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Old October 26 2012, 03:47 PM   #76
TrekkieMonster
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Not much to say but, I loved everything about this installment. Everything: Pava's implications regarding Sandhurst's current "enhanced" physical abilities, as well as his mental state; the very logical, practical considerations regarding their course of action; T'Ser's acceptance of Lar'ragos' recommendation. Things are really coming together, and the suspense is ramping up in a very exciting manner.
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Old October 27 2012, 07:36 PM   #77
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Ha, in your face evil Baron. Bet you didn't count on the new and improved, kick-ass Donald Sandhurst, huh? Well, neither did I, to be honest. But I like how the tables have turned here even if I can't help but worry about Donald's transformation. What will he be like once all is said and done? Will there still be a place for him on Europa and Starfleet in general or is he destined for something else?

Like Pava's latest plan to go on the offensive. Good thing T'Ser agrees, if begrudgingly.

Can't wait to see what happens next.
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Old October 30 2012, 05:02 AM   #78
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont'd>

USS Europa


Verrik’s aim was true, and in less than fifteen seconds the Voranti ship was rendered toothless by a flurry of precision phaser strikes against their weapons emplacements and shield generators.

Believing their sensors were superior within the nebula to Starfleet’s, the Voranti had elected not to keep their shields raised. It was a mistake Captain T’Ser exploited to the fullest.

Europa went head-to-head with the cruiser to better illustrate Starfleet’s resolve as T’Ser opened a hailing frequency to the stricken warship.

“Voranti vessel, this is Captain T’Ser of the Federation starship Europa requesting a cessation of hostilities between our peoples. I regret that it was necessary to forcibly disarm you, but you have been firing at Federation craft on sight. We believe there may have been an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding between us, and we would like to halt the violence before more people are hurt. Please respond.”

T’Ser shared an impatient look with Shanthi as they awaited a reply from the aliens.

After a lengthy delay, a tone warbled at the Operations console, identifying an incoming transmission.

“Voranti are responding with a visual feed,” the ensign announced.

“On screen,” T’Ser instructed.

An aquatic being not terribly different from the Federation’s own Antedeans sat examining them with what appeared to be cold, calculating expressions. The Voranti had large, bulbous eyes that extended out from the sides of their flat, narrow heads. Pulsing air-bladders below and behind the eyes inflated regularly as some component of their species respiration.

Their command center was gracefully designed, all spherical workstations and monitors, with rounded doorways. A fine water mist could be seen descending from the ceiling, keeping the Voranti’s sensitive dermal surfaces well hydrated.

“An unfortunate misunderstanding?” the Voranti in the center of the image cried out angrily. “You approach us under a flag of peace and then slaughter our hatchlings and destroy our food supply, and you dare call this a misunderstanding?”

T’Ser stood, walking forward toward the viewscreen. “We think the attack upon your vessels may have come from one of our ships, a rogue vessel which was believed destroyed some years ago. I would like to send images and sensor information to you in order to confirm our suspicions. May we do so?”

“Your first attack on us was initiated by a computer virus transferred via info-packet! I will allow no such thing!” The Voranti commander was trembling with anger now, his fury evident even to those with no knowledge of his species’ non-verbal gestures.

T’Ser was calm in the face of the Voranti leader’s rage.“Please understand I mean this as an observation, not a threat. We have already disabled your weapons and shields. You are at our mercy. What benefit would there be to us infecting you with a cyber-virus now?”

“You are correct; we are at your mercy, Federation. Vaporize us if you will, but we will not be complicit in our own destruction!”

With that the comm-link was severed, leaving T’Ser staring at the Voranti ship adrift amidst the gently swirling tendrils of gas and energized plasma.

She settled back into her seat, feeling impossibly weary in the face of the aliens’ intransigence, understandable as it may have been.

T’Ser reluctantly keyed the comms to the transporter room.“Commander Lar’ragos, you and your team are a go.”

