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Old August 22 2013, 11:18 PM   #76
mirandafave
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Excellent. So excited to see more Bluefin and to have you back TLR. You've been missed as have your stories. And what a strong return we have here into the bargain.

Things were complicated and messy but now that mess is firmly in Akinola's responsibility. He's in the loop (or will be soon) but damned if even knowing that will provide any answers as to what to do. And now there's a character of a Klingon entering into the fray. Dynamite meet match. Combustive situation much? Looking forward to where this goes.
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Old August 23 2013, 01:44 AM   #77
DarKush
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

TLR,

Glad you're back.
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Old August 27 2013, 05:27 PM   #78
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Thank you for all the kind comments! It's good to be back in the saddle.

-TLR

Chapter 9 - Invitation

Stardate 54657.6
USS Bluefin
Sector 7432

Akinola sat in his ready room, trying to fathom the weight of responsibility he now carried. It was all surreal – the massive alien ship, the thought of thousands upon thousands of possible refugee civilizations headed toward the Alpha Quadrant, and the fact he would shortly be in possession of more destructive power than would be standard for a thousand Sovereign-class starships.

He had read the orders. Three times. There was no wiggle room, no escape clause. The relevant passage in the ‘eyes-only’ orders was terse and frightfully chilling.

All unidentified transient vessels are to be prevented from entering Klingon, Romulan, Talarian, Cardassian or Breen territory. Commanders under TFV protocols are to:
  • Attempt to contact vessel(s) and persuade a change of course.
  • Failing that, board the vessel(s) and seize control, bringing said vessel to nearest Starbase.
  • Failing that, disable said vessel(s) before it can enter exclusionary zones.
  • Failing that, authorization is given to destroy vessel(s), using Alpha-class weapons if necessary.

He wondered who had actually parsed the orders – a faceless admiral or some ensign sitting in a cubicle in San Francisco? Were they drinking coffee and eating a doughnut as they authorized the use of force that was outlawed by every accord and convention to which the Federation was bound? Did they have a class at the Academy in writing bureaucratise?

I’m just a cutter driver. Hell, I didn’t even vote in the last presidential election. How did I get caught up in this?

Joseph Akinola was generally not given to self-doubt, but he felt totally inadequate to the task before him.

If it comes down to it, can I actually give the order to launch one of those things?

His musings were interrupted by the chiming of his door annunciator. “Come!” he called.

Commanders Xyrel and Vanboerner of the Resolute entered. The Vulcan spoke first.

“Captain, I understand you wish something to be brought back on your Stallion.”

Akinola nodded tersely, the acid roiling in his stomach. “Yes, Captain Franklin suggested that two high-yield quantum warheads be transferred to us.”

Xyrel and Vanboerner traded a look. The Vulcan cocked an eyebrow as he returned his gaze to Akinola. “May I enquire as to why?”

A damn good question, Commander. I wish you had not asked. Aloud, he replied, “It may become necessary to force the ship to change course. If so, a quantum-yield explosion in the vessel’s flight path may force it to alter course.”

Xyrel remained silent for a moment as his gaze bore into Akinola. He nodded imperceptibly. “Very well. We shall see to it when we arrive on Resolute. I understand your Lt. Bralus and Senior Chief Brin will accompany us?”

Feeling both relieved and guilty, Akinola nodded. “Yes, that’s right. Bralus is an excellent pilot and Brin can see to securing the warheads on the Stallion.”

Vanboerner spoke up suddenly. “Captain, Commander . . . with your permission, I would like to remain on the Bluefin . . . for the duration.”

Neither Akinola nor Xyrel were surprised by the request, considering that Vanboerner’s wife, Captain Franklin, lay in Bluefin’s sickbay.

“Look,” continued the South African, “I am probably more needed here than on Resolute, especially if these gravity waves increase in intensity. No reflection on Commander Gralt’s skills, but you may take on considerable damage while Resolute hangs back in relative safety. Lieutenant Parshav is fully capable of handling our engineering department, Xyrel.”

Akinola looked to Xyrel. “It’s your call, Commander. I have no objections and we might very well need the extra help.”

The Vulcan nodded. “It is a logical suggestion, Mr. Vanboerner, though I doubt logic had any bearing on your request. Very well, I will return to Resolute while you assist Chief Engineer Gralt. Captain Akinola, what are your orders?”

“Stay within laser-comm range and see if your people can punch through the subspace interference. Your transceiver is more powerful than ours, so maybe you can get a message through to Star Station Echo. But keep your distance from that alien ship. There’s no point in both our ships getting tossed around.” Or blown to kingdom come, he did not say.

Xyrel inclined his head in acknowledgment. “Understood. I take my leave of you, Captain Akinola. Though I do not embrace the concept, I wish you . . . good luck.”

* * *

Stardate 54657.6
IKS SarTuQ
Sector 7432

Mertok drummed his fingers on the worn armrest of his command chair. He could hear his blood singing in his ears as the lust for battle threatened to consume him. But he could not afford to simply give in to his warrior nature. Far too much was at stake to concern him only with personal glory or the thrill of battle.

“Helm! What is our speed?”

“Warp seven, Captain. It is the fastest we can go while operating the cloak.”

“Bah, this bucket couldn’t go faster if it were sucked into a black hole.”

The SarTuQ was ironically named. Translated, it meant “Reliable.” But the old ship was anything but. Built at the end of the previous century, it had been intended as part of a sale of ships and weapons to the Romulans. Politics and alliances changed, and the transfer was cancelled by Imperial Command.

