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Old November 3 2009, 09:28 PM   #163
The Badger
Fleet Captain
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Location: Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
Re: Starship Enterprise "Broken Bow" (Alternate version)

Interlude 1. Moshiri and Partridge.

The Enterprise falls through space. An odd description, but an accurate one. Mathematically the effects of continuum distortion mirror those of gravity almost exactly. The main difference is that the acceleration can be controlled. Right now it's set just high enough to counter the drag caused by interstellar gas. The atoms of gas don't touch the hull of course, but the contact with the warp bubble is sufficient to reduce the ships velocity unless a counteracting force is applied. The forces are balanced, the ship speeds on at just under 69 times the speed of light.

Ahead of the ship lies a small cloud of dust. It's thick enough to give a significant sensor return. Various automated systems are in place to deal with situations like this. Even as the bridge crew are being informed energy is diverted to the main deflector. Etheric manipulators in the warp nacelles are powered up, in case a course change is required.

On the bridge Haleh Moshiri is just about to hand over to another navigator when the forward contact light flashes for attention. She checks her display and considers the options. Navigating round the cloud would add four minutes, twelve seconds to the trip. At this speed attempting to punch straight through would be hazardous. Using the deflector to disipate the cloud, like a cow catcher on an old west train, would remove the risk, but it comes at a cost. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Using the deflector would slow the ship.

Of course, it would be possible to increase the ships speed to compensate, but the engines are pushed hard at the moment. Might not be wise to push them further. Haleh runs a calculation. Using the deflector would add two minutes, thirty eight seconds to the trip. Still not good, but a lot better. She initiates the deflector sequence.

Later, having passed through the area of space where the cloud once was, something strikes her as odd. The delay was only two minutes, thirty six seconds. Most people would just write off the missing two seconds as insignificant, but not Haleh. An idea occurs to her, one she needs to discuss with someone smart. And she knows just the person. Having got her replacement up to speed on developments she sets off towards the ships science laboratories.

Professor Partridge is carrying out experiments on the Yridian's Widowmaker when Haleh arrives. The navigator almost leaves when she sees the scientist is busy, but Polly is glad of a change of pace. A noted pacifist, she dislikes dealing with weapons, although she recognises the need to learn where this one came from. Haleh shows her the records of the passage through the cloud. Polly is intrigued. Over the next hour the two go through the ships records, collecting data on twenty two other instances involving the deflector array. All show the same thing. The Enterprise was slowed by it's use, but never as much as it should have been. In all previous cases the difference was almost to small to register, but it was there.

Haleh's been thinking it over, and has an idea. She tells Polly, who enthusiastically proclaims it a sound piece of reasoning. It's one of those ideas that are almost laughably simple. Whenever the deflector has been used to remove an object, a cloud or a swarm of debris from the path of the Enterprise, it has also been dispersing the background gas. For a few seconds the ship was freed from it's retarding effect.

The benefits of using the main deflector in this way are insignificant, the power requirements too great for anything more than a few seconds of use. Together, Haleh and Polly start brainstorming. Is there any way to take advantage of this effect? Their conversation goes on into the night.

Interlude 2. Philip Locke.

Doctor Locke sits in his office. In one hand, held in front of him, a computer pad displays page 118 of T'Pera's Principles Of Comparative Xenobiology. In his other hand, one of his ubiquitous cigarettes. Had any one else been present, they'd assume Locke was studying, keeping his medical knowledge up to date.

It is ten minutes past seven, May the tenth.

No one else is present. So there's no one to notice that Locke has been staring at page 118 for nearly three quarters of an hour. No one to notice that the cigarette is just a butt, long cold. Locke looks at the page, but he doesn't see it. He is remembering....

It is May the seventh, many, many years previously. What will become known as the Axanar War is currently a minor skirmish, fought for the moment through intermediaries. On the Veltren homeworld humanity had pledged to assist those from the northern lands. Axanar 'advisers' were known to be training the southerners, and supplying them with weaponry.

