and hard swallows, they began straining. Their phallix did not move.

“So, stop. I recognize this is new for everyone. Given that you're still laying across the biobed, straining like you're constipated isn’t helping. Close your eyes and try envisioning what you want to happen. I know you can feel your phallix on the biobed. Think about that sensation but coiled in here.” I placed my palm on their groin.

Cameron closed their eyes. After a moment their phallix began to retract slowly. They gasped and opened their eyes wide. “I can feel it.”

Remember, your goal is for Taleda to accept their emotions, not tell them how they feel. “How does it feel?” I asked.

Cameron blushed. “Kinda good, actually.”

“Focus on that feeling and bring all of it back in,” I said. Yeah, that sensation is delicious.

After the Ensign fully retracted their phallix, I pulled the sheet over them. “Good work.” I paused. “When I entered your mind, Ensign, I saw you had had a dream about a pearl and silk. Do you remember that?”

They shook their head.

“The dream was quite vivid; but you’ve also been through a traumatic event, so maybe it’ll make sense later. I’m going to gather my notes. When you’re ready, let’s talk about your body.”

Cameron nodded.

I turned to get my PADD.

“Doc?”

“Yes?”

“Where’s my dick?”

__________


I lay with my head on Jake’s chest. His heart beat strong; his breath came slow and deep as he drifted through his afterglow. My fingers circled and teased his nipple erect before letting it subside and starting again. “What do you love about me?” I asked.

“Hmmm?”

He drifted toward sleep. I pinched his nipple.

His eyes popped open then slowly fell. “What?”

“What do you love about me?”

Jake relaxed into a sigh. “I love how the corner of your mouth curls when you're amused. Looking into your eyes is like gazing into never-ending space. I love the patterns you shave into your hair, and I love that you constantly move and change your tattoos.”

“Why?”

“You’re free. You express yourself in ways that I can never. It’s like you haven’t even read the personal presentation section of Starfleet regulations.”

“There’s a personal presentation section?”

My head bounced as Jake’s chuckle rippled through his chest. He caressed my shoulder softly until he drifted again.

“What else?” I asked.

“Well . . .”

I scratched a nail across his nipple.

“Uh . . . mmm . . . I love how I’m physically more capable than you in every aspect—strength, speed, stamina—but you own me in bed. I try to resist you . . .”

“You should keep trying; that’s fun.” I hugged him tightly, lifted my head and looked at him with my chin on his chest. “Would you still love me if I lost my dick?”

“Of course, don’t be silly,” he said.

“But we couldn’t be together in the same way.”

“We’d find a way.” Jake yawned. “Humans . . . humans . . . have . . . b e e n . . . d e v e l o p i n g . . . s e x . . . t o y s . . . f o r e v e r.”

“That’s true; your species has quite the fetish.” I lowered my head to his chest again and let him sleep.

__________


“I need to get out of here, Elbrun.” Rachel held her knees to her chest and rocked on the biobed. “I’m going stir crazy.”

I scanned her. “Why?”

“There’s nothing to do but think.” She frowned.

“Is that such a bad thing?” I asked.

“Yes!”

“If you want, I can invite your gaggle of girls to visit.”

“Don’t you dare! So help me, Elbrun—”

I smirked. “So what sim are you going to burn through this time? Rock Climbing? Parkour? Cliff Diving? Triathlon? Surfing? Gymnastics? Kung Fu? Ju Jitsu?”

Rachel’s eyes widened. “Huh, I didn’t think you were listening before. No—surfing this time. I need to lose myself in the flow.”

__________


Chief Medical Officer’s Log, USS Stonewall, Stardate 2423.65:

Ensign Cameron Taleda remains quarantined in the medbay. I released Nurse Rachel Abrams to active duty; but after her first day back, I transferred her duty station out of the medbay. Ensign Taleda’s presence distracted her to the point of ineffectiveness. The extreme arousal she experienced upon her first encounter with Taleda has partially subsided since Taleda’s quarantine, but not completely. She mumbled repeatedly about “bringing a pearl home.” Her biosigns indicate an elevated state of arousal that she describes as significant but manageable. I also note that her body has paused in the ovulation phase. I have confirmed the release of an egg into her uterus without further progression of her menstrual cycle.

Captain Jake Beck and myself remain unaffected by exposure to the pheromones produced by Taleda and Abrams. Abrams has served in Starfleet for six years without incident, which supports my theory that the effect she and Taleda experienced is restricted to them.

The only connection I’ve been able to find between the two is they both carry copies of the gene sequences that the Meklia repaired in Ensign Taleda. Nurse Abrams possesses half the genes paired with a more common genetic sequence in human females. Ensign Taleda possesses both halves of the genes. Thus, the genes must express a recessive trait. Nurse Abrams may (in theory) pass her half copy to offspring, with anatomy seen in Ensign Taleda forming only if she mated with someone possessing the other half of the genes.

These genes rarely occur in human populations. This infrequency may result from the individuals with these genes being either infertile or experiencing high rates of miscarriage.

I don’t know why or how Taleda sustained damage to those genes, but I suspect the damage forced development of male genitalia in place of their current form.

Taleda’s mother is a physician; I will contact her to discuss their case further. By a stroke of luck, one other crew member on the Stonewall carries half of the genes, Security Officer Ansen Luc. Captain Beck has authorized me to speak with Luc and possibly conduct tests to further characterize the phenomenon affecting Taleda and Abrams. End log.

__________


“Do you know why you’re here?” I asked.

“Captain’s orders,” replied Ansen.

I scanned Officer Luc with my medical tricorder. “Yes, but do you know why the Captain ordered you to see me?” All vitals are nominal.

“No.”

“I am investigating a medical issue that affects Ensign Taleda,” I gestured to Taleda, who waved from behind the quarantine field, “and Nurse Abrams, who assists us today.”

“I don’t understand. How can I help?” Ansen asked.

“You carry a complementary portion of the genes that both Taleda and Abrams carry. I suspect those genes play a role in the medical issue. I want to test that theory by exposing you to Ensign Taleda. Your participation is purely voluntary. No one, not even Captain Beck, can order you to comply. Do you wish to volunteer?”

Luc frowned. “Will it hurt?”

“No,” said Rachel. She avoided my stare by focusing on her tricorder. I felt and shared her eagerness to begin.

“We’ve tested sixty-three other volunteers with no response; however, they did not possess the genes that you do,” I said. “Sorry, I have to say something. Your nose has clearly been broken multiple times and healed without medical intervention. Why would you suffer for that long?”

Ansen felt the dents and knots along his nasal bridge. “No big deal.”

“Well, we expect this research to be less intrusive,” I said.

“What do I have to do?” asked Ansen.

“You will lay on biobed two under restraint while we lower the quarantine field that isolates Ensign Taleda,” I replied.

“So, I just have to lay there?” asked Ansen.

Rachel and I nodded and smiled encouragingly.

Ansen shrugged. “OK, I’ll do it.”

“Great! Rachel double check that your personal quarantine shield is on.” I guided Luc to the biobed. “Officer Luc, please lay here, and I’ll turn on the restraints. Perfect. Now I’m going to restrain Taleda and then lower the shield.” I moved next to Taleda’s biobed. “OK, restraints are on. Rachel, are you quarantined?”

She gave me a thumbs up.

“Lowering the quarantine shield.” I moved back to Luc’s side and watched the scan data on my tricorder. “Do you feel anything, Officer Luc?”

“No.”

I looked at him. He had started sweating and his breath quickened. Behind me, I heard Taleda moan softly and squirm. “How about now?”

“No, nothing. I’m OK,” Luc’s voice was thick and hoarse. He glanced toward Taleda and flexed against his restraints.

“Forty-three seconds into trial, Ansen Luc presents with an erection,” said Rachel.

“No,” Luc clenched his teeth and moaned. “I don’t–”

“You’re hard as a rock,” said Rachel. “These uniforms hide nothing.”

“Rachel, a little sensitivity please,” I said.

“We need accurate data.” Rachel pointed to Luc’s groin. “He’s hard–impressively so–but this meathead won’t admit he’s losing it.”

Taleda moaned. I turned. The Ensign writhed under their restraints.

Luc cried out. He bucked against his bonds; eyes locked on Taleda.

“Computer, raise quarantine field; filter pheromones from medbay and quarantine area,” I said. “Rachel, start the recovery timer . . . Rachel?”

She didn’t respond. I looked up. Like Luc, Rachel was transfixed by Taleda. Her medical tricorder lay on the floor in pieces. I checked her mobile quarantine field; strength and frequency were both normal.

Rachel whispered, “Wrap the pearl in silk.”

“All pheromones have been removed,” said the Computer.

“Computer, start recovery timer for Cameron Taleda, Ansen Luc, and Rachel Abrams.”

__________


“The purpose of this research is to ascertain the physical and cognitive impacts of interaction between individuals with the identified gene sequences. The near and long term impacts are unknown and may be temporary or long lasting. Do you understand?” I looked up from the consent form on my PADD.

“I’ll be working with Taleda, right?” asked Luc. He ran a large, thick-fingered hand over his close-cropped blonde hair while studying the Ensign, who watched him from their biobed.

“I need a verbal yes or no, Officer Luc,” I said.

“Yes.” Ansen rubbed his thighs. He whispered, “Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.”

“What did you say?” I asked.

Luc stared at me with his dour face.

I shook my head and returned to the consent protocol. “Do you consent to monitoring your physical condition?” I asked.

“What?” Luc glanced at me then returned his gaze to Taleda. “Yes, fine.”

“Do you consent to monitoring your mental state by medical tricorder?”

“Yeah, yeah when do I start working with Taleda?” asked Luc.

“Do you consent to monitoring your mental state through direct telepathy?”

“Sure, whatever.”

“Do you consent to monitoring of your behavior, including intimate moments, through sensor readings, direct observation, and telepathic connection?” I asked.

“Yes, yes, all that, whatever you want. Can we start?” asked Luc.

“We’ll start now,” I said.

Rachel squealed from across the medbay. Taleda grinned.

__________


Chief Medical Officer’s Log, USS Stonewall, Stardate 2423.70:

I have released Ensign Cameron Taleda from medbay quarantine with the restriction that they, along with Nurse Rachel Abrams and Security Officer Ansen Luc, continually use personal quarantine shields. Rachel Abrams’ response during the exposure trial between Taleda and Luc suggests pheromones aren’t the only stimulation vector among the three. I must protect them and the rest of the crew.

The physiological, mental, and behavioral interactions between the three subjects relate to human sexual reproduction, so the remainder of this log documents comparative differences between the three in this regard.

Cameron Taleda is a twenty-two year old, nonbinary human born with male anatomy. They identify as nonbinary both before and after the transformation of their sexual organs, which technically makes them a transsexual–I’ll let the labelers sort that one.

Taleda’s friends described them as a gamer nerd who comes across as a braggart, but also the first to stand against other players trolling their friends.

When asked about their sexual history, Taleda replied, “Anything that moves.” Later, they clarified, “Any humanoid that moves.” When I asked for a list of prior liaisons, Taleda admitted they had not copulated with anyone yet. They did describe their performance in an unsanctioned erotic holodeck game, with the ghastly title “To Boldly Cum Where No One Has Cum Before”, in which Taleda claims to have reached the supposedly impressive rank of “Rear Admiral.” Their words.

