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Old April 7 2013, 07:05 PM   #196
CeJay
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Wow, gruesome but absolutely justified.

Didn't see that coming at all and all the kudos here as to go to Juneau who's really stepping up to the plate here in a surprising turnaround. But then of course after serving on Gibraltar under Sandhurst, Ramirez and Pava, something had to rub off.

Now how will the Romulans react? And what's Masada's next move?
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Old April 8 2013, 10:51 PM   #197
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I'm still snickering as I type this..... Yes, I know: I'm a horrible, horrible person.
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Old April 15 2013, 03:08 AM   #198
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 8 continued)

Chapter 8 <cont'd>

Lar’ragos’ eyes fluttered open onto unfamiliar surroundings. He was lying prone, atop a reasonably comfortable surface. There was soft lighting overhead, and a suite of sensors extending down from the ceiling that looked suspiciously like medical diagnostic scanners. He was in some kind of medical center.

The last thing Lar’ragos remembered was being nearly weightless aboard the Ferou ship, the vessel shuddering violently from disruptor impacts as the graceful creatures had wailed in panic. He’d tried to contact Europa, but comms were either being jammed or there was too much interference from the storm of weapons fire that had enveloped the Ferou flagship.

There had been a terrible shrieking sound, like metal tearing, and then a fearsome blast of wind that he guessed was the explosive decompression of the compartment. Before he could even think to react, something had seized him… and then, nothing.

He didn’t bother trying to sit up, as he sensed the familiar tingle across his chest of a restraining field.

“We haven’t much time,” a voice said in accented Federation Standard. “If I release this field, do I have your assurance that you won’t attempt anything overly dramatic?”

Lar’ragos turned his head to find himself looking up at a male Romulan officer, bearing all the severe military discipline one would expect. The man was flanked by two towering Reman soldiers, both of them looming specters that fairly oozed lethality.

“You appear to have me at a disadvantage…” Lar’ragos croaked as he squinted to make out the man’s rank. “…Arrain. What makes you think I’m capable of sitting up, let alone cause you harm?”

“Your reputation proceeds you, Commander. Your biography is a colorful one, painted largely in the palette of blood.”

“If my word will do, I offer it.” Lar’ragos averted his eyes briefly to look upon the Reman warriors, before setting his gaze on the centurion. “Where are my people?”

“The commander beamed all of your party off the Ferou ship as we attacked. As for your people aboard your own vessel, I cannot say. There has been fierce combat, and the situation is confused.”

The restraining field above him vanished in a brief flash of ionization and Lar’ragos sat up gingerly, working his jaw experimentally as he held his hands to his ears.

The Romulan officer took a step back, either out of politeness or in deference to Pava’s reputation. “Your eardrums were ruptured when the ship’s hull was breached. You’ll have to forgive our surgeon’s inexperience with non-Rihannsu auditory organs, he did his best.”

“It’s appreciated,” Lar’ragos murmured, turning his head to observe the other diplomatic team members atop their own biobeds, all of them apparently sedated. “Who do I have to thank for the rescue?”

“Sub-Commander Chalois apparently felt a blood debt was owed,” the Romulan replied, his expression conveying distaste.

“Then she has my gratitude,” Lar’ragos replied.

“Your presence is requested on the bridge,” the Romulan indicated, gesturing to the door.

Lar’ragos walked gingerly to the exit, silently sizing up his surroundings and potential adversaries, should a direct confrontation become necessary. Old habits died hard.

*****

The atmosphere on Vexam’s bridge was understandably tense when Lar’ragos was led into the command center.

“No sign of the gunship,” a centurion manning the sensors said quietly. “Europa is falling back, away from Cinecaar.”

“Still no reply from Cinecaar to our transmissions?" Chalois inquired from the command chair.

“None, Sub-Commander, and we’re detecting no life signs. The radiation surge from the starship appears to have killed everyone onboard.”

Chalois turned to face Lar’ragos as he was led toward her seat.

“The Federation captain, Sub-Commander.”

