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Old January 1 2013, 01:20 AM   #137
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

Chapter 6 <cont'd>

Main Bridge, USS Europa


A hover-chair would have been far easier than clomping awkwardly through the ship in an exo-skeletal support frame, but Worf, son of Mogh had never one to take the easy path.

The severe injuries he’d sustained in the attack on Galaxy had been treated with the most advanced Federation medical techniques and technology possible. Though Worf would regain full mobility in due time, as his body healed the exo-skeletal frame would allow him some semblance of his previous mobility.

The aft turbolift doors opened to Europa’s bridge, and Worf moved slowly out of the car to the subtle whine of articulated pneumatics.

Lar’ragos was standing at the Tactical arch, speaking quietly with Brett Lightner, and turned to observe Worf as he approached.

“I’m sorry, Commander,” Lar’ragos announced gravely as he stepped forward. “We have a strict no petaQ’s policy on board. I'm afraid you’ll have to leave.”

A grim smile creased Worf’s scarred face. “I believe you forget your place, El Aurian. If you flap your disobedient tongue in my direction again, I’ll gladly beat you senseless with my bare hands. After you have sought adequate medical attention for my depredations, I will require you to proceed immediately to the nearest replicator, and make me a sandwich.”

Lar’ragos burst out laughing and Lightner just looked confused and a little terrified as Pava and Worf clasped each other’s forearms in a gesture of camaraderie. Lar’ragos looked to Lightner, making introductions and adding, “Commander Worf and I first met at Starfleet’s Mixed Martial Arts tournament on Andoria in ’62 when he was just a green ensign, fresh from the academy.”

“On that occasion, Lieutenant Lar’ragos bested me in the ring, something that had never happened during my academy career.”

“You made up for it eight years later,” Lar’ragos noted amiably. “You beat me like an insolent targ in ’70. It took them a whole week to fuse my teeth back into my jaw.”

Worf shrugged to the extent that the exo-frame would allow. “You should not have led with your face.”

“So noted, sir,” Lar’ragos allowed, still smiling. "I see you still haven't got the hang of trash talking, though. You can't say I didn't try to instruct you in the finer points of that ancient artform." He nodded towards the ready room door. “The commodore is awaiting your august presence, Commander.”

Worf made a show of sighing as he ambled around and began moving for the ready room. “When I am healed, I demand a rematch, El Aurian. I will club you like a nest of helpless Yetrian hatchlings.”

“I look forward to it, sir,” Lar’ragos replied as Worf pressed the door’s annunciator. "And brush up on the trash talking. Less formal, more personal. Perhaps include some off-color remarks about my mother. You still sound like you're threatening me and the next five generations of my offspring on the floor of the High Council chambers."

After Worf had entered the ready room at Sandhurst’s behest, Lar’ragos turned back to Lightner, finding the younger man eying him skeptically.

“Problem, Lieutenant?” Lar’ragos asked.

“You let him win when you fought the second time, didn’t you?”

“Not hardly,” Lar’ragos said with a frown. “I tried everything I could think of, but despite my being faster than he was, nothing worked. It was like trying to pummel a duranium sculpture into submission with my bare hands.”

“But you…” Lightner waved his hands around in front of him in a comically inaccurate mime of hand-to-hand combat. “You do that thing where you know what’s coming. How could you lose?”

Lar’ragos gave Lightner the same patient smile a parent might give a befuddled child. “You’re confusing knowing what’s coming with being able to do something about it. When the blow you realize is on the way arrives with the force of a sledgehammer, there aren't a whole lot of options.”

*****

Worf stood briefly at attention until Sandhurst had come around the desk, ordering him to ease and shaking his hand warmly. “Commander, I’m pleased to see you up and around again. Please, have a seat.”

His guest sank gratefully into the offered chair, somehow managing to maintain his warrior’s bearing despite the medical prosthesis.

“Can I get you something to drink, Commander?” Sandhurst asked, moving to the replicator station.

“No, thank you, sir.” Worf replied.

Sandhurst procured a pungent smelling cup of his favorite Rigellian spice coffee and returned to his seat behind the desk. “I deeply regret the crimes that were committed upon Galaxy’s crew, Mister Worf. One of my top priorities is finding out who carried out that attack, and making certain they meet justice. Despite that horrific attack, the mission must continue, however.”

Worf nodded soundlessly, his hooded eyes taking in Sandhurst, appraising the man and seeking to discover if the commodore met the measure of his words.

