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Old December 1 2012, 03:49 AM   #91
Gibraltar
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Blip wrote: View Post
*gasp*

I can imagine T'Ser must feel... simply shattered by the weight of what she has just done.
Yeah, she's more than a little conflicted right now.

Thanks for commenting!

TrekkieMonster wrote: View Post
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.
I'm glad that came across. I wanted to convey how easily these Dominion War veterans revert to their wartime experience, going in to a kind of 'autopilot' where combat is concerned.

They may feel regret at their actions later, but in the moment they're very effective killers. The Klingons would be proud.
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Old December 1 2012, 02:01 PM   #92
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

What I really liked in this last segment was the rationale behind why Starfleet would ultimately come out of the fight victorious. Not reading merely another space battle sequence or hearing about how some weapons are more powerful than others, but drilling down to Starfleet's experience and the scary thought that yes, in fact, they have become exceedingly good at killing if they are left with no other choice.

You Romulans and Klingons and all other 'tough' races out there who believe Starfleet to be soft. Take note.
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Old December 1 2012, 09:55 PM   #93
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I'm not sure how I feel about the way Starfleet has conducted itself in this story so far. They're a too close to today's military for my taste.

But as usual, well written with good character development and scenes that resonate. I also expect Ramirez to surface and it won't be pretty.
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Old December 2 2012, 03:48 AM   #94
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

CeJay wrote: View Post
What I really liked in this last segment was the rationale behind why Starfleet would ultimately come out of the fight victorious. Not reading merely another space battle sequence or hearing about how some weapons are more powerful than others, but drilling down to Starfleet's experience and the scary thought that yes, in fact, they have become exceedingly good at killing if they are left with no other choice.

You Romulans and Klingons and all other 'tough' races out there who believe Starfleet to be soft. Take note.
That's the unfortunate truth. Starfleet has been forced to change to fit the times... and as we know, times are hard. And so Starfleet must be as well.

Count Zero wrote: View Post
I'm not sure how I feel about the way Starfleet has conducted itself in this story so far. They're a too close to today's military for my taste.

But as usual, well written with good character development and scenes that resonate. I also expect Ramirez to surface and it won't be pretty.
Thanks for the review!

And yes, Starfleet's mission in the Delta Quadrant is a military one. Exploration and contact with alien life play their part in Operation Vanguard, but both are secondary to the goal of protecting the Alpha Quadrant from being overrun.
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Old December 2 2012, 04:21 AM   #95
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

USS Europa


With Admiral Jellico’s permission, the rout continued until Europa had successfully scattered the remaining Voranti ships farther into the heart of the nebula. There the cloud’s increased density would blind their sensors, jam their communications, and leave them confused and isolated long enough for the starships to make their escape.

T’Ser had beaten a hasty retreat to her ready room, leaving Lar’ragos in command as she fought to find her emotional equilibrium. She had half expected the experimental weapon to malfunction, and despite what Starfleet Tactical R&D had boasted of as ‘unprecedented destructive potential’ T’Ser hadn’t been prepared for the almost casual lethality of the device.

Before the vessels were out of range, Lar’ragos toggled the communications relay and broadcast, “This is Europa to the Voranti. We did not seek this conflict. We tried to explain to you that the Starfleet ship that originally attacked you was a rogue vessel, acting against our codes of conduct. You would not listen. When you attacked, we showed restraint, disabling your ships instead of destroying them. Still you came in overwhelming numbers until you forced our hand. Do not approach us again. We will not pursue your people, but if you come for us seeking conflict again, death is what awaits you.”

Lightner cast a look over his shoulder from the Helm console, his expression a mix of wonder and more than a hint of intimidation. “You’ve got quite the gift with words, Commander.”

Lar’ragos didn’t respond in kind to the mock joviality of Lightner’s observation. “It’s a lesson I dearly hope we won’t have to repeat,” he said with unaccustomed solemnity.

“Sir,” Verrik addressed Lar’ragos. “We’ve lost sensor contact with the last of the Voranti ships.”

