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Old September 15 2012, 06:51 AM   #49
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2 <cont'd>

USS Galaxy
Nebula NGC-7492, nicknamed ‘Scott’s Maelstrom’
Delta Quadrant


Wisps of pink and purple gas curled and undulated past the viewport in Captain Tryla Scott’s ready room. With the ship operating on battery reserves as repair crews tried to resurrect the failing warp core and the compromised impulse fusion generators, the much reduced lighting in Scott’s office seemed appropriate to her dark mood.

Galaxy had taken her fair share of damage during her sixteen years of service, most notably during multiple fleet-size battles in the Dominion War. However, the ship had suffered far more damage on this occasion than at any other time, at least according to Lt. Commander Divrask, Galaxy’s Saurian chief engineer who’d been serving aboard since the vessel was commissioned.

In her desperation to escape pursuit, Scott had utilized one of their Alpha Weapons, a modified subspace charge that erupted between Galaxy and her attackers, leaving nearly a quarter parsec of space/time riven with short-lived quantum singularities and patches of extreme gravimetric shear.

Scott had intentionally avoided using the weapon directly against the Voranti, instead employing it as a firewall that gave Galaxy time to escape into the nearby nebula where the crew now lay low, licking their collective wounds.

She still held out hope that they might yet discover what had initiated the unprovoked attack by what had appeared to be a non-aggressive species. Something they had said or done must have triggered them a the last moment, but Scott had gone over their communications records with the Voranti and all sensor telemetry from just prior to the ambush. The captain had proved unable to find anything that suggested a diplomatic misstep capable of incurring the response they’d been subject to.

Now their hopes resided with Europa, a ship with failing engines being commanded by a rookie captain. The situation was less than optimal, but as Tryla Scott reminded herself, I have survived worse.


*****


USS Europa
Guest Quarters, Deck 6


Lar’ragos sat up from where he’d been reclining on the couch when the door chime sounded in his guest quarters.

He beckoned his guest to enter, and T’Ser stepped through the parting doors, allowing Lar’ragos a brief glimpse of the two security personnel posted outside his cabin.

Lar’ragos stood in deference to his guest. “Captain.”

“Commander,” she answered. “I’m still deciding what to do with you, based on your earlier actions. I thought that before I make my decision, I’d ought to give you a chance to speak for yourself.”

“I appreciate that, sir,” he answered politely as he motioned for her to take a seat on a chair opposite the couch.

T’Ser settled into the seat, regarding the El Aurian with a wary expression that acknowledged his potency in the arts of violence.

Lar’ragos’ insides twisted anxiously at the sight of a superior officer watching him with all the circumspection one might give a venomous snake. Though he had worked tirelessly while on Vulcan to strengthen his own emotional control and reign in his baser impulses, at his first moment of real crisis, he’d cracked. No one was more aware of that fact than he.

“No more head games, Mister Lar’ragos,” T’Ser warned. “You so much as drop Dale’s name again, and you’ll spend the rest of the mission to the Delta Quadrant in the smallest, most austere cell I can find.”

He inclined his head in a gesture of understanding.

“What was it that you intended to do when you charged me on the bridge?” she asked succinctly.

“I don’t know,” he replied candidly. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I only knew that I had to stop you from killing Donald.”

T’Ser accepted that silently before following with another query. “As you’re still functioning as the task force’s Strategic Operations Officer, what’s your impression of the present situation after the events of the past day?”

He responded instantly, obviously having already given that question significant thought. “The attack on Galaxy makes no sense. An entire refugee fleet has gone off course to pursue a single starship. That’s a tremendous expenditure of fuel and resources for a desperate people to chase down a ship that’s done nothing provocative to them that we can comprehend. There has to be something more at work here.”

As the captain digested his assessment, she asked, “And what of the Amon and In’Drahn station?”

“I wasn’t sure if what we’d witnessed was a weapons malfunction on the part of the station or the beginnings of a civil war until Counselor Liu filed his debriefing notes from his session with Sandhurst.”

“And?” she prompted impatiently.

“He reported that the Amon on board the cube interpreted In’Drahn’s attack as an intentional assault that they were drawn in to. The other Amon tribe knew their destination, and were the ones controlling the Habertaem’s weapons.”

T’Ser frowned at the implication. “What does that mean for us?”

“Off hand, I’d say it means we have two incredibly powerful predatory sects vying for ‘hunting rights’ in our galaxy, right in the midst of all the social and political chaos caused by the mass migration.”

“Starfleet Command agrees with you,” T’Ser said, producing a small padd from within her open command jacket and handing it to Lar’ragos. “If it can be believed, it gets worse. We just received that news via our comms chain from the Alpha Quadrant.”

Lar’ragos’ eyes widened as he absorbed the information contained on the padd. “An unknown species comes out of nowhere to obliterate a Klingon colony?”

T’Ser gestured towards the padd. “They used some kind of subspace schism to launch their attack, and rode in on what appears to be a probe like the one that attacked Earth a century ago.”

Lar’ragos scanned through the images taken by a Federation rescue team of the dozens of alien bodies discovered in the aftermath of the life-and-death struggle for the colony world. “Amon,” he assessed.

“Yes,” T’Ser confirmed. “Also corroborated by Captain Sandhurst’s debriefing.”

The El Aurian seemed caught off guard at that revelation. “I didn’t read that in th—“

“I deliberately redacted it from the transcript of his debrief,” T’Ser revealed. “We don’t want that tidbit of information falling into Klingon hands just yet. I’ve sent that news under the highest level encryption we have back to Starbase Bastion.”

Lar’ragos offered T’Ser an admiring look. “A wise precaution, sir.”

“I need your expertise, Mister Lar’ragos,” T’Ser said abruptly, catching him off guard once again.

“You have it, Captain.”

“I need your expertise, free from any egotism or divided loyalties,” she clarified.

“Captain, I—“

“I know you’re a super-death-commando, Lar’ragos, but that isn’t what I need right now. I need the man who crossed the Delta Quadrant on his own centuries ago. I need that man’s perspective, his intuition, and most of all, I need his unwavering loyalty.”

“I can only assure you that you already have it, sir,” Lar’ragos protested.

“I’ve served with dangerous people before,” T’Ser continued, ignoring his reply. “The trick to controlling them is to understanding their needs, to perceive what fundamentally drives them.”

Lar’ragos’ demeanor shifted ever so subtly, his eyes narrowing. “You think I need to be controlled?”

“Absolutely you do,” she underscored. “Only with you it’s very hard to find anything substantial to threaten you with. You’re immune to threats against your career, and even a long stint of incarceration would only be a mere inconvenience to someone with your longevity.”

“Oh, do tell,” he smirked dangerously.

“But you’d crawl across this floor on your belly and kiss my boots to get back in Donald Sandhurst’s good graces again,” T’Ser assessed coldly.

His smirk vanished and his mouth opened just a fraction in utter shock.

“The only way that will ever happen is through me, Commander. I have Sandhurst’s implicit trust, while you’ve disappointed him repeatedly.” With that, T’Ser stood and walked towards the exit. “Think about it before you give me your answer, Lar’ragos,” she called back as she stepped through the doors.

*****
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