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Old May 2 2013, 01:28 AM   #211
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 9 continued)

Chapter 9 <cont'd>

Sickbay, USS Europa

Lar’ragos entered Sickbay’s cryo-stasis ward to find Taiee standing next to Marine Lieutenant Tiedermeyer, who was himself flanked by two of his security specialists.

“What have you got, Doc?” Lar’ragos inquired. Taiee’s request for his presence had been brief and of the get-the-hell-down-here variety.

Taiee gestured towards the bio-readouts displayed on the hatch to the Baron’s stasis unit. The stasis tanks were very similar in design to those utilized in the ship’s morgue, sliding out from recessed housings in one bulkhead. “Something’s going on with the Baron’s metabolism,” she said. “I’m not certain what, precisely, as it’s been a very gradual increase. Essentially, his metabolic rate is nearly double what it should be in full cryonic suspension.”

Lar’ragos made an appraising sound and busied himself for a moment scrolling through various biometric displays. “What are you doing in there?” he murmured, mostly to himself.

“Whatever it is,” Taiee hissed under her breath loudly enough for Lar’ragos to hear, “it can’t be good.”

Tiedermeyer leaned in to speak quietly to Lar’ragos. “Respectfully, Captain, I think we should eject the cryo-capsule. Based on this individual’s record to date, he’s proven incredibly dangerous as well as highly resilient. Allowing whatever process is underway here to come to fruition while he’s aboard the ship jeopardizes everyone’s safety.”

Lar’ragos cocked his head to one side, considering the Marine officer’s words. He glanced at Taiee. “Would that be your assessment as well, Doc?”

“Absolutely, sir,” she confirmed.

Lar’ragos pursed his lips thoughtfully. “You realize, of course, that this could well have been his plan all along in case he was captured.”

“You think he might actually have someone waiting to pick him up if we eject his capsule?” Tiedermeyer asked, his skepticism evident.

“Only one way to find out,” Lar’ragos mused.

Taiee shot him a cautious look. “Bait?” she asked.

“Bait,” he confirmed.

“Sir,” Tiedermeyer offered, a noticeable strain in his voice as he fought the urge to raise the volume of his objections. “He’s an enemy combatant, responsible for the deaths of dozens of people…”

“Billions, actually… perhaps more,” Lar’ragos corrected.

“Then why don’t we just dematerialize him, Captain, and scatter his atoms? It’s humane, painless, and far less violent a death than he deserves.”

Lar’ragos heaved a sigh that seem to emanate from deep within. “Because, Lieutenant, we’re better than him. That’s why.”

“And if his friends successfully rescue him, Captain, what then? The blood of any others he harms will be on our hands.”

Lar’ragos turned to face Tiedermeyer, and for an instant Taiee feared Pava would give the earnest young Marine a dressing down for his persistence. Instead, Lar’ragos’ expression somehow managed to convey both resignation and empathy.

“There was a time, Lieutenant, when I’d have been all too happy to do just that. I’d have vaporized the Baron with a smile and a spring in my step. But… we’re Starfleet, we don’t get to act as judge, jury, and executioner. The Baron is accused of many crimes, but convicted of none. Until such time as he stands trial, we are honor-bound to keep him safe from harm.”

Tiedermeyer stiffened, though not as one might after having been reproached. Instead, he reacted like one suddenly reminded of his oath and higher duty. “Yes, Captain,” he replied.

“Lieutenant,” Taiee said quietly, her gaze focused intensely on Lar’ragos, “could you give the captain and I a few minutes?”

Tiedermeyer nodded and motioned to his security personnel to follow him out into the corridor.

After the doors had closed Taiee said simply, “The kid’s not wrong, Pava.”

“I know,” he answered heavily. “Despite that, we’ll tow the line.”

“This monster’s well beyond ‘the line’ and we both know it!” Taiee blurted accusingly. “He’s his own special category of devil. He’s a Hitler, a Khan Singh, and we have the ability to end his reign of terror right here, right now.”

Lar’ragos stared at her for a long moment, unaccustomedly speechless at her outburst. “I’ve never seen you like this, Issara.”

“You weren’t the one who had to piece Donald Sandhurst back together after the Baron was done with him.”

In actuality, he had been, but Lar’ragos thought better of pressing that point. Instead, he voiced reasonably, “Donald’s the one who put him in stasis, and Donald had more reason than anyone to want the Baron dead.”

“He kills people because he can, he tortures for sport,” she continued. “Someone else sure knew him well enough, because they put something in his head that’s eating his brain neuron by neuron.” Taiee slouched tiredly, spent by her tirade, moving to rest her back against the nearest bulkhead. “At this point, permanent dematerialization would be a mercy to him.”

“That’s irrelevant, and you know it. If we kill him, we’re responsible, regardless of whatever his medical condition may be.”

“That sounds just like something Sandh—“ Taiee trailed off, then cocked her head, a look of realization alighting in her eyes. “That’s what this is really about, isn’t it? You’re trying to step into Donald’s boots, do things they way he would have wanted?"

His long-developed survival instincts howled at him to deny it, but instead Lar’ragos replied, “Someone has to, Doc. He’s gone off to play… interstellar warlord, or whatever the hell it is he’s doing.”

She frowned with confusion. “What’s that have to do with you?”

“Donald picked me, Doc. Me! He didn’t pull this stunt with T’Ser as his XO because he knew she’d never have allowed it. He transferred T'Ser off the ship and replaced her with me because he knew I’d be blindly loyal, that I’d ignore the signs until it was too late to stop him!”

She took a step closer to Lar’ragos, reaching out to put a comforting hand on his upper arm. “Don’t you have more than enough guilt already without adding that to your burdens?”

“I’m different… better than I was,” he insisted, his eyes shining with conviction. “I have to be. And if doing this in Donald’s memory is what it takes to make the changes stick, so be it.”

“Okay, Captain,” Taiee said gently. “Okay.”

Lar’ragos stepped into the corridor, nodding to Tiedermeyer. “We’ll use the stasis tank to draw in his conspirators, and then we’ll strike.”

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