“Very well,” Lar’ragos assessed. “I want gravitic mines with photon-yield warheads dropped in our wake. If they try and backtrack in order to attack us again, they’ll be in for a rude surprise.”

“Time delay, sir?” Verrik inquired, concerned with leaving ordinance behind for a prolonged period that might inadvertently hurt someone other than the Voranti.

“Set them to detonate in one-hundred twenty hours if they haven’t gone off by then.” He gestured to Lightner off-handedly. “Brett, take us back to Galaxy, best speed.”

*****

USS Masada

“Status of Galaxy?” Ramirez inquired.

“Their shields are hovering near fifty percent, sir,” answered Gavin, one of the few original Starfleet crew from Masada left alive.

The Baron’s mental conditioning of these lesser subjects had been much less elaborate than hers, cruder and less delicately performed. Inevitably it resulted in neural degradation, madness, and death after less than a year.

The rest of her bridge crew was comprised of various Delta Quadrant aliens, an assortment of brigands, mercenaries, and otherwise innocent wayfarers who’d fell prey to the compact warship.

Ramirez stood and stretched, no longer clad in her ubiquitous uniform. She wore a long, dark leather duster-like coat over a tight-fitting black top beneath a tactical vest whose pockets were filled with a veritable arsenal of the Baron’s lethal toys. Leather-like form fitting leggings that offered surprising mobility trailed down to tall yet fashionable combat boots. A gun belt adorned her waist, supporting two menacing looking disruptor pistols of questionable provenance.

She gestured to a smaller, bespectacled human dressed in anachronistic 19th century Terran clothes who was seated at an auxiliary console. “Let’s go pay our friends a visit, shall we?”

The man stood, evidencing no enthusiasm. “As you wish.”

She cast a look back at Gavin. “As soon as we’ve decloaked, hit them with the chronometric cannon. We’ll pop over and chat up the good admiral while they’re sorting themselves out.” She chucked the smaller man on the shoulder with a playful fist. “Come on, it’ll be fun!”

Gavin appeared troubled. “Captain, we haven’t tested the weapon sufficiently since we slaved it to the navigational deflector. It may not work as intended.”

“Then we’ll improvise,” she replied confidently, stepping into the ‘lift with her companion and vanishing behind the closing doors.

The smaller man looked to Ramirez, his expression unreadable. “Our master is not aboard Galaxy. This attack is of no strategic value to us.”

“The value, my too-linear friend, is that to strike dread into the hearts of our enemies, we must keep them off balance. My plan will do that by simultaneously decapitating their command structure and sewing panic and confusion into their rank and file. I used to serve this organization, and I know better than anyone how to disrupt it.”

“And if our master is killed in the meantime?” he pressed.

Ramirez laughed. “He couldn’t be in better hands. Sandhurst will bend over backwards to treat the Baron with care, if only to try and prove he’s the better man.”

He observed, “An unwarranted gamble, and a reckless one.”

The pair stepped out of the lift, walking a short ways to a cramped transporter room filled with large, heavily armed men with foul dispositions and questionable personal hygiene. “The debate is over. We attack.” She turned to address one of the brigands. “Don’t forget the morphic field generator.” Ramirez smiled broadly. “I don’t know how many of you knuckle-draggers paid any attention in school, but we’re going to be having some fun with science!”

*****
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Old December 2 2012, 10:16 AM   #96
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

Main Bridge, USS Galaxy


The chronometric blast from Masada’s main deflector was unlike anything Galaxy’s already taxed shields had been designed to withstand. Sub-atomic dissonance ensued, with individual protons shifting into the future as others vanished into the distant past. Unable to maintain cohesion in the face of this temporal flux, the shields collapsed, leaving the starship vulnerable to Masada’s formidable weaponry.

The escort’s pulse phasers flared, the bolts tearing through the abused superstructure of the saucer and opening gaping wounds atop the recently patched hull-breaches caused by the Voranti. Atmosphere and bodies erupted into the void, which was then lit by the crimson flash of a photon torpedo that shot forth to consume Galaxy’s starboard nacelle.

