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Old February 5 2013, 03:01 PM   #151
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

That- that- GREEN BLOODED SONOFABITCH!!
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Old February 5 2013, 07:21 PM   #152
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

You are just FULL of surprises. This is amazing. No other word for it. I want more. NOW!
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Old February 6 2013, 12:19 AM   #153
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

That... that pointy-eared, green-blooded... hobgobling! Well, this just proves that Sandhurst is just as deadly as well. Maybe even more. Let's hope Lar'ragos and T'Ser can handle the situation properly.

BTW: What happened with Ramirez?
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Old February 6 2013, 06:55 AM   #154
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Tribble puncher wrote: View Post
This was the last thing I expected, My interest in this story was starting to wane after the introduction of "Super Donald" and his invincible Voyager like Starship. But with this latest twist...you sir...((wags finger in your direction George McFly Style))...have made me a believer, I shall never doubt you again....forgive me
You are forgiven, my child!

Kyhrk wrote: View Post
Oh Damn. This is getting interesting. Its stories like these that keep me interested in you folks from United Trek's work.
Thank you for the high praise on behalf of us United Trekkers.
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Old February 6 2013, 06:58 AM   #155
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Blip wrote: View Post
That- that- GREEN BLOODED SONOFABITCH!!
Hey, now... why do you have to go and make this a racial thing?

TrekkieMonster wrote: View Post
You are just FULL of surprises. This is amazing. No other word for it. I want more. NOW!
Patience is a virtue, my friend.

admiralelm11 wrote: View Post
That... that pointy-eared, green-blooded... hobgobling! Well, this just proves that Sandhurst is just as deadly as well. Maybe even more. Let's hope Lar'ragos and T'Ser can handle the situation properly.

BTW: What happened with Ramirez?
Oh, you can rest assured that she's still out there, biding her time.
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Old February 8 2013, 08:05 PM   #156
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Sam:

This is an amazing addition to the story and now I'm really hanging by a thread to see what happens next with Sandhurst. I feel like Pava forced his hand, though, owing to his own paranoia about what's happening. I think for the first time, you've really captured his fear-motivated reaction to recent events.

Looking forward to more!

-- ZC
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Old February 8 2013, 10:59 PM   #157
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

Chapter 6 <cont'd>

Their escape from Europa proved far easier than Sandhurst had anticipated. Verrik collapsed the interior forcefields in sequence as the two made their way down the corridor and into an empty VIP stateroom, utilizing nothing more than a padd to circumvent the ship’s security protocols.

Sandhurst discovered that many of the escape contingencies he had put in place had been preemptively thwarted by Lar’ragos, presumably with the help of Shanthi and Ashok. However, Verrik suffered no such setbacks, navigating and bypassing Europa’s subsystems with inexplicable ease.

Out the cabin’s viewports, the swirling tunnel of light through which the starship passed while at transwarp velocities vanished. The static starfield in its place suggested the ship had dropped to impulse speeds. Verrik tapped quickly on his padd, noting, “Security teams are responding to our location. I’m flooding the surrounding corridors with anesthazine gas.”

“Dare I ask who you represent and how you’re doing all this?” Sandhurst inquired.

Before Verrik could reply, the two officers dematerialized, regaining cohesion an instant later aboard Europa’s captain’s yacht, Mediterranean. Verrik slid into the pilot’s seat as he answered the query. “Suffice to say that I recognize the danger to the Federation posed by the more aggressive of the Amon tribes. I agree that it’s in our best interest to use your relationship with their species in order to force a confrontation between the two factions.”

Sandhurst lowered himself into the copilot’s seat, startled to realize that Mediterranean was already navigating freely and was powering away from Europa. The large shuttle jumped to warp as Verrik scanned the starship falling behind them. “I’ve temporarily incapacitated their warp drive and long range sensors. I’m establishing a sensor blind spot that will mask the shuttle from the ship’s sensors once they’ve re-established control over their compromised systems.”

Verrik felt Sandhurst’s gaze linger on him and finally looked up from his controls to return the commodore’s scrutiny. “Yes?”

