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Old March 1 2012, 07:14 AM   #16
Gibraltar
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Continued excellence! It seems Mr. Proudfoot has something altogether more complex than the uber-weapon I'd expected.
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Old April 1 2012, 10:53 PM   #17
jerriecan
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain



Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Prodigal Captain - Part Three

USS Pathfinder
Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163


The briefing room was nearly silent as Teague sat at the head of the conference table, hands pressed flat against the gray surface. Through the twin viewports, one of the warp fighters was visible, holding station at the Pathfinder's stern, weapons armed and ready to be used should the starship display the slightest provocation. Spaced equally around the Pathfinder were five identical fighters, each more maneuverable at sublight than the starship was - so long as they could keep the Pathfinder boxed in and unable to go to warp, the pack could easily subdue the ship.

But what worried Teague more were the larger ships - the Roosevelt and the Vanguard. The Roosevelt might not be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Pathfinder, but she could inflict major damage in a fight. And with the Vanguard, it wasn't the weapons he knew about that concerned him - it was the mystery weapon.

Teague looked at the faces of his senior staff - all except Beaumont. His stomach clenched at the thought of her situation, all alone aboard an enemy vessel, trapped with a madman determined to restart the Romulan War. Everyone's face was a mask of concern and anxiety, though some hid it better than others. T'Vril, as always, betrayed no emotion whatsoever.

"Tactical assessment," Teague said.

The wallscreen lit up as T'Vril pressed a switch. Several labeled dots were displayed on a tactical grid, a green dot in the center surrounded by eight red ones. "The Vanguard is an Omicron-class fighter carrier. Typical weapon loadout is six turret-mounted phase cannons along the ventral and dorsal spines, augmented with ten high-yield particle cannons along the flanks. There are ten torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft. Warhead load would typically be six hundred, divided equally between spatial, plasma and nuclear." The display flickered and showed a schematic of the Vanguard. "The hull plating is fullerene-impregnated duranium slab with a polarization rating of seven-point-six. For comparison, our own hull is rated at five-point-nine." That meant that the Vanguard's hull was significantly better at dissipating weapon fire than the Pathfinder's.

The display changed to a schematic of a warp fighter, eerily reminiscent of the NX-Alpha, the early testbed for Starfleet's warp 5 program - twin warp nacelles on either side of a cylindrical hull, joined by stubby wings. "That does not include ordnance intended for the twelve short-range warp-capable fighters the ship carries. Each carries eight torpedoes and also mounts twin high-yield phase cannons. Add to this the capabilities of the Roosevelt, and the tactical outlook is... unpromising."

"You're a master of understatement, Commander," said Amara. "We're surrounded and outgunned, not to mention minus our first officer."

Teague ignored his engineer's pointed comment. "So we can't run, and we can't fight - either would be suicidal," he said. "Proudfoot has us right where he wants us. What is he waiting for?"

"Maybe we're overestimating their capabilities," said Webb. "That carrier needs a crew of thousands - even a skeleton crew would be in the hundreds - and they'd all need at least basic Starfleet training to operate the systems. Add in the fighter pilots, a crew for the Roosevelt - it's just not possible. There's no way this guy found that many Fleet-trained people who think like he does."

"What about coercion?" said Marakis. "Maybe he's forcing the crews of the stripped ships to run the ships under threat."

"I don't buy it," said Webb.

T'Vril shifted her gaze to Webb. "Regardless, Lieutenant, the tactical situation remains unchanged."

"Maybe it has," said Amara. "Those carriers were built as fast as we could crank them out of the Phobos and Jovian orbital yards. Sophistication wasn't a priority. Even some of the newer long-range cargo carriers are more automated that that hulk. It makes sense that they would have had to rig up some kind of automated control system." He thumped his fist on the table. "That would explain why they stripped all those cargo ships - not just for cargo but for enough optronic cable to rig up the automation."

