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Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #50
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

The notion of change was the whetstone for human progress. Yet it also wore on the conviction and patriotism of any individual in equal measure. Because as much as change could leap and jump like a dashing frog through lush green pastures, it could also be a stubborn sloth, slowly and gradually winding its way through the thicket of time. The majority, surely, succumbing to the more gratifying notion of simple acceptance, at one point during their lives, only regretting it in the last moments before death, much, much later. But it was a notion so normal, so widespread, it hardly felt odd or submissive. So to someone like Brody, the true heroes were those who withstood the grind of time and the pressure of community and pursued their penchant for change relentlessly. Potentially people like Sariah, who blindly followed their own conviction, no matter the opposition, to eternity and back.

A two double-edged sword indeed. Because conviction like that could easily turn into obsession. But that was not for him to decide, he told himself, and such reminders lifted the foggy veil of indecision swiftly, unveiling the path of duty, lined with the orders he’d received. Straying from the predetermined alley only when it would serve the better or easier resolution of the mission. A world of black and white he much rather indulged in, than the murky gray of idealism and deceit. Something that always pout him at stark odds with the professional machinations of his wife, who thrived in the undetermined midst between right and wrong. Making an art out of swaying it to one side or another, with the power of words. Which was probably the deciding scheme to eventually end this war, indeed, but as a wolf could not turn its coat, he would have to contribute in whichever way he knew how. And that was by being the very tool he’d been forged into. A weapon created for one purpose. It was then only in the gentle embrace of her, that he could contemplate a different existence.

Yet, as he alluded, it could’ve also been a guy … by sheer assumption at least. A reality he more than gladly entertained to carve whatever frail amusement he could, from a situation that was slowly looking up. The mission to infiltrate the Dominion network had been a success, despite – or because – of it’s sacrifices. And whatever else Bishop harbored in terms of affiliation and perceived debt to this people, or the galaxy, would have to dissolve in whatever time it would take for the stringent perseverance of time to move the planets moon back into vision, and as such the shuttle into transporter range. A measure of time that would best be spent indulging in whatever easement and deception necessary to get Bishop to drop his guard. To make him susceptible to either persuasion or force by surprise. And if that were facilitated by actual bonding of some kind, then Brody was the last one to dissuade it.

Acknowledging his sharp mind with a solemn nod, the man let a small puff of air flare his nostrils in a muffled chuckle of relief. “Gotta have at least that …” he mumbled quietly, omitting the added ‘in this line of work’ parameter. It literally went without saying. Though judging from the short time they spent together, the other operative might’ve been well advised simply sticking to the facts now and then. Looking back up at the man, as Bishop spoke up once more, voicing more of his assumptions, Brody’s eyes narrowed slightly, as he gauged the extent of what he was willing to give away. Yet given the fact that they were both cast from the same block of Starfleet iron –which spoke to their integrity - and that they would likely not cross paths again after this, sat that bar pretty low.

“Not really in this line of work anymore … actually.” he admitted quietly, a certain ring of relief to being able to push forth these words. “… just the most qualified person in a hundred light-years to get you off this rock, I suppose.” A gentle shrug to broad shoulders, fabric drenched in darkness from the neck outward a few inches, where the rain had seeped into the man’s coat, his dark eyes once more shifted to the growing glow on the horizon. “I’m the first officer of a starship, the very fleet that’s been trying to free this place of the Dominion, for the past month … at great expense.” A glimmer of light that extinguished against the dark night, at the unspoken truth that said fleet probably only had one more push in it, before it would have to retreat. A reality neither conducive to the general morale, nor Bishop’s actual ambition to leave. “But I’ve been working the dark corners of the Federation in the past … I guess that’s pretty obvious.” Words alluding both to a sense of pride in his skill and achievements as well as the tragedy of the more personal afflictions it came with.

Silence filled that small overlook once more. At least in the more immediate surroundings, guarded by the muffled sounds of people inside the compound, and the scattered fights and skirmishes in the night streets beyond. A sense of ambience that had become so tragically comfortable and acquainted. Nodding once more at Bishop’s recitation, registering the subtle sense of indecision and deceit betraying the actual conviction to relent, he reminded himself to be on guard and still hold on to the idea of having to stun the man’s ass off this planet. A notion, which brought down the levity of the moment temporarily, back to the cold wet stone of reality, though it was uplifted again mere seconds later.

Letting out a sincere chuckle, Brody shook his head into the top of his chest with a gentle smirk, before looking to the side at the bearded man once more, gentle glee to his dark features. “Plausible deniability.” He stated simply. Alluding to the fact that in their line of work the omission of a truth was not considered a lie, but rather a shaping of reality. Potentially something he shared with his wife’s convictions. Only that he could distinguish still between a professional lie and a personal one.

“What about you, then?” he turned the whole thing around. “I assume it would be a lot harder to account for weeks away on guerilla warfare, than a quick twenty-four hour rescue mission.” he winked playfully … teasingly.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #51
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

“Yeah. Gotta have at least that.” He quietly repeated Brody’s words, leaning up against an exposed stanchion beam as it was jutting out from the crumbling façade.

Peering out past his fellow covert operative, there was a weariness clearly evident within the corners of Fisher’s sage green-eyes. It was the look of a man that had seen far too much sorrow in far too short a time. It was the look of a man who had wanted to make a change in his life but hadn’t yet found the internal wherewithal. The fact that Brody had, made Fisher envious of him, because he could see a hint of reverent peace in the other man’s face, no doubt a reward of having made said transition. He had every reason to champion that sense of reverence, because as he’d attested, he’d had someone waiting for him back home. A someone he loved, who loved him, and whom he could find meaning in as he went on in life. For Fisher, that loved one had since passed, her death a result of his inability to stop and turn back before it was too late. Sadly, this wasn’t a new revelation for Fisher, who had been struggling with the role he’d played in Nassyra’s death ever since. The guilt he felt, had fueled him into volunteering for this suicide mission, and had driven him into acting without any thought for his own safety for well-being.

He had decided he’d die a spy as some kind of punishment for having failed to become something else while it still mattered.

“First Officer, eh?” he raised one of his thick eyebrows slightly higher than the other out of curiosity as a wry little smirk crossed his face. “Guess that means you carry the rank of at least Lieutenant Commander. Means I’m guilty of insubordination of a superior officer.” His attempt at levity, the tried-and-true defense mechanism hard at work, did little to assuage him in the moment. All the same, he did his best to not let onto the deeper thoughts running through his mind, calling on his most practiced poker face to protect him from being detected. Yet the allusion to Fisher’s own need for an excuse with regard to a someone who might be waiting for him, caught him a little off-guard, as while he should have expected some kind of a reciprocating inspection, he hadn’t. Glancing back at Brody as the man winked with a semblance of playful teasing, Fisher wondered how he might approach the subject, and whether or not to obfuscate rather than be truthful. He had no way of knowing if Brody was being genuine, or if he was simply trying to batter down any defensive walls which Fisher had put up, a cunning attempt to coerce him into being more cooperative.

His gaze still partially transfixed on Brody, Fisher manifested a series of words right up unto the very periphery of his consciousness; words which were ready to be transformed from mere thought to audible verbalization, but he didn’t formulate a single syllable. Instead, he remained deliberately silent as the will to speak just wasn’t with him, only a long exhale escaping from flared nostrils as he shifted his gaze back to the apocalyptic scene all around them. Part of him had wished to warn Brody against making the same mistakes which Fisher had, to take what he had and cherish it while he still could, but he wouldn’t. It wasn’t his place, and he doubted the other man would even lend much credence to the advice of someone who was as broken as Fisher. Another part of him wanted to bear his soul and lay it all out there, to alleviate the tension and anguish which was still harbored deep within, but he couldn’t. No, Fisher knew that he needed to feel what he still could regardless of how painful it was, because while it drove him to be reckless, it also drove him to be the ultra-effective weapon and tool which could better serve Starfleet and the Federation. It was his abandon of self-concern which may as well have removed any sense of fear that had previously held him back from making the kind of insanely dangerous and fool-hearty plays that others would never have even considered.

It gave him an edge, but it also meant that his survival was heavily based on luck.

Lightning soon flashed overhead again, accompanied a second later by the clap of thunder and the soft pitter-patter of rain as it began to fall. The reprieve was at an end and the storm had returned. Reaching for the bottle of whisky, Fisher threw back another quick swig as he shifted his weight until he’d leant with his back against the stanchion, casting a head on gaze toward Brody. “I imagine Nass would have liked you.” He finally admitted, deciding to embrace the moment, at least in a manner which wouldn’t entirely unseal the tap attached to the black hole in his chest. “Hell, she’d probably be screaming at me to just go along with you. To get as far away from here and the front lines as I can.” Tilting the pate of his head to the right as his eyes narrowed, he felt the sting of droplets as they sprayed against his cheek by the gradually building wind. “If she were here.” The defiant  tone of his voice making it abundantly clear why she wasn’t without having to necessarily spell it out. There was also a hint of challenge in Fisher’s voice, as though he knew where things were leading toward, and that he wouldn’t back down from the promise he had previously made.

“As far as I’m concerned, until that fucking thing is gone, I’m not going anywhere.” Throwing back a thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the Dominion Battlecruiser still hovering over the city, he sought to reiterate his point just in case it had been lost in their short moment of sentimentality.

Fisher had grown to respect, and even to a degree, understand Brody. There were clear parallels between the two spies, having even come from the same training tree, but they still had different concepts as to what they were supposed to be doing. Well, more so they had different understanding of what Fisher was supposed to be doing. Sure, Brody was acting under orders from Anderson to bring Fisher back, which meant that Fisher’s own orders were quite clear, but when he’d volunteered for this suicide mission, he had done so with the understanding that it would only end in either victory or death. Anything else had meant a failure on his part, and he’d been through more than enough of those in recency. “Your shuttle is due overhead soon, and as it is, I still have no intention of going with you.” Holding out a hand as if to pre-empt any immediate retorts, Fisher knew he at least owed Brody a modicum of compromise for having been as lenient with fulfilling his mission parameters as was possible. “But... now that we’ve hijacked the signal jammers, we might be able to get a secure subspace line with Anderson.” Taking a deep breath, because he knew he could ultimately regret the offer he was about to make, he decided to press on anyway. “If he still wants you to bring me in, I’ll go. No resisting. Hell, I’ll even shut up during the trip back.”

Knowing there was an unspoken scenario left undefined by what he was just outlined, he looked around their immediate confines. “...and if we can’t get a line, then you and I can have it out however, wherever you’d like.”

“That’s the best I can do.”

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #52
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

When thinking of how getting married had changed his life, Brody would freely dive into the more superficial waters of complaining about the etiquette and romanticized notions imposed upon him by his wife. But if he were to hold his breath, go under and take the time to dive deeper into the darker hues of his character, he’d find the colorful, glowing creatures of the deep that more partly described the change he’d gone through. No, the change that had shaped him like the very stones dotting the floor of this ethereal ocean. Grinding him down in a swifter notion, however, than eons of back and forth against one another.

Though there had certainly been a lot of rubbing against one another … no doubt.

But deep down he’d find the kind of calm and perspective that only caring for someone else more than about yourself could impose. The kind of purpose that let you coast along on rose-colored clouds when everything was going well and then throw all countenance overboard when protectiveness kicked in at the cusp of things going bad. And while he would’ve attested to probably being far more level-headed before ever meeting Samantha, he couldn’t deny how much he loved the feeling of being grounded to the heavenly shores of marriage. How the good times they had shared so far measured way more than the years and years that had preceded it. A notion that did not dare fathom a world beyond this sensation, a life without, once taken a sip of the ambrosia that was true love.

As sappy as that all sounded, Brody was starkly aware of the reality surrounding his little kingdom, and the dangers lurking there. More so in this very moment, since coming to Betazed. Ever since diving deeper into the dark blue of Bishop’s character, finding a lifeless abyss with the carcasses of happy memories littered around like testaments of death and resignation. It wasn’t a world he enjoyed exploring.

Tilting his head to give the man a quizzical, albeit amused look, Brody shook his pate lightly at the insolence and playfully naïve demeanor of his partner in crime. “Among other things …” he replied calmly. Surely Bishop could remember all the way back when he’d first defied a direct order. One from an even higher rank than Lieutenant Commander. Even on the matter of direct insubordination, one could argue there had been more instances than one, in this past day alone. But he was willing to exact a blanket court martial on all of that. If only for the more agreeable accord they had struck as of recent. Because if he’d learned one thing, then that the bearded man would only leave this planet in one of two ways: Limp as a fish, or by his own volition. And at this point in his career, he rather no carry anymore soldiers out.

But he would …

“Smart gal.” he added quietly, returning his dark eyes to the cityscape beyond, taking a moment to contemplate the implications and revelations of the tidbits relayed. All the dead remains at the pit of his soul and the erratic shadows in his every decision. “See …” Brody started out, turning back to the man with a somewhat curious stance across his face. “… despite my wife not being here, I’d still heed her opinions. Because in the end, time and space is just an idea, if you think about it. No matter what separates you, doesn’t invalidate your feelings, or hers. So, what’s keeping you from taking her advice?”

Sure, he understood that he was talking about a dead woman here. But in the grander scheme, what difference did it make if his significant other was on a starship somewhere or, a realm away a little further. He wasn’t some soulless ghoul, who didn’t know any motivation but duty and righteousness. He had all these memories and references to a better life, it seemed, yet chose to torture himself with defiance of everything he once held dear, in some sort of sick ploy to self-punishment. That much had been evident from the first time he’d thrown himself on a grenade or ran headfirst into a wall of enemies.

Clearly the only saving grace in Bishop’s existence was the fact that fate seemed to have other plans. And despite not knowing how many times that would right his wrongs, he went right ahead and ignored his sheer luck again and again.

Letting out a disgruntled sigh Brody shook his pate into a submissive stance, half hanging between his broad shoulders, eyes transfixed to the rubble beneath. "Not to rub it in or anything, though. But I recall at least two instances in the past day alone that could’ve had you taking the swan dive to eternity while that thing wouldn’t even have noticed.” And what good would that sacrifice have done? At least Brighton’s had a sense of meaning, because it hadn’t been born out of stupid heroism, but necessity.

However, Brody was not above that pesky sense of diplomacy, his wife had instilled upon him, and Bishop just happened to have to meet him halfway, as his body hovered within inches of his own so he could almost feel the heat radiating off the man’s muscles. Or just the sentiment of it. And the sensation wasn’t alleviated by his questionable choice of words either. Instead, it made his skin burn slightly with the sting of second-hand embarrassment. Or was it a different kind of excitement? Either way, the value of his inability to blush could not be overstated right now.

“So, what’s the plan then, until then?” he mused, as if tot ake the olive branch extended into consideration. “I am not going to have it out with you until you’ve had a shower, that’s for sure.”

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #53
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

Casting a somewhat wry glance at the other man as he pointed out the reality regarding the Jem’Hadar Battlecruiser hovering in the distance, Fisher understood that in the grand scheme of things his stubborn persistence in seeing it gone made him seem like a madman, stuck in his ways until they would ultimately consume him. But what Brody hadn’t factored into the equation, was that when Fisher had accepted this suicide mission, he had been explicitly instructed that there would be no early retreat, or any retreat at all for that matter. The mission would either succeed, and Betazed would be liberated by the Federation and its allies, or the mission would fail, and he and all the other volunteers would have perished in the fight. Sure, the fatalism of Operation ‘Spark’ was something that had naturally attracted someone in the kind of precarious mental state within which he had been mired ever since Nass had bled out in his arms, but Fisher still very much preferred victory to defeat. And despite all of the pain, anguish, and regret which besieged his emotional senses, he wasn’t totally without the will to keep going.

However, as he let Brody’s words seep into his conscious thought, breaking them down and the meanings hidden within them, he couldn’t escape the inherent truth that the man was espousing, perhaps without even intending to. Whether or not Nassyra was still living, meant little when it came to what she would have wanted for him. If anything, her death, which he believed had come as a direct result of his inability to abandon a mission and his sense of duty, only exacerbated the internal conflict raging in his mind.

“You’re not wrong.” He admitted, somewhat begrudgingly, but all the same.

Crossing his arms over his chest he allowed himself a moment wherein he genuine wondered if maybe it was time to give this up. If he had done his part well enough, and that he could finally return behind the lines to recuperate and regather himself. It was an alluring premise, for sure. Every part of Fisher’s body had grown weary over the long haul of two-weeks of hard fighting. His conscious thought a veritable raging torrent of mixed emotions that could have kept the most talented of Counseling Officers occupied for months on end. Doubt began to creep forward into the forefront of his thoughts now, stirred by Brody from where it had been nestled away at the back, and the sage-eyed bearded man began to imagine himself back home in Boston for a respite from all of this. A chance to try and heal the myriad wounds of his body and soul, restoring himself so that he might be a better soldier once more, and more importantly a better man.

Yet the moment it had all started to feel like it was the right thing for him to do, his attention came snapping back from the precipice of where Brody had placed him as the sound of atmospheric turbulence shrieked and howled high overhead.

“They’re here! They found us!” announced Ebirone as he came charging up the stairwell that led down into the main level of the bivouac.

