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Old February 23 2013, 11:05 PM   #166
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I'm unsure about Sandhurst. He seems to know what he's doing, but I'm still getting a Gary Mitchell (from Where No Man Has Gone Before) vibe. I hope I'm wrong.
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Old February 24 2013, 08:43 PM   #167
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I suddenly feel sorry for A’lasha. I think that's the first time I felt sympathy for the deep, deep cover agent. Seeing how she played a vital role in Sandhurst's escape, her chances of not becoming an Amon snack are pretty good.
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Old March 4 2013, 01:50 AM   #168
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

Chapter 6 <cont'd>

Amon Scout


Verrik and Sandhurst materialized in the center of a large, brightly lit compartment whose periphery was marked by organic-looking structural support ribs. The once very Borg interior had been exhaustively redesigned to reflect the Amon aesthetic.

The Vulcan was instantly paralyzed by some manner of invisible containment field, unable to move other than for his eyes, though Sandhurst was not similarly restrained.

A voice called out, projected into the chamber with significant volume that caused the Operative to curse Verrik’s Vulcan ears.

“Zeischt, you are a welcome sight. You have returned to the fold.”

“I had no choice, as you well know.”

“You speak of it as though it were a tragedy, not an occasion for rejoicing.”

“Our cousins have killed millions for sport. That’s nothing to celebrate,” Sandhurst answered hotly.

“Regardless, it pleases us greatly to see you among us once again.”

“There is much to do,” Sandhurst replied. He turned to look at the immobilized Verrik before announcing, “This one has a second consciousness superimposed over that of the host body. Is it possible for us to separate the two?”

“It is possible, though it is not something undertaken lightly. It will take significant effort and great delicacy.”


“Then please begin.” Sandhurst moved deeper into the chamber, removing his uniform as if shedding an ill-fitting skin. Graceful humanoid figures emerged from out of the surrounding light, moving to dress him gently in the flowing, stylized garments of the Amon.

“How far are we from Transcendant?” he inquired.

“A few days journey.”

“I need to speak with the elders and BattleMasters about our cousins. They cannot be allowed to continue their campaign of slaughter against the peoples of this galaxy.”

“It will be done.”

*****

USS Europa, Captain's Ready Room

Newly promoted Rear Admiral Isaac Gareth studied the image of Pava Lar’ragos from his own ready room aboard the Astraeus-class explorer Helios.

“No two ways about it, Commander, you’re in it up to your neck,” the admiral summarized.

Lar’ragos inclined his head in agreement. “Which is precisely why I’m requesting clarification of our orders, sir. I’d understand if you’d rather someone more experienced make First Contact with the Ferou.“

“Even if I weren’t comfortable with your abilities, Mister Lar’ragos, there’s nobody else in range. The rest of the task force is spread out across the adjoining sectors.”

“I see, sir.” Lar’ragos replied neutrally. It wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t having the carpet pulled out from under him, either.

Gareth sat back in his chair, intertwining his fingers above his lap. “Given the shakeups in your senior staff that Europa's suffered the past few weeks, I’d ideally return you to Galaxy Station to take on additional personnel. However, we haven’t the time, so you’ll have to make do.”

“Do you have any instructions on how to reorganize my senior officers, sir?”

Gareth’s smile was almost imperceptible. “I’m not my predecessor, Commander. You know your people far better than I. Adjust their assignments to fill your staffing vacancies as you see fit. You’re in command now, Mister Lar’ragos.”

The El Aurian nodded reluctantly in response. “And the matter of Commodore Sandhurst?”

A visible wave of regret swept across Gareth’s features before the man’s expression hardened. “For the record, promoting him to commodore and giving him free reign to run amok was entirely my fault, and I take full responsibility for that decision. I’m grateful that you and your officers discovered the truth about what was happening behind the scenes. We’ll continue to search for both Sandhurst and Lieutenant Verrik, but in the end they’re only two men weighed against the billions back home we're trying to safeguard.”

“Understood.”

“And off the record, Lar’ragos, if Donald finds his way back to the Amon and can do something to bring their vicious kinsmen to heel, all the better.”