Teague nodded. "It makes sense, but that still doesn't answer the question - even if the Vanguard is at less than full capability, these fighters could pick us apart before we could get into warp. So I ask again - why haven't they finished us off?"

"They want the Pathfinder intact," Sarria said quietly.

All eyes in the conference room turned to her. "It's the only rational explanation. Their first targets were civilian transports which they stripped to the spaceframes. Then they took the Roosevelt without a scratch. They're - trading up?" Sarria looked to her roommate to confirm she was using the unfamiliar phrase correctly and Webb nodded. "Starfleet's newest ship would make a fine prize."

Teague glanced at T'Vril. "The logic is sound," was all the Vulcan said.

"But that still tells us nothing about the weapon itself," said Marakis.

Throughout the briefing Kassin had remained silent, gnawing on his left thumbnail. "Thoughts, Commander?" Teague said, an edge of irritation in his voice.

"Um - there may be a way to detect the full range of the weapon's operating frequencies," he said, shaken out of his private thoughts. "I'll have to tear down one of the sensor heads and recalibrate by hand to account for the tolerances in the system."

"How long?"

"Two hours, at least, sir."

"Get on it. I want to know the instant they try using that weapon on us again." He looked at Dr Ranik. "What about Beaumont's signal?"

"The cortical processor is still fully functional and broadcasting telemetry," Ranik said. "Of course, all the telemetry does is indicate whether the implant is active or not - it's not a surveillance device. Other than that there's very little that I can surmise about her condition."

"Let's hope it stays that way," Teague said. "In the meantime I want firing solutions on every one of these ships, both to disable and destroy. We don't have the sheer firepower to take out the Vanguard, but I want the ability to at least disable every other ship out here, including the Roosevelt. If we can do that, we'll have a good chance to escape."

"And what about Commander Beaumont?" said Webb, her arms folded across her chest. "Do we just abandon her?"

Teague's expression softened slightly. "Not if there's any other choice," he said.

To Be Continued...
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Old April 2 2012, 06:17 AM   #18
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Well… that was a sobering tactical assessment. Pathfinder’s boxed in and with Beaumont trapped with Proudfoot and his separatists, there’s no easy way out that won’t result in casualties of some kind.

I guess that’s why they pay Starfleet captains the big bucks!
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Old April 2 2012, 01:00 PM   #19
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Great to see another episode. As usual, written well with convincing dialogue. The explanation as to why they took the cargo ships makes sense, too.
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Old April 2 2012, 06:16 PM   #20
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Not exactly a positive outlook for Pathfinder here. Options are in scarce supply and with the XO still in the lion's den, running isn't exactly the honorable thing to do. I'm thinking Beaumont still has a role to play to get her former CO to give up or sabotage him somehow from the inside.
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Old April 2 2012, 07:14 PM   #21
jerriecan
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
Well… that was a sobering tactical assessment. Pathfinder’s boxed in and with Beaumont trapped with Proudfoot and his separatists, there’s no easy way out that won’t result in casualties of some kind.

I guess that’s why they pay Starfleet captains the big bucks!
They can afford the best... now to see if Teague and the Pathfinder crew are worth it. Glad you're liking the story!

The Badger wrote: View Post
Great to see another episode. As usual, written well with convincing dialogue. The explanation as to why they took the cargo ships makes sense, too.
Thanks, Badger. Dialogue is tough, especially when balancing exposition with realistic speech. Glad you're still reading and enjoying!

CeJay wrote: View Post
Not exactly a positive outlook for Pathfinder here. Options are in scarce supply and with the XO still in the lion's den, running isn't exactly the honorable thing to do. I'm thinking Beaumont still has a role to play to get her former CO to give up or sabotage him somehow from the inside.
Very good thoughts, CeJay - we'll see how right you are very soon. Thanks for reading and commenting!
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Old April 2 2012, 07:19 PM   #22
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain



Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Prodigal Captain - Part Four

UESN Vanguard
Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163


Beaumont stood at the railing, looking down at the weapon that Proudfoot called Achilles. It was a truly massive construct, stretching hundreds of meters down the bay, mounted along the spine of the Vanguard. Dozens of people surrounded the weapon, replacing components, calling out readings and making adjustments to the system. Even if it was a weapon, Beaumont still thought it was a spectacular piece of engineering. "What is this?" she said.