Shooting a look of concern at Brody, Fisher then stormed off past the big Betazed and descended the stairs in a hurry. Behind him he could hear Ebirone hot on his heels, and when he reached the staging-area he saw Sariah corralling her people into action. “How the hell did they track us?! Why didn’t our sensor grid pick them up?!” she shouted at Christine who was nearby, hastily running her hands over a console in an attempt to understand. All about and around them, the panicked and scared people who couldn’t fight were gathering up what little personal affects they could, while the blue-skinned Betrull hustled to divvy out weapons to whomever was sturdy enough to carry one. From behind, Ebirone patted Fisher on his shoulder and offered him a primed Jem’Hadar disruptor, which he accepted.

“I don’t know! The sensor grid is functioning! It just didn’t detect them for some reason!” Christine shouted back.

“Never mind that! We need to get these people into the escape tunnels. Now!” Ebirone retorted.

Nodding in succinct agreement, Fisher began pushing his way through the panicked people toward the escape trunk that would feed down into the tunnels beneath the old building. “C’mon!” he called after Brody, very much in need of the sort of hand he could offer. “Move! Move out of the way!” he shouted at the crowd, most of which was too panicked to even notice his voice calling out them. Soon the ground and everything around them shook with a visceral tremor, and for an instant the spy figured the building about to collapse unto him and everyone else. The people cried out in terror as the walls rumbled, and dust particles fell from the ceiling rafters above them.

“Bombardment?!” blurted out Betrull.

“No! If it was a bombardment, we’ve have been crushed already.” Fisher replied, peering back at the Bolian.

“Then what was that?!”

“Landing.” Fisher answered simply. “They’re probably setting up a perimeter.” He added.

“We need to go!” Sariah commanded, and Fisher acknowledged with a nod.

“Wait!” cried out another voice. “They won’t kill anyone so long as we don’t run!” explained Aatrah with an alarming reasoning hidden in his voice. “If we drop our weapons, and give up, they promised they wouldn’t kill anyone!” The young Betazed cast the gaze of his black-eyes from his sister, to Ebirone, and lastly to Fisher and Brody.

“What... how... what do you mean, they promised? What’re you talking about, kid?” Ebirone approached where Aatrah stood.

The silence that persisted from Fisher and from Sariah spoke to the realization that they’d already had, which Ebirone didn’t want to himself have out of some sense of heartbreaking disappointment that his pseudo-adopted little brother could have made such a monumental mistake. “We don’t have time for this, we need to get into the tunnels!” Fisher sought to re-clarify the necessity of escape, knowing they had precious few moments to get moving before the Jem’Hadar would overrun the bivouac. He had already understood what was happening and knew that any arrangement that had been made would never be kept in earnest by the Dominion. He just knew that dealing with who had done what was nothing more than a distraction, and that the paramount need to get everyone out was just that.

“No! Don’t! Ebb! I swear, they said they wouldn’t hurt anyone if we didn’t run! Please!?” Aatrah pleaded, holding out his hands to both Ebirone, hoping that his sister would intervene on his behalf. “Sar... please! They only want them!” the young Rena pointed to Brody and Fisher, and then cast a sympathetic glace back to his sister who seemed stuck in her place.

Fisher heard what was said, but didn't react, having already assumed that he'd been offered up in some kind of an arrangement that the younger Rena had struck.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #54
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

In the grander scheme of things, Brody hoped that Bishop didn’t think him to be a pessimist. Someone who didn’t believe one person could make a difference. Because that was not the truth and would’ve presented him in a light he didn’t care for. As a matter of fact, he was more than convinced that one person alone could tip the scales of time. And there had been many instances of that happening in the past. But self-sacrifice wasn’t some sort of buff, that you could use every time you needed a leg up, it was a rather definitive last-ditch effort to success. And if that didn’t work, then that was it. No second chance. It was all for nothing.

So maybe that was where their views differed, in the matter of grandeur in which that last impact should be going down. The innate certainty with which success had to be implicated, for the man to even consider that path. Not to diminish the bearded man’s life and value thereof, but Brody wasn’t willing to throw his away, just at the off chance of also leaving a mark, while merely numbing the pain and guilt, primarily. He couldn’t say for sure at this point, of course, but he had a feeling that if he was to give his life in the line of duty, somewhere down the line, it would be meaningful and remembered.

But there was also the fifty-fifty chance he’d simply slip in the shower someday.

And while it surely would’ve mattered to his wife, to be able to get reassurance over talking sense into someone, rallying them to her cause, it wasn’t so much for the Commander. He nodded gladly, at Bishop’s agreement, figuring it was a pledge towards considering his own mortality an advantage worth holding on to, from now on. Which was good enough for him. Of course, he still didn’t have an illusion that Bishop would simply give up his crusade simply for him striking a nerve and making some sense. The overall situation hadn’t changed that much, considering how many times they risked their lives the past hours, and there obviously still needed to be some kind of resolution for the operative to leave this planet in any state but being tranquilized.

For the first time, in all this time, Brody could feel like he had developed a kind of understanding over the man and his psyche. And he felt like that feeling was mutual. Tracking the guy’s sage colored eyes with his dark orbs, as they fell to the floor in contemplation once more, he wondered – if only for a moment – what their relationship would’ve been like fi they had met under different circumstances. Maybe years ago, when he still was in this game full-time too. When they both were still idealistic do-gooders under the spell of duty and the grander scheme. He imagined they would’ve been quite similar in character then. And had they been on a similar mission then - considering how close they’d grown over this short term despite both being these closed-off, pessimistic selves – he could only imagine how their relationship would’ve developed in the hot, narrow and moist trenches of a war.

But all those hypothetical went out the window literally with a bang … or the hole in the rubble, for that matter, as Ebirone’s voice echoed up the small staircase leading to the hideout, bellowing like trumpets. Shooting up from his seat, Brody’s limbs tensioned, and his hands clenched around the imaginary grip of his rifle. Where was his rifle?! Looking back at Bishop, as if trying to squeeze a last token of reassurance from the man that this was not just some misguided cock-blocking attempt, the operative quickly dashed over to his backpack and weapon, getting himself into shipshape on their way down the narrow stairs.

The hideout was abuzz with the frantic civilians that pooled out of their caves and corners like ants being alerted by the pheromones of their soldiers. The whole hive was in communal uproar and it was making it hard for those who could actually make a difference to get coordinated. Bishop’s outcries and commands fell on deaf ears, plucked with the wool of panic. Taking a skeptical look at the new cracks forming, in the already fractured debris around them, Brody had to agree with the man. They were probably being surrounded as they spoke. Simply going with the flow for now, as the guerilla leadership seemed to have some sort of plan, which involved their whole posse – and not just Fisher – to get to safety, he was going to roll with that. As long as it didn’t directly contradict his own mission.

But then the bomb went off, figuratively, as the youngest began to speak. His mind instantly went to that dark place that everyone still skirted around simply because this was basically just a kid, that had sold them out. Still, his body couldn’t resist the urge to move forward menacingly but stopping himself a good bit before twisting the teenagers neck. If there was anyone, he’d be able to understand and forgive such a manipulation, however, it was Aatrah. His dark eyes still transfixed on the kid’s counterparts, instilling an icy sensation of dread that would hit the empathetic boy to the core.  And he would’ve continued to reciprocate a feeling of guilt over what he’d done if Bishop hadn’t intervened with a rather succinct assessment.

War tribunals were held when the war was won.

The specification over what was bargained for, however, prompted Brody to turn back and take a step forward that made the younger Betazoid flinch backwards half behind his sister. Thus his glance soon switched to her.

“You better get your brother in the tunnel, or I’ll tie him down to that post, so he can figure out for himself how forgiving the Jem’Hadar really are.” he told her, his voice low and menacing, leaving no doubt by now that he was capable of doing so. Surely some of his resentment for the idealistic woman with the tough exterior went into the venom of his words. Especially since treason had struck so close to her.

Ushering the pair past him, following the flow of civilians to the escape tunnels, Brody cocked his rifle, marking out the last passage on their way they could dig into, in order to give the caravan a head start. Unsurprisingly, Fisher and Ebirone seemed to be with him.

“I hope you didn’t think this was going to grant you an extension.” he told the other operative, against the doorway they were taking cover behind. A gentle glimmer of mischievousness to his dark features.

“I give you ten minutes, not a second more.” Brody added, bringing his rifle up and turning the scope on so he could scan the adjacent passage for cloaked assailants. Ten minutes for the refugees to get the fuck out of there. Ten minutes for Bishop to make up his mind.

And he better came up with a damn fucking good plan to wrap this mess up.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #55
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

All about and around him, people scrambled for their lives as Bishop listened to the exchange being had between confused resistance fighters.

There had been a few instances throughout Fisher’s recent, somewhat checkered past wherein he would have been more than pleased to have been the one to have stirred up such a sentiment of disarray and panic among people of this sort; refugees, civilians, the general innocent victims who had found themselves sadly caught in the midst of a most dangerous game of chess know as war. Playing off of the sensitive heartstrings of your opponent’s populace in order to deter a willingness to carry on against you, was a tried-and-true method of sabotage in which he had a surprising knack for. Sure, to an extent he had felt some sense of empathy for those he had manipulated and had at times even regretted his actions in eliciting the kind of terror, which was necessary to a mission’s success, but he had always considered it to be within his particular zone of morality. He had seen it as bending or blurring the lines of what the Federation would have condoned or allowed their operatives to undertake in the name of peace and prosperity; acceptable as it didn’t outright tread over them.

But here and now, as he could see the look of uncertainty; of absolute weariness and dread in the faces of all these poor stricken refugees whom he had been trying to protect and save for the previous two weeks, it began to dawn on him that maybe the ends didn’t truly justify the means.

In an instant, he even imagined Aatrah going through similar mental gymnastics and an attempt to try and make his betrayal seem a correct course of action to have taken. After all, he hadn’t explicitly sold out his friends or loved ones. In a way, he was acting as any civilian might have in trying to exclude themselves from a conflict being waged by two combatants. It mattered not that one of them was technically fighting on behalf of those civilians and their right to live free, while the other was actively seeking to subjugate and oppress them. All that really mattered to the young Rena, was the lives of his friends and family; was saving as many of his people as he possibly could, even if it meant bending the rules. It surely didn’t help matters, that Bishop and Mason were nothing more than a pair of spies to the young lad; literal trained assassins and infiltrators who hadn’t even revealed their real names during their time planet side. They were outsiders, not even to be misconstrued with the other members of Starfleet that had also been fighting the Dominion. No, Betrull, Christine, and Ebirone had been honest about who they were from the very beginning and had no reason to be duplicitous in their dealings.

Again, for an instant Fisher could even imagine a conniving Vorta explaining it all in plain English to the misguided youth via whatever backend communication channel they had managed to establish without his, or anyone else’s knowledge.

Digressing back the thought, just as Mason had also been so inclined, the matter could wait till later to be more fully resolved. For now, they needed to move, and move quick if they were going to have any chance at all of surviving this latest in a long line of catastrophes. “Through the tunnel! Keep going! Remember our drills, and you’ll be fine!” Fisher shouted over the commotion, his voice accented by another rumble of the structure above, dust slipping free from the old cracks wherein it had lay dormant since the initial bombardment of Betazed. A smattering of yelping and cries followed, yet the flow of the helpless out of their various hiding spots continued to progress in earnest. They had no idea how long it would take for the Jem’Hadar to begin storming into the emptying bivouac from the primary entrances that led up into the destroyed structure above. Minutes would be preferable to seconds, Fisher thought as he pushed a pair of panicked men past him to keep the way clear for any suppressing fire he might need to lay down. Ahead of his, he saw Mason trying to speed things up, similarly attempting to shove people past him toward the tunnel entrance.

“Chris! Get down there ahead of us, and make sure they’re following the right path!” Fisher ordered, sensing the need to give instructions since both Sariah and Ebirone had gone silent in the wake of their world being metaphorically destroyed.

“I wouldn’t dream it!” he soon answered his fellow spy, giving him a stern yet wholly understanding nod.

What an absolute mess this had turned out to be. Probably worse than the other Operative could have envisioned when given his orders to come and extract Fisher, and it triggered within the bearded man something of a second guess regarding his decision to stay. Maybe his being here; his very presence was well past prudence, and it was indeed time to call it a complete mission and move on. Would the Rena Resistance have been as effective in their efforts to undermine the Dominion occupation? Probably not, but they also would have been far less of a target for the Jem’Hadar. Maybe, instead of a mission of sabotage, they would have been better served by only keeping and caring after the displaced refugees that were now mired in a most dangerous position. Fisher’s presence had put them in danger. It had turned something small, and insignificant into something that had warranted the close attention of an enemy which would show no hesitance in killing any and all involved. As had been the past, his actions, and the actions of Starfleet Intelligence had put the people they were to serve in the direct path of harm.

“No!” a voice blurted out.

Turning back to where it emanated among the sounds of rumbling concrete and shuffling feet, Fisher saw Aatrah standing just feet from his sister with a frustrated and defiant look in his face; tears streaming down both cheeks. There was an obvious pleading to his expression, mixed with an apologetic incredulousness that struck right to the very core of the spy’s heart.

“I won’t... I won’t let you! I can’t!” he screamed, a desperate creak to his throat as a cacophonous boom reverberated through the concrete structure all around them.

This situation was hastily degrading to the point of an impasse, and Fisher silent prayed that neither he nor Mason would need to be the one to force beyond it. Sage green eyes began to dilate in realization of what such a boom signaled; the Dominion had blown something away with explosives, meaning they were close, if not immediately about to breach the bivouac.

“We absolutely don’t have time for this!” hollered Fisher.

“Sar! Please! They said they’d--” whatever else the young traitor had been about to say was cut short as heavy footsteps encroached from the south entrance, an echoing drumbeat which cut right through any and all quarrels which might have previously been at play, accentuated by the sudden high-pitched staccato of voluminous disruptor fire that caught several unfortunate souls as they were scurrying for the escape tunnel.

Immediately, synapses fired in Fisher’s trained brain, forcing muscles and tendons to constrict in such a manner that his body spun round, a pistol raising to the level of his shoulder, returning fire with utter alacrity. It was an autonomic action, allowed to proceed as any fuses for self-preservation had long since burned out from stress and loss. The only thing that mattered in the minute, was sustaining a suppressive wave of superior firepower on the enemy so that any remaining friends and allies could try and escape a foul fate at the hands of their enemy. As had been the case in every engagement he’d ever been through, the passage of time seemed to speed up and slow down at the same time, a contradiction of reality that only those who had been in such a fight could have ever understood. With steady strides, he moved not for the tunnel to escape, but rather to where the Jem’Hadar were trying to breach, his weapon cycling as quickly as it possibly could, yet not fast enough to meet the demand of his finger against it’s actuator. All around him, the world seemed to grow dim and silent, an unnatural echo to that which he could discernably hear, as his mind was hyper-focused on the task at hand.

Soon enough the weapons fire ceased, a pile of five dead Jem’Hadar lay crumpled at the base of the stairwell that had led in, their bodies dotted with blue glowing holes that had been blown clean through their abdomens, a steady pool of violet blood forming on the concrete flooring beneath them. The tide of their enemy had stymied for just a moment, but the bottleneck wouldn’t hold forever, or for more than just a few seconds. Fisher knew that shock grenades would come prior to the inevitable second wave, and that any chance of defending was a futile one given the inexhaustible numbers their enemy likely had to throw at them.

“No, no, no!” he heard a frantic voice, assuming it to be one of the friends of family members of the poor victims that had just been shot dead.

“No! Shit, no!” exclaimed a baritone counterpart which Fisher recognized instantly.

Allowing his sharp focus on the entryway to wane out of curiosity, and aware that Mason likely had just as keen an eye on the situation, he peered back over a shoulder to ascertain what it was that Ebirone was reacting to. It didn’t take but an instant for the realization to hit him.

“Sar! Sar! No! Sar!” sobbed Aatrah as he clung to his sister, cradling her in his arms as she lay slumped over on the floor, a blank look in her unmoving eyes as the front left side of her forehead was singed by an apparent disruptor bolt that had struck her. In the commotion, she had gone to grab her brother; to try and shield him from the attack, and in doing so had taken a shot meant for him. “Please! You have to help! Please!” the kid frantically looked back and forth from Ebirone to his dead sister, clinging unto her out of a desperate need to hold onto the hope that she could make it. Ebirone could only down on the scene in horror and sadness, his hands barely able to grasp his disruptor rifle, yet he understood the situation, and how there was no time or moment that they could spend dwelling on the dead, regardless of who they had been. Gruffly, he reached down to grab Aatrah by his shoulders, hefting him to his feet, allowing the elder Rena’s body to come to a complete rest on the floor. The kid tried to fight against his friend, to try and grab for his sister, but he couldn’t muster the strength to overwhelm the bigger Betazoid.

“She’s gone. She’s gone! We have to go!” Ebirone explained, pulling Aatrah with him as he made for the tunnel.

Watching it all unfold for him, Fisher could recognize and even understand the pain that Aatrah was feeling; having lost sibling of his own, yet he couldn’t imagine the implicit guilt the boy would have felt for having so directly caused his sister’s death. With a sigh, he caught glimpse of Mason for just a split second before he too reached out to grab at a grieving refugee, beckoning them to move. “Come on. We can’t stay any longer. Come on!” he said softly to a woman, clinging to what he could only assume to be her dead husband. Once more, he tried to mask the gratitude he was feeling in that he wasn’t an Empath, as he knew the shared turmoil of these poor people must have been damn near overwhelming. He was fortunate to have been so jaded; so stonewalled to the world in this particular moment, and he thanked fate for it. Better to feel nothing, than to feel the kind of ache these people were experiencing.

