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Old October 26 2012, 06:13 AM   #75
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont'd>

USS Europa

“Target acquired,” the ensign at Operations said quietly, as though a raised voice might spook their prey.

Through the parting swirls of nebular gasses, the long, sleek silhouette of the Voranti cruiser could just be glimpsed on the main viewer. The computer-enhanced image was overlaid with various text notations, denoting the vessel’s course, speed, shield status and armament.

“The Voranti ship is twenty-nine point seven kilometers ahead. No indications as yet that they’ve detected us,” Verrik announced from the Tactical station.

“Acknowledged,” T’Ser spoke from the captain’s chair. “It would appear we have better sensors.”

Ensconced behind the Helm console, Lightner postulated,“Unless they know we’re here and they’re just drawing us in.”

“Always a possibility,” T’Ser conceded. “Everyone keep your eyes open.”

The doors to the forward tubolift parted and Lar’ragos strode onto the bridge, a troubled expression fixed on his features. He moved quickly to assume the XO’s chair to the captain’s right.

“What’s our situation?” T’Ser asked as he settled into his seat.

“The intruder’s been locked in a secured ward in Sickbay. I’ve got a combined Security and Marine detachment posting guard on him.”

“How’s the Cap—“ T’Ser winced ever so slightly. “How’s Sandhurst?”

“If someone in the throes of an obsessive, maniacal fugue can be said to be ‘okay’… then I guess he’s okay.”

“Is our prisoner this infamous ‘Baron’?” she asked.

Lar’ragos cocked his head slightly. “The individual fits the physical description Sandhurst gave of his assailant after he was attacked his quarters the first time. Taiee’s running a full medical workup on him, but initial scans indicate that he’s the same species as our ‘original’ Baron.” He opened his mouth to continue, but then appeared to think better of it, falling silent.

T’Ser shot him a curious look. “What?”

It took Lar’ragos a moment to formulate the thought, as if verbalizing it were somehow painful to him. He finally spoke in a whisper,“I’ve fought the Baron, sir. The man is nothing short of extraordinary in hand-to-hand combat. There’s no way I can conceive that Donald Sandhurst could have incapacitated him so easily.”

“You call fractured ribs, internal bleeding, and third degree burns getting off easily?” she replied.

“Against the Baron?” he asked skeptically. “Yes, I’d call that miraculous.”

“Voranti vessel is coming to two-zero-nine, mark zero-four-one,” Lightner observed. “Their speed remains constant. It looks like they’re conducting a zone search in a descending helical pattern.”

“Stay with them,” T’Ser instructed.

Lar’ragos inclined his head towards the viewer. “What’s the plan, Captain?”

“For now, we follow them,” T’Ser answered. “Actually stumbling across just one of their ships in this mess was lucky enough. Hopefully, they’ll lead us to Galaxy.”

“How do we know Galaxy is still intact?”

“They’re obviously still looking for somebody, and it isn’t us.” T’Ser observed.

“Respectfully, Captain, there’s no guarantee that this ship will eventually find the Galaxy, and in the meantime, our comrades could be fighting for their lives against other Voranti attackers.”

T’Ser sat still for a moment, as if weighing her reaction. Then, she turned toward her first officer. “What would you recommend, Commander?”

“I’d disable the Voranti ship, and then open communications with them. We’ll ask them why they attacked Galaxy, and if it happens that Masada did provoke them, we can explain that ship is a rogue vessel not associated with Starfleet.”

“And why should they believe us?” T’Ser prompted.

“Because we’re taking the time to talk rather than killing them outright,” Lar’ragos responded reasonably.

T’Ser looked thoughtful as she weighed the merits of his proposal. “And if that doesn’t work?”

“Then I lead a boarding party over, seize their command center, and download the contents of their computers. At least then we’ll have a better idea whether they’ve found Galaxy. If they haven't located her, we’ll know where they have and haven’t searched.”

“It’s not especially subtle,” T’Ser mused.

“We don’t have time for subtlety, sir. Our main reactor is failing, and we can’t afford to risk a prolonged firefight with the Voranti. Asymmetrical warfare is our only viable option.”

T’Ser regarded Lar’ragos coolly. Despite his reputation as a blood-thirsty maniac, the man was calm, collected, and rational. As much as she hated the idea of launching an ambush against the Voranti ship, Pava was right. Wasting days or weeks trailing the cruiser in hopes of bumping into Galaxy in the electrical soup of the nebula was wishful thinking at best.

And there were other considerations. They had a broken engine in need of repair. Dozens of their crew were tens of light-years away in nothing more than shuttles and escape vehicles trying to render aid to the survivors of In’Drahn station. Then there was the new Amon threat on top of the danger posed by the mysterious Baron and the inexplicably rogue starship Masada. Ultimately, there was still their original mission to think of, the continual influx of new itinerate species moving through the adjoining sectors.

Lar’ragos was actually surprised when T’Ser ordered, “Do it. Prepare your boarding team. When you’re ready, we’ll disable and confront the Voranti.”

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