“Lar’ragos indicated that he’d had the senior staff scouring the ship’s computer subroutines for any signs of tampering. Seeing as they located and disabled most of the little ‘cheats’ I’d put in place, how the hell did they manage to miss yours?”

The Vulcan’s smirk was very faint, but it was there nonetheless. “I’m not at liberty to say,” he replied guardedly.

“Where are we going?” Sandhurst pressed.

Verrik transferred the navigation controls across to Sandhurst’s station. “They’re your people. You tell me.”

*****

Main Bridge, USS Europa

Lar’ragos limped painfully onto the bridge, fairly collapsing into the command chair as he called out, “What’s our status?”

“Both warp and transwarp drives are offline,” Ashok apprised from the Engineering station.

“Long and short range external sensors are inoperative,” Shanthi called out from Science.

Chief Petty Officer Dunleavy manned the Tactical console behind Lar’ragos’ chair. “No sign of either Sandhurst or Verrik on internal sensors, Commander.”

Holding a hand to his woozy head, Lar’ragos muttered, “Have security and Marine personnel check that all our shuttles, escape pods and ASRV’s are in place.”

At Ops, Juneau reported, “Someone’s overridden our internal security lockouts and isolation subroutines, but I’m not detecting any invasive programming present in any of our systems.”

Dunleavy checked a series of updates scrolling across one of her displays. “I’m being informed by security personnel that the captain’s yacht is unaccounted for.”

“Find it,” Lar’ragos groaned, struggling mightily not to vomit as his head thundered.

Another update found its way to Dunleavy, who announced,“I’ve got a Marine squad in EVA’s that’s just cleared the commodore’s quarters. They report four injured personnel who are being transferred to Sickbay, and six others from an earlier response team who were apparently overcome by anesthazine gas.”

Ashok frowned at his own console. “I don’t see any indications that we’ve deployed anesthazine anywhere aboard. I’m reading positive seals on all the supply canisters slaved to the environmental systems.”

“We can’t trust anything our systems are telling us,” Shanthi answered loudly, ostensibly addressing Ashok, but offering the comment for all present. “I thought we’d ferreted out all of the commodore’s back-door programming, but there must have been a whole other layer, even more deeply embedded.”

Ashok stood from the Engineering console, surrendering the board to one of his subordinates as he moved to sit in the empty XO’s seat next to Lar’ragos. “Commander,” he said as gently as possible to the visibly pained El Aurian. “If Sandhurst gets away we lose the only person who understands our new drive well enough to repair it if it suffers damage or breaks down.”

A medic stepped onto the bridge from the fore turbolift and knelt next to Lar’ragos, running a hand sensor over him as the first officer considered Ashok’s words.

“Understood, Lieutenant,” he finally managed to say between waves of nausea. “Get down to the computer core and prepare a full shut down and system wipe. We’ll reload our operating systems from the protected archives.”

“We’ll lose all the programming modifications Sandhurst made to the propulsion and deflector systems,” Ashok noted grimly. “That means we lose our transwarp capability.”

“I know,” Lar’ragos hissed. “It’s either that or continue to be at Sandhurst’s mercy. He's already proved he can shut us down at whim.”

Ashok nodded curtly and headed for the ‘lift as Juneau called over her shoulder to Lar’ragos, “Sir, we’re getting reports from around the ship that people are seeing sublight starfields out their viewports. It looks like we’ve dropped to impulse speeds.”

“And this is what it’s come to,” Lar’ragos muttered sullenly under his breath. He craned his neck to allow the medic to inject him with a painkiller and anti-inflammatory for the concussion he’d sustained as he toggled the PA from his armrest. “This is the XO. All personnel, standby for emergency shutdown and restoration of all computer systems. There will be momentary interruptions in primary power and all LCARS functions.”

*****

Cargo Hold, USS Masada

Edward Jellico’s ragged sobs had long since ceased to amuse her. To the contrary, his having eventually succumbed to her tortures only served to underscore her already low opinion of humans altogether. They were weak. Fragile. Soft.