Lar’ragos’ eyes narrowed at this admission. “So, we’re leaving him in the wind on purpose?”

“I’m hedging my bets,” Gareth confessed. “Though I’m loath to admit it, all the decisions that Sandhurst’s made recently from establishing Galaxy Station to the attack on the En-Il-Que were the right calls from the perspective of the Federation’s goals. I’m hoping the man hasn’t gone as far off the reservation as it seems. He may have had ulterior motives, but the results were in lock-step with our mission’s objectives.”

A faint flutter of hope stirred to life in Pava’s chest. “Yes, sir.”

“Proceed to First Contact with the Ferou. Based on the results of that effort, further instructions will follow. Continue to try and reinstate Sandhurst’s transwarp drive if at all possible, but not at the risk of damaging your existing propulsion systems. Should you detect any signs of your missing captain’s gig or your two AWOL officers, I want to know about it before you do anything. Is that understood?”

“Crystal clear, Admiral,” Lar’ragos replied obediently.

“Very well,” Gareth said by way of sendoff. “Best of fortune to you and your crew, Captain. Helios, out.”

Lar’ragos was left staring at the Starfleet delta image for a long moment as he processed the contents of the exchange and their import. He then reached out to call up the senior staff roster, his eyes drawn to the void at the Security/Tactical department head’s post.

“Marine Lieutenant Tiedermeyer, report to the captain’s ready room,” Lar’ragos called out.

*****
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Old March 4 2013, 08:56 PM   #169
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

"Captain" Lar'ragos. Never thought I'd see that.

Tiedermeyer . . . Niedermeyer . . . *coffee spew*
I see what you did there.

Hopefully Ensign Flounder won't put Tiedermeyer's horse in Pava's ready room.
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Old March 5 2013, 02:23 AM   #170
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
"Captain" Lar'ragos. Never thought I'd see that.

Tiedermeyer . . . Niedermeyer . . . *coffee spew*
I see what you did there.

Hopefully Ensign Flounder won't put Tiedermeyer's horse in Pava's ready room.
I must admit that I completely miss this reference.
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Old March 5 2013, 02:33 AM   #171
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths - Chapter 7

Chapter 7

USS Excalibur
Sigma-Crixus System, Beta Quadrant


“Talk about hiding in plain sight,” Captain Rathbone murmured from where she looked over the shoulder of her science officer.

“Indeed, sir,” agreed the Caitian scientist. He adjusted the sensor returns to filter out ambient background radiation, enhancing the image on his display even further. “Its base dimensions are identical to the ones listed in our historical database, though the surface is encrusted with a multitude of habitat structures.”

The enormous cylindrical alien device sat in the corona of an orange K-Class star, seemingly immune to the massive energies being radiated in its immediate vicinity. With their shields at full, Excalibur would have lasted less than a minute in such proximity to the star’s fury.

The Tactical officer offered, “This variation of the probe matches the description of the one that attacked both the Klingon colony and the Ganopus system.”

Rathbone glanced back over her shoulder at the lanky Saurian standing at the Tactical console. “They hit the Ganopus system three weeks ago, over fifteen hundred light-years from here. How the hell can they have covered that distance is so short a time?”

“The maximum velocity of the Whalesong Probe was never determined, Captain,“ the Caitian science officer pointed out. “It’s believed to have been on a deceleration curve when it transited Klingon space and breached Federation territory in the 23rd century.”

He input a series of commands into his station, calling up a wire-frame graphic of the probe set against the blue/green color scheme of a 23rd century LCARS display. “During its departure from Earth, the probe disappeared off Lexington’s long-range sensors traveling at the modern equivalent of Warp nine-point-seven-three and it was still accelerating.”

Rathbone nodded somberly as she returned to the captain’s chair. “Well, however they did it, they’re here now. Prepare a priority-one update for Starfleet Command alerting them to the probe’s position and our circumstances.”

“Do we attack, sir?” The query came from her XO, a relatively young officer who’d made a name for himself during the Dominion War and in the chaotic times that followed.

