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Old April 11 2012, 07:05 AM   #136
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

mirandafave wrote: View Post
Indeed to all of the above. Some people need to learn to check on the personal histories of other people before spouting bravado and getting egg on their face. And like Admiral2 I really liked the scene in the medical bay. It was refreshing to see that some things do go to plan and that personalities don't need to clash. Maybe this really is a new start for all concerned? ... Yeah right!
Hey, you can always hope for the best, right? Thanks for the review!

Count Zero wrote: View Post
Well, this has been said already - beautifully written all around. We got a good feel of the new ship and some of the new crew members. I wonder what Mortultu's (I probably misspelled that) motivation is. And I sincerely hope his focus on academia doesn't come back to bite the crew in the ass at one point. I liked the new counselor. Looking forward to the next installment.
Much obliged for the kind words, CZ.
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Old April 11 2012, 07:28 AM   #137
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TFV - Operation Vanguard (Chapter 4)

Captain’s Personal Log, Stardate 54905.1 (November 27, 2377)

“The majority of Europa’s crew has been in stasis for a little over four weeks, with a few notable exceptions.

Lieutenant Taiee is awake and spending 12-hour days in the holodeck, taking a new accelerated trauma-medicine course designed for surgeons by Starfleet Medical. Once completed, the six-month course will give her the equivalent of a year’s worth of advanced medical school training. I already trust ‘Doc’ with my life, but anything that can sharpen her already formidable skills is certainly welcome.

Lt. Commander Pell is busy setting up our new Taskforce Operations Center or TOC on Deck 4. This command center will act as a central nexus for all incoming intelligence regarding the approaching alien fleets. Our TOC will coordinate with the Stragetic Operations Center aboard
Galaxy, the lead ship in our intercept group.

I and my engineering team are hard at work assembling
Europa’s custom reactor core, a design we came up with using the Defiant-class warp-core as a template. This larger, uprated version should hopefully provide us with more power under greater control than Ra-Havereii’s problematic warp-core design.

Ashok has proven enthusiastic and uncharacteristically innovative during this process. Gone are the fragile ego and embittered sense of inferiority, replaced instead by technical introspection and a keen attention to detail I never realized the man possessed. It’s as if Ashok has somehow tapped into his father’s genius, or perhaps it was always there all along, buried beneath decades of emotional pain and repression. Whatever the reason, I find myself hopeful that I will be able to hand over the reigns of this engineering project to him once we’ve reached our destination and concentrate solely on the duties of a captain.

I’ve taken the opportunity to ‘thaw out’ Counselor Liu on two occasions so far, in order to talk over my anxieties regarding this mission, my troubled history with Ojana, and the various demons I’ve accrued since the end of the war. I’ve also confided in him about these recurring nightmares I’m still having. I’d forgotten how good it feels just to unburden myself of such things, especially now that I don’t have Ojana or Pava to talk with any longer.

Duty calls, and the dilithium compositor isn’t going to align itself. Back to the salt mines.

End log entry.”


*****

Work continued uninterrupted during the journey as the engineering team plotted, designed, fabricated and finally assembled the pieces of their new warp propulsion system.

Regardless of its source, Ashok’s personal Renaissance in conjunction with Sandhurst’s decades of experience had fueled their efforts towards completing the warp drive. The matter/anti-matter reactor core was complete, and work had begun on the reaction injection column. The now close-knit engineering team ate and recreated together, engaging in regular brain-storming sessions as they debated various design avenues and potential upgrades.

For Sandhurst, it was like a vacation, unburdening him from the rigors of starship command and immersing him in an applied engineering problem that unleashed his creative energies.

Thus, over the five months, three weeks, and three days of their outbound journey, the engineering team successfully completed a drive system that incorporated nearly a dozen new design innovations, some conceived by the team themselves, others proposed in S.C.E. papers intended to influence the next generation of starships.

Though the engine worked flawlessly in simulations, the real test would come after the warp-sled powered down and deposited Europa in the hinterlands of the Delta Quadrant. There the crew would have the additional challenge of conducting speed trials while simultaneously trying to scout the vicinity for alien fleet activity.

