Posted by Lieutenant Commander Llakar Harel (Consultant Researcher - Abell) in Where I’ve Been and Where I’m Going
OOC: I apologize for this massive monster of a post, but I could see no way around it. I did cut out all irrelevant or extraneous bits. This story is necessary to portray who Harel is now, a character I haven’t played in over a decade. If you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it.
One tunnel looked like every other tunnel. It didn’t matter where you were; the northern tunnels, the southern, were all damp, all gray, all lit with artificial light. Sounds echoed all around; their sources were indeterminable. Llakar had been a member of the Alliance for a little over six months. This was his first assignment. Their group was positioned in the northernmost tunnels. They were to hold positions and prevent the Coalition from gaining territorial ground from the east. Three weeks had gone by, and they had yet to even see a Coalition member.
“Not quite what we expected, huh?” Niko flashed his big cheesy grin from above where Llakar lay. He jumped down from his post, landing with an ‘oomph.’ The thud from his boots echoed throughout the tunnels.
“Why don’t you make a little more noise. Or better yet, just yell out our position, tell the Coalition exactly where to aim their phasers.” Llakar was a little annoyed. He took his job very seriously. Earning the praise of his superiors throughout his training phase, he was a model member of the Alliance. Niko was the exact opposite. He was never serious, always joking, always laughing, always too loud. He and Llakar hit it off the moment they met.
“When’s the last time you saw a member of the Coalition? Oh, that’s right, never.” Niko’s eyes had a fantastic ability to sparkle in complete darkness. “I don’t know about you, but I expected a little more action when I joined. It’s your watch.”
“Careful what you wish for.” Llakar stood up, stretching. “Fighting has erupted all over the tunnels. I have a feeling we’ll have all the action we can handle before too long. But I wouldn’t worry if I were you. With all your joking and bouncing around, if we get taken prisoner, I’m sure the Coalition will keep you around… for entertainment.” Llakar managed a wry grin as he climbed up the make-shift watchtower.
“Just man your post.” Niko smiled once again as he pushed his long flaxen bangs out of his eyes and settled in to go to sleep. Llakar watched his friend from above. Niko’s charm and aloofness made him the favorite in their squad. Everyone loved him. How could you not? His smile was infectious. Niko sighed as he closed his eyes and rolled over onto his side. “You know, I really believe that one day this will all be over. We’ll put down our phasers and work together to rebuild this colony. Maybe we’ll even climb up out of these damn tunnels. Imagine that, walking around in the sunlight, breathing fresh air, green grass beneath our feet, and real wildflowers growing everywhere. Wouldn’t that be amazing?”
“Yeah, it would.” To Llakar, Niko had always seemed out of place, a splash of color in a gray world. He was like those wildflowers. He needed sunlight and fresh air to grow. Llakar hoped for his friend’s sake that he would make it out before he withered and wilted away.
Niko sighed. “Someday, we’ll both get out of here. Goodnight, Llak.”
“Where the hell did they come from!?” Llakar yelled, proximity alarms blaring all around them. A phaser blast shot past his shoulder as he crouched behind a boulder. He turned to fire and hit a Coalition member square in the chest. She fell to the ground hard. At least four other Coalition members were advancing on them.
Niko turned to fire as well but missed completely. He had never been a particularly good shot. “I don’t know! I was sound asleep having a wonderful dream when suddenly phaser blasts are exploding everywhere! Who was on watch?” Niko dodged another phaser blast and returned fire. This time his shot made its mark. Niko’s face fell. If there was one thing he hated more than living underground, it was fighting.
“Duncan relieved me, but I don’t know where he is. Cover me!” Nicko provided cover fire as Llakar ran forward and dove behind a large garbage bin. He had a pretty good line of sight to a Coalition member perched on a support scaffold from here. Llakar had been on this scaffold before and knew that it was rather rickety. Aiming for a beam just below the Coalition sniper, he fired. The shaft sparked and fell, and the entire scaffolding came down along with the sniper. He landed hard on the rocks below and stopped moving, apparently dead.
“Woohoo! Good shooting, Llakar!” Duncan came running from around the corner behind them along with two other Alliance members. Now outnumbered, the two remaining Coalition members made a hasty retreat. Duncan and the others ran after them. Llakar could hear phaser blasts and shouting continuing to echo throughout the tunnels.