Rathbone favored the first officer with a quizzical expression that was meant as an invitation for him to reconsider if he really wanted to have this conversation in front of the rest of the senior staff.

“Captain?” he pressed when she did not reply immediately.

“You mean when we launch an assault alongside our imaginary fleet?” Rathbone asked, making an expansive gesture with her arms to encompass their make-believe battle group. “We’re one ship, and this thing kills star systems, Commander.”

“I’m well aware of the tactical disparity, sir,” he replied evenly. “However, if we could get close enough to the star, we could attempt to trigger a stellar flare event that would engulf the vessel.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

“Affirmative, Captain,” he continued, undaunted by her skepticism. “I used the technique myself at the Battle of Regula.”

The XO missed the rolling eyes, air-quotes gestures, and perfectly timed lip-synching of his oft-mentioned ‘Battle of Regula’ from multiple officers seated behind him. Rathbone had to fight the urge to burst into laughter at the pantomime going on behind the young lieutenant commander’s back. She reminded herself to chide the lot of them about this at a later time.

The so-called Battle of Regula had been a minor skirmish in which the XO’s inspired solar eruption had wiped out a grand total of five Jem’Hadar Scarab-class heavy fighters.

“The probe is just sitting there, XO, bathing in the grandeur of the star’s warmth. What makes you believe an eruption would have any effect on their obviously formidable defenses?”

“I don’t know that, sir, but given the circumstances I believe it’s well worth the attempt.”

Rathbone nodded slowly. “It’s a good idea, Richard, it really is. However, I’m not going to risk this crew on a gamble like that. We don’t even know if they’d allow us close enough to initiate a flare, a flare that might do no damage to them whatsoever. The safest, sanest course of action is to notify Command of the probe’s presence and standby for further orders.”

To his credit, the young XO accepted her decision with a prompt, “Aye, sir.”

She had to admit, despite his ego, the man knew when to shut up and step into line.

“Message to Starfleet ready, Captain,” The Ops officer announced.

“Transmit,” she ordered.

*****
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Old March 5 2013, 03:57 PM   #172
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
"Captain" Lar'ragos. Never thought I'd see that.

Tiedermeyer . . . Niedermeyer . . . *coffee spew*
I see what you did there.

Hopefully Ensign Flounder won't put Tiedermeyer's horse in Pava's ready room.
I must admit that I completely miss this reference.
It's from "Animal House," starring John Belushi, circa 1978.
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Old March 5 2013, 08:30 PM   #173
Gibraltar
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Gibraltar wrote: View Post
TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
"Captain" Lar'ragos. Never thought I'd see that.

Tiedermeyer . . . Niedermeyer . . . *coffee spew*
I see what you did there.

Hopefully Ensign Flounder won't put Tiedermeyer's horse in Pava's ready room.
I must admit that I completely miss this reference.
It's from "Animal House," starring John Belushi, circa 1978.
Ahh. It's been ages since I've seen it.
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Old March 7 2013, 08:18 PM   #174
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Kudos to Rathbone for being the cooler head in this situation and needlessly jumping into a possible no-win situation. Not every captain is able to show this kind of restraint.

In the meantime the game of musical captain's chair continues on Europa. I'm curious to see how Pava will fare in the center seat.
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Old March 8 2013, 05:32 AM   #175
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Excellent addition(s), Sam. I think you need to hurry up and give us the next bit because I really want to see how Pava handles his new duties, especially given his recent exploits (not just with Sandhurst). That mission in the Badlands he commanded has to be weighing on his mind somehow.

And you're kind of making me consider another TFV story.

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Old March 17 2013, 05:02 AM   #176
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 7 continued)

Chapter 7 <cont'd>

“What are your impressions of the Federation’s tactics thus far?” Commander Xerix inquired of the others present at the large oval table aboard the warbird Cinecaar. All six ships of their attack squadron were presently gathered in the upper atmosphere of a gas-giant, their leaders attending a commander’s conference prior to launching their planned assault.

Ejiul tr'Aimne of the Yowaen cocked his head thoughtfully before replying, “I never thought I’d live to see the day when Starfleet finally found its backbone. The strategies and tactics employed by their task force in general, and Europa in particular, are positively Rihannsu in their effectiveness.”

