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Old October 14 2012, 01:26 PM   #61
TrekkieMonster
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I have to agree with CeJay that I was pretty sure I knew what was going on here with that little ship, but I remain continually astounded at Gibraltar's ability to write tense, compelling scenes like these even when I think I know what's going to happen. Kudos.

And now that someone in Star Fleet knows about Masada, I can only imagine how much closer we are to the highly anticipated reunion of Sandhurst and his former XO.
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Old October 15 2012, 10:47 PM   #62
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont’d>

Counselor’s Office, Deck 4
USS Europa


Although it wasn’t entirely unheard of for a Vulcan member of Starfleet to seek out counseling services, it was a statistical rarity. For that reason, when Verrik had contacted Counselor Dao Liu on short notice to arrange this meeting, Liu was intrigued.

Like nearly all ‘traditional’ Vulcans, Verrik at least outwardly appeared to be very much in control of his emotions. He was calm, rational, and eminently sensible, and Liu hadn’t noticed any behaviors from Verrik that could be deemed unusual.

Upon his arrival at Liu’s office, Verrik appeared somewhat tense. That, in and of itself, was enough to pique Liu’s professional interest.

“Lieutenant, please have a seat,” Liu offered.

“I would prefer to stand, thank you,” Verrik replied stiffly.

Liu gestured his consent to this, and settled back into his chair as Verrik stepped over to the cabin’s viewport. The stars streaked past with what Liu had always found to be a comforting monotony.

“What can I help you with, Mister Verrik?” Liu prompted after a long moment’s silence from the Vulcan.

Despite his already perfect posture, Verrik seemed to straighten even further, as though girding himself for an unpleasant experience. “Counselor, I have recently begun to experience lapses in memory that I am unable to explain.”

Liu decided to approach the exchange from a Vulcan-like perspective, and discarded any further attempts to put Verrik at ease. Vulcans were direct, and so he would be as well. “Please elaborate,” Liu replied.

“Twice now I have been involved in dynamic situations that afterwards I am unable to remember with any clarity. This is unprecedented for me, and therefore, most troubling. Like the majority of my people, I was trained from youth in eidetic mental disciplines that give me near perfect recollection.”

“Were you injured in either of these situations, Lieutenant? Perhaps the memory issues stem from a physical trauma of some kind?”

Verrik spared a glance over his shoulder at Liu. “I was moderately injured during the first of the two occurrences, but I suffered no cranial trauma. I received a full medical workup after that incident, and I had myself checked again by Lieutenant Taiee following the second event. Scans confirm there is no known physical basis for these memory lapses.”

Liu pondered that for a time. “Can you be more specific in regards to the two occurrences?”

“The first time was when the Amon cube ship appeared through the subspace portal. Apparently, I began firing before the captain had even issued the order to do so. I engaged the Amon with my phaser when they boarded the bridge, and then physically after I was disarmed until such time as I was overwhelmed.”

Verrik finally turned to face the counselor. “I can remember every detail of the encounter leading up to the aperture opening, and everything after the Amon departed with Captain Sandhurst, but nothing of the battle itself. I have even watched the ship’s visual recorder in an attempt to refresh my recollection, to no avail.”

Liu nodded, making notes on a padd. “And the second event?”

“The second time was during our next encounter with the Amon when Captain T’Ser gave the order to fire on their ship with the Alpha Weapon. I stunned Commander Lar’ragos when he charged the captain. I have no memory of doing so.”

After scribbling a few more notes with a stylus, Liu posited, “At first blush, Lieutenant, I see two possibilities. The first is that these events were traumatic to you in some non-physical way that has inhibited your ability to remember them as a result. Perhaps on a sub-conscious level, you were affected more significantly than you realize.”

“Unlikely,” Verrik offered immediately.

Liu fought against allowing a dubious expression to settle onto his features. Instead, he asked, “Why do you believe that?”

“I have meditated extensively in regards to these occurrences, Counselor. I have spent countless hours delving into both my conscious and sub-conscious thoughts, and I can find no logical reason that either event would prove so traumatic that it might affect my memory.”