The woman moving on after Ebirone, who himself was effectively carrying an inconsolable Aatrah, Fisher stepped closer to where Sariah’s body was left. He would speak highly of her in whatever report he’d write to summarize his time on Betazed, even if he and her had never once had a moment of mutual respect and understanding. She had only ever acted in what she thought was the best interests of her people and had sadly paid dearly for it.

“Let’s get out of here.” He said softly, once more looking back to Mason before stepping to the tunnel.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #56
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

Watching the tides of beetles ebb and flow around him, breaking against the corners and protrusions of the intricate labyrinth, Bishop and him like rocks in the midst of it, Brody couldn’t quite honestly say he felt any sense of impending doom over the situation. All that was transpiring over the course of this mission was – especially when taking into account the talents and proclivities of the other operative – only a matter of when, rather than if.

On a historic level, the notion of resistance was one with a checkered past. Some successes, many failures. But in the book of romanticized notions, it was a sentiment venerated by free spirits. A compulsion, born from a subjective sense of justice. And that was the far more dangerous conviction. Had he realized what his companion was thinking, how he viewed his involvement in the plight of these people, in almost retrospect, the Commander would’ve whole-heartedly agreed.

Leaving aside the fact that the man expanded the scope of his orders into some sort of personal crusade, he had inadvertently given the resistance something that was for more dangerous than even hope: reassurance.
Reassurance that this way was the right way. That fighting the unwinnable fight was better than sitting it out and letting fleets and – god forbid for him ever admitting this – diplomats doing the work. For while involving the civilian populous in the dangers of battle was a war crime in regards to the opponent, it implied a similar sense of judgment passed upon those who sought themselves defending what was right.

The danger to the people of Betazed after the initial occupation was debatable, the danger to those siding with the rebellion was factual. There was no benefit from sterilizing entire worlds, but there was from snuffing out the ambers that threatened your power. And this was exactly why people like Bishop – and who Brody HAD been – weren’t tasked with acquainting themselves to the ramifications of politics and judgment. On a galactic scale that was wholly above their paygrade.

And a wonderful thing happened if you followed orders to the T: you could make peace at the sometimes illusory bosom of zero accountability. What was it one of his old instructors at the academy had said? You wouldn’t judge the weapon, but the one who’s wielding it. And that was who Bishop and he were … or had been … weapons.

But once again, the man’s contemplations and justifications were interrupted by someone whining. Dark eyes shifting back to the recently discovered traitor in their midst, Brody had actually already come to peace with the fact, but Aatrah wasn’t exactly helping by being so passionately persistent. And despite his clear instructions, his sister was little to no help either. So if she wasn’t able to restrain the kid, he was more than willing to do so. Not lastly after Fisher reminded them that there was no time for this.

Letting the phrase ‘No kidding!’ wash non-verbally over his face, the man conceded.

But then the first batch of armadillo critters burst from the rodent hole leading towards the surface. A fact that – he had to admit – was happening as a slight surprise to the former operative. He’d actually figured they would have a little bit more time. And before he could actually do more than get a few targeted shots in, Bishop had taken care of the majority of them in that late 20th century action hero fashion only he could.

Pushing the tongue into his cheek over the steaming pile of bodies he still had to admit to the effectiveness of the crazy antics, this time, while their situation hadn’t really improved. Save a zero point infinity drop in overall Dominion forces.

But just as they were about to finally be able and move on, the little puppy started yapping again.

“Can you finally take care of your …” Brody barked out in a disgruntled twirl, turning back to the rest of the remaining patrons, only to stop mid-track at the sight of the younger Betazoid hunched over his sister’s seemingly lifeless body. And while he had shared a great deal of indifference towards her, death was a judgment that had come far before her time. Undeservedly so.

Watching the hulking Betazoid take care of Aatrah closer and more personally that he could ever do, Brody bit back a silent sense of disillusion over the already dire outlook of the resistance’s odds. For even though he did not share the mawkish sense of hope in their own weight against the overwhelming odds, he had developed an incontrovertible passion for them as people. People who had summoned, but not deserved, what was now coming for them.  Guilt was not on those defending their homes, but on those from off-world, bringing their intergalactic disagreement to the streets of Betazed.

Ultimately readjusting his backpack, slung over one shoulder for ease of access, the former operative pulled out one of the remaining grenades and set the trigger, before throwing it in a skilled curve up into the descending cavity, with the dead Jem’Hadar at its mouth. While the Rena had no further need for the passage leading into the compound, their opponents sure did. And counting on the already precarious state of the caverns and tunnels, it would take very little to seal the entrance.

Kicking up some dust, as his soles slid across the cracked ground while he started off towards the exit, a loud bang drowned up the resurgence of Jem’Hadar voices coming from the tunnel behind him. Followed by a blast of smoke and gravel, flying through the room. Almost sliding into the tunnel after Bishop, one of the larger beams acting as the roof of the cave, cracked and fell too, effectively making this a one-way trip for certain now. Settling into a corner close to the other man, as the wave of air and dust subsided around them, he let out a coughed-up breath, shaking some whisps of ground concrete from his Caesar cut.

Letting dark eyes on the bearded man’s features for a moment, relating a notion caught between judgment and thought, Brody eventually squeezed past him to step into the clearing at the mouth of the escape route where Ebirone, Aatrah and Chris were waiting.

“So, what’s the plan for you guys. What’s the line of succession?” he asked succinctly, now more intent to get this whole mission over with than ever. One way or another.

“I guess he’s out.” He nodded at the younger Rena, in reference to his biological ties with the former leader.

“Where’s your backup camp?” Brody intended to try it another way, hoping someone at least had a plan, so it wasn’t up to Bishop or him to devise one. There was at least hope that with the sacrifice of Sariah they would just bunker down somewhere and let the pros do the work. But it was sadly highly likely that it would go the entirely different way. Especially if Bishops blind ambition had anything to say about it, he supposed.

Turning to look over his shoulder, back at the other officer, one brow cocked expectantly, he sure hoped the man would be able to make the right decision for everyone.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #57
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

Old masonry tiles laid down centuries before, that had barely clung to the lining of these sewers throughout that time now finally slipped free from their bonding in chain-reaction to the reverberating report of explosives left in the wake of this hasty evacuation. The Bivouac. Sariah Rena. Nearly a half-dozen others. All left behind, and only uncertainty awaited them and this fledgling resistance movement. In a veritable blink of an eye, the bitter-sweetness of a hard-fought victory over the Dominion had turned utterly and completely sour. Suddenly, it was becoming clear that any and all desperate hopes which Fisher might have previously held onto regarding the fate of these people, and their courageous efforts to turn back the tide were gone. They had been wiped away by desperation which not only rivaled, but far outmatched his own. A desperation born of an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness, and worse, helplessness. It was a sentiment civilians championed out of inexperience, naivety, and ignorance. A sentiment he’d seen before; he’d even capitalized on it before, and now it had come full circle to bite him and everyone else in their asses. Fisher knew he should have been wary of it, but he had allowed himself and his better judgement to be blinded.

‘War isn’t a game for civilians. You think a soldier who’s been cornered or surrounded by a mortal enemy is a dangerous animal? Try taming a helpless and war-torn parent, who’s watched as their child has starved for days on end. No. It’s not us that are the real threat in a conflict. It’s them. All of them, and how they cling onto something as ludicrous as hope for a better tomorrow.’ Hurley’s advisement at the dawn of a prior undercover operation Fisher had been on came to the forefront of his thoughts as he stepped down past a few terrified refugees as they were holding onto each other for support. The man was an absolute prick. The kind of person that you wanted to forget the moment he left your presence, but his teachings and guidance had been instrumental in Fisher’s life as a spy, and what was troubling, was how often his cynical words and warnings proved prudent. ‘I’m telling you. It’s that hope that will drive them to do great and horrible things. Drive them to compromise who they are today, for the promise of maybe being better tomorrow.’ The sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach reminded Fisher just how much he hated Hurley as he approached the front of the pack.

Christine and Betrull were knelt over, checking a diagram of the sewer tunnel network, re-familiarizing themselves with the best path to take. Normally, Sariah and Ebirone would have taken the lead, but neither seemed to be in any kind of shape to do that. The big Betazed hadn’t said a word since everything took a left turn, standing with a blank look on his face as he held a still inconsolable Aatrah by both arms.

“Okay! We’ve got our route. I think.” Announced Christine as she stood, unslung her rifle, and approached Ebirone and Aatrah.

Peering back to Mason, Fisher gave him a simple and almost entirely imperceptible nod that only another spy would’ve picked up on. The gesture spoke volumes about the state of mind Fisher was in and signaled a moment to sidebar with his compatriot. Given how deeply buried they all were now, there was no imminent threat from the Jem’Hadar above, as the very reason they had chosen this place for their operating bivouac was this old sewer system and the logistics nightmare it represented to anyone trying to navigate it without any fore-knowledge. The only method which would provide immediate results, bombarding the entirety of the area until it was little more than a deep crater, was one the Vorta wouldn’t allow the Jem’Hadar to take. No, the allure of capturing two Starfleet spies alive would ironically give Fisher, Brody, and the rest of the surviving resistance members their chance to slip away. Still, Fisher had his doubts as to just how safe their journey ahead would actually be, there were only so many winding sewers to get lost in, and there were thousands of Jem’Hadar to funnel into them in the hope that some might find the prize.

Stepping over and away from an earshot of anyone else as Christine began going about trying to ready everyone for travel, Fisher sighed heavily as he checked the status on his rifle instinctively. “Here’s the deal. You and I aren’t any good to these people... at least, not anymore.” He added the qualifier an instant later, as though he was still trying to convince himself that his initial mission had done some good. “These sewers are, for the most part, relatively safe and secure. They should allow everyone to get away from here and hunker down somewhere until they can make contact with another resistance cell.” There was an obvious tone in Fisher’s voice, which betrayed a newly developed sense of disproval at the idea of any of them continuing the fight elsewhere. “You’ve definitely worn out any kind of a welcome at this point, and the same goes double for me I imagine.” In truth, Fisher could envision a sense of resentment and anger being directed at both him and Brody, as misguided and misplaced it might have been. To these battered people, it was just as much the fault of these Starfleet spies that things had gone so bad so quickly, and in such desperate times people often needed someone to blame.

“Chances are the allure of tomorrow in exchange for you and me will spread now that the idea is out there.” He neglected to add how much he sympathized with such a shared sentiment, given all that these people had been through. “But Ebirone. Christine. Betrull. These people trust them. Believe in them. Everything bad that we represent, disappears when we disappear. I get that now.” It was clear that Fisher was trying to convince himself, more than he was Brody or anyone else at this point. “So you’ve got me.” He glanced back at Ebirone and Christine as they embraced each other, the former seemingly having gotten through to the former finally, and Betrull having replaced the big Betazed as the one to comfort and console the grieving Aatrah. “On one condition.” Fisher added, a sudden spark coming to mind as though he had re-discovered some kind of a reason for his presence on Betazed. “We lead the Dominion on. Get them to follow us out of here, and as far away from them as possible. Once we’re clear, we can beam to your shuttle, and you can complete your orders.” Sage green eyes now shifted back to Brody, knowing that he was again asking a lot of the man, but there was a pleading to his facial expression as he hoped to elicit something as close to a positive affirmation as possible from the fellow spy.

Before he could get a response though, Ebirone stepped closer, rifle held tightly in his big hands as he looked to both Fisher and Brody in turn. “We’re ready to get moving.” To say there was an added seriousness and air of confidence to the big man’s voice would have been an understatement, but there was something more that a seasoned poker-player could pick up on, hiding just beneath the surface of his expression. “I’m sorry about what happened back there. About what Aatrah did. About what he tried to do, to you. Both of you. I should have seen it coming.” Fisher was about to interrupt and reassure the man that there was plenty of fault to go around for not having seen what was going on, but Ebirone continued before he could. “I won’t let something like it happen again. It’s my job now. My time to lead these people. She would’ve wanted it that way.” It was true, that the elder Rena sibling had expressed a trust in Ebirone that went beyond the normal constrains of acquaintance, or even friend. No, Ebirone was every bit the big brother that Sariah and Aatrah never had, and it would fall to him to pick up the mantle of responsibility now that it had slipped from her shoulders.

Digressing back to the point, he shook any sentimental thoughts from his mind and looked to the two spies once more. “Are you two ready to go?”

Fisher looked to Brody for a determination on the matter.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #58
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

If it came down to it, Brody thought, there wasn’t really a separation that could be made between soldiers and civilians, as much as the distinction of colloquial terms suggested. There were civilians who could fill the role of a soldier more passionately and befittingly than any trained professional. Because it was not the training and skill required to fight, but the profound detachment from the individual struggle, that defined the perfect warrior. The need to rise above the ramification of immediate action, such as snuffing out a potential father, brother or husband, potentially an entire bloodline, with one random shot. Condensing an entire history into one bolt of superheated plasma. Those who weren’t capable of doing that, where the real threat to victory. A determination Bishop himself was - at times - teetering dangerously close to fulfilling. His pitfall wasn’t the lack of proper training and psychological conditioning, but the personification of the war into each and every one of these individuals. For the fight was not won with all the little victories, individual lives saved, but the commitment to the grander cause, at all costs. A distinction at which the two men greatly differed.

A thousand cells like the Rena, spread across the planet, could not rival the combined power of the fleet – physical or symbolic. They were a rash, born from desperation, that paid more in lives – compared to its victories – than any planned out large-scale attack by a proper military ever would. An unpopular reality that the other man seemed to slowly come to terms with … again. A truth that you could hate, for the simple fact that it was the truth. And it seemed to have pushed the man into the favorable position of being open to a compromise, as he beckoned him to the side.

To put it in terms his wife would use: He had him by the balls. Though Brody did not thoroughly enjoy the visual implications of the metaphor.

His initial hope for reciprocation was, however, quickly disarmed by Bishop’s almost adorable inability to admit error. Which prompted the former operative to raise his brows in obvious disbelief, though giving the man the benefit of a few more seconds to circle back down to the reality of it all. And he would also let the part slide where he wasn’t the best thing that ever happened to this entire mission, for now. Yet as he listened on, waiting for any kind of indication that the past hours weren’t just a bunch of toy blocks, Bishop could reorganize to fit his narrative, the man was horrifically disappointed. Disbelief turned into annoyance, turned into gently simmering anger.

Eyes narrowed at the man, as he went on, describing his final demands. Which were an audacity to even ask, in their own rite. The admission of Brody ‘having’ Bishop, however, almost made him break the dense fog of seriousness with an inappropriate chortle. He had him every second of the way, if he wanted to admit that to himself, now or ever, or not. Then came the condition and with it that tiny spark of delight fell back into the dark abyss of duty. He’d been indulging the man’s delusional idea of being in charge of his own fate for long enough. It was what had led them right into this mess in the first place. There was no way he’d follow that lead to jeopardize the outcome of his own mission on the fool’s errand of concluding Bishop’s.

“Not gonna happen.” Brody contemplated in his mind. The words already dancing tango on his tongue, as Ebirone stepped closer, diverting his attention slightly past that of his bearded companion. So he listened. Some more apologies and demands, that didn’t really mean anything to him. He hadn’t taken Aatrah’s “betrayal” personally. Why should he have? All the shit they were quite literally knee deep in, at this point, was because certain individuals – dark eyes briefly flickered back at Bishop – took everything so damn personal!

“Oh good, so we got THAT settled.” Brody commented, slightly sarcastically, pushing past both men with his grip tight around the matte black phaser rifle by his side. The water gushing around his feet and lapping up against the curved perimeter, before he turned to face both once more, his back now to the rest of the group.

“If you really think I am going to sacrifice myself for your crusade or this midget rebellion, then you’re more deluded than I gave you credit for. Both of you.” He proclaimed loudly, intent on having anyone hear it, if only to snuff out that last remaining spark of defiance with which each and every one of them put themselves into unnecessary danger. A danger that now he was expected to alleviate. Not - gonna - happen!

He was supposed to liberate the planet from the deputy seat of a flagship, at the head of a task force, fighting bigger threats than stray Jem Hadar platoons and communication stations. And goddammit with a place to go shower once in a while! Threats that if extinguished would actually make a difference. Threats that could easier and more effectively be snuffed out with the knowledge Bishop had acquired on this rock. So, if there was a crime, it was that he had the foresight to see what really mattered down the line, not only as far as he could throw a grenade. The kind of holistic view that wasn’t trained, or even desired, in an intelligence operative. The kind you got once you stepped out of that fabricated reality that was drip fed to you by your handlers. Shackles that were hard to shake, for sure, even after the crackling intercom voices were long gone. But an insight he hoped Bishop would be able to achieve before it consumed him.

“But we are getting out of here, the two of us.” The man subsequently admitted, voice trickling down to a low rumble, rather than a roaring rapid. “You guys go ahead, I’ll give you guys 5 minutes before I blow the passage behind you. Whether the Jem Hadar decide to follow us instead then is entirely up to them. But for their own sake I hope they think about that course of action real hard.”

