Episode 87

Star Trek: Phoenix-X
Into Harshness

Space station Starbase 78 sits out in deep space, with several Federation starships in and around it. Admiral Parsons enters Operations, where his crew is hardly at work. One officer glues kal-toh pieces together.
Parsons: "What the hell is going on here? You all should be running on anxiety and adrenaline!"
Greg: "Sir, we are so bored. There is never anything to do."
Harvey: "Yeah; we tried a baseball match against the crew of the T'Kumbra, but their unemotional Vulcan expressions just made a boring sport even more boring."
Parsons: "That is merely opinion, Lieutenant, and I order all of us to restart this conversation!"
Greg: "Hmm. That would eat up some more time. I think we should."
Harvey: "--Admiral! Interruption is imminent-- as in now! Three alien ships have dropped out of warp! They're firing on the Jenova and the Crucial!"
Parsons: "Well, it's about time --I mean, load station defences! Also, disregard my previous statement."
Greg: "Seriously, we have no idea which control panel does that."

Three Hirogen escorts swing around and fan subnucleonic beams across several Federation starships. The ships are disabled and then hit with torpedoes.

Reikn: "Pitiful Humans; this is the Kassak. You do not stand a chance against our kind. I'm just pointing it out. No need to respond."
#Parsons: "This is Federation Starbase 78 to Hirogen warships. We do not condone this attack. In fact, we do not condone attacks on us in general."
Reikn: "Why did you hail us? I specifically said not to!"
Tungst: "That was my fault. I kind of wanted to hear our prey squirm. It is sooooo satisfying."
Reikn: "Deactivate this communication link immediately!"
Tungst: "Wait, just one more from the Humans."
#Parsons: "Hirogen hunting vessel, you are currently destroying the Federation starship Crucial. Please stop this at once. We do not like it."
Tungst: "Hm. It's good. Not great. And why is he so relaxed? Have they been that sedentary? That is no way to live."

The Hirogen cruisers blow a few more ships apart, causing escape pods to be launched out into space. Starbase 78 gets its defences online and fires a spread of three quantum torpedoes into the Kassak, breaking through its starboard shields and piercing its hull. The Hirogen cruisers then jump to warp, out of there.

Parsons: "Excellent! We got 'em good. Plus, they made that bad judgment call in not hitting us with their subnucleonic beam."
Harvey: "Several starships have been destroyed, sir. Now receiving casualty reports from all over."
Parsons: "Why did we create a team to just report casualties? Seems like we should have pooled our man power to the medical divisions."
Greg: "They are lacking if anyone was wondering."
Parsons: "Well, whatever the circumstances, the casualties team is doing a great job. A round of promotions after this!"

Later, the Phoenix-X drops out of transwarp into normal space, after having another weekly adventure.
Seifer: "The Sky Spirits of the Delta Quadrant were interesting, but they kept treating us like we were their pets--- by petting us."
Cell: "Remember, no matter how comforting they were, we are to never speak of this encounter again."
Armond: "I, um, need a few hours to recover, mentally."
He runs off to the tubolift and Kayl takes his station. Meanwhile, a shuttlecraft approaches the Phoenix-X.
Kayl: "Captain. I'm picking up a Class 2 shuttle; the Dracon, which is from the starship Hijinx."
Cell: "What? We don't consort with our own kind! Quickly, destroy it."
Seifer: "Let's hear them out. We should break our patterns every now and then."
Cell: "Fine; for behavioural reasons-- but only for those."
The screen clicks on.
>Andrea: "Shuttlecraft Dracon to Phoenix-X. We need your help!"
Cell: "That all depends on how much effort will be required of us. FYI, any amount is too much."
>Andrea: "Captain-- Starbase 78 was hit by Hirogen hunters, and several ships were destroyed. Before they could finish, they picked up the Hijinx and Dropzone on long range sensors and destroyed them as well!"
Red: "Ah, the kill-hunger. I get that in the afternoons. A live Genesis worm usually fixes that right up."
Seifer: "Hmm. Are the Hirogen due to reach the Alpha Quadrant by now?"
Cell: "If not; at least the Beta Quadrant-- the edges of it anyway."
Kayl, tapping at panels: "According to Starfleet patrols, there are no more signs of them, and rescue ships are picking up Federation survivors."
>Andrea: "That report must've come out during my frantic search for any nearby ships. Well, this is embarrassing."
Suddenly, two more shuttles approach.
Kayl: "It's the Chaffee-type shuttlepods Edward and Tengu from the starship Dropzone."
>Mika: "This is shuttlepod Tengu to Phoenix-X. --We're all gonna die!!!"