Proudfoot exchanged a few murmured words with the nearest technician before answering her. "Achilles is the most powerful subspace transmitter ever carried aboard a starship," he said. "It's not the most efficient device - anything but, in fact. Its power requirements are massive. It can affect targets over short to medium combat ranges, out to about a million kilometers."

"Is it some kind of jamming system?" Beaumont said. She knew full well that it was not, but she needed to keep Proudfoot talking, to get him to share concrete details, something they might be able to use against him. "A million kilometers isn't even a dent when it comes to subspace comms."

Proudfoot smiled. "You're right, of course, Isobel. Achilles doesn't jam subspace frequencies - it generates a modulated pulse on very specific wavelengths. It uses a target's internal systems to amplify those frequencies, spreading the field throughout the target."

He turned to face Beaumont. "It's quite elegant, in a terrible way. The Achilles pulse effects the brain directly, rendering its victims... compliant. It leaves them suggestible, easily controlled, able to follow simple instructions but utterly incapable of resistance. Much like the siren's call of ancient Earth myth." At Beaumont's horrified expression, he said, "Of course, the effect is only temporary - it fades within a few minutes of stopping the pulse. But by that time a small force can have an ship's entire crew restrained and take control of the ship, all without a shot fired in anger."

Beaumont's stomach lurched as she went pale listening to her former commanding officer describe the effect of Achilles. It was no wonder Starfleet had never used it - Achilles wasn't just a weapon, it was mind control on a massive scale. "It's barbaric," she said.

"No, barbaric is sacrificing the innocent in a war when the key to victory was in our grasp all along," Proudfoot replied. "Starfleet proved that in the Romulan War."

"You used this on the Roosevelt. On a Starfleet crew."

"I had to prove my point to Starfleet. They weren't harmed, just like the crews of the cargo ships."

"So where are they?"

"Tau Delta III, along with enough supplies to be quite comfortable. The region we dropped them in will be temperate for several months. Did you really think I would use them as slave labor... or something worse?"

"The thought crossed my mind," Beaumont admitted.

Proudfoot frowned. "The Vanguard was the first field test of Achilles, and they managed to take out two assault groups of Preybirds. The Romulans still managed to self-destruct - paranoia in all its glory." He clenched his right hand into a fist. "Soon after, the Romulans chased this ship into that radiation belt because they couldn't get close enough to destroy it outright."

Proudfoot's eyes narrowed. "How did you figure it out?"

"Sir?" she said, his sudden question taking her by surprise.

"Don't play dumb with me, Commander," Proudfoot spat, his tone changing from sadness to anger at the same moment he chose to address her by rank and not by name. "It was your implant, wasn't it? Is that what gave you enough warning to jam the Achilles pulse?"

"I didn't know about any signal until you showed me this - " Beaumont said.

Proudfoot shook his head. "You never could bluff worth a damn. You're too earnest, too honest. No guile." He nodded once and Beaumont felt hands clasp around her biceps, On either side of her were technicians, each with a holstered sidearm. She struggled for only a moment before realizing the futility of it - even if she escaped, where could she go?

Proudfoot clasped his hands behind his back and approached her. "Commander, so far I've been truthful with you. I have not once tried to conceal my motives, despite the fact that the advantage is mine. The first thing I ask for from you... and you try and lie to me. Not a good way to begin."

"You don't really think you can win, do you?" she said. "Even if you do manage to reignite the war, you'll have both the Federation and the Romulans against you. It's suicide."

"Once people see what the Romulans have done - what they're still doing - they will understand my actions. People will see I did what had to be done to protect humanity. Over time, more and more will support me... until the tide is unstoppable. Until the day the Romulan Star Empire is broken at last." He looked at her captors. "Take her to Sickbay. Isolate the frequencies her implant shares with the Achilles pulse and work around them."