*****

Near In'Drahn Station

It was the sheer magnitude of the disaster that at first threatened to overwhelm Pell Ojana.

Growing up on Bajor during the Occupation and having most recently served on the relief mission to the war-ravaged world of Velkohn, Pell had naively believed that the evacuation of a ‘mere’ space station would be a relatively minor undertaking.

How wrong she had been.

In’Drahn station had been home to tens-of-thousands of former Husnock vassals from a dozen different species, all of them with highly divergent biology.

The Habertaem and other former slave races had long been inured to suffering. Despite their resilient natures, the horrific injuries the survivors had sustained during the Amon attack tested the resolve and medical capabilities the Starfleet rescue teams, as well as their emotional endurance.

Using the twenty-person capacity ASRV as a central hub, the Europa crewmembers had affixed their two dozen escape pods filled with emergency supplies to the larger craft’s multiple airlocks. The X-shaped formation was now referred to as ‘the MedHub’ and had become the nexus of the growing relief effort.

Dozens of local ships had arrived over the hours and days following the disaster at In’Drahn station, offering whatever help they could. Pell had utilized her experience with triage situations to determine how best each ship and crew could contribute to the overall effort, and little by little, Pell’s influence had grown until she had been accepted as being the unofficially recognized leader of the relief effort.

Transports, bulk freighters, tenders and craft of a many other types were now filled with injured refugees from the station. Thousands had been transported or shuttled down to the surface of the planet around which the station orbited, but the most seriously wounded were best treated in a zero-g environment where their severe burns were spared the agonies of gravity.

Thirty-six hour shifts in the MedHub had become routine, and although Dr. Multorlo needed very little sleep and the EMH required none, there were always more critical patients waiting than their tiny makeshift operating rooms could handle.

It was during one of the rare quiet moments that an exhausted Pell sat slumped in a corner, wedged between a crate of compression bandages and a robotic articulation frame they’d been using to reinforce the exoskeletons of the crustacean-like Oenan species while they underwent surgery.

Pell tore open a foil packet of survival rations, chewing absently on a protein bar as an equally spent Olivia Juneau staggered into the tiny compartment. The lieutenant shed the chest plate of an EVA suit as she bobbed her head towards her commanding officer in the only gesture of acknowledgement she could manage under the circumstances. “Hi, boss.”

Pell raised the half-eaten protein bar in a mock salute. “How went the recovery op?”

Juneau eased herself to the deck, leaning her head back against the wall and closing her eyes for a blissfully peaceful second. “Just what we’d feared. No survivors forward of bulkhead epsilon-six. Anyone left who hadn’t burned to death had asphyxiated.”

Pell thought about that for a long moment. “Prophets, is it horrible for me to think that given our workload, that might be for the best? I don’t think we could have handled another influx of casualties. Most of us haven’t slept in nearly two days.”

Juneau cracked an eyelid to observe her superior officer. “I’d be lying if I said the same thing hadn’t occurred to me, sir.”

“In that case, we’ll fall into the Fire Caves together,” Pell chuckled darkly, gallows humor buoying the last vestiges of her emotional strength.

“It feels like Europa’s been gone for months,” Juneau sighed.

“It’s been six days,” Pell clarified. “If the engines held out, they’d just be reaching the nebula by now.”

“Six days,” Juneau echoed. “Unbelievable.”

Pell sealed her ration pack back up, sparing a glance at her wrist chronometer. “I’ll set the alarm for three hours. They’ll have breached aft of bulkhead sierra-twelve by then.”

Juneau folded her arms across her chest. “Sounds like a plan, sir.” Within second she was asleep.

Pell watched her for a moment, considering the admirable effort the younger officer had put in this past week, and the many lives saved as a result. The Bajoran murmured a prayer for the dead and dying of In’Drahn station, then promptly followed Juneau into slumber.