She inspected Lar’ragos briefly, curiosity flickering across her features as she observed, “Every time I encounter your ship, someone else is in command.”

“We like to keep things fresh,” he remarked casually in reply. “I’m led to believe I have you to thank for our rescue from your ambush on the Ferou.”

“Just so,” she confirmed. “I will return you to your ship, but I cannot promise how long I will be able to keep our comrades from attacking. Your ‘rogue’ vessel, Masada, has joined the battle and destroyed two of our ships.”

“She’s not one of ours,” Lar’ragos underscored. “Masada has attacked our ships as well.”

Chalois’ expression tightened. “There is more. One of our commanders sought right of vengeance against Europa for betraying our presence to the Ferou. He opened fire on your ship, and in return, your crew killed every living soul aboard his warbird.”

Lar’ragos could feel the heated gazes of the bridge officers burning into him. They were Romulans, and their blood burned with the desire for revenge, regardless of the how and why of their fellows' deaths.

He allowed his senses to sift and parse her responses, finding a surprising subtext to her words. “Did my people attack without provocation?”

“No,” Chalois replied truthfully.

“Did they have any choice but to defend themselves?”

Again, the answer was, “No.”

“Then I fail to see the problem,” he said softly. He stepped forward, prompting the Reman soldiers to stiffen in anticipation. “Sub-Commander, you and you alone can stop this slaughter. The Ferou have done nothing to you, and yet you drew first blood. Why?”

“Orders,” she hissed. “It makes no difference now. The battle is over; the Ferou have fled.”

“You aren’t pursuing them?” he inquired, directing the question to the junior officer who’d escorted him to the bridge. He’d earlier detected an undercurrent of avarice in the voice of the young arrain.

“Pursuit is unnecessary,” the lieutenant crowed, only to be silenced by a scathing look from Chalois.

“I see,” Lar’ragos murmured, the pieces falling together in his mind. He turned his gaze to Chalois. “What is the status of my ship?”

“Damaged, but intact,” she offered. “As soon as your compatriots have been awakened, I’ll have you all returned.”

Lar’ragos wet his chapped lips, weighing his options. “Sub-Commander, whatever it is you have planned for the Ferou, I can’t allow you to carry it through. They’re a peaceful people who’ve done nothing to warrant your hostility.”

“I have my orders,” Chalois sighed in a brittle tone. The weight of the deed upon her was evident.

“I won’t allow it,” he challenged, an icy serenity falling over him as though someone had thrown a switch.

Despite her distaste for her assigned mission, Chalois bristled at the man’s arrogance. Who was he to throw down a gauntlet at her feet while standing on her own bridge? “Your options appear… limited,” she allowed with a hint of dark humor.

“They’re really not.”

“Enough,” she ordered. “Take him back to MedBay.”

Lar’ragos took a step closer. “Don’t compound your mistake, Sub-Commander.”

“The mistake of saving you, you mean?” she asked with a disbelieving sneer.

“No,” he offered quietly. “Your mistake was letting me on your bridge.”

The Reman warriors pounced, but not quickly enough…

*****
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Old April 15 2013, 03:53 PM   #199
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

*face-palm*

So, the Romulans knew who Pava was. They even had a dossier on him?

And they let him on the bridge? Without restraints? Within striking distance of their commanding officer!?!



Well then. This should be entertaining.
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Old April 15 2013, 07:19 PM   #200
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Pava and the others were rescued by Chalois in the nick of time which doesn't come as a huge surprise as I don't think anyone expected Pava to bite the dust just yet.

Will he be able to take over the bridge? Absolutely. The whole ship? By himself? Not so sure. But I'm curious to see what he is hoping to achieve. The Romulans have already admitted they have no further plans for the Ferou. Maybe this move will force the Romulans to back off from pursuing the battered Europa but there must have been a way of doing this without alienating a possible ally.

Interesting choice.
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Old April 15 2013, 08:11 PM   #201
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

CeJay wrote: View Post
Pava and the others were rescued by Chalois in the nick of time which doesn't come as a huge surprise as I don't think anyone expected Pava to bite the dust just yet.