Rachel Abrams is a twenty-one year old, cisgender, lesbian human female. Tallest of the three, Abrams presents as the most physically striking with a conventionally beautiful face paired with (as a former lover describes) “blue-sky eyes and hair flowing through midnight with obsidian curves and eddies catching hints of starlight during a new moon.”

Abrams is arguably also the most intelligent of the subjects. However, my personal observations, conversations with her, and interviews with her friends and lovers suggests she directs her quick wit and expansive knowledge exclusively toward acts of seduction. She describes herself as a “huntress.” When I pressed her on this, Abrams revealed that she reflects her quarry. “I make her see what she wants.”

Her friends were entirely cisgender females consisting exclusively of either former lovers or ostensibly future conquests. Her former-lover friends described Abrams as gamophobic, withdrawing at the first blush of commitment, but too hot to drop. Her future-conquest friends described her with a nauseating list of superlatives that demonstrated her seduction skills.

In response to my request for a list of sexual liaisons, Abrams produced the names of thirty cisgender women who identified as heterosexual prior to meeting Abrams and “confused”, “maybe bi”, or “totally into girls now” after their sexual relationship with Abrams ended. None of the women carried the genes under consideration in this study.

Ansen Luc is a twenty-six year old, cisgender, heterosexual human male. His dour countenance and gruff manners detract from his attractiveness to the point he repels people. My interviews with Luc elicited only single-word responses or non-verbal grunts, so I switched to a telepathic examination.

Luc’s early childhood memories revealed a roly-poly ball of sunshine with a contagious smile and infectious giggle. Human masculine norms poisoned that little boy as he grew, withering expressions of individuality and extinguishing joy, forging the man he is today. To wit, Luc is intelligent but shied from developing his mind to minimize beatings from peers.

The people he identified as friends characterized Luc as a coworker, teammate, or acquaintance but not a friend. Everyone stated they didn’t know Luc well enough to comment on him. When I asked for a list of sexual partners, Luc claimed he had had intercourse with dozens of women. When I insisted on contact information, he produced the names of three. The first woman stated that their interaction “didn’t count.” The second woman described the encounter as “awkward”. The third woman said the following, “The sex was OK . . . actually, I was really hard up and he was there.” None of the women carried the genes in question.

The three study subjects did not know each other prior to their encounter in the medbay. Other than genetics, I have no idea what links a loyal virgin, a promiscuous gamophobe, and an oppressed misanthrope. End log.

__________


Officer Luc sat for his weekly examination. The biobed complained under his bulk.

“You’re underweight for your frame size,” I said. “Have you lost your appetite?”

“No.” Luc picked at calluses on his palm.

I examined his biomarkers. “Well, I can’t find a medical reason for your weight loss. Are you depressed?”

He shrugged. “Training.”

I raised my brow. “For?”

“Wrestling.”

“That’s right. You compete in the Quadrant’s Quinquennial Games, correct?”

Luc nodded.

“So . . . why do you need to lose weight for that?” I asked.

“Dropping to Junior Heavyweight class,” he said.

“The amount you’ve lost is not healthy. You have a thick frame and significant muscle development from what—I’m guessing powerlifting?”

He nodded.

“You risk sabotaging your performance from fasting. Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Won gold in heavyweight class last games. Need a challenge.”

I shook my head. “If you insist on this path, at least eat food that will minimize the health impacts. I’ll send recipes to the galley for you.”

He looked up but just nodded.

“Moving on, your biomarkers show your arousal level has increased a bit. Can you cope with the change?”

“Doesn’t matter,” said Luc.

“Officer Luc, most people—look at me—most people in this state of arousal report a significant disruption in their lives. Inability to focus. Intrusive erotic thoughts. Irritability. Poor sleep.”

Luc’s hazel eyes revealed nothing. “Doesn’t matter.”

I scoffed and immediately regretted it. “Sorry. Perhaps a different approach may be more productive. Each of us, including you, has the right to live unburdened by expectations. Sharing who you are can be cathartic. If you’re open to talking with someone in a similar position, Nurse Abrams frequently runs physically demanding holosims. You might ask to join her sometime.”

“OK, we done?”

“You’re free to go.” I gestured toward the door.

Luc stood to leave.

“Oh, and Officer Luc, make sure you listen as much as you talk.” I smiled.

He nodded.

__________


“Doctor Elbrun, I presume. I expected a call sooner.”

The creases on Dr. Taleda’s face bore witness to decades of frowning. I’m really glad I can’t read minds through subspace communication. “I apologize, Doctor Taleda. I’ve been–”

“I don’t care about your duties; I’ve left you no less than seventeen messages regarding Cameron’s treatment,” said Dr. Taleda.

“I understand, Doctor Taleda; I know you have limited time and wish to delve into Cameron’s care, so why don’t we start with identifying a source or sources of the genetic damage. I examined your genetic records and Cameron’s father that you sent. Neither of you have the DNA damage that Cameron carries. If the Meklia–”

“You can’t trust those bolt buckets. Look at what they did to my baby! Butchers!” said Dr. Taleda.

“Nevertheless, if they repaired Cameron’s DNA correctly, which appears to be the case, then the damage must have occurred before or during pregnancy. Can you recall any event or factor that may have exposed their DNA to alteration?” I asked.

“Doctor Elbrun, as I’m sure you have learned by now, people with genes that my family carries have tremendous difficulty conceiving and bearing children. I, personally, went to great lengths to bring Cameron to this universe. In vitro fertilization proceeded correctly. I had lab grade purifiers installed in my home. I took a prenatal vitamin, and I ate only cultivated food–no replicator fabrications. I assure you I did everything according to protocol, and I have the records to prove it. I kept meticulous notes in my journals. Those MACHINES screwed up!”

“Can you send me your journals? Maybe they will help me see something I’m missing,” I said.

Dr. Taleda looked away from the view screen for a moment then returned her glare to me. “Done. When will you be restoring Cameron’s genitals?”

__________


“What’s your poison tonight, Doc?” asked the bartender.

“Synthale, thanks Toby.” I leaned against the bar. I’m tired. I looked around. This place is dead. “Ten Forward’s slow tonight, huh?” I spotted Abrams, Taleda, and Luc in the far corner.

“Yep.” Toby placed a glass of synthale in front of me. “They’re an odd trio; aren’t they?”

I took a long draw on my ale. “How do you mean?”

“Well, the Belle of the Ball, the Oddball, and the Outcast–a few weeks ago they existed in alternate realities. Abrams always had her posse, and it wasn’t them.” Toby jerked a thumb toward the trio. “Taleda hung with the cosplay crowd; and Luc, well, Luc was always either in a fight or breaking one up.”

I kept my eyes on the three. “If he’s such a troublemaker, how come you let him in here?”

“He’s not the problem. Some people can’t leave others alone. I guess they resent him doin’ his job–excuse me Commander. Holler if you need a refill.”

I nursed my drink, so I could watch them more. Per my orders, they weren’t allowed to meet privately yet. Sensor data confirmed that whenever two or more were off duty they met in public.

They sat as close to each other as their quarantine fields allowed. Taleda and Abrams chatted and laughed; Luc listened–attentively but silently. Oddly, the other two included him in the conversation as if he contributed as much as they did. The three leaned in too close, causing green sparks from their colliding quarantine fields to crackle through the air. Taleda and Abrams laughed.

This is more than friendship.

They laughed again. Boisterous and carefree. No one laughs with me like that. Gee, I wonder why Mr. Senior Officer and Telepath. Stop complaining, Teslus. Jake’s a great friend and lover. You can talk to him about anything. So what if there’s no one to talk to about him? I sighed and finished my ale.

__________


Chief Medical Officer’s Log, USS Stonewall, Stardate 2423.131:

I have maintained the ban on private encounters between Taleda, Abrams, and Luc. I understand almost nothing about their condition; thus, I cannot risk their health and safety or that of the crew. The three continue to spend their free time together in public. Each remains in the same elevated state of arousal that began after their initial encounter. Abram’s menstrual cycle has been paused in her ovulation phase with a viable egg for the last seventy-one days. Other physiological changes have occurred–their hearts now beat in synchrony. All three referenced the same repeating thought, “Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.” I’ve puzzled over the meaning of this extensively to no avail. End log.

__________


“Do you see anything yet?” Abrams paced in front of my desk.

“Not yet.” I tweaked the scanner’s focus on the DNA sample. “Wait. Yes . . . I think–yes, I see something.”

Rachel rushed around the desk and leaned over my shoulder. Her quarantine field tingled my neck. Her warm breath pulsed over my ear. I liked it. “Let me see,” she said softly.

Rachel had trapped me between her body and the desk, restricting my movement to a tilt of my head to give her access to the scanner. She pressed her breasts into my shoulder as she peered into the scanner’s viewport. “It looks like the damage on Cameron’s DNA before the attack!” Rachel backed off and sat on the edge of my desk. Her legs swung over the edge.

I smiled and nodded. “We’ve found our teratogen. That compound in the prenatal vitamins caused the damage to Cameron’s DNA, altering their development in the womb.”

Rachel pumped her fists. “Yes! I knew it! The Meklia did heal them.”

I saved the test results and molecular structure of the compound. “Now what I have to do is contact the Federation Archives to figure out when and why this chemical became a component of prenatal vitamins, so we can stop other children from being deformed like Cam–”

“Everyone knows.” Rachel’s voice quavered.

I looked up.

“Everyone knows you two are a couple.” A tear slid down her cheek.

I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”

“You and the Captain–we all know you’re together. I’m sorry, Teslus! You’ve been so nice to us, and you work so hard to help us, and,” Rachel threw her hands up and sobbed, “I placed bets!”

I rose and hugged her, but her quarantine field blocked contact and shot pins through my arms. “OK, that’s not working.”

She laughed halfheartedly.

“Take three deep breaths, and tell me what’s bothering you.”

Her tension receded with each breath. “The crew has a weekly betting pool.” Rachel’s chin trembled. She stared at her hands in her lap. “We bet on where, when, and how you two will get caught in a PDA.” She looked up. “That’s a public display of affection. We call it–”

“Captain’s Quarters.” I quirked my brow and smiled.

Her eyes widened. “You know?”

“You do remember I’m Betazoid, right? I’ve known since Ensign Gruber proposed the game in Ten Forward to Ensigns Gomez and Volek.”

Rachel sniffled. “Really?”

“Why do you think Ensign Gruber spent a month cleaning all the grips in every Jefferies Tube in this ship?”

“That was you?” She grinned.

“Not me; I’m just the messenger,” I said.

“If he knows, how come we weren’t all punished?”

“Ensign Gruber proposed the game to spite Jake–er, Captain Beck, but the rest of you played because you like the Captain. I convinced Jake that the morale boost from playing far surpassed any hit to his ‘command presence’.” I grinned. “Plus, he’s SO CUTE when he blushes!”

“I know! Right?”