*****
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Old October 31 2012, 09:21 PM   #79
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Looking forward to seeing Pava's up close and personal interaction with the Voranti. It is, perhaps, too much to hope that it might end "peacefully". On the other hand, given their fierce determination, they could be a valuable ally if they could be convinced that they were duped and come to trust the "real" Star Fleeters.

And, I'm very happy to see what's happening with Pell back at the station. Grim does not begin to describe what you have presented here.

As always, looking forward to more, and thanks for this installment.
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Old November 3 2012, 06:08 PM   #80
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont'd>

Voranti Warship


2nd Lieutenant Tiedermeyer and his Marine squad moved hastily through the command center and adjoining compartments, stepping over and around the unconscious forms of Voranti crewmembers. The boarding party’s transport in had been presaged by the arrival of dozens of photon stun grenades throughout the bridge complex of the alien warship.

Lar’ragos stood by while Shanthi waved his tricorder back and forth over one the globular interface units, trying to get his device to sync with the Voranti database. “Anything?”

Shanthi frowned. “They’ve cobbled together a pretty formidable encryption matrix, sir. Plus they’ve distributed their database across a score of remote nodes throughout the ship, and locked all those out with different random ciphers. So, every file we try to access requires us to break ten or more security lockouts at various stages of the download.”

Lar’ragos smirked at the younger man. “But you’re up to it, right?”

“Yes, Commander,” Shanthi deadpanned. “I am hot cyber-death incarnate.”

“Keep at it.” Lar’ragos stepped over to where Tiedermeyer was frowning at another display as he cradled his phaser carbine. “Problem, Lieutenant?” he asked.

Tiedermeyer answered without looking over at the XO. “We’ve filled all occupied compartments with anesthazine gas, sir… or the Voranti equivalent of it.”

It didn’t take a Listner’s skills to realize this didn’t set well with the brash Marine lieutenant. “And that troubles you.” It was a statement, not a question.

“My people are combat Marines, sir, “Tiedermeyer replied frostily. “We could have taken the bridge complex easily without stun saturating the area first.”

“I’m sure you could,” Lar’ragos replied evenly. “But why fight when you don’t have to?”

Lar’ragos moved away before Tiedermeyer could form a reply, circling back around to Shanthi. “When you crack their database, get us everything they have on Galaxy, as well as all their information on the other species in the migration.”

He squat down on his haunches next to the Voranti ship’s commander, pursing his lips regretfully. “Would this could have gone differently,” he lamented quietly to the unconscious aquatic.

*****

Thirty minutes later Lar’ragos and Shanthi stepped back onto the bridge, a grim yet somewhat satisfied expression radiating from the El Aurian’s face. “Mission accomplished, Captain,” he announced succinctly.

“Location of Galaxy?” T’Ser asked.

“Unfortunately, no. As it turns out, the Voranti can’t communicate in this mess any better than we can. The good news is that if any of the Voranti have run into our friends, it’s been individually rather than as more effective hunter-killer squadrons.”

T’Ser digested that. “What do we know about where they’ve searched?”

“They’d run across one other Voranti ship three days ago, and exchanged maps and data,” Shanthi explained as he relieved the duty officer at the Science station. “Neither ship had come in contact with Galaxy, but we know where both have searched.”

“And,” Lar’ragos added, “thanks to Kuenre’s diligence, we’ve got terabytes of information on many of the other species in the migration.”

It was the first genuine smile T’Ser had formed in days. “Excellent work, gentlemen.” She cast a look back at Lar’ragos. “Commander, have our transporter rooms beam over the antidote canisters to the airborne sedative. I don’t want the Voranti drifting helplessly any longer than necessary.”

As Lar’ragos set about carrying out her orders, T’Ser settled back into her chair. “Let’s go find our people."

*****
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Old November 3 2012, 09:44 PM   #81
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

And the award for the best single line in this story so far goes to:

“Yes, Commander,” Shanthi deadpanned. “I am hot cyber-death incarnate.”