As the shattered nacelle and it’s pylon spun away trailing drive plasma, a quantum warhead punched through the vulnerable neck of the stardrive section, wrecking the forward torpedo launcher before burrowing down into the engineering decks and detonating in a potent electromagnetic blast that blew out every power waveguide and corrupted most of the ODN network throughout the vessel.

It was into this maelstrom of sizzling circuitry, buckling superstructure and flickering emergency lights that Liana Ramirez and her assault team materialized.

Worf was bent at the waist, checking the unmoving Captain Scott’s carotid artery for a pulse when Ramirez regained solidity. The Klingon glanced up, his hand already moving with admirable quickness to the miniature phaser concealed inside his baldric. Ramirez’s disruptors were already extended in both hands, and she blew Worf off his feet with blast to his abdomen. Ramirez’s next shot decapitated a crew member as the woman rose from behind her console to engage the intruders.

The boarding party used the Starfleet crew’s confusion and surprise to maximum advantage, and in less than thirty seconds the intruders’ weapons had silenced all opposition. Ramirez turned to the strange man in the anachronistic clothes and directed him towards the power distribution node in the port side computer trunks. “Hook the morphic generator up there, and set the timer for five minutes.”

She called two of the mercenaries over to her, then touched a control affixed to her wrist causing the three of them to vanish.

The man approached the trunk access panel, tearing the cover off as he set the exotic looking cylindrical device on the floor. He began attaching interface nodes into what little operable circuitry remained, joining them to the generator with optic cable.

Behind him, Worf sprang to his feet without warning, driving his hatchet-like mek’leth into the back of the nearest brigand, severing the man’s spinal column and lacerating numerous vital organs. As the pirate collapsed, Worf lashed out with a leg to sweep another of the intruders off his feet before wheeling around to face the puzzled looking man in the charcoal gray town coat.

Though Worf didn’t recognize the device in question, he made a split-second judgment that whatever it was, it wasn’t good. He jerked his mek’leth free from the dying man on the floor and swung an overhead strike down towards the individual attaching it to Galaxy’s systems.

The man threw up his arm in a reflexive but clearly futile defensive gesture. There was a bone-jarring *crack* as the razor-keen blade sliced cleanly through the man’s sleeve to make contact with the crystalline composite that made up his outer dermal layer.

Worf struggled to maintain a grip on the blade’s handle as the shock of the impact translated through his arms. His first thought was that the man was wearing some manner of concealed armor. The Klingon moved to reinforce his grip on his weapon and switch targets to the man’s unprotected head, but before he could strike the unassuming looking human drove an open hand into Worf’s chest that launched the warrior into the air and sent him soaring across the bridge to slam heavily into a console on the far starboard bulkhead.

The nuisance having been neutralized, the android Parlan turned back to the computer trunk and resumed his work.

*****
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Old December 2 2012, 01:28 PM   #97
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Just when you thought it was over ...

I feel sorry for the crew of the Galaxy. Like they haven't been through enough already. Now the newly crowned Master of Evil, Liana Ramirez, is after them too. And with much more deadly precision and dispassionate ruthlessness than the Voranti could ever muster.

This. Will. End. Badly.
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Old December 2 2012, 03:41 PM   #98
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I think this has already ended badly for most of the Galaxy's crew. I'm intrigued by the newly introduced character, Parlan. Is this his first appearance or did I overlook him earlier?
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Old December 2 2012, 05:38 PM   #99
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Holy cow!
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Old December 3 2012, 10:16 PM   #100
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

CeJay wrote: View Post
Just when you thought it was over ...

I feel sorry for the crew of the Galaxy. Like they haven't been through enough already. Now the newly crowned Master of Evil, Liana Ramirez, is after them too. And with much more deadly precision and dispassionate ruthlessness than the Voranti could ever muster.

This. Will. End. Badly.
CeJay, unfortunately, I think that's a very good bet.