__________


“Come into my office, Cameron.” I offered them a chair and sat in the one diagonal to them.

They flopped onto the chair. “So . . . how long have I got?”

I smiled. “Barring an away mission mishap–you wear a red shirt after all–I guess about one hundred and forty years.”

They grinned.

I hesitated. “Seriously, you’re in great health. The only issues I’m concerned about are your elevated arousal levels and . . .”

“My junk.”

I nodded. “Your physiology isn’t bothering you, so I’ll keep monitoring you to ensure nothing becomes problematic. Who knows;” I shrugged; “maybe we’ll learn something. Does that chant still run through your head? ‘Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.’”

Cameron nodded.

“It’s stuck in my head now too.”

“Any idea what it means?”

I shook my head.

They started to rise.

“Wait a moment, Cameron. I want to talk to you about . . .” I realized I stared at their crotch; I looked up. Cameron smirked at me. I blushed and avoided their gaze. Why is it so unsettling to be around them? “I spoke with the Librarian at the Federation’s Earth Archives. The composition of the prenatal vitamins your mother took predates World War Three. Few records survived that period. One mention of the vitamin stated it reduced the risk of birth defects. There has been no research on the chemicals since then.

“I’ve thought a lot about how a poison could persist in such a crucial medication for so long. What I came to was this. Progress requires us to draw upon past discoveries. At some point in the past, the well was poisoned, but successive generations never tested the water before drawing.”

I forced myself to look into Cameron’s eyes. I swallowed. “The Librarian said that other records from that era reveal a society heavily impacted by fear, anger, and shame. Differences spurred suppression. I suspect someone acted out of malice, perhaps rationalized by the false morality of a long forgotten God, to ensnare future generations for centuries.

“I’m sending my results and the data from our ongoing study to Starfleet Medical for review and protocol revision. No more children will suffer your fate.”

“What do you think I should do?” asked Cameron.

“About what?” I asked.

Cameron grabbed their crotch.

My eyes flitted to their groin and lingered longer than was professional before meeting their gaze again. Hard to say which is more distracting. “That choice is solely yours. The operation isn’t trivial; however, we can regenerate male genitalia for you. And to be clear, I will comply with your wish whenever and whatever you decide. Even if that requires me to end the research today.”

“But what do YOU think?”

“You don’t need my consent or approval.”

Cameron scoffed. “My Mom’s nagging me to hack off my phallix. Rache and Ansi plead with me to keep it. Everyone’s telling me what to do except for the one person whose opinion I want.”

I take their hand in mine despite the needle pricks from the quarantine field surrounding them. “I’m not telling you what you should do because that would be a disservice to you. The choice is yours and must be made only by you.

“I can offer a suggestion. Whatever you decide, ensure that you choose for you and not because another person, society, whoever, made you think you had to choose one way or another.

“That’s difficult to sort through, so take your time and think carefully about it. Humans often conflate concepts. I’m perpetually mystified by the human distinctions of man and woman because the two are more similar than different, and the dissimilarities seem irrelevant to human’s social use of the concepts. The nonbinary label is equally confusing because the name is rooted in what it rejects, not what it is. Don’t you find that odd?”

Cameron shrugged. “I dunno. I never thought about it. That's what people call someone like me.”

“Think about it. Anatomy does not define a person.”

__________


I frowned at my reflection in the wardrobe replicator’s mirrors. Tonight’s Captain’s Dinner was the first opportunity for Jake and I to spend personal time together for weeks. Our schedules had kept us apart, and I looked forward to seeing him even if we shared the moment with twenty others. So I wanted to elevate my game; turn heads across the room. I sighed and slumped. I have no idea what I’m doing.

“Computer, contact Rachel Abrams.”

“Calling Rachel Abrams.”

“Hey you!, What’s up?”

“The Captain’s Dinner is tonight, and I don’t know what to–”

“Ooo! A fashion emergency! On my way.”

Rachel transported to my quarters.

“Why are you using the site-to-site transporter?” I frowned at her. “Beaming into quarters is for emergencies only.”

Rachel’s eyes widened. “Why are you naked?!”

“I’m getting dressed.” I rolled my eyes. “Oh right, I forget how prudish you humans are about nudity.” I gazed at the front of my torso and smiled.

Rachel watched me. “You do have exquisite definition.”

“Yoga–for balance and flexibility.” I looked over my shoulder at the mirror behind me. “I sometimes think I should bulk up, but I’m completely unmotivated to put in the effort because Jake is totally into my body; though, he does keep refusing my personnel request for someone to help with stocking medical supplies.” My eyes drift down. “I accuse him of forced labor to buff my figure. He won’t deny it.” I love my ass. Small but curvy and tight with lovely side dimples.

“Eh hem!”

I turned to Rachel. She was blushing and nodded toward my sex.

“Seriously? A person can’t appreciate the sight of their own body?”

Rachel avoided my gaze, still blushing.

“Fine, I’ll quash my joy in the male form.”

She stared mouth agape as my erection faded.

“That’s seriously impressive,” She said, meeting my gaze after I was fully flaccid.

I shrugged. “For humans maybe, on Betazed, we teach that basic control technique to children when they enter puberty. Arousal control is easy.” I turned back to the mirrors. “I want to start with my hair.” I ran my fingers through my hair and teased out a couple of locks. “So boring.” I studied Rachel’s hair. “You have great hair.”

Rachel smirked and flipped her hair forward to frame her face. For a moment, I glimpsed the predator.

“Computer, change my hair color to Rachel Abram’s”

“Don’t you steal my color! I swear; I’ll–Oh, that does look good on you. The color intensity complements the black in your eyes and your pale complexion well . . . How is your skin so clear and smooth?”

“Dunno.” I shrugged.

“I hate you.”

“No you don’t.”

She studied my hair. “You want to spice things up a bit?”

“Yes! Yes!” I clapped excitedly. “A thousand times yes!”

“May I?”

I nodded and faced her, avoiding the reflections that would prompt second guesses.

“Computer, add a crimson streak to Teslus’ forelock, left side, twenty degree angle, upward fade to temple.” She smiled. “Excellent. Now let’s get clothes on your body before I decide I have a new type.”

I blushed.

“Go commando–it’s sexier,” Rachel said.

I nodded. “It is; isn’t it?”

“Computer, crimson dress, form fitting, short sleeves, short skirt, plunge back to waistline, asymmetrical plunging neckline from left shoulder, twenty degree angle, asymmetrical bare midriff with asymmetry matching neckline.”

I felt the dress form around me. “Well?”

Rachel crossed her arms and held her chin as she paced from my left to my right and back again. “Computer, shorten skirt. Shorter.”

“Rachel, it has to cover my ass; this is a formal event.”

“Yes, I’m aware. Shorter. Perfect!” She studied me further. “Computer, tighten dress. Tighter.”

“Too tight! Too tight!” I gasped.

“Exhale. You’ll be fine.” Rachel’s eyes poured over me for a long moment then she nodded. “The Captain will love you in this.” A mischievous smile danced across her lips. “Have a look.”

I turned to the mirrors and gasped. “It’s gorgeous!” The torso framed my shoulders and chest exquisitely while mirroring the geometry of my hairstyle. I turned. The back accentuated the muscles in my upper back while focusing attention downward to my ass. “I love it!” The dress unequivocally stated, “Neglect me at your peril.”

I faced forward again and moved my gaze from head to toe. I gasped midway. The head of my penis dangled below the skirt’s hem.

I looked at Rachel. “Bitch.”

“Slut.” She smiled, winked, and teleported.

I gazed at my reflection, turning slightly left then right. “I do love this dress.” The hem of the skirt tightened then began sliding up my thighs. “Hello there. A pleasure to see you again.” I shifted and moaned. “I think I’ll let this one play out.” Slut.

__________


Blood saturated Ansen’s right brow and pooled toward his eye.

“Rachel, swab that.” I moved the tissue regenerator over the laceration on his forehead. “I need space to work, Cameron. Please step back.”

“Who did this?” asked Cameron.

“Some Jerks in Ten Forward,” said Ansen.

“Who? I want names.” Cameron clenched and unclenched their fists.

“Doesn’t matter,” said Ansen.

“It does matter!” Cameron’s voice cracked. “You matter.”

“Cameron’s right, Anse. Tell us what happened.” Rachel swapped sponges to absorb more blood.

Ansen exhaled. “My shift was ending, and I was finishing a report of a disturbance at the bar when I overheard some guys running you down.” He glanced at Cameron. “They called you a freak; said they knew someone—one of your cosplay buddies—who had seen your . . . your—what’d you call it, Doc?”

“Someone saw Cameron’s phallix?” I asked.

“Yea, through their pants,” said Ansen.

I looked at Cameron. They pursed their lips.

“I stretch periodically. I try to be discreet, down my pants leg is all. Someone must have seen me.”

“They called you a defective freak, so we had words. Called me a monster lover. Nobody talks about you like that. Nobody. I wrote them up for hate speech. They jumped me in the corridor after my shift.”

“Did you use the strikes I showed you?” asked Rachel.

I switched to an osteoregenerator to heal the broken bones in Ansen’s hand.

Ansen nodded. “I did, but there were six of ‘em, and I’m not as good as you.”

“You still have that report on your PADD?” asked Cameron.

Ansen handed them the PADD. Cameron flipped to Ansen’s last report and read the names. They handed the device back and turned for the door.

“Where are you going?!” I asked.

Cameron turned toward me and opened their arms while stepping backward to the door. “To educate some people.”

“Wait for me!” Rachel caught my eye.

“Go ahead; keep them safe.” I nodded toward Cameron. “I’ll finish here. And no violence you two!” I hope they destroy those guys.

“Peace, Tesi!” called Cameron as they slipped out.

__________


I woke groaning into my pillow as the warm pool spread beneath me. Mmmm. What was I . . . I drifted. Drifted. Drifted. Slept.

Rachel bounced into the medbay. “Good morning, Tesi!”

“Morning, Rache, you’re awfully perky today.” I took a long draw on my green tea and contemplated something stronger.

“I had a great night!” She stopped. “You look worked over. You OK?”

I nodded.

“Uh huh, sure. Let me know if I can help.”

I turned to my view screen as Rachel went to the storeroom. Let’s see how the rest of the family fares. I pulled up biometrics on Rachel, Cameron, and Ansen. Their arousal levels had increased further and were substantially higher than at the study’s start. Not good. Hearts still beat in unison. Odd but not a problem. I froze mid sip. At 23:16 last night, all three simultaneously climaxed.

I placed my cup on the desk and lowered my voice. “Computer, retrieve the last twelve hours of biometric data for Teslus Elbrun.”

My finger moved down the time series data.

20:40

21:05

22:36

23:00

23:07

23:16 I came.

No. No. No. I compared my heartbeat to theirs. Unity. I rubbed my eyes. What’s happening! Think Teslus. Think.

Arousal levels! They’re different! I checked my arousal levels. Normal. I exhaled. A coincidence—nothing more. I’m tired, that’s all. Just tired. . . . Tired. Oh, no. I looked inward. May the four Gods help me.

I released the block suppressing my desire.