Later, Armond enters the Mess Hall and sits at a table with a group of Klingon Defense Force officers, Doctor Lox and Lieutenant GoyCho.
Targon: "And then she pulled her hair out. Hahahaha!"
Grath: "We will laugh at anything, won't we?"
Zang: "Pretty much."
Armond: "What is the deal with you guys? How is it you're able to work on a ship with classified transwarp technology such as the Phoenix-X?"
Targon: "It's odd that you'd ask such a question, when you've clearly been here from the very beginning."
Armond: "Truthfully, I've been focusing a lot on my trombone playing."
Zang: "The Exchange Program has been in effect in an effort to improve relations between the Federation and Klingon Empire; half the crew, here, were traded for half of us from the B'Chnah. We're all given clearance levels and kept in check through regular psych and loyalty tests."
Targon: "You'd think those would annoy us, but there is no greater battle than that of the mind!"
Zang: "Especially since our last actual battle led to the deaths of more than three quarters of the B'Chnah's crew, and twenty-four Klingons of our own."
Lox: "Ah, my genetically altered killer-Tribble. I miss them."
GoyCho: "Dammit, Doctor. Will you stop with the illegal genetics?? Fifteen years ago, you turned me into a Nausicaan for a week!"
Lox: "I made you a Bolian that same year too."

#Cell: "Captain's log, stardate 67632-point-8. It seems Section 31 wants us to murder exiled ex-Empress Sela from the broken Romulan Empire. They say she looks too Tasha Yar-y."

He exits his Ready Room and enters the Bridge. The Phoenix-X is approached by another shuttle.
Seifer: "It's a Type-11 shuttlecraft. Sir, firing on my mark."
Cell: "Belay that! We only have 38 photon torpedoes and no way to replace them after they're gone!"
Red: "We get new ones every starbase-stop, from Ferengi scalpers just outside said starbases. Besides, it is not like we cannot stretch them out to an additional 85."
>Aeris: "This is the shuttlecraft Haruko to the Phoenix-X."
Cell: "Captain Aeris! What happened to your ship? That modified Galaxy-class monstrosity?"
>Aeris: "A little skirmish with the Hirogen; we weren't damaged too bad or anything, but our ship stood no chance against the resulting Level 2 diagnostic."
Ensign Dan: "One of those exploded all our bio-neural gel packs a month ago. We were gunking data-goo out of our eyes for weeks."
Cell: "Why do you have to keep telling people that? You're relieved!"
>Aeris: "Enough! I'm here on other business. You see--- the Hirogen."
Cell: "First of all, you already mentioned them; and second, just saying their name doesn't negate an explanation."
>Aeris: "Oh yeah, smart-guy? Well, who mis-printed your ship's registry? Phoenix-ships are supposed to be NCC-65420-letter, but it looks like you have NCC-7-something, something-4-8 and so on."
Cell: "Wait. They are??"
He drops to his chair and checks his arm-computer.
Cell: "This also says our ship-class was mislabeled. It's supposed to say Prometheus-class! --Dammit, Seifer. You said everything the opposite of this!"
Seifer: "Well, it was all in the Starfleet database; unless, of course, the mislabeling happened during production, before Starfleet. --Of course! That Pakled engineer!"
Cell, advances, threateningly: "I don't shapeshift my arm into a shiv often---"
Kayl: "Captain! According to long range sensors, a Hirogen force just attacked Starbase 55! The attackers are gone now."
>Aeris: "You see? Hirogen!"
Cell: "Well, now it works; but only after Kayl elaborated with context. Dramatic, one word-cutaways are way too over-played and I will not have them on my ship!"
Seifer: "Docking!"
>Aeris: "Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted by that attack, Starfleet was ordering us on a mission-- to attack-- but, maybe not as rude. They want us to assemble our Task Forces."
Cell: "Ugh. I haven't seen mine since a year after the Dominion War, and they had sooooo many daddy issues. Anyway, you're out a ship?"
>Aeris: "There are plenty of more letters in the alphabet."
Cell: "What an arrogant philosophy. Wow."

Red enters his Quarters, which has bat'leths all over the floor.
Red: "It is a good day to clean."
#Armond: "Armond to Red; you're receiving an anonymous, secured hail from somewhere in Klingon space-- the middle, I think. Well, bye."
>Brok: "I am Brok! Do you remember the Hobus star incident, three years ago?"
Red: "Yes, something about a type of matter that coincidentally had the same name as me. I took no offence, even though it would have been fully within my Klingon rights to."
>Brok: "Before that, Worf led a fleet of Klingon ships against a jilted Romulan named Nero; a fleet which Nero was able to annihilate easily. As your vessel is privy to classified information, I believe you can acquire secret transmission logs from Starfleet that tell the High Command to execute such a fool-hearty attack."
Red: "If you're saying I know which file folder to look in for such things, then the answer is yes; but it always means I have to open the viewer window, and that spinning hour glass gets on my mighty Klingon nerves."
>Brok: "Does it not boil your Klingon blood to know that Starfleet would send all those Klingons to their deaths? Just like a Q would snap his or her frail fingers? Those incessant petaQs!"
Red: "You are right. And here I have been working with them for the past thirteen years, when I could have been spitting on their daily-shined-in dress shoes!"
>Brok: "Good. You are nice and riled-up, and easily so, like a delightful bouquet of Talosian singing plants. --The House of Tochi will be very grateful for your assistance."
Red: "That's the House that attacks orphanages on Qo'Nos every year, to give the children free combat experience."
>Brok: "Yes, we are comparable to the Bajoran Prophets, only less floaty."