Shifting his posture into a demanding stance, he was hoping that little concession was enough to wipe that puppy look off Bishop’s face, that was irritatingly starting to grow on Brody.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #59
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Sewer Network | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

OOC: Mood Music [Show/Hide]

Though he hadn’t even known his real name yet, Fisher had come to recognize a number of similarities between himself and Brody, or at least what might have been similarities were Fisher the same man now that he’d been weeks prior. Hidden behind brown eyes full of scorn, he felt he could rightly see a man who too faithfully trusted in the machine that was Starfleet and the grander Federation. Sure, Fisher was himself committed to the same cause, maybe even to a greater degree than Brody was, but in a manner that was quickly becoming more evident to the both of them. The truth of the matter was, he had grown weary of the company line, and simply following orders from Superior Officers who were often far less than aware of the details and intricacies of a situation like the one on that existed on Betazed. Indeed the broader campaign against the Dominion waged on elsewhere; and among the goals of the Federation and its Allies was the reclaiming of this particular conquered world, a task which would no doubt demand fleets of starships. It was why he and twenty-three other spies like him had been sent here in the first place; to drum up and coordinate resistance cells in advance of an eventual push to retake Betazed.

Starfleet Intelligence knew well that their operatives might lose outward communication with Starfleet, or that they’d suffer even worse fates. But someone, more specifically Admiral Anderson had deemed it necessary to send Brody here and recover Fisher, for reasons he’d not yet understood. To an extent, Fisher’s mission had been completed, as he had after all coordinated with a local resistance element. In fact, prior to his arrival the Rena were carrying out little more than the occasional skirmish with undermanned Dominion patrols. That was the minor nuisance. The rash. But what he, Brody, and the sacrifice of Albert had achieved at the Ferengi Banking Administration was more akin to a full-on epileptic seizure. With adequate communication channels, this fledgling resistance and the others could now better coordinate their efforts. Death tolls would drop substantially as a result, and the Dominion’s vicelike grip on the planet would loosen greatly in advance of the eventual attack that Starfleet would push on with. What Fisher and the Rena had helped to demonstrate, was that an unruly and resistance people could absolutely help to turn the tide in favor of their cause.

Fisher understood that now. He was trained, and like Brody, he was a lethal killing weapon the likes of which most people couldn’t fathom. But he wasn’t above these people and their struggle to fight for their freedom. Not even in the slightest. If anything, he was beholden to them and their fight because he had given an oath to the people of the Federation, just as all did when they put on that damned uniform. The people were the Federation, not some list of ideals written in a PADD somewhere, but that was easy to forget. They were after all, infinitely small cogs in an utterly overwhelming and intricate machine which seemed to go on without any awareness of their existence or plight. He himself had been blind to it before, a realization he was coming to thanks to seeing an interpretation of himself mirrored in Brody’s obviously annoyed face. It well enough could have been him standing where Brody was now, committed to his orders, and so totally filled with righteous indignation. Instead, Fisher was the one that’d had enough of the typical apathy of Starfleet Intelligence and had now chosen to actually care about the people he had invested time and energy into.

Listening to Brody’s response, he knew better than to expect some kind of revelation from him; no that came only from pain and loss the likes of which Fisher had been through in recency. But he still felt some semblance of disappointment in his fellow operative because it was Brody’s willful ignorance of the plight of these people; a cold and emotionless non-caring that had also once been a part of Fisher. “It’s not ‘MY’ crusade.” He spat back at the man with disgust that had been re-directed away from himself and the man he used to be. He wanted to expand and elaborate on the meaning in words left unsaid; that this wasn’t a crusade, rather it was the right thing to do, but he decided against it. No matter what he would say at this point, nor how poignant he might say it, it wouldn’t make a difference. Brody had to come to understand this on his own. If he ever would. For now though, any kind of ‘puppy’ look was gone from Fisher’s face, replaced with stern determination to do what he knew was absolutely necessary.

Glaring at Brody, clearly having had enough of his spiteful sarcasm, Ebirone offered no parting words or sentiment to the man. He’d simply not warranted any, for as far as he was concerned, and as far as his Betazoid empathic abilities could detect, the man offered none of his own. Aware however that this was going to be a parting of ways for himself and the other spy, he cast a glance to Fisher and gave him an acknowledging and appreciative nod. “Thank you.” He said simply as way of verbally conveying the gratitude he’d felt for the bearded man and the fight he’d helped orchestrate during the two-weeks he’d been planet side. With nothing else, he spun on heel away from both of the spies and began to muster what was left of their resistance cell to move. The others, Betrull and Kennedy took up herding duties as well, working to get the people motivated, neither of them looking back as they disappeared round a bend of the sewer tunnel, only the sounds of sloshing footprints growing more dim by the passing second serving as any reminder of them.

Once it was clear that the remainder of the Rena Resistance Cell was gone, Fisher looked down to check at his weapon once more, and without another word stepped in the direction of the tunnel that would lead himself and Brody away. “About seventy meters this way, tunnel opens up to the surface.” He explained, not really giving a damn whether or not Brody was listening at this point. “Once we’re clear, we can piggy-back communications off of the Dominion jammers and get a signal out to your shuttle.” Peering above him at the dirty tiled surface of the sewer tunnel, he could faintly hear the tremor of footsteps, a sign that the Jem’Hadar were attempting to follow the spiderweb like layout of tunnels that they likely had outdated schematics on. It would take some time, but not forever for them to home in on the specific path that he and Brody were about to head out of, regardless of how confusing those schematics were; the benefit of having a literal army to disperse throughout the maze in search of their prey.

“Let’s get on with this.” He said, shouldering his weapon.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #60
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

There was no denying that, as the murky water that washed around his feet in a steady current – relentless – washing away the grime and scum, time too had washed away whatever had been dark and tainted about the former operative. Like a stone at the shore of a grand ocean it had worn him down, smoothed him out, leaving nothing but the inner most core of his former self. The essence of who he had been before Starfleet Intelligence, before a life of solitary deceit. There sure were the cracks filled with dark tar, that ran much deeper and only slowly faded, if ever, but the majority of what he could still see cladding Bishop into a cast-iron shell of idealized conviction and small-minded focus, was gone. Something he had only later understood to be tools designed to turn them into machines, rather than individual beings. A fake sense of free will they could cling to, as to not completely fall into the dark abyss of pointlessness, becoming wholesomely irrelevant to the grander machinery that had created them. He didn’t intend to outright say so, but he felt as if the bearded man was teetering dangerously close to the precipice of that undoing, if he hadn’t already set one foot across it.

Clearly Anderson had bigger plans for him in mind, than becoming a forgotten footnote, simply redacted from some internal list, in a larger war that did not glamourize the pawns sacrificed, but the heroes that prevailed against adversity. Because the gift that Bishop had yet to receive was perspective, and it was only poetic that this could not be achieved from the thick of the mud of the battlefield beneath, but the lofty veil beyond the sky. There was no denying that the Betazoid rebellion was chipping away at the stronghold the Dominion had on their world. Fragment by fragment. And maybe they had achieved a bigger crack, by giving them a stronger foothold. Or, what Brody was more inclined to believe, a semblance of more false hope. The resistance was not going to liberate the planet. And even if he had known, that the next push of the fleet was going to be its last in this theatre, and that it would not be successful, hell, even then he would’ve not changed his views on the grander plan in motion: to end the war. Even though the plight of those in the dirt below had become more apparent, more real, in the past few hours, his ideals were unwavering. And it wasn’t only the mission, or the thought of a wife to return to, but the steadfast believe in a grander victory, that led him to push on no matter what anyone thought of him.

As Ebirone left without as much as a cordial 'thank you', the commander didn’t even let his dark eyes trail after him with contempt. The reality of it was that their little ‘plan’ would’ve seen the odd couple dead three times or more, all over the course of a mere day, had it not been for Brody’s intervention. But it was fine, he didn’t need a medal. He had come here for a mission and had been foolish enough to submit to some sort of bargain, rather than tranquilizing and beaming Bishop’s ass back to the shuttle right then. He had bought into the ideals, of the man, like these people had, if only for a second. But had to learn quickly that it was rather a semblance of guilt, that drove him forward. And while that in itself was both tragic and in a poetic way admirable, it wasn’t a dead-end he wanted to follow into. And he wasn’t going to try his luck a fourth time, at cheating fate. Not when his own life too was on the line. Because unlike Fisher, he actually had shit to lose. Or more precisely, there were people that relied on him, waited for him, needed him, that he too had a responsibility over. More so than the man before him, or any of these folks. And maybe that came across as being egoistic or deaf to the plight of all of them. Which ultimately only served as another judgment he was entirely okay with having bestowed upon him.

But there was still a modicum of understanding for who the other man was and what he was going through, how he could forget what light felt like, sitting in the dark for this long. “Isn’t it, though?” the man voiced quietly, as soon as the sound of the fleeing civilians echoed further and further down the tunnel, all the while unshouldering his backpack, pulling out one of the last remote explosives and arming it. “I understand trying to find a meaning in all of this shit, something you can control. But being so desperate for purpose, it blinds your judgment on how much is too much. Whether YOUR path is worth all of this.” Nodding first at Bishop, and then down the tunnel, the tall man pushed the explosive into a crack of the tunnel wall, wedging it tight. “Starfleet’s advisory is to hide, to wait this out and not draw unnecessary attention to yourself, while those who are trained for this take care of it. I wouldn’t give a flying fuck if you ran around here all by yourself like a damn vigilante not caring whether you die or not. But dragging these people into it? Making them believe you’re going to save them … that’s not only obviously a promise you can’t keep but a dangerous delusion.”

Readying the detonator remote, Brody swung the dark duffle back over his shoulders and moved to follow Bishop into the proclaimed escape route. He could’ve just let it sit, as it seemed he was finally getting his way, but the matter was, there was no telling when the man was going to throw himself into the next lost cause, hoping to make a difference or at the very least finally get absolved of this pitiful existence. Which was not only a disregard of his value as an operative, but as a person just the same. “Just tell me, man, was it a success? Will you leave this planet feeling like you accomplished something?” he thus asked with his voice slightly raised. Against the distance, against the water swirling, against the roaring sound of the other man’s inner daemons. But no such immediate affirmation came, instead waves of frustration washed over the former operative. Transforming his vigor into anger, to the point where his voice became as daunting a roar as the closing Jem Hadar.

“WAS IT WORTH IT?!” he yelled, mad, pleading, clenching his fists in a fit of unbridled rage, sending a spark of electrons through the air that ignited not only within him, but the tunnel downstream, an explosion that left the entire underworld tremble in fear. And with the shockwave of air molecules came the power of all these pent-up fears and emotions, that he’d been harboring since leaving the Poseidon. The ever-looming possibility that he might not have returned. That he had gambled his bright future away in a last worship of duty. That his legacy ended here, at the heels of an idealistic maniac. Buried in the rubble of history forever. So, he at least needed to know that it had been worth it. That all he had done here today would somehow, somewhere down the line make a difference for someone, help someone he loved.

Because if not, he was going to be lost to the darkness right then and there. If there was no purpose to anything, then just like Fisher, he was just a biochemical process happening until it was extinguished.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #61
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Sewer Network | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

Rounding a long bend in the tunnel that seemed to stretch onward for quite a while, Fisher could faintly make out a disruption in the fractured tiled facade, most likely some kind of a hole had been blown down into the sewer during the earliest days of the bombardment. At least, that was his operating assumption. This was their way to the surface, and if he would have his way about it, the place where he could hopefully make enough of a racket to draw the attention of their pursuers away from the fledgling resistance trying to make their own escape. Behind him a few paces, the wet boot falls of Brody as he followed reminded the sage eyed spy of an impending dilemma, for as far as Brody had made it clear, he was beyond the point of making any further sacrifice or service on this mission and planet. Again, to a degree Fisher could understand the utter annoyance of the other man; he had after all been sent behind enemy lines to track down a lost operative, only to wind up mired to his ankles in literal shit. But while he felt an empathy for the other man, and also no small amount of gratitude for what he’d done to help thus far, Fisher couldn’t and wouldn’t change his mind on the importance of helping these people in their struggle. Sure, maybe Starfleet would indeed someday come along to drive the Dominion back, and liberate Betazed; but until that happened, their struggle was real and worth merit.

Besides, what else was Fisher supposed to do in this war? What greater plans could there possibly have been for a lone spy, lost in a great massive effort, especially when that spy had a known proficiency at this very kind of assignment. He’d led other resistance movements before; ran shadow games of the tradecraft against superior enemies and seen them driven to the point of breaking.

It was why he’d been one of the people approached with this mission.

But then there was the element in the equation he’d not seen, or rather had chosen to ignore: the recklessness with which he’d been operating. Naturally, the other man was there to remind him of it once more, and it did indeed strike true to a chink in Fisher’s proverbial armor. Stopping in his approach, he turned his shoulder inward from the tunnel so that he might better face Brody and listen to what he’d had to say, he owed him that much at least. And where the weakness of a reckless approach was deftly hit upon by Brody, so to did he further capitalize on the fact that indeed these people were not trained fighters. They were civilians, and while the both of them knew well of the dangers a desperate civilian could present, it didn’t change the matter that they lacked the knowledge of how to properly and effectively resist. Fisher could afford to be reckless, because his training and skills would make up for any gaps, seeing him through even the worst of it; but these people, if they acted fool-hearty, they’d wind up dead a dozen times over. He couldn’t deny the sound reasoning behind what Starfleet and the Federation had advised it’s people to do in the event of capture and or subjugation. But at the same time, the people in charge who had made such an advisement, lacked an understanding of just how effective an angered and defiant populace could actually be in such a scenario.

Hence the reason behind Operation ‘Spark’, which had likely been criticized greatly by members of the Admiralty.

Keeping silent, Fisher felt the last little bit of Brody’s diatribe strike true, triggering a greater sense of introspection regarding what he’d accomplished while on Betazed, leaning him toward a wavering on the subject. Quietly he remembered his first days after crashing to the surface in his escape pod, dodging patrols of Jem’Hadar who sought to capture and or kill anyone who’d made it through alive. That alone was a difficult enough task, but Fisher had also been charged with finding any pockets of resistance; organizing them, and then ensuring that they were appropriately coordinated with Starfleet’s grander efforts. When he’d first encountered Ebirone, who brought Fisher back to meet with the rest of the Rena Resistance Cell, he was surprised by how dysfunctional they were; if anything the Rena were more of a simple refuge than they were any kind of civilian uprising. Even those which had prior Starfleet experience, or were in fact still active in Starfleet, seemed to lack the kind of wherewithal necessary to be effective as combatants. Still, his orders had been to try and organize them into something better, which he had done, with surprising success he remembered. At that point, his mission would have surely ended, as the final aspect was to link them up with Starfleet, but that’s when outside communications had been cut off entirely. So, Fisher did what he had to, which was still technically part of his orders, and he led them to re-establish a connection, though perhaps in a far more ambitious and ultimately costly manner.

Realistically, they could have probably hitched an outside line to Starfleet without taking much of a risk at all, without drawing the interest of Dominion Forces so committed to the hunting and elimination of resistance cells. In fact, in retrospective, Fisher imagined that had he established some kind of simpler communication, Starfleet would have advised the Rena to quiet down, and wait for rescue. Hell, now he was wondering if maybe the real objective of Operation ‘Spark’ had actually been to save the lives of an impatient populace by encouraging them to acquiesce and go along with their subjugators for some time, and to placate them with the idea that they would do their part later when the opportunity arose, especially since they were now somewhat organized. Had the Admiralty known the occupation of Betazed would continue for the foreseeable future, and also known that the people would grow restless as a result? Was this their grand plan at saving lives in the hope that eventually, indeed sometime further on down the line, the fleets would come and rescue them? If that was the case, then why leave that out of his briefing prior to being set to Betazed? Questions like these came about whenever the chain of command broke down, and when orders became less clear, concise, or when someone came close to disregard of them. They also arose when you lost faith in leadership, of which had absolutely been a reality of Fisher in recency thanks to the loss he’d incurred.

But as Brody pressed on, a scarier thought soon crossed Fisher’s mind as he wondered if maybe he had stirred up this proverbial hornet’s nest out of some personal need to fight for something in the wake of having lost everything.

When the detonator clacked off, a reverberating boom blowing past him and Brody like a gust of wind, Fisher just stared at the other man in deafening silence for what felt like a prolonged period of time but was really less than five seconds. His bout of momentary questioning and self-reflection halted as he could now detect within Brody’s angered voice, something beyond just annoyance, he could sense fear. Understandable; empathetical fear. Not for himself, but fear for the life he had back wherever he had come from. Fear for the wife he’d mentioned earlier, and how he might hurt her if he didn’t make it back to her. Fear that his absence would have drastic and dire consequences on the lives of so many who were waiting and depending on him. Fisher remembered how he was envious of Brody because he still had something worth living for, worth making it home for. It was because of the simple fact that Brody still felt that fear of loss, whereas Fisher had been searching for it ever since Nass had died. Worse still, he began to legitimately wonder if the unspoken answer to the other man’s ultimate question was one which would negate any sense of self-worth that he might have found on Betazed. Unable to immediately answer, Fisher let his eyelids close over those green pools as he took a deep breath, the scent of detonated explosives stinging at his nostrils. When his eyes opened again, he sought to find those of Brody’s once more.

“I don’t know.” He answered truthfully. Painfully.