The room spun. Lust, joy, love coursed through me, entangled my thoughts–disoriented and subsumed me. I tried to flee, reeled, and collapsed on the floor.

“Tesi! Can you hear me?”

I opened my eyes. Cameron, Rachel, and Ansen, their faces wrought with concern, stood over me on the biobed.

“How do you feel?” asked Rachel.

“Weak.” My voice was hoarse and dry. “Water.”

Cameron handed me a glass.

“I found you collapsed on the floor,” said Rachel. “What happened?”

I closed my eyes. “Too little sleep, too much caffeine, not enough food.” I opened my eyes.

All three of them looked as if they were about to say, “bullshit.”

I smiled. “I’ll be OK; let me rest.”

“You do that,” said Ansen.

“But we’re keeping,” said Cameron.

“An eye on you,” said Rachel.

“Thank you.” They squeezed my hands and started to move off. “Hey can one of you bring me a PADD?” I closed my eyes again and checked the mental block on my desire; it had been restored. How?

“Here you go.” Cameron handed me the PADD.

When they had engaged each other to the point of distraction, I whispered into the PADD, “Computer, transfer all of my biometric data for the last three months to my personal log and secure it with encryption alpha-zeta. Erase those three months of data from my medical file. Store all future biometric data for me in my personal log with encryption alpha-zeta.”

“Transfer and encryption complete.”

__________


“Mocha ice cream, hot caramel sauce, sliced almonds, and whipped cream.” Jake looked at me. “Extra whipped cream.”

The replicator chimed. Jake retrieved the dessert and slid it toward me.

I frowned at it. “You don’t have to feed me.”

Jake tapped his finger on the table. “You are not leaving my sight until I have witnessed you eat enough calories to sustain life.” He gestured at the dish. “Be grateful I’m trying to entice you instead of force feeding you emergency rations.”

I saluted. “Aye, Aye Captain.”

With the first bite, I closed my eyes and pretended to savor the indulgence. He had remembered my favorite dessert after all. In truth, he might as well have fed me emergency rations. No taste. No interest. Like feeding a corpse. I shoveled the ice cream.

“Let’s take leave and go to Risa.” Jake smiled at me. “Get away from the ship for a while. Just you and me.”

Just you and me. A bolt of panic shot through me. Too far! Too far to bring the pearl home. I nodded on the last bite. “As soon as I finish my research. I should get back.” I rose.

Jake intercepted me. “I’m worried about you.” He held me in his arms.

I felt his warmth, but it didn’t warm me.

“You’re not eating and you’re distant, and cranky. I know we’ve both been busy, but I can’t remember the last time we had sex.” Jake tried to look me in the eyes, so I laid my head on his chest.

Bring the pearl home. Do something or he’ll interfere. Wrap it in silk. I lifted my face and kissed his neck. Jake’s skin felt vital against my lifeless flesh. I felt his desire press into nothing. He’ll interfere. Bring the pearl home.

I kissed his neck again, and thought of The Three. They noticed. Surprise then eagerness. Bring the pearl home. I kissed Jake again. Can you do this? Wrap it in silk. I thought of Jake, and I thought of them. The corpse’s heart beat. I felt them clamor against the barrier that blocked my desire. I inhaled and braced myself against Jake’s body. Here we go. I dropped the barrier.

__________


“Computer, record personal log for Teslus Elbrun, Stardate 2423.165.”

“Recording.”

“I’m vulnerable in sleep. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. Sleep—wake must match The Three. They match—same space, same food, same sleep, same wake.” I stare at the tremors in my right hand, and grasp it with my left to still the shaking. “Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. The Three’s desire grows. Bring the pearl home. No one knows how much. Wrap it in silk. I know. The pearl and silk are healthy. Protect them. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.”

Something wet splashes on my hand. I look down and see a drop of blood slide off my thumb. I press and hold a sponge to my nose then wipe my hand and toss the blood-soaked material into the portable disintegrator that I now keep within arm’s reach.

“Their minds change. We want the pearl. Anticipation. Eagerness. Wrap the pearl in silk. Separating The Three–too difficult. Blocking them–too hard. Tired. Must rest. They know. I am with them. They know. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. Telepaths. Three bodies. Merger. Enlightenment. Pearl. Silk. End is near. I feel it. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.”

I rub my eyes. “Climaxes, too many climaxes. Can’t stop them. Quakes and aftershocks. Can’t block them. Don’t want to. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. End log.”

I replayed the log because I couldn’t remember what I said. I looked strange. Haggard. I looked closer. “Computer, pause playback and zoom into my eyes.” Gray eyes stared at me. Condemned me. I looked away and exhaled. I’m close. Just a little longer. Bring the pearl home.

I rose and moved to the replicator. Focus. Focus. “Computer, make contact lenses to change the color of my eyes back to black. Use one of my retinal scans taken prior to the attack on Mekla as a color reference.”

Once my eyes looked normal, I sedated myself.

__________


Someone laughed.

“Who’s there?” I propped myself up on the bed with my elbows and stared into the darkness. Rest had brought some relief.

“Look at you! All prepped and primed for me.” They laughed again. “Naughty boy.”

“Cameron? Rachel? Ansen? Is that you?” I asked.

“Yes, call me Onyx.” Another peel of laughter then I felt a smack on my ass.

“Hey!” I yanked the pillow from under my hips, flipped on my back and crossed my arms and legs. “Not funny!”

I felt something press against my lips–not a finger exactly, more like a thought. “Shhh. I feel your need. Your compulsion is my compulsion.”

I grabbed at the pressure on my lips; there was nothing. You’re not here are you?

“In every way that matters, I am.”

I felt something push slowly through my fingers, caress the back of my hands, coil around my arms, and lift them over my head. I gasped as my wrists pressed into the mattress. How are you doing this to me?

“You want what I want. I want what you want.”

A tendril traced my lips. “I know how you like your mouth used.” Onyx pressed on my lips.

No! I won’t betray Jake.

“You want what I want; I want what you want.”

Onyx withdrew. Relief. Longing. Loss swirled on my tongue. Please.

They kissed me again and withdrew . . . and again . . . and again.

“I want what you want.”

My body betrayed me. My lips yielded.

I arched my back and moaned against the restraint. Onyx held me down. My heart raced.

“You want what I want.”

The Pearl?

“Yes.” They turned my head exposing my neck to a warm, wet tendril that snaked toward my ear.

I . . . I don’t–not there, mmm, I can’t handle–pl . . . please, I don’t have the Pearl.

“Yet, you keep it from me.” Onyx coiled a tendril around my earlobe and grazed the rim with a feather touch.

My toes curled. I don’t understand.

“Yes, you do.”

This is wrong. We have to stop. I love Jake.

Pain cut my lower lip. Ow! Did you just bite me!

“Night after night you come to me for release. Not him.” My lower lip stretched out. Suction twisted and tangled pain and pleasure. “When he needed you, you gave your lover to me. Why?” A tendril encircled my nipple and pulled.

I don’t want to say.

Pain shot from my nipple as Onyx squeezed.

“Tell me.”

Don’t make me say it. I cried out as the pressure increased.

“Tell me.”

I wanted you to have him! I sobbed. I wanted you to take my lover! Tears spilled down my temples.

“Tell me you don’t love me!”

No! I cried. Sobs wracked my body.

Onyx released me. Soft tendrils swept away my tears. Kissed the tremors in my lips. Cradled me. Caressed my neck. Encircled my chest and moved down. Down. Down.

A whisper wafted through my mind. “Give yourself to me.”

I spread my thighs.

__________


Personal Log for Teslus Elbrun, Stardate 2423.192:

Separation risks everything. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. They’re suspicious. They keep the pearl from us. Stop them. Pearl. We won’t let them. Silk. Quarantine with Onyx. They can’t enter. Can’t keep pearl from us. Wrap silk. Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. End Log.

__________


Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk. I sat on the edge of their bed. Rachel and Ansen flanked me. The faint buzz of their quarantine fields hummed in my ears. Cameron stood between my legs, leaning over with their hands on my thighs. Their brown eyes held me.

“It’s time, Tesi.”

I swallowed. Bring the pearl home.

“Free me.”

Desire rampaged unchecked. Wrap it in silk. I panted.

“Come with me, Tesi. Join me. What I want you want. What you want I want.”

Bring the pearl home; wrap it in silk.

“Yes, Tesi, free me.”

Bring the pearl home. “Com . . .” Wrap it in silk. “Com . . .”

“Yes, Tesi, free me.”

Bring the pearl home. “C o m p u t e r . . .”

“State the nature of your request.”

Wrap it in silk. “Dis . . . is . . . able . . . qua . . . quarr . . . tine . . . fffield.” Pearl. Silk.

“State which fields you wish to lower.”

“Cam–Camrun Talda . . . an . . . RRRachl Abbbrms . . . an Annnssn Luuuuuuuc.”

“Disabling quarantine fields on Cameron Taleda, Rachel Abrams, and Ansen Luc.”

They squealed and leapt onto the bed. “Join us, Tesi!”

An atom detached. Then another. And another. An exponential atomic cascade disassembled and transported Teslus Elbrun’s white eyes.

__________


“Where is Tesi?” Onyx sat in three chairs facing Captain Beck’s desk.

Jake massaged his temples. The last few weeks had pulped him, “I’ll get to that in a moment.”

“Why can’t I see him?” asked Onyx.

Jake scanned the three bodies sitting across from him. “Which one of you should I look at . . . er, address?”

“I am one,” said Onyx.

“OK, the one in the middle then. You’re being transferred. The Federation seeks to protect the remaining–what are they calling you?” Jake picked up his PADD and read. “Trinaries. The Federation Council has backed President V’leekh’s call for the establishment of a home world for trinaries. The Betazoids don’t trust Earth to care for its own; so, until the Federation finds a suitable planet, they’ve offered sanctuary to all humans carrying trinary genes. You’ll be highly regarded on Betazed. Merged minds are the highest form of enlightenment for Betazoids. Though I suspect they also want to figure out how you impacted Teslus–”

“I’m not like that anymore,” said Onyx.

Jake nodded. “We’ll get to that too. Since you’re the only living trinary with a vital Third, Starfleet has tapped you to lead the colonization efforts.”

Onyx crossed their arms. “And if we refuse?”

Jake shrugged. “Leave Starfleet; step out of an airlock; I don’t care. In two days, you’re off my ship and out of my life forever.”

“You’re exiling me, so you can keep Tesi for yourself!”

Jake slammed his fists onto the desk. “NO ONE gets to be with him!” He closed his eyes and took three measured breaths. “The second thing I must tell you is that you're pregnant.”

Onyx stared at Jake. “Impossible.”

“I’ll let the Emergency Medical Hologram explain it. Computer, active Emergency Medical Hologram.”

The hologram appeared. “How may I be of service?”

“Hologram, ‘splain what we’ve learned about trinary reproduction.”