The Kassak drops warp and meets up with several more Hirogen attack ships.
Reikn: "Very well done, everyone. Your murdering was superb. Especially you, Durone. I will be keeping an eye out for your progress."
>Durone: "Aw, shucks."
>Carng: "I dropped my port side; I really need to improve in that aspect."
>Visca: "You made a perfect draw for fire. That's what you do best!"
>Carng: "A Hirogen should not like that, but a part of me just wants to be accepted."
Reikn: "Has anyone seen Wiken from the attack ship Yeijyn?"
They all look over and see the Yeijyn drop out of warp.
>Wiken: "Sorry I'm late! Was out making a non-agression pact with the Gorn."
Reikn: "What? Why would you do that? Also, you were supposed to be attacking the Federation with us!"
>Wiken: "Gah. You're right. I totally dropped the ball on that one. Sometimes my mind wanders and-- I'm really sorry."
Everyone blinks at their view screens and could have sworn there weren't a group of Gorn on Wiken's Bridge a minute ago.
>Visca: "Where did those come from?"
>Wiken, turns: "Yeah, no worries. I brought em aboard from the thing. I'll kill em. --Oh! You guys want Gorn bones as souvenirs? My treat, you know, to make it up to you."
>Carng: "I'll take a femur."
Reikn: "Uggh. Wiken, you are very odd. I don't get you. Anyway, everyone, let's prepare for the next attack. There are a group of ships congregating in the Tandar sector. You know, rotate your weapons and re-energize your shields and such-- Also, I want a murder count in my inbox by 0500 hours! None of this 0530 like last time."
>Durone: "You are such a slave-driver, Reikn."
Reikn: "I do it because I care. Alright? Kassak out."

Later, the Phoenix-X drops transwarp in the Gamma Hydra sector and approaches the Steamrunner-class starship Tsunami and the Defiant-class starship Dropzone, which are repairing a communications relay.
Cell: "Phoenix-X to Dropzone; it is good to see you again. Not that I didn't have the opportunity to over the years."
>Samya: "You weren't there, Captain. You didn't see the Hirogen destroy my ship! You're never there!"
Cell: "What?"
>Samya: "Sorry; just needed to get that out of my system. On the plus, side I received this new Defiant-class vessel, which, I must say, is a tough little ship."
Aeris: "Little?"
>Samya: "Wait. I was supposed to say that. Never mind. I gather you are here to recruit me into your task force? Well, I refuse, based on my previous experiences and exclamations."
Cell: "Oh yeah? Well, we'll just see what the Tsunami has to say!"
They hail the other ship.
>McCary: "Yeah right! We were the only ship to not be destroyed at Starbase 78 with that short-tempered Admiral Parsons; mostly because of the running away. Besides, our actions have no bearing on Captain Samya's."
Cell: "What about peer pressure to do what everyone else is doing?"
>McCary: "That attitude is so 23rd century, you don't even know."

Later, the Phoenix-X drops transwarp in the Alpha Onias system, where the Akira-class starship Hijinx and the Centaur-type starship Jenova are patrolling.
Cell: "I see you've got new star-vessels, ladies and gents."
>Iviok: "Hmph! They're new, but they do not have the added letter '-A' to their names, like some continuing ships around here."
Cell: "What? But that's the whole point of getting a new ship!"
>Iviok: "It does not apply to all of us because we obtained new registry's, which was accidental in cause by a Level 2 diagnostic at Utopia Planitia shipyards."
Cell: "Dammit. It strikes again. Can't you just go back and fix it?"
>Iviok: "And waste precious minutes? Impossible! Anyway, are you not here to recruit me for something?"
Cell: "I don't even know anymore?? Phoenix-X out."
He is then hailed by the Hijinx.
>Reynolds: "I'll join you, Captain. Those Hirogen are going to have to pay for what they've done. Just allow me to stay wayyyy back during the fight."
Cell: "Subtle; but the best we can get. This is the vengeful Starfleet we all learned about on Deep Space 9."
>Reynolds: "Just don't bother with trying to recruit the Ixion. After their old ship got stolen ten years ago by leaving the control panels unlocked, they've been under Captain Aeris' command."
Aeris: "That's me! We mostly have them make coffee runs from nearby starbases for us."
Cell: "But replicators??"
Aeris: "We disabled all of ours in favour of more power to the weapons. Oh, I can't wait for you to see my new ship! We also disabled all the synthehol dispensers. They're not alcohol, so no one cared."