Designated by the Federation as a D-7 Mark II class battlecruiser, it was obsolete before its keel was laid as the newer K’tinga-class cruisers were already in production. SarTuQ and his two brother ships never received official classification as they officially did not exist, at least not among the list of active duty vessels. To stave off embarrassment and finger-pointing over who had authorized the ships built to Romulan and not Klingon specification, the vessels were moth-balled for decades until the first war with the Cardassians erupted. As in any inter-stellar war, there were losses and the three ships were activated, though relegated escort duty. Now, the three ships were again serving in obscurity – tasked as ships along the border to wait for an invasion that would never come.

Or, so Imperial Command thought.

“Captain – I am now picking up additional contacts near the inbound vessel.”

“Tactical plotter!” Mertok commanded.

A yellow grid appeared on the trapezoidal viewer. Mertok squirmed in his chair, mentally cursing the designers who built it for the skinny asses of Romulans rather than the proper, well-built rumps of Klingon warriors.

“Well?” demanded the Captain. “Can you identify them or not?”

The weapons officer who also manned the sensors (after all, what was the point of sensors except to acquire targets?) grunted. “Target one is a Federation border gunboat, Albacore-class. Target two . . .”

Mertok impatiently ground his teeth to the point of tasting blood.

The gunner straightened in his chair in obvious surprise. “Akira-class battlecruiser! It appears to be pursuing the alien ship. The gunboat is running parallel to the alien.”

The Captain sat back with a grunt. It was not surprising that one of the Border Service ships should be in the sector – there were several stationed along the Neutral Zone.

But an Akira-class battlecruiser?

“Time to intercept?” he queried.

“Half a demicycle.” One hour.

“Shall I sound battle stations?” asked the first officer – another unblooded officer who had thus far remained out of Mertok’s sight and mind. He was the grandson of the governor of some conquered world or another.


The old captain turned and eyed the Lieutenant with contempt. “If I decide it is merited, I will let you know, Ju’nuq. However, if you have a battle plan to engage an Akira-class ship which outguns us ten to one, an Albacore class ship that is faster and more maneuverable than our ship, plus a vessel with a mass greater than our entire border reserve fleet, please . . . share your great insights.”

Ju’nuq stepped back and inclined his head. “I spoke out of turn, honored Captain.”

Mertok sighed and returned his gaze to the main viewer. There was a time when an officer with any heart would have growled out a challenge if so shamed before subordinates. Unfortunately, it seemed that with a few exceptions, the entire crew of this dishonored ship had been neutered. He would likely kill the next crew member who called him ‘honored Captain.’

And what of you, old man? Have you lived too long and become too cautious?

No. This was the correct course. They would remain cloaked at least for now.

If necessary, they would drop their subterfuge and fight. Mertok did not fear death; after all, any day was as good as any other to die.

But was this the right day and the right battle?

* * *

The flight from the Bluefin to the Resolute had been uneventful if a bit on the rough side. Commander Xyrel had remained silent most of the trip, but considering that he was a Vulcan and a senior officer, neither Lt. Bralus nor Senior Chief Brin had thought it strange.

On the return trip, the Bolian Lieutenant kept casting anxious looks back toward the cargo section.

“Something wrong, Mr. Bralus?” asked Solly as he watched the massive Star Shroom plow through subspace. It looked a lot bigger through a viewport than on a computer-generated viewscreen.

“Wrong? What could possibly be wrong? There’s only about a million isotons of explosive ordinance a few meters behind us.”

Solly turned and looked at the Bolian. “Relax, Lieutenant. There’s not a thing to worry about.”

Bralus looked skeptical. “Really?”

“Sure. There are more safeguards on those warheads than on Admiral Bouvier’s chastity belt.”

The Bolian frowned. “What is a ‘chastity belt?’”

Solly chuckled. “Sir, you should ask the XO. I’m sure she could explain it much better than I could.”

Bralus’ brow knit in puzzlement, but he nodded. “Okay, Senior Chief. I will. Thank you.”

The burly Orion grinned. “Any time, Lieutenant.”

A sharp tremble reverberated through the Stallion’s hull, causing Bralus to struggle with control for the ship. The sturdy smallcraft bucked and pitched until the gravity wave subsided and the ride smoothed out. The Lieutenant noticed that Brin had a tight grip on his armrests.

“Are you okay, Senior Chief? I thought there was nothing to worry about.”

“It’s not the quantum warheads that worry me. It’s that damn weird ship.” He leaned forward, frowning. “Hey, Mr. Bralus – can you take us in closer?”

“Uh, Senior, that doesn’t sound like a very good idea.”

“Humor me. Look there . . . at the base of the ‘Shroom’s head, or the forward section or whatever the hell it is.”

Bralus looked and was surprised to see an opening where the large forward section of the alien ship connected with the long, tapered aft end.

“I don’t think that was there a minute ago.”

“I know it wasn’t. I’ve had my eye on that ship ever since we left the Resolute.” He turned and looked at Bralus. “We need to get on that ship.”

Bralus shook his head. “No way. We have orders to return straightaway with these warheads. No sight-seeing. And we can’t ask for permission since the comm is down.”

“Lieutenant – we might not get another chance.”

“Not without permission.” The Bolian was adamant.

Solly grunted and stared back out the viewport at the Star ‘Shroom. He knew that Bralus was right (which annoyed him) but he also knew time was running short.

An idea struck Brin. “How about if we can get permission – will that satisfy you?”