“Trinary human sexual reproduction occurs when the nonbinary Third’s phallix retrieves the egg from the female First and places that egg in the Third’s uterus. The male Second then penetrates the Third’s oralva and deposits semen. Sperm from the semen enters the Third’s uterus. Fluids inside the uterus dissolve the sperm’s cellular structure and combine the Second’s DNA with DNA from the Third. The combined DNA fertilizes the First’s egg. The embryo gestates in the Third’s womb, where the appropriate mix of hormones fosters healthy development. Gestation period–”

“That’s enough; end Hologram.” Jake tilted back in his chair. “The Betazoids have offered prenatal care; however, as you are the first known trinary and the first to reproduce in perhaps centuries, your health care will be a series of guesses.”

“Where’s Tesi? I want to talk to Tesi!”

“The love of my life is under the care of a Betazoid healer on a ship headed to Betazed at maximum warp. They don’t know if they can revive him from the coma.”

“What happened to him?” asked Onyx.

“The current theory is that the unification of your minds overwhelmed and scorched his. I begged for his extraction before . . .” Jake wiped his wet eyes and inhaled sharply. “The extraction protocol that the Betazoids gave us for emergency transport underestimated the potential damage. In short, for the sake of science, they left Teslus in too long. That he labored toward his fate makes it worse. Contravening your nature cost him his mind. Now he’s gone.”

Onyx cried out. “I never meant to hurt him! I love him!”

“Process this on your own. The counselor is available. Dismissed!”
2 people liked this
Edited April 20 2024 by Neoglyph
Adam Kotaška

DarinNajem

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

April 17 2024
#WritingChallenge entry: Ensnared


SIMPLE LIFE


The hour was late, yet the light outside was still bright.

Another beautiful day, Darin thought, as he watched the sunbeams dance between tree branches agitated by a gentle breeze, diffusing the scent of lilacs all across the university campus. /So much like Ashalla/ He appreciated the tranquility of the moment for a few seconds more before turning back, straightening up his varsity jacket, and stepping inside the restaurant.

Built in the 1950s Darin's preferred establishment in the vicinity of his college, Five and Dime, still even half a century later kept its charming "typical fifties diner" style. Walls between elongated windows were adorned with framed tacky movie posters of science-fiction classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still, Missile to the Moon, It Came from Outer Space, and Far Beyond the Stars, adapted from a novel by Darin's favorite author, Benny Russell. The song Classic by The Knocks played on a jukebox in the background.



Darin headed straight for the bar counter, sat at his usual spot, and pulled out a textbook /not a padd/ with the intent to study for the next day's seminar.

The corpulent waitress behind the bar barely glanced in Darin's direction. "G'day, yung man. What c'n I get yu?" she said /with almost Vulcan-like indifference in her basso profondo voice/.

"Sul sul, Opaka, the usual will do."

"Darin, my dear!" she smiled broadly, "I didna recognize yu dere right away. Dat's cause yu grow more handsome evry day, 'fcourse. So, how's ma favrit customa doin'?

"Common," Darin smirked playfully, "I happen to know that every customer is your favorite customer ...and I'm great, thanks."

"Gud to hear, ma boy. Soooooou, one hot mug of /raktajino/ coming right up."

/One what?/

"Ah, right." Darin felt confused by something he couldn't name. A weird dissonance of some kind. "A coffee, obviously," he muttered, scoffed at his own momentary bewilderment, and quickly dived his head into the textbook.

As she poured down the hot fragrant liquid Opaka leaned over the bar and peaked at the new subject of Darin's attention.

"Film theory handbook, uh?! /By da Profets!/ How are yu eva planning on making a livin' wit' an education like dat?" she said. "First a d'gree in classical philosophy and now dis? Do yu wish to end up in a sanctuary district?"

"Excuse me...?" Darin pretended to take offense and straightened up on a bar stool. "Film ART is the most defining cultural expression of the century. And the culture we expose ourselves to defines us, our very identities. So, it may not be a science or engineering, but trust me that this," he said and waved with the textbook in the air, "is just as essential."

"Oooooh, pard'n my heresy, dear," Opaka raised both hands in a mock giving-up gesture, "I stand c'rrected."

They both shared a laugh.

Darin always enjoyed the friendly banter with the wise bartender. Sometimes he felt as if he was learning far more between the lines of his small talk with Opaka and other friends at Five and Dime than at school. Nevertheless, he loved his studies. With every turn of a page, a whole world of knowledge presented itself for discovering. His routine provided a sense of stability and safety while the curriculum offered sustenance for Darin's naturally quizzical temperament.

Between chapters three and four, it occurred to him suddenly, that he was happy.

He never considered himself happy before and with regard to the tough upbringing he never expected to be. The finding came with a surprise. A happy surprise. He raised his head and glanced around. The place, the people, the situation, it all was simple, yet very meaningful to Darin. A simple life. An ideal.

His eyes met with the cute boy's sitting next to him. Darin wondered. How could have he overlooked this cute kid till now? Who's the mysterious stranger? /where is he? where am I?/

The other boy returned his gaze intensely for long enough to make Darin certain there was a mutual interest.

Darin smiled back with what he was hoping was his charming smile number one. Then perhaps, he realized, he could become happier yet. With just a little friendly affection in his life... or more than friendly. He kept wondering. To love... and be loved back. Hmmmmm.

***


An annoying buzzing sound interrupted Darin's musing. He scanned his surroundings with his eyes but couldn't find its source. No one else seemed to pay attention to the mysterious ringing.

"REGENERATION CYCLE CONCLUDED."

/What?/

It's called an alarm clock! he suddenly realized, but wasn't sure what it meant.

The world dissolved around him and Darin opened his eyes which he didn't even realize had been shut. He saw a darkened interior of a cramped storage room. The haze in his mind began to slowly dissipate, giving way to something resembling understanding. Darin braced against the inner frame of the regeneration alcove, his wobbly legs almost betraying him. It took another minute to accept these new /real this time/ circumstances.

It's a ship.
I'm on a ship.
My ship in fact.
In the future. Which is present in fact.

Rrrrrright.

With his mind finally centered he had to calm his body next. He quickly reached for the hypo prepared on a nearby console and pressed it in his neck, right behind the left ear. The drug mixture immediately started pushing against the rising nausea attack.



"Kosst!" he cursed. Waking up was getting more painful each time.

He checked the monitor connected to the alcove. The readings showed optimal values, yet Darin knew the parameters needed adjusting. The illusion wasn't whole yet – real life was still spilling into the sim at moments, threatening to break it. The memory inhibitors allowed a few glimpses of his real life and identity to manifest inside the simulation. If only Darin's engineering skills enabled him to calibrate it to perfection. But this was Borg tech, a different level of technology, somewhat beyond him.

She would know how to make it right. It was her idea after all. Or... okay, not exactly...

Ever since the chance encounter with Captain Seven of Enterprise-G at The Captain's Table bar Darin was enthralled by her tales of Unimatrix Zero, a simulated universe that some Borg drones could use as an escape from the horror or their real existence. It inspired him. Longing for a similar experience he had begun experimenting with linking a ponean synaptic stimulator with a cortical processing subunit.

Dreams are fine, safe for an occasional sleep paralysis episode /altered states, beware the other side/. A good way to relax and get the stress out of the system. But how much better would it be, instead of sleeping, to each night enter a whole different world? To live a whole different life, carefree and serene? And most importantly – entirely authentic.

The sounds of red alert rumbled through the cargo bay.

***


Emergencies were so common lately that Darin had almost gotten used to the wailing sirens. Accent on the 'almost'. He forced himself into a confident posture, quickly slipped out of the tight black cybernetic suit designed to help his body regenerate even without implants, pulled a uniform top and trousers on /no time for undies/, and briskly marched through the door into the red-lit corridor, heading for the bridge. As he walked he felt the rush, the constant tension of every waking moment, coming back. He imagined the cortisol spiking dramatically in his body. The excess energy circulating through his system. The fight or flight mode that his circumstances forced him to live through almost permanently.

Exiting the turbolift door to the bridge Darin waved off the officer of the watch before she could greet him. /No time for formalities./



"Report. What's the fuss about this time?"

"Another reality vortex appeared in the vicinity. Borg ships incoming." came the answer from the tactical station.

On the main viewscreen, Darin observed at least two dozen of Borg cubes exiting a tear in spacetime on a background of fluidic space and positioning themselves in a harrowingly symmetrical formation with an especially big tactical fusion cube taking the center position. Here they come again. The siege goes on.

"Tactical analysis?"

"27 cubes in total, arming weapons. Starships Solomon, Camelot, Byzantium, Hyperion, Leonidas, and Parsival forming up, taking positions port and sideboard. Thirteen aliance warbirds are joining them. Also, Harmony is moving in to support us."

Ah, our new Aetherian allies, Darin thought. Despite their considerable aid in the multidimensional war with the Borg Kingdom, he couldn't help not to trust them. Something about them was off. Dangerously so. But in the present circumstances, Darin couldn't afford the luxury of picking friends.

"Alright then," Darin said finally in his pep-talk voice, "Outnumbered, but we are used to that. We can beat these odds. At least until reinforcements arrive."

Overriding the ship's comms an enemy message sounded: "WE ARE THE BORG. RESISTANCE WILL BE ANNIHILATED."

Darin's breath got stuck in his throat. /No time for happiness./

How long will you be able to keep going like this? he asked himself. How far is the breaking point?

He remembered the sunny park outskirts of Five and Dime.

/The trees, the breeze, the light./

"Your orders, sir?"

/The smell of moba pie. The smile of a friend./

"Battlestations!" Darin commanded finally and sat in the central chair.

"Real life is overrated," he mumbled silently.

THE END


3 people liked this
Edited April 17 2024 by DarinNajem
Gareth GXV3

GXV3

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

April 09 2024
STAMP

It started as a childhood dream, an ambition to explore the universe, to seek life and new adventures, to learn and to go ever forward.

Looking down at the pile of papers Bareth wonder just what had happened to that dream, STAMP* another paper out of the 1000's he's forced to inkblot every day since his capture... every day, was it 9 years or 10 Batheth paused to think.

Slumping back into his wooden chair he looked around the room albeit a metal box with no windows no decor, simply a desk, a chair and a bed. never knocking what time it was or day it was, his only excitement was to go into the toilet to freshen up in the freezing cold water.
His Captor, Sub-Admiral Knick.. as he calls himself beams into the room twice a day to deliver and pick up the papers Bareth is forced to stamp, dropping of dry food rations as he does.

Knick has only ever said a few words, not giving any form of emotion away, yes I could over power him like ive tried many times when he beams into the room for his 1 minute visits, but those attempts were futile, Knick was a holographic projection.

The thought has always been there to end this every day life of stamping freshly produced papers that he couldn't understand what was written, to end his life giving up no hope of recue or escape years ago. This was his life, this is his life, this is hell.
STAMP*


#WritingChallenge
3 people liked this
Edited April 09 2024 by GXV3
Connie Zinser

aetios

Writing Challenge: Ensnared — Die Gedanken Sind Frei

March 23 2024
Vall’myn let out a low groan of pain as the agony booth shifted its target, a fresh, sharp burst of pain blooming from their chest. They would have long since doubled over and curled up in on themselves, if not for the fact that the booth was too small to even collapse on the spot in its confines. As things stood, they leaned against the smooth glass wall of the agonizer, their antennae twitching in pain as they winced, their eyes fluttering shut for several moments. 

