Following the sudden death from natural causes of her mentor, Admiral Stephen Alcott, Captain Kanril Eleya of the USS George Hammond leads a series of anti-piracy operations in the Federation-Klingon border region while treaty negotiations to formally end the war continue. On one such op, she collides with Colonel Janice O'Neill Qua, a former Starfleet captain who infamously defected to the Moab Confederacy in 2407 after being detained on suspicion of being a Klingon mole. As Eleya continues to investigate, she becomes embroiled in the shadowy war between the Confederacy and the Orion Syndicate, leading to the most cataclysmic event of the Masterverse to date: Fek-Day.
- The Alcoholic: Eleya admits she drinks too much, but sends Petty Officer Dieter Fuchs to counseling after learning he's drinking even more than she does, self-medicating for PTSD. Eleya doesn't forbid him from drinking; instead she recommends he switch to a better brand of liquor that he can't afford to drink by the bottle.
- An Arm and a Leg/Eye Scream: Jarkko is seriously wounded in combat, losing an eye and an arm.
- Arms and Armor Theme Naming: An Excalibur-class cruiser is named USS Joyeuse.
- Artificial Gravity: Exploited. Peri hacks the Space Station's AG and weaponizes it. The results aren't pretty.
- Bittersweet Ending: The outlaw Orion syndicates' back is broken by the joint Moab-Starfleet raid on their headquarters, but the Moabites fail to prevent Fek-Day and their use of Child Soldiers is discovered, which leads to further problems. Eleya escapes punishment for refusing to arrest Janice Qua, but is reassigned to a relative backwater region.
- Brainwashing: The Orion Massana House Space Station turns out to be an indoctrination center that turns captives of other species into docile slaves.
- Chest of Medals: Fuchs is grumbling about what might happen to the fleet Admiral Alcott painstakingly rebuilt now that he's dead, commenting "I can feel the shine on my boots getting ripped right off". Not long after, a group of senior officers, including Eleya, walk in, and the narration says that "the fruit salad of the three admirals and five COs in full dress whites entering the room ought to be enough shine for anyone."
- Decon-Recon Switch: Discussed regarding the classical Star Trek Aesop of self-improving your way to utopia. Eleya speaks derisively of the attitude that humanity as a whole is supposed to have evolved beyond all its bad habits, comparing it to the Bajoran history of internal strife and racial and caste discrimination (the latter of which Eleya has experienced personally). She then turns around and basically says, "yeah, people have flaws, I have flaws, but we don't have to be ruled by them."
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Given her cultural background and the fact that she herself was nearly enslaved by Orions as a nineteen-year-old, Eleya's view of the conflict between Moab and the Orions comes off a little skewed by Federation norms. She evinces some approval of various acts committed by Moabite anti-slavery raiders that would normally be considered war crimes (torture, summary executions, taking ears as trophies and leaving playing cards as calling cards). It's also noted that the Bajorans had to abolish the death penalty and stop hanging Cardassian collaborators to join the Federation. Using underage soldiers, however, proves a bridge too far.
- Distant Prologue: The prologue depicting Janice Qua's incarceration takes place in August 2407. The main story takes place around the turn of 2410/2411.
- Due to the Dead: The story starts with a wake for Admiral Alcott. Eleya says a Bajoran prayer for the dead as she passes his casket, and later toasts him in the station lounge.
- Epigraph: "The Waters and the Wild" by Demon Eye, and "Iron" by Within Temptation.
- Fantastic Racism: Nobody likes the Orions. There's also a bit from an Andorian's perspective that evinces dislike of Klingons: Andorians are a Proud Soldier Race where you're expected to keep your passions subordinated to unit discipline, and to break away in pursuit of personal glory used to be a death penalty offense and dishonoring to your entire family.
- Fantastic Slurs: "Greenskins" reappears as a slur for Orions.
- Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: Both authors are history nerds. There's an allusion to the Battle of Samar in the climactic battle, with Eleya's group of ships labeled Task Force 34. The implication is that they and Qua's ships (the latter representing a fairly large percentage of the MCDF) are the ships drawn out of position while the real battle, Fek-Day, happens elsewhere.
- Fighting Fingerprint: When Eleya's anti-piracy patrol collides with Janey Qua's, she and Tess both realize quickly who they're up against. Eleya recognizes Starfleet-style firing patterns and knows there's only so many command-level Starfleet personnel who defected, though Tess simply got a good look at the lead bird-of-prey's Nose Art.
- Fish out of Water: Admiral Vivian Kingsley III, Mwangi's replacement. He's a Badass Bureaucrat but by his own admission is terrible at earning the respect of his subordinates.
