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Old April 15 2013, 03:08 AM   #198
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 8 continued)

Chapter 8 <cont'd>

Lar’ragos’ eyes fluttered open onto unfamiliar surroundings. He was lying prone, atop a reasonably comfortable surface. There was soft lighting overhead, and a suite of sensors extending down from the ceiling that looked suspiciously like medical diagnostic scanners. He was in some kind of medical center.

The last thing Lar’ragos remembered was being nearly weightless aboard the Ferou ship, the vessel shuddering violently from disruptor impacts as the graceful creatures had wailed in panic. He’d tried to contact Europa, but comms were either being jammed or there was too much interference from the storm of weapons fire that had enveloped the Ferou flagship.

There had been a terrible shrieking sound, like metal tearing, and then a fearsome blast of wind that he guessed was the explosive decompression of the compartment. Before he could even think to react, something had seized him… and then, nothing.

He didn’t bother trying to sit up, as he sensed the familiar tingle across his chest of a restraining field.

“We haven’t much time,” a voice said in accented Federation Standard. “If I release this field, do I have your assurance that you won’t attempt anything overly dramatic?”

Lar’ragos turned his head to find himself looking up at a male Romulan officer, bearing all the severe military discipline one would expect. The man was flanked by two towering Reman soldiers, both of them looming specters that fairly oozed lethality.

“You appear to have me at a disadvantage…” Lar’ragos croaked as he squinted to make out the man’s rank. “…Arrain. What makes you think I’m capable of sitting up, let alone cause you harm?”

“Your reputation proceeds you, Commander. Your biography is a colorful one, painted largely in the palette of blood.”

“If my word will do, I offer it.” Lar’ragos averted his eyes briefly to look upon the Reman warriors, before setting his gaze on the centurion. “Where are my people?”

“The commander beamed all of your party off the Ferou ship as we attacked. As for your people aboard your own vessel, I cannot say. There has been fierce combat, and the situation is confused.”

The restraining field above him vanished in a brief flash of ionization and Lar’ragos sat up gingerly, working his jaw experimentally as he held his hands to his ears.

The Romulan officer took a step back, either out of politeness or in deference to Pava’s reputation. “Your eardrums were ruptured when the ship’s hull was breached. You’ll have to forgive our surgeon’s inexperience with non-Rihannsu auditory organs, he did his best.”

“It’s appreciated,” Lar’ragos murmured, turning his head to observe the other diplomatic team members atop their own biobeds, all of them apparently sedated. “Who do I have to thank for the rescue?”

“Sub-Commander Chalois apparently felt a blood debt was owed,” the Romulan replied, his expression conveying distaste.

“Then she has my gratitude,” Lar’ragos replied.

“Your presence is requested on the bridge,” the Romulan indicated, gesturing to the door.

Lar’ragos walked gingerly to the exit, silently sizing up his surroundings and potential adversaries, should a direct confrontation become necessary. Old habits died hard.

*****

The atmosphere on Vexam’s bridge was understandably tense when Lar’ragos was led into the command center.

“No sign of the gunship,” a centurion manning the sensors said quietly. “Europa is falling back, away from Cinecaar.”

“Still no reply from Cinecaar to our transmissions?" Chalois inquired from the command chair.

“None, Sub-Commander, and we’re detecting no life signs. The radiation surge from the starship appears to have killed everyone onboard.”

Chalois turned to face Lar’ragos as he was led toward her seat.

“The Federation captain, Sub-Commander.”

She inspected Lar’ragos briefly, curiosity flickering across her features as she observed, “Every time I encounter your ship, someone else is in command.”

“We like to keep things fresh,” he remarked casually in reply. “I’m led to believe I have you to thank for our rescue from your ambush on the Ferou.”

“Just so,” she confirmed. “I will return you to your ship, but I cannot promise how long I will be able to keep our comrades from attacking. Your ‘rogue’ vessel, Masada, has joined the battle and destroyed two of our ships.”

“She’s not one of ours,” Lar’ragos underscored. “Masada has attacked our ships as well.”

Chalois’ expression tightened. “There is more. One of our commanders sought right of vengeance against Europa for betraying our presence to the Ferou. He opened fire on your ship, and in return, your crew killed every living soul aboard his warbird.”

Lar’ragos could feel the heated gazes of the bridge officers burning into him. They were Romulans, and their blood burned with the desire for revenge, regardless of the how and why of their fellows' deaths.

He allowed his senses to sift and parse her responses, finding a surprising subtext to her words. “Did my people attack without provocation?”

“No,” Chalois replied truthfully.

“Did they have any choice but to defend themselves?”

Again, the answer was, “No.”

“Then I fail to see the problem,” he said softly. He stepped forward, prompting the Reman soldiers to stiffen in anticipation. “Sub-Commander, you and you alone can stop this slaughter. The Ferou have done nothing to you, and yet you drew first blood. Why?”

“Orders,” she hissed. “It makes no difference now. The battle is over; the Ferou have fled.”

“You aren’t pursuing them?” he inquired, directing the question to the junior officer who’d escorted him to the bridge. He’d earlier detected an undercurrent of avarice in the voice of the young arrain.

“Pursuit is unnecessary,” the lieutenant crowed, only to be silenced by a scathing look from Chalois.

“I see,” Lar’ragos murmured, the pieces falling together in his mind. He turned his gaze to Chalois. “What is the status of my ship?”

“Damaged, but intact,” she offered. “As soon as your compatriots have been awakened, I’ll have you all returned.”

Lar’ragos wet his chapped lips, weighing his options. “Sub-Commander, whatever it is you have planned for the Ferou, I can’t allow you to carry it through. They’re a peaceful people who’ve done nothing to warrant your hostility.”

“I have my orders,” Chalois sighed in a brittle tone. The weight of the deed upon her was evident.

“I won’t allow it,” he challenged, an icy serenity falling over him as though someone had thrown a switch.

Despite her distaste for her assigned mission, Chalois bristled at the man’s arrogance. Who was he to throw down a gauntlet at her feet while standing on her own bridge? “Your options appear… limited,” she allowed with a hint of dark humor.

“They’re really not.”

“Enough,” she ordered. “Take him back to MedBay.”

Lar’ragos took a step closer. “Don’t compound your mistake, Sub-Commander.”

“The mistake of saving you, you mean?” she asked with a disbelieving sneer.

“No,” he offered quietly. “Your mistake was letting me on your bridge.”

The Reman warriors pounced, but not quickly enough…

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; April 15 2013 at 07:10 AM.
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