Also, Tiedermeyer is a bit of an idiot, isn't he? Either that or he still has a lot to learn. Preach, Pava, preach.
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Old November 16 2012, 05:23 AM   #82
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4)

Chapter 4

What remained of the brutalized saucer section drifted away, lifeless and without power, as the drive section of the starship Galaxy left the greater mass of its former self behind.

Yet another encountered with the enraged Voranti had resulted in the already battered saucer taking multiple hits from beam and missile weapons that had overwhelmed their failing shields. The three Voranti ships had taken significant damage themselves in the exchange, but all were still advancing on the increasingly battered Galaxy.

Captain Scott had evacuated the last of her personnel to the drive section, to include Admiral Jellico and his staffers from the Taskforce Operations Center. Jellico wasn’t happy, but at least he was keeping his own counsel as to Scott’s command decisions regarding the continuing hostilities with the Voranti.

Now she sat in the comparatively claustrophobic battle bridge, watching events unfold on the abbreviated forward viewer as they tried to outrun their persistent attackers.

“Auto-separation complete, Captain,” Ops announced. “Saucer section is falling behind.”

The Voranti squadron advanced, skirting the abandoned husk of the great disc as they maintained pursuit of the stardrive.

“Open fire when they come in range,” Scott advised the Tactical officer. “Discontinue our efforts to knock out their weapons and engines, this has gone on too long,” she added grimly.

“Kill shots, sir?” the lieutenant asked.

“Affirmative,” Scott confirmed.

As the retreating stardrive launched a wave of scintillating phaser fire and photon torpedoes at its pursuers, a glimmer of life returned to the discarded saucer section that now drifted behind the Voranti.

The Voranti reinforced their forward shields to meet the stardrive’s onslaught, sapping power from their rearmost screens.

The unexpected flight of quantum torpedoes from the saucer caught the Voranti by surprise, punching through their compromised aft deflectors to envelope each of the craft in a destructive corona of energy. All three vessels were annihilated in seconds, reduced to subatomic debris by the awesome conflagration.

An incoming hail transformed into an image of Commander Worf occupying the center seat on Galaxy’s bridge. “Your gambit was a success, Captain,” Worf noted with approval.

“We survived,” she countered tersely. “Having to destroy them wasn’t optimal.”

Worf was unmoved by her reluctance. “We have shown restraint at each encounter, sir. They chose to back us into a corner, and they have suffered the consequences.”

She accepted the logic of his argument grudgingly. “Perhaps so. Make preparations to reconnect with the drive section, Commander.”

“Aye, Captain.”

*****
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Old November 18 2012, 02:11 PM   #83
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

The Voranti fall for one of the oldest tricks in the book. Of course playing possum takes on a whole new dimension when you've got a separable Galaxy-class ship to contend with.

Of course the real victory here would be a peaceful resolution to this conflict born out of treachery and misunderstanding. Now that the Baron appears to be on the ropes, that may not be a pipe dream any longer. We'll see.
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Old November 19 2012, 07:04 PM   #84
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Very nice. You completely fooled me. I thought you were going to blow up the saucer or something but, the way you so artfully crafted your narrative, it never occurred to me it might still be functional. In my head I heard a distinctive voice saying, "... and not so wounded as we were led to believe."
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Old November 24 2012, 08:32 AM   #85
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

His return to consciousness was languid, as though waking on a day off when no insistent alarm demanded his attention. He began to concentrate on the sounds around him, the hum of atmospherics, the gentle tones of medical diagnostic displays, and hushed conversations. Sickbay. He was in Sickbay. He tried to locate his last cogent memory, but his recollections were a fuzzy soup of fever dreams and bizarre mathematical equations whose purpose escaped him.

“So,” a familiar voice asked from beside him, “how are you feeling?”

Sandhurst cracked an eyelid to find Lar’ragos seated in a chair next to his biobed. He cleared his throat before murmuring, “What are you… doing here?”

“I came to visit you,” Lar’ragos explained patiently, Sandhurst’s confusion evident.