“Well, Lieutenant Ollilov, I'd say this is just where you belong,” The entirely too smug voice of the first officer rang out to the other side of the agonizer. Letting out a small hiss of pain, Vall’myn slowly opened their eyes and turned to look at their tormentor, their short silver hair sweaty, disheveled and stuck to their skin. 

“Consider this your punishment for failure, Lieutenant. You were under orders, all you had to do was get a correct firing solution on those rebel ships, and you’d be a free blue-skinned bastard. But you couldn’t even get that right. Maybe 12 more hours in the agony booth will be enough to ensure you learn from this mistake,” As the booth shifted to yet another nerve cluster, all Vall’myn could do in response as their superior walked to the control console was slump to the side, their energy almost completely spent, but unable even to fall unconscious. 

As the commander worked at the panel, the source of pain suddenly shifted, bolts of agony lancing through Vall’myn’s head and continuing through their entire body as they let out a loud, strained scream, their throat soon going hoarse, but unable to stop screaming. Their screaming covered up the words their XO said as he left the room, his eyes uncaring and unsympathetic, his expression cold.

Time went on, but for Vall’myn, it rapidly lost all meaning, the moments bleeding into one another, with the only constant being an ever-shifting pain keeping them awake, albeit in an at best semi-aware state, unable to focus on anything but the pain, their mind wandering and confused. They had stopped screaming after what seemed to them like several minutes, although the actual time was anyone’s guess. Even so, they remained breathless, their throat sore and strained, adding yet another layer of discomfort and misery to their torture, and leaving them unable to respond to the new bursts and jolts of pain that occurred whenever the agonizer’s program decided that they were getting to used to the pain. The only outwardly visible sign of such a shift was yet another renewed twitching of their antennae and a hitch in their breathing, barely noticeable with how shallow it already was. 

At some point, while the room they were in was darkened in accordance with the night-time cycle aboard, Vall’myn suddenly felt a burst of clarity, the fog of pain in their mind clearing, and even as it brought the pain into far greater focus, it also let them truly think on their circumstances, shutting their eyes to even just slightly reduce the sensory input they had to deal with and trying to deepen their breathing, slowly but surely regaining control of their body even as the pain continued to run through them. 

As they slowly came back to themselves, the thoughts about what had caused this came back. They had been on duty when the Brand had come across a rebel vessel left from the doomed insurrection that had been crushed back when they were just starting their service with the Terran Imperial Navy. The ship had been heavily damaged, cripppled and barely limping along when the Brand had caught up with it, Vall’myn had been ordered to target their engines, but had taken just a few moments too long. As the ship flashed off to warp, escaping for the moment, they knew that consequences would be coming soon. They’d seen it so often before, and kept their head down, not wanting to face the same fate as always befell those who complained. It was simply how things were, changing it couldn’t happen. 

As another burst of pain lanced through Vall’myn, though, it disrupted their train of thought for a moment, and as they started to compose themselves, their thoughts strayed towards rumors they’d started hearing while on shore leave and when working with other ships. There had been rumblings of some Vulcan taking control of the Enterprise, which itself wasn’t unusual outside of the species of the mutineer, but the claims of his plans certainly were. Reform? Changing Terran society from the ground up? It was almost laughable how grand the plans were from the rumors, and yet. As pain continued to ripple through their body, Vall’myn couldn’t help wonder about how such a thing could be possible, if it could even be possible. 

Letting out a long, drawn-out sigh of pain, they felt their legs nearly give out as the pain centers in their legs were hit by a prolonged stabbing pain. As they tried to lean on the smooth, glass sides of the booth, they couldn’t help but feel hopeless about the idea of change. The empire had always been like this, throughout the millenia of existence, all that had changed was how efficient the punishment was. It would surely be easier to just go along, never hesitate again, and take power for themselves, the same way that any and all higher-ups in the Navy took power. If Vall’myn could become captain, they’d never have to fear the agonizer again, they could do what they wanted to anyone.

This thought held for a few moments, but as a jolt of pain radiated through them again, it quickly faded from their mind. The idea of forcing someone, even those who they hated most, the XO who tortured them and berated any and all non-humans aboard the ship, through an experience like this was not something they could consider right. 

The more they considered it, though, the more it seemed to Vall’myn that many of the things that they had done and seen were far beyond what seemed right. Had they not hesitated, the empty agonizers in this room would all be full of rebels, each awaiting further tortures and, eventually, execution. As a junior officer aboard the Endeavour, they had seen this fate plenty of times, and even served in a firing squad at times. Their complicity in other horrible acts flashed through their mind as they groaned loudly, guts twisting inside them as they remembered the orders dutifully carried out, civilian areas destroyed on suspicion of a single rebel or rebel sympathiser being harbored. After all, Vall’myn had been a good soldier, and that meant absolute obedience, no matter what. But thinking of being the one ultimately responsible for such, that was far beyond what they could stomach. And yet, they also couldn’t go through another time in the agonizer. This was their first time, having always kept their head down, obeying as necessary and avoiding any major mistakes. Still, there had to be a better way, though, both for themselves, and for others. 

After several long minutes of contemplation, time still being difficult to gauge, only being able to be told by the regular shifts in focus of the agony booth, which served to break Vall’myn’s focus for several moments each time, even with them having grown slowly accustomed to it, they started to come to a decision. Through their pain and misery, they knew that they’d never survive if they ever had to go through another round in the booth after this, leaving them with two options.

They could continue to keep their head down, hope to not make any more mistakes, keep quiet and not try to do anything risky, or take the biggest risk of all, and throw in their lot with a different set of potential rebels. They’d seen what could happen, hell, they’d caused the deaths of rebels before as weapons officer of the Endeavour. And yet, despite everything, despite the fact that doing so would almost certainly be the death of them, Vall’myn couldn’t help but think about what success could mean. 

Certainly it would mean no longer having to deal with arrogant superiors who treated them as though they couldn’t be trusted as an Andorian, but what seemed so much more important in that moment was the idea that all the agonizers, all the tools of cruelty and pain that the Terran Empire had developed over centuries might be destroyed, that they and all others may no longer have to face such treatment. And as they pondered and began to plan, even through the pain, even through the fatigue and hunger and misery that suffused their body, an irreducible spark of hope began to grow within them, hope that this would never need to happen again.

https://www.stonewallgaming.net/photos/180335
3 people liked this
Edited March 23 2024 by aetios
Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Ensnared

March 17 2024


It's time for Stonewall's 1st #WritingChallenge of 2024 and the theme will be: "Ensnared".  Submit your entry by logging into this site and posting your story in this thread between now and April 30th, 2024.

Theme Instructions:
We're encouraging everyone to share with us a story of any of your in-game characters that incorporates our "Ensnared" theme.  There's broad latitude with the theme and could range from literally being ensnared to a figurative interpretation like feeling trapped, wrestling with a difficult choice, or anything you can imagine.  Really, the theme is just meant to guide you and not to limit you in any way.  To help get the creative juices flowing, I've provided some writing prompts, though you're free to write your story without the help of the prompts:

  • Write about being stuck in a time-loop, job or life you aren't able to escape
  • Write about being captured by an alien being that torments your ship and crew (a la Q or Trelane)
  • Write about feeling trapped by a commitment to an organization you unwittingly joined long ago (Section 31?)
  • Write about discovering that your reality is actually a holodeck program or a simulated game
  • Write about your world being enveloped in an unexplained darkness from which it can't escape
  • Write about waking up on a strange starship with no recollection of how you got there
  • Write about being stuck on a generational ship en-route to a distant destination

We'll share every submission with the entire community for them to enjoy, but we'll also be looking for our three favorite entries that excel in three criteria that we'll detail below.  We're so very eager for you, SGN's amazing writing talents, to once again share your talent and creativity with us and your community!


To participate in Stonewall's "Ensnared" writing challenge, you must post your entry here, in this thread, before day's end on April 30th, 2024.  Please use the #WritingChallenge hashtag in your entries.  Your posted entry must comply with these additional rules to be eligible:

  1. Your story must in some way relate to your character from a game you play
  2. Your story must be your own original work - NO ChatGPT or AI help!
  3. The content of your story must not be edited after the submission deadline of April 30th

Only one entry per community member, please.  While we encourage you to include graphics to supplement your Ensnared story, only the written narrative portion of your entry will be judged.  Instructions on how to incorporate graphics in your post can be found by clicking here.


Every writer will receive a deposit of 3 Stonewall Credits into their account, but our favorite contest entries will be recognized on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media feeds. The prize packs are as follows:

Our favorite story will get:
  1. 10 Stonewall Credits, AND, your choice of either:
  2. 20 Master Keys in Star Trek Online, OR
  3. $25.00 Redbubble Gift Card to purchase Stonewall Merchandise!

Our second favorite entry will receive:
  1. 8 Stonewall Credits, AND your choice of either:
  2. 10 Master Keys in Star Trek Online OR
  3. $20.00 Redbubble Gift Card to purchase Stonewall Merchandise!

Our third favorite entry will get:
  1. 6 Stonewall Credits!
  2. 7 Master Keys in Star Trek Online

*Stonewall credits can be saved and/or redeemed for in-game merchandise through the Stonewall Credits Store.

Good luck to everyone!  We can't wait to read your stories!

3 people liked this

Stanleyy

Kevin's CrackerJack. ;)

January 18 2024
Kevin's CrackerJack signifies a delightful blend of taste and nostalgia. Whether a snack or a brand, it conjures images of quality and enjoyment. Explore the goodness play blooket encapsulated in this name, evoking a sense of classic flavor and satisfaction.
Cal

calx

The Ships of Stonewall 2023 yearbook!

December 28 2023
My big thanks to everyone who contributed this year!

Here is the finished yearbook for 2023, with a first for having expanded into Starfield!

I hope that everyone who reads it enjoys the adventures of our members, and credit to @voleron for helping to upload on the platform.

Never too early to start thinking for next year's edition!! Your feedback is welcome - should we include more games in future editions?
Unknown Person liked this
Cal

calx

The Ships of Stonewall 2023 yearbook!

December 12 2023
Quote by aetios
Is there a requirement that the captain is the one in Stonewall or an affiliated fleet? Because I've been developing lore of a few different characters this year, but they aren't currently in a fleet. 

Not at all, it's totally up to you which captain you want to showcase 😁
Connie Zinser

aetios

The Ships of Stonewall 2023 yearbook!

December 12 2023
Is there a requirement that the captain is the one in Stonewall or an affiliated fleet? Because I've been developing lore of a few different characters this year, but they aren't currently in a fleet. 
Cal

calx

The Ships of Stonewall 2023 yearbook!

November 18 2023
It's that time of year again! 
Following on from our successful inaugural launch of our yearbook last year, we hereby invite you to get your holo-imager ready and snap your fabulous flagships and their captains into this year's SHIPS of STONEWALL 2023!

