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Old March 4 2012, 11:55 PM   #31
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Eighteen

Two Marines escorted the shackled Antaran into the small conference room aboard White Cloud. Sean remained seated as they brought her in and sat her down at the opposite end of the table, scrolling through page after page of information recovered from her shuttlecraft.

Finally, he looked up and glared at the furious woman. “You have been busy—Feringil Delon.”

Inderi jerked slightly, and her lips quavered. “Who? My name is Inderi . . .”

“We’ve cracked your computer encryptions, Madam Delon, and DNA doesn’t lie. You are Feringil Delon, also known as Jaspari, also known as Melan Tour, also known as Lindsey Krait, also known as Inderi. There are warrants for your arrest on four dozen separate charges on four of these identities . . . and there will soon be one issued for you role in what occurred at New Columbia.”

Sean closed the monitor screen and he met the eyes of the smuggler and criminal facing him. “There is no escape this time, Madame Delon; you will spend the rest of your natural life span on a penal colony undergoing rehabilitation. Unless . . .”

Inderi’s eyes grew wide and she looked up at that last word. “Unless?” she croaked.

“Unless you tell us everything about the people who abducted our colonists from New Columbia.”

The Antaran swallowed. “I want a full and complete pardon for my past crimes.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No, Inderi. What I will do is this: if your information is truthful and it helps us resolve this crisis, I will let you and your shuttle go. We are not in Federation space, after all. You can continue to live your life on the fringe of civilization, or you can you go to Hell. It makes no difference to me. But that offer is contingent on retrieving the colonists safe and sound, Inderi.”

“You need my information—and your offer is not good enough to pay for it.”

Sean sat back and he snorted. “USS Republic has already found your allies, Inderi; the sub-light generation ship that beamed away the colonists. You value your information too highly, ignoring the fact that it has a very real and very finite duration of viability. Three more starships are on their way, and White Cloud will be joining them. With or without you, Inderi, we will retrieve our colonists. Frankly, my dear, I hope that you reject my offer because the universe will benefit from your incarceration.”

Inderi swallowed. “You are bluffing. You haven’t encountered . . . them.”

Sean nodded and he pressed a stud, and the technical details recovered by Republic flashed into existence onto the wall mounted view screen. Inderi blanched, and her head fell.

“I don’t bluff, Madame Delon. My offer is good for the next sixty seconds. What is your choice?”

***********************************************

“Did she talk, skipper?” asked Gerald as Sean exited the turbolift unto the bridge.

“She sang like a songbird, Mister Bowen. Helm, set course to rendezvous with the Republic; make your speed Warp 9.9.”

But Sean’s face was tense and pursed. Gerald moved close and he leaned down to the older engineer. “Was it that bad, skipper?” he softly asked.

“Worse. Much worse, Mister Bowen. They don’t just want the planet; no these aliens needed the human beings of New Columbia to restore genetic diversity that their own DNA has lost over thousands of years of inbreeding. They plan on disassembling our colonists on the molecular level to develop a treatment for their genetic disorders. They aren’t hostages—they are medicinal supplies. Expendable medicinal supplies.”

“Warp drives on-line, skipper,” the helmsman said.

“Engage.”

***********************************************

“They are called the Nephkyrie. I discovered them . . . yes, I found them three years ago. When all of the might of the Federation and the Romulans and the Klingons and the Cardassians and the Dominion had not; I found them. My shuttle was having engine problems, and . . . there was the matter of a Ferengi ship hounding me. I came out of warp in deep space, far from any system, far from any reason . . . and there they were.”

“You are fools if you think them primitive. They are not. No, their home ships do not have warp drive, but they have warp-capable shuttles contained within—shuttles as large as some of your Federation starships. They were never warlike, or violent, but they are old, Commander. Old beyond all meaning. They roamed the stars before the first Vulcans awakened to question the universe; they explored and they learned when humanity huddled in caves and wore dirty hides to stay warm.”

“I was scanned, and taken aboard, and for six days they didn’t even speak with me—as if I were nothing to them. Until, finally, I was told I wasn’t compatible. Yes, they examined me to see if my species could suit their purposes, for their long voyage is finally drawing to a close. Most of their people sleep in stasis; but that only slows the aging and the decay, it does not bring it to a halt. Their genetic structure has progressed to the point where it no longer reliably transfers its chromosomes to the next generation; they have outlived their own bodies.”

“Well, I have always been a trader. I offered to help them find a race that was compatible.”

A question was asked from off-screen, and Inderi shook her head.

“What did I care—my own people aren’t suitable. I have brought them samples of Denobulans, Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians, Ferengi, Bolians, Efrosians, and finally . . . at long last, they discovered that it was human DNA which could restore their own ability to reproduce. Of course, a single human can only provide enough . . . raw material . . . to inoculate perhaps a score of Nephkyrie. They needed more, many, many more.”

“And they needed a new home where they could—and those following after them—could settle.”

More questions, and Inderi laughed.

“They tell me that in the last years of their planet, of their civilization, the Nephkyrie began to construct a fleet such as this galaxy has never before seen. Nearly one hundred of their ponderous vessels were built and millions of their people were loaded on board. Launched one after the other in a stream of refugees through space and time . . . until they found a world that resembled their home of so long ago and so very, very far away.”

“They claimed that world a hundred generations ago, but like the rats of this galaxy have you humans scurried to every world and every system you can find, claiming it and its treasures, leaving other races without.”

“Not this time. I found the compatible race, and I was to be rewarded . . . transformed into a Nephkyrie. I hired the Orions to deliver the beacon, to cleanse New Columbia of your colonists. And you cannot stop them. You do not even know what they are capable of doing.”

Chan Shrak shut down the view screen aboard the Briefing Room of USS Republic. “She refused to speak any further with Commander Philips, and has been returned to her brig cell. White Cloud is en route as we speak and will rendezvous with us here within the next hour; Balao is still at least eighteen hours away, with Arrogant arriving in sixty-two hours, followed by Independence thirteen hours afterwards.”

Matt nodded and he tapped his stylus on the table. “Thank you, Mister Shrak. People, we have very little time and I want options; options that will allow us to rescue those colonists alive, if at all possible. I want a full analysis of all data we have so far collected; in addition, I want Science and Medical to go over Inderi’s testimony in detail and try to reverse engineer what these . . . Nephkyrie are trying to accomplish. Mister Malik have you been able to extend the radius of your transporter inhibitor?”

“Yes, sir. I think we have managed to push it out far enough that those transporter-conveyed warheads won’t be able to damage our shields—but expanding the field has also weakened it. They might be able to punch through.”

“I want Engineering and Tactical to run simulations; take the maximum transporter power they showed us they can produce and increase it by a factor of 10. Mister Roshenko, I want you to do your best to get through the inhibitor—exhaust every possible scenario. The last thing we need is for them to beam a fusion warhead directly aboard this vessel.”