"What then?" one of them asked.

"Then... confine her to quarters and make damned sure she's secure, with a guard outside at all times. Achilles will be charged to fire again in - " Proudfoot checked a nearby readout - "thirty-six minutes. This time we take the Pathfinder."

Beaumont's eyes widened in shock. "The jamming - "

"Stopped a medium-power pulse," Proudfoot replied. "The next time we fire, the Achilles pulse will be at maximum strength... and at this range, nothing your ship can do will stop it."

As the men dragged her off, Beaumont heard him say, "Soon we'll be on our way to the Neutral Zone... and the Pathfinder will be my flagship."

To Be Continued...
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Old April 2 2012, 09:02 PM   #23
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Oof! Proudfoot’s threats are becoming more real and alarming with each passing moment. He’s obviously thought this out, and his strategy seems damnably sound. Here’s hoping Captain Teague & Company can (proverbially) pee in Captain Ahab’s Cheerio’s before it’s too late!
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Old April 3 2012, 10:13 PM   #24
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Prodigal Captain - Part Five

UESN Vanguard
Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163


"What did you do?" said the tall technician.

His name was Jakobs, and his shorter, stocky cohort was Allenby. Neither man was comfortable with what they were doing, it seemed - they wore their weapons because they were ordered to, not because they felt being armed was necessary. They had taken her from the Achilles bay to Sickbay, where they had secured her to an exam table with fabric straps. Now Allenby ran a bulky scanner over Beaumont's head while Jakobs scritinized the readout, trying to sift out which parts of the Achilles pulse had tripped the implant.

But now the signal from the implant had cut out. "What do you mean?" said Allenby.

"The implant - it's just stopped," Jakobs said. "Total shutdown."

On the table Beaumont uttered a low giggle - the whole situation was suddenly very funny to her. "Of course it shut down," she spat, a hard edge in her voice. "Your pulse almost fried it the first time. It was barely working by the time I set foot aboard this ship. Just a matter of time." Her arms strained against the straps holding her to the exam table. She needed to move, to get up, but the chances of that were slim. It was hard to think - Beaumont's thoughts were no longer the ones she was used to but a tangled mess of impulses.

Jakobs and Allenby shared a worried glance. "I'm calling the captain," Jakobs said.

Beaumont's laugh filled the exam room, utterly unexpected even by her. "Really? You want to bother him now, when he's just about to assault Starfleet's most advanced ship? I'm sure he'd be delighted for you to take precious time out of his busy day to bring him up to speed on my lack of well-being," she snarled. She could hardly believe the cutting tone in her voice - even on her worst days before the implant, she had never sounded like this.

Got to calm down or they might sedate you, she thought, and choked back the next words she wanted to say - something unflattering about their parentage. Then she breathed deeply, remembering the mental exercises she had learned in her long rehabilitation, trying to control her raging thoughts. She hated this feeling, hated it even in a safe, controlled environment, and this was anything but safe or controlled. Every light seemed too bright, every sound too sharp, every sensation too intense, all trying to crowd out rational thought. "I can survive perfectly well without the implant," she explained through gritted teeth. "It just make things - easier to deal with."

Yhe two men shared another quick look. "Come on, let's get her secured," Allenby said, unbuckling the straps. Neither made a motion toward the comm terminal on the desk to alert Proudfoot.

Beaumont could barely hold back her grin as they led her away from Sickbay.

* * * * *

"Commander Beaumont's signal has ceased, Captain," said T'Vril.

Teague was ready. "Tactical alert. Execute evasive plan Gamma. Commander T'Vril, disable those fighters as fast as you can."

Web pressed her hands to the helm controls and the Pathfinder instantly responded to her touch. The massive fusion-powered impulse engines flared bright blue, propelling the starship forward through a tiny gap between the warp fighters. At the same time, a metered electrical current was being passed through the hull plating, aligning the molecular structure of the ship's skin into, effectively, a single colossal construct instead of separate plates, one that was capable of dispersing more energy damage than separate plates could hope to manage.