She had visited all manner of cruelties upon him in the past weeks, many of which she herself had suffered at the hands of the Baron. After a period his considerable resistance had faded and he had been broken, at which point he no longer held her interest. Now she inflicted additional pain upon him for no other reason than she had nothing else to occupy her time.

Parlan entered the compartment, stepping past her to look up at the bloodied, torn, and barely recognizable form of Jellico as he writhed in the clutches of the suspensor field. The android cocked his head to look at her. “Long range sensors have detected Europa’s sudden appearance a mere six-point-seven light-years from us.”

“Where did they come from?” Ramirez asked, suddenly showing the first real signs of life in days.

“Unknown,” Parlan replied. “There were no indications of a warp signature or any previous sensor contact with the ship prior to its unexpected appearance.”

“Perhaps they’ve got themselves a cloaking device, too?” she surmised.

“Perhaps,” Parlan allowed. Without preamble, he extended an arm and fired an energy pulse from his hand that vaporized the grievously injured Jellico, whose body vanished with a screech as air rushed to fill the void of his passing.

Ramirez wheeled on him. “What the hell are you doing?”she seethed.

“I am eliminating the unnecessary distraction of your toy,” he replied in an aggravatingly reasonable tone. “Our master has been in enemy hands for weeks now, and you’ve made no appreciable effort to secure his release. In fact, you’ve done nothing more than poke at that pathetic captive. You will immediately assist me in recovering our master, or I will do so without you.”

“I am the Baron’s chosen successor!” Ramirez cried, her eyes blazing with neurologically induced conviction.

Parlan was unmoved by her passion. “Be that as it may, you have elected to allow him to rot in captivity. That is intolerable. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were stalling to avoid a final confrontation between you and your former crewmates.”

The anger behind her eyes dimmed with that accusation, and she blinked as if startled. “Ridiculous. That battle will be the culmination of the Baron’s long-held plans. It is to be his legacy!”

“Then let the battle begin, Liana,” Parlan coaxed, managing to make it sound like a plea rather than an order, but only just. “We have made preparations for exactly this contingency, and you well know our master was willing to sacrifice his life to see his dreams of vengeance fulfilled.”

Her eyes glistened with tears. “It… it is hard, Parlan. To consign such a man to death, it’s like striking down a god.”

“I understand,” Parlan empathized, or at least he pretended to. They had both been programmed by the Baron, and Ramirez still didn’t know if Parlan could experience emotion, or merely mimic it. “Nevertheless, it must be done if we are to honor his memory.”

“It will be,” she said in a trembling voice, weeping openly now. “I swear it.”

*****
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Old February 9 2013, 10:17 PM   #158
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Things have truly taken a turn for the worse here recently. What fascinates me the most is the fact that I still haven't been able to make up my mind about Sandhurst. By all accounts I should be firmly in the anti-Donald camp by now. After all his actions here were totally not okay.

But then I can't help but root for him a little bit. And he might be right about the Amon being the only ones able to stop ... the Amon.

And Ramirez is back. And here I was thinking things had gotten as ugly as they get ... not likely.
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Old February 13 2013, 12:52 AM   #159
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Wow, a lot of unexpected events. The revelation about Sandhurst was really disturbing and I think he's kidding himself about the life energy and his intentions regarding the En-Il-Que to some degree.

I believe I have an inkling of what will happen regarding Ramirez and the Amon but I might be totally wrong about that. In any case, things will become a lot worse for Europa's crew and Sandhurst, too.

Poor Jellico.
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Old February 19 2013, 07:18 AM   #160
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

Chapter 6 <cont'd>

The cryogenic stasis tank containing the Baron resided in one of the ancillary medical wards on Deck 5. He’d been placed in stasis after it had become apparent that none of their medical technology seemed capable of reversing or even arresting the unknown force behind the Baron’s neural degradation.

Putting him ‘on ice’ as it were had seemed to slow the rate of cerebral decay by a third, and so he had remained while Dr. Multorlo and Lt. Taiee researched his condition when not consumed by other medical emergencies. Utilizing the LMH’s vast database, the pair had examined and discarded dozens of possibilities, leaving an infinite number of others yet to check.