The Phoenix-X and Hijinx drop transwarp in the Hanoli system, which is completely empty. The Intrepid-class starship Crucial scans it.
Hatcha: "Still nothing, huh? Well, keep scanning I suppose."
>Cell: "Commander, you are wasting your time! This place was wiped out by a subspace rupture centuries ago. It was the Vulcan's fault, but they don't like to talk about it."
Hatcha: "You never know. There could be two-dimensional lifeforms sifting about-- anything to avoid the Hirogen! The Hirogen caused Captain Menrow's death-- via control panel explosions-- Granted, Starfleet control panels are more dangerous than photon grenades."
>Cell: "I did lose five Starfleet crew members to control panels this year."
Hatcha: "Exactly! Plus there's something different about these Hirogen; they're not the avid rip-off game-style hunters described by that one vessel of the same class as ours from the Delta Quadrant."
>Cell: "Hey now. At least you got a new ship out of it. All you need now is to get it partially assimilated by the Borg and it'll be up to standards."
Hatcha: "Perhaps. But there would still be the issue of the jammed Aeroshuttle. None of the Intrepids have solved the Mars-dust-caught-in-its-crevices problem."
Barley: "Commander! A task force in the Cordian system has been engaged by the Hirogen!"

Aeris turns to Cell on the Bridge of the Phoenix-X.

Cell: "Captain? You rotated to face me in a purposeful and aggressive manner?"
Aeris: "That's my task force! --Not including my new ship, which is still at Starbase 01. You see, we've been preparing for our joint-attack with you against the Hirogen."
Armond: "Long range scans indicate all ships have been badly damaged, and the starship Rune has been destroyed."
Aeris: "We discovered an antithoron burst can disable their subnucleonic beams for 60 seconds. It's given us a chance to fight back-- you know, after the high-fives and such."
Armond: "The Hirogen are veering off; they've jumped to warp in the way that starships do in our universe. Heh, heh. Not like that other popcorn-way from the bulky Enterprise-alternate reality-- no, definitely not."
Cell: "Ugh. That's it. --Armond, hail the Tsunami, Dropzone and Jenova on long range. Tell them a Bolian freighter crashed into us and spilled two dozen creates of Class 2 Risian horga'hns all over the system."
Armond: "But sir! You want me to tell a lie? Very well. You are just lucky that I am not a Vulcan, as they are incapable of lying-- or so they say."

Meanwhile, Kortos makes his way to Red's quarters and bangs on the door.
Red: "Go away! I am engaging in a one man painstick ceremony."
Kortos opens the doors with his hands and steps in. He finds Red on the computer.
Red, covers it: "It is not what you think! I am not looking at Orion slave girl catalogues!"
Kortos: "No, you are not. You have acquired a classified file from one of the Klingons on this ship; something you believe is highly classified transmission logs."
Red: "My folder search was taking too long. But then I remembered that a handful of Klingons on the Phoenix-X know how use a computer also."
Kortos: "Through gossip, I have learned of your contact with Brok who says he is from the House of Tochi. I am here to tell you he is not! He's from the House of Groth!"
Red: "All houses are alike to me now. It is not something I admit freely."
Kortos: "The House of Groth has long been suspected of possessing anti-Martok values, siding with people like High Council member J'mpok and the House of Torg."
Red: "Seriously, I have not been keeping up with Klingon politics. --Anyway, because of that, I am only able to conclude that you are misguided! The Humans betrayed us to the Romulan mining vessel Narada, three years ago! And, as we are Klingons, holding a grudge is allowed."

Out in space, the Federation starships Tsunami, Dropzone and Jenova drop out of warp and approach the Phoenix-X, Crucial and Hijinx.
Cell: "Well, it's about time. And here I was just about to abort and go climb Yosemite National Park's El Capitan."
>McCary: "What is the big deal here? There is no Bolian freighter and no horga'hns to be found anywhere!"
>Samya: "Yeah, I was going to go to Risa and have the time of my life."
Cell: "Listen to me; all of you-- You are prioritizing your fears and negative experiences over the greater issue, which is the safety of Starfleet officers. The Federation is being attacked and it is up to us to un-attack them."
>Reynolds: "The Hirogen are just striking people who have already taken an oath that includes death as a possible consequence, so it's okay-- in theory."
>Iviok: "Teach me how to rationalize like that."
>Hatcha: "Perhaps if we stop the Hirogen, we can have one of their bones as trophies? I think they were on to something with that."
>McCary: "It is kind of like validation; but with the need for so much more."
Cell: "What are you saying? This is the opposite of Starfleet Captains!"
>Samya: "Okay, okay. What if we fight them for the greater good, and if there just happens to be Hirogen bones resulting from the battle, we collect a few for our Captain's Ready Room shelving units?"
>Iviok: "Agreed. It's not wrong if our purpose is to use empty space more efficiently. I'd say the psychological effects of a well organized display far outweighs the needs of the many."
>Reynolds: "Then it's settled. We attack. And if one of us screams 'For Cardassia', let's just go with it. You know, don't be afraid to join in. --Hijinx out!"

