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June 18th 2275

Personal Log, Stardate 7546.2
Commander Pavel Andreivich Chekov recording.

We had a nasty run-in with the Orions today, and I saw something that disturbed me deeply.

Lieutenant Thela Kazanga and I were in the mess hall finishing breakfast when the red alert klaxons went off. Thela is my “lady friend.” She’s a beautiful Andorian girl, and she’s a little nuts -– well, maybe a lot nuts - but in a good way! She’s been given two field commendations in the last four months for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. I took one last swallow of orange juice before we ran to the nearest turbolift for the bridge.

The Reliant had cornered an Orion blockade runner--a pirate ship--hauling contraband arms to a rebel group inside the Federation. Captain Terrell ordered them to come about for an inspection, and, of course, the Orion captain fired on us. Then he tried to make a run for it, still blasting away at us. We quickly disabled them and ordered them to surrender and prepare to be boarded.

But there were complications.

With Orions, there are always complications.

The Orions had a dozen or so young girls they had kidnapped from various Federation planets who were to be sold in the slave pens of Xantharus IV. The Orion captain had them spread through different areas of the ship, and warned us that any attempt to board would mean their deaths. There was a young Vulcan girl on the bridge with him. If she had been Human, I would have guessed her to be no more than twenty years old. She was naked and had been savagely beaten; the captain was literally holding her up by her hair, or she would have collapsed to the deck. In order to show he meant business, the Orion whipped out this huge dagger and slashed the poor girl’s throat from ear to ear. I heard someone throw up behind me on the bridge, and I almost joined them.

Captain Terrell issued some swift orders under his breath to Commander Steve Kelowitz, our security chief, who had just returned to duty from medical rehab. Steve quickly moved to Commander Beach at the science station. The captain began to negotiate with the pirate commander to distract him (I know that the official Federation stance is that we don’t negotiate with terrorists, but I haven’t met a captain yet who follows that directive). In the meantime, Commander Beach had isolated all the non-Orion life form readings on the pirate vessel and pinpointed their locations. There were twelve of them who had survived.

I offered to help out on one the security details because we were short-handed. We assembled into two-person teams. Thela and I beamed over to one of the decks that housed their crew quarters, homing in on a non-Orion life sign. We found her in the grip of an Orion pirate. He was a young man; he was two heads taller than me, and his biceps looked as big as my thighs. He had gold body piercings all over his face and forehead which made him very scary-looking.

But he was the one who looked scared.

He had a young Human girl in a choke hold with a blaster pistol jammed up under her chin. Like the Vulcan, she was naked and had been worked over pretty badly, and a viscous pink mixture of blood and semen glazed the insides of her legs. She was terrified, and bleeding heavily from the mouth. She was in a bad way.

“Let her go!” Thela ordered. She pointed her phaser carbine at him, and I saw her adjust it for a fine beam disrupt. I think she was going to try to vaporize his pistol and his gun hand before he could shoot the girl; I’ve seen her do it before. Scares me to death.

“Don’t make me kill her!” the Orion begged. “Please--I don’t want to!”

“Then let her go,” I said. “Stop this now, and nothing will happen to you.”

His eyes were wide and terrified. For a moment, I thought he was going to drop his pistol. Then the girl decided to take matters into her own hands. She bit him on the arm with all of her failing strength, and he dropped her with a cry of pain. She passed out as she slid to the floor.

And then all hell broke loose.

Thela and I both shot him in the chest, although she was still set on fine beam and only punched a little hole in him. As he pitched backward, his pistol went off and shot Thela in her left shoulder. She screamed in agony and slammed back against a bulkhead, and she left a wide smear of cobalt blue blood on the wall as she slid down to sit on the deck. The Orion lost his pistol as he hit the floor. He started crawling painfully down the corridor.

I remember screaming Thela’s name as I ran toward her.

She was cursing up a blue streak. “Shit, shit, shit!” she sobbed. “They'll...put me in… rehab. I...hate rehab...”

The wound looked awful. She was bleeding heavily, and the open flesh was burning and sizzling. If she didn’t get medical attention, the burn would spread and incinerate her entire body from the inside out. She was pale; normally, her skin color is a very beautiful blue, like the sky in October on a perfect day. It was almost white now. Fortunately the medics came right away; they had heard the phasers shrieking.

They laid her down on an antigrav litter and started working on her.

She gazed up at me; her beautiful violet eyes were black with pupil dilation, and they were full of pain. “G-go kill that…green skinned bastard before he grabs…a-another little girl…I’ll be all r-right…”

There were medics working on the injured girl as well, so I went after the Orion.