The reality was, Fisher knew he wouldn’t have an answer until the fate of Betazed was ultimately determined, and unfortunately for him it was becoming ever more evident that he had played out his part in shaping that determination to the nth degree. Whatever became of Betazed now, would be decided by the people he was leaving, and perhaps they were in a better condition to resist and fight than before he had arrived. But they were also in a far more precarious and dangerous position because of the bold moves he and they had made together. What he was starting to believe however, was that it had truly become time for himself to exit stage left on Betazed and Operation ‘Spark’. “C’mon. We need to get moving.” The tone in his voice was as good an indicator of any affirmation that Brody was likely to get at this point. “That explosion’s going to draw their interest. We should get to your shuttle and get out of here.” Raising his weapon again, he spun round toward the tunnel that would lead them back to the surface, aware that though his time on Betazed was drawing to an end, the threat still persisted until he and Brody were safely aboard his shuttlecraft, headed back in the direction of Starfleet territory.

Clenching the grip of his disruptor tightly, he tried to push aside all of the doubt and lingering questions running through his mind, that he might be an effective soldier for just a little while longer and do one last good deed as part of his mission: to get Brody out of here and back to the life that he still had worth living.

One more cause, which might give himself some further sense of meaning.

OOC: ...and one more piece of mood music for the end of this post. ;) [Show/Hide]

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #62
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @Swift

Seedy caverns slowly filling with the biting stench of sulfur, a heavy haze of dark smoke billowing across the churning olive waters like heralds of death, one could half expect the ferryman rounding the corner at any moment, taking anyone away lucky enough to have two coins for fare. They themselves had created this tormented underworld they were confined in now, even though Brody believed credit solely lay with his bearded companion. They had challenged the daemons of war, and now found themselves trapped not only in their physical realm, but the moral stranglehold of their corrupted values. And with that venom in his blood, that adrenalin poisoning his thoughts and emotions, he was enchanted by the prospect of more conflict and – as a result – vied for it more so than a peaceful resolution, in this instance. That was the manipulation he had fallen victim to, as the sinister forces egged him on from every dark corner, their scornful titters, clicking against the grimy walls. Playing into his every preconceived notion, wielding them like battle axes, against his better judgment. And under that spell he wished for Bishop to just give him the excuse he needed to end this here.

But no such absolution was bestowed upon him.

As the man confessed that he had no answer to his question, his voice stagnating with the pain of doubt, every nuance weighed by the heavy honey of honesty, the other operative felt his anger fall away like terracotta armor, shattered by a single arrow. In his mind he could even hear the pieces heavily splashing into the muck at his feet, lapping back and forth between him and the walls of the tunnel. He suddenly felt raw and exposed, in the faint glimmer of pretense falling away, leaving him naked in the cold dark for a moment, until he found a way to claw his way back to a familiar light he knew. Still feeling a sense of dread over letting go of an anger that felt like a second skin, like an old coat you used to wear, that still fit perfectly. But that just wasn’t your style anymore. And the realization only came in the similarities shared among these men, not their differences. For as much as Bishop saw a man he had been in Brody, the other could say with absolute certainty that it wasn’t that. It was the vision of a man he could become, rather than who he was. Which should’ve turned regret into hope, and that was the light he wanted to shine, to illuminate the path to salvation for the man himself.

The silence did not only fill the caverns like pressurized gas because of the void left by the recent bang, but rather because it signified the unspoken truth between them, more so than any verbal acknowledgments ever could. And in that way, pulling Bishop out of this mess, was much more than the simple act of beaming back to the shuttle, it was an opportunity to ascend to the next realm of existence, a live beyond all of this. Not because this was beneath either of them, not worthy of a fight, but because they both had paid their dues to the underworld, in order to support the grander cause above, without anyone ever even knowing. Something that was only a life’s work if one failed to know when their duty was done, thus gambling their existence away on a premature note. Not even realizing the opportunities fate held obscured beyond the vail of immediate responsibility. He knew what that was like, to take the dainty hand of destiny and stepping through the foggy curtain, into a different world. The only faint irony being, he was being led over the threshold by a beautiful blond, and if Brody were to be that headman for Bishop, well … the similarity would hopefully end there. As polygamy was still very much frowned upon in the human faction of the Federation, aside of some backwards hick-colonies maybe.

And while all of this silence was going on, the men’s eyes were locked, some kind of non-verbal communication happening that even the Betazoid populous would’ve been proud of. Ultimately seeing a sense of relenting in the other man, the hope for improvement, Brody nodded faintly. A sharp tug of his pate as validation for an entire myriad of unspoken sentiments that needed no further verbal discourse. But even then, the tone in Bishop’s voice was a welcome one, that ignited Brody’s muscles once more, following onto the last stretch of their journey … hopefully. “Well, that was the plan.” he simply replied, quietly, if only for the faintest of gratitude that he’d been going through with whatever Bishop had wanted him to do after all, in the grander scheme of getting this thing done satisfactorily for both men. And it didn’t even need to be a verbal acknowledgment or a kiss on the forehead. The mere knowledge that his contributions hadn’t been reduced to being that annoying gnat would suffice. And in thinking that, it became rather evident that in this short amount of time, the man had learned to respect the other enough to value his approval. Which was probably the most genuine show of comradery he knew how to express. Even if only inwardly so.

Ultimately reaching a stairwell, by the side of the tunnel, the two men cautiously ascended towards the surface, being even more careful, slowly creeping from the access hatch at the side of the road, into more of the same old rubble and wreckage. The rain had subsided, ironically, as they were just about to leave this more cultured version of Ferenginar. Bringing his rifle back up to his side in a defensive position, Brody immediately peeled the tricorder from his backpack, which still hung loosely over one shoulder. The third moon of Betazed was just dancing across the cityscape on the horizon, down the boulevard they had come up onto. A pale gray sphere, distorted by the haze of the planet’s thin layer of air. Directing his scanner that way, the man tried to establish the uplink with the shuttle again, but just after moonrise, the interference at this angle, through the atmosphere and dampening field, were too much for a safe transmission. But luckily, they still had one ace up their sleeves. Letting dark eyes skim the surroundings, the broken-down buildings and burnt-out vehicle, until noticing something nearby.

“There. A Jem’Hadar transmitter.” He altered Bishop, pointing at the upper rim of a dish, hidden mostly behind a nearby building. Obstructed enough to not allow a direct connection either. “We got to get higher up.” Brody thus concluded, venturing toward an opposite building that looked high enough to give a direct line of sight. Scrambling over some rubble to reach a second-floor window the man only stopped to look after his hopefully pursuing companion, as well as the road beneath them, for possible stragglers, as the floor started to vibrate subtly. A sensation that made the man’s inner ear tickle with excitement, before slowly picking up on the ensuing low hum, that eventually turned into the muffled roar of nearby engines. Not immediately picking up any visuals matching the noise nearby, Brody opted to simply duck into the window and check the perimeter of the floor, ultimately diving behind a half-wall at the glistening strike of two Jem’Hadar attack craft coming off the ground one block behind their position. So close that the windows of the building could not contain their full shape, let alone the trail of excited hot air, that they left in their roaring ascend.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #63
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | City Streets | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

Splish-splashing loudly as he trudged onward through ankle-high muck and grime, not all of which was simple debris and or plant refuse, Fisher peered back at his reluctant compatriot only once, and in doing so detected something akin to an outward change. It was almost imperceptible, the manner in which his facial expression and body language had shifted, and were it not for his trained keen eyes, he too would’ve missed it. Gone, or rather slipping, was the near persistent veil of indignant rage, and the armor which had been trimmed and brimming with venomous scorn; the same armor that had once adorned Fisher’s shoulders, though they’d been blunted and dulled over years of wear and tear, the last drops of venom having long since run dry. It signaled once more, at least in his mind, that there was a commonality between them, regardless of how much they might have openly protested otherwise, and it meant that their understanding of one another was strengthening. Given enough time, he imagined they might’ve even grown to be cordial and or friendly, though such a commodity was exceedingly rare in a place and situation like this one, and that was something he was certain they could’ve both agreed upon, regardless of how cursory their discovery of one another was at this present moment.

Their eventual joint emergence from the underground, facilitated by a lone stairwell that led up from the tunnel network, availed them of the opportunity to once more breathe the free air of an utterly oppressed world. The rains had yet again abated and save for a patch of ominous clouds hovering near the far western edge of the city, the skies were clear; stars and moons alike shone down upon them with some brilliance. Were it any other moment in history, Fisher imagined he would have enjoyed the beauty of the night above as it contrasted against the skyline, though as it was now, the ambient light sadly served to aid their many enemies in pursuit. Though, the luminescence wasn’t entirely a negative factor, as the Jem’Hadar and their unique ability to shroud themselves was lessened to a degree in which Fisher and Brody would surely notice as they made their way. It was amusing to the bearded spy, how sometimes fate could be unintentionally fair in how it might affect the outcome of a situation, and for that he was irrationally grateful. Still, he kept his weapon raised at the level of his shoulder, a focus to his sage green eyes as they swept from side to side for the telltale shimmer of the scaly monsters.

Thus far though, it was surprisingly quiet.

“I see it.” Fisher acknowledged Brody as they dropped to a knee beside some defilade, the crumpled remnants of a building’s façade that had been blown loose during the initial bombardment. Scanning the mountainous debris pile that had been cascaded down across a good portion of the street, Fisher hoped to find some path or means of scaling to the transmitter they’d had in mind. Instead however, his companion darted off for another adjacent structure, which would afford them some measure of line-of-sight, and hopefully the ability to route access out to the shuttle somewhere in orbit. Chasing after, as Fisher was currently acquiescent to the other man, he kept hot on his heels as they ascended into the second story, a sudden vibration rising from somewhere nearby shaking free a veritable cloud of dust from the decrepit interior flooring. The Jem’Hadar, their landed attack ships within distance, were on the move again. Immediately, he and Brody dove for concealment, the latter opting for a half-wall, while Fisher scampered along a carpeted office space until he came to a rest, hidden in the nook of said room’s corner. From his position, he could see out through the framed windows as a purple glow intensified with commensurate proximity. Had their steps been detected so readily?

Swearing silently, he glanced at Brody as several of the few remaining panes of glass were quite literally jostled into shattered pieces, a steady clatter of shards falling down from their sills, making quite a racket as it mixed with the high-pitched whine of atmospheric thrusters. Fighting the compulsion to shield his ears from the immensity of the sound, he was rewarded with a measure of relief as the noise of the engines gradually began to fade, as did the radiant hue of violet bathing their surroundings. Ten-seconds later, the sound had met a certain modularity of steadiness, indicating that the Jem’Hadar weren’t in fact leaving the area completely, rather their immediate attention had been drawn elsewhere. Regardless, as the remnant ringing in his ears dipped well enough to allow him to hear with clarity once more, he soon detected the faint tremors of shuffling boots echoing against the opposing structure. With prominence, his and Brody’s acute senses would have discerned the incoming footfalls, a signal from the proverbial conductor that an operatic crescendo was nigh. This movement, one in which they’d been cast together in for little less than a day, was coming to an end, and would be lost among the greater symphony that was the Dominion War, and which they would experience separately.

Peering past Brody, he could see an emergency access stairwell at the far end of this office building, one which would most certainly lead to an upper portion and facilitate their attempt at achieving LOS with the transmitter. The encroachment of a pursuant enemy made no difference, other than to force them into acting with haste, lest they would be overrun.

“Shall we?” Fisher asked, the tone in his voice even-keeled, perhaps slightly bordering on excited in defiance of their impending skirmish.

Stepping out of the corner he’d sought refuge in, Fisher moved past Brody toward the stairwell with alacritous intent, his shoulder meeting the door with enough momentum that it smashed open, splinters of the doorframe erupting from it as it cracked in submission to his will. For all he knew, the door might have been unlocked, but careful consideration really didn’t matter at this point. Thankfully, his assumption that it would lead up also proved prudent, as he could see up to the level above, and in fact even felt the rush of cool air breezing past him, the door to the roof evidently having been left open or blown open at some point in the past. His weapon raised, he waited a second to afford his compatriot a chance to take up tactical positioning near him, and assuming he was there, he began the ascent two steps at a time until they reached the top, peaking out to ensure they were clear. The roof seemed barely stable enough to support his weight, it crunching and sagging with each step Fisher took as he moved out unto it, stopping him with tepid concern. “Alright... new plan...” He commented as he turned back toward Brody, holding up a hand to stop him before his added weight caused a structural failure. “ take the roof, establish contact with the shuttle, and I’ll cover the stairwe--” his voice was cut off as white-hot disruptor bolts scorched the air just inched in front of him, then splashing against a retaining wall some ten-meters to his left where they left emberlike impact markings.

Across the street, a lone Jem’Hadar sniper had already taken up defensive positioning at the foot of the transmitter and was attempting to lay down a base of fire. Spinning on a heel, Fisher returned fire with a snapshot that lanced across the distance and found the one assailant, burning a hole clean through the center of his scaly face. The immediate threat dealt with, Fisher knew, just as well as Brody would have, that the momentary exchange of fire meant their exact location would easily be homed in on now. “Damnit! Better get started. Do your thing, I’ll provide cover!” Fisher dropped to a knee, his positioning between where the stairwell exited out onto the roof, and the short wall that ran along the edge of the building’s upper most level. From there, he could effectively provide some element of overwatch on the street below and before them, while also keeping an eye on the approach from the stairwell. Important considering the Jem’Hadar would now effectively besiege them and their little rundown office building, essentially their fort of sheer happenstance. That is, as long as the structure didn’t collapse beneath their feet due to the modest weight the two of them represented. “How much you weigh?” Fisher asked amusedly of Brody as the sounds of encroaching footsteps grew louder.

“Never mind.” He quickly added, catching glimmer of something that just wasn’t quite right in the street, his weapon reflexively finding zero as he squeezed the trigger, and downed a shrouded Jem’Hadar, who upon being struck returned to the world of the visible as it dropped like a heap.

OOC: ...keeping the tradition going. [Show/Hide]

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #64
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | Rena Resistance Bivouac | Dalaria City | Betazed] Attn: @Swift

To Brody’s understanding, there were three inevitable kinds of judgments in live, and beyond. The kind of weighed esteem that defined your place in the grander scheme of the universe. The first based in religion or faith, grounded in century old beliefs of grander designs and higher beings, on an eventual tribunal, weighing your every decision and action, eventually determining your path beyond the veil of this reality. And while decidedly elusive, this kind of sentence was only marginally less palpable than the second one, passed onto you by your peers. Or, if you were so lucky, a partner in love and trust. A decidedly more personal valuation, though out of the realm of one’s own reach all the same. A tangent you could only mold through the steps you took, in traversing the ethical wasteland of mortal being. It was one of the few standards the man had learned to measure himself by, to an incremental extent. Not even as much as the professional code, or moral complexity of his duty, as the personal conflictions and quandaries in between. As it ultimately came down to the most prominent of verdicts, the value of thy self. Which you passed upon the decisions after you made them, within a sort of spiritual mechanism, designed to pass absolution upon deeds you deserved no personal ruling over. Yet it was this highly flawed and subjective notion that weighed the most, in the end.

So, in a moment of stretching reality, as the stale ether of the tunnels gave way to a surge of fresh air, he pondered the judgment he would pass on his own merit, over the past day. Dark eyes transfixed on the bearded bard, as every thick follicle on his face gently swayed in the wind, like soft coral, in a troubled sea. How ponds reflecting spring birch gently quivered, sending ripple waves across the glimmering surface, as their confines slowly dashed around to convey the perimeter of being cautiously. And in that moment he wondered, if a man who had no one, who believed in nothing but morality itself, was exempt from any kind of proper ruling, as he had no one to pass it upon him. Not until the final court, held over the demise of his verve, would hold up the mirror of contemplation, upon the past deeds of his existence. Was it in this absence of arbitration, that Bishop felt most welcome? And could he not commiserate with such sentiments himself? He who was thriving in the golden glow of his own moral commandments, etched into the granite façade of his being like a deterrent. The stronghold of unwavering conviction, wielded as an abject excuse to evade a just sentence, other than one’s own. Wasn’t that the true community they shared in?

Be it so, the unwavering cogs of fate had brought them here, the most fitting of pairs, to glean upon the echo of their most adverse facets. Dancing across the keys of contempt and aggravation, like a devil over a flame, fiendishly gloating over the mutual revelation of commonality. Two men who would not trust anyone’s judgment on their own volitions, if not cast from a spiritual kin. Realization born from a gaze into the looking glass, one’s own decree cast back upon one’s self. And it was then that he realized why he was here. Why his journey, against better judgment, had followed Bishop through the dark desert of this tormented place. Because there was an ever shifting duality in nature, opposing forces as the only powers that could cancel each other out. And in this moment in time, this stretch of their lives, these two men were the opposite ends of a tether, strung through the fabric of existence. Only together, could they save one another, from the turn of events that was predestined to happen, around the next bend of their stories. And only if these two components came together at this specific instant, would they be able to set in motion the future that was meant to be. A spark that spread like invigorating wildfire, through the essence of Brody’s being in that moment. A fire he reveled to burn in. Nothing else mattered then, if he just followed the path, for he would be safe, in the embrace of destiny.

In a matter of minutes, the scales tipped from bad to worse, but it didn’t matter. He had embraced the call of fate in a way that felt like he was floating through adversity, if only on the mementos passed, from when they fought together. The universe couldn’t be as twisted, as to dangle hope before you, a bright future looming, only to pull the rug from beneath you, plunging you into eternal nothing. No, this couldn’t be how it ended. In the caress of indigo hue he waited out the foreboding tremors, turning into tippytoes by comparison, as the garrisons started to draw in. He couldn’t help but consider them like ants, in his ethereal haze, who posed no threat any more real than the pebbles that had been dancing across the dusty floors like excited tribbles. Catching those sage crystals once more, as the other man spoke, the wildfire within Brody’s muscles flared up like dry winds blowing into the arid underbrush. A devilish grin, suddenly creasing his left cheek, as the hint of white teeth broke from beneath his lips.

