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Old November 24 2012, 08:32 AM   #85
Gibraltar
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Location: US Pacific Northwest
UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

His return to consciousness was languid, as though waking on a day off when no insistent alarm demanded his attention. He began to concentrate on the sounds around him, the hum of atmospherics, the gentle tones of medical diagnostic displays, and hushed conversations. Sickbay. He was in Sickbay. He tried to locate his last cogent memory, but his recollections were a fuzzy soup of fever dreams and bizarre mathematical equations whose purpose escaped him.

“So,” a familiar voice asked from beside him, “how are you feeling?”

Sandhurst cracked an eyelid to find Lar’ragos seated in a chair next to his biobed. He cleared his throat before murmuring, “What are you… doing here?”

“I came to visit you,” Lar’ragos explained patiently, Sandhurst’s confusion evident.

The captain craned his head, looking all around Sickbay. “Okay, then. What am I doing here?”

“You called up to the bridge two days ago and announced that you’d finished your grand project. We were unable to raise you after that, and sent security to investigate. They found you unconscious in your cabin.”

“My project?” Sandhurst looked lost.

“You’ve apparently redesigned our warp propulsion system. You don’t remember that?”

“Not really, no.” Sandhurst dropped his head back down onto the pillow. “It’s all a big, confusing blur.”

“I’ll bet,” Lar’ragos replied. “It seems you’re suffering from a Grade-Amon hangover, sir.”

“Yeah,” Sandhurst answered with a sigh. “Though, this is the most human I’ve felt since I returned.”

“That makes sense,” Taiee’s voice intruded into the conversation as she appeared at the foot of the bed. “Your biometrics have all returned to normal, Captain. Whatever exotic energies your cellular structure had been marinating in while you were among the Amon appear to have been completely metabolized.”

“I think you burned it all up in your five-day non-stop design extravaganza,” Lar’ragos added with a smirk.

“Five days,” Sandhurst echoed numbly. “Without sleep?”

“Apparently,” Taiee responded.

Lar’ragos cast a glance over his shoulder towards a team of two Marines and two security personnel guarding the door to a secured ward. “You also took quite the souvenir, sir.”

Sandhurst raised his arms, staring at the plastic-looking film of synthiskin coating both forearms. “Please tell me I wasn’t tattooing schematics on my own body.”

“Uh… no.” Lar’ragos gave Taiee a look that requested privacy.

“I’ll check back in on you later, sir,” Taiee said with her customary smile before stepping away.

“You received some pretty horrific burns, Donald,” Lar’ragos revealed as Sandhurst looked up to meet his friend’s eyes.

Sandhurst shook his head. “Did you guys let me phaser-weld or something while in my manic state?”

Lar’ragos shook his head lightly. “No. The Baron paid you another visit. As it happened you were less hospitable to him this time than last.”

Sandhurst merely stared at Lar’ragos, awaiting more details.

“You apparently attacked and disabled him, though you suffered those injuries in the process. He’s being held in that secure ward just behind me.”

As he tried to absorb this momentous news, Sandhurst mumbled. “He must be very unhappy.”

“Very confused is more like it,” Lar’ragos conveyed. “I don’t think he knows where he is. Hell, from what my senses tell me, I don’t think the Baron genuinely knows who he is.”

Sandhurst was skeptical. “I hit him that hard?”

Lar’ragos chuckled at that. “In fact, you may have. We recovered some kind of headpiece that we think he was wearing when he transported aboard. Science and Engineering have looked it over, and the going theory is that it’s some kind of advanced cerebral data node. Without it, the bastard’s not much more than a drooling simpleton.”

“Unless he’s playing you,” Sandhurst cautioned.

“He’s not,” Lar’ragos countered. “I interrogated him thoroughly.”

“Oh,” was all Sandhurst could think to say at that unwelcome revelation.

Lar’ragos sighed. “Not like that. I spoke with him at length, and I detected no deception from him. He truly has no idea where he is or what’s happening to him. Taiee’s mapped his brain, and she confirms that somewhere in the vicinity of sixty-five percent of his memory-related neural structure has been compromised.”

“By what?”

“No idea,” Lar’ragos said with a shrug. “Whatever’s responsible, it’s no less than the monster deserves.”

“Can’t argue that,” Sandhurst agreed, stifling a yawn.

Lar’ragos raised a curious eyebrow. “You want to see him?”

There was no hesitation in Sandhurst’s drowsy response. “No. I’m not ready for that just yet.”

“Okay,” Lar’ragos said with a supportive smile. He sensed Sandhurst’s growing weariness and moved to leave his friend to sleep.

“Pava,” Sandhurst reached out to grasp the sleeve of Lar’ragos’ uniform, stopping the man in his tracks.

Lar'ragos glanced back. “Yes, sir?”

“I’m glad you were the one to tell me,” Sandhurst said awkwardly as he sank towards unconsciousness.

“Always, Captain-my-captain.”

*****

“Are we every happy to see you,” Captain Scott said with a tired smile.

“The feeling’s mutual,” T’Ser replied, her voice tinged with relief. “We’re standing ready to beam over engineering and medical teams. What’s your status?”

“It’s bad,” Scott admitted. “Most of the saucer section is uninhabitable, our warp nacelle is still compromised, and we’ve got more hull breaches than I can count. We’ve exhausted our supply of quantum torpedoes, and we’ve launched so many photons we’ve nearly emptied our anti-matter reserves. We’ve lost eighty-seven killed, and another two-hundred and seventeen injured.”

T’Ser’s eyes narrowed in an unconscious gesture of shared loss. “Our Sickbay facilities stand ready to accept as many of your wounded as you need to offload, Captain. Our industrial replicator is busy fashioning components for a new warp drive, but we can put that on hold while we replicate whatever repair provisions you require.”

Scott nodded gratefully. “I appreciate it, Captain. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get us back to a mission-ready footing. We’ve crunched the numbers, and with your assistance, I think we can restore enough operability to Galaxy in the next week that we can make it back to our warp-sled for more substantive repairs.”

“Understood,” T’Ser replied. “Be advised that the first wave of crew/cargo-modules has arrived, so you’ll have some replacement personnel awaiting you in stasis at the sled.”

“That’ll help,” Scott said morosely. “God knows we’ve lost more than our fair share.”

Loath as she was to bring up the subject, T’Ser inquired, “Seeing as there are still numerous Voranti ship in the area actively looking for us, what should our response be if we’re attacked again?”

“I’ve consulted with Admiral Jellico, and he agrees that we’ve exercised as much restraint as we can, under the circumstances. Any further hostile contact with the Voranti will be met with immediate lethal force, up to and including authorized use of our Alpha Weapons stores.”

T’Ser nodded once, curtly, saying, “I understand, Captain. However, we suspect that the Voranti’s animosity is due to a rogue Starfleet vessel that attacked their fleet some weeks prior to your First Contact encounter with them. I’m transmitting the details over to you now.”

Scott’s eyes darted from the viewer to a nearby display as she scanned the incoming data. “Defiant-class,” she noted. “That explains a lot,” she observed wryly. “Have we tried explaining that to the Voranti?”

“We tried,” T’Ser explained. “They weren’t in a listening mood.”

“That makes what we’ll have to do all the more tragic,” Scott said, her expression hardening.

“Indeed, Captain,” T’Ser agreed heavily. The fourth pip on her collar suddenly seemed to weigh several metric tons.

*****
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