“Mister Shrak, Miss Biddle. I want you two focused on working with the rest of the Science department on finding the weak points of that ship. If we can take out her main power reactors, then she might not have enough reserve generation capacity to pose as great a threat. And figure out precisely how we are going to be able to house that many colonists on just five ships.”

Matt paused and he looked carefully over his officers. And then he firmly nodded. “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to work.”

Last edited by MasterArminas; March 5 2012 at 06:21 AM.
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Old March 4 2012, 11:56 PM   #32
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Eighteen (cont.)

“Mister Philips, welcome back,” Matt said as he stood to welcome the Starfleet engineer back aboard ship. “Enjoying your first command?”

Sean grimaced. “She’s not exactly the sort of ship I was expecting, Captain. Still, I think Intelligence will want to go over her in detail—seems the Orions have been busy at acquiring proprietary technology again.”

“No doubt, Commander,” Matt answered as he led Sean out of the transporter room and to the closest turbo-lift. “Deck 6.”

The engineer shook his head. “Deck 6? Not the briefing room?”

“No, Doctor Talbot has some questions for your EMH; Mister Malik has set up a telemetry link to White Cloud so that he can be activated in Holodeck 1. I thought it would be best to get your impressions at the same time.”

“Ah, Captain, you should know . . .” Sean began as the turbolift came to a halt and the doors opened. “The EMH is rather annoyed.”

“Yes, the Mk I tended to come across as rather abrasive, don’t worry about that, Commander.”

“No, sir. I mean annoyed at me.”

Matt stopped and he turned around to look at Sean. “Oh?”

“We had to adjust his appearance to fool Inderi. He didn’t like that.”

Now the Captain frowned. “I don’t imagine that he did. No one cares to have their body altered. And I would imagine that he told you that.”

“Yes, sir. Repeatedly.”

Matt tapped his cane against the deck, and then he turned and continued limping towards the Holodeck. The doors slid aside at his approach and he, followed by Sean, stepped within. Rather than the black plating with yellow girds of an inactive Holodeck, Dr. Talbot already had the basic program running—a duplicate the Chief Medical Officer’s office.

“Doctor.”

“Captain, Commander.”

“Doctor.”

Matt tapped his comm badge. “Mister Malik, we are ready when you are.”

Activating the system,” the chief engineer said over the link.

The holographic doctor suddenly materialized. “Please state the nature of the med . . . this is different,” he finished in a surprised voice. And then he sighed and held up his massive pudgy hands. “And I am still an obese Orion crime lord.”

Matt frowned, and he turned to glare at Sean. “You didn’t restore his original programming?”

“We haven’t exactly had the time, Sir. I was planning . . .”

“Dahlgren to Crewman Zapata.”

Zapata here.

“Mister Zapata, how long exactly will it take you to restore the Emergency Medical Hologram to its original parameters—while preserving its accumulated memory?”

An hour, perhaps less.

“You have thirty minutes, Mister Zapata,” Matt said curtly and then he directed his gaze at Sean once again. “You could not spare an hour, Mister Philips?”

“Captain Dahlgren, it’s only a hologram—not something that has feelings.”

“Mister Philips, the Emergency Medical Hologram is an extremely advanced piece of technology. I have read the classified reports Star Fleet Command has intermittently received from Voyager, and I can tell you that this hologram is far more than its creators ever intended for it to be. He is a member of the ship’s crew—a Star Fleet officer that deserves to be treated with respect and common decency.”

Matt turned to the program. “You have my apologies, Doctor, for the . . . inconveniences you have suffered.”

The hologram swallowed. “Apologies accepted, Captain Dahlgren. Am I no longer aboard the White Cloud?”

“Welcome aboard the USS Republic, Doctor,” the corner of Matt’s mouth twisted and then he smiled a crooked smile. “There are many doctors aboard my ship—what is your name?”

“Name? I wasn’t given one.”

“We will correct that then, Doctor . . . who? Let me think,” Matt said as he rubbed his sore leg.

“You are not get . . .” Quincy began, at the same time as the hologram asked “Is there an actual medi . . .” and then both stopped and looked at each other.

“He’s my patient,” Quincy growled.

“I was only asking, Doctor . . .”

“Talbot. Quincy Talbot, chief medical officer.”

“Ah, yes. I read your paper on neurosurgical restoration of Trill symbiotic nervous tissue resulting from improperly balanced transporter fields. Might we discuss that in detail some time, Doctor Talbot?”

“Of course.”

Matt grinned. “How does Dr. Robert Woolsey grab you, Doctor?”

The hologram frowned. “I am not familiar with a historical medical figure by that name.”

“He delivered my three daughters, and was my family physician until his retirement last year.”

“Ah,” the hologram said, before he looked down at the deck. “Woolsey . . . Robert Woolsey. Rob. Robby. Bob. Bobby. No. Robert. Robert Woolsey, medical hologram, at your service, Captain Dahlgren.”

Sean shook his head. “Captain we don’t have time for this.”

“Mister Philips. We have ample time to greet this ship’s newest crew member.”

Quincy jerked up. “Now wait just a damn minute . . .”

“Stow it Quincy. You were telling me last week how much Republic needs a third board-certified surgeon in case we get into combat again. Star Fleet won’t assign a third surgeon; not aboard a ship this size—and you know it. Doctor Woolsey here, he is available and he is now your third-shift on-call trauma specialist.”

“The ship isn’t set up to handle an EMH!” Sean blurted out. And Matt turned back to him and glared.

“Then it is a really good thing we still have your engineers. I want sickbay outfitted with holoprojectors, in addition to all of the medical labs and department offices, main engineering, the bridge, and the brig. And once that installation is complete, I want his program transferred aboard. You are capable of undertaking this task, are you not, Mister Philips?”

“I am,” the engineer replied through a clenched jaw.

“Good. However,” the captain continued as he turned back to the hologram. “It may be a while before we can do this, Doctor Woolsey. Right now, Doctor Talbot needs to ask you some questions about Inderi and anything she may have revealed concerning the Nephkyrie. And aboard this ship Doctor, you will be treated properly.”

“Thank you, Captain. I would honored to serve under a real Star Fleet officer. I can’t recall her mentioning the . . . Nephkyrie by name. What exactly are the Nephkyrie?”

“An alien race—the one that abducted the New Columbia colonists. Doctor Talbot will fill in all of the details.”

“Ah. She did ask me to run an analysis on a tissue sample collected in a tricorder—a sample that does not match any known species.”

“Is it still in the memory banks of the White Cloud?” Quincy asked sharply.

“Yes. Of course.”

Matt smiled as the older doctor inhaled. “In that case, Doctors, I’ll let you both get to work. Commander Philips, Mister Shrak has a detailed briefing for you. That second-hand Klingon cloak might just come in handy.”