The captain craned his head, looking all around Sickbay. “Okay, then. What am I doing here?”

“You called up to the bridge two days ago and announced that you’d finished your grand project. We were unable to raise you after that, and sent security to investigate. They found you unconscious in your cabin.”

“My project?” Sandhurst looked lost.

“You’ve apparently redesigned our warp propulsion system. You don’t remember that?”

“Not really, no.” Sandhurst dropped his head back down onto the pillow. “It’s all a big, confusing blur.”

“I’ll bet,” Lar’ragos replied. “It seems you’re suffering from a Grade-Amon hangover, sir.”

“Yeah,” Sandhurst answered with a sigh. “Though, this is the most human I’ve felt since I returned.”

“That makes sense,” Taiee’s voice intruded into the conversation as she appeared at the foot of the bed. “Your biometrics have all returned to normal, Captain. Whatever exotic energies your cellular structure had been marinating in while you were among the Amon appear to have been completely metabolized.”

“I think you burned it all up in your five-day non-stop design extravaganza,” Lar’ragos added with a smirk.

“Five days,” Sandhurst echoed numbly. “Without sleep?”

“Apparently,” Taiee responded.

Lar’ragos cast a glance over his shoulder towards a team of two Marines and two security personnel guarding the door to a secured ward. “You also took quite the souvenir, sir.”

Sandhurst raised his arms, staring at the plastic-looking film of synthiskin coating both forearms. “Please tell me I wasn’t tattooing schematics on my own body.”

“Uh… no.” Lar’ragos gave Taiee a look that requested privacy.

“I’ll check back in on you later, sir,” Taiee said with her customary smile before stepping away.

“You received some pretty horrific burns, Donald,” Lar’ragos revealed as Sandhurst looked up to meet his friend’s eyes.

Sandhurst shook his head. “Did you guys let me phaser-weld or something while in my manic state?”

Lar’ragos shook his head lightly. “No. The Baron paid you another visit. As it happened you were less hospitable to him this time than last.”

Sandhurst merely stared at Lar’ragos, awaiting more details.

“You apparently attacked and disabled him, though you suffered those injuries in the process. He’s being held in that secure ward just behind me.”

As he tried to absorb this momentous news, Sandhurst mumbled. “He must be very unhappy.”

“Very confused is more like it,” Lar’ragos conveyed. “I don’t think he knows where he is. Hell, from what my senses tell me, I don’t think the Baron genuinely knows who he is.”

Sandhurst was skeptical. “I hit him that hard?”

Lar’ragos chuckled at that. “In fact, you may have. We recovered some kind of headpiece that we think he was wearing when he transported aboard. Science and Engineering have looked it over, and the going theory is that it’s some kind of advanced cerebral data node. Without it, the bastard’s not much more than a drooling simpleton.”

“Unless he’s playing you,” Sandhurst cautioned.

“He’s not,” Lar’ragos countered. “I interrogated him thoroughly.”

“Oh,” was all Sandhurst could think to say at that unwelcome revelation.

Lar’ragos sighed. “Not like that. I spoke with him at length, and I detected no deception from him. He truly has no idea where he is or what’s happening to him. Taiee’s mapped his brain, and she confirms that somewhere in the vicinity of sixty-five percent of his memory-related neural structure has been compromised.”

“By what?”

“No idea,” Lar’ragos said with a shrug. “Whatever’s responsible, it’s no less than the monster deserves.”

“Can’t argue that,” Sandhurst agreed, stifling a yawn.

Lar’ragos raised a curious eyebrow. “You want to see him?”

There was no hesitation in Sandhurst’s drowsy response. “No. I’m not ready for that just yet.”

“Okay,” Lar’ragos said with a supportive smile. He sensed Sandhurst’s growing weariness and moved to leave his friend to sleep.

“Pava,” Sandhurst reached out to grasp the sleeve of Lar’ragos’ uniform, stopping the man in his tracks.