“Hell yeah.”

Shouldering his backpack over one shoulder anew, not taking fate’s hint to just wear it over both instead, the man tightened the grip around his rifle while the other held the nylon strap in place over his rain jacket. They rushed out of cover, scampering down low through the floorplan to a barrel leading into the dark sky, clouds illuminated from the turmoil below, like the roof of a Bedouin tent, gently moving with the wind. A spiral of stairs, winding around the walls into the abyss above. An ascension which felt like heading down into the bowels of hell, head first, though invigorating. And as they emerged on the top side of the architectural carcass, looking across its mauled surface, an unspoken sense of levity, filled their lungs alongside the altitude air. Enough removed from the debris and fires that it actually resembled reaching the summit of a holy mountain, the pinnacle of their journey, it seemed, as the Jem’Hadar relay was just in their sight. But between them and that modicum of salvations till lay the thin veil of cracked concrete, like worn cardboard across evenly spaced toothpicks. Which in itself did not initially alert the former operative. But he still heeded his companion’s judgment on the matter. Even if he would’ve contested, the argument would’ve been cut short, as a bolt of silver venom cut through the ether between them. 

“Holy f…” Brody exhaled on half a breath, his lungs deflating into thin sheets, as his body recoiled into the feeble cover of the first few steps. Taking no cue to wallow himself in safety, however, Bishop placed a well skilled shot across the chams that sent a Jem’Hadar’s brain like obsidian fireworks, spraying the construct behind him like a work of sadistic art. Gasping for a new breath, feeling the sting of the oxygen in his capillaries, the other man looked back at his companion with virginal reverence, betrothing with him a nod of genuine appreciation. Ultimately taking solace in the fact that they were so close to their terminus that only the worst kind of providence could derail their riding into the sunset together. So, he simply nodded, in the absence of judgment on the bearded man’s orders, slowly drifting into the holy river of complacency, over their most fortunate conclusion dawning. With every inch closer to getting off this rock, his spirit merged not the golden light of tranquility. A little prematurely, perhaps.

“Excuse me. This is all just padding!” Brody quipped almost lightheartedly, letting his free hand roam the general vicinity of his midst, looking back at the other operative taking up defensive position. For a moment their eyes met in a measure of levity, driven by the gentlest of smiles shared between their scruff lined lips. One beyond the weighted memories of their individual pasts, and those spent together. And for the briefest of butterfly flutters, it was as if that part did not exist, and the only link between them was that solemn revelation that they were mirrors of each other. Maybe from different realms in time. And that by acknowledging that, in all its intricate implications, they could move on. That and getting an uplink established to the shuttle, of course. Thus, in blinking away that moment of sentimentality, he managed to refocus on the task at hand, as did his compatriot. Letting his backpack fall onto the ground, resting his rifle delicately next to it, grip slightly elevated so he could quickly wrap his palm around it, if need be, he rummaged through his equipment.

Pulling out the now slightly worn, but still better for wear, tricorder, Brody flicked the device open with its characteristic ‘cog-wheels’ sound and gentle chirp, soon dipping into a crescendo of synthesizer waves. Pulling up the communications function he first attempted to go the easy route and dial directly into the shuttle’s subspace transceiver. Yet despite his best efforts at waving the device around, making a mockery of himself, he could not establish a stable connection through the low angle of atmosphere. “Well, that dance was for nothing.” he grumbled, readjusting the matrix to the protocols Brighton had fed into the Dominion network, before directing his tricorder directly at the alien array. After diving through a few barriers, they had already punctured previously, he ultimately managed tot ap into the network. “Halfway there.” he thus updated Bishop, his voice but a mere whisper on the prevailing winds across the rooftop. He now had to marry the transceiver location with that of the shuttle. Pushing in the last coordinates, hitting execute, squinted eyes gleaned across the urban canyon onto the satellite dish that, after a few tense seconds, started to reorient itself as if driven by ghostly premonition.

“Yes, ye … no, NO. Fucking no!” Brody exclaimed, hitting his fist into the tail end of the retaining wall, instantly knowing better at the easily cracking plaster, like brittle old biscuit. The communications antenna had, in its way of readjusting, moved slightly out of direct sight once more, behind the superstructure of the adjacent building, as was relayed by the disruption of connection on his tricorder. “Alright …” he contemplated, eyes darting around his equipment and his attire. “Alright!” he repeated, slipping off the heavy jacket and utility harness swiftly. Leaving everything where it lay, tacking nothing but his tricorder, Brody gave Bishop one last encouraging, thin lipped look, before making his way out across a line of dampness darkened concrete that indicated a retaining structurer beneath it, probably one of the walls beneath. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast …” he preached to himself, almost like a mantra, over and over, while precariously balancing on an imaginary balancing beam – which he always hated as a child. Accelerating the last few crouched steps to a small concrete stud, emerging from the floor at the head end of column, he lulled himself into a feeble sense of security.

Bringing up the tricorder once more, this time in a better position, the screen finally turned green, and he could log in remotely into the shuttle’s systems. “I got it!” he cheered almost enthusiastically. Bypassing the Starfleet security measures for unrecognized relay connections the commander pulled up the ship’s sensors in an attempt to establish the transporter lock … which at this angle and perigee was a challenge in its own. He was so caught up in the task, as a matter of fact, he did not realize the minute cracks forming at his feet, fanning out from his soles like sunrays in a cave painting. “I got it.” he reiterated silently, all to himself, bathing in the anticipation of that vibrant blue glimmer, that was going to take them away from here, finally. And back to his beloved.

And just in the moment that their two life signs logged into the transporter array, the buffers beginning to charge, his left foot gave way into a chasm, growing at his side. Wrapping his arms around the stump of the column, sticking out of the roof, holding tight to his device, Brody was able to keep himself tethered to the intact side of the structure, while the gorge quickly expanded away from him, faster than his eyes could follow it. As he caught sight of Bishop again, however, it had already drawn him into its abysmal maw, sending the other operative down a sloping plane, two levels into the crumbled building. Alongside all of Brody’s own equipment and weaponry, that he didn’t have on himself. And in the same moment, his tricorder chirped abjectly, having lost track of one of the two life signs, and it wasn’t him. But as it so went, when the mighty soured across the sky, their fall wasn’t going to be just one thing. No, it would all come crashing own before it got better. IF it got better.

Alerted by the commotion, the two Jem’Hadar attack ships appeared from behind two buildings nearby, a few hundred yards away, turning slowly on their invisible cushions of levity, into their direction. The first hit almost imperceptibly later, as a thunderbolt of white light smashed into the side of the building. And the moment slowed down once more, dust evolving into the sky beside him like a universe born from nothing. Specks of cinder and stone within like stars and planets, slowly drifting away from their origin. The bang nothing but a tide of air, wind gusts, sending waves of excited dust, across the remainder of the building. The device in his hand but a token of his liberation, his opportunity to live that life that he’d been dreaming off, ever since meeting the one. A life he’d promised himself to protect with everything he had. Even if it meant to consume him. The lonely signal on its screen, missing its other half, the single push of a gently pulsating light symbolizing salvation. Tantalizing him, seducing him, coercing him to betray his values, like devilish sirens of the deep.

One push for the rest of eternity.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #65
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | City Streets | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust

The as to yet unyielding search for deeper meaning behind his actions hadn’t always been a motivating force for Fisher, in fact there had long been a period of his service as an SFI Operative wherein he cared not for such frivolities. The only thing that had ever really mattered was the bottom-line success of, and or the completion of whatever orders had been given to him. Concerns over the impact of actions he had directly committed, and the sometimes-abject misery he had therein witnessed and even caused never really passed personal muster or introspection, but they had always been there, lurking along the ethereal periphery of his psyche like a stalking wraith ready to swoop in an assail him unendingly into personal madness. He had been shielded by an overriding sense of righteousness, and a belief in the grander scheme at play, in which he existed as little more than a footnote; but that barrier against the demons which had haunted him, had weakened by the gradually onset of apathy, only to then be raised to the ground by personal loss. The illusions that been instilled in him upon his enrollment with SFI some years earlier had all but faded into the distant memory, replaced by a black hole of emotional nothingness which threatened to draw the very last remnants of Fisher’s humanity into it’s pit, never to resurface again.

Fisher knew this. He had recognized how he had grown dour and unfeeling in recency, the lapse in his defenses having given way to the forthright of harrowing sentiment that seemed to permeate with near absolution now. It was a terrifying realization, because he could very clearly visualize how he would end up, if he continued this downward spiral into the abyss; he would end up like Hurley. Darkly cynical and distrusting of everything and everyone, never willing to open up and expose his vulnerabilities, locking them away forever in a prison of indifference until they were ultimately forgotten. Somewhere along the line, the man had been left as little more than an unfeeling and uncaring golem, though he had no master who could truly command or contain him. It was in Hurley, where Fisher had seen the very worst aspects of himself reflected back, those traits exemplified to the extreme, and all the positives abandoned out of a painful necessity, and it terrified him to an immeasurable degree because he remembered how Hurley professed Fisher to be the best he’d ever met. The spymaster even going so far as to prophecy a time wherein his protégé would supplant him upon the throne of shadows that existed in the underworld of Starfleet Intelligence, though he had also warned Fisher of other rogue elements which might compete for such a crown of thorns.

Still, it was upon seeing how he could end up like Hurley, or rather an even worse version of him, that Fisher had begun searching for an anchor to tether himself to and turn back the transformation.

Once again, a reason which had prompted his decision to volunteer for this particular suicide mission.

Yet, while he had mostly understood and could rationalize the reasons which had brought him here, he was still coming to know why his companion had similarly risked himself and the life he had built elsewhere. From what he had gathered, be it from outright disclosure or subtle hints of dialogue, Brody no longer owed any hard allegiances to their mutual tribal lineage, having put it behind him in favor of something more fulfilling, albeit slightly more mundane. His insistence to follow orders, simply because they were orders, wasn’t absolute, otherwise he wouldn’t have afforded Fisher the degree of leeway he had. He would have carried out his promise to bring him back by any means and put an early end to any parlays Fisher might have made for delay. As such, there was a modicum of envy for Brody that had persisted in Fisher, but there was also a deep worry that the man wasn’t as free from his own demons as he outwardly exuded. What lies had he been fed by the high-brass in order to elicit his consent and acceptant of such a dangerous task? What had been the fulcrum upon which Anderson had so deftly leveraged his request of Brody, and was it the sort that had manipulated the man, more so than it had genuinely convinced him of it’s importance? There were so many lies that could be spun, an utterly unnavigable web of confusion and coercion.

The simplicity of following orders was never a reality when it came to men like them, regardless of how stubbornly they sought to ignore the ghostly apparitions residing in the aforementioned corners of their soul.

It was all on the proverbial table for dissection for Fisher as they climbed up to the roof of this compromised structure consumed, his ancillary thought process working it over out of a presiding sense of implicit responsibility for the other man. From gratitude over a chance reprieve from an execution at the hands of the Jem’Hadar, to sheer annoyance and contempt for the disregard of technically innocent life, and now to an almost begrudging admiration mixed with a genuine abiding concern for his fate and well-being, Fisher had run through the full gamut of emotional judgements when it came to his fellow. Call it a most hastened evolution, born of mutual discovery through forced cooperation and survival, which had led them this far in their dynamic. It had also availed something entirely different for Fisher, in that he had found another ramshackle harbor for which he could cast a line out in desperation, furthering his hopes at denying inevitable descent into the raging whirlpool which beckoned him down, always down. In acquiescing to Brody on the matter of his mission, Fisher had inadvertently tied the man’s fate to his own, and that was something he couldn’t take for granted.

Cutting through all the deeper bull shit running at him though, was that adrenaline induced expression that preceded the sort of vicious combative state that he and Brody could champion better than most. A surge of power and inspiration that was better than any drug in existence, and which was far more addictive in it’s sheer potency, but given how far both of them had come, they had long since learned to master and tame it. Still, such an enthusiastic acknowledgement of the fight to come from Brody elicited a sort of bonding that only could only be forged amongst brothers in battle and brought to the corners of Fisher’s scruffy face a smirk which echoed lasting sentiment. It was time to kick some ass. Apart, men like he and Brody were deadly enough, but when their efforts were combined, they would summon a tempest of agony the likes of which the Jem’Hadar would never have imagined two humans could. Their disillusions of superiority, and an adherence to a belief structure that would reward them with death in the absence of victory would be an undoing, just it always had been from the very onset of this devastating war, and these two trade assassins would now exploit it to the nth degree.

“More lovin’ for the shovin’, eh?” Fisher said tauntingly, a bemused glance peeking out from the corner of his eye at Brody as he prepared to lay down a base of fire on encroaching soldiers which sought to evict them from this temporary refuge. That shared moment of levity, however, stirred forth a chortle from Fisher while Brody got to work establishing a connection, his sage-green gaze shifting back in advance of the oncoming assault.

“That’s good, because they’re just about halfway here.” He commented succinctly, having caught sight of tumbling bits of debris, no doubt loosened by the foot falls of their enemy drawing nearer. Leaning out over the edge of the retaining wall he’d been knelt beside, Fisher peered down in hopes of getting a count on the number of Jem’Hadar that were about to besiege their position, but before he could, his attention shifted back by Brody’s profoundly negative exclamation, causing him to perch one thick eyebrow higher than the other. “That, however, doesn’t sound good.” Watching as his companion stripped off his heavy coat, and anything else which might’ve further weighed him down, it dawned on Fisher what the problem was, and looking back across the chasm to the adjacent structure confirmed his suspicion. “This just gets better and better.” He whispered barely audible under his breath, knowing that the crux of the moment was drawing near, and that it was do-or-die time. But whatever apprehensions and anticipation had built up so quickly inside, gave way in a wash of relief as Brody soon cried out in apparent success, meaning this fight that had seemed like an inevitability just an instant earlier, was going to be avoided all together.

There were seldom other feelings better to a spy, than the one of satisfaction you got after escaping from a pursuant enemy just in the nick of time, leaving them in the wake of wherever you had been just a moment before. In this case, the Jem’Hadar would arrive just in time to watch as he and Brody disappeared into the signature blue swirling light of a Federation transporter beam.

“Whoa! Whoa, shit!” Fisher exclaimed as he felt the building lurch like a giant waking from a great slumber, it literally shifting and groaning beneath his feet as sign of the calamity to follow. The loss of balance as the structure began to settle into a full-on subsidence, caused by the change in weight distribution that he and Brody represented, Fisher attempted to make a play for something to hold onto, but whereas his comrade had found a handhold, he found nothing, and as the roof gave way, Fisher went with it. Cascading down a huge chunk of the pitch when it sloped inward, he was soon enveloped by a cloud of dust and debris, the utter commotion of it all obscuring the sound he made when he landed. Hitting boot first against the pancaking floor a level down, momentum caused him to roll forward and tumble over his right shoulder, his body slamming hard against an obstruction where it came to a halt. Wood and plasterboard began to lay over him as though they were stacked sheets of paper, effectively shielding him from harder objects like brick, stone, and steel which had broken free during the structural failure and were now raining down atop him.

When the bulk of the noise had waned, only the skittering of small fragments tumbling could be heard all about and around Fisher, a cough escaping him as his lungs worked to expel particles he’d inadvertently inhaled in sudden shock. His body ached, but he wasn’t dead, and though the weight atop him was immense, he could tell just by moving his shoulders that he could free himself with mild effort. Though, before he could, a thundering explosion rocked the foundations of what was left of this building, the roar of reverberation nearly jostling his body apart in the process. Immediately he imagined that the rest of the structure was coming down, and that this would be how he died, but life seemed to persist, however dark it was buried in this pile. Respite would not be his though as sound drew ever nearer, those of footfalls, dozens of them. The Jem’Hadar, coming to find whoever had shot and killed their lookout across the way, and to capture the resistance fighters that had eluded capture. If Brody hadn’t made it out, which he doubted given this decidedly frustrating turn, they’d have him in no time, and that was something he couldn’t allow.

His life wasn’t his to give, it belonged to his wife, whoever and wherever she was.

Grunting as he mustered the burst of strength necessary to emerge from underneath all of the refuse that had amassed over him, Fisher exploded forth among a cloud shit, the disruptor rifle he’d death-gripped onto still in his hands, now raised level with his shoulder and cycling as fast as he could work the trigger, firing white hot bolts of plasma into the backs of three Jem’Hadar that had run past him and his lump of debris. Scaly bodies sent slumping forward, brimstone holes burned clean through from aft to fore in their torsos, Fisher breathed hard and fast as he scanned his surroundings for evidence of where Brody might have fell, desperate to get the other spy back on the move so that they could make another escape. “Mason!” he called out, unaware that the man had managed to find grip of something up above, stifling his own fall. It dawned on him late, such an idea, which Fisher confirmed with a glance upward, finding him there, though a spray of disruptor bolts streamed in over his shoulder, forcing the bearded spy to duck and roll for cover, his weapon trained aft and firing in random staccato to lay down that base of cover he’d originally intended to provide before the world fell out from underneath him.