Count Zero wrote: View Post
I think this has already ended badly for most of the Galaxy's crew. I'm intrigued by the newly introduced character, Parlan. Is this his first appearance or did I overlook him earlier?
This is Parlan's first appearance in this story. However, the character appeared previously in my story Geometries of Chance.

Cobalt Frost wrote: View Post
Holy cow!
No cow, no matter how holy, can help them now!
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Old December 4 2012, 12:33 AM   #101
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

USS Galaxy


Two Starfleet Marines and Vice Admiral Jellico’s adjutant had given their lives in his defense, for all the good it had done. It was a brief, yet brutal struggle that had left the bulkheads of Jellico’s office, the adjutant’s foyer, and the corridor outside pock-marked with phaser and disruptor strikes. Furniture was smashed and strewn haphazardly, while the acrid smell of burning plastics and humanoid flesh permeated the air.

Commander Arwen Larissa had been destined for her own command after two years of faithful service as Jellico’s personal assistant. The newly christened Intrepid-class Valiant was scheduled to arrive via warp-sled within weeks, and it was to have become Larissa’s first command.

Now the commander lay sprawled across an overturned settee, her eyes open but unseeing as smoke wafted upwards from the tight grouping of disruptor impacts stitched across her chest.

Ramirez pushed Larissa’s body off the settee as if it were of no consequence before righting the divan and plopping down atop it. “Well, that was a refreshing little scrape, wasn’t it, Edward?”

Jellico remained silent from where he sat on the floor with his back against the bulkhead. His eyes were fixed on Larissa’s lifeless counterparts. He seemed more shocked by the death of his adjutant than he did with the disruptor burn that had scorched across his upper left shoulder, or the uppercut blow Ramirez had delivered that had caused his legs to buckle.

The admiral finally tore his eyes away from his subordinate’s and looked at Ramirez, seeing her as an individual for the first time and not simply one of a pack of heavily-armed thugs who’d unexpectedly blasted their way into his office, killing anyone who got in their way.

“Liana?” he croaked. “Liana… Ramirez?” He stared at her, dumbfounded.

She smiled brightly in response. “Ed, good to see you still remember me. It’s been a long time since we served aboard Cairo.”

“You’re dead,” he mumbled, shaking his head to try and clear it of the shock. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

There was a flash from the corridor outside, accompanied by a jolt felt through the deck plates and a muted thump as one of her team’s anti-personnel munitions detonated.

“See, Ed, they’re still trying to come to your rescue.” She rotated her head around as if trying to work out a kink in her neck. “Back in the day that would have been me, charging to your rescue.” Ramirez took a moment to glance around at the ruined compartment. “We took the bridge first, of course. It’s funny to be on this side of things, for a change. I lost track of how many times we had to repel boarders on Gibraltar. I’d always thought about how I’d go about it, if I were one of the ‘bad guys.’” She reached out and slapped his leg playfully with one hand. “How’s that for irony, eh?”

Jellico stared at her, his eyes narrowing. “You’re mad,” he assessed gravely.

“You’re goddamn right about that, Ed. I am mad. Mad as hell. And I’m going to make Starfleet feel every ounce of that rage in their bones.”

“What… what do you want?”

“A body count, for starters,” she replied evenly. “You see, Ed, to get at some people, all you have to do is cause sufficient pain to them directly. But Donald’s not like that, is he? No, the best way to get at Donald is to hurt the people he cares about, his friends, his comrades-in-arms. Make them bleed, make them suffer terribly, and he will know agony far beyond what I could ever inflict on him personally.”

“But why Sandhurst? He was your captain, just as I was. What the hell is driving this, Liana?”

Ramirez rested her elbows on her knees, letting her arms dangle, and allowing the disruptor clutched in her hand to sway back and forth like a lethal pendulum. “He killed me, Ed. He took my future and denied me my destiny. After everything I suffered to earn a captaincy, after all the happiness I deferred, all the sacrifices I made, he cut me down in an instant for the sake of convenience.”

“No choice,” Jellico offered dully. “He was faced with two horrible options, and he chose the lesser of two evils.”

“I will never be the lesser of evils,” Ramirez hissed darkly. “Never again.”