That did not make the hull indestructible, however. The warp fighters set off in pursuit almost as soon as the Pathfinder moved, firing their high-yield phase cannons at the fleeing ship and scorching the hull with each successful strike. The Pathfinder fired back as it ran, scoring hits on a pair of fighters before the smaller craft reached full speed and their maneuverability could keep them just out of Pathfinder's weapons fire. The pair slowed and circled back toward the Vanguard, their impulse engines stuttering.

On the bridge T'Vril calmly watched her tactical display, a schematic of the Pathfinder centered on the screen. Various portions of the ship lit up red as weapon fire struck, then faded to yellow as the energy dissipated through the hull. "Two enemy craft disabled. Multiple phase cannon impacts, minor damage. Polarization capacity down ten percent."

"How long until we're clear for warp?" Teague said.

Marakis didn't have to check his console - he had run the calculations in his head. "Three minutes, twenty seconds."

Teague was doing the same, though his figures were coming out considerably more grim. At this rate, the warp fighters would disable Pathfinder in less than two minutes, long before they could get clear of the gas giant's gravity well - just as he had feared. "What about the larger ships?" he said.

T'Vril answered him instead of the science officer - Kassin was still halfway through rebuilding the sensor head, somewhere down in the bowels of the ship. "The Roosevelt is drifting, sir. Vanguard is on a pursuit course but her acceleration is less than ours."

The Pathfinder shook under another volley of phase cannon impacts. "Close the distance," Teague muttered. "Helm, reverse course - take us back toward the planet."

"Sir?" said Webb, even as her hands obeyed the command.

"Proudfoot expects us to run - he doesn't expect us to go for his throat," Teague explained. "Take us right across their bow and beneath their keel. T'Vril, arm a full spread of plasma torpedoes. Target the ventral weapons systems."

Deep inside the Pathfinder torpedoes locked into their and nozzles found fill ports, charging them with high-energy plasma from the warp reactor. Six torpedoes sat, death in gray casings, waiting for the ocmmand to be unleashed and fulfill their function.

Teague smiled grimly as the Vanguard filled the main viewscreen. "Fire!"

To Be Continued...
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Old April 5 2012, 12:06 PM   #25
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Now it's all kicking off! A tense, well thought out scene.
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Old April 7 2012, 03:42 PM   #26
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

The game's a foot. I really hope Beaumont has some sort of plan here or this will be the shortest battle in history.
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Old April 7 2012, 07:04 PM   #27
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Proudfoot's no tactical amature, so Teague's going right into the beast's jaws here. Here's where we find out what Starfleet's newest flagship is made of, and hopefully that knowledge won't come from sifting through her wreckage.
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Old April 16 2012, 09:58 PM   #28
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

I've caught up with the story and like it a lot so far. An era I find very interesting, being an ENT fan myself, an interesting crew and a well written story. I'M looking forward to the next installment.

Do you make your covers yourself? They look very professional.
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Old April 25 2012, 11:13 PM   #29
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Star Trek: Pathfinder
The Prodigal Captain - Part Six

UESN Vanguard
Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
May 13, 2163


Beaumont was ready as soon as the first torpedo hit.

Between the end of Proudfoot's communication with the Pathfinder and when Beaumont had departed aboard the shuttlepod, there had been precious little time to come up with a plan of action, or even a means of communication between her and her ship. In the end, they were left with only one option - the implant's telemetry. If that signal stopped, for any reason, that would mean that Proudfoot intended to use his weapon on the Pathfinder again.

As part of its normal function, Beaumont's cortical processor broadcast a constant telemetry signal that was received and processed by the medical systems in Sickbay. Intended as an early warning system for potential problems with the implant, the signal was so low-powered it was almost as hard to detect as the Achilles pulse it was now being used to warn the Pathfinder against. Of course, Beaumont had lied about the extent of the damage - the implant had been designed to be deactivated with a thought should it malfunction. For the first time, she found herself thankful that Dr. Makav had insisted upon including that particular feature. Unfortunately, reactivating the implant was not so simple - it required a full diagnostic check by a qualified neurosurgeon, or at least a ship's chief medical officer.