“Fucking go!” he hollered without so much as a hesitation, his awareness of Brody’s ability to escape omnipresent in his mind. “I’ve got this!” Backing away from a jutting piece of wall just ahead of a barrage of disruptor bolts splashing against, burning, and destroying it in a spray of shrapnel, Fisher knew he had little room left for additional retreat as he dropped two more rushing Jem’Hadar when they tried to climb over the deluge of debris in front of the building. Howling loudly, the atmospheric engines of the Attack Craft flared as they maneuvered for an angle to fire on the remnants of their building in succession of the one, they’d only just destroyed a minute prior. Sighting in another lizard like assailant, Fisher lanced a hole clean through it’s scaly face the instant it peeked up over top of the mound of refuse, and when it’s body slumped down lifelessly, he found the black-bag of party-tricks that Brody had been hefting around with him all this time, the flap slightly askew enough to reveal a number of improvised explosive charges that had been gathered up from the Rena Resistance Bivouac. An idea born entirely out of desperation beginning to formulate in his mind as the situation had suddenly grown exceedingly dire.

Affording Brody the benefit of momentary delay, Fisher’s expression shifted to one of pleading, though behind it was the implicit threat that such a delay would not go on forever. With a nod, he non-verbally signaled all the requisite understanding and absolution of any guilt that Brody might’ve needed in order to push the control on his tricorder and spare himself the fate that now seemed all but inescapable for Fisher.

Sensing a dwindling of suppressive fire, Fisher took a deep breath in order to ready himself to take a shot which would likely be his last.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #66
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | City Streets | Dalaria City | Betazed] Attn: @Swift

The roof gave way as if nothing more than a brittle cracker, spewing dust and pebbles from its cracks like little gray geysers, Brody had to watch his companion swallowed up by the erupting plume of sand, as if a sandworm was gobbling him up whole. The moment slowing, stalagmites of frozen smoke, like an ash powdered forest after a volcanic eruption, while the world beneath gave way to the depth of hell. And while the notion was common, for a man of Bishop’s reputation to be sent straight there, the former operative allowed himself the divine power to judge this being utterly premature. Not only because it conflicted with his orders in such a catastrophic manner, but because whatever sentiments had started to blossom between them like fresh grass breaking through barren cinder, was acting as if a tether, that was trying to pull him into the abyss as well. Just as it had with every cold-hearted action and every cynical spat, since he got to this rock, in search of a sense of valor. But rather finding a part of him he had not missed and was slowly wondering if it had ever left. Or if it had merely been a sleeping dragon, deep in the mountain, guarding whatever treasure his character held far within. A treasure which to many - including himself at days - was nothing more but a fairy tale.

Ultimately, where there had been light and levity, there was none left. Where there had been hope and relief, there was none either. And where Bishop had hunched, there was now a one-story deep chasm, filed with abject remnants of what used to be the roof, and no sight of the other man. A measure of dread, filling Brody’s chest, as if feeling the notion of weightlessness, despite being anchored to the top of the pillar still. Hands gripping tighter than he could fathom, tendons and muscles tensioning beyond their limits. Just as he found his heart to constrict, at the mere implication that the other man had been turned into a crêpe, this close to the finish line. Of course that sentiment was not only born from the new found affection, he begrudgingly seemed to harbor for the man, now prominent in his absence, but also because of an untainted track record, in getting his missions done to a level of perfection that others found almost manic. Bringing back a body, instead of a valuable asset, or worse, nothing at all, was a personal failure he was not willing to file as a dark stain into a long line of triumphant mementos. That was not the kind of man he was, not the kind of officer he was. Unlike his wife, he did not know how to settle, he did not know how to make concessions to get the job done. No – fucking – way.

Readjusting his stance towards the column, out of one born from sheer circumstance and primal instinct for survival, like a monkey clinging to a tree trunk, into a more relaxing and safe grip on the concrete, Brody peered over the side of the broken off floor as best as he could, while the dust further settled. But what eventually broke from the haze was not a glimpse of the other man’s jacket, or his pants, or a blood splatter seeping out from beneath the rubble, but rather the sound of his name being called, like a siren’s song amidst the turmoil of white lightning, zipping through the floor below. He could hear the potential, in the other man’s words, as the measure of salvation was just lingering there in his tight grip, a button push away. Wondering how many times in one life a man could be faced with the ethereal crossroads of destiny, forced to make a decision on where to place their wager, and what they wanted their future to be, and who with. And even though he venerated the implied offer of the man’s life for his, something in that moment convinced him, that if he let Bishop go, if he let the man slip into an obscure death, reduced to an unmarked, charred corps in the rubble of a war that would cost millions of lives, then he would change the switch that would derail the train he was on, somewhere down the line. That this was not the last chapter the man would appear in, in the story of his life, and it was not the last time he would help him out either, even if only inadvertently so. No, this guy still had a role to play. He was sure of it.

And what too broke from the dusty cave, illuminated by random bolts of white light, was the thumping of more encroaching troops. A stampede unwavering in light of recent collapses within the structure. Not even seemingly bothered by the fighters having no issue performing target practice on the building. A structure which was already shifting precariously, a tilt even noticeable in the unharmed floors and walls, as it threatened to come down around them. Which didn’t seem to impress the military might imposed upon them. They had ticked off the enemy one too many times. The Dominion truly didn’t care about the individual at all, just the end result, which was intended to be total domination. As said the name. And in that revelation Brody fought really hard to not draw any parallels to his own credo. Albeit totalitarian on a slightly smaller scale … slightly. And even if just to prove this particular point, as a last pinch of motivation, adding to the final decision, he pushed his tricorder into his jacket and detached himself from the safe harbor, to plunge right into the depth of the abyss.

It was just as he landed, slipping a few inches down a sloping boulder of torn concrete, that he could get a swift lay of the land and ducked behind a cover close to where he soon found Fisher lurking. Setting his rifle from sniper power to volley shots, he took a moment to inhale a deep breath of courage, as dust scraped across his esophagus. “I think it’s been established: You ain’t got shit.” the man replied, slightly snarky, his voice hoarse with adrenaline and vibrant with the fire of his renewed passion to see this thing through, till the end of the line. Peeking out from behind his cover if only for the blink of an eye, Brody sent a series of rapid phaser bursts into the direction of the moving shadows. Not intent on really bringing anyone down, but to scare them into hiding, if only for a moment, so he could device a new plan that went beyond the endgame, but dealt with how to actually get there. He caught Bishop’s desperate plea for the bag of explosives, that had landed halfway between them and the Jem’Hadar. Undoubtedly a fulminant finale, yet slightly too close for comfort. Something had to change, either their position, or that of the party favors.

“Cover me!” the man thus instructed, ducking out the opposite side of his cover, to confuse the assailants, and slipping right into the next series of blocky debris, allowing him to quarter circle around the center of the skirmish. Chances were, these scaly bastards didn’t even notice, considering how blindly they pushed onward at this point. Finding himself a mere few feet from the bag, Brody shifted like a kitten, ready to pounce, as soon as he saw an opening. And as Bishop lay down another volley of covering fire, he dove forward to grab the treats and roll out of harm’s way on the other side. At which point, of course, the Jem’Hadar started to catch up with his ploy and pushed forward even more eagerly. But that was quite alright, he didn’t need much time. Sifting a grenade from the rustling bunch of remaining knickknack, he armed it and quickly shoved the explosive back deep into the bag, before hurling it as far as he could into the direction of the troops, down a narrow hallway that funneled the armadillos towards them. Not taking any more time than he had to, the commander started to sprint into the opposite direction, stumbling over the debris here and there, having to use his free hand to steady his quickening stride.

“Move, move, MOVE!” he beckoned Bishop, his free hand waving towards the other side of the building, towards the Dominions’ communications array. Dropping his rifle too, gaining further momentum, Brody grabbed the tricorder from his jacket in one last ditch effort of placing his fate into the lap of chance. A flash from behind, illuminated the floor ahead, split in half by a clean-cut shadow, quietly. The two men just moving close to the edge of the building, one after the other, as the shockwave hit Brody from behind like a freight train, propelling him forward into Bishop’s back, while he held on to the little device in his hand with all his might, as his other arm soon snaked around the man’s waist, as his momentum pushed the guy over the edge … literally. Ejected from the building like a bullet from a chamber, the two men soon became weightless, high above the streets of Dalaria, as time slowed to a crawl once more. In plain view, the satellite dish on the building across, followed by the tricorder chiming with anticipation, just as gravity asserted its hold on the two, pulling them down. “Fuuucking sheeeeeeet …” the man’s vocal cords exuded as the last measure of air was expelled from his lungs like water from a pipe. The streets closing in on them fast, while destiny did its work.

He hadn’t even fully realized that his thumb had skillfully found the right spot to push on, activating the already primed sequence in the shuttle’s transporter system. And while it was a matter of split seconds - for the signal to reach the transmitter, before rushing off the planet and onto the moon, into the ship’s communications antenna and on-board systems, being processed an relayed until it set in motion the actual transporter function – it actually felt like the longest time of his life, as the plummeted through the cold breeze, the heat of the building going up in a plume of fire behind them, as its tilt to the side increased drastically. All of which eventually dissolved into the glimmer of a tropical lagoon, swarms of silvery blue fish swirling around them, before they came to land on the transporter pad of the Type-11 mere moments later. Bishop face down and Brody snug on top of his back, his forearm painfully wedged underneath the man-sandwich. Rolling off the man and on to his own back beside him, with the first inhale since jumping from the building, Brody exhaled the conditioned air with abject pleasure, as the inaudible rushing noise turned into hilarious laughter. Only slowly regaining his composure and regular rate of breathing.

“Oh man …” he exhaled once more, words carrying airily over his breath. “That’s how you got it!” he reassured finally, looking at Bishop next to him with a gleeful grin, one that hadn’t seemed possible until now, that the weight and the danger had washed away in the blue vortex of energy, filtered out by the ships transporter buffers like krill.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #67
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | City Streets | Dalaria City | Betazed ] Attn: @stardust 

The blaze of glory.

Throughout the annals of history, warriors had in one way or another, curried with them the idea that if they were to meet their end in the midst of a fight, that they’d do so in some ultimate heroic act that would make a prominent and positive effect on the world they were leaving behind; that somehow, they could transcend death by being remembered, or having meant something to someone. It was as lasting a commonality among brothers born in battle, as the genuine and abiding care which they held for one another. To some, especially if examined outside of the confines of active conflict, it would seem an overly romanticized and pitiful concept, but in the proverbial heat of the moment, it could fill the hollows of your heart with warmth, and steel you against the fear of inevitability. For Fisher, whom the walls had quite literally collapsed in on, now surrounded by a nigh insurmountable enemy, and with the life of a comrade hanging in the balance, his mind and subsequent thinking had gone to that very place. It imbued him with the iron will to fight on, even when odds were stacked high against, and ultimately would have fueled him into diving feet first into the fiery depths of hell had the scenario such demanded it.

So it was, that after he’d emerged from a pile of debris among a dust cloud, adrenaline pumping through his veins like nitro-enriched gasoline, he’d so hastily and deftly dispatched a trio of Jem’Hadar, leaving their scaly, crimson-pocked bodies in a heap on the desolation of the building in which he and Brody had come to mastermind their escape.

He’d subsequently implored his fellow to go; to make a retreat most of utmost haste and leave him behind to deal with the mess that this situation had been. Yet, as Fisher cycled the trigger on his borrowed disruptor as rapidly as the weapon and his finger could possibly muster, firing a hailstorm of white-hot plasma bolts into the direction of assuredly advancing troops, he heard a voice holler to him from behind, affirming a reality which he’d not expected, nor wanted to accept, but couldn’t deny an appreciation of. Mason hadn’t taken the easy road out; hadn’t punched his golden ticket off of this oppressed planet, but rather he’d made the decision to buck up, and dive into the hellish abyss alongside Fisher. The sentiment of comradery, what little had been established during their fleeting time together, now went into overdrive as the significance of such a sacrifice couldn’t appropriately be described in words, lest you were a laureate poet of the most profound kind. And while Fisher failed in that regard, he succeeded in another, letting his alternative art flourish in such a way that paid some recompence to the heroic actions of the other man.

“Rip and tear! Come and get it motherfuckers!” he raged as he unleased indiscriminate hatred upon the enemy.

OOC: Insert appropriate kickass music here...[Show/Hide]

One by one, Jem’Hadar began surging forth into the dilapidated structure, and as glowing orbs of ruby lanced out to strike at shadows which moved in a most menacing manner, a fervent gift imparted upon the enemy by a most generous Brody, Fisher too felt the surge of attenuated nerves hit him, the weapon held in his hand a mere extension of his body as he enjoined in the slaughter. Like a great tidal wave smashing against a hardened harbor wall built to endure, so too did this initial insurgent wave of Dominion troops break and scatter under a barrage of combined arms. Of what may have been a dozen, maybe more Jem’Hadar come to push and eliminate these spies, these defiant enemies of their beloved Founders, only one made it through without a series of holes bore clean through his body, and though he charged onward, bladed disruptor at the ready in an effort to skewer one of them, he soon met an end far more gruesome as a thrown blade, spinning violently through the air as it cross the distance of a hallway, implanted itself deeply into the crux of his scaly forehead with a stomach-curdling crunch.

“Go!” Fisher replied to Brody as the other demanded cover, his free hand returning to grip his disruptor after it had launched a knife at the lone surviving enemy trooper, sending him away from this existence with absolute prejudice.

Immediately, Fisher stormed forward to the edge of their collapsed humble abode, his rifle shouldered and firing out into the street before in order to provide the sort of covering fire a team of trained marksman would’ve approved of. The orchestra of chaos and mayhem in which he and Brody had unleashed thus far had been one of a perfect concert, but as his fellow scrambled after the party-bag of tricks that lay nearby, it soon became evident to their audience what the plan was, prompting something of a stage-crash as another wave of Jem’Hadar emerged from behind their cover. With the target rich environment ahead of him, Fisher once more began to fire from where he had been ducked, picking one off her, another there, but even a lethal weapon of his ilk had it’s limitations. He’d considered calling out to Brody, to warn him of how they were about to be overwhelmed, but he saw that it was clear that they were still on the same page, their internal battle metronomes still in perfect synchronicity.

“Shit!” Fisher exclaimed once Brody had plucked from the glorious bag a delightful gift, only to arm it, and then so unceremoniously shove it back inside. He’d not needed the other man’s imploring in order to move, as his legs began to peddle him away with great alacrity in advance of what he instinctively knew would be quite the bang.

Catching in stride beside his fellow, Fisher felt the muscles in his legs pump battery acid in an effort to elicit the sort of speed that was absolutely necessary for a miniscule chance at survival. He had no concrete ideas what sort of peril lay ahead of him as he and Brody ran for little more than a second before they’d reached the edge of the building, their heavy framed bursting forth from windowsill and wall with momentum that carried them into the air as though they’d been catapulted. Time, as was common for such an instance, appeared to slow to a crawl as he and the man to his left hurtled forth, while an explosion to rival the Hiroshima bombing seemed to go off in their wake, the illumination of which stung the cornea of his eyes despite not looking in it’s immediate direction. A fall was before them, and though it would be a painful to endure, the chances that they’d survive the burst of shockwave when it hit their bodies were next to slim if best. Blaze of glory, he thought once more, and what a blaze it surely had been.

Eyelids quickly clenched around sage-orbs as he expected the infinite blackness to finally overtake him, and the question as to the veracity of an afterlife to be answered or remain an eternal mystery as his existence came to an abrupt end.

Blue-shimmering light.

“Ooooof...” escaped Fisher as he landed in a heap atop the pronounced plinth that was a transporter pad, his body compressed by the weight of something, or rather someone before they rolled off of him. Blinking his eyes open, Fisher peered about the moderately comfortable confines of a Type-11 shuttlecraft, the dingy, moldy, mildew laden stench of a dilapidated building having been substituted by the dull, if not pleasantly mild scent of recycled air. “Son of a Bitch.” He remarked, shaking his head in amused approval of Brody’s improvised yet obviously successful play. Unable to contain his own positive elation at having not only survived but having left a lovely parting gift for the Jem’Hadar in the process, Fisher let a short bout of laughter leave him as he shifted around, leaning back on his arms as he peered out beyond the viewport at the jewel that was Betazed in the near distance. “I’d have been fine.” He peered at Mason, an obvious sense of levity to his tone of voice as he offered a wry, yet reassuring wink meant to extoll a whole bevy of emotions that men like them could pick up on with the ease of a telepath, chief among which was genuine gratitude.

As he held out a hand to help the other man to his feet, Fisher heard a persistent chirp coming from the comms station to his right, prompting him to peak back over his shoulder in its direction.

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #68
[ Cmdr. Brody Miller | Codename: Mason | City Streets | Dalaria City | Betazed] Attn: @Swift

For a man who had dealt with the specter of death one too many times in his career, and all too closely, the concept of ‘heaven’ had always been an intriguing companion that shared those lonely corners of the galaxy with Brody, nurturing his imagination whenever he needed a means of escape from the physical realm. Be it in captivity or under extreme interrogation, there was reprieve to be had in this tiny sliver of paradise, that such considerations afforded, if only for a moment. But things had changed considerably, for the young spy, since those days, and he found himself less and less in moments where he needed to consider an existence beyond this one. The need wasn’t entirely gone, at times, given his wife was a headstrong woman with distinct opinions, but it also served as somewhat of a comfort, to reconcile his past and potential future.