Her wristcomm chirped. “This is Parlan. The morphic generator is in place and the clock is running. Four minutes, thirty seconds.”

“Acknowledged,” she replied. Ramirez stood and knelt next to Jellico, batting aside his half-hearted attempt at a punch aimed at her head. “Oh, let’s play nice now, Admiral.” She placed a transport transponder on his shoulder before plucking his combadge from his uniform and flinging it away. “We’d best be on our way, Ed. Very shortly this ship is going to become a thoroughly unpleasant place to be.”

Jellico actually chuckled at that, gesturing weakly to the surrounding devastation. “Really? Worse than this?”

Ramirez touched a finger to her wristcomm, and as she and Jellico dematerialized, she enthused, “You have no idea.”

*****
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Old December 6 2012, 05:49 AM   #102
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 4 continued)

Chapter 4 <cont'd>

Sickbay, USS Europa


T’Ser entered Sickbay and made her way to the secured ward, directing a nod towards Sandhurst as she did so. Clad in an engineering jumpsuit, he stood at the window through which the status of their prisoner could be seen.

Even through the transparent aluminum partition, the man’s screams could be heard. As Taiee and an LMH attempted an examination of the Baron, he writhed in agony atop the biobed, struggling against the restraining field which held him in place. He babbled incoherently between these bouts of suffering in spite of the multiple sedatives Taiee had injected him with over the past hour.

“How’s our guest, Commodore?” T’Ser asked, her eyes riveted to the scene playing out before them. To avoid the confusion of having two captains aboard, the crew had taken to addressing Sandhurst as ‘commodore.’ He wasn’t fond of the title, but his desire to make the situation less awkward for T’Ser forced him to accept it.

“Apparently, he goes from being a practical tabula rasa to this, whatever the hell this is.”

“It looks painful,” she observed without a trace of sympathy.

Sandhurst nodded in agreement. “Sure does.”

She turned her head to look at him. “Given the circumstances, shouldn’t you be enjoying this more?”

He sighed. “One would think… but, no, actually. Whatever’s causing this is certainly nothing less than what he deserves, but it gives me no pleasure to see him suffer.”

There was a long moment of silence between them before T’Ser remarked, “I just killed hundreds, maybe thousands of beings in less than a second. I ordered Verrik to fire, watched the Alpha Weapon go downrange, and then – poof – I’m a mass murderer.”

“I know,” Sandhurst replied, voice laden with sympathy. “I’m sorry, T’Ser. It should have been me giving that order.”

“I’d pay latinum to give you this fourth pip back.”

Sandhurst pursed his lips thoughtfully. “Unfortunately, the fact that you have a healthy fear of that responsibility just means you were the right person for the promotion, Captain.”

“I was afraid you’d say something like that.” T’Ser rubbed the bicep of one arm with her opposing hand, her body a collection of stress-related knots. “How’s your new engine design coming along?”

On the other side of the partition, Taiee was trying the fourth different formulation of sedatives in another attempt to curb the Baron’s seizure-like fugue.

“We’ve replicated nearly three-quarters of the parts to assemble the drive. The design instructions are very detailed, though I can’t remember a thing about how I came up with them.”

She cast a wry glance his way. “I hope to hell you know what you’re doing.”

He snorted a half-laugh. “You and me both, Captain. Right now I’m just assembling something from schematics, a task any engineering cadet could do. The concept behind it… it’s staggering in its implications. It’s like the promise of transwarp a century ago, but this time the math actually adds up.”

“And you couldn’t see it before?” she asked, still finding herself coping with that notion.

“No,” he uttered with a disconsolate sigh. “It’s damned humbling, too. I rejected Ra-Havreii’s design theory out of hand, arrogantly assuming that because I couldn’t grasp the concept, that the theory itself was incorrect. It turns out I just wasn’t smart enough to see it.”

T’Ser was about to respond when the door to the secure ward opened, releasing Taiee amidst a wave of the Baron’s manic ranting. As the door hissed closed, Taiee paused to remove a pair of earplugs she’d inserted as a safeguard against the man’s persistent screaming.