Will he be able to take over the bridge? Absolutely. The whole ship? By himself? Not so sure. But I'm curious to see what he is hoping to achieve. The Romulans have already admitted they have no further plans for the Ferou. Maybe this move will force the Romulans to back off from pursuing the battered Europa but there must have been a way of doing this without alienating a possible ally.

Interesting choice.
Actually, the Ferou fleet is warping toward a cloaked Romulan minefield. The Romulans hope to sift through the resulting wreckage to recover bits of their advanced weapons systems.
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Old April 15 2013, 08:44 PM   #202
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
CeJay wrote: View Post
Pava and the others were rescued by Chalois in the nick of time which doesn't come as a huge surprise as I don't think anyone expected Pava to bite the dust just yet.

Will he be able to take over the bridge? Absolutely. The whole ship? By himself? Not so sure. But I'm curious to see what he is hoping to achieve. The Romulans have already admitted they have no further plans for the Ferou. Maybe this move will force the Romulans to back off from pursuing the battered Europa but there must have been a way of doing this without alienating a possible ally.

Interesting choice.
Actually, the Ferou fleet is warping toward a cloaked Romulan minefield. The Romulans hope to sift through the resulting wreckage to recover bits of their advanced weapons systems.
Ah, ok, I didn't read into the subtext. Good thing Pava did. Well, I suppose we're soon going to find out if it was good or not.
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Old April 16 2013, 11:59 PM   #203
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

You could almost call this chapter a lull considering how things have been going lately...
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Old April 21 2013, 11:16 PM   #204
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 8 continued)

Chapter 8 <cont'd>

Lar’ragos drove a high knee into the sternum of one of the hulking Reman, forcing the soldier backwards as the El Aurian slashed out to the side with a knife-hand strike to the escorting centurion’s throat. The gagging arrain stumbled back into the other oncoming Reman soldier, tangling him up for the brief second Lar’ragos needed to get some breathing room.

Lar’ragos vaulted over a nearby console, while kicking out at its operator. He landed awkwardly, fell and rolled beneath another console abutting the outer bulkhead. Having thus unintentionally caged himself, he foot-swept the first Romulan who approached, sending the man crashing to the deck.

An instant later as he tried to clamber out from under the station, a disruptor beam set to stun lanced into his defensive hidey-hole and incapacitated him.

Sub-Commander Chalois holstered her weapon as she gestured for Lar’ragos to be collected and brought to her. A moment later, Lar’ragos knelt before her, held upright by his arms, his head lolling.

“Just what were you hoping to accomplish by that?” she inquired acidly.

Lar’ragos finally began to reassert control over his body, forcing his eyes to focus on the Romulan captain. “See—seemed… like a good… idea… at the time,” he rasped.

“I rescue you and your people, and this is how you repay me?”

“Can’t… can’t let you destroy the Ferou. They’ve done... nothing wrong.”

“They’re a threat!” Chalois shouted. “Their intent is irrelevant. Their mere presence endangers the Alpha Quadrant. You warned them to change course, did you not? You told them there would be trouble ahead.”

Lar’ragos had now recovered sufficiently to raise his head and glare up at Chalois. “If this is how your people intend to conduct themselves out here, then you might as well cast aside our alliance. We won’t have any part of it.”

“Your own people have launched brutal attacks against the incoming aggressor species.”

He nodded. “Yes, against those proven hostile and unwilling to negotiate. We were involved in active negotiations with the Ferou when you ambushed them without provocation.”

Chalois sighed. “Enough of this. Take him back to MedBay. If he resists, kill him.”

“Lar’ragos one-four-nine-zed-zed,” he blurted for no discernible reason.

A computer interface tone chimed softly somewhere on the bridge. ‘Authorization confirmed.’

Lar’ragos ordered, “Stun everyone on the bridge but me.”

There was a near-instantaneous series of greenish flashes and everyone save Lar’ragos crumpled.