Lar'ragos glanced back. “Yes, sir?”

“I’m glad you were the one to tell me,” Sandhurst said awkwardly as he sank towards unconsciousness.

“Always, Captain-my-captain.”

*****

“Are we every happy to see you,” Captain Scott said with a tired smile.

“The feeling’s mutual,” T’Ser replied, her voice tinged with relief. “We’re standing ready to beam over engineering and medical teams. What’s your status?”

“It’s bad,” Scott admitted. “Most of the saucer section is uninhabitable, our warp nacelle is still compromised, and we’ve got more hull breaches than I can count. We’ve exhausted our supply of quantum torpedoes, and we’ve launched so many photons we’ve nearly emptied our anti-matter reserves. We’ve lost eighty-seven killed, and another two-hundred and seventeen injured.”

T’Ser’s eyes narrowed in an unconscious gesture of shared loss. “Our Sickbay facilities stand ready to accept as many of your wounded as you need to offload, Captain. Our industrial replicator is busy fashioning components for a new warp drive, but we can put that on hold while we replicate whatever repair provisions you require.”

Scott nodded gratefully. “I appreciate it, Captain. It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get us back to a mission-ready footing. We’ve crunched the numbers, and with your assistance, I think we can restore enough operability to Galaxy in the next week that we can make it back to our warp-sled for more substantive repairs.”

“Understood,” T’Ser replied. “Be advised that the first wave of crew/cargo-modules has arrived, so you’ll have some replacement personnel awaiting you in stasis at the sled.”

“That’ll help,” Scott said morosely. “God knows we’ve lost more than our fair share.”

Loath as she was to bring up the subject, T’Ser inquired, “Seeing as there are still numerous Voranti ship in the area actively looking for us, what should our response be if we’re attacked again?”

“I’ve consulted with Admiral Jellico, and he agrees that we’ve exercised as much restraint as we can, under the circumstances. Any further hostile contact with the Voranti will be met with immediate lethal force, up to and including authorized use of our Alpha Weapons stores.”

T’Ser nodded once, curtly, saying, “I understand, Captain. However, we suspect that the Voranti’s animosity is due to a rogue Starfleet vessel that attacked their fleet some weeks prior to your First Contact encounter with them. I’m transmitting the details over to you now.”

Scott’s eyes darted from the viewer to a nearby display as she scanned the incoming data. “Defiant-class,” she noted. “That explains a lot,” she observed wryly. “Have we tried explaining that to the Voranti?”

“We tried,” T’Ser explained. “They weren’t in a listening mood.”

“That makes what we’ll have to do all the more tragic,” Scott said, her expression hardening.

“Indeed, Captain,” T’Ser agreed heavily. The fourth pip on her collar suddenly seemed to weigh several metric tons.

*****
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Old November 25 2012, 08:23 PM   #86
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Sandhurst appears to be back. For good? Who knows. Tellingly he doesn't remember anything he's done over the last few days so let's hope the Baron is truly defeated as there might not be an encore ass-kicking. Something tells me another card is to be played here.

The real challenge for T'Ser and Scott is if they can find a way not to have to kill every last Voranti out there.
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Old November 26 2012, 12:27 PM   #87
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Wow. A lot going on here. I agree with CeJay regarding the Voranti, but I can't help suspecting that their greater challenge will be dealing with an avenging Liana Ramirez seeking the return of her "mentor".

And that was a very nice little scene between Donald and Pava. Perhaps we're seeing a bit of a resurrection of their long-standing friendship.

I must say that I was very interested to see that there was, indeed, a bit of a "Spock's Brain" Teacher element to Sandhurst's creative fugue state. I like the tip of the hat to TOS ... and am straining my arm just a little patting myself on the back for recognizing the potential plot point you had in mind; especially since your thinking so completely eluded me in the previous section.
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Old November 29 2012, 08:11 AM   #88
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

“Captain to the bridge,” Lightner called out, his voice carefully controlled. “The Voranti have found us.”