Sandhurst was about to ask Taiee about the Baron’s status when he suddenly remembered he was no longer in command.

“Any idea what’s going on with the Baron, Doc?” T’Ser inquired a second later.

“Do we know what’s happening to him? Yes. What we haven’t a clue about is why or how it’s happening.” Taiee stepped over to a large viewer set into the far bulkhead, inputting commands to call up a rotating two-dimensional scan of the Baron’s brain.

As Sandhurst and T’Ser followed her across the compartment, Taiee began to point out a number of dark spots in the geography of the Baron’s cerebral activity. “These areas indicate places of zero neural activity. They’re localized to long-term memory areas of his brain, analogous to the medial-temporal lobe, hippocampal formation and neocortex in a human brain.”

Sandhurst frowned. “I didn’t do this, did I? I mean… when I—“

“No, Capta—uh, Commodore,” Taiee corrected herself. “This appears to be unrelated to the physical injuries he sustained in your quarters. The neural degradation is an ongoing process, and based on the rate of decay we’ve observed, it’s been going on for some time now.”

T’Ser scowled as she considered the implications of this. “So, this is some kind of degenerative neural disease, like Alzheimer’s in humans or Bendii Syndrome in Vulcans?”

“We don’t think so,” Taiee replied, her expression equally dour. “The damage appears too specifically directed to be truly random. In fact, the LMH is reasonably certain that whatever’s doing this is inflicting damage in a purposeful sequence.”

“A sequence?” T’Ser repeated. “For what reason?”

Taiee’s expression grew pained, as though she was hesitant to reveal their working theory. “If we had to guess, Captain, it looks as if the Baron’s memories are being destroyed in such a way as to maximize the psychological damage he suffers during the process. It’s as though he somehow manages to retain the emotional sense of loss associated with the destruction of specific long-term memories, even though he can't remember the events themselves that have been deleted."

Sandhurst’s eyes widened as realization came to him. He stepped forward, placing a hand against the transparent aluminum window. On the other side the Baron’s violent episode was beginning to wane, leaving him to whimper in confusion. “It’s torture,” Sandhurst exclaimed. “The bastard finally went and picked a fight with someone who’s given him a taste of his own medicine.”

Lar’ragos' voice intruded by way of the comm system. “Bridge to Captain T’Ser.” There was an edge to Pava’s voice that Sandhurst detected instantly. T’Ser looked askance at him as her former captain’s jaw clenched in unconscious anticipation of bad news.

“Go ahead, Commander,” T'Ser prompted.

“Sir, we’ve arrived back at Galaxy’s coordinates. The ship’s been wrecked, and is not answering to hails. Life signs are sporadic.”

T’Ser moved quickly for the exit, with Sandhurst close on her heels. “Any sign of the Voranti that did it?” she asked as she jogged toward the nearest turbolift alcove.

“We don’t think it was the Voranti,”
Lar’ragos fairly growled. “We’re detecting Starfleet weapons signatures.”

T’Ser and Sandhurst shared a troubled look as the turbolift doors closed and the car began its ascent.

*****
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Old December 6 2012, 06:47 PM   #103
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

CeJay wrote: View Post
You Romulans and Klingons and all other 'tough' races out there who believe Starfleet to be soft. Take note.
Don't cheer too loudly. In an objective universe the Klingons and the Romulans would still kick the Federation's ass.

Fighting tenaciously when your back is against the wall is a matter of instinct, not a battle strategy. Every living thing makes a last stand against death. Lots of them die anyway.
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Old December 7 2012, 11:48 PM   #104
Gibraltar
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Chapter 4 <cont’d>

Transporter Room 3, USS Europa


T’Ser was standing in the transporter room when Lar’ragos and the last of the recovery teams beamed back from the shattered wreck of Galaxy. Their personnel had been aboard the ship for over seventeen hours, and the physical exhaustion they evidenced was clearly exceeded by the emotional toll the ghoulish mission had taken on them.