The Lieutenant glanced at Solly then back at his controls. “I just told you – the comm system won’t work. Too much ionic interference.”

“I know that, Lieutenant,” replied the Orion with practiced patience. “We’ll just do it old school.”

Bralus’ face went blank. “What?”

* * *

“Captain?”

“What is it, Lieutenant Rune?”

“Sir . . . I’m not quite sure. The Stallion is on approach but it may be having technical problems.”

“Elaborate,” he demanded.

“Their navigational lights are going on and off erratically.”

Akinola frowned. “Put them on the main viewer.”

The image shifted and the Star Stallion appeared. Sure enough, while the strobes blinked steadily, the other nav lights that should remain constantly on were going on and off in an irregular fashion.

A smile formed on the Captain’s lips. “It’s not a malfunction, Lieutenant. It’s Morse Code.”

Realization dawned on the Orion operations officer. “Oh! I should have picked up on that. I’ll run it through the computer.”

“No need – I still remember how.” The captain carefully watched the screen, his mouth working silently as he translated the short and long flashes into words. His eyes suddenly widened.

“An opening,” he breathed. He turned back to Lt. Rune. “Zoom in on the forward section of that ship, Lieutenant – near the base.”

Rune quickly complied. Sure enough, there was now an opening that was not there earlier.

Strauss turned from her seat at tactical. “An invitation? Or a trap?”

Akinola rubbed his face. “Damned if I know, XO. But it is an opportunity.”

“Do we let them go in?” queried Strauss.

The Captain considered this. They desperately needed to get someone on board, but to send Bralus and Solly without backup or anyone from engineering or medical made little sense.

And there was the matter of the Alpha weapons on board.

“Lt. Rune, signal them to continue back to the ship as planned. We’ll off-load the ordinance and send a properly equipped away team. Contact the hangar deck and tell them to prep the other Stallion for departure in fifteen minutes.”

* * *

The approach of the tiny spacecraft triggered an automatic response in Zhar’s systems. Whereas the arrival of the larger ship had initiated a flight response, the mass and general shape of the smallcraft had seemed familiar – at least as much as the ancient and corrupted memory banks could collate.

A faint tendril of memory – Zhar’s designers had used small ships like this to gain access. Perhaps someone had come to help?

In a response, more instinctive than conscious, the alien vessel calculated the size of the Stallion and provided an access point for it to land.

The tiny ship, however, did not continue its approach. Instead, it joined with the small vessel that first approached Zhar.

Confused, the ancient ship closed the port with a feeling akin to sorrow.
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Old August 27 2013, 08:17 PM   #79
CeJay
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Outstanding chapter all around, from Akinola's very much appropriate doubts over using alpha weapons to the use of old school communications and the reminder that we are dealing with some sort of intelligence on board the mystery vessel. And of course there's the Klingons lurking.

Very excited about what comes next.
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Old August 27 2013, 11:23 PM   #80
Sgt_G
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Okay, I'm annoyed. First, you write faster than I do. Second, you just used a plot device not unlike the one I had planned in my story, that I've already set the stage for. I don't want people thinking I borrowed your idea. If anyone asks, I'll just tell the them the truth: Great Minds Think Alike.
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Old August 28 2013, 03:12 AM   #81
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

CeJay - thank you! Akinola is in way over his head so, as usual, he'll just make it up as he goes along.

Sgt_G - thanks for reading. I am a bit surprised you think I write fast, considering there is a more than a year's gap between chapters 7 and 8. Hopefully I can maintain momentum and get this beast finished. Sorry you're annoyed about the plot device thingy but thanks for the "great minds" compliment.

Chapter 10 is now under construction.
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Old August 28 2013, 05:44 PM   #82
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Sgt_G - thanks for reading. I am a bit surprised you think I write fast, considering there is a more than a year's gap between chapters 7 and 8.

Chapter 10 is now under construction.
Well, who would I be to talk? I let my story sit for six years.

I plan on doing some typing later today. Need to recover form mowing the yard first. We're already at 92F, going for a high of 99-102. I've had sun stroke before, so I have to be extra careful in the heat.
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Old August 13 2014, 08:46 PM   #83
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Chapter 10 - Down the Rabbit Hole

Stardate 54657.6
USS Bluefin
Sector 7432


The Bluefin kept pace with the giant alien vessel, a minnow alongside an enormous whale. USS Resolute followed some distance behind, impotent to alter the ponderous trajectory of Zhar the ancient. Each passing minute brought them closer to Klingon space.

On the cutter’s hangar deck, Captain Akinola addressed the gathered boarding party as they prepared to depart on Stallion 02. Commander Strauss, Lt. Sarnek, Senior Chief Brin, Corpsman Sanders, Lt. T’Lyr, and Petty Officer Steiner were accompanied by Resolute’s Chief Engineer, John Vanboerner. Each wore armored environmental suits and carried sidearms. Steiner also carried a daunting array of heavy weaponry including an ion lance that could burn through a foot of solid Duranium in under a minute. Commander Vanboerner and Lt. T’Lyr were loaded down with an assortment of engineering tools. All wore combat scanners integrated into the forearms of their suits – hardened versions of the ubiquitous tri-corder.

“I won’t waste your time with a pep talk,” began Akinola. “So I’ll cut to the chase. You have two hours in which to board that ship and convince whoever or whatever is controlling it to stop or at least change course away from Klingon space. Failing that, you will attempt to take control of the ship and disable it. Any questions?”

“Yes sir,” replied Strauss. “What if we can’t gain access?”