***********************************************

Matt taped his stylus against the table and frowned. “Are you telling me that we ignored another race’s claim on New Columbia, Miss Tsien?”

Looks of shock went around the table following the science officer’s statement and the Captain’s question, but Amanda shook her head.

“Not exactly, Sir. I had Lieutenant Shalmut, the head of my Social Sciences Division, go back over every record we have of the initial exploration and colonization efforts at New Columbia. USS Constellation surveyed the system back in 2337 and her report indicates that three probes of alien origin were discovered in orbit around the planet we eventually settled as New Columbia. Or rather, that he discovered the remains of three probes. The devices were very old and had no power, but were in a stable geo-synchronous orbit over the planet.”

“No evidence was uncovered to suggest that the planet had indeed been claimed by another race—until after the initial colony settlement in 2344. Two years later, the colonists discovered an obelisk some eighty kilometers from the initial colony site. The obelisk displayed the same technology as the probes found in orbit, but the language on the obelisk proved to be undecipherable. The Science Council did dispatch a team to New Columbia to investigate the matter further, but were unable to discover any additional artifacts—and they concluded that due to the age and lack of further evidence that whatever race had left them behind did not intend on colonizing the planet.”

“Our analysis of the beacon recovered from the colony confirms that the Nephkyrie are indeed the race that launched the probes and landed the obelisk.”

Matt nodded. “Legal claims on the system aside, there is still the not-so-small matter of our colonists. Thank you, Miss Tsien. Doctor Talbot?”

“The tissue samples gathered by Inderi have been thoroughly analyzed by Medical, Captain. We have identified what is causing their chromosomal decay—and why they think that human DNA can restore it. The Delphi-3,4 protein string of Chromosome 17 has suf . . .”

“Simple English, Doctor,” Matt said dryly, causing nervous chuckled around the table.

Quincy looked up, with a stern expression on his face. “Small words are for small minds, Captain, sir. Basically, the Nephkyrie are a genetically engineered race; probably their own doing and not outside interference. They have used a very sophisticated technique to eliminate the negative physiological aspects from their chromosomal memory, leaving only the positive traits. Greater physical strength, higher bone density, increased sensory perception, enhanced reaction times—and their brains have been overclocked, to borrow an engineering phrase, allowing them multi-task on several cognitive problems simultaneously, as well as conscious control of some of their normally involuntary reflexes."

The surgeon shook his head. “It is an incredible accomplish, far beyond what the scientists behind the Eugenics Wars attempted. And the Nephkyrie were successful. But they missed something. The engineering rendered them extremely infertile as a race, a problem that they attempted to solve via cloning. And for a time, that solution was successful. However, like a . . . oh, an old magnetic tape that is has been played over and over again; the structure of their chromosomes has simply worn out. The protein strands no longer attach when they attempt to produce a new generation . . . they are dying.”

“And how will using our colonists help them to repair the damage, Doctor Talbot?” asked Chan.

Quincy rubbed his lower jaw and shook his head. “I don’t know, Commander. Our best guess—and it is only a guess—is that they intend to splice the human DNA, after it has been suitably altered to match the existing protein strands, in an attempt to restore their natural fertility. Physically, on the DNA level, they are very close to humanity as a species—far closer to us than the Vulcans or Andorians or Klingons. Or they were before they began altering themselves. But that will only be a temporary solution; the dominant traits that are locked into their chromosomes will eventually overwrite the new DNA and force them to start over again with fresh human DNA.”

“Can they be aware of this?” asked Grace Biddle.

“I don’t see how they could miss it. Their survival as a species will literally depend on having access to vast numbers of humans—farmed or otherwise.”

Absolute silence hovered over the briefing room.

“Can we offer an alternative means of restoring their species ability to reproduce, Doctor?” asked Matt.

“Maybe. It’ll need some study, and the Nephkyrie might not like the option.”

“Explain.”

“After discussing this with some of Amanda’s Biological Sciences people, and with Doctors Donato and Woolsey, we think it might be possible to reverse engineer the chromosomal damage—to restore the species DNA to its original configuration and remove all of the genetic engineering. They would have to clone their next generation, but afterwards, the species would once again be able to evolve at their own natural pace.”

“At the expense of their engineered abilities,” Matt mused.

“Yes. If it works, and it might not.”

“Mister Malik?”

“We’ve finished installing a second transporter inhibitor aboard the White Cloud, sir. And I have personally seen to the repair of Inderi’s shuttle. We’re ready.”

Chan’s antennae lowered and he stared at the Captain. “I must renew my protest, Captain Dahlgren. Regulations are quite specific on this issue—as you are well aware.”

“I’ve already logged your objections, Mister Malik. But if we can manage to resolve this peacefully, it is worth the risk. We have to establish contact with the Nephkyrie, and since they already have spoken Inderi—and she is supposed to be rejoining them, I will pilot her shuttle and begin a dialogue.”

Matt looked sternly down the table. “White Cloud will be nearby in cloak and ready to assist if I need it. However, if I am taken by the Nephkyrie—or killed—I expect this ship and every being on her to do their duty. Regardless of how unpleasant that duty might be.”

Each officer at the table nodded, and Matt joined them. “Assume your stations. If I am not back in twelve hours . . . there are sealed orders prepared that you will have to carry out. Dismissed.”

Matt’s senior staff rose and filed out of the briefing room, leaving only Matt and Chan seated at the table.

“I don’t want command this badly, Matthew,” Chan whispered. “One fusion warhead and that shuttle is gone.”

“Nat’s installed a transporter inhibitor in the shuttle, Chan. If they get frisky, I’ll activate it and run to warp. But if I don’t come back and the colonists can’t be saved . . .”

“Oh, yes. I am quite capable of doing what must be done, Matthew,” the Andorian’s antennae contracted. “Balao is only eight hours out. We can wait, you know.”

“Every hour means it is likely that more and more colonists are being processed, Chan. We can’t wait. And I have to take this chance, if either of us are to ever sleep peacefully again—we can’t just exterminate them without trying to convince them to alter their plans.”

The Andorian let out a deep breath, and then both of his antennae bent slightly in a sign of acquiescence. And then Chan stood. “Permission to escort you to Shuttle Bay 1, Captain Dahlgren,” he asked.

“Granted, Mister Shrak.”

Last edited by MasterArminas; March 5 2012 at 06:22 AM.
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Old March 5 2012, 07:38 PM   #33
admiralelm11
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

I'm really enjoying this Republic series. I can't wait to read what's posted next. Keep up your great work, please.
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Old March 5 2012, 09:33 PM   #34
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Eighteen (cont.)

The doors to Shuttle Bay 1 slid open with a hiss and Matt limped around to the hatch on the side of the old Vulcan shuttlecraft that filled the bay’s interior. The thing was so large that two of the four Star Fleet shuttles normally stored here had been moved to Shuttle Bay 2 to make room. Several engineers were closing up access hatches on the outer skin of the shuttle, gathering up their tools and equipment, and slowly leaving the bay; each nodded to Matt and the XO, one even giving them a thumbs-up.