Llakar stood and turned to Niko. “Are you okay?” he asked, offering Niko a hand up.
“Yeah, but I had never killed anyone before. I saw his face when he died.” Niko looked on the verge of tears. He was too sensitive for this kind of life. His innocence is what made Llakar like him so much.
Llakar put his arms around his friend and held him tight. “Hey, it will be okay. We’re going to get out of here, remember? And we’ll find a nice world covered in grass and trees, and we’ll even build a house on a beach. Our very own paradise.”
Suddenly Niko pulled away from Llakar and looked him dead in the eyes. His face was as serious as Llakar had ever remembered seeing it. “You promise? Do you promise we will get out and breathe fresh air? Llakar, I don’t know how much longer I can stay down here. I feel like I’m going to die in these damned tunnels.”
Niko’s words and expressions unsettled Llakar. He swallowed hard and tried to maintain his composure to hide the lie he was about to tell his friend. “I promise you, Niko. We will leave this place.” Llakar didn’t really believe that. Few had ever left the tunnels, and even fewer had abandoned their cadre.
Niko’s face lit up, and a smile spread across his face. “I love you, Llakar. That may be hard for you to hear, but I do.” As he said the words, his expression changed once again. Niko placed a hand behind Llakar’s head and pulled it to his. Their lips connected.
Llakar didn’t know what to do. He was somewhat aware of Niko’s lips caressing his, but it felt as unreal as a dream. Llakar’s heart threatened to burst through his chest, and his lungs desperately tried to expand and fill with air. Then something happened that was as surprising to Llakar as his best friend kissing him. Llakar kissed him back.
An eternity passed between them in just a few seconds. When they parted, Niko’s sparkle and his goofy grin were back. He looked upon Llakar in a way that conveyed both his love and his undying friendship. In an instant, Llakar realized he had never loved anyone as much as he loved Niko.
Out of the corner of his eye, a movement caught Llakar’s attention. He glanced over just as the supposedly dead sniper lifted his phaser and fired one final shot. Before Llakar had even realized what had happened, the blast made contact.
In that instant, everything stopped. There was no sound, no movement, Niko’s smile, frozen in time. Then slowly, as if he were moving through the water, Niko fell. Llakar caught him in his arms and laid his friend down on the ground. He turned Niko over and stared into his eyes, desperately trying to find the sparkle that was once there. As if someone had suddenly turned off the sun, Niko died. Llakar’s comrade, his friend, his love was gone.
Echoing through the tunnels, Llakar heard his own scream as if it were coming from someone else’s mouth. “NIKO!”
Power system reroute was not as easy as on the Federation ship. Power seemed to get lost in places, and only about 60% of the hoped-for power got to where it should. The old cargo ship moved about drunkenly. Evidently, the stabilizers were not precise as the ship felt, despite best efforts, like a ship on the sea and moving the people back and forth.
With Treena’s help and a little common sense, Cadet Harel was comfortable with the transporter controls. He was nervous about using them, though. This ship’s better days were far behind it. Harel knew that given a choice, he sure as hell wouldn’t want himself beamed anywhere using this ancient equipment.
The control could only handle one person at a time coming through the transporter. Even so, it would require the operator to be focused. There was so much that could go wrong. Harel would have to be sharp.
Harel took a deep breath and focused. He glanced over at Cadet Wright and immediately decided that any tension between them would have to be put behind them for now. They would all have to work together to get the shuttle crew safely aboard. “I have a lock on one of the shuttle crewmen.”
=/\=Cadet Harel to shuttle crew, standby for beam out. We can only transport you one at a time. Harel out.=/\=
Harel had no idea which crew member he had a lock on. Still, they were unknowingly about to become the test run for this ship’s decaying transporter. He glanced over at Treena. “This is the correct control, right?” he asked her. ‘Please, let this be the correct control,’ he silently prayed to whatever god might be listening.
The transporter gave a sparky ‘poof’ in the center of the pad about where the confinement beam would form. Then it did another. It required Harel to make an adjustment in the matter stream modulator synching control. Meanwhile, the power rerouting suddenly caused the ship to lurch drunkenly and fall, leaving most of the away team’s stomachs somewhat dislocated, at least in feeling.