“Then you return to the ship and we proceed with Plan B.”

“What’s Plan B?”

Akinola was silent for a moment. “Let’s focus on Plan A first. XO, you’re mission commander for this. Most likely we will be out of communication so you will make the calls. Are you up to it?”

“Absolutely, sir!” she responded with more enthusiasm than she felt. If she screwed this up . . .

The Captain nodded. “Good. You all know your jobs so do them well. Remember, you have two hours, no more, then return to the ship. Load up.”

They boarded the Star Stallion with Sarnek taking the pilot’s position and Strauss in the right seat. The others settled in aft.

Akinola noted that Solly Brin lingered behind on the deck. He turned to face the Orion NCO.

“Waiting for an engraved invitation, Solly?”

Brin stepped closer, speaking in a quiet tone. “Those quantum warheads Mr. Bralus and I brought over from Resolute are Plan B, aren’t they? Only we both know even a quantum burst wouldn’t slow down that monster. That tells me those warheads are something other than advertised. So what is Plan B, Skipper?”

Akinola jaw tightened and he turned his eyes to the Star Stallion. “Get on the boat, Senior Chief.”

Solly Brin kept his gaze on Akinola a moment longer. They had known each other for more than thirty years but at the moment, they were completely alien to each other.

“Aye, aye, Captain,” Brin finally replied before turning and climbing into the Stallion.

* * *

Solly settled into one of the aft seats across from Steiner, a stony expression on his face. The Petty Officer gave the Orion an appraising look.

“Something bothering you, Senior Chief?”

“Mind your arsenal and shut your pie-hole, Steiner, before you blow a hole in the hull with one of your toys,” Brin growled.

Steiner’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Sure, Senior.” Man, who pissed in your corn flakes?

* * *

Akinola strode onto the bridge and barked, “Status?”

Lt. Commander Simms vacated the command chair as the Captain stepped down onto the lower level of the bridge. “No change in speed or course. At this rate, we’ll enter Klingon space in a little over fourteen hours.”

The Captain grunted as he took in this new information. “Lt. Rune, can our sensors punch through this murk? I need to know if there are any Klingon ships waiting on the other side of the border.”

“No sir, the gravity field from the alien vessel is too strong. I’ve been thinking though, we could launch a class-one probe with a warp booster and program it for a return trajectory. It would take about four hours but we would know more than we do now.”

“Do it,” ordered Akinola. He turned back to face Simms. “You have the bridge, Commander. I’ll be in sickbay.”

“Are you okay, sir?”

Not even close. “Fine. But I need to speak with Captain Franklin. Notify me immediately of any changes, especially if our boarding party manages to get on that thing.”

“Aye, sir, will do.”

* * *

The probe streaked from the forward port torpedo launcher and quickly sped up to half the speed of light. At a predetermined distance from the ship, the warp booster kicked in, propelling the probe to warp 6 on a course toward the Klingon empire.

* * *

“No, absolutely not! Captain Franklin is sleeping and her healing process is still underway. This isn’t a hangnail we’re dealing with; she suffered a severe brain injury. Give her two more days and I can probably release her.” Dr. Castille crossed his arms, blocking the way to the patient cubicles.

Akinola suppressed a sigh. “Doctor, I wouldn’t ask if this weren’t vitally important. I promise I won’t take more than five minutes. Surely that won’t jeopardize her recovery?”

The CMO glowered at the Captain a moment longer before throwing up his hands in frustration. “Oh, alright! From what little I know of the situation I can imagine you can use all the help you can get. But fair warning – one second longer than five minutes and I’ll slap a hypo-spray against your neck and you won’t wake up until I decide to retire.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Akinola replied, dryly.

The balding physician led Captain Akinola to the cubicle where Captain Samantha Franklin, C.O. of the USS Resolute, lay sleeping peacefully. The bio-monitors beeped quietly as Castille adjusted a control. Momentarily, Franklin drew in a deeper breath and her eyes batted open. She glanced at Castille and Akinola in puzzlement for a moment.

“Captain, do you know where you are?” asked Dr. Castille, softly.

She glanced from the CMO to Akinola and back to the doctor. “I’m pretty sure this isn’t Risa, so I’ll guess I’m on the Bluefin.”

Castille snorted. “Everyone’s a comedian.” He pointed a finger at Akinola. “Five minutes, no more.”

“Aye, aye, Doctor.”

The CMO departed, muttering under his breath. Akinola turned his attention back to Franklin.

“How are you feeling, Captain?”

“Like someone replaced my gray matter with Tribble fur. And I thought we’d agreed to forego the ‘Captain, my Captain’ bit.”

He smiled. “It seems your memory is fine, Sam.” The smile faded. “Best I get to the point before Dr. Castille puts me in stasis.” He pulled up a stool and perched on it, speaking in a quiet voice. “Those Alpha weapons we brought on board . . . do you know what they are?”

Her gaze turned to the ceiling and she closed her eyes. For a moment, he thought she had gone back to sleep, but then she spoke.

“Yes. I’m not supposed to know, but I found out. Don’t ask me how.”

“I don’t care how you did it, I just want to know what we’ve loaded in tube one.”

She reopened her eyes and looked back at him. “Are you really sure you want to know?”

He nodded. “I have to know . . . it matters what kind of collateral damage to expect. If I pull the trigger, what is going to happen?”