Captain Philip Locke, UEMA, Ground Forces Medical Division, has been here for three months. 'Here' is Camp Resolute, one of UEMA's forward operating bases. He's a trained surgeon, skilled and dedicated .He feels a little underused, as apart from minor illnesses and a couple of accidental injuries he's not had much to deal with since he arrived. Once a week he is part of a group that head into the nearest town, where he offers his services to any that need them. It's part of the hearts and minds campaign. Not everyone appreciates the human presence here.

He's just finishing dinner when the alarms start to blare. Incoming casualties. He heads to the medical centre, double time, and starts preparing for surgery. One of the administrative people pops his head round the door, telling the gathered doctors and nurses the events. There's been a series of attacks, well planned and coordinated. All appear to be targeted against humans, any native casualties appear to have been accidental. The conflict is escalating.

They don't have long to wait. The first air ambulance arrives twelve minutes later, seven injured people on board. A couple of orderlies deliver a screaming boy to Locke's operating table. As the anaesthetist goes to work Locke glances at the patient's name tag. Bodonovich. According to his insignia he's a squad medic. He looks too young to be out of school, never mind completing medical training.

Plasma burns over most of his exposed flesh, probably from some sort of bomb or grenade. Only on the outer skin layer, he must have been on the edge of the blast. And fortunately he'd been wearing his helmet. The automatic systems dropped the visor into place before he was blinded.

Overall, very nasty but easily treated. Locke's finished within half an hour. Just as well, as more casualties are arriving. The next one is more serious. Shrapnel wound to the chest. Locke looks round for Huang, the cardiac specialist, but she's already up to her elbows in another patients rib cage. He has to go this one without her.

It is dawn, May the eighth. Locke stumbles into the mess, bleary eyed but exhilarated. He saw seven patients last night. All survived. He grabs some coffee, bacon and scrambled eggs. As he eats other doctors drift in. There's a lot of back patting and hand shaking. It's been a tough night but they did a good job.

After his meal he decides to visit the ward, to see how his patients are doing. A kind word and a friendly smile are as much a part of his job as a syringe or a scalpel. He resolves to keep things brief though. His bunk is calling to him.

The alarms blare. More casualties. He turns. Jogs back to the OR.

It is late evening, May the eighth.The alarms blare. It is unclear who they are supposed to alert, all the surgeons are already in the operating room. Locke's been on his feet for almost twenty four hours, apart from ten minutes for breakfast and five on the toilet. Like all the surgeons, whenever there's been a let up he's ducked outside for coffee and a bite to eat, but there's not been many let ups and the odd sandwich isn't enough.

It's taking it's toll on all of them. Mistakes have been made. Tempers are frayed. They're all good at there jobs and they've trained for this but there are limits and they are reaching them.

At midnight Colonel Wilson decides he needs some of his staff rested. He names five doctors, telling them to go get a couple of hours sleep. Locke is not one of those mentioned, but that's OK with him. Looking at the kid on the table in front of him, he knows that there's too much still to do.

It is mid morning, May the ninth. At Wilson's insistence the alarms have been shut off. Every so often Wilson's aide sticks her head around the door, keeping them informed of the situation. Southern forces are engaged in a major push, using Axanar built armoured fighting vehicles. How they were delivered without Earth knowing about it is anyone's guess. Camp Fortitude, further south, has been hit hard. More casualties are on their way.

Wilson names another five doctors, telling them to go and rest. Locke is one of those named. He refuses. He's needed here. Wilson tells him again, this time as a direct order. Defiant, Locke goes to scan one of the new patients. He drops the scanner. Reaching to pick it up he loses balance and nearly falls.

Wilson says nothing, but nods towards the exit. Shoulders slumped, Locke leaves. He pulls off his surgical gown, mask and gloves. He goes to the bathroom, then washes his hands and face. He stares into the bathroom mirror. It's no good, he can barely keep his eyes open. At this rate, he won't even make it to his bunk.

Walking down the corridor, he can hear the medical transports arrive. Some instinct makes him stop outside a door. Medical storage. It's locked, but he has the access codes.