A discrete subspace signal, very nearly indistinguishable from the background radiation of the nearest pulsar, was received by a sub-micron transceiver disguised as one of the Baron’s cellular ribosomes. The signal initiated a chemical cascade that spread throughout his body, slowly at first, given the lethargy of his cryogenically suspended physiology.

It would take some time for the plan to come to fruition, but the die had been cast.

*****

Shuttle Mediterranean

Sandhurst brought the captain’s yacht out of warp and coasted into the system, coming to rest in orbit of a frozen Class-L planetoid.

Verrik was still trying to determine what this common rock in this unremarkable system had to do with the Amon when he became aware that Sandhurst was facing his direction with a phaser trained on him.

“That escape was far too easy,” Sandhurst offered. “And if I’m not mistaken, I believe you’d removed yourself from duty over a week ago due to unspecified ‘personal issues.’”

The Operative in command of Verrik’s body was suitably impressed. She wasn’t easy to dupe, and yet she’d suspected nothing untoward on the brief journey here. To make matters worse, she had not even perceived the danger posed by Sandhurst until it was too late.

“Your point?” Verrik replied calmly.

“I suspect that you are also part of Pava’s little cabal. It makes sense that he’d take you completely offline in order to allow you to investigate the alterations I’d made to Europa’s systems without drawing attention to yourself.”

“That’s a very logical supposition, Commodore,” Verrik said. “However, it’s also completely incorrect. Verrik took himself off duty because he suspected that his psyche may have been compromised.”

Sandhurst gave him a curious look. “Do you often talk about yourself in the third person?”

Verrik smiled, and Sandhurst found the gesture from the normally Surak-adhering Vulcan to be disturbing. “I usually try not to,” he answered with a hint of playfulness in his voice. “It usually generates unwelcome attention.”

“Who are you?” Sandhurst asked. The fine edge to his tone suggested that further evasion would be met with harsh reprisals.

“I’ve served with you two and a half years, Commodore, first as Olivia Juneau, and now as Verrik. I represent a faction of devout Federation patriots for whom the preservation of our grand union is the highest calling.”

Sandhurst’s eyes narrowed. “Both Juneau and Verrik?” he asked, clearly incredulous.

“What better covert operative could you have than one who can remain hidden in plain sight? I’m what’s known as a neuro-adaptive personality matrix, an intact mind-state that can, with some difficulty, transfer from person to person. I hide behind the scenes, watching and waiting, only coming to the fore when absolutely necessary to accomplish my assigned tasks.”

Verrik saw the light of realization take hold in Sandhurst’s gaze. “Juneau’s seemingly inexplicable displays of bravery and tactical acumen… that was you.”

“Yes,” Verrik answered.

“I’m guessing you belong to one of those secretive cabals we’ve had hints of in the past, like the organization that destroyed Captain Aurelia’s ship.”

“Yes. Pity about Independence and her crew.”

A scowl swept across Sandhurst’s countenance, like a dark storm front. “Wait… Aurelia’s turncoat officer, the one she suspected of being the saboteur, she died under highly improbable circumstances. Was that your doing?”

“It was,” Verrik confirmed. “She’d blown her cover and jeopardized our organization in an egotistical display that was unworthy of the trust that had been placed in her. I eliminated the threat she posed.”

“So, you’re an assassin?”

“I’m an operative, Commodore. I fulfill my assignments in order to defend the Federation against threats both foreign and domestic. Sometimes that necessitates taking lives for the greater good.”

“Given your track record,” Sandhurst asked in a reasonable tone, “how am I supposed to trust you?”

Verrik’s reply was immediate, and voiced just as sensibly. “I saved your life and the lives of your crew at Lakesh.”

Sandhurst nodded knowingly. “The mystery device affixed to the structural integrity field.”

A wistful smile was Verrik’s only confirmation.

“It appears that you’re the only ally I have left,” Sandhurst noted.

“So it would seem.”

Sandhurst lowered the phaser and turned back to his flight controls. “Seeing as I'm suffering from a decided lack of options, you'll have to do.”