*

Did you get a new ship in 2023 and did your flagship change as a result? 
Overheard in Spacedock's Club 47: Commander, Starfleet Admiral Morrow said to Fleet Admiral Nick "Nick your Sovereign-class Stonewall is 20 years old, we feel her day is over."
We wonder whether Nick will change the USS Stonewall this year??? Find out in this year's SHIPS of STONEWALL yearbook which will showcase these, the flagships of our wonderful fleet of members as well as our extended armada buddies, and serve as our 2023 family album which we can all get to read over the holiday period. 

INSTRUCTIONS TO TAKE PART:
1. Take a good quality high-resolution image of your ship

2. Take a good quality high-resolution image of your captain &/or crew

3. State your captain's name & rank, and crew details too if applicable

4. Provide the following details :
  • Ship name
  • Ship class
  • Ship registry
  • Any special or defining features/characteristics
  • Current Fleet attached to (e.g. Deep Space Stonewall), or;
  • Current Armada Fleet, if applicable



5. Provide any Captain's Log excerpts (optional) - feel free to highlight the adventures of your ship and crew to tell the story of your 2023 and send in about 3 or 4 paragraphs. Some ideas to include:
  • Write a mini biography for your captain and crew, and/or a small except of your captain's logs of adventures throughout 2023. 
  • Did you get a newly commissioned flagship this year?
  • What is the reason, or backstory, for your ship's name?
  • What spatial anomalies did you encounter? 
  • Which species made your captain spill their coffee (or tea)?
  • With whom did you make first...or even second contacts? 
  • Where did you boldly pew pew? And; 
  • With what new upgraded gold-border MK XX mods? 



6. Send your submissions via
[Discord - PREFERRED] Direct message the above information and files to Calcyum via Discord
[SGN Forum thread] Reply to this thread - note that this route means your entry will be seen by others first, rather than upon publication in the book


DEADLINE
In order to ensure that our team can include your submission in the yearbook, please submit your contributions by Friday 22nd December to help us meet our publication timeline to release by New Year's Eve. 

We hope that you join in our next yearbook and we look forward to seeing your contributions!

*image credit STPLAZMA
3 people liked this
Edited November 18 2023 by calx
Adam Kotaška

DarinNajem

Writing Challenge: Stories of Sacrifice

September 17 2023
I had one more story idea concerning sacrifice. This time not about sacrificing home and principles and identity like in Blueberry fields, but about sacrificing friendship and potential love on the altar of service. I wasn't sure if the idea is better or worse so I decided to write it down as well and see. If anybody is interested, there it is:

WICKED GAME


***Part I: HIM***


„DIXON HILL AND THE BLACK DAHLIA“ read the display on the wall-mounted LCARS panel. That was yet another red flag. Darin considered himself well-versed in the dixonverse and so he knew with a high degree of certainty that the correct title should mention „black orchid“ instead. Whatever program was scheduled to run behind the simulator door in front of him must have been something else; mislabeled on purpose to conceal it’s true nature. Curious.

Something foul was going on here. Nevertheless, his search led him here, in front of the holodeck doorway, and it was too late to back away. Darin’s curiosity had to be satisfied and so he cautiously stepped through the large octagonal portal.



Whatever Darin expected – this wasn‘t that. He walked into an ordinary crew quarters. The room looked exactly like in any other out of hundreds of cabins on his ship, except for a few unique decorations on walls and personal items on display. The style in which the room was decorated suggested its occupant to be a woman. But there was nobody in sight in the living area.

Darin had suspected he was uncovering some insidious Undine or changeling infiltration scheme on his ship, or perhaps tracking clues left by a careless Section 31 double agent, but looking around this place he began to reconsider. Something else related to the stolen medical records was going on here.

Slowly he moved around the room, observing, noticing every detail as if touring a museum exposition, mindful not to touch anything, until he found one object that caught his attention – a duritanium bajoran earring decorated with a tiny dilithium crystal that looked exactly like his own, including the engraved half-moon relief. Curiouser and curiouser.

When he concluded there was nothing more he could learn from the living area Darin moved towards the bedroom door. He stopped at the threshold, leaned, and peaked inside through the door that slid open almost inaudibly. Darin thought that he must be imagining the sight he saw there.

A large window displaying endless starscape dominated the room. Below the window, there was a double bed and on the bed a body of a young man lay, sleeping peacefully. Darin’s breath got stuck in his lungs. That can’t be right! He was looking down at himself.

Darin stepped into the bedroom, threading carefully, his legs moving almost automatically to bring him closer. But a better look only confirmed what he already knew. Darin was looking at an image of himself. Lying on his back, casually sprawled on the bed, exposing his fully naked body to the shocked observer, there was Darin’s double.

The likeness was uncanny. Darin knew his body extremely well. He could tell that his duplicate’s form was a perfect match, down to the tiniest detail, the same curves, same shapes of pronounced muscles, his arms and legs, his pecs, his abs… the same size and light color of his pointed nipples. Darin could discern even that little, almost imperceptible bump on his chest – a reminder of an unevenly healed broken rib from when he was a teenager. That was before Starfleet Academy, before access to advanced Federation medicine. Nobody knew about that injury. Darin never told anyone.



There was only one striking difference – lack of any body hair. Darin’s proud bush was gone on his double’s body, as well as the happy trail and all the hair from his armpits. So this is how I’d look if I shaved it all off? Darin thought and fixed his eye on the pubic area that looked so different than on his real body. There was a tiny dimple in the middle, right above his dick. Darin thought it was the cutest and hottest thing ever and decided he must try the smooth look for real someday. It looked good enough on his body to exchange it for the masculinity of his fur.

He always knew, at least since he grew up, that he was rather good-looking, and romantic interest in him coming from many girls and boys, especially during those carefree and not-so-distant Academy years, suggested so as well. But only now, when looking at himself from above in this dizzying out-of-body experience, he could fully realize and appreciate his own beauty. Youthful, boyish, yet masculine at the same time, with short ruffled blond hair on top and clipper shaved to the tiniest stubble on sides and back, chiseled face, slim, yet firm and athletic figure the boy on the bed was simply hot.

Darin felt an increasing pressure in his pants and realized he was growing an erection. You perverted idiot! Darin scolded himself. Getting aroused by looking at your own body! He thought he never felt more embarrassed by himself. But it came to him that moment, that this was exactly the reason behind the whole mystery. So that’s what’s going on!

There was no conspiracy. No assassination plot. His good looks alone explained why somebody hacked the secure medical database of the ship and stole Darin‘s medical records and why Darin traced the missing files all the way to this simulator program and anatomically precise recreation of himself. It was a sex holonovel, just like Vulcan Love Slave or Amazon Women from depths of Uranus, except this time with himself as the object of desire.

Darin clenched his jaw. A feeling of nausea washed over him and he must have reminded himself that according to the computer logs this program had never been run before. Whoever scheduled the holodeck session for this hour, it was their first time since setting it up. There was a bit of solace in that fact. There was still time to stop it.



„Computer, delete the character.“ Darin muttered through his teeth.

The holographic simulation of a naked young man vanished, leaving just an empty bed and crumpled sheets.

It was time to leave and assign the computer to analyze cleverly scrambled holodeck records in order to identify the author of this program.

But then the door behind Darin opened with a subtle whoosh sound. Darin turned around and saw his first officer, Elisa Flores, coming in. He didn’t understand. So many thoughts flooded his mind at that moment – Did she somehow learn about his investigation and come to help uncover this mystery?

„Elisa?“ he said, forgetting the proper protocol for addressing officers.

She smiled broadly. „Hey, handsome. My shift got a little longer, sorry. It felt like an eternity as I’d been looking forward to you the whole day.“

She looked different, wearing the tightest black uniform piece usually reserved only for away teams, an outfit showcasing her attractive figure along its whole glorious height, and she seemed to have dyed her hair a new shade of pink that made her look both gentle and fierce at the same time.

Elisa approached him with confidence Darin had never before seen in her, crossing all personal space boundaries in three short steps, pushing him against the cabin wall, leaning on him with the full weight of her body, and kissing him passionately.

Darin was too shocked to bring himself to resist and part of him liked what was going on. After all, he liked Elisa a lot, he considered her very attractive, and, as any other Bajoran man, he too enjoyed when a strong woman took charge from time to time. He found himself returning her kisses…

...until the realization dawned on him. This holoprogram – Elisa – Can’t be!

***Part II: HER***


Elisa had to will herself into pulling from Darin’s lips. The simulation felt even more realistic than she fantasized. She waited so long to craft this dream into perfect holographic pseudo-reality and she couldn’t wait a second longer.

She grabbed the top of his uniform by the collar and tore it open forcefully, revealing his naked chest and shoulders as he didn't wear an undershirt. Looks even hotter than I imagined, Elisa thought. She put her left hand on his shoulder, pressing and pinning him even more strongly against the wall, and started rubbing his chest with the palm of her right hand.

For a rather slim young man, Darin had quite big, precisely sculpted pectoral muscles, like from an ancient Greek statue. The result of so many times she and he played velocities and parisses squares together as cadets, no doubt, Elisa reminisced. She grabbed his beefy left pectoral and began massaging the muscle. It felt unexpectedly soft and lithe in her hand.

The sensations she was getting from this simulated reconstruction of a man she secretly loved were full and real beyond any expectations. She considered for a moment that perhaps it was her own excitement that was fooling her senses. After all, the imaging technology, however impressive, has not been yet that advanced.

But she felt the warmth of his body under her hands and lips, the scent of his skin, full of irresistible hormones and pheromones. Even the behavioral protocols exceeded what Elisa thought were their limits. Darin’s simulation looked genuinely surprised by her advance on him, with eyes wide open and even pupils dilated to the maximum, with heavy breathing and sweating. Elisa felt his muscles contract spontaneously under her leaning form as if he couldn’t decide whether to resist or surrender to her desires. But the big, steel-hard bulge in his pants showed Elisa clearly what his body wanted.

She looked up, as he was somewhat taller, to see his face. The "deer in the headlights" look in his eyes seemed so authentic that Elisa had to suppress a sudden surge of unease. Since she couldn’t have the love of a man who was her captain at the same time and since she never felt any physical love from him even during their academy years, she decided after a long time of self-denial to satisfy her needs at least with his image. But she never would have thought, when executing her plan stealing Darin’s medical records and programming a simulation, that the end result could be so realistic that she had to keep reminding herself it wasn't real. Seeing the hurt expression on his pretty boy face made her realize the ethical dimension of her actions for the first time. What an irony, Elisa thought, that the authenticity that she sought so much was what made her feel so shameful now.



Elisa bowed her head a bit and looked away, her look tracing the simulated bedroom. She noticed the large bed with crumpled sheets and decided. She craved it too much and she will have it.

She turned her face towards Darin again. „It’s the moment of truth, cutie,“ Elisa exclaimed, „Time to give me what you owe me. Now, let‘s see what other part of your body is covered with sexy ridges besides your nose,“ and with those words, Elisa released the grip on Darin’s pectoral muscle, slid her hand lower on his abdomen and then continued even lower under his pants.