- Foreign Cuss Word: Some Finnish swearing from Eleya's recurring friend Commander Jarkko Mäkinen.Eleya: Keep [the Orions] off me, Jarkko!
Jarkko: (over radio) Don't tell me how to do my job, El! You focus on that helvetin huoranote , let me deal with the little vitutnote !
Jarkko: Tämä on perseestänote , isnt this typical. I get two medals because Im too dumb to dodge properly, and you save the day and get reassigned to someplace behind Gods back.
- And later, after Jarkko gets a medal:
- Gambit Pileup: Two of them.
- The Space Pirate scene. The MCDF is conducting cross-border raids against Space Pirates and Orion slavers, and Qua pursues Orions that are attacking what appears to be a freighter. The freighter is actually Eleya's Stargazer-class heavy cruiser USS George Hammond, which is broadcasting a false IFF to lure the pirates into attacking it.
- As part of a coup attempt against Melani D'Ian, the outlaw Orion Trade Houses try to get the Good Masters to come back by triggering the Fek'Ihri to come from their Alternate Universe and attack Moab. Qua attacks their base to try to stop this (she fails) and plants bait to draw Starfleet into backing them up (she succeeds in attracting Eleya's attention). In other material, the Fek attack is stopped at great cost, the coup fails, and the renegade Houses are all but destroyed.
- Hypocrite: Eleya accuses Qua of this when the latter suggests just letting her and her forces go and telling her superiors they slipped away while she was otherwise occupied. Eleya calls this a lie of omission. She does let them go, but has a very carefully crafted legal argument as to why.Eleya: You complain about the Federation discarding the rule of law, resign your commission over it, and then expect me to discard it when its convenient for you. And then theres the little problem that half your phekkta force is underage. Thats the real reason I kept Master Corporal Lang from joining you on the station. Ill be reporting that to Admiral Mwangi, and General KRagh, now that I have solid proof from Chief Corpsman Willis. Unlike you, I dont ignore or run away from my problems, Colonel. I face them and accept the consequences of my actions.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Qua is shown on a video beating information out of Orion prisoners.
- Kinda Busy Here: Eleya calls up Qua to tell her about the Fek'Ihri attack on the Moab system while the latter is shooting it out with Orions.Peri Wahlberger: Call for you, Mum, it's Captain Kanril!
Qua: Busy! Take a message!
- Location Theme Naming: Several São Paulo-class tactical escorts named for cities, including Mäkinen's USS Nazareth.
- Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!: The Orions had an interstellar empire millennia ago, but their relative Creative Sterility eventually meant they were overtaken and thrown down by younger, more dynamic races, including the Klingons. Qua theorizes that initiating Fek-Day to bring back the Good Masters was an attempt by House Massana to make Orions great again.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": Resulting from a Gambit Pileup early in the story. Janice Qua and her crew have an Oh, Crap! when what she thought was a freighter about to be attacked by Orions suddenly broadcasts the IFF of USS George Hammond. Further Oh Craps ensue when the second Federation starship Eleya had with her appears, and then when Eleya, who is experienced at fighting Klingons, is able to track Qua's fleeing birds-of-prey through their cloak for a few minutes. Eleya, conversely, has an Oh, Crap! when Qua's bird-of-prey wolfpack decloaks and attacks the Orion ship she was luring in. For their part, the Orions just plain panic and open fire on everybody.
- Medal of Dishonor: Joked about. Jarkko Mäkinen gets a Purple Heart and a Starfleet Space Forces Commendation Medal with a combat V for his part in the climax.Jarkko: Tämä on perseestä, isnt this typical. I get two medals because Im too dumb to dodge properly, and you save the day and get reassigned to someplace behind Gods back.
- Military Moonshiner: There's a brief reference to Chief Walston making "slash".
- Modern Major General: Admiral Vivian Lorus Gorton Kingsley III, who replaces Vice Admiral Joseph Mwangi as commander of the border fleet at the end of the story, has this image in Starfleet. A germophobic, socially awkward upper-class man whose only starship command ended in misery for all concerned, he's referred to behind his back as "Admiral Gilbert-and-Sullivan". It's not exactly the whole story: he is all those things, but he's also a damn good bureaucrat and good at fighting turf wars in Starfleet's power centers.
- A Mother to Her Men: Eleya's tendencies toward this are on full display, including personally intervening with a petty officer struggling with PTSD. This gets lampshaded:
- Named After Somebody Famous:
- There's a Dervish-class escort named the USS Benjamin L. Sisko, and an Intrepid-class named the Cetshwayo kaMpande.