“Yeah . . . I needed to know that too, especially in light of what almost happened with the QE VII.” She sighed heavily. “The warhead with the serial number ending in 0811 is a multi-kinetic neutronic device that was utilized by the Borg. I have no idea how we obtained it, so don’t ask. I do know it is capable of producing a shock wave out to five light years and can take out an entire star system.”

Akinola felt his blood go cold. “You can’t be serious.”

“All too serious, Joe. Do the math and you can figure that we would not survive deploying that weapon, even if we jumped to warp.”

“Gods . . . and what of the second warhead?”

She snorted. “Oh, it gets better. The casing with serial number ending in 6499 contains an Isolytic Subspace weapon that utilizes a 500 isoton tri-cobalt warhead as the trigger.”

The Nigerian C.O. grimaced. “Those weapons are banned by the second Khitomer accords.”

Franklin nodded. “Yes, they are. If you use it, subspace will be destabilized for parsecs around, not to mention the destructive power of a tri-cobalt device. And again . . .”

“We wouldn’t survive,” he finished, grimly. “Not to mention that using either weapon will affect Klingon space as well as ours. I doubt the powers-that-be on Q’onos would take that lightly.”

“No . . . no they wouldn’t. It would likely be construed as an act of war.”

“And who could blame them?” He shook his head. “Damned if I do and damned if I don’t.”

“Joe . . . I’m sorry for putting you in this predicament. Look, I’m well enough to take back operational command and . . .”

“Forget it. Doc says you’re a long way away from being okay. Shifting the burden won’t make the problem go away.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “I could pull ‘rank’ on you . . . tactically superior vessel, and all that.”

He smiled wanly. “You forget, Bluefin now has tactical superiority, at least until we unleash Armageddon.”

“What are you going to do?”

“For now, pray that our away team can get on that ship and at least change its course. Failing that, let’s just say I’m not of a mind to commit mass suicide or incite a war with the Klingons.”

“But the orders from Admiral Brandies are . . .”

“Damn the orders and screw Admiral Brandies!” he said with heat. “I would rather live out my days in prison than do something that I know is not only wrong but downright insane!”

“Joe,” she began, measuring her words carefully, “don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”

“Sam, I’m just a cutter driver, but I’m no fool. No rear-echelon S.O.B. can envision every possible scenario and issue blanket orders without missing a thousand exceptions to their rules. Look me in the eye and tell me that obliterating a non-hostile, heavily damaged ship just to keep the Klingons from seeing it makes any sense, not to mention that we would all die and probably start a war in the process.”

She did not waver under his scrutiny, but neither did she argue the point. “Okay then.”

“Okay what?”

“Screw the orders, at least the ones that require Alpha weapons. Hell, I’ll probably go to prison too. Maybe we’ll end up in New Zealand; I hear the weather is nice.” She paused. “But there’s another factor to consider.”

“Which is . . .?”

“Both our ships have been out of contact with our respective chains of command. I guarantee you that we’ll have company sooner or later. And do you know the scary thing about that?”

Akinola shook his head.

“Some of those captains would not hesitate to fire off an Alpha weapon.”

* * *

“Beginning closure to the alien vessel,” announced Lt. Sarnek as he piloted the Star Stallion. “117.46 kilometers and closing at 544.2 meters per second.”

Commander Strauss shifted in the co-pilot’s seat uncomfortably. The heavy environmental suit and helmet were fine for ambulating around but not for sitting. Their slow descent, while prudent, seemed like it was taking forever.

“I don’t see a welcome mat,” she quipped.

Sarnek frowned. “I do not understand the reference.”

“No sign of an opening,” she clarified.

“Ah. No, but Lt. Bralus was at 84.2 kilometers distant when the opening appeared before.”

“Then we will know soon enough whether the invitation stands,” Strauss mused.

“Indeed,” he replied.

A few more minutes passed before Sarnek announced, “80 kilometers and closing.”

Strauss felt a pang of disappointment. “Nothing. Maybe if we change our angle of approach? When Solly and Bralus were . . .”

“There,” interrupted the Vulcan.

Inga lifted her head to have a better view over the chin ring of her helmet. Sure enough, a hole at the base of the Star ‘Shroom’s head irised open.

“Scanning,” announced Strauss, watching her display for radiation spikes or other threats.

Sarnek watched the display. “Radiation levels are elevated but within acceptable tolerances for our environmental suits. We should be safe for 10.27 hours.”

“More than enough time,” she concurred, “considering we have less than two hours before we RTS.”

“Agreed.”

“Clearance?” she queried.

“Adequate,” he replied. “Based on our dimensions we will have exactly two meters clearance on all sides. Apparently, we are expected.”

“Welcome to my parlor said the spider to the fly,” she murmured.

* * *

To be continued (eventually)
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Old August 14 2014, 06:47 AM   #84
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

So glad you've resumed this tale!

A genuinely awkward moment between Joseph and Solly, and I'm not sure whether Akinola's refusal to divulge what he knows about the Alpha weapons will permanently damage the men's longstanding friendship.

Lots of potential for disaster here, and so few opportunities for success. But, hell, Bluefin's crew is filled with survivors. Here's hoping that luck holds...
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Old August 14 2014, 09:39 PM   #85
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

It's been far too long but this newest chapter is chuck full with awesomeness. I really liked Akinola's chat with Franklin and I like that they've kinda reached an agreement about the AWs and like Franklin, I too, can think of a couple of captains who wouldn't hesitate to go nuclear in this situation.

