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Old March 5 2013, 02:33 AM   #171
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths - Chapter 7

Chapter 7

USS Excalibur
Sigma-Crixus System, Beta Quadrant


“Talk about hiding in plain sight,” Captain Rathbone murmured from where she looked over the shoulder of her science officer.

“Indeed, sir,” agreed the Caitian scientist. He adjusted the sensor returns to filter out ambient background radiation, enhancing the image on his display even further. “Its base dimensions are identical to the ones listed in our historical database, though the surface is encrusted with a multitude of habitat structures.”

The enormous cylindrical alien device sat in the corona of an orange K-Class star, seemingly immune to the massive energies being radiated in its immediate vicinity. With their shields at full, Excalibur would have lasted less than a minute in such proximity to the star’s fury.

The Tactical officer offered, “This variation of the probe matches the description of the one that attacked both the Klingon colony and the Ganopus system.”

Rathbone glanced back over her shoulder at the lanky Saurian standing at the Tactical console. “They hit the Ganopus system three weeks ago, over fifteen hundred light-years from here. How the hell can they have covered that distance is so short a time?”

“The maximum velocity of the Whalesong Probe was never determined, Captain,“ the Caitian science officer pointed out. “It’s believed to have been on a deceleration curve when it transited Klingon space and breached Federation territory in the 23rd century.”

He input a series of commands into his station, calling up a wire-frame graphic of the probe set against the blue/green color scheme of a 23rd century LCARS display. “During its departure from Earth, the probe disappeared off Lexington’s long-range sensors traveling at the modern equivalent of Warp nine-point-seven-three and it was still accelerating.”

Rathbone nodded somberly as she returned to the captain’s chair. “Well, however they did it, they’re here now. Prepare a priority-one update for Starfleet Command alerting them to the probe’s position and our circumstances.”

“Do we attack, sir?” The query came from her XO, a relatively young officer who’d made a name for himself during the Dominion War and in the chaotic times that followed.

Rathbone favored the first officer with a quizzical expression that was meant as an invitation for him to reconsider if he really wanted to have this conversation in front of the rest of the senior staff.

“Captain?” he pressed when she did not reply immediately.

“You mean when we launch an assault alongside our imaginary fleet?” Rathbone asked, making an expansive gesture with her arms to encompass their make-believe battle group. “We’re one ship, and this thing kills star systems, Commander.”

“I’m well aware of the tactical disparity, sir,” he replied evenly. “However, if we could get close enough to the star, we could attempt to trigger a stellar flare event that would engulf the vessel.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Affirmative, Captain,” he continued, undaunted by her skepticism. “I used the technique myself at the Battle of Regula.”

The XO missed the rolling eyes, air-quotes gestures, and perfectly timed lip-synching of his oft-mentioned ‘Battle of Regula’ from multiple officers seated behind him. Rathbone had to fight the urge to burst into laughter at the pantomime going on behind the young lieutenant commander’s back. She reminded herself to chide the lot of them about this at a later time.

The so-called Battle of Regula had been a minor skirmish in which the XO’s inspired solar eruption had wiped out a grand total of five Jem’Hadar Scarab-class heavy fighters.

“The probe is just sitting there, XO, bathing in the grandeur of the star’s warmth. What makes you believe an eruption would have any effect on their obviously formidable defenses?”

“I don’t know that, sir, but given the circumstances I believe it’s well worth the attempt.”

Rathbone nodded slowly. “It’s a good idea, Richard, it really is. However, I’m not going to risk this crew on a gamble like that. We don’t even know if they’d allow us close enough to initiate a flare, a flare that might do no damage to them whatsoever. The safest, sanest course of action is to notify Command of the probe’s presence and standby for further orders.”

To his credit, the young XO accepted her decision with a prompt, “Aye, sir.”

She had to admit, despite his ego, the man knew when to shut up and step into line.

“Message to Starfleet ready, Captain,” The Ops officer announced.

“Transmit,” she ordered.

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; March 5 2013 at 08:22 PM.
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