For just that reason Europa’s mission profile had been adjusted just days prior to launch, having the ship and the other four vessels of their intercept group deployed farther out than originally planned. Their arrival point would place them between the first and second waves of nomadic fleets. This would give the crew time to work out any problems with their warp drive prior to going fully operational, while the other ships of Intercept Group 3 made preparations to reconnoiter the next wave of approaching aliens.

*****

Stardate 55239.6 (March 29, 2378)

It had been seventy-two hours since the majority of Europa’s crew had come out of cryo-sleep, and the explorer’s systems had come fully online as the warp-sled, its coils now failing, prepared to drop to impulse speeds.

Sandhurst took a moment to look around his new bridge at his senior staff, all attentively manning their posts, save for Ashok who was mothering the delicate new drive from main engineering. He experienced a warm glow of pride in how the newly combined crew had gelled under adverse circumstances and an accelerated schedule to transfer ships and prepare Europa for this historic voyage.

“Sled deceleration in five, four, three, two… and slowing to sublight,” Lightner announced as the ship’s propulsive sheath re-entered normal space. After a journey of nearly six months, the vessel and crew had reached their pre-set destination coordinates. Lightner glanced back from his console. “We’re secured from warp speed, Captain.”

“Acknowledged, Lieutenant,” Sandhurst replied. “Ops and Sciences, begin passive sensor readings of the surrounding area. Let’s take a look around while trying not to attract any undue attention.”

At Ops, Juneau leaned over towards Lightner to whisper, “Yeah, because nobody saw us screaming into the sector at Warp 9.995.”

“Although this bridge is definitely larger than Gibraltar’s,” remarked T’Ser dryly from her seat to the captain’s right, “I still have Vulcan ears, Mister Juneau. Mind your station, and your tongue, if you please.”

There was a round of muted laughter at Juneau ’s expense, prompting the lieutenant’s head to drop comically. “Yes, sir,” she sighed with mock petulance.

“Sensor returns coming in now,” Shanthi offered, his eyes riveted to his displays as the explorer’s hyper-sensitive scanners drew in the energy signatures in their vicinity. “Low-frequency subspace activity, probably the background noise from a local FTL comms network, but no significant sentient communications activity within three light-years detected, sir.”

“Okay,” Sandhurst assessed. “Let’s go to active scanning.”

“Active scanning, aye,” echoed Shanthi as he powered up the starship’s potent sensor array.

“Any vessels or outposts?”

“I’m detecting sixteen transient objects moving at warp within a ten light-year radius. All of them are on independent trajectories and are moving at varying speeds.”

“Not in formation, then?” Sandhurst clarified.

“Affirmative, Captain, no sign of any cohesive groupings of craft in motion.” Shanthi’s hands swept across his console with practiced ease as he narrowed the scanning parameters and zeroed in on a nearby star system. “However, I'm detecting a sizeable contact six-point-two light-years distant at bearing one-zero-five, mark seventeen. Reads as an artificial satellite orbiting a Class-M planet.”

“A space station?” T’Ser inquired.

Shanthi affirmed, “Yes, sir. A big one.” He transferred the enhanced computer-generated image to the main viewer. A massive space station appeared, a delicate-looking assemblage of interlocking ellipses with an oval-shaped structure at its center. What appeared to be spindly cross members connecting the radiating hoops to the inner core were in actuality each over two-hundred meters in diameter. The overall appearance was of a skeletal ovoid surrounding a similarly shaped central hub.

The ellipses themselves were each hundreds of meters thick, meaning that the cumulative internal volume of the station far exceeded that of any Federation facility ever constructed. The structure’s mass was easily five times that of a Spacedock-type starbase, and as the sensor returns continued to add layers of detail to the image, a sizeable cloud of metallic debris could be seen surrounding the outpost.

Dozens of smaller vessels, previously undetectable amid the floating refuse, appeared to be slowly navigating this waste field.

Sandhurst cast a questioning glance towards T’Ser before addressing Shanthi. “How recently was that flotsam zone created, Lieutenant?”

“Judging by the gravitational pull of the nearby planet and factoring in the normal orbital decay rates for that sized body… I’d say between five and eight months, sir.”