The pair came around to the side of the shuttlecraft, and Matt suddenly came to a halt. “What are you doing here?”

Quincy Talbot looked up from where he was sitting down on the ramp leading up into the shuttle’s interior. “Waiting for you, Captain Dahlgren, Sir.”

“Quincy, I don’t have time for another lecture on the leg . . .”

“Oh, you have plenty of time because you aren’t flying this thing, Captain.”

Matt glared at his chief medical officer. “Excuse me, Doctor?”

“Beaming down to Hak’ta-thor was necessary. I understand. Getting almost no sleep so that your leg can heal, in order to get this ship motivated and worthy for the Fleet was necessary. I don’t like it, but I understand. But this?” Quincy shook his head. “You aren’t some twenty-two year old space cadet, Captain. You have officers whose duties encompass missions just like this, good officers.”

“Quincy, I have to talk to them . . .”

“That’s what sub-space radio is for, Sir. Your officer assigned to this mission will contact the Nephkyrie, and he will patch you through to them. Putting yourself out on the ledge isn’t part of your job description anymore, Captain—and it damn sure ain’t necessary.”

“Thank you for that opinion, Doctor. Now step aside,” Matt growled.

“No. Matt, I’ll declare you medically unfit for command if you so much as place a single one of those six eleven boots in that shuttle.”

Matt started to snarl, and then he saw the seriousness with which Quincy was stating his position. Instead the Captain turned to Chan.

“The two of you think this up together, Chan?”

Before the Andorian could answer, a fourth being cleared his throat from inside the shuttlecraft. Natantael Malik descended the ramp. “Actually, I called him, Skipper,” the Trill admitted. “You don’t need to be doing this, Sir.”

“And while I was willing to let you go, Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian added, “I can’t say that I am sad to see the good Doctor here and prepared to stop you.”

Matt started to open his mouth, and Quincy shook his head. “I will do it, Matt. Don’t force me to.”

The Captain let out a long breath, and he nodded. “If my executive officer, my second officer, and my ship’s surgeon are in agreement then fine; we will do this your way. I trust you gentlemen are happy now?”

“Happy?” Quincy replied. “Nope. Because that blue-skinned, ice-water in his veins executive officer of yours should have already knocked some damn sense into your head; instead of me having to come into this hanger to pull out the big guns. And you, Captain, Sir, should have more sense than to think the two of you could get away with this.”

“I think he is happy, Chan,” Matt said. “Remember for when you get your own ship: if the chief medical officer isn’t whining he isn’t happy.”

“I’ll make a note of it, Sir,” the Andorian answered.

“Whining? Whining? Why I’ll . . .”

“You’ve made your point, Quincy—don’t push it,” Matt warned. “Mister Malik, I presume that since you and the doctor have grounded me, you have arranged for a pilot?”

“I have,” the Trill beamed.

“In that case, gentlemen; let’s get this show on the road.”
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Old March 5 2012, 10:18 PM   #35
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

You went ahead and posted almost the entire story here in one go. I've found that when posting in a forum like this, it is more beneficial to post in segments. This way you stand a better chance of getting constructive feedback and avoid the risk of the story dropping off the front page too soon.

Having said that, I've really enjoyed what I've read so far up to Chapter 6. We don't often get to see a fire and brimstone type captain who sounds more like a drill sergeant than a refined gentleman. It an interesting approach and certainly appropriate considering this crew misfits and under performers.

I'll try to catch up with the rest of this tale, time permitting.
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Old March 5 2012, 11:25 PM   #36
MasterArminas
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Hahaha. I realised that is was probably counter-produce when I looked up and saw that it consumed two full pages of postings, and part of a third! But by then it was too late to change.

Here are the orginal threads on spacebattles.com:

Thread #1: http://forums.spacebattles.com/showthread.php?t=214889
Thread #2: http://forums.spacebattles.com/showthread.php?t=216108
Thread #3: http://forums.spacebattles.com/showthread.php?t=217465

There are 1,258 seperate posts with folks commenting and giving advice, mixed in the chapters. Their 500 point limit per thread forced me to break up the story, because I wasn't expecting THAT level of interaction.

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Old March 7 2012, 02:52 AM   #37
MasterArminas
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Eighteen (cont.)

The old shuttlecraft decelerated out of warp and immediately the threat receivers in the cockpit lit up.

“They know that we are here,” muttered Lieutenant Ciyan Judek, the sole Antaran aboard the Republic, as he adjusted his controls.

“Chin up, Ciyan,” Sean’s voice came over the sub-space communicator. “If they decide to open fire with that many guns, the odds are you will be dead long before your brain can say ouch.”

“Thank you, Sir, for providing me with that most motivating and fear-alleviating pep talk. Remind me never to ask you calm my jitters again, Commander. And to never volunteer on conducting repairs underway.”

“Fear is a good motivator, Ciyan. Just hold it together.”

Ciyan looked down at his instruments. “They are scanning me.”

“We see it.”

“And now they are hailing the shuttle,” the engineer finished. He grimaced and flicked the communications switch

We feared that you had been compromised; already we have had an encounter with the dominant species in this region—the species that you assured us were nothing more than vermin, loathed by all others.

The guttural voice paused, and turned cold.

Vermin do not build such starships, Inderi. What else have you lied to us about, we wonder?

“I am not Inderi. I am Lieutenant Ciyan Judek, of the United Federation of Planets, and I wish to establish a dialogue between my commander and your leaders.”

Foolish and incompetent. The Solidarity is best served without her presence. You are not the species that Inderi termed human; you are Antaran, as was she.

“Yes. The Federation consists of one hundred and fifty four member worlds, each of which has chosen to voluntarily request admission for their species.”

A multi-species polity? How . . . unusual. And these humans? Are they members?

“They are one of our founding members. Who am I speaking with?”

Ah. Not vermin, indeed. You are speaking with the Solidarity of Nephkyrie. Are these humans still a force within your Federation?

“They are a major species within the Federation, yes.”

And their settlements on our world were authorized by your Federation?

“We had no knowledge of your claim on New Columbia. Perhaps you can speak with my commander . . .”

Lies. We know our marker was landed; we know it was removed. And now we know the true threat we face.

Ciyan heard the hum of a transporter beam, and he began to twist as an object started to materialize—when White Cloud’s own transporter beamed him out and away from the shuttlecraft, micro-seconds before the fusion warhead detonated.

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Old March 7 2012, 05:28 AM   #38
MasterArminas
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Nineteen

Matt leaned forward, and he rubbed his thigh with one hand. “Thank you, Mister Philips,” he replied to the image of Sean on the main viewer. “White Cloud is to proceed to New Columbia; I want you to take up a position in orbit above the settlement—and if you receive any indication that the Nephkyrie are activating that transporter beacon, I want you to destroy it. You are authorized for a photon torpedo strike from orbit, Mister Philips—I will provide that order in writing if you so desire.”