On her left, Allenby looked around nervously as the Vanguard shuddered. "What the hell - ?"

Beaumont jammed her elbow into Allenby's gut and grabbed his right arm, wrenching him around, placing him in between herself and Jakobs. She shoved Allenby forward, her heart racing as adrenaline flooded her system, then reached up and slammed his head into Jakobs', dazing both men. She reached down, yanked Allenby's sidearm - an old-style plasma pistol - from its belt holster, and fired a blast into his right foot.

Allenby screamed and fell to the deck, clutching at the charred, ruined stump where his foot had been moments before. Jakobs was recovering quickly, pulling his own pistol, but he wasn't fast enough. Beaumont fired as Jakobs dodged, vaporizing a foot-wide hole in the aluminum corridor paneling and the equipment beneath, sending a spray of white-hot molten aluminum and razor-sharp fibercoil into his face and chest. Screaming, the man fell to the deck, his face a ruined mass of scorched tissue and blood.

Beaumont didn't bother looking down at him before she ran down the corridor, stopping only long enough to relieve both men of whatever power cells they had for their weapons - one spare each. Not much if she got in a firefight.

She had to put as much distance between herself and them as possible - soon, every crewman Proudfoot could spare would be searching for her. The Vanguard was massive but not infinitely so, and much of that was empty space - the fighter bays. She set off toward the bow at a run, pausing at the intersections just long enough to check that none of Proudfoot's crew were nearby before darting past.

At least her situation had one positive aspect - concentrating on evasion and escape made her less aware of lacking the implant's control over her chaotic thoughts. Those long days during her rehabilitation at Acacia Creek had been almost unbearable, with noting for her mind to do but think of ways to get her into trouble. Now at least she had purpose - somehow get out of this alive, and maybe throw a wrench in Proudfoot's plans along the way.

Twice she almost tripped over the bundles of wrist-thick cables that weaved across her path like technological vines. The third time her foot caught she stumbled, grabbing at the bulkhead to steady herself, her teeth bared in sudden fury. She raised the pistol, her finger tightening on the trigger... then she slowly lowered it as she regained control of her thoughts. She carefully looked at the tangle of cables - sever had been spliced together, forming a single long piece running hundreds - maybe thousands - of feet through the ship.

Cables, but no crew, Beaumont thought, and an instant later: Control runs for automated systems.

She found herself smiling as she raised the pistol again, this time not from anger but certainty. Aiming down the corridor, Beaumont found a knot of overlapping cables a hundred feet away. She centered the sights on the knot, squeezed the trigger, and a blue-white flash filled the corridor as a bolt of plasma erupted from the muzzle and tore through the cables, severing most of them and fusing the rest into an smoking black lump. The corridor lit us as energy arced from the ends of the cables to the bare metal surface of the walls and deck, hopefully shorting out whatever systems they controlled. At the very least it would take time and manpower to repair the damage - and she hoped Proudfoot would be short on both.

But even if she blasted every cable she came across, she might not even make a dent - none of them were tied to Achilles, she was sure. No, she had to find a way to inflict serious damage all at once. She looked around, saw a tiny plaque mounted to the wall, and studied it carefully. A moment later, a savage grin spreading across her face, she loped off toward the starboard fighter bay.

"All right, then, Isaac," she snarled to nobody in particular, not caring if she were overheard. "No more bluffing."

To Be Continued...
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Old April 26 2012, 06:18 AM   #30
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Re: Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Oh, dear... Beaumont's emotional control has been stripped away with the deacctivation of her implant... and now she has free reign to run amok aboard Vanguard.

Heaven help anyone who gets in her way!

Terrific action sequence, by the way, nicely crafted with fluid prose.
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