Naturally you're ending this just as it gets (more) interesting. And I do not appreciate that little 'eventually' at all. Do think of us poor fans, clamoring for more of this excellent tale and don't keep us waiting another couple of years. Pretty please?
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Old August 15 2014, 08:55 PM   #86
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Chapter 11 – The Clock Ticks

Stardate 54657.7
Star Stallion 02
Sector 7432


The strobe lights from the Star Stallion cast staccato shadows inside the alien ship’s landing bay. The small craft settled with a gentle thump onto a wide, featureless deck as the impulse engines spooled down.

“Engines in standby mode,” announced Lt. Sarnek. “Gravity reading of point 825 standard.”

“Atmosphere?” asked Strauss.

The Vulcan shook his head, though the gesture was obscured by his helmet. “No pressure reading at all, it seems that . . .”

As he spoke, a monitor on the control panel revealed that the hole that had allowed them to enter the ship was slowly dilating. As their way of escape closed, faint illumination came on in the cavern though the source of lighting was indeterminate.

“Fascinating,” remarked Sarnek. “The bay is beginning to pressurize . . . Oxygen, Nitrogen, trace amounts of Argon and Helium . . .”

“It appears that we are expected,” said Strauss. She wasn’t sure if she felt reassured or not. “Still, we will proceed with suits and helmets in case whatever system is providing the atmosphere breaks down or changes its mind.”

“A prudent precaution,” agreed Sarnek. “Especially considering that radiation levels are still dangerous for anyone without protective gear.”

Strauss stood. “Let’s get organized and on the move. We have less than two hours.”

“One hour, fifty one minutes, seventeen seconds,” corrected Sarnek. He could not see Strauss roll her eyes.

* * *

Stardate 54657.7
USS Akagi
Sector 7431


Captain Shiran Ch’Hranuth sat ramrod straight in the command chair of the USS Akagi. The tall Andorian was as disciplined as a Vulcan, as fierce as a Klingon, and as crafty as a Human. He had proven his mettle as a warrior during numerous battles with the Dominion, earning accolades in the process.

With the war’s end, Shiran found himself a soldier without a cause. The skills that served him so well during war were not highly regarded by Starfleet Command during seasons of peace, thus he was relegated to command of an older but well equipped heavy scout ship. Many captains would have taken umbrage at what some would perceive as a demotion of sorts, going from an Excelsior-class starship to a Rigel-class scout, but it was not in Shiran’s nature to complain. In fact, he relished the freedom he had with his new command to carry out missions against the resurgent Maquis. Diplomacy and exploration were not his forte’.

When Admiral Brandies enlisted him as part of Operation Vanguard, Shiran quickly volunteered his ship and services for the deep space mission to confront the approaching horde of alien ships. Instead, he was tasked to stay in Federation space, ready for any early arrivals – random interlopers, who might pose a threat.

Two days earlier, the call had come. He was to take Akagi to intercept a transient vessel of unknown origins, preventing it from an incursion into Klingon space by any and all means necessary.

The Andorian had no moral qualms about using the special weaponry, known only to himself. Honor demanded he carry out his orders. Duty was the ‘D’ in his DNA.

He only knew that two other Federation vessels had already intercepted the alien ship but had failed to stop it and were either unable or unwilling to respond to attempts at communication. Admiral Glover had hinted that Captain Franklin of the Resolute might hesitate to use all the resources at her disposal, hindered by moral compunctions common to Humans.

Shiran would not allow ethics to interfere with his orders. If Admiral Brandies and Starfleet Command deemed these invaders to be a clear and present danger, who was he to argue? He knew from experience that hesitation cost ships and lives.

That was a mistake he would not make.

“Time to intercept?” he asked of the helm officer, an Asian female.

“Six hours, fifteen minutes at present course and speed,” replied Lt. Shen Yu.

“That’s cutting it close,” remarked Commander Karim Patel, the Indian First Officer. “Based on long-range scans they will cross into Klingon space in twelve hours.”

“Leaving us six hours, Commander,” replied the Captain. “That will be enough to carry out our mission.”

Patel did not reply. Truth be told, he was troubled by their mission, particularly since Captain Ch’Hranuth was reticent to share details. All Karim knew was that they were to intercept an unknown alien vessel and divert it from Klingon space. But the early data indicated the vessel was massive, far beyond the abilities of even a fleet of Starships to turn with tractor beams. If those operating that ship could not be persuaded to change course . . .

But that was madness. Surely the Captain had no intentions of attacking the alien ship?

* * *

Stardate 54657.7
USS Kittiwake
Sector 7432


The Border Cutter USS Kittiwake burned through subspace at a blistering warp 9.6. Not a record-setting pace for modern vessels but certainly a near-record for a 70 year old Albacore-class ship.

“Captain, the mains won’t take much more of this,” objected Chief Engineer Lt. Preedo Ontu’k, a purple-eyed Altairian. He wrung his six-fingered hands in a parody of Human anxiety.

“Sure they will,” replied Captain Quinn Elena Destrehan, C.O. of the Kittiwake. “They have to hold together.” She pointed at the viewscreen. “One of our own is out there, very likely in distress and unable to communicate.” She fixed him with her pale blue eyes. “Thus, we will continue at warp 9.6 or better until we either find Bluefin or come apart at the seams. As Chief Engineer, it is your job to ensure that the latter does not happen. Are we clear on that, Mister?”

Preedo’s headcrest wilted in a submissive gesture. “Yes ma’am.”