Meanwhile, in the Vissia system, the group of five Hirogen attack ships battle two Federation starships. The Kassak swings around and blows a hole into one of them; an Akira-class ship.
Reikn: "Now death will be immanent!"
#Wiken: "Yeijyn to Kassak. Are you about to make a kill? Are you?"
Reikn: "Yes; don't interrupt! It's kind of ruining the mood."
#Wiken: "After that, can you assist us over here? Seems our sister ship, the Tetain, has taken a lot of hits by this very large Federation starship."
Reikn: "Ugh. The Tetain is YOUR sister ship. You brought her into our divergent group. They are just as annoying as you."
#Wiken: "Hm. I guess I did bring them in. Can you believe how weak they are, though? Look at them. Ha! Well, we should help them anyway. They're our own people, after all."
The Kassak destroys the Akira-class starship Cedar, and turns to view the Hirogen attack ships Yeijyn and the Tetain being bombarded with photon torpedoes by the other ship.
Tungst: "Shall we intercept?"
Reikn: "And set us up to endure more of Wiken's ineptitude? I'd rather be immersed in a pit of Krallinian eels! Wait. That actually sounds pretty good. Put that on our to-do list."
The Tetain is on the brink of destruction, but instead of blowing up, the attacking starship Bautista explodes; sending pieces of hull and nacelles flying.
Reikn: "What the hell?? They weren't even close to death! Why are those two Hirogen vessels so oddly and unrealistically fortuitous??"
Tungst: "Do Hirogen believe in things like luck? Also, I'm Hirogen, so why am I asking from a third-person perspective?"
Reikn: "--Hold that thought. Sensors indicate a disturbance nearby. Like out of nowhere! Also, why am I yelling?!"

Just then, a transwarp aperture opens and six Federation starships exit, including, and led by, the Phoenix-X. The ships then take positions facing five Hirogen ships.

Cell: "Hirogen ships; this is Captain Cell of the U.S.S. Phoenix-X from Task Force Epsilon. Surrender yourself for crimes of murder and acts of war against the United Federation of Planets."
>Reikn: "So, we finally meet, Captain; as if two weaving story lines converged into one basket-like end-thing."
Cell: "You knew about me?"
>Reikn: "No, I just assumed that a confrontation was the way things were going. We were attacking ships like mad men, after all. But I assure you, Captain we are not like the majority of Hirogen from the Delta Quadrant-- that blissful portion of the galaxy many of your ships go to, for vacation, I assume."
Cell: "Obviously! According to Voyager, Hirogen live for the hunt. But you seem to just kill at random. You do know there are less murderous things you can do at random, right? Ever heard of chaos theory? You could leave a mess in your quarters like Crewmen Daniels' bunk mate from the NX-01 Enterprise 239 years ago."
>Reikn: "I do not follow. But you are right about our methods. We abandoned the ways of the other Hirogen, except our blood thirst remained. It's more of a by-product than anything... a delicious one!"
He checks the computer.
>Reikn: "Um, why is your starship Crucial requesting our skeletal diagrams?"
Cell: "Just ignore them. But don't ignore our intentions!"
>Reikn: "Of course not. Despite our revelations, we will digress to our murderous ways, thanks to the thirst, and sync up with your vengeful, anti-utopian-like desires."

The screen clicks off and ten more Hirogen attack ships drop out of warp to assist. The now fifteen ships open fire and engage the task force. Meanwhile, Red taps at a console in Main Engineering.
Kortos: "Shouldn't you be on the Bridge, piloting the ship; the very same ship that's in battle currently?"
Red: "I took a sick day to continue investigating the Klingon-situation."
Kortos: "You know, as Klingons, we just call them situations."
The ship shakes from torpedo hits.
Red: "I've been attempting to hack the file I acquired, in an effort to prove that it is, in fact, transmission logs of the Federation telling the High Command to foolishly attack Nero on the Narada! Which, I assume, will also include post-tell Federation laughter."
Kortos: "Excellent; my seeds of doubt were not planted in vein, like the many botanists of the 24th century who are in denial of replicators."
Suddenly, two more Klingons enter Main Engineering to confront Red and Kortos.
Zang: "What are you doing, you fool? Those records should have been transmitted to the House of Tochi hours ago!"
Kortos: "He pulled out the 'fool' card so early."
Red: "It has been three years, I do not see how a few more hours will make a difference? Unless-- Computer-- how much longer until the encryption is cracked?"
#Computer: "Warning. Klingon-hacking algorithms taking longer than expected-- additional encryptions being added as a consequence."
Red: "What am I thinking? Computer, use a Human-hacking algorithm!"
#Computer: "File hacked in under 0.0047 seconds."
Red, reads: "Just as my subconscious mind suspected--- This is all technical data on classified Phoenix-X technology!"
Zang: "The House of Groth thanks you for your indulgence. Join us, for you know the Federation is a frail and conniving organization!"
Red: "It's true, that is what I was thinking; but that was under false pretenses."
Zang: "Oh, pshaw; as long as you thought it. Am I right?"
He turns to the other Klingon, Fugreth.
Fugreth: "Yep."
Zang: "More than half the Klingons on this ship are ready for today's migration. If you will not take part, then you are an enemy of the House of Groth. And enemies don't get invited to parties. We always have the best blood-margaritas."
He slams his wrist communicator.
Zang: "Begin the crippling actions! And where's my blood-latte??"