Harel looked at the controls, desperately trying to figure out what was causing the matter stream modulator to be out of synch. Llakar pushed some buttons, hoping for a good outcome. Exasperated, Harel cried out, “I just need to make a few,” he struck the side of the control console, “minor,” he hit it again, “adjustments,” and again, pounding harder with each syllable.
The transporter whined. Shrilly. Something just wasn’t quite right. But after two more adjustments, a figure formed on the pad. When the confinement beam released him, suddenly Darien Taglor dropped six inches and stumbled forward to fall on the deck. With the transport ended and sudden power to its thruster assemblies, the ship righted itself somewhat with a vertical rise.
Harel breathed a sigh of relief. “One down, two to go.” Harel didn’t know how many more ‘transports’ he could stomach; the ship had rocked like a roller coaster with the first one.
“I have a lock on another one. Initiating transport now.” Once again, the ship went into a dive, and Harel could taste his stomach in his throat. Moments later, the figure of Cadet Hazell appeared upside down. He hung there momentarily and dropped hard to the floor. “Sorry about that, mate!” Harel cried.
The ship bucked and shuddered as though the outside winds would actually affect the thing. Somewhere a terribly misaligned thruster whined shrilly, making the ship shake. It couldn’t hold (relatively) steady for too much longer. Moreover, there was a distinct ‘red’ flashy pertaining to the transporter buffer. Available memory was taxed; it was as though the previous patterns were not being cleared and cluttering up the limited buffer.
Alexander quickly got to his feet, rubbing the back of his head. “Thanks, Harel,” Alex said in a sarcastic voice.
“I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got, guys. Would you rather I left you down there? Because I can beam you back if you like.” Harel was on edge. This wasn’t the first sarcastic comment he’d been hit with lately. “I’ve got a lock on Williams, but there isn’t enough memory in the pattern buffer for transport. I can try beaming him up, hoping that some of the older patterns will be overwritten to make room for his, but I’m not sure this system is set up to function that way. It’s a risk.”
The transporter whined like before, then partway through the initialization, it flashed red, and a shriek sounded. Something was wrong. All Harel knew was that there was no formation on the pad but only a partial twinkling of the transporter effect. The ship lurched drunkenly. Brighten would have to work hard to compensate, for suddenly, a thruster blew out, pitching the old ship to one side.
The ship lurched. Harel had to hang on to the console with all his might to keep from falling over. ‘Oh my God! Did I kill Williams?’ he asked himself, furiously working the controls. But Williams’ pattern was not materializing on the pad. He knew he better act quick, or else he would lose Williams’ pattern altogether. “I can’t get him. I’m attempting to redirect his pattern back to the surface. We’ll have to try something else.”
But there was nothing else. Cadet Williams’ pattern was lost.
“There’s nothing to lock onto anymore. He’s, he’s…gone,” he said, dropping his hands to his side. Harel had seen his fair share of death, even death by his hand. But this was the first time that his mistake had directly resulted in the death of a comrade. Harel felt ashamed as a wave of guilt and regret washed over him. He could do nothing but stare at his shoes.
“Hello Llakar,” she said softly, using his first name for the first time. “I just wanted to wish you luck…and to say goodbye.”
Harel was startled by the voice behind him. Though he had given up all hope that she would see him off, he knew instantly who the voice belonged to. Hearing Sharon was saying his first name sent Harel’s spirits soaring and his heart pounding. Turning around, Harel suppressed the urge to run to her and sweep her into his arms. But there was no stopping the wide smile that spread across his face.
“I was hoping you’d come. There are so many things I wish I had time to say. But I will say this, I’m sorry that I took so long to make my interest in you known. I have silently admired you since the day I met you. Not only your work but you as a person. Forgive me, but I was intimidated by you.” Harel dropped his eyes to the floor. Yes, many things would be left unsaid, but at least they had this moment.
Harel approached Sharon and placed his hand on the side of her face just below the ear, and stared at her for just a moment, trying desperately to memorize her features. “You really are quite beautiful.” That was the first compliment he remembered giving her other than compliments on her work. He regretted not giving more of them.
