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Old August 5 2012, 09:07 AM   #1
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Prologue

February 2377
Planet Velkohn, Velkamis System
Gamma Quadrant


She was going to die.

"Liana, you need to get out of there. Right now." Captain Sandhurst’s voice was demanding, insistent, and utterly impotent under the circumstances.

She pressed a hand to the oozing wound under her arm as she replied stoically, "There's no way, Captain. I'm pinned, wounded, and cut off from Pava's team."

Liana Ramirez had known that dying in the line of duty was a possibility from the first time she donned her plebe cadet uniform eighteen years earlier.

She had realized before embarking that her present mission was dangerous, almost suicidal, but it had been critically important.

So many times in her career Ramirez had come close to death, often skirting the grim-reaper’s grasp by mere millimeters, sometimes literally so. She had survived the Cardassian border wars, the Dominion War, and innumerable close calls with a dozen other hostile species over the years.

That fact that her life would end here, deep in the Gamma Quadrant, on the other side of the galaxy from the collection of civilizations she nominally called ‘home’ was perhaps fitting.

The product of a tumultuous upbringing, Ramirez had fled her childhood home at the age of seventeen, seeking out a life of purpose in service to Starfleet. During her career she had called various outposts and starships home for a time, but never with a genuine sense of belonging. In time her career had become her rock, her emotional and spiritual anchor, the one thing in all the universe that she could reliably control. Her skill and bravery in the face of adversity had prompted a swift rise through the ranks, and Ramirez had set her sights on command of a starship as her ultimate goal, beyond any consideration of personal fulfillment in a romantic relationship.

And here, now, right on the cusp of achieving the ambition she’d striven for all of her career… she was going to perish.

All these thoughts flit through Ramirez’s mind in a blur as she waited breathlessly for the cold hand of fate in the form of a blazing hot phaser beam to extinguish her forever.

Ramirez was wounded, cut off from the rest of her away team, and pinned down by enemy soldiers. Three meters away was a potent forcefield protecting a transport-scrambler that was preventing the away team from beaming back to the starship Gibraltar from the underground bunker complex they’d fought their way into less than an hour earlier.

The surviving members of her assault team, some floors above her, were trapped by advancing enemy soldiers and would be wiped out in a matter of moments unless someone could knock out the transport-scrambler field. Ramirez had tried, and though her plan was innovative, it would take far longer to carry out than her comrades had left.

Only one option remained. Gibraltar could knock out the scrambler with a specially retuned drilling phaser. The only drawback was that everything within thirty-five meters of the scrambler would be vaporized, including her.

Captain Sandhurst’s voice took on an agonized quality. “I'm sorry. There's no other way."

An energy beam scorched just over her armored left shoulder to impact the wall above her head. The enemy, still unaware of their impending fate, was still trying to advance into the room she’d occupied.

Though under the circumstances the thought was almost laughably inappropriate, Ramirez felt genuine surge of pity for Sandhurst. He was going to have to kill his own first officer. Finding a replacement for her would be… well… awkward, to say the least.

"I understand, Captain. If our positions were reversed..." she said in as understanding a tone as she could muster. "It's been a privilege, sir."

There was a pregnant pause, and then she heard him say, "God speed, Captain Ramirez."

Captain Ramirez? she thought numbly. Oh… right… I’ll be posthumously promoted.

She then had the almost out-of-body realization that her previous musing would be the last thought she would ever have. Raw panic gripped her heart.

And that’s when everything went silent. Liana closed her eyes tightly, awaiting the storm of raw energy that would annihilate her at the molecular level.

It didn’t come.

After a prolonged moment of suspense, she again became aware that measurable time was passing, far longer than it should have taken a phaser beam to reach her from orbit.

Ramirez opened her eyes.

Her heart hammered in her chest as she looked to the entrance of the chamber to witness the disconcerting sight of a Velk energy beam seemingly frozen in midflight.

A black doorway opened, rising from the floor without a sound, a two-dimensional portal of pure darkness.

She recognized it immediately. Fear and hope warred briefly for supremacy in her chest, with hope claiming the victory.

It was a trap, to be sure, but it also signified her only possible escape from certain death.

The captain survived, she rationalized. If he could survive that, maybe I can, too.

*****
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