On the Bridge, the crew get wind this, in mid-battle. The ship shakes from more torpedo hits.
Cell: "Damn those Hirogen for making us compromise our peaceful values; not that we weren't going to anyway --Fire the Transphasic torpedoes we acquired from Section 31. That should take care of them, and pretty much anyone else opposing us from now until forever."
Seifer: "We depleted those during the Mudd incident, last month."
Cell: "He was clearly really old and more than easily handled. What were we thinking??"
Seifer: "I guess we just had a lot to prove."
Armond: "Captain! I am getting reports of Klingons leaving their posts all throughout the ship!"
Cell: "You are to be reporting starship battle updates, Lieutenant Commander. Is the Dropzone still doing those loopty-loops? Tell Samya it's making me dizzy."
Armond: "The circular patterns are preventing me from establishing a communications lock. Also, the Klingon K'Vort-class bird of prey Roku has just de-cloaked off the port bow!"
Cell: "Son of a bitch--- what? Tucker said it all the time."
#Yogh: "Federation vessel, we thank you for your participation in the Officer Exchange Program, but many of your warriors are done with the Federation."
Cell: "Are you here in an official capacity?"
#Yogh: "If our anti-Martok agendas facilitate a legitimate role, then, yes."
Cell: "They do not. Also--- Hirogen."
#Yogh: "What? You can't just say a thing without context. That's irresponsible!"

Two Hirogen of ten remaining attack ships swing around and fire torpedoes onto the Roku. The Roku turns and blasts disrupter fire in return. Red enters the Bridge of the Phoenix-X.

Armond: "Klingons are beaming over to the Roku in static shield-drop bursts, made allowable due to Hirogen torpedo impacts."
Red: "They've changed sides! Which is not hard to imagine considering the Federation has been soooo pro-Romulan lately."
Cell: "The Romulans are scattered and helpless now! Our emotions get evoked."
Red: "Because their planet was destroyed by a hyper-active super nova? Oh, cry me a river."
The Phoenix-X shakes under another hit, knocking down the forward shields and allowing the remaining Klingon separatists to transport.
Armond, checking: "They certainly did a lot of damage on the way out-- the interphasic cloak; our token Talaxians; those alien attack ships we were using to prop up our miniature scale model of the Alamo..."
Kayl: "--The Hijinx, Dropzone, and the Crucial are offline and adrift. The Jenova and Tsunami are moving away to regenerate their shields. Wait. More ships are dropping out of warp. Screw our ships! The new ships arriving-- the Shark, the Rune, the Atlantis, the Ixion..."
Aeris: "Those are my ships!; Task Force Zeta, if you will. The new classes of the ones destroyed earlier were probably going through those bottle-smash launch ceremonies; you know how long those bottles take to hit the hull. Ugh. --Captain, may I join my new beauty, considering your embarrassing front-shield exposure?"
The Soveriegn-class starship Zephyra drops out of warp and opens fire on a Hirogen ship, blowing it to pieces.
Cell: "Um, we weakened that one for you; also, no fair! What the hell; it's like you won the Federation lottery."
Aeris: "Money doesn't exist in the future. Unrelated-- two bars of latinum says I destroy more Hirogen than Task Force Epsilon."

She beams off. Captain Cell then clenches his fist.

Cell: "Alright, she's on. --Attack pattern Shinzon theta!"
Armond: "Um, you do know that's the one where a saucer-section-crashes into you?"
Instead, the Phoenix-X splits into multi-vector mode and separates into three. It fires phasers into and weakens the aft and fore shields of the Hirogen attack ship Tetain. The Luna-class starship Rune flies by and hits the Tetain's aft hull with two photon torpedoes.
Armond: "Enemy's hull integrity down to 20-percent! It's beautiful; just beautiful. Thankfully I had a tissue dispenser installed next to this flame-prone tactical console."
The Saber-class starship Ixion passes over and fires a quantum torpedo into the Tetain's hull. Instead of the Tetatin exploding, one of the Ixion's nacelles explodes, sending the ship spinning away.
Seifer: "That was odd. But then again, anything can happen out in the far reaches of space. We learned that from Captain Kirk-- the right Kirk; not one of those duplicate re-hashes."

The Galaxy-class starship Atlantis breaks through the starboard shields of the Hirogen attack ship Yeijyn, and the Zephyra passes by with a quantum torpedo into the Yeijyn's starboard hull. Instead, the resulting explosion happens on the Zephyra's saucer section.

As the Phoenix-X reassembles, eight surviving Hirogen attack ships regroup. They watch as the Roku jumps to warp and they are hailed by the Kassak.
>Reikn: "You fight well, Starfleet. Perhaps we can discuss battle techniques over a coffee sometime? We Hirogen drink a different kind of coffee; one filled with the finger bones of our enemies."
Cell: "That sounds so unappealing, I have to wonder if you're being sarcastic."
>Reikn, disappointed: "Oh-- uh, yeah... yeah; sarcasm."
Cell: "Also, what is going on with some of your ships. They won't die??"
>Reikn: "Ugh. Don't get me started. I wanted the Yeijyn and the Tetain to be destroyed long ago. Thanks for not accommodating, by the way."
Armond: "I'm reading a quantum flux coming from the Tetain. That may explain why our energy weapons have been having no effect?"
>Reikn: "I knew it! They have new technology and aren't sharing. I would have investigated, but, as you can see, our ship compliments are two people each vessel and I need Tungst, here, to make the coffee every morning-- Of which, by the way, the offer still stands? Hey? No? Fine. Then prepare to be destroyed."
Cell: "Wait! I think we should check out the Tetain. There may be an explanation for all of this, including your unusual behaviour."
>Reikn: "How rude of you to say!"
>Tungst: "Oh, you know he's right."
>Reikn: "Yeah, but he didn't have to say it."