Harel made up his mind. He was going to kiss her. The bay doors were starting to slide apart, revealing the vastness of space and the billions of stars before them. Harel slowly moved his lips toward hers, gently pulling her to him at the same time. They were mere inches apart. Harel gazed into Sharon’s eyes and prepared himself for what would be only the second romantic kiss of his lifetime. Nearly there, closer, closer…
=/\=T-minus 30 seconds to launch.=/\= Boddy’s voice pierced the air and snapped Harel out of the moment. Suddenly, embarrassed, Harel dropped his hand and moved back. He would have to remember to kill NE Boddy when he got back. “Well, um, I should probably go then.” He said this but made no move to re-enter the shuttle.
Thirty seconds, it wasn’t long enough. So many things Sharon wanted to say and do right now, but they were out of time. “I’ll miss you so much, Llakar,” she said, “but I know I’ll see you again…someday.”
She cast a glance at the two security officers who were watching them intently through the observation window and then at the shuttle bay doors as they continued to slide open, preparing to swallow Harel into the black space beyond.
And suddenly, Sharon didn’t care that Boddy and Gard were watching. She wouldn’t have cared if the whole crew had been watching. She may never have this chance again. Stepping forward, she reached up and gently placed a hand on the back of Harel’s head, then pulled his face close to hers and finally brought their lips together for their first…and maybe final kiss.
From somewhere far away, she registered Boddy’s voice, still counting down.
=^= T-minus 15 seconds =^=
Sharon forced herself to pull away and watched Harel, knowing that he had to leave right now but wishing with all of her heart that he could stay.
Time stopped as their lips made contact, the universe stopped spinning. For a moment, only the two of them existed. Damn the Apollo, damn the shuttle launch, and damn the rescue mission. Right then, nothing else mattered. Harel could have lived in that one moment forever. All too soon, it was over.
Sharon pulled away, and Harel came back to reality with the sudden realization that he had to leave now. Aborting the shuttle launch sequence would require reports, complete diagnostics and would delay his mission. And somewhere out there, Ty needed him.
Harel ducked back inside the shuttle as the hatch started to close. He turned to Sharon and smiled, “I’ll be back soon. I’ve got to return before I can be transferred.”
=/\=T-minus 5, 4, 3…=/\=
“Take care of Amicus!” Harel waved to Sharon as the hatch closed and latched. The shuttle engines suddenly came to life, and the shuttle lifted off the ground. Slowly it made its way through the bay and out the bay doors.
=/\=Shuttle Iceland, you are clear the Apollo. Godspeed, Sir.=/\=
=/\=Thank you, Apollo. Shuttle Iceland out.=/\=
Harel laid in a course to Ty’s coordinates and then rushed to the side porthole. He could see the Apollo and the bay doors that were starting to close and could just make out Sharon, still standing in the bay, protected from the vacuum of space by the forcefield. He suddenly felt light-years away, and the kiss was a lifetime ago.
“PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!” Llakar screamed as he relived the worst moments of his life over and over again. But no one answered. No one ever answered. How long he had been here, Harel didn’t know. How many times he had relieved these traumatic events, he couldn’t count. But if he was going to retain any semblance of sanity, it would have to end soon. Harel was breaking.
Wherever he was, it was in complete darkness. He never saw anyone. He never heard anyone. But he could feel the evil around him. Enjoying, feeding, relishing in Harel’s torment.
“Please, please, I beg you. Don’t do this. Please!” Every round, Harel would forget that it wasn’t real. He would live every torturous moment as if he were there. Then Harel would return to the darkness. The grief and the pain washed over him in waves. He tried to sit up, to get up, but he was strapped down to whatever he had been laying on.
It was futile. Harel knew he wasn’t going anywhere, except that is, back into his nightmares.
One tunnel looked like every other tunnel…
-Lt. Cmdr. Llakar Harel, Abell Consultant
OOC: Portions of the above story were written by Gamemaster Gene Gibbs and the crew of the USS Apollo, and our CO Sharon Miller.
OOC: Oh, the memories! Sharon! Amicus! Our first date on the holodeck in Amicus’s ‘quarters’! It’s going to be so interesting having Llaker back around!
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