“That won’t be necessary, Sir,” Sean answered. “I understand the stakes; if they can reverse the beam and transport to the planet, then removing them will be far more difficult.”

“You’re going to have a minimum crew aboard, Sean—I’m pulling all of my Marines back, and the majority of your engineers. And just so she doesn’t decide to try anything, we are transferring Inderi aboard as well; that should be one less headache for you to worry about.”

“Understood,” the engineer said as Matt addressed his chair audio pickup. “Mister Malik.”

Sir.”

“Time for Plan B. How long will it take to reset the inhibitor field? I want it to conform with our shield bubble for maximum strength.”

Thirty minutes, Captain.”

“How much will that increase the field strength?”

Enough that I will guarantee they can’t beam anything aboard, Sir. However, we will be vulnerable to proximity warheads.”

“Not for long, Mister Malik, get to work down there. Miss Biddle,” he addressed the Operations officer. “Plot us a course behind the Nephkyrie vessel, maintaining a distance of at least three million kilometers. Miss Montoya, let’s make our way there and match that ship’s vector and velocity. Once we are in position, Miss Biddle, I will need you to plot a course at Warp speed to bring us out very close to their ship; Miss Montoya I want Republic oriented so that our belly is facing their hull.” Matt pulled up a schematic of the Nephkyrie vessel on the main viewer and he highlighted a small section of their hull. “Put us here, Miss Montoya.”

“How close do you want her, Sir?” Grace asked.

“Our shield bubble extends fifteen meters beneath the keel; I want us to come out of Warp with no more than thirty meters of separation between our shields and their hull.”

Everyone on the bridge, including Chan, turned to stare at Matt. Isabella’s jaw gapped opened in shock, as her face drained of blood. Grace merely blinked. “Did you say thirty meters of separation? Sir?”

“No more than thirty meters, Miss Biddle. Ideally I don’t want five meters of separation. Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to get in so close against them that they cannot use their transporter delivered nukes without gutting their own ship in the process. Mister Roshenko,” he continued as he swiveled the command chair to face his tactical officer. “We’ve got four phaser arrays on the ventral surface—I want every weapons emplacement that can bear on us destroyed the instant we come out of warp,” dozens of different gun mounts began to flash on the display. “I do not want over penetrating shots if you can avoid it, Mister Roshenko. We will have bare seconds—at best—before they bring those seventy-six emplacements on-line and to bear; you will have to be accurate and fast.”

Matt sat back and he rotated his seat forward. “I want us as close as a tick on a hound, people. Once we are on station, and their local weapon systems are disabled, the Nephkyrie will have a choice—begin a dialogue or continue to stonewall.”

Chan cleared his throat. “And if they continue to stonewall? Sir.”

Matt pressed another button. “Mister Beck.”

Sir.”

“You have been listening as I requested?”

Yes, sir.”

“I want all Marines outfitted with Phaser Rifles and field armor. Additionally, Mister Shrak will be sending you a list of crewmen that will flesh out your boarding parties. Can you outfit another hundred and twenty personnel gleaned from our crew and Philip’s engineers?”

I don’t have enough armor, but I’ve got plenty of phasers. And grenades; I’ve assembled a good supply of those since you installed that replicator, Captain.”

“Thank you, Mister Beck. If they continue to refuse to talk, ladies and gentlemen, then we will board them; we will find our colonists; we will recover our colonists; and we will destroy their transporter system. And if we can’t; if the colonists are dead and they continue to refuse to even speak with us, then I’ll blow them out of space.”

Matt lowered his head, and the corner of his mouth lifted slightly. “Any officer or crewman who feels that they cannot with good conscience participate in such an action may report to Mister Shrak for transfer to the White Cloud.”

“Miss Montoya, this is all contingent on you getting us that close without ripping off a nacelle in the process. Can you do it?”

The young Lieutenant stared at the Captain for a moment and then she nodded her head slowly. She licked her dry lips. “Y-yes, Sir. I can get us that close.”

“Very well, then. Get your departments prepared; Mister Shrak assemble a list of personnel to augment the Marines and have them report to Lieutenant Beck. We have thirty minutes until Mister Malik finishes his adjustments. You have that length of time to get ready for this. Mister Shrak, you have the conn; I need to inform Admiral Hanson at Starbase 114 in case something goes wrong.”

Matt stood, and he turned around and cocked his head at the Andorian. “I have the conn, Sir,” Chan answered; but then he stepped up close. “And they say I am the crazy one, pink-skin,” he whispered.

“Just get the ship ready, Chan," Matt replied in a low voice.

“On one condition, Captain,” the XO continued.

“Condition? Your are setting conditions?”

“Yes, sir. You will not be boarding that ship, but sitting in that command chair instead, Sir. That is my sole condition.”

“Agreed. Now get her ready, Mister Shrak.”

“Aye, aye, Sir.”

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Old March 9 2012, 01:35 AM   #39
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Nineteen (cont.)

“Miss Biddle, is our warp jump plotted?”

“Yes, sir,” the Operations officer replied as she made a final adjustment to her controls, a thin bead of sweat dripping down her nose. “Warp drive will be engaged at Warp Factor 2, for .9732 seconds on computer control.”

“Very well,” Matt answered calmly, as he secured the safety straps across his waist. “Mister Shrak, set General Quarters throughout the ship, and sound Red Alert in all compartments.”

The bridge lighting dimmed, replacing the normal bright illumination with a harsh red glow. “All stations report manned and secured for Battle Stations, Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian answered.

“Initiate the warp jump, Miss Montoya.”

“Aye, sir,” she replied. “Warp speed in five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . ENGAGED!”

Republic surged forward, crossing over the boundaries into warp, and then almost immediately dropped back into normal space. Matt could hear the thrum of the phasers firing even before Isabella could report. “We are at the designated coordinates, Sir; six meters, forty-two centimeters of separation between the keel and the Nephkyrie vessel!”

The ship rocked as a half-dozen Nephkyrie laser cannons struck her forward shields, but then the batteries on the alien vessel fell silent.

Pavel Roshenko looked up. “Weapons emplacements neutralized, Captain. No hull penetrations.”

“Forward shields holding at 98%, Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian added, and then his antennae shivered. “We are being hailed.”

“On screen.”

The main viewer blanked and for the first time, Matt and his crew could see the Nephkyrie with their own eyes. The man on the screen was humanoid, his smooth skin a darkened bronze, offset by the coal-black well groomed hair that covered his head. Except for the strange skin color and the eyes—eyes with a vertical cat’s slit and an iris of purple—he could easily have passed as a human.

“You will remove your vessel at once. You are not welcome here among the Solidarity,” he said.