They wore EVA suits that were spattered with gore and caked with all manner of unpleasantness. One young security specialist was gagging as she removed her helmet, while an engineering ensign was sobbing uncontrollably as his friends led him out of the transporter room.

Most telling to T’Ser was the expression on Lar’ragos’ face as the El Aurian pulled off his helmet. After all the man had seen and done in his four-hundred plus years of life, his eyes still managed to convey the trauma on display aboard what remained of Galaxy.

T’Ser gave Lar’ragos a moment to compose himself before ordering, “Report, Commander.”

Lar’ragos straightened and seemed to give T’Ser his attention, though the look in his eyes still appeared light-years away. “Whatever hit them, it was very sudden and it doesn’t look like Galaxy had an opportunity to respond. Fully half of the saucer-section is open to vacuum, and although the warp core didn’t breach, it’s leaked enough radiation to make the entire stardrive section uninhabitable.”

“The crew…” T’Ser pressed. “It was as bad as they say?”

He nodded dully. “Yes. I don’t know what they used, but it defies all known laws of physics and conventional medical science. It seems everyone below Deck 3 was affected.”

T’Ser’s expression hardened. “They were eviscerated?”

“Uh… no,” Lar’ragos stammered, touching a clenched fist to his lips to push down his rising gorge. “Turned inside out would be a better description. They were inverted somehow, some of them completely, others only partially… but nearly every single one of them was still alive, and suffering beyond imagination.”

“How is that possible?” she exclaimed, more to herself than to him.

“No idea,” he said, making a disgusted face as he caught a whiff of something yellowish and glistening that was smeared across the breastplate of his EVA suit. “Captain, permission to get out of this damn thing and burn it?”

“Granted,” she murmured distractedly, stepping aside so he could exit the compartment.

Dark thoughts intruded as she considered the decisions she’d have to make in the coming hours. Despite Europa’s ample medical resources, half their medical staff had been left behind to assist with the recovery efforts at In’Drahn station. Those that remained aboard had been overwhelmed by the sheer number of grotesque injuries resulting from the attack on their task force’s flagship.

Every square meter of unused space aboard Europa was being used to house stasis tanks, in which the horribly disfigured Galaxy crew members were stored until greater medical resources could be brought to their aid. Construction of the stasis units had required the dematerialization of most of the new engine’s components, so short were they on replicatable matter stores.

Ashok’s initial assessment had been that stardrive portion of Galaxy would have to be scuttled after all recoverable supplies and equipment had been removed. The saucer section might be salvageable, but as it was limited to travel at impulse speeds, it would prove more of a burden than an asset.

T’Ser turned to leave, but before she could step through the parting doors, she paused and glanced back at a science technician, the last remaining crew member from Pava’s recovery team. The man fought to wriggle free of the last piece of his environment suit, collapsing backwards clumsily into a seated position on the transporter pad as he threw the suit sleeve across the compartment to crash against the bulkhead. Oblivious to the captain’s presence, he cradled his head in his hands as he struggled to come to terms with what he’d witnessed.

She wanted to stop and say something reassuring or comforting to the young man, but T'Ser feared that anything she said would sound trite coming from someone who hadn’t been aboard that charnel house of a starship. Utimately, T’Ser realized, she was the person that had sent him and the others over there.

She walked out in silence, lost in her own mordant thoughts.

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; December 8 2012 at 10:15 PM.
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Old December 8 2012, 01:59 PM   #105
CeJay
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Ah, man, this is just so unnecessarily evil. You're not writing for Dark Territory, you know?

This really makes me wonder what is going to happen to Ramirez before all this is over. Before I was hoping that she would eventually find her way back to the light with the help of Sandhurst and company. Perhaps there'd even be a rational explanation which would explain this sudden turn to villainy.

But truthfully it will be extremely hard to rationalize what has happened so far. And even if she does snap out of whatever it is that has her acting like this, there is no amount of counseling in the galaxy sufficient enough to get her over what she's done.

I'm saddened to think that for Ramirez, this can only end one way.
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