He stood slowly and walked across the compartment to kneel down and retrieve his combadge from where he’d placed it beneath the console he'd been hiding under. "Thank you, Mister Shanthi. Very helpful indeed," he murmured.

Shanthi had spent weeks working on the cybernetic-pathogen that had overwritten Vexam’s programming and given control of the ship over to the registered owner of the combadge. While Europa’s personnel had assisted Vexam’s crew with repairs some months earlier, they had covertly mapped the ship’s data pathways, defenses and neural substrate. The invasive program had been loaded into the combadges of all Europa's senior officers in case of just such an eventuality involving the mercurial Romulans.

On his way to the command chair, Lar'ragos stepped over the unconscious form of Chalois. He looked down at her, a grim smile forming on his lips. "One of these days, people might just stop underestimating Starfleet. I hope not, though."

He glanced up in deference to the omnipresent 'ship.' "Switch all systems over to emergency automation and flood all decks except the main bridge with… what’s the Rihannsu equivalent of anesthazine?”

‘Maroptacine’, the computer replied helpfully.

“Right, flood all other decks with maroptacine and transport all Rihannsu life forms on the bridge to the nearest cargo bay.”

‘Confirmed. Orders executed.’

Lar’ragos lowered himself into the command chair. “Set an intercept course with Europa and open an encrypted point-to-point comms channel to the ship. I’ll provide the cypher…” he entered the information by hand into the abbreviated console affixed to the command chair.

“Initiate data-mining inquiry. I want to know what additional threats the Rihannsu have planned for the Ferou.”

*****
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Old April 21 2013, 11:51 PM   #205
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Not so sure about Starfleet but underestimate Pava Lar'ragos at your own peril. How did Chalois not realize this? Oh she going to be so mad when she wakes up.

Too bad Pava couldn't find a more diplomatic solution here. But then of course he's playing to his strengths and nobody ever claimed diplomacy to be one of them.
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Old April 26 2013, 10:30 PM   #206
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths - Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Chalois opened her eyes slowly, stretching as though having awakened from a restful nap. Her eyes focused on Lar’ragos after a moment, and then widened as her memories caught up. “Not… what I was expecting,” she rasped.

Lar’ragos passed her a water bulb and Chalois drank greedily, draining it. “Thank you.”

The El Aurian sat atop a stool at Chalois’ bedside in the warbird’s MedBay. He looked down on her with a wistful expression. “Thank you for having your distruptor set to stun,” Lar’ragos replied. “And now we’ve arrived at the point where I ask if I read you correctly on the bridge?”

Chalois blinked and sighed deeply. “I see that your people’s abilities are no exaggeration. However, I was expecting something a bit less…”

“Dramatic?” he offered.

“Permanent,” she finished. “How were you able to wrest control of our computers?”

“My people engaged in a bit of unauthorized snooping while assisting with your repairs after Vexam was attacked by the En-Il-Que.”

She smiled humorlessly in response. “How very cunning of you, Captain.” Chalois shook her head gently atop her pillow, as if trying to clear it. “I had been trying to convey to you, covertly, that the Ferou were still in danger.”

“Yes,” he acknowledged. “The minefield. It took a bit of digging through your database, but we finally located the coordinates of that trap. I’ve spoken with the Ferou, and they’ve changed course to avoid it.”

“Good,” she murmured, her gaze suddenly fixed on something terribly far away. “Good.”

Lar’ragos sensed her train of thought, images flashing unbidden through his mind of Chalois’ long, arduous climb up the rungs of the Galae’s unforgiving rank structure. “I can offer you asylum, Sub-Commander. I’m not unsympathetic to what this good deed has cost you.”

“No,” she replied in a distant voice. “I will live, or die, with the consequences of my actions. I knew accepting help from Europa might come with a price, and if the lives of the Ferou have been purchased at the cost of my life and career, I consider that a bargain.”

Lar’ragos slid off the stool, nodding toward Taiee as she gave Chalois’ vital signs a final check. “I hope you’ll reconsider, Sub-Commander. You’re good people, and there are far too few good people manning ‘the wall’ out here in the Delta Quadrant.”