Destrehan regarded Preedo and suppressed a sigh. He was an excellent engineer but, as typical for his race, he was bound by ‘the book’ and uncomfortable with pushing the design limits of the ship. She, on the other hand, tended to think and act outside of the box, a trait that had earned her both commendations and the occasional reprimand.

“Look,” she continued, “I trust you, Preedo. That’s why I feel confident that we can push the envelope. These are tough ships and you’ve trained your crew well. If the mains shut down, well, that’s on me.”

The Altairian considered her words and his headcrest lifted in relief. “We’ll do our best, Captain.” He turned and made his way to the turbo-lift.

Destrehan turned to her Executive Officer, Lt. Commander Dee Dee Townsend. “I’ll be in my ready room, XO. You have the bridge.”

Townsend watched the door to the ready room slide shut, then turned to the helm officer, Lt. Emil Broussard. “Emil, you have the bridge. I’m going to talk with the Skipper.”

As Townsend disappeared into the ready room, Broussard turned to the Ops officer, Lt. (j.g.) H’Nahr and grinned. “Guess I’ll turn the bridge over to you so I can grab a Raktajino.”

“No sirrr,” replied the Caitian with an amused rumble. “I have not rrreceived command trrraining. Besides, who would pilot the ship?”

“An excellent point, H’Nahr. I suppose I must bear the burden of command a bit longer.”

* * *

Destrehan glanced up from her desk as the buxom executive officer entered. An expression of amusement mixed with annoyance crossed the young Captain’s face.

“That’s funny, Dee. I could have sworn I just turned the bridge over to you.”

Townsend ignored the jibe. “Quinn, Preebo is right – you’re pushing too hard. We won’t do Captain Akinola and the Bluefin any good if we lose the warp engines and have to be towed home.

Quin stood, a spark of anger flashing in her eyes. “We’re the Border Dogs, Dee. We have to go out . . . we don’t have to come back, or have you forgotten that?”

“I haven’t forgotten, Skipper,” Townsend replied, calmly. “And I served on Bluefin for four years or have you forgotten? I have close friends on that cutter. But as XO, it’s my job to point out the ramifications of your decisions. Respectfully, ma’am.”

Destrehan exhaled sharply but settled back into her chair. “I know that. Sorry, Dee . . . I shouldn’t take my frustrations out on you. But for a legend like Akinola to disappear, not to mention that Akira-class starship, the Resolute . . . well, my mind is reeling with worst-case scenarios.”

Townsend regarded her friend and C.O. for a moment. “You’re thinking about the Amberjack, aren’t you?” USS Amberjack, their sister ship, had been destroyed in a Maquis ambush less than a year earlier. Captain Destrehan had once served with Amberjack’s C.O., Sylvia Reuben.

Quinn nodded. “Of course I am. And maybe if Amberjack had received backup in time, Sylvia and her crew would still be alive.”

Townsend shook her head. “It happened too fast, Quinn. Even at maximum warp, the nearest ship would not have reached them in time.”

Captain Destrehan turned in her chair to gaze out at the streaming starfield. “Well, I do not intend to have any regrets. Keep pushing at warp 9.6, XO, and don’t back off unless the core redlines.”

* * *

Stardate 54657.7
Star Stallion 02
Aboard the Alien Vessel


Star Stallion 02 sat in a landing bay somewhat wider and longer than the one on Bluefin. Structural ribs curved overhead, giving the space a cathedral effect. Faint illumination emanated from the walls revealing an otherwise featureless space, save for two round openings situated on the forward bulkhead, ostensibly to corridors that led to other areas of the ship. Beyond the openings lay darkness.

“From what our sensors show, there are nearly 50 kilometers of corridors on this ship – far too many for us to explore, even if we split up,” remarked Commander Strauss. “Bio readings are faint and scattered, but the radiation may be affecting our sensors.”

“The tactical drones can provide additional data,” pointed out Lt. T’Lyr.

“But with just three drones available, we will only be able to cover 6.13% of the accessible corridors,” interjected Sarnek.

“True,” continued Strauss. “So we have to decide where and how to allocate our resources in the time remaining. Commander Vanboerner, any suggestions?”

Resolute’s Chief Engineer raised his eyebrows. “Considering the lack of warp nacelles, my best guess is that the warp drive is located within the forward section – perhaps an annular ring similar to Vulcan designs.”

T’Lyr chimed in. “That is plausible, Commander, but without concise data we are merely speculating.”

“Unfortunately, Lieutenant, we do not have the luxury of consulting ‘concise data’ as you put it,” responded Vanboerner. “Time is short and as Commander Strauss said, we must make quick decisions.”

“It would seem that logic dictates we guess,” said Sarnek, earning a startled glance from T’Lyr.

“Yes, Mr. Sarnek,” agreed Strauss, grateful that her helmet hid her amused expression from both Vulcans, “but let’s give it our best-educated guess. I believe Mr. Vanboerner has the right idea – let’s proceed on the assumption that the warp drive is in the forward section, the ‘head’ if you will. Let’s allocate two of the tactical drones for the forward section and one to head aft.”

“But what of a command and control center?” asked T’Lyr. “Most space-faring races in our quadrant separate the control area from the drive section for safety purposes.”

“That’s true,” concurred Vanboerner. “But it’s also true that on the ships with which we are familiar it is possible to control the ship from engineering.”

“Our primary job is to divert this ship,” reminded Strauss. “If we can find their drive section, we may have a chance to effect a course change or at least drop this vessel out of warp. We can always offer explanations to any crew afterwards.”

Vanboerner grinned. “Easier to gain forgiveness than permission, eh?”