Cell, Aeris and Reikn beam over to the Tetain. There, a Hirogen is at the flight controls while the other Hirogen is tied up and extruding flowing energy currents from his-self.
Mork: "What is the meaning of this? I thought we were fighting! It is all I know, so continuing would help me out a great deal."
Reikn: "You people aren't normal. Explain yourself!"
Suddenly, Wiken beams in.
Wiken: "Very well. You see, this man, tied up here, is not Hirogen. He is a being of higher power, who imparted said powers unto the Hirogen on the Tetain and Yeijyn."
Qu: "That's right. I'm from the Q-Continuum, and you can call me Qu!"
Cell: "Q!"
Qu: "No, it's Qu. It sounds the same, but is spelled differently-- And I assure you, I am all about spelling and grammar. You see, I departed from the Continuum a few years ago, by mortal standards, after that other Q, you know who I mean, and his son attempted to fix Continuum woes by merely just existing!"
Cell: "Aw. But Janeway became an aunt and everything. It was adorable with a hint of retirement."
Qu: "Well, if you've ever met those two, you'd know they were merely trying to be something they're not; and as such, they weren't the perfect solution to maintain a status quo."
Cell: "I see, and that's how you were able to diverge and be separate in omnipotence-- Well, you and others."
Qu: "Ugh; the M's, that 0, Wesley, Them, X's, that Telarian named Rein-- The annoying list goes on. But I assure you, I am Q, through and through. I represent the mischievous nature lost upon the Continuum, and in doing so, created my own henchmen by turning these Hirogen part-omnipotent."
Wiken: "Right! And we, in turn, tied Qu up with our omnipotent-bonds and made Reikn and his group go all anti-hunter to straight killer!"
Aeris: "Why??? Sorry; it's just that I've just been following along so intently."
Wiken: "Like Qu said-- the mischievousness. Only, we've taken it to a more intense, by-the-book, rule-oriented level. Our goal is to divide the year into quarters, do one random thing per, and measure results."
Qu: "Yeah, no. We're supposed to be having fun! Why do you humanoids always think you can organize chaos into some kind of chaos-order-thing? That's the opposite of nature."
Cell takes out his phaser and blasts the bindings holding Qu's wrists behind the chair. Aeris takes out her phaser as well and fires too. The bonds destabilize and break, and Qu gets up; transforming himself into Human form.
Qu: "This form is much better! You have no idea the unwarranted crevices those Hirogen pressure suits gain access to."
Cell: "I've released you so you may be able to grant me three wishes."
Qu: "That's not anything."
Cell: "Oh. Well, you at least appeared to be against the half-Q's. Will you destroy them or something? You can't just have all this revelation and no change in someone's status."
Qu: "I'll do you one better! I'll stare at them, sharply."
He turns his gaze.
Wiken: "Ugh. His eyeball is doing that wiggle thing again. Let's get out here!"
Mork: "Agreed-- and before he does the Spock-eyebrow raise; it's just all-the-time with that raise."

They quickly beam Cell, Aeris and Reikn to the Phoenix-X. Qu transports himself onto the Bridge in a flash.

Armond: "Captain, those two Hirogen attack ships are going to warp!"
Qu: "Ah, maybe it's for the best. You ever spend too much time with a person and they get so needy that you go nuts and tell them you need time apart? Well, it's like that, only the Hirogen don't live in their mother's basement."
Reikn: "Well, thank you mister Qu, for all of your insanely unwarranted interference in everyone's business."
Cell: "As for you; you're off to jail-- futuristic jail! It's just jail with force-fields, and since the present is the future, we just call it normal jail-- also, the brig."
Qu: "Whoa now, Captain. These Hirogen did nothing bad. They were only following their instincts-- nature, if you will."
Aeris: "They killed hundreds of Starfleet officers!"
Qu: "Oh please. Is killing a crime? I haven't read your Federation laws, but I doubt it."
He snaps his finger and Reikn and the six left over Hirogen cruisers disappear in a flash.
Seifer: "That is literally just as bad as a temporal reset button. Why can't there be consequences for people's actions anymore?"
Qu: "I just sent them a few parsecs away, to give them a running chance. Me doing something good for a mortal was the consequence. As a Q, it's like running to Earth's moon and back-- it's doable for you, but unpleasant on a whole."
Seifer: "Then you're saying the cause of contention here was you."
Qu: "How dare you clarify things!"
He snaps and sends Seifer to the Brig.
Aeris: "The Hirogen are going to have to deal with issues of free will, as it is now obvious they were never the ones to choose to leave their hunting-principals to begin with."
Qu: "And I'm off to a Q seminar with the other Q, you know who I mean, on French military-recreation science. It's not as easy as it looks, you know."