“Right about the time that the first wave of ships would have passed through this area,” observed Pell from the seat to the captain’s left.

“It would appear that the station fought a successful campaign to defend itself against the invaders.” Verrik offered from behind the sweeping tactical horseshoe immediately aft of the trio of command chairs.

“Unless it was overrun,” added Lightner.

“This speculation is interesting, but ultimately pointless,” T’Ser countered.

“Agreed,” Sandhurst said, ending the conjecture. He stood from his chair and moved forward to stand between the Ops and Helm stations. “Mister Shanthi, what kind of ships are those inside the debris field?”

A moment later, following some more in-depth scans, Shanthi replied, “They read as scavenger craft, Captain. They’re carrying assorted scrap metals and components salvaged from whatever vessels were destroyed here.”

Sandhurst looked down at Juneau ’s station. “Lieutenant, are we detecting any comms traffic in the vicinity of that station?”

Juneau ’s hands moved across her board deftly. “Yes, sir. Some of it appears encrypted, but the majority of the subspace traffic in this area is being broadcast in the clear.”

Sandhurst instructed, “Tie in the universal translator updates from our advance reconnaissance probes. Has a baseline been established yet for whatever languages they’re using?”

It took her less than ten seconds to find an answer. “Affirmative, Captain. Probe TFV-19 encountered transmissions on this frequency four months ago and has been processing linga-code algorithms of the various language intercepts since then. The translation matrix shows ninety-eight point nine percent efficacy.”

Sandhurst nodded approvingly. The long-range high-warp recon probes sent ahead of Task Force Vanguard bore little resemblance to the host of more specialized shorter-range probes commonly found in Starfleet’s inventory. These cybernetic wonders were each approximately the size of a runabout, and were equipped with the most advanced scanning and communications equipment Federation science could offer. Added to that, each of them were only a few percentage points shy of sentience on the Soong AI Scale, enabling the devices to select their own courses of action in the absence of time-delayed instructions from Starbase Bastion. If necessary, the probes could decide whether to investigate, reconnoiter, hide, defend themselves or actively flee from any spacecraft in their vicinity.

“Okay, then.” Sandhurst cleared his throat and took a moment to prepare himself for his first official First Contact. “Open a channel to the station, Ops.”

“Aye. Channel open, sir.”

“This is Captain Donald Sandhurst of the starship Gibra— shit.” He stopped mid-sentence and tried to ignore the guffaws of laughter emanating from multiple bridge stations as Juneau muted the audio feed.

She looked over her shoulder at Sandhurst, biting her lower lip to maintain her composure. “Shall we try that again, sir?”

“Yes,” he sighed, “please.”

“And… channel open.”

“This is Captain Sandhurst of the Federation starship Europa. We are on a peaceful mission of exploration and are requesting permission to approach your station...”

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; April 11 2012 at 04:17 PM.
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Old April 11 2012, 02:06 PM   #138
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

And so it begins...

I like the time jump, and I know it will take him a while to get used to saying Europa.

I need to get my own story moving forward.
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Old April 11 2012, 03:16 PM   #139
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

I agree with Benny: I really like how you moved things along so thoroughly yet succinctly. Love to hear how Ashok seems to be coming into his own, and think it was brilliant to include the bit about Taiee's advanced training. Also like your little bit about the AI probes. It's nice to have a logical explanation how the Universal Translator might be able to function in this situation (also can't help but wonder whether we'll see something more "substantive" with these near-sentients.) You just seem to think of the most logical - yet often utterly overlooked - details, but you don't belabor them. I like it. Likewise, the systematic scanning of the area once they came out of warp. Nice.

My favorite, though, is how the crew is interacting already. So much is conveyed by their dialogue and interrelations. Loved Sandhurst's little gaff. I was actually wondering if he would do that while I was reading along early in this section. Again, it just humanizes him, makes him "real" to the reader, in such simple and realistic manner.

Can't wait to see what comes next!
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Old April 11 2012, 03:44 PM   #140
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

I think TrekkieMonster puts it really well when he says that part of your skill is the way you include fascinating background details like the AI probes with such ease and flow to the story, making it the richer and better for these details but without bogging down the story in any way at all. In fact, it usually has the effect of intriguing us all and wanting more on the bits you mention.