Matt nodded. “We will be depart as soon as our people have been returned to their home; the Federation does not desire conflict with the Solidarity, and we are prepared to greet you in peace. If they are not returned, however, then we shall meet you with war.”

“War? You would go to war over such a small number of your people? For which my species has a need? You would condemn thirty-five million to death for twelve thousand of your own kind, and see an entire species destroyed?”

“If it proves necessary, then yes. I am Matthew Dahlgren, commanding officer of the Federation Starship Republic. And we do not allow any race to steal away twelve thousand of our own people—not without paying the consequences of that action.”

The Nephkyrie on the screen met Matt’s stern gaze evenly, and then he nodded. “I am Typhias, and I am Speaker for the Solidarity. Your people were interlopers and intruders upon a planet which our race had claimed long ago as its own.”

“Your claim was one which the Federation was unaware of until just recently, Speaker Typhias. However, on behalf of the United Federation of Planets, I promise that we will evacuate our colonists and leave you the planet. That offer is contingent, of course, on the colonists being returned to us safe and sound.”

Chan cleared his throat and Matt swiveled his chair to face his executive officer.

“They are attempting to gain a transporter lock on the entire ship, Captain Dahlgren. The inhibitor is blocking their attempts—for now.”

Matt turned back to the main viewer. “I would advise you to cease those attempts, Speaker Typhias; they might easily be interpreted as hostile. You have seen the power of my weapons; I would hate to turn them onto your vessel in earnest.”

The Speaker turned to someone off-screen and spoke rapidly in a language that the universal translator did not recognize, making a slashing motion with one hand—a hand with four elongated fingers and two opposing thumbs.

“Transporter lock-on attempts have ceased, Captain Dahlgren,” Chan reported.

“Thank you, Speaker Typhias. I would like to begin discussing on when we can expect our people to be returned.”

Typhias’s mouth twisted and he leaned forward. “Your weapons are impressive. As is your ability to block our transport beams; but I have heard nothing that would compel me to relinquish the specimens we have retrieved. The survival of my race is at stake, human, and I shall not let a mere twelve thousand lives of another species stand between our survival and extinction. You would do the same, would you not?”

“No. We would find another way. We will offer to your race our collected medical resources in an attempt to restore your DNA to it original configuration; my scientists and medical professionals have already determined that it might be possible to alleviate your own damage through means that do not require the death of thousands—millions—of my own people.”

“And your solution has been tested and proven?”

“No, but we can work . . .”

“Then it is useless. The Solidarity must be assured of survival, human. And if survival requires that we harvest your species, than that is what we must do. I order you again to depart, and trouble us no further; failure to comply will result in your own deaths.”

Matt frowned. “We are too close to your own vessel for you to risk your transporter bombs, Speaker Typhias. Do not force me into the position where I have to board you and recover our people.”

“Board us?” the Nephkyrie began to laugh. “Ah, you are indeed amusing, human. You shall not step one foot upon the decks of this ancient vessel—but we will take yours.”

The screen blanked, and Matt swiveled his chair as he heard the hum of a transporter beam—several transporter beams.

Nephkyrie troops, wearing thick heavy cuirasses of armor plating and combat helmets appeared onboard the bridge of Republic and those aliens drew weapon, but the Marine security guards and the bridge crew already had their own in hand. Phaser and beams of unknown energy began to criss-cross the bridge as Republic’s crew fought the intruders.

Matt unclipped his safety belt and rolled out of his chair, just instants before a high-energy beam burnt a hole through the back, and he tapped his comm badge. “Intruder Alert!” he barked. “All hands repel boarders!” Wincing with the pain, Matt knelt on his injured leg and drew his own Type I phaser, firing a long burst into one of the intruders.

The Operations console exploded under the fire of another Nephkyrie, and Grace Biddle was slammed to the deck, bleeding and burnt. Matt twisted and he fired two short beams into the alien as he stood over Grace, joined by a third beam from Isabella.

And then the shrill sounds of phasers stopped; the Nephkyrie intruders were down, along with nearly half of Matt’s bridge crew. Chan pulled himself back up to his feet, and he leaned on his Mission Ops station, holding a useless arm tight against his side in pain. “Intruders reported on Decks 2 through 8; make that 2 through 9. Mister Malik reports Main Engineering is secure, but he is requesting immediate reinforcements; Mister Beck is deploying Marine reaction teams and crewmen prepped for boarding operations against the Nephkyrie.”

“How the Hell did they get through the in . . . no, don’t answer that, Chan!” Matt snarled. “Miss Montoya—set course to rendezvous with the Balao, maximum Warp. Mister Roshenko, take out any transporter emitters on their hull!”

The turbolift doors opened and a pair of marines and two medics emerged.

“Transporter emitters destroyed, Captain,” Pavel answered calmly. “That will only slow them, however—and they rolling their ship!”

“Now, Miss Montoya!”

And Republic surged forward, into Warp and away from the Nephkyrie ship.

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Old March 9 2012, 06:34 AM   #40
MasterArminas
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Nineteen (cont.)

Corporal Alvin Thiesman held up one hand as he heard the pounding of feet on the deck past the T-junction directly in front of his team. He knelt and raised his Type III/f phaser rifle, knowing the two Marines with him had his back. He pulled the weapon in tight against his shoulder and he took a deep, slow breathe; and then a gaggle of Nephkyrie burst into sight, shooting over their shoulders as they RAN.

Thiesman exhaled and pressed the firing stud repeatedly, sending one high-powered phaser stun beam into each of the alien troopers in front of him before they could respond. But he remained where he was as he heard an incoherent scream of rage and more thundering impacts of boots. And then a hyperventilating Lt. Pok came running up, shouting Tellarite imprecations at the stunned Nephkyrie.

The Marine lowered his weapon, but the ship’s quartermaster saw the motion and he spun, raising his own phaser pistol. “STAR FLEET MARINES!” Thiesman yelled, and he raised the rifle again. “SAFE THAT WEAPON, LIEUTENANT!”

Pok squinted and then he squealed as he lowered the phaser. “Didn’t . . . see . . . you,” he gasped, out of breath from the running. “I was chasing these cretins. Absolute morons,” the Tellarite said as he kicked one of unconscious soldiers. “They broke a vase from the Vasana Dynasty of Janus VII! Shattered it!” the Quartermaster wailed. “It was a priceless treasure, and they ruined it.”

“You were chasing them? Alone?” Thiesman asked in an amused voice.

“Of course, I am not alone! My assistants are right behind me . . .,” Pok turned and noticed that the corridor behind him was empty. He frowned. “They had best be stunned or they will be doing workouts with your Marines three times each day!”

“Lieutenant, why don’t you come with us; there are more of them on the lower decks.”

Pok nodded, then he grunted, and then he pointed the phaser at the unconscious Nephkyrie and shot each of them of them again. “They just knocked the vase right off the pedestal; as if they had no appreciation for its value.”