“Agreed,” Commander Suban tr’Utliss of the Roakel offered in support. “That only serves to make the Federation more dangerous, not less. However, this new aggressive posture of theirs may work to serve our interests here in the Delta Quadrant.” She smiled thinly.

Sub-Commander Chalois kept her own counsel, conscious of the fact that although she commanded Vexam, she continued to do so only at the sufferance of the others. This was compounded by her commoner ancestry, unlike the highborn pedigrees of the others, all of whom were affiliated with various great houses.

Until she achieved equal rank, Chalois would do well to tread softly in the presence of the other commanders. There were already rumors that some of her fellow warbird captains had labeled her ‘weak’, because she’d accepted Starfleet assistance rather than suffer the loss of her ship and crew.

Rather than participate in their entertaining but ultimately pointless debate over the Federation’s intentions, Chalois sought to direct the briefing towards their upcoming mission.

“We’ve learned some about the Ferou, both from our own probes as well as decrypted signals intercepts from Starfleet’s own reports on them,” Chalois stated. “However, much about them remains a mystery. We know they are highly advanced, even by the empire’s standards, and that their ships are able to sustain higher warp speeds for longer periods than any of the other invasive species we’ve observed thus far.”

Toreth grinned. “Always mindful of the next mission, eh, Sub-Commander?”

Chalois’ expression was a mask of studied neutrality. “It seemed appropriate, Commander. However, if you’d prefer to revisit the previous conversation, the floor is yours.”

“No, no,” Toreth laughed, waving away her concerns. “I had forgotten how tenacious you can be when an enemy is in your sights, Sub-Commander. If I recall correctly, you've always saved the more esoteric discussions for after the enemy’s necks were beneath our collective boot. You may continue.” He spared an admiring glance at Ejiul, both men having previously discussed their admiration for Chalois’ keen intellect and determination, not to mention her physical beauty.

She did so, proceeding as if he’d never interrupted. “What we don’t know is the exact biology of the Ferou, whether or not they’re humanoid. Their constituent hull materials prevent accurate biometric scans. Additionally, their weapons and shields appear quite formidable, but we have no accurate gauge of their tactical prowess in combat.”

“Meaning?” interjected Xerix, his tone abrasively haughty.

“Meaning, Commander, that although they are well armed, we have no idea if they can actually defend effectively against an attack. It’s possible that over the years their tactical profile alone has prevented others from mounting raids against them. If that’s the case, they may be all talon and no venom.”

“So much the better,” Suban crowed approvingly. “Are we still agreed on staging our opening attack to coincide with Starfleet’s First Contact with the Ferou?”

Xerix, senior among them, nodded emphatically. “Yes. Europa has already made successful contact with them via subspace, and they’ll no doubt be fast friends by the time Starfleet arrives for their first face-to-face encounter. While this is occurring, we’ll string our cloaked mines in the path of their fleet. Then we’ll launch our strike from their flanks, hopefully prompting them to jump back to warp where they’ll impact our minefield at relativistic speeds. The destruction inflicted on them should be… significant.”

Inside, Chalois smoldered with fury at the idea of their using an ally’s First Contact as a staging ground for an unprovoked attack. However, to openly speak against the plan would be grounds for her ouster, a move that would effectively end her military career. Instead, she cloaked her disgust in the planning of operational matters. “And should Europa move to engage us? What then?”

Toreth scowled as he envisioned such a turn of events. “They wouldn’t dare. They are our allies, and once battle has begun, they will have only two choices. They can join in our assault or they can flee like a pack of frightened hlai, their tails firmly between their legs.”

Ejiul’s expression was similarly dour, but for a much different reason. “How can we be sure the Ferou will not voluntarily accede to Starfleet’s request to change course or settle nearby?” He glanced around the table, seeking like minds. “Should we not at least give them the opportunity to consider their options before moving to strike?”