She turned her head to keep her gaze on Lar’ragos, allowing a single stray tear to arc from the corner of one eye into the folds of her pillow. “I cannot,” she replied.

He inclined his head in response, as if to acknowledge her sacrifice. “We’re departing in a few minutes. Once Europa is safely away, we’ll return control of Vexam to you.”

“May good fortune find you on your travels, Captain,” Chalois said by way of farewell.

“May you die well, Sub-Commander. I sincerely hope that will be thousands of light-years from here and centuries from now.”

*****
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Old April 27 2013, 07:29 PM   #207
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Oh boy, did I ever read this whole situation wrong, or what? Nicely played by both Pava and Chalois.

Considering what Chalois has done however, the chance that she will enjoy a long and rich life seems unlikely. I could of course be wrong. Clearly wouldn't be the first time.
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Old April 29 2013, 06:05 AM   #208
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 9 continued)

Chapter 9 <cont'd>

Acting Captain’s Log, SD- 55683.4 (September 7th, 2378)


Europa has set a return course for Galaxy Station to undergo further repairs to the battle damage suffered in our encounter with the Romulans and Ferou. Our casualties from that engagement are eight dead, nineteen injured, six of whom are still recovering in Sickbay.

The last vessels and resupply modules from Vanguard’s second wave have arrived at Galaxy Station, and I will be requisitioning additional security and Marine personnel, given the conflicts we’ve experienced thus far.

The Ferou have, surprisingly, agreed to continuing negotiations with Federation representatives via subspace, despite the horrors of the Romulan ambush. They’ve set a course for Federation space, although it remains to be seen if they’ll allow themselves to be settled on an available world, or simply transit UFP territory on their way to the far-spinward galactic territories.

The Ferou might be cautiously categorized as TFV’s second success story, counting the peaceful if glacial Buntai, who themselves are scheduled to arrive at the Federation’s outermost border in another nine months.

Even now, Captain Lobanov and the
Giacobini are en route to scout a potential First Contact with yet another approaching nomadic fleet. I wish them better luck than we’ve had.

There has been no further contact with the Romulans since our last encounter, and word will only now be reaching Starbase Bastion and Starfleet Command regarding the unfortunate circumstances surrounding that battle. I have no idea what the fallout may be for me, Lieutenant Juneau, or any of the other crew as a result. I can only hope those powers that be understand the context of what occurred.

In the meantime, I’ve asked Lieutenant Ashok to look into the possibility of reinstating Sandhurst’s transwarp modifications to the engines and navigational deflector, while excising whatever elicit back-channel access routines he’d established. It will be long, tedious work to comb through that much code line by line, but if the end result is making
Europa the fastest ship in the task force again, it will be worth the effort.

End Log Entry.

*****

It was approximately twenty minutes after Lar’ragos had finished his log entry when the annunciator to his quarters chimed.

Juneau entered at his beckoning, the woman glancing around his quarters curiously as she stepped across the threshold. “Did I wander into Verrik’s quarters by mistake?” she joked.

Lar’ragos stood from where he’d been kneeling in front of a single candle flame, deep in meditation. He was clothed in a Vulcan robe and Juneau noted that a stylized IDIC symbol was displayed prominently along one bulkhead of his cabin. “I’ve adopted a more ascetic existence of late,” he revealed, giving his XO a warm smile as he gestured for her to take a seat in a cushioned chair near the viewports.

She seated herself, nodding thoughtfully in response. “I remember your quarters from Gibraltar. They were full of all kinds of souvenirs and knickknacks from across the galaxy. For you this is positively Spartan.”

Lar’ragos removed the robe, revealing his red command shirt and uniform pants underneath, and draped the garment over a chair at the dining table. “Sorbak’s third rule of existential equilibrium, ‘embrace what enhances your life, discard that which does not.’”

Juneau looked impressed. “You’re really taken Vulcan philosophy to heart, haven’t you, sir?”