“Let’s go, Mister Pok,” the Marine said as he struggled not to laugh.

“Lead the way; we Tellarites aren’t that stealthy.” And he fired one final stun beam into the unconscious soldiers as he followed the three Marines to the Jefferies tube.
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Old March 10 2012, 05:42 PM   #41
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Nineteen (cont.)

“They managed to breach the inhibitor field by a combination of factors, Captain,” the Trill engineer reported as he shook his head. “First, they massively increased their transporter power—far beyond the amount we had previously witnessed. The good news is that their entire vessels power reserves dropped precipitously when they did this, and based on their observed rate of power regeneration, it isn’t something they can do quickly.”

“Second, they showed a capacity for using an extremely high frequency of sub-space; a frequency that our inhibitor did not fully cover. Sensor logs from their transport indicate their transporter was refocused into the tau-bands.”

Chan shook his head in disbelief. “Didn’t the Federation abandon research into tau-band transporter frequencies because of cellular degradation?”

“Yes, and the surviving Nephkyrie boarders are showing some signs of cellular disruption; their armor incorporates a miniaturized pattern buffer that alleviated the worst of effect, reinforcing their pattern and minimizing the damage. Still, multiple transports in the tau-band will be as fatal for them as it would be for us.”

“And finally,” Nat continued, “they made no attempt to gain a transporter lock. The boarding party they beamed across was a blind transportation into open compartments their sensors had already identified. Of the one hundred and six Nephkyrie beamed aboard ship, seven materialized either partially or fully within a deck, overhead, bulkhead, or piece of equipment.”

Several of Matt’s senior officers winced at the thought, but the captain only nodded his understanding. “Mister Malik, how soon can they regenerate their power reserves from this previous attempt?”

“They will have to spend at least an hour restoring their energy, Captain; that estimate is based only on the power production capability we have so far witnessed. If they have an additional means to produce the power, they might restore it faster.”

“Mister Beck?”

“We have all of the surviving Nephkyrie contained in Cargo Four, Sir. Our automated anti-intruder defenses, combined with the rapid reaction teams managed to neutralize their boarding party in short order. From our examination of their small arms, they lack the technology for hand phasers; however, their weapons are an early from of sonic disruptor that includes a stun setting. For the most part, they used the weapons on stun, perhaps in an attempt to gain more human subjects, but there were a few casualties among the crew. Their armor is lightweight and capable of absorbing and dissipating kinetic, laser, disruptor, and—to a limited extent—phaser energy. Tactically, their troops were well-trained in a basic manner, but appeared to lack actual combat experience. That may be due to their cramped conditions aboard that ship—but we shouldn’t underestimate them.”

“Individually, they are stronger, faster, and tougher than the majority of our personnel. It was their lack of experience in combat situations that allowed us to quickly overcome them. I don’t think they were prepared for our level of resistance, and they had no contingency plans and failed to coordinate their activities across the ship. If I am reading their insignia correctly, their senior officer materialized within a bulkhead on Deck Four, depriving them of leadership at a crucial moment.”

“Dr. Talbot?”

“The crew suffered numerous casualties in the engagement; thankfully, most of those are bruises and minor cuts, as well as hangovers from the stun weapons. We had a number of more severe injuries, but none—including Miss Biddle—are life-threatening. Dr. Tsien and I have been studying the Nephkyrie physiology based on our prisioners and we, along with Dr. Woolsey and the Biological Sciences division believe that we might be able to manufacture a treatment for their genetic disorder in a few days. We will have to test the serum to see if it is effective, however.”

Pavel Roshenko shook his head. “Why don’t they just clone the human DNA in vats; why do they need living, breathing humans?”

Quincy frowned. “In the short term, that might work. But it is their own cloning and genetic engineering techniques that have led to this problem. And since the majority of their population is in stasis—and according to the sensor scans conducted by Amanda, so are our colonists—they might not have the capacity in their medical labs to clone so much different tissue. I am guessing here, but I’d say, based on what I have seen of their ship’s internal layout, that much of their equipment is stored, to be unpacked when they reach New Columbia.”

“And their current numbers of crew are not nearly as overwhelming as we first estimated, Captain Dahlgren,” Amanda Tsien added. “Thirty-four thousand of the Nephkyrie are in stasis, along with all of our colonists, leaving around a thousand of them active aboard that ship. Well, less than nine hundred now,” she finished with a sad smile.

“Miss Tsien, did our scans detect any anomalies in the colonists? Could they have started processing them within the stasis pods?” Matt asked as he tapped his stylus on the table.

“I managed to get a good look at the colonists, Sir. No. Their life signs matched what the records show; they are in a form of cyro-stasis with their bio-signs within the expected range.”

Matt nodded. “Doctors,” he said to Quincy and Amanda. “I want you full efforts on finding a treatment for the Nephkyrie—you are authorized to test your serum upon the prisoners. Consider that an order, Doctor Talbot!” Matt barked, cutting off Quincy as he began to snarl. “We have to know if it works. Mister Malik, make your repairs quickly, and remove those fused Nephkyrie from my ship.”

The intercom whistled. “Bridge to Captain Dahlgren. Bridge to Captain Dahlgren.

Matt tapped his comm badge. “Dahlgren.”

Sir. Balao has just dropped out of warp and is moving to rendezvous with us at impulse power.

“Acknowledge, Miss Montoya. I will be on the bridge momentarily. Hail Captain Carmichael and ask him if he would beam aboard so that I might brief him personally,” Matt turned back to the staff seated at the briefing table. “Ladies. Gentlemen. We got lucky here; these prisioners might give us the means of resolving this situation without any further violence—but only if you can come up with a treatment that works. I have confidence that you are capable of doing so; but I need not remind that time is not our ally in this circumstance. You are dismissed.”
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Old March 11 2012, 04:37 PM   #42
CeJay
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Phew, just got all caught up with this fascinating story.

Now while I'm not a huge fan of the more militaristic and authoritarian interpretation of the Star Trek universe, it is a clear testament to your skills as a writer that I got quickly swept up in the tale of Republic and her hard-ass captain.

The premise is pretty darn good in itself even if perhaps not entirely original. Ship and crew fall into disgrace and the only way to safe the ship from complete dishonor is to bring in a captain who knows how to straighten out a crew which has all but given in to complacency and failure.

And Dahlgren clearly is the right man for the job. Only barely handicapped by his hopefully temporary disability, this is a man who would feel right at home on a Klingon ship, considering his penchant for total discipline, rousing speeches and blaring battle songs across the ship.

I thought the story is a bit long overall but that's not surprising considering that you've packed at least three, seemingly independent plots into one story. I suppose I would have expected those to be separated.

Those stories are compelling however. From the early training sessions and getting to know the crew, to an old-fashioned throw down with a TOS-era like super computer to the current story of the incoming generation-ship, kidnapping humans for their sinister purposes in best Mass Effect fashion.