“This course has already been decided at the highest levels of the Galae,” Xerix said evenly, a hint of danger tingeing his voice. “Access to Ferou weapons technology could advance Rihannsu arms by a generation almost overnight, and need I remind you that Europa now possesses hyper-warp capability? Do any of you favor having a Federation battle fleet appear without warning in orbit of ch'Rihan? The very thought of our being at the mercy of as undisciplined and fractious a nation as the Federation freezes the blood in my veins.”

“So we initiate a sneak attack on their fleet and fly right into the sights of those very same advanced weapons?” Ejiul pressed, knowing his position and that of his family would soften any repercussions from his pushing the issue. “Is that really the best use of those few warbirds we’ve managed to fly intact through our wormhole?”

“When all is said and done, we will sift through the wreckage of their ships among our minefield for their weapons at our leisure,” Xerix announced coldly, his tone now brooking no argument. ”This discussion is now over.”

*****
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Old March 17 2013, 07:12 PM   #177
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

The Romulans are scheming and plotting just as you'd expect from Romulans. But this plan is wicked even for them. Is Europa and Task Force Vanguard going to find themselves in another shooting war with a refugee race instigated by others? Considering the way that work out before, let's hope not.

I continue to like Chalois. She's of that rare breed of reasonable Romulans. Perhaps she can find a way to prevent this to turn into yet another disaster.
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Old March 20 2013, 06:00 AM   #178
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 7 continued)

Chapter 7 <cont'd>

It had been so long since Lar’ragos had used his innate abilities for anything other than tactical purposes, he’d almost forgotten how rewarding it could be.

Communications with the Ferou had started off as audio-only, in sporadic and awkward exchanges until the Universal Translator had established a linguistic matrix for the aliens’ language.

Once clear communications had been established, Lar’ragos informed the Ferou that they were approaching a heavily populated region of the galaxy, comprised of many disparate governments, more than a few of them openly hostile to perceived interlopers.

Over the days that followed, a dialogue had ensued with the mysterious race, which proved reluctant to show themselves or reveal much at all about their physical or social characteristics. They were polite and pleasant, but inscrutable otherwise.

The Ferou made no promises as to altering their present course, but continued to ask numerous detailed questions about the societies of the Alpha Quadrant and the prevalence of Class-M planets in the region.

When after six days of ongoing conversations the species finally agreed to visual communications, they were revealed as graceful creatures of indeterminate origin, non-humanoid, and ephemeral in their appearance. Ranging in color from dusky brown to ghostly white, they appeared almost insubstantial, as though a strong wind gust might rend them apart.

Theirs had been a low-gravity world, barely a tenth of Earth’s standard 1 g, and the Ferou had originally evolved in a region of the planet where deep valleys and gorges had protected their fragile ancestors from the ravages of predators and inclement weather.

The ensuring discussions between the Ferou and Lar’ragos, Counselor Liu, and Science Officer Shanthi proved highly educational for both sides, especially with the valuable diplomatic input of Pell Ojana, participating via subspace from Galaxy Station.

Thus the delicate ballet of diplomacy and intercultural exchange had been handled to the best of Europa’s collective abilities leading up to the first face-to-face meeting. It was as good an initial First Contact scenario as one could hope for, especially given the significant divergence in biology between the species.

*****

Transporter Room Two, USS Europa

“There’s a handful semi-corporeal species on record, dating all the way back to Earth’s pre-Federation explorations of the mid-22nd century,” explained Shanthi as the diplomatic party assisted one another in the final alignment of fasteners, the straightening of creases, and the lint-removal of their dress uniforms in the transporter room.

“But there’s nothing close to the specifics of the Ferou. They seem to be a unique composite of an amorphous high-tensile but low-weight biological weave, something akin to Terran spider-silk, which generates a highly-charged electromagnetic field. It’s that field that the Ferou use to move and manipulate their environment.”

Lar’ragos and Liu exchanged a knowing smile, both officers amused by the young scientist’s obvious zeal for the mission.

“But nothing that’s going to shock us, though, right?” Liu inquired as he fiddled with the cuff of his left sleeve for the third time in as many minutes.

“No, no,” Shanthi enthused. “Well… not much, anyway.” The tall Zulu frowned and opened his tricorder to re-check his figures yet again.