“Something like that. Let’s pair up then send out the drones. Corpsman Sanders will accompany Lt. T’Lyr and you will investigate that forward corridor to starboard. Steiner, you will accompany Commander Vanboerner and take the port corridor. Senior Chief, you and I will seek to find a way aft in case our assumptions prove wrong. Any questions?”

“How much time?” asked Vanboerner.

“Be back on board in one hour, forty five minutes. Keep track of your time and don’t get too far out. If the drones find something, either biological or technical in nature, they will scan it and notify it. As to rules of engagement . . . well, do not fire on anyone or anything unless fired upon. So far we’ve experienced no hostile actions. Let’s hope that continues.”

“Something let us on here,” pointed out Solly. "That doesn't mean they will be so quick to let us out."

“Yeah, I hadn’t forgotten that Senior Chief. Steiner, launch the drones. Everyone check your suits – turn on your helmet lights, weapons set to stun, and for God’s sake, stay in sight of your partner. Communications may not be reliable.”

The boarding party exited the Star Stallion and at last stood on the deck of the alien vessel. Strauss suppressed a chill of nervousness. The silence and darkness within the corridors made for an eerie environment. She was pleased to have the large Orion NCO accompanying her. There were few things in the quadrant that could spook Solly Brin.

Petty Officer Steiner activated a control on his forearm and the three tactical drones flew silently from their compartments on the Stallion. Their on-board sensors were linked to each of the boarding party’s environmental suits and could provide real-time input via the head’s up displays in their helmets.

“Move out,” ordered Strauss.

* * *

Zhar was aware that the small craft had landed in its bay. The re-pressurization sequence was programmed by Zhar’s creators eons ago, though Zhar did not know if the provided atmosphere was life-giving or deadly. It’s ability to control such things had been lost.

As the creatures from the small craft emerged, an ancient memory was stirred. Despite its degraded memory banks, these beings seemed familiar somehow.

The ancient computer summoned reserves from long dormant systems to analyze this new data. Unfortunately, most of these systems were likewise corrupted by time and battle damage. Feedback from the effort to interconnect dead data banks created a cascade failure, rendering Zhar’s already damaged comm system completely inoperative. Additionally, its external navigation sensors failed.

Zhar was now blind and mute.

* * *

Stardate 54657.8
Sector 7433


The class one probe passed out of the gravity field and into clear space one hour and twelve minutes after launch from the Bluefin. The advanced sensor array on the tiny craft immediately began to search for other vessels in its vicinity. Forty three minutes later, it detected a slight subspace disturbance tracking along a linear course that would ultimately intercept the Bluefin and the alien vessel. The sophisticated onboard A.I. then activated its tachyon sensors, confirming with a high degree of probability that this was a cloaked vessel, specifically a Klingon ship, D-7 class.

Its pre-programmed mission completed, the probe made a 180 degree course correction and jumped to warp, en route to rendezvous with the Bluefin.

* * *

To be continued
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Old August 16 2014, 12:09 PM   #87
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

Plan A. Stick to Plan A. Plan B sucks. The strained awkward moment between Akinola and Solly is tense and short but a whole lot went unsaid. Akinola's suspicions about the weapons (later confirmed by Franklin) are the exact same suspicions an experienced hand like Solly has. Akinola has the awful choice to make it seems and perhaps Solly understands that the skipper may make a decision use Plan B to get the job done even though he knows Joseph he knows there are certain mission parameters that need to be met - like stopping this strange and dangerous vessel from getting to Klingon space.

The ship itself continues to be weird and different. The Stallion crew boarding feels very isolated (and oh so few of them into the bargain) and a little suffocating too. Meantime, we get impressions from the ship itself that it is dying and losing all control of itself. Is it trying to help the crew to help it stop? Or will it inadvertently lead to killing them in defensive manner? I don't know. There's something very foreboding about these last two instalments.

And with new players entering the field things are going to get very messy and complicated. A gun-ho Andorian itching for a purpose after the close of the Dominion War and a Klingon ship zeroing in on them. This is getting decidedly hot and dangerous.

Awesome return.
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Old August 16 2014, 05:03 PM   #88
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

A great many variables in this story, no wonder you had a hard time with this for so long. With all those different parties with different agendas, this is going to be one hell of a party once they all converge on each other. Already looking forward to the likely disaster this will spell.

I like how you give us an idea on how massive that ship is. And it doesn't help that it's of an entirely unknown design. But I am concerned, if engineering or the bridge are at the wrong end of the ship, and if there are no reliable turbolifts or other means of transportation, the away team will never reach it in time. Somebody should have brought Segways.
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Old August 17 2014, 07:03 AM   #89
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

The Klingons are late to the party, but I doubt they'll be too heartbroken to crash the scene with weapons blazing.

I'm intrigued to see how this plays out for all involved.
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Old August 17 2014, 08:19 PM   #90
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Re: UT: Refugee Crisis / Bluefin - "Trajectory"

MirandaFave- yeah, plan B definitely sucks, which is why Akinola is willing to risk prison to avoid it. Unfortunately, the Andorian C.O. Of Akagi thinks plan B is da bomb. Get it? Da b . . . Oh, never mind.

CeJay - Yeah, I made this story WAAAY too complicated and overloaded with characters. I finally have an end game figured out. It won't be pretty but it will come to an (in)glorious end. As to the miles of corridors on the ship, the drones will help cover territory but time is against them.

Gibraltar - oh, yeah, KLINGONS!!! they're always fun at parties.
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