And while those stories may have evoked others concepts, you've given them enough twists and details to make them your own.

My only real critique at this point may be your character's tendencies to explain themselves and narrate events and often give surprisingly detailed orders. While this really creates a sense that Dahlgren is a sly old dog who knows exactly what he's doing, sometimes it feels as if it slows the story down unnecessarily with yet another speech or another plethora of orders.

I sense that this may be inherent to your writing style however and of course there is nothing fundamentally wrong with that.

Overall this this is an impressive Star Trek fanfic and the rate at which you seemed to have crafted this is quite mind-blowing. Yeah, I might be little jealous at your prolificacy there.

Great job.
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Old March 12 2012, 02:26 AM   #43
MasterArminas
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

Thank you, CeJay. I should have the next section up later tonight; life has gotten in the way so it has slowed down. Frankly, I am surprised by how fast this has written itself: forty days since I wrote the first word. It should be wrapping up fairly soon, though.

I am glad that you are enjoying my humble attempt to write something for Trek; this is my first story set in the Star Trek universe and it is only with the advice and comments of some local experts on spacebattles that I got some of this technical things correct.

I do hope that you continue reading to the end (which is coming, I promise)!

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Old March 12 2012, 02:55 AM   #44
admiralelm11
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Re: Star Trek: Republic

I can't hardly wait. This is some awesome stuff!
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Old March 12 2012, 04:36 AM   #45
MasterArminas
Commander
 
Re: Star Trek: Republic

Chapter Nineteen (cont.)

The door to Matt’s ready room slid open and Chan walked in, his arm in a sling. Behind him walked a dark-haired human woman who wore the three pips of a Commander on her collar. She beamed a smile as Matt stood.

“Captain Dahlgren,” the Andorian said, “may I present Commander Samantha Carmichael, the commanding officer of USS Balao.”

Matt shook his head and he smiled as well. “You may, Mister Shrak. Sam, good to see you again; both of you take a seat,” he continued as he sat back down. “Sam, care for a drink?”

“No thank you, Sir. I had lunch aboard Balao before we arrived. I see that we missed some excitement.”

“You could say that, Sam,” Matt answered with a sad chuckle. “But we learned a few things about these Nephkyrie—and we’ve got a few captives aboard as well.”

“More than few,” Chan chimed in, “we have them packed into Cargo Bay 4 like cattle, Commander Carmichael.”

“So they gave you Balao? I knew you would get a command, Sam, but I didn’t think they would give you such a . . . little ship.”

“It’s not the size of the waves, but the motion of the ocean, Sir,” the commander of Balao answered with a bright grin. “She’s got heart and she packs a wallop. On a good day, she can take any ship in the Fleet.”

“I have no doubt, Sam,” Matt finished as he considered his former second officer—his Operations officer—from the old Kearsage.

“So how are the kids?” she asked.

“Cass starts Julliard this fall, if you can believe it. Amanda, she doesn’t like being called Amy anymore she declared in her last letter, has a crush on a young boy in her freshman class and is hoping he asks her to her first dance this fall. And Sarah is as rambunctious as ever.”

“And Melody?” Sam asked, her smile fading.

“We talk. Infrequently. I don’t blame her, Sam. It was my own fault for being away for so long; she deserved better.”

“Begging your pardon, Sir, but she didn’t have to leave you when you fighting for your life in the hospital.”

“Water under the bridge, Sam. The marriage was over long before I was beached. And she’s found someone who can be there for her, all the time; the way I wasn’t when she needed me.”

“At least they got you back into space, Sir,” Sam quickly changed the subject. “Even if they had to drag the Reprobate here off the scrap pile.”

Watch it, Commander. Republic may be an old girl, but she blew the pants off of McHale and Rick Kessler.”

“I heard. And I’ve also heard some rumors over sub-space about the Cauldron and a mysterious ion storm.”

“If I told you the story, Sam, I’d have to have Chan jettison you out of an airlock. So stop fishing.”

“Aye, aye, Sir. What are we facing here?”

“The Nephkyrie are not quite like anything I’ve ever met, Sam. They have some highly advanced technology, and yet they have only the most basic weapons and warp drive. Chan has a full briefing already laid out for you and your people, but they are full of surprises. Our number one priority is to recover the New Columbia colonists, and I hope that can figure out a means to do that without having to blow that ship to hell. We are working on possible sol . . .”

The door chime beeped and Matt frowned. “Come!” he barked. The door parted and a grim-faced Quincy stormed in, trailed by Amanda. Quincy nodded curtly at Sam, and then he turned his glare on Matt.

“What’s the matter, Doctor?”

“We’ve just discovered something about these Nephkyrie that you need to know right now, Captain.”

Matt sat back and picked up his battered stylus and tapped it against the desk. “And that might be?”

“The prisioners—all of the prisioners, Captain—are children.”

Excuse me? Doctor, they seemed pretty tall and developed for children.”

“Matt, they are clones. And they have been in stasis for god knows how long. They are children—the last children of the Nephkyrie race, put into stasis and sent thousands of light years to found a new home. Children whose bodies grew up slowly in the stasis tubes, but whose minds are still those of teenagers and goddamn prepubescent children!”

The ship’s surgeon shook his head, and ran a hand through his grey hair. “They have had all of the Nephkyrie knowledge taught to them in stasis, their minds being impressed with the data of how to operate those ships, but emotionally? Developmentally? Every last one of them is still a child.”

“And right now, those children, despite the fact that they stand as tall you as you and Chan, are scared. They are frightened, Captain, and they are huddled together and crying in confinement in that bare cold cargo bay. Damn whoever thought it was a good idea to turn them into soldiers, Captain, but they are traumatized! We can’t go back there and kill an entire ship full of children, Matt. We can’t!” the doctor thundered.

“And we won’t, Quincy. We will find another way,” Matt answered at last. “Computer, adjust temperature and light levels in Cargo Bay 4 to match those scanned on the interior of the Nephkyrie vessel—and play Brahms’s Lullaby on the speakers in that compartment.”

Acknowledged.”

Matt sadly smiled. "It always calmed my kids, at least."

“Dahlgren to Counselor Trincullo,” Matt said tapping his comm badge.

Sir?” Andrea Truncullo’s voice piped up.

“How are you with children, Counselor?”

Sir?” her voice pitched up in question.

“Miss Trincullo . . .” and Matt shook his head. “Just meet me in Cargo Bay 4.”

Aye, aye, Sir.

Matt stood, followed by Chan and Sam. “This is where you earn those Captain’s pips, Sam. I want you and Chan to go over every bit of our tactical data—and you two find me a way out of this that doesn’t involve killing thirty-five thousand children. Doctors,” the captain continued as he picked up his cane and limped around his desk. “You two are with me.”

“Aye, aye, sir,” a chorus of voices answered.
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