At any rate, this concept of ‘heaven’ was a deeply ingrained sentiment in human culture, throughout various religions long sunken into the sands of history. The idea of a a realm beyond the imaginable, the palpable – at the time, the sky. And even long since humanity had ventured beyond that surly veil, the idea of such a place had not immediately dissipated, like the clouds, the oxygen and the tender sky blue. It was almost like a piece of home, an era long past, that they had taken with them. Because it spoke to more than just the prospect of the unknown behind physical limitations, but rather to an innate craving for an answer to the question of all questions. Even though he found himself closer and closer to this measure of nirvana, than he ever had in any brush with death throughout his elicit career, by the mere measure of bliss he wallowed in day by day, Brody had not yet found an ascend as closely resembling that of actual death and rebirth as this short trip through the transporter of his shuttle.

Picked up from the surface, a drop to sure demise, a bright light beckoning him towards calmer pastures, warm light, gentle hum, comfortable air, beyond the precipice of pain and suffering, that was Betazed’s surface. A metaphor loaded with meaning through its close resemblance to actual death, and how closely related they were. A life and existence that had almost grown into a casual comfort, while wholly engulfed in it, and which was only once again elevated to a semblance of paradise, as it stood in stark contrast to the mementos of days past, that were now just a figment in the man’s mind. And as his soul flushed with the relief of the perceived safety of the shuttle cockpit, the man let a ginger huff of expired oxygen puff into the conditioned interior. Expelling molecules of cinder and ash, he had brought with him along the trip through the skies. Just as he had the stirring heap of muscles beneath him. Bodies merged flush by the matching contours of their bodies, like fleshy Legos.

Eventually gathering himself by the bootstraps of his composure, the commander swiftly pulled himself to his feet, by the sturdy aid of his short-term companion. A man whom he had gone not only through hell and back with, in a short amount of time, but also a sentimental rollercoaster through the entire spectrum of emotions - from loathing and dismissal to respect - that two humans could potentially hold for one another, in a platonic setting. Thus, he let the last defiant measure of pride slide off his broad shoulders as Bishop complained about having ‘been fine’. Yes, sure, in a matter of speaking he would’ve been. If death and the existence beyond were to be considered ‘fine’. But Brody was almost certain that, at the absence of sure fire proof what heaven really looked like, he would rather take a closely resembling existence to it that was real, until he was truly out of choices. Consequently, he simply acknowledge him with a gentle “Sure would.” and a decisive pat on the shoulder, as he passed to follow the siren song of the communications console.

Lifting the lock on the shuttle’s system, the commander pulled up the channel to the fleet, letting the transcripts of all past communications trickle in across the screen. All the while taking off his jacket and letting it slide into the co-pilot’s seat. Dark eyes filtering through the last message briefly, the man placed both his hands on the precipice of the console, triceps flexing beneath elastic compound fabric, as brows furrowed ever so gently. “Looks like the fleet is assembling for a final push on Betazed.” he relayed, voice marred by the concern over the potential for success, after what he’d seen on and around the planet, and the limitations of the remaining task force, after the first two attempts had failed. “We’re instructed to meet with them at the gathering point.” Composing a short reply back, relaying the success of the mission, in the most factual terms at least, Brody eventually slipped into the pilot’s seat and brought the engines online. A change in the hum of the energy grid ultimately complemented the change in the mood as the elation of nirvana was slowly giving way to the still dire outlook of reality.

With a gentle shake the ship broke the feeble gravity that kept it snuck to the moon’s surface and in an ethereal flurry of white dust it ascended into the shadow of the planetoid, towards the speckled dark of space, before slipping into a vortex of streaking spectra of lights. “Once we arrive you’ll transport to the Hood … I don’t know what their plans for you are beyond that.” Finishing up his course calculations for the short trip Brody ultimately rose from the seat once more, giving Bishop a weary, albeit comforting glance, before moving towards the back compartment. “I’ll just be a minute.” And once he’d left, doors closing behind him, there was nothing left but the melodic hum of the warp engines, as they zipped away from a place they might soon return to, in some capacity, one last time. On the screen of the communications station the last communique from admiralty … and just before that, a sliver of a message from Samantha. Lines of care of concern, wondering over his return from the strategic conclave on the task force’s flagship, and the promise of a lush dinner, if he so make it in a timely manner. Hidden beneath the implicit trepidation over a love in times of war. An outcome unpredictable.

But it was only a short moment before Brody returned to the cockpit, fixing the last pip of three to his red collar, on a uniform fresh and crisp from the replicator. Hoping to cover the fact that he’d only had time for a brief sonic rinse and no shave. “Shower’s all warmed up if you want to give it a quick go around.” he smiled delicately. A show of emotion on his lips that seemed unnatural in the scope of the time knowing one another. Moving back to the pilot seat the commander gave Bishop one more glance over the precipice of his backrest, however. “It’s Brody, by the way.” he finally introduced himself properly. A name that even in his own mouth felt foreign now, after days of being called ‘Mason’. He’d have to get used to that again. Remembering that for a time back in the intelligence service, he even forgot what his real name was, for weeks on end, while undercover. But he had no intention to go that far back, ever again.

It wouldn’t take them long to reach the nearby fleet, dropping out of warp just as Andrew returned to the cockpit as well. Dipping into the outer fringes of a large amalgamation of different types of Starfleet ships, the shuttle dove through the school of silver hulls and glowy nacelles like a kingfisher in dark waters. They passed intrepid classes, nova classes, nebulas and the odd Mark 1 Saber class - sticking out like a sore thumb with it’s almost ornate design, heralding from a long-lost era of tranquil exploration. Yet even they found themselves in the cold embrace of reality now. “There she is …” Brody beamed with almost unabashed glee, as the shuttle swung around the side of a magnificent sovereign class, bearing the name of ancient Greek gods, light bouncing off its intricate chevron hull design like dancing fireflies on a pond. “… never get tired of that view.” He added, as if he could watch upon beauty beyond that of a shiny hull and delicate design. Right before not only icing his own sentimentality off the ship as well as the shuttle’s trajectory, heading for the galaxy class spearheading the fleet.

“There’s your stop.” Voice growing pale as they slowly approached from the ventral axis. The mood grew somber, even though the encroaching moment signified the successful outcome of this mission. It would only be a blimp on the course of history and the ongoing conflict within which this was just another drop to hollow the stone. Yet for Brody it would be far more significant than that, even if he didn’t realize it yet. Rising from his seat, there wasn’t much space to cross between them, which would’ve prevented an initial sense of awkwardness, that quickly dissolved into a tight hug. “It was a pleasure, man.” he admitted quietly, holding the embrace maybe a little longer than socially acceptable, before pulling back in abject reverence.

“And you would’ve been toast.”

Re: [2374] Operation 'Spark' - Betazed

Reply #69
[ Lt. Andrew Fisher | Codename: Bishop | Type-11 Shuttlecraft ‘Areion’ | 3rd Moon of Betazed | Betazed System ] Attn: @stardust

‘May God Prosper You!’

Even now, all these years later, those words rang true, echoing somewhere in the far-off recesses of Fisher’s conscious thought every time he’d embarked upon any sort of mission or operation which saw him placed directly in the path of harm’s way. He’d first heard them uttered by Captain Musgrave aboard the Diamondback, the man’s unique way of wishing well of his people wherever they would venture forth. Clearly of biblical significance, Fisher had since come to find comfort in them, even if he weren’t such an ardent believer as his former Commanding Officer had been. Therein were times it seemed all too appropriate to impart them upon a fellow at the onset of a journey, or the parting of ways, and in this moment, Fisher beckoned the sentiment forward in regard of the people he’d just left behind in that battered and beleaguered city, fighting for the freedom of their home world. Though however genuine the wishing was, and how deeply he emphasized it with every ounce his being, he still knew those words to be hollow were they not followed upon by continual effort from Starfleet in coming to the rescue of Betazed and its people.

He’d come to this world to help coordinate resistance operations with those efforts set forth by Starfleet, and in a very real way, he had accomplished just that. The Dominion signal jammers, which were now acting as boosters thanks to the ingeniousness of his late comrade, would allow the many resistance cells dotting Betazed to not only work with one another, but to also keep in contact with Starfleet in advance of whatever future attempts to dislodge the Dominion they would make. While not necessarily a major step in the direction of winning this damnable war, it was still a step, and one in which Fisher knew would make a difference. Yet in spite of it all, he felt a dourness that went bone deep. Not because he felt he could’ve done more, or any ridiculous assertion of similar sort, after all, Fisher wasn’t an egotist, he understood well that there was only so much one man could really do. He just couldn’t convince himself that the tide was really turning in the favor of Betazed, Starfleet, or the Federation.

Though perhaps it wasn’t his place to be convinced, rather instead it was his job to aid in the convincing. By now News of the victory won by the Rena Resistance Movement would be spreading among the other Resistance cells like wildfire, and in turn, inspiring them to fight with renewed hope for a brighter tomorrow.

The spark had been made.

And while it had nearly cost Fisher his life, on a multitude of occasions in-fact, he had seen the operation through. In no small part thanks to the man who’d been there to save his ass on no-less than two occasions, and who had now brought Fisher back from behind the lines of war, or rather was about to now that they’d materialized on his shuttlecraft.

Gone was the incessant rain. So too was the high-pitched whine of atmospheric thrusters that had kicked up a storm-like spray, and the unending tide Jem’Hadar troopers come to claim a prize they could present to their Founders. The whole of Fisher ached as if he’d run back-to-back-to-back marathons, and then a ten-k just because, yet as tired and worn out as he felt, here and now in the comfort of a Starfleet shuttlecraft, he knew no semblance of discomfort. Even the fact that he lay atop of Brody on the small transporter pad, at least until he’d been unceremoniously shoved off, didn’t seem to bother the sage-eyed spy. It was a remarkable thing how a safe return could temporarily alleviate the ailments of soul which had only so suddenly manifested, replaced with a sense of fateful gratitude for a chance at tomorrow, and what it could bring. In fact, Fisher knew well what his tomorrow would likely bring, and even with that realization in mind, and the lingering memory of his friends still on Betazed, he found himself surprisingly at ease over it. At ease with his being plucked away from a struggle he’d been so heavily invested in.

His comrade had adjourned the immediate area of the transporter, re-establishing secure connections with Starfleet now that his mission had essentially been fulfilled. The relaying of an impeding push on Betazed was an utter salve for the exhausted spy, who felt a burden slip free from his shoulders. He had no reason to believe that this ‘final push’ as Brody had called it, would indeed be final, but for some strange reason he couldn’t rightly explain, he decided to believe it. The Rena, and the rest of Betazed would soon find themselves liberated from an oppressive heel, brought back into the light of the Federation. Stepping forward, the green in his eyes flickered with the reflection of a billion pinpoints of luminescence just as they began to elongate and streak across the visible spectrum beyond the shuttlecraft’s canopy. Settling down into the tactical position, he instinctively gazed over the systems of their craft in the highly likely event they were waylaid in route to the rendezvous point. The further relay of what would become of Fisher upon reaching the amassed fleet, he paid Brody an acknowledging nod.

“Of course. I’ll keep an eye on things up here.” He said, though the other man had already disappeared into the aft-compartment.

With a deep sigh, the events of the previous two-weeks began to replay in Fisher’s mind, triggering his blood-pressure to spike and his breathing to shallow with haste. The onset of an anxiety attack he immediately surmised, a visibly shaky hand reaching out to grasp at the edge of the console to his right for momentary support. It was hard, nay impossible for him to effectively recall all of what had transpired during his time on Betazed, especially in any easily discernable timeline. It all seemed like a blur stretched out over a harrowingly elongated day, pock-marked with an occasional bout of fitful sleep. Blinking slowly in an effort to calm himself, and stave off the advancement of his sudden panic, Fisher let his eyelids fall closed and his head come to a rest against the back of his seat. An instant later, or what felt like an instant to Fisher, his new ‘friend’ re-emerged from the aft-compartment of the shuttle, a crisp and clean uniform adorning him as though it had been tailor made, and the grime of a days-worth of trudging around the sewer-system of Dalaria City seemingly gone from all traces.

Standing from the tactical console, Fisher turned to head aft-ward, intent on similarly washing away the filth of his decidedly longer stay planet side. As he neared the door however, he heard an additional bit of information imparted. Brody. The name. For a second, he was reminded of the codenames he and his like often wore, rarely ever existing without one in fact. He’d not even considered asking Brody to divulge his, as it simply wasn’t customary. No, it was generally considered a faux-pas. But here, at the end of their respective missions, about to part with little chance they’d run into one another again, it wasn’t unwarranted. Especially considering what he and Brody had just been through together, however begrudgingly so. Therefore, with a single motion of acknowledgement, Fisher decided it prudent to similarly confide in his fellow before disappearing through the door which left aft.


A short while later, he too re-entered the cockpit, a freshly replicated uniform hugging his form, the gold collar, and two-solid pips a further divulging of his rank and the department to which he technically belonged, though he’d not fulfilled the role of a Security Officer in quite some time.

Taking a seat at the tactical console once more, Fisher felt like a new man, at least physically anyway. The rest of the short journey to the rendezvous point, he kept mostly quiet, a hand working the controls as he read a number of routed Intelligence reports that had been uploaded into the shuttlecraft. Anderson had wasted no time in resuming the unending feed of information he expected his operatives to familiarize themselves with, habits dying hard even though he knew well that Fisher was utterly and completely spent from his time in the field. Little respite would truly be afforded to him while the war continued in earnest, and Fisher wouldn’t have wanted it any other way; his refusal to rest while there was still something he could do, unyielding. It didn’t long for their traversal to come to an end however, as Brody brought the ship out of Warp amongst a sea of Starfleet vessels, ready to surge on and dislodge the Dominion from their foothold on Betazed.

“She’s a beauty.” Fisher lamented; his gaze focused on said ship of a Greek naming convention. He’d never been aboard a Sovereign-class starship, though he of course had read all the declassified, and classified files on it. The design was impeccable. A starship which would usher in a new era for Starfleet, once this war came to an end he assumed.

Passing by the magnificently sculpted Poseidon, the once pinnacle of Starfleet deigns loomed onward; a precursor to the Sovereign in many respects, though produced in far greater numbers. There was the USS Hood, an Excelsior-class starship renowned for the history she’d made through nearly sixty-years of service, and the flagship of Admiral DeSoto. Once aboard, Fisher would be given the standard debriefing by whatever SFI handler was aboard, acting in an advisory role to the Admiral. Afterward, well, Fisher didn’t have the faintest idea of where he’d wind up next, but he had little doubt that he’d rotated back into duty somewhere. At this point in the conflict, Intelligence Operatives of his kind were exceedingly valuable, and nearly impossible to replace. Hence why Brody had been sent ahead in order to bring him back, alive, by any and all necessary means.

“Thanks. For everything. You take care of yourself, Brody.” He said, not looking over to the man as he’d said it.

Not wasting any time, Fisher stood from the console and approached the transporter pad, spinning on heel that he might face the man who’d come to get him at least one more time in parting. Eating away at him now, just as it had before, and just as it had ever since she’d died quite literally in his arms was a reminder of what he’d lost. It was inescapable, and ever since he’d discovered that Brody had someone waiting for him, on that beautiful starship they’d just flown by a minute earlier, he’d been searching for the right way to express what he knew he had to, and what Nassyra would’ve wanted him to. Sighing heavily as he glanced beyond the viewport over Brody’s shoulder, he considered the very real prospect that he might not find such a way before he was dematerialized so unceremoniously.

“And don’t ever take her for granted.” He said flatly. “Ever.”

Letting a bit of silence permeate the fore-compartment of the shuttlecraft, he knew he didn’t have to necessarily expand upon what it was he was trying to intimate, or why he found it so necessary to do so. It was that shared moment of silence which said it all, and which made the point as clear as if it had been written on a PADD. “Energize.” There was a momentary hum as the transporter spun up its power matrix before a blue shimmering field enveloped the totality of Fisher for a scant few seconds until it dissipated, and no trace was left of him aboard the shuttlecraft. Just a memory, and the solemn responsibility he’d hoped to extoll on a man whom he’d found to be surprisingly similar to himself.

[ Transporter Room | Deck 07 | USS Hood ]

For Fisher, the scenery changed to that of a full-size transporter room, wherein he was greeted by an Engineer at the control station, and a red colored Officer bearing two and a half solid pips. “Welcome aboard, Lieutenant. I’m Commander Raynor. I’ve been instructed to escort you for immediate debriefing. If you’ll follow me.” Falling in tow behind Raynor, Fisher wasn’t sure if he was being debriefed by the man before him, or if there was someone else aboard that he was being presented to. Regardless, he kept his thoughts to himself as they rounded a number of corridors, passing dozens of armed security personnel making preparations for battle. Maybe his estimation that he’d be so surreptitiously shipped elsewhere had been incorrect, and he would indeed remain aboard the Hood for the duration of the push for Betazed.

Stopping just outside of a closed doorway, Raynor motioned for Fisher to continue on without him, and the spy cast a modestly confused glance at the man before approaching the doors. Immediately, as they opened, Fisher was greeted with an utterly familiar acrid burning scent, his nostrils wrinkling instinctively.

“Welcome back, Bishop.” A gravelly weathered voice exclaimed as a figure emerged from an adjoining room, lit cigarette in his lips.

“Hurley.” Fisher said.

“Pack your bags, bud! You’re going back to Setlik Three.”

OOC: One last piece of music, to fit the feel of the fleet amassing as it moves on for Betazed.


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