- Also two Dakota-class heavy cruisers named for tribes, Apache and Yoruba.
- The Moabites were previously established to name birds-of-prey after people. Qua's flagship Astoria is unexplained, but another one that gets Red Shirted is named Võ Nguyên Giáp.
- Narrative Profanity Filter: Played for Laughs.
- The Orions demand that the freighter Wuddship (Eleya's USS George Hammond in disguise) surrender."The reply was a male voice, some Scandinavian language and, according to the translator readout, described the various ingredients making up the Orion matron and the things her mother had mated with in decidedly unhygienic terms. Amused, Qua saved it to a PADD for future reference."
- "Captain Kanril said something rather un-captainy."
- The Orions demand that the freighter Wuddship (Eleya's USS George Hammond in disguise) surrender.
- National Anthem: After "Last Post", the musicians at Alcott's wake play "The Red Sands of Home", the state song of Mars, Alcott's home planet.
- Off on a Technicality: Reconstruction. Eleya successfully argues on constitutional grounds that she can't be held criminally liable for letting Janice Qua, who is wanted for treason, escape, and views any order to the contrary as illegal.
- The treatment of Qua while she was being investigated blatantly violated multiple civil rights protections, including right to legal representation and habeas corpus, to such an extent it's likely a judge would have dismissed the charges had they made it to court.
- Despite being supported by the Klingons, legally the Moab Confederacy is not at war with the Federation. First, the text of Article I, Section 2 of the Articles of Federation permits member planets to hold a secession referendum at any time, for any reason.note Second, the Federation Council has not, to date, declared war to force them back in, as is its power under Article II, and (to Eleya's knowledge; she's technically wrong but nobody other than the Moabites themselves know it) Moab has conversely not taken any military action against the Federation. And with the Klingon War de facto ended by the Risa Armistice, there is no justification for her to view Moab as an enemy state, especially since she just got done with an Enemy Mine in which Qua was her ally.
- Oh, Crap!: Besides the Mass "Oh, Crap!" when Eleya and Qua's anti-piracy missions collide, Eleya has a private one when Qua sends a "Case White" message. This is a Klingon code meaning "potential quadrant-wide emergency".
- Old-School Dogfight: This kind of turning fight is par for the course with small ships armed with cannons, from Defiant- and São Paulo-class tactical escorts to the Klingon birds-of-prey fielded by the Moabites. Orion corvettes have beam weapons, but fight much the same way. This includes a textbook Thatch weave by Jarkko's USS Nazareth and another tacscort.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Downplayed. At the end of the story, Eleya's ship rotated out of the Klingon border fleet to Deep Space 9. She views this as the brass getting back at her for seemingly Going Native, though Admiral Mwangi points out that she is actually overdue to come off the front lines. Mwangi himself is being Kicked Upstairs.
- Rousing Speech: Eleya turns her eulogy for Admiral Alcott into one of these.Admiral Stephen Dragovich Alcott, she simply said, her contralto sounding even rougher than usual.
Admiral Stephen Dragovich Alcott, the room echoed, and Fuchs drained the few drops left.
His wars over, his path complete, she said, pouring another glass, then laying the bottle back down. But its not as simple as that, and we all know it. We are the fleet he built, but a fleet doesnt hinge on one commander, it hinges on all of us. He sacrificed his life, not his death, to the United Federation of Planets, to the people in this room, and the people on every world spinning. His life was worth something, lets make sure ours are. She raised her glass again. Whos like us!? she suddenly bellowed in a voice worthy of a drill instructor.
Damn few! Chief Walston and a few of the other senior noncoms answered without missing a beat, as Fuchss jaw dropped and the Captain drank. And theyre dead!
- Rugged Scar: Played for Laughs. Eleya teases Jarkko that one upside of his injuries is that "you'll have a great scar to wow the girls with."
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. Word of God is that space's distances are reason for Eleya's Wolf in Sheep's Clothing tactics at the start of the story.Star Sword-C: Space is frelling huge. Starfleet only has so many ships and even an uncloaked ship can be hard to detect at a distance. You'll notice that Eleya used fakery to get the pirates to come to HER. This is something she used very successfully during the war in some side stories I've brainstormed: lacking cloaks as they do, Starfleet goes old-school when they need to be stealthy. It's a weird case where old techniques actually work better than new ones: a cloaked ship is easier to detect at warp than at sublight speeds (something it's likely the Moabites aren't fully aware of), whereas a ship that simply returns a signal of something it's not looks the same at any speed. And on the off chance any raiders survive to report back, they now know that any civilian ship they attack could in fact be a Federation capital ship in disguise.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Dieter Fuchs is self-medicating with alcohol for PTSD incurred in Looking Into Enemy Eyes.