He wasn’t going to be hard to find. He left a trail of green-black blood on the deck. I was hell-bent for vengeance. I remembered what happened when the Orions captured the shuttlecraft Hawking eight months ago. I think everybody in the Federation remembers that bloody atrocity...

The Hawking had not been on a spy mission. She had been damaged by a fierce ion storm and forced down on Xantharus IV. The Director of the Barrier Alliance Consortium, Gareth Brok, holovised the torture and execution of her crew: two men and five women. They were crucified in the amphitheater in the city of Gracchos against a backdrop of slave auctions and bloodsports, in front of a jeering crowd of 150,000, with holocams hovering around their naked, mangled bodies as they hung, slowly dying, nailed to crude wooden crosses.

One unfortunate young girl, a fresh-faced ensign, had taken three days to die under the blazing red sun...

I hated Orions for what they did to their captives on Xantharus IV, and this Orion had tried to kill my Thela. I slid the dial on my carbine to full disrupt.

I was going to blast him into atoms when I caught up to him.

The trail of blood wound its way into a small crew cabin. It was dimly lit; I could see the Orion stretched out on the blood-soaked bed, reaching for something on his nightstand. One look at him told me he only had minutes to live. I lost some of my steam then and moved closer, lowering my rifle.

His trembling fingers were reaching for a holocube. “P—please….may…I h-have…it…?” he gasped.

I picked it up. Five of the six holopics featured a beautiful young Orion girl and an adorable little baby. She didn’t look old enough to have given birth, but there it was. They were smiling happily in all of them.

The last one depicted the dying Orion, smiling, with his arm around the girl as she cradled the infant. I handed the perspex cube to him.

“Th-thank...y…you...” he croaked. “My…..wife…and..s-son….”

He unsuccessfully tried to raise the cube to his blood flecked lips. I steadied his shaking hands, and he kissed the cube.

Then he clutched it to his chest and died.

For some reason, I reached down and closed his staring eyes.

I stood there frozen for several minutes. Inexplicably, I had tears in my own eyes.

We only managed to save ten of the thirteen hostages. The girl Thela and I had rescued died on the operating table from massive internal injuries. I suppose under the circumstances, that wasn’t too bad, but one lost life is one too many. The Orion captain took a suicide pill when faced with capture, as did many of his men.

Captain Terrell was kind enough to have my relief finish my shift so I could be in Sickbay with Thela. She was in surgery for five hours, and I wasn’t allowed to go in. I almost lost my mind.

Finally, Doctor Cynda Callison, our CMO, came out. She looked exhausted, but she was smiling.

She told me Thela was going to be fine, but it had been a close call. She would be off the track again for about five days, which would drive her crazy, but she should be able to resume her normal duties after that.

I went in to sit by her and hold her hand. Doctor Callison told me she’d be out for about another twelve hours. Her beautiful sky-blue color is back. The plastiskin and syntheflesh on her wounded shoulder are darker right now, but they’re smooth as a baby’s butt –- no scarring. They’ll become the same color as the rest of her skin after they’re absorbed. She looks like an innocent little blue angel sleeping there –- although most people don’t think of angels as having antennae!

It’s a comfort for me to be with her, but it gives me too much time to think.

I almost lost my beloved little ladybug today. My stomach gets tied up in knots every time she goes out on a mission. It’s bad enough when I go out on one with her, but it’s even worse when I have to stay behind on the ship. We’ve talked about this. Thela’s philosophical about it. She says she’s a redshirt, and there’s a better than even chance she’ll be killed in the line of duty at some point, so why don’t we just enjoy the time we have together if something does happen? And if nothing ever does happen, so much the better.

But as much as almost losing Thela bothered me, what happened with the Orion disturbed me even more.

I’ve killed before. I’ve killed from a distance, pressing a button at the weapons console of a starship. I’ve looked another being in the eye and killed him –- or, sometimes, her.

But it’s always been a kill-or-be-killed situation.

It’s easy to demonize your enemy. Captain Kirk reviles the Klingons –- says they could never be trusted. I felt the same way about the Orions, after what they did to the Hawking's crew. After all, these were the monsters who crucified those people in their amphitheater. The same monsters who programmed their hovering holocams to obscenely zoom in on the surviving young ensign's tortured, naked body as it hung on the cross, so her horrified family back on Earth could watch as, days later, that body turned blue as she suffocated, and so they could hear her death rattle.

I can’t reconcile those images with that mortally-wounded young man who only wanted to see a picture of his wife and baby son one last time before he died. In many ways, he’s no different from any of us. He was just doing his job--although his job was twisted and evil to our way of thinking. But I would hardly call him a monster.

I wish now that we hadn’t had to kill him.

Anyway, it’s been an eventful day. Thela and I will have a lot to talk about--and think about--when she wakes up.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a normal day--whatever that is...

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