Five minutes later, dressed once more for surgery, he re-enters the operating room. He's not going to lie to his superior. He tells Wilson exactly what he's done. Cordrazine. One cc, intravenously. Before Wilson can respond the door bursts open. More casualties. Reluctantly Wilson gestures Locke back to his operating table.

The cordrazine works as advertised. All traces of tiredness are gone. There are side effects. His skin itches abominably and he can hear his pulse pounding. It takes special effort to keep his hands from shaking. But it does it's job and so does he.

It is late night, May the ninth. Locke runs his gloved hands under the cold tap. They're running short on surgical gloves, and are forced to reuse the ones they've got when feasible. Locke has no idea how many patients he's treated. As the latest is prepared for surgery he turns to ask his assistant, before remembering that the assistant had to leave. A volunteer with some medical training has taken his place. Locke looks at the volunteer. There's something familiar about him but he's not one of the regular staff here at Camp Resolute. He's about to ask when he spots a hint of recently treated scar tissue around the edge of his surgical mask. It's Bodonovich, his first patient when all this started. And now he's up and about and willing to help out.

It is midday, May the tenth. Finally the flood of casualties has abated. Locke has been awake, carrying out difficult and demanding work for more than three days straight. Despite everything he is elated. Colonel Wilson's just talked to him. During that time Locke has worked on thirty two patients. Every one, every last one, has survived. Everybody lives. Wilson's calling it miraculous.

There's a Condor class heavy shuttle on the landing strip. It says much for Locke's state of mind that he didn't hear this beast land. It'll pick up the wounded, more than two hundred of them, take them into orbit, and rendezvous with a transport ship for the journey home. Locke takes the time to seek out Bodonovich. The youngster wasn't trained for meatball surgery, but he did well. Locke wants to be sure he knows just how well he did.

Even with powerful motors Condor's need a long run to get airborne. Fingers in his ears Locke stands and watches it go. Only when it's a distant speck does he turn for his quarters.

The alarms blare. Not those for incoming casualties. These herald an imminent attack. He dashes for the nearest bunker, one of a swirling crowd of suddenly panicked non combatants. The combat personnel go about their business with quiet efficiency.

At the threshold to the bunker something catches his eye. Glancing up he sees a bright spot in the sky, to the south east. Even at it's altitude the shape of the Condor is obvious.

The bright spot snaps hard to it's left, then right, then left again.

There's something else up there. Something small and fast and sticking to the Condor's tail throughout it's manoeuvres. It gets closer, and closer, and closer.

A blaze of light. A cloud of smoke so thick it looks like solid rock.

Someone grabs Locke's arm, drags him into the bunker.

They wait.

Eventually, the all clear sounds. They're let out. They're warned to alert their superiors if they see anything odd. Prevailing winds had carried some of the debris from the Condor over the base. As if to highlight this, a three meter square chunk of wing assembly protrudes almost vertically from the communications building.

Locke feels nothing, totally numb. He heads to his quarters. He passes bits of smoking pipework and what looks like part of the landing gear. Doesn't bother to inform anyone. It might be dangerous, it might not be. He's past caring.

He gets to his quarters. For a moment he thinks he's got a visitor, sitting in the chair in the centre of his room. Then he remembers that he doesn't have a chair in the centre of his room. Then he notices the mess, the huge gaping hole in the roof.

He starts to laugh at the absurdity of it. He knows it isn't funny, but that only makes him laugh harder.

What are the odds, he wonders, of a seat from a destroyed craft landing in his quarters? And what could possibly make it even more unlikely, even more absurd? He walks round the front. The passenger is dead, of course, and almost unrecognisable, but the name tag on the jacket was still there.


Of course. Of course. Who else could it be?

Doctor Locke sits in his office. In one hand, held in front of him, a computer pad displays page 118 of T'Pera's Principles Of Comparative Xenobiology. In his other hand, one of his ubiquitous cigarettes. Had any one else been present, they'd assume Locke was studying, keeping his medical knowledge up to date.

It is quarter to twelve, May the tenth.
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