Elisa was taken aback as he gasped, his expression so real, and even more when her fingers slid into soft thick curls of pubic hair. What the..?! She was trying to remember – Didn’t I instruct the program to alter his anatomy records and make him shaved? She was sure she did, as that’s how she preferred her boys. Darin’s medical records revealed he was not a fan of manscaping. Nothing a simple instruction to the computer couldn’t rectify, she thought, convinced that’s exactly what she did before. Now this was an odd glitch. Especially considering how uncharacteristically perfect the simulation seemed so far.

If the real Darin was interested Elisa would enjoy making love with him and the little patch of fur in his crotch wouldn’t matter the slightest. But this was her simulation of the dream-lover's body and she wanted everything on her terms. She wanted it perfect. And she liked her boys smooth.

„Computer,“ she commanded, „Remove all body hair on Darin, from the chin down.“

„Unable to comply,“ came the answer of a mechanical voice.

„Why?“

„The character of Darin has been deleted from simulation.“

„What?! That’s clearly not true. I…“ her words faded as Elisa once again looked up to see Darin’s face, with his jaw clenched, tearful eyes firmly set on her. A feeling of dread hit her like a warp core breach, tearing all her other feelings and sensations into a chaotic mess.

Elisa couldn’t move for a few seconds that felt like eons. Then she brought herself to slowly and gently slide her hand back from his pants and took a step backward before her legs betrayed her and she fell on her knees. She had to brace herself against the floor with both hands to fight the dizziness and nausea. It was him. Not a simulation. She felt like nothing worse could ever have happened to her than this moment of ultimate embarrassment.

After several minutes of silence, when none of them moved and only their irregular breathing was disrupting the awkward silence, Elisa found some words in her dry mouth. „Why didn’t you say something?“

***Part III: THEM***


„After a seemingly endless minute of silence, Elisa finally whispered: „You could have said something, spared me the embarrassment.“

Darin shook his head involuntarily. „I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t.“ He turned his face towards the window at the simulated starscape behind it, determined to avoid looking at her. „Do you have have any idea what...“ His voice faded away. There were no words he could find to finish that sentence with. Not ones he could bring himself to speak aloud.

„I do now. I’m sorry.“ She brought herself to look up and sought his gaze, sought any sort of connection. „I never meant to hurt you this way. Or any other way. I didn’t expect you to ever find out.“

„Oh, then sorry I did!“ Darin spat out, anger replacing the confusion and rising within his chest. Elisa’s words sounded so inadequate in his ears, the apology so hollow and insufficient. He gritted his teeth tight. „No, you clearly have no idea how violating this is. You just don’t.“

„I mistook you for the holo version. I would never grabbed you like that if...“

„Not that!“ Empowered by his anger Darin turned back and faced Elisa, flames in his eyes, “I don’t care for your hand in my pants. I mean this,“ he gestured with both hands as if to encompass the whole room, „All of it. This sick simulation. Aren’t there enough sex programs in the database with some generic dudes since you have to use an image of a real one? And even steal the medical records for that purpose?“

„That wouldn't work.“

„What did you just say?“

Suddenly Elisa found the inner strength she didn’t believe she still had within herself. It allowed her to brace herself, stand up, and face Darin. „What do you think? That this is just about sex? I always thought you’re rather smart, but I guess I was wrong.“

Darin opened his mouth to reply and... closed it again. He wasn’t prepared for Elisa standing her ground in what he considered a clear matter where he was the victim and she was the culprit. His rights were trampled, and his privacy breached, by an officer and trusted friend nonetheless. What can be possibly said to excuse it?

„I’m starting to think it’s you who has no idea.“ Elisa said, her confidence growing steadily with each sentence. „This isn‘t only about satisfying the body, Darin. It‘s as much about feelings. There is something between us. Ever since our freshmen year at the Academy. Even though we never admitted any of it to each other, don‘t bother denying it. I know it‘s there. I know it because it‘s been driving me nuts for a long time. It was heartbreaking enough at the Academy, when we spent all the time together, studying, having fun, just talking all nights long, and then...“, she staggered a bit, but took some air in her lungs and forced herself to finish the sentence, „and then I kept hearing from the gossip pipeline about all the girls and boys you had, same story every week, but a different cadet. Do you have any idea how that made me feel, listening to all those girls bragging, describing precisely what you did to each other and how it felt and how your body looked under the uniform when I actually had feelings for you? And I knew you returned them. Or do you want to deny it‘s been mutual? All that affection I‘ve seen in your eyes when you looked at me, all those smiles, the need to seek my company at all times?“ Elisa bit her lips. Finally, it was out, spoken aloud. She felt such relief as if holding her breath for years and finally allowing herself to exhale.

„I... of course,“ Darin uttered silently, almost a whisper. „I mean, of course I felt that way too.“ His anger began melting away. Elisa‘s words brought with them tides of memories and feelings he had pushed to the back of his heart and tried to forget about, sometimes almost successfully. Fully exposed now, those feelings, as Darin realized, not only didn‘t weaken but grew in intensity, accompanied by a newly discovered sense of guilt.

Hearing him say it brought Elisa some joy. But not a pure joy she always imagined to experience in such a moment. His admission made her previous anger feel righteous. „That‘s good to know. What about all the other girls you slept with? Why everybody else but me?“

„Elisa, but that was nothing.“ Darin tried to explain. „That was just exploring, having fun. Academy felt like a miracle coming true after growing up an orphan. I told you all about it. I was just thrilled to be among peers for the first time in my life, young people my age, and all of them so kind and joyful and interested in the same stuff and just as enthusiastic as me about learning and dreaming of starships. Yes, I admit I overreacted and expressed that passion in a wrong way and I‘m thankful that everyone was so understanding and non-judgmental that they never made me feel bad because of that reputation of being sexually hyperactive or whatever.“



„Yeah, why wouldn't they be,“ Elisa added sarcastically. „I don‘t remember hearing any complaints from the grapevine. They all seemed quite satisfied. Especially physically. Wait! Not everyone.“ Elisa said and tilted her head to emphasize her point. „If only I knew the magic words I‘d make you have me like you had them.“

„That's not fair, El.“

„Isn't it? How about?“

„You were my best friend.“ Darin noticed Elisa taking a deep breath and quickly added: „That means more, not less. I liked you too much and valued what we had, that friendship and feeling of comfort and safety. I was scared that I'd lose it if I expressed anything. That it would break and I'd never be able to patch it up again.“

Bulshit! was the first word on Elisa’s mind. „What are you saying? You were breaking my heart every day. And all for the sake of playing it safe or something?“ Elisa felt tears rising again. She rubbed her eyes to prevent him from noticing her sudden weakness. „I guess I don‘t understand you men at all. All those years. And it only got worse once we got on the same ship and you became my boss. You grew even more distant, playing the captain part, soooo serious.“

„I am not playing anything. I am the captain. And you have the same training so I‘d expect you to understand how this enormous responsibility prevents...“

„Yeah, right,“ Elisa didn't let him finish. She saw him slipping into the ‚lecture mode‘, just as many times before, and didn‘t care for a ‚sermon‘. „I know you, Darin. I think I‘m one of the few people in the galaxy that really know you. And knowing you I can imagine that living this life alone is enough for you. Having this... this duty and responsibility as not only first but the only thing in your life. But it‘s not enough for me.“ She shook her head. „I can‘t just compartmentalize these feelings and pretend they don‘t exist and people around me are not real people but only officers. I know it‘s a lame excuse but I couldn‘t see you every day on duty and say nothing and do nothing. I was suffocating and needed to express my feelings. Somehow. A copy of you on a holodeck seemed like the least harmful way out of all that pain. I am sorry. I truly am. My feelings clouded my better judgment.“

Darin nodded. „Okay, I can accept that. And I‘m sorry for how I treated you, coldly and dismissively and all. I thought it‘s best for everyone, but had no idea how hard it‘s for you.“ He bit his lip. „You're my best friend. So I won‘t put any of this on record. But you‘re my first officer at the same time. And after this, I can‘t imagine us working together anymore.“

Elisa blinked rapidly. She was afraid he might decide to do the responsible thing. She knew him well, after all.

Darin continued: „Tomorrow morning I will send a message to Headquarters asking them to assign the ship a new XO.“

So he did it, Elisa thought. Kicked her out. There was no surprise. Elisa knew she crossed a line by a lightyear. Yet, hearing his last words almost stopped her heart.

„As for you,“ Darin said and looked straight into Elisa‘s eyes, „I will recommend you for promotion. My word has enough weight in Starfleet to push it through. You deserve your own ship anyway.“

I deserve you‘ was the thought screaming in Elisa‘s mind, but she left it unspoken. Truth was Elisa deeply respected Darin as a starship captain. She admired his short yet stellar career in service to Starfleet and how he seemingly easily carried the burden of command. She didn‘t consider herself to be good enough for the chair herself. The fact that Darin did made her happy. Even when attempting a punishment her friend couldn‘t help himself but gave her the greatest gift instead. At least greatest in the mind of a model, dedicated officer as he was. She nodded, mouthed a silent ‚thank you‘ and meant it.

Now it was Darin‘s time to look hurt. As if the weight of what they just did and said only now settled upon his heart. Sudden moisture in his eyes suggested a surge of emotions. He turned and sat on the edge of the bed.

Elisa kept studying his face. She didn‘t relish in Darin's pain. But it felt satisfying to see him being a person for once, instead of an officer. She remembered the cheerful Bajoran cadet that she fell in love with years ago as if he no longer existed and some stranger just reminded her of that long-lost boy by a familiar gesture.

Darin couldn‘t bear her gaze for long. „Dismissed,“ he commanded, hoping to sound authoritative, but his voice failed him.

Elisa pursed her lips and nodded. She kept staring into his eyes for a couple more seconds and then she turned towards the invisible holodeck door. „Arch.“

An arched panel appeared and a large orange door in it opened into the empty corridor of the real world. Elisa walked through but stopped at the threshold to turn back and steal one last look at her dream lover, looking so sad when sitting on a bed and covering his face with both hands. „You know, I‘m not sure if I admire you, that you can just swallow up all your feelings and act so professional, or pity you for that, Najem.“

„I will write you,“ Darin called behind her, „When you settle on your next ship.“

She turned back and left the holographic bedroom. „It is better if you don’t“ were her last words escaping through the closing doors.

Darin remained alone.

„I'll do it anyway,“ he whispered to himself.

THE END
Unknown Person liked this
Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Stories of Sacrifice

September 16 2023


WINNERS ANNOUNCED!



Thanks to everyone who contributed to our "Stories of Sacrifice" writing challenge!  We loved reading all of the entries and invite you to check out the compilation of all of the submitted stories at the link below.  We'd also like to share our favorite stories with you and will reach out to the authors of those submissions to arrange delivery of prizes!  Everyone who participated will receive Stonewall Credits within a day of this post.  To spend them, login to this site with your account, click the drop down menu next to your profile picture on the menu bar and select 'wallet'.  

2 people liked this
Dave (Voleron)

Voleron

Writing Challenge: Stories of Sacrifice

September 01 2023


CHALLENGE ENDED!



Thank you to everyone who entered our Stories of Sacrifice writing challenge!  Entries are now closed and we'll be enjoying your submissions over the next week and will post results of our writing challenge on or around September 10th!
Edited September 01 2023 by Voleron