It had been nearly a week since Galaxy and Europa had rendezvoused inside the nebula, and in that time the engineering teams of both ships had worked tirelessly to patch the larger vessel as best they could.

T’Ser strode out of the ready room, moving to slide into the command chair as Lar’ragos gracefully vacated it.

Shanthi spoke up from the Science station. “I’m detecting eight confirmed Voranti ships, and another possible six in what looks to be a potential envelopment maneuver at the edge of our sensor range.”

T’Ser remained expressionless as she toggled the comms to Galaxy’s bridge. “Captain Scott, we’ve detected inbound Voranti hostiles. Eight confirmed, six more probable. We’re sending you our sensor telemetry.”

“Acknowledged, Europa,” Scott confirmed via audio. “We’re initiating auto-separation sequencing now. I’ll be commanding the saucer-section while Commander Worf heads up the battle-section. We’ll need the saucer’s additional torpedoes and phaser arrays.”

On the verge of arguing the point, T’Ser accepted the logic that with Galaxy’s starboard warp nacelle still under repair, there was no outrunning the Voranti at impulse. “Understood, Galaxy. Europa, out.”

She exchanged a brief, grim look with Lar’ragos who was seated to her right before activating the intraship and ordering, “All hands, stand to battle stations. Support personnel assemble at secondary action stations and prepare for emergency medical response and damage control duties.”

T’Ser called back to Verrik at the Tactical arch. “I want a full spread of photons loaded fore and aft. We’ll save our remaining quantums for when their shields are depleted to twenty percent or lower.”

Ashok surrendered the Engineering console to an enlisted rating and addressed the captain as he moved for the aft turbolift. “I’ll be monitoring the reactor core personally, sir. I would remind you that even with Captain Sandhurst’s assistance, the existing reactor assembly is still very fragile and prone to stress-related damage.”

“Copy that,” T’Ser replied. “We’ll try our best to minimize the strain on the core, Lieutenant.”

The two starships thus became three, maneuvering back to back into a triangular formation, facing outward towards their incoming opponents.

On Captain Scott’s command, a repeating message was broadcast from all three vessels, explaining the unfortunate circumstances leading up to the lethal misunderstanding that now threatened to consume all of them in a catastrophic spasm of violence. If the Voranti heard and understood the transmission, they gave no indication.

Despite Starfleet’s protests and warnings, the Voranti fleet crossed the invisible line in the sand that Scott had drawn at five-hundred kilometers distance from them. Still, they waited for the aquatic species to initiate hostilities, so that posterity could record that the Federation did not begin what might well be the final battle of the Voranti people.

At four-hundred twenty kilometers, the Voranti unlimbered their weapons and opened fire.

Europa’s phasers fanned out in lightening-quick succession, intercepting and destroying over ninety percent of the incoming missiles targeted on the explorer. Verrik replied with a brace of photons that savaged the forward shields of three incoming cruisers and left a smaller patrol craft adrift, holed amidships.

Now Verrik modulated the ship’s phaser resources, tasking some at lower power to automated missile intercept, while others were directed at full power to hammer the deflectors of the approaching craft.

The Voranti’s advance was vigorous, fueled by their righteous anger and heart-rending loss, while Starfleet’s defense was a dispassionate counterpoint. The starships engaged in a mechanically efficient application of force that selectively whittled down the numerical strength of their opponents by exploiting weaknesses as they appeared.

While the Voranti people had engaged in many running battles during their long sojourn from deep in the heart of the Delta Quadrant, and had proved quite successful in these engagements, they had never been forced into a cauldron of misery and destruction the likes of which Starfleet had survived in the Dominion War. Starfleet, despite all its protestations to the contrary, had become very good at killing when it proved necessary.

Volleys of photon and quantum torpedoes raced outwards to sunder the second wave of Voranti ships, which by now were forced to evade the glowing wreckage of their first wave of comrades during their approach.