Sandhurst took a sip of his coffee before explaining, “The task force desperately needs a forward operating base out here, some place we can refuel and rearm between intercept assignments. I trust you’ve read my proposal for Galaxy’s saucer that I sent you?”

“I did, Commodore. I agree with your assessment.”

“I’m pleased to hear that, especially since I’m considering you for the command of what will henceforth be named Galaxy Station.”

The big Klingon looked uncertain, as if not daring to hope Sandhurst’s words rang true. “I intend no disrespect, Commodore, but it was my understanding that I have been barred from ever receiving my own command.”

“Ah, yes,” Sandhurst nodded. “That unfortunate business involving your wife during the war.”

“Yes, sir.”

“If I recall correctly, you chose to save her life rather than make the rendezvous with a high-ranking Cardassian turncoat, someone in possession of invaluable intelligence regarding the Dominion that could have shortened the war.”

“Yes,” Worf repeated, his voice strong and clear despite the damning accusation.

Now it was Sandhurst’s turn to turn a critical eye on Worf. “And if you had to make the same decision again, knowing what you do now?”

Worf sat in silence, giving the question serious deliberation. After a time, he responded, “I only had three more months with Jadzia after that mission before she was killed. Knowing what I do now, realizing what that decision would mean to my career… I find that I would make the exact same choice. Even if it meant having only another single minute with her, it would have been worth it.” As he said the words, Worf knew he was condemning himself and forfeiting any chance at someday achieving his own command.

Sandhurst continued to observe Worf for a moment, mulling over the man’s answer. “You know,” he said finally, “I find it strangely refreshing to hear such an answer from someone to whom that question is more than simply a hypothetical academy command-ethics exercise.”

“Sir?”

“You’ve been there, Mister Worf. You’ve faced that decision head-on. You’ve made the hard choices and suffered the consequences. May I trust that you learned something about yourself in the aftermath of that experience?”

“I did, sir. I have learned the boundaries and limits between body, soul, and duty.”

“I’ve been there, too, Commander,” Sandhurst remarked. “Not those exact circumstances, but I’ve been forced to stare into the abyss as I washed my hands in the blood of others. Those stains… they never come out.”

“No,” Worf agreed in a low voice. “They do not.”

Sandhurst offered a humorless smile, the same one might offer when delivering uncomfortable news. “Well then…”

“Thank you for the consideration, Commodore,” Worf said, struggling to rise. “I am honored.”

“I have not dismissed you, Commander Worf,” Sandhurst replied in a surprisingly moderate tone.

The whine of gyros and the gentle hiss of pneumatics accompanied Worf’s descent into the chair once again. “My apologies, sir…”

“You’ve served with distinction as a Starfleet officer, a Klingon warrior, and in the Federation’s diplomatic corps,” Sandhurst observed. “You’ve been faced with a stark choice between your oath to the Federation and your loyalty to your Klingon heritage on more than one occasion. Except for the one notable exception which we’ve already discussed, you’ve always adhered to your oath to defend the Federation.”

Sandhurst took a long sip from his beverage, his eyes seeming to drill into Worf’s with an intensity that the Klingon had to admit he was not completely comfortable with. “One might argue on that occasion, you were upholding a greater oath than the one you made to Starfleet.”

As he reached into a drawer of his desk, Sandhurst announced, “Commander Worf, I hereby appoint you commanding officer of Galaxy Station, as well as the newly christened Defiant-class escort USS Kor, which will be arriving in system on its warp-sled in three weeks.” Sandhurst passed a data padd across the desktop to Worf. “Your orders are contained in here. Galaxy’s saucer is due to arrive in two weeks. You have a great deal of work cut out for you, Commander.”

Words escaped Worf for a time.

Sandhurst filled the vacuum. “Lt. Commander Pell Ojana will be your executive officer, and I’m sure you’ll find her a formidable presence, to say the least.”

Worf finally began to reassert himself. “Thank you, sir.”

“No thanks are necessary. You have glowing recommendations on your record from Captains Picard, Sisko, Shelby and Scott, as well as Admiral Ross, multiple members of the Federation Council and Chancellor Martok of the Empire. Where I’m from, that counts as a pretty decent résumé."

Sandhurst smiled broadly as he lifted his coffee mug in a toast to the commander. "I’m rather late to jumping aboard the Worf bandwagon, but I’m pleased to have finally been given the opportunity to join.”

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; January 1 2013 at 11:30 PM.
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