Of all of them, Lar’ragos seemed the only one not bothered by the stiff, high-necked ceremonial garments.

“How can these not drive you crazy, sir?” Taiee asked, her own neck already chaffing after only a few minutes.

“Try being completely enclosed in Class-4 combat armor at sixty degrees Celsius for eighteen hours on surveillance detail,” he replied wryly. “No contest.”

The transporter technician motioned to Lar’ragos, calling him up out of the throng and into the control booth. The acting-XO was awaiting him on a visual feed from the bridge.

Lar’ragos gazed down at the image of Juneau seated in the captain’s chair. “How are things topside, Lieutenant?”

“Good, sir. I’ve got a few last minute updates for you, Captain,” she replied, referencing a padd in her hand. “No abnormal activity from the Ferou, and their fleet formation has dropped to impulse speeds in preparation for our rendezvous. What we have detected is two anomalous sensor ghosts approximately fifteen-million kilometers out that seem to be remaining at a constant distance from us.”

That caught Pava’s attention. “What do you think?”

“My guess is it’s our Romulan friends, sir. Since our encounter with the Vexam, they’ve been getting progressively better at attenuating their cloaks to mask themselves from our sensors.”

“Agreed,” Lar’ragos concurred. “They’re just curious, and they’re willing to let us do all the leg work while they sit back and take copious notes and detailed sensor readings.”

“Should we alert the Ferou to the Romulans’ presence, sir?” Juneau asked. “They might get spooked if they’re able to detect them at closer range, or if one of them decides to decloak without warning.”

“Good idea. Make their presence known to the Ferou, and let them know it’s likely our shy allies keeping watch.”

“Aye, sir. Good luck.”

Lar’ragos signed off, nodded to the chief, and stepped down into the crowd congregating at the base of the transporter dais.

“Okay,” Lar’ragos said, quieting the group. “Remember, we’ll be dealing with a point-one-seven g environment, so we’re going to be very nearly weightless over there. Be mindful of your movement, especially if any Ferou are in close proximity to you. We’re the proverbial bulls in their china shop, and as delicate as they are, an otherwise harmless gesture with one of our limbs could cause one of them significant injury.”

Lar’ragos nodded to Shanthi, prompting him to take over.

“Their atmospheric oxygen content is lower than ours,” Shanthi explained. “That’s why Lieutenant Taiee’s given each of us a Tri-Ox booster that should keep us at normal levels without breather units. If you begin to feel lightheaded, and it seems to be more than just a case of the low-g willies, let Doc know ASAP.”

Taiee stepped forward to continue, “We received information ahead of time on all of the Ferou foodstuffs that they’ll be serving at the diplomatic reception, and we’ve eliminated everything that would prove toxic to humans and El Aurians. They’re primarily vegetarian, thankfully, though be warned, most of the prey-animals they traditionally hunted have the consistency of Terran jellyfish.”

That elicited more than a few groans.

“If you eat something that disagrees with you, and most of us probably will, come see me straightaway and I’ll give you something to settle your stomach.”

Lar’ragos clapped his hands enthusiastically. “Alright, children, everyone onto the pad who’s going on this field trip. Stay with your travel-buddies, and no horse-play.”

As the away team assembled on the transporter dais, Taiee nudged Lar’ragos in the ribs with her elbow as she whispered. “Who are you calling children?”

Lar’ragos rolled his eyes in response. “I’m four-hundred years old, Doc. You’re all children to me.”

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; March 20 2013 at 06:40 AM.
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Old March 21 2013, 08:35 AM   #179
CeJay
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Loving the way you're building the tension here. The Romulans are lurking and we know what they've got planned but nobody on Europa seems to have a clue, even the usually tactically minded Pava doesn't see the threat yet. Even though the call to let the Ferou know about their presence was a good move which may prove pivotal later on.

Also, good to see Pava in an unfamiliar role. He's doing alright so far.
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Old March 22 2013, 02:11 PM   #180
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

It seems Pava is not only ready for command, but actually enjoying the diplomatic and cultural dance of first contact.

Too bad the Romulans are lurking, hoping to spoil the party.
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