- Several to Mass Effect, naturally, since StarSword is a fan and has mentioned previously he partly based Eleya on a Paragade FemShep.
- Eleya toasts Admiral Alcott's memory with the call-and-response toast "Who's like us?!" "Damn few, and they're dead!" from Mass Effect 3. In-Universe, it's a toast used for enlisted men, which leads to the minor reveal that Alcott came Up Through the Ranks.
- Dieter Fuchs is mentioned to have a Porn Stash that includes several copies of Fornax, an Ascended Fanon publication that had asari/hanar porn.
- Eleya demonstrates her Genre Savvy by skeptically comparing the Eternal Recurrence of the Good Masters wiping out advanced civilizations to the Reaper cycles.
- The story reuses From Bajor to the Black's reference to the Babylon 5 episode "GROPOS", with Eleya relating a story of one of her drill instructors saying, "Soldier goes into battle and he isnt scared, hes either dead, or stupid."
- Janice Qua is said to be dreaming about "arranging brightly colored power tools in a bathtub", a reference to a light bulb joke about surrealist painters (Word of God cites A Prairie Home Companion's Pretty Good Joke Book).
- While hunting pirates, the USS George Hammond pretends to be a freighter christened Wuddship, a Mossflower reference.
- Janice Qua plays Heather Alexander's "March of Cambreadth" when leaving port.
- Several to Mass Effect, naturally, since StarSword is a fan and has mentioned previously he partly based Eleya on a Paragade FemShep.
- Shown Their Work: Author's notes in the story's STO forum thread point out the thought process that went into the war strategies. Among other things, space is vast and empty and Star Trek ships are fairly slow, so un-militarized planets are very vulnerable to Hit-and-Run Tactics. The Federation, however, had banned most personal and state weapon ownership on low-tier colonies as a reaction to the Maquis. Admiral Alcott revoked this after taking command of the border fleet and worked to establish indigenous defense forces that could deter attacks or Hold the Line long enough for Starfleet to arrive.
- Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Due to Deliberate Values Dissonance, the Orions in the Masterverse consider being owned by another the natural state of being: even Melani D'ian herself is "owned" by the Orion gods, the Good Masters. As such, they usually don't understand why most other races hate slavery so much: the Moabites openly Pay Evil unto Evil when they capture Orion ships, and Eleya is uncritical of their tactics even though they violate sentient rights protections. Her security chief Ruqayya al-Qahtani disagrees and tries to appeal to Eleya's practical side, pointing out that this kind of treatment just encourages the Orions to ditch the evidence or fight to the death.
- Standard Starship Scuffle: Eleya at one point engages in a broadside duel with a Marauder-class flight deck cruiser. She finally lures it into massed cannon fire from several escorts.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: The main story opens with a wake for Admiral Alcott, who died in his sleep from a heart attack between stories.
- Take That!: The author's notes take a potshot at the canon game's exaggerated use of Overranked Soldier, pointing out that the reason Eleya is in command of the heavy cruiser George Hammond (instead of USS Bajor as in Bait and Switch (STO)) is that she's only 30 and has been a full captain for a little under a year. In the story proper, one character says they ought to promote Eleya to command the border fleet, which another says is ridiculous.
- A Tankard of Moose Urine: Eleya and Tess both think this of the cheap blended bourbon that Fuchs has been getting drunk on.Eleya: This cheap glug I took from you isn't worth watering a plant with.
Tess: (takes a sniff, makes a face) Wow, they should've dropped Romulan ale from the embargo and put that on, it's worse than Walston's slash.
- Theme Naming: There are several variations in the names of ships. Besides the subtropes noted up the page, there's an Odyssey-class USS Kalevala.
- Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Rather than hunt through half of space for pirates, Eleya broadcasts a false ID of a freighter to get the pirates to come to her.
- Wrench Wench: It's noted in this story that Eleya was an engineering major at Starfleet Academy. As such, she has the knowledge to push her heavy cruiser much harder than most Starfleet captains would, as well as "behead" Qua's battlecruiser with her phasers to detach the stern of the ship and get it away from the Space Station before the antimatter storage blows.
- You Watch Too Much X: Eleya lampshades the similarity between the Masters wiping out advanced civilizations and the Reaper cycles. "Don't bullshit me, you got this from that old computer game, Mass Effect."