T’Ser stood from her chair, her arms folded defensively across her chest as she watched the slaughter unfold. She sensed Lar’ragos rising to stand beside her. “They’re not going to stop, are they?” she asked him in a low tone.

“No, Captain. They’re not,” he replied with just the right amount of regret in his voice. “If we allow this to go on much longer, they’ll realize it’s a lost cause. Then they’ll move to ram us, perhaps at warp speed.”

T’Ser offered the smallest of nods in response. Taking a breath, she called out, “Computer, release level two safeties on Weapon Alpha One, authorization T’Ser-Tango-Charlie-Bravo-Seven-Oh-Five-One.”

'Alpha Weapon level two safeties disengaged,’ the computer replied obediently. ’Enter command authorization to deactivate level one safeties and to arm Weapon Alpha One.'

She did so via manual input on the XO’s console.

'Code accepted, level one safeties disengaged. Weapon Alpha One is now armed. Enter executive officer counter-authorization to initiate weapons release for firing.'


“Recognize Lieutenant Commander Pava Lar’ragos, launch authorization Aedeph-Nu’ar-Nox-It’zeam.”

'Code accepted. Weapon Alpha One has been loaded into forward tube one and is ready for launch.'

Lar’ragos took a step back, giving T’Ser the room, both physically and psychologically, necessary to make the decision to employ one of the Federation’s new nightmare devices.

There was a brief pause during which the bridge was illuminated by the violent death throes of yet another Voranti ship meeting its end in anti-matter fueled entropy.

“Mister Verrik,” T’Ser said slowly, drawing out each syllable. “Your target is the three vessel squadron at coordinates two-zero-nine, mark zero-four-zero.”

“Target locked,” he answered crisply.

“Fire Weapon Alpha One,” she commanded.

The launch tube cycled and Verrik announced, “Weapon is away.”

Seconds passed as the viewer’s tactical overlay traced the device’s trajectory towards its targets. Some fifty kilometers out from the three Voranti craft, the weapon cylinder stopped dead in space, converting its momentum into a single burst of energy that was invisible to the naked humanoid eye. The overlay registered a briefly lived sphere of gravimetric shear that encompassed all three ships for perhaps one-tenth of a second.

The visual image of the Voranti formation was marred by a distortive flicker. For a moment, T’Ser’s eyes struggled to identify what she was seeing as the ships slowly but surely began to lose cohesion, dissolving into a micro-molecular cloud of constituent elements. They crumbled like day old sandcastles in gale-force winds.

T’Ser appeared momentarily horrified, while Lar’ragos looked intrigued.

“The three ships in the targeted area have been… completely neutralized,” Shanthi said quietly, not daring to look up from his sensor display.

“Remaining Voranti vessels are coming about and executing evasive patterns, Captain,” Verrik advised.

“Maintain fire with conventional weapons,” Lar’ragos ordered after a long moment in the face of T’Ser’s awkward silence.

T’Ser retreated silently to her chair, sitting with exaggerated carefulness, her attention clearly someplace else.

“Signal Galaxy that we are engaging a pursuit course if they should care to join us,” Lar’ragos instructed

*****
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Old November 29 2012, 07:16 PM   #89
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

*gasp*

I can imagine T'Ser must feel... simply shattered by the weight of what she has just done.
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Old November 30 2012, 02:44 AM   #90
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Wow. Just wow.

Where to start. First, I love the relationship you're developing between Pava and T'Ser. It is unique and very different from Pava's relationship with Donald, and entirely distinct from T'Ser's relationship with Joseph.

Another thing I liked very much is how ... detached (for lack of a better word) ... and how "technically" you portrayed the entire confrontation, but especially the use of the Alpha Weapon. The simplicity of the narrative and the almost rote aspect of the crew's actions very effectively set in high relief the import of the acts themselves and, in a very interesting way, actually emphasized the emotional impact on the players.

I read it through twice and was affected quite strongly both times.

Well done, as always.
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