Liu inclined his head, tabling that discussion for the moment. “The second possibility is that something the Amon are emitting may have interfered with your short-term memory. Both these events took place during our encounters with the Amon, and Sandhurst himself has said their life-essence energy affected him strongly on a psycho-physical level.”

Verrik paused to consider that. “It would make sense from a causality perspective, if not for the dreams.”

Liu quirked an eyebrow in a surprisingly Vulcan-like gesture of curiosity. “Dreams?”

Only now did Verrik finally sit, easing down into a chair across from Liu with almost exaggerated care. “I have been experiencing unsettling dreams for the past few months, ones that I cannot account for.”

“I doubt I need to remind you that dreams are our brains’ way of codifying and processing our daily experiences into retrievable memory engrams, Lieutenant. As such, they don’t necessarily make sense, or follow logical patterns, even in Vulcans.”

“Would that were so,” Verrik replied heavily. “These dreams do follow a logical progression. Additionally, they seem much more like memories than dreams in their content. I have experienced many of them more than once, and they unfold exactly the same way without fail.”

“Just to be clear,” Liu asked, “these are not your memories that you’re dreaming about?”

“Correct,” Verrik answered.

“Tell me about them.”

“They are invariably of old Vulcan, during the days of Surak. The dreams take place against the backdrop of the Great Schism, the last near-apocalyptic war that engulfed our world.”

“Could these be remnants of history lessons you learned as a child, or snippets of historical documentaries or dramas you’ve watched?”

“I do not believe so,” Verrik replied, a far-away cast to his eyes as he revisited those dreams in that moment. “They seem to be the recollections of a single person, a female soldier involved in the war. She fought on behalf of those opposed to Surak’s teachings, and committed various… morally questionable acts against those espousing The Teacher’s path to logic.”

Liu looked surprised. “That’s a lot of detail to have culled from a dream.”

“Dreams,” Verrik corrected, emphasizing the plurality. “And I have studied them extensively in my meditations. Again, they do not correspond directly to any historical events I have learned of during my education or viewed in an entertainment venue.”

Setting down his padd, Liu leaned forward. “Okay, Lieutenant, what’s say we try and find you some answers?”

*****
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Old October 16 2012, 12:35 AM   #63
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I gotta bad feeling about this...

Methinks the Counselor may uncover enough to make his continued existence somewhat untenable. And then one day, one night.. urrrk! Kobayashi Maru.
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Old October 16 2012, 01:13 AM   #64
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Mmh, those are some mysterious dreams. But this could be a first step into solving one of the mysteries of the story.
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Old October 16 2012, 05:11 PM   #65
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Well, this is certainly an unexpected turn of events. I thought I picked up on hints of something going on with Verrik (I'll have to go back and see if I can find the references), but I had no inkling of anything like this.

I like when a story takes me places I wasn't expecting. And I'm very much looking forward to seeing where this new Verrik thread carries me.

And, once again, I'm really enjoying the crew's interactions with their newest member. In Liu, you've given us an interesting, intuitive and multi-layered character who continues to surprise. Again, I like that.

Carry on.
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Old October 17 2012, 05:48 AM   #66
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont'd>

USS Europa


"We are secured from warp speed," Lightner announced from Flight Control.

Lar’ragos slid into the executive officer’s seat to T’Ser’s right, his expression tightly controlled as he struggled to find a way to address what he found to be an unacceptable security risk to ship and crew.

He leaned in towards T’Ser, whispering, “Can I have a moment alone with you in the ready room, sir?”

T’Ser was typing shield configuration settings into the abbreviated console in her chair’s armrest, and answered without looking up. “We’re less than five minutes out from the nebula, Commander. Can it wait?”

“No signs of Voranti craft in sensor range, Captain,” Verrik announced from the Tactical station behind them.

“Can I safely assume there’s also no indication of Galaxy?” T’Ser inquired, an unaccustomed edge to her voice.

Verrik replied dryly, “I would have found any such signs worthy of mention, sir.”

It was obvious T’Ser was not going to give Lar’ragos a private audience in which to air his grievance, so he pressed in a low voice, “Are you really giving Donald free reign to tinker with the engines?”

“I don’t intend to have this discussion in public, Commander,” T’Ser answered in an equally subdued tone. She finally raised her head and directed a query towards the Engineering station where Ashok was seated. “How are we holding up, Lieutenant?”