I love also the various expressions you use such as 'thaw out' the counsellor, hee, hee. And of course, Sandhurst's little mix up on the communication front - priceless. Lots of other neat little moments of character action on the bridge too.

Sandhurst arriving in system, the scans, the AI universal translator matrix update, details aside, we also get a lot of compelling titbits and questions about the massive station, the variety of incoming aliens on various trajectories, and on and on. This is going to be quite a mammoth task for the Europa crew and all involved to sort, meet and manage any first contacts. And so much can go wrong.

The time jump was unexpected, I actually expected some more contemplative time in transit and for problems (or sabotage - hey it's you writing - I always expect the worse case scenario ) to crop up with a small skeleton crew to deal with the crisis. However, jumping straight into the story guts makes sense as I'm sure there is lots to be told now they have arrived. But it was great to read about how so many like Sandhurst and Ashok are all shining through in the time it took to arrive. Many corners have been turned. Of course, this is you - so I'm expecting future corners, twists and turns. Great job Europ - shit, I mean Gibraltar.
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Old April 11 2012, 03:49 PM   #141
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

This should get interesting. Can't wait to see what comes about once they answer the hail.
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Old April 11 2012, 05:01 PM   #142
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

Time jump was a nice touch to move the story forward, I liked it, even if it jarred me for just a moment.

Sandhurst's gaffe was priceless though. On his very first first contact mission no less. I wonder if the Diplomatic Corps will have some choice words with him about that.
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Old April 12 2012, 01:04 AM   #143
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

I think you handled the time interval quite well. You gave a hint of what transpired throughout the long voyage without going too much into depth. Interesting that Donald met with the Counselor on a couple of occasions - a smart move on his part.

I had to laugh at Donald's faux pas. Old habits are hard to break. Good thing Juneau hit the mute button - that could have created some confusion at the other end.

Speaking of which, you have really piqued my curiosity. Considering what has transpired, I would imagine that Sandhurst and the Europa might be viewed with both fear and suspicion. Here's hoping they can gain some valuable intel without getting into a fire-fight.
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Old April 12 2012, 02:30 AM   #144
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Here's hoping they can gain some valuable intel without getting into a fire-fight.
I think you meant to say, "... before getting into a fire-fight." You can't fool us: you want to see what kinda punch Europa can throw just as much as the rest of us.
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Old April 12 2012, 03:24 AM   #145
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

TrekkieMonster wrote: View Post
TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Here's hoping they can gain some valuable intel without getting into a fire-fight.
I think you meant to say, "... before getting into a fire-fight." You can't fool us: you want to see what kinda punch Europa can throw just as much as the rest of us.
Busted.
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Old April 12 2012, 04:48 AM   #146
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

A quick gander at Europa's bridge configuration...

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Old April 12 2012, 05:53 AM   #147
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
I had to laugh at Donald's faux pas. Old habits are hard to break. Good thing Juneau hit the mute button - that could have created some confusion at the other end.
Well, the embarrassing part got out, though. Didn't Sandhurst say "shit!" while he still had a hot mic?

Reminds me of this...just keep listening and you can hear what accidentally got broadcast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDqmAHGHokQ
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Old April 12 2012, 03:25 PM   #148
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

Wow! Nice digs! Lots of leg-room, seats for the XO and Counselor and what's that smell? Mmmm. Leather.

Shiny!
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Old April 12 2012, 05:54 PM   #149
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

Gibraltar wrote:
“This is Captain Donald Sandhurst of the starship Gibra— shit.”
Tee-hee!

Kudos on a good chapter. T'Ser's doing a good job as XO. (I still think the T' name is silly, but whatever.)
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Old April 12 2012, 06:30 PM   #150
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Re: UT: TFV - Operation Vanguard

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Wow! Nice digs! Lots of leg-room, seats for the XO and Counselor and what's that smell? Mmmm. Leather.

Shiny!
And, of course, it could be none other than ... soft ... Corintian leather?
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