“Let’s just say that I’ve found it works to keep me centered, First,” he replied, using his new nickname for the executive officer. Some captains called their first officers ‘Number One’ or ‘XO’, and Sandhurst had always favored ‘Exec.’ Lar’ragos had settled on ‘First’ as an appropriately unique compromise.

Lar’ragos stopped briefly at the replicator to get himself a glass of water. Juneau demurred from anything for herself. He sat down across from her, raising his glass in a mock toast. “If I haven't said so before, that was damned fine work with the Romulans, Lieutenant.”

She inclined her head in response, seemingly ill at ease with the compliment. “That’s what I wanted to speak with you about, sir.”

“Be my guest.”

“I… I’m concerned about what… about the tactic I was forced to use on the Romulan ship, Captain.” Juneau appeared uncomfortable, and Lar’ragos detected an undercurrent of guilt in her voice.

“The Romulan ship was on an attack course, correct?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“You’d warned them off, and you had no remaining conventional weapons at hand,” he assessed.

“Again, that’s correct.”

“If the level of force is justified, the means by which that force is delivered is of no consequence, Lieutenant,” Lar’ragos advised by rote. “It wouldn’t have mattered if you’d hit them with two dozen quantums, sling-shot them into the nearest star, or… in this case, cooked them with our sensor array. Lethal force was necessary, and you employed the only means at your disposal to deliver that force.”

In response Juneau nodded slowly as she absorbed the implications of that. Without warning, she blurted, “Is there something wrong with me that I don’t feel worse about what I did, sir? I’ve spoken with Counselor Liu, and he and Taiee and everyone else are handling me with kid gloves, but I’m sleeping just fine.” Her eyes searched out his own. “Shouldn’t I be waking up at night with sweats and nightmares?”

“Not everyone does, Olivia,” he said softly. “You did what you had to do, and it’s okay to be fine with that. Don’t let anyone talk you into being traumatized over something you’re at peace with.”

Juneau grimaced slightly, still looking uncertain. “So… I’m okay?”

“That’s for you to decide, but from where I’m sitting, I’d say yes, absolutely.”

She appeared to relax a bit at that. "What happens to us when we get back to Galaxy?"

"How do you mean?"

"Are we going to be replaced, you and I? As the command staff on Europa, I mean."

Lar'ragos took another sip of his water. "Not that I've been apprised. The task force is short on command officers as it is. Remember, despite the Romulans' actions, we still managed to make successful First Contact with the Ferou." He set the glass down, giving her his full attention. "I can't guarantee what Command will or won't do, Olivia, but I'm pretty good at reading between the lines, and so far I haven't sensed anything that would suggest either of us is bound for the chopping block."

The young woman smiled at that. "I hope I still have your confidence as XO, sir."

Lar'ragos looked surprised. "You saved the ship, First. You did everything in your power to rescue our away team, and that only failed because Chalois had already beamed us away. Everything you did while in command of the ship only served to strengthen my opinion of you and your abilities."

She sprang up from the chair and started for the door, pausing just long enough on her way past to place a quick kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Captain. You’re the best.” And with that, she was gone.

Lar’ragos touched a hand to his cheek, chuckling to himself. “Silly old man. You did not see that coming.”

*****
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Old April 29 2013, 08:27 AM   #209
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Neither did I.

The gesture was really more befitting a school girl than a first officer on a Starfleet vessel. Having said that, it made her strangely endearing. Never mind that she killed hundreds of Romulans in one sweep and not even loses one night's sleep over it. It's all part of her enigmatic charm.
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Old April 30 2013, 05:48 AM   #210
Gibraltar
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

CeJay wrote: View Post
Neither did I.

The gesture was really more befitting a school girl than a first officer on a Starfleet vessel. Having said that, it made her strangely endearing. Never mind that she killed hundreds of Romulans in one sweep and not even loses one night's sleep over it. It's all part of her enigmatic charm.
I'm hazarding a guess that living for years with a sociopath renting space inside your own head might lead to some interesting personality shifts...
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