He flashes away. Aeris beams back to the Zephyra and has Task Force Zeta warp away, leaving Task Force Epsilon behind. The Captain's from all the ships hail the Phoenix-X.

>Samya: "Well, that was very touch-and-go-y. I did not expect my Defiant-class starship Dropzone to be knocked out like it was the second Borg battle, at Earth, all over again."
>McCary: "To be fair, that whole Borg-attack thing was a big veruul-off to the Defiant. As for us, it appears the Hirogen vessels and Klingon ship are nowhere to be found on long range sensors."
>Iviok: "Damn! ...I'm sorry, it's just that-- our efforts."
Cell: "In thankfulness of all your great work, I've asked several dancers from Argelius II to come over and meet with you. Though, since we're in space, that might take a while."
>Reynolds: "Well, I got what I came for; a good murdering and some souvenirs. Though, you think we're no better than the Hirogen for enjoying what we do?"
>Samya: "Only if that enjoyment isn't justice, and is the killing part. But it's your head, so grey areas and all that. My question is, why did our name change? Weren't we Flame Squad or Fire Bunch or something horrible like that?"
>Hatcha: "I believe a group of over-zealous Starfleet cadets took those names, hijacked the starship Ahwahnee and are still out there trying to be 'free'."
Cell: "Ew, is that one of those Cheyenne-class ships? They can keep it."
>Iviok: "Then it is settled. We will meet on a regular basis to improve our battle strategies as a Task Force!"
>McCary: "That was not the conversation we were just having."
>Iviok: "It was now. See you in two weeks. Jenova out!"

Commander Seifer meets with Cell and Red in the conference room, where they open a long range communiqué from Klingon space.

Seifer: "Um, why did no one get me from the brig? I had to knock out a guard and make a run for it. There was a fight in the corridors and I literally jump-kicked a guy to get here."
Cell: "What? I called Wallace over comm an hour ago to free you!"
Seifer: "He left the ship with Mayhem last week during our undercover investigation at Sigma Iota II. They got caught up in the Fizzbin Championships, so Section 31 had them stay for a long-form study-slash-gambling."
Cell: "Gah. Of course; I nodded off during that post-mission briefing-- a thing that Changelings don't do, but I adopted anyway."
Red: "Sir, I must apologize for my behaviour; in thinking the worst of Starfleet against the Klingon Empire without any direct evidence."
Cell: "Hah! We think the worst of Starfleet all the time; even more so now because of your misgivings. It's us that should apologize for your awkward-fitting B-story which seems to not have any relevance what-so-ever to the A-story-- except for crippling the Phoenix-X at a critical moment."
Red: "Story?"
Cell: "It's just a way I interpret everyday things--- never mind. Why did you not leave with the other Klingons?"
Suddenly, they realize Menchez on Qo'Nos has been on screen the whole time.
>Menchez: "I'll take that personal and hard-to-answer question. You see, Captain, not all Klingons are anti-Federation, despite all the attention you've been giving the Romulans, some of us do not forget the battles we've fought together."
Seifer: "Menchez! I thought you'd be patrolling the Gamma Orionis system, since you like belts so much, and they have a high-belt trade-commerce there."
>Menchez, under his breath: "Well, there was this Gorn attack--- ship destroyed--- lost the whole crew-- including Starfleet Exchange Officers--- pet targs--"
Cell: "Sorry, we didn't get any of that? Are you mumbling?"
>Menchez: "What? Oh, as I was saying, I was transferred to the High Command for personnel assignment coordination; and despite deteriorating relations between our peoples, I'd like to keep the Exchange Program going, with whoever's remaining there, in an effort to maintain positive accords."
Cell: "Agreed. --Commander, what's the crew status?"
Seifer: "Seems that thirty-nine KDF officers left during the Hirogen fight, and killed an additional fourteen Starfleet officers on their way out."
>Menchez: "Ugh. And you guys never get new officers because of your classified engine, do you? Well, this is awkward. Got to go!"

The screen clicks off and Red returns to the bridge. Seifer then approaches Captain Cell.

Seifer: "Wait, were you and Red talking about the Worf/Nero fight before the Hobus star explosion? Yeah, Section 31 was totally the masterminds behind that-- the fight part, I mean. That star explosion was likely a plot device for a different thing."
Cell: "Damn! I'm sure Qu would like to say it was in Section 31's nature. But I'm supposed to meet Captain Data for a Sherlock Holmes re-enactment tomorrow. I know-- I'll just behave wildly and erratically and hope he doesn't catch on."
Seifer: "Sounds good! And if that's what that omnipotent rebel, who I hate, would say, then perhaps we all should stop trying to limit our behaviours."
Cell: "Perhaps."
Seifer: "Well, I'm off to see if my attempts at contacting Species 8472 for belt trade was successful-- I'm hoping the belts will lead to them wanting pants."