*****
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Old February 19 2013, 10:29 PM   #161
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

An intriguing chapter. I didn't expect the operative to be revealed now and I'm curious where this storyline will lead. After all, the Amon probably have some ways to deal with such things...
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Old February 20 2013, 10:54 PM   #162
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Dark.

Epic.

Visceral.

Well done, sir.
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Old February 21 2013, 06:09 PM   #163
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Intrigue upon intrigue.

Another great twist as we wrap long-running subplots into this new epic.

I have a feeling Sandhurst and his crew will be in a very different place when all of this is over.

Great to see your characters constantly evolving.

Looking forward to more.
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Old February 21 2013, 08:41 PM   #164
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Agreed. These characters are going to dark and unfamiliar places and one would think, no matter what happens next, nothing will be the same afterwards.

Really compelling story-telling. Can't wait to see what happens next to Sandhurst, with Europa and Ramirez and the Baron.
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Old February 22 2013, 07:40 AM   #165
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

Chapter 6 <cont'd>

Shuttle Mediterranean


It had taken surprisingly little time for Sandhurst to summon the Amon to the shuttle’s position in the otherwise deserted star system.

Sandhurst had simply lain back in his flight chair, entering a subtle state of delta-sleep during which his higher brain functions shifted into overdrive, despite his outward appearance of being asleep. After few moments, his eyes still shut, he spoke aloud. “Who were you before?”

“I was me,” Verrik answered cryptically, maintaining his attention on the sensors for any signs of approaching vessels.

“And who was that?” Sandhurst pressed, his voice conveying genuine curiosity. “I’m wondering what kind of person allows his intellect to be separated from his body and sent off who-knows-where on missions of national security?”

“Her intellect, actually,” Verrik corrected. “Beyond that, I choose not to say any more.”

Sandhurst cracked an eyelid at that, moving his head fractionally to focus on Verrik though the narrow gap. “It’s important that I know who I’m allied with, and what makes that person tick. Information is power, and while you’ve undoubtedly got terabytes of data on me, I know nothing about you.”

“Pity,” Verrik deadpanned.

“The Amon will be here in short order,” Sandhurst continued. “Although it’s far from certain, I suspect that with their talents it might be possible to dig you out from wherever you’ve latched on to the inside of Verrik’s skull. Then, they can turn you inside out and study you from all angles.”

Verrik paused, glancing over and down at Sandhurst. “I don’t think I’m overly fond of that idea.”

“Nor should you be,” Sandhurst replied. “And after you’ve been poked and prodded to our satisfaction, I have no trouble at all imagining what might become of a non-corporeal entity in the clutches of a species that feeds on life energy.” Sandhurst opened both eyes and gave Verrik a saccharine-sweet smile that bordered on rictus.

Verrik’s expression was tinged with disdain. “For someone who’s called Lar’ragos on the carpet as often as you have, you’ve certainly taken on a number of his less appealing character traits.”

“Says the stone-cold murderer,” Sandhurst parried.

The Vulcan cleared his throat. “Very well, then. What would you like to know?”

“Who, why, and where?”

“I was A’lasha of Vulcan, a soldier mortally wounded in the final battle between the followers of Surak and S’task. My katra was harvested shortly before my death and stored in the last of Vulcan’s pre-Surak katric arks. There it remained for more than two millennia before being unearthed by operatives of our group. I was resurrected without the benefit of a physical body, and implanted in a series of people over the span of decades. In that time I’ve carried out my duties to the best of my abilities.”

Sandhurst nodded in his reclined position. “A fascinating pedigree.”

“I’m so pleased that you approve,” Verrik noted icily.

There was a sudden flash outside the forward viewports and Verrik looked out the windows to see a mammoth Borg sphere hovering a mere five-hundred meters away, dwarfing their shuttle. The Vulcan’s mouth dropped open as the Operative struggled to overcome her reflexive terror.

“Our ride’s here,” Sandhurst said as he sat up in his seat. He came to his feet and patted Verrik on the shoulder. “Time to say ‘hello’ to the Amon.”

*****
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