Ashok turned in his chair to address the captain. “Not well, sir. The increased strain on the warp reactor from our high-speed run has contributed to a worsening of the structural micro-fractures in both the reactor core housing as well as the transfer conduits. Our dilithium crystals are also very close to failure.”

T’Ser’s jaw set as she considered that. “And if we’re forced to fight?”

“I would recommend torpedoes over phasers wherever possible, sir. Less strain on the warp reactor that way. We’ll also have to be careful not to abuse our shields, as that would have the same effect.”

A wry smile graced T’Ser’s lips. “I’ll tell the Voranti to take it easy on us, but no promises.”

Shanthi called out from the Science station, “We are now entering the transition boundary of Nebula NGC-7492. We can expect a significant decrease in sensor range and acuity. Speed will be limited to three-quarters impulse without shields.”

T’Ser nodded her understanding of these operational limitations. “Mister Shanthi, deploy your sensor-net probes.”

The aft torpedo launcher disgorged twenty sensor relay probes that fanned out in all directions. These would parallel the ship’s course and serve to boost Europa’s sensor capabilities in the nebular miasma.

Lar’ragos addressed Shanthi as well. “Science, with the limits on our scanning range, how long would it take us at three-quarters impulse to completely search the entire volume of this nebula?”

Shanthi cast a glance over his shoulder at the El Aurian. “Roughly seven months, sir, give or take a couple of weeks.”

Lar’ragos looked to T’Ser, batting his eyelashes with exaggerated enthusiasm. “Well,” he said, “this should be fun.”

T’Ser ignored him, silently hoping for a miraculously quick location and retrieval of their fellow starship. It was the kind of prayer, she realized, that was seldom answered.

*****

Somewhen else...

The light had returned to his eyes, and the easy, confident smile she’d once so adored had returned to his lips.

The Baron reached up a hand to touch the device that now adorned the back and sides of his head like a technological laurel wreath.

“At last,” he breathed with renewed vigor. “It has been too long.”

Ramirez frowned, still uncomfortable with the idea. “The device is too new,” she protested. “We can’t know all the dangers, the unforeseen side effects it might have.”

He stood slowly, appearing satisfied to find his legs steady and strong. “All the more reason to do this sooner as opposed to later, don’t you think?”

“The neural buffer is a crutch,” she reminded him sternly, “not a cure.”

“But what a crutch,” the Baron exclaimed. “To be myself again, if only for a short while, is a blessing. It’s invigorating to feel the hate in my hearts and the venom in my marrow again!”

“It’s too soon,” Ramirez pressed. “The attack on the other ship failed. Give me a chance to make Starfleet suffer again before you confront him. He’ll have no choice but to see their blood on his hands.”

“There’s no time, Liana,” he said with remarkable gentleness for one whose hands had committed such hard-hearted deeds. “I have to see his face one last time. I have to know the smell of his fear, the taste of his desperation!”

“It isn’t worth the risks,” she reiterated.

“I say otherwise.” He moved towards the transmat device.

Ramirez knew better than to push any further. The neural buffer had restored much of the Baron’s memory, though how long it might sustain it was anyone’s guess. Every other exterior construct they’d tried had eventually fallen victim to the tapeworm. Cloned tissue, cyber-shells, neural-heuristics, even a positronic matrix had proven no match for the Sentinel’s gleefully sadistic retrograde weapon.

And despite the seeming success of the buffer, restored along with his memories had come his arrogance and his thirst for melodrama. She realized only too well the penalty for pressing him beyond his tolerance. His punishments had been extraordinary, even to someone as inured to suffering as she’d once believed herself to be.

“What may I do to assist you, My Lord?” she asked submissively.

*****
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Last edited by Gibraltar; October 17 2012 at 10:14 PM.
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Old October 17 2012, 02:58 PM   #67
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I just physically shuddered.
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Old October 17 2012, 06:25 PM   #68
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

TrekkieMonster wrote: View Post
I just physically shuddered.
Was it something I said?!
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Old October 17 2012, 09:59 PM   #69
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
TrekkieMonster wrote: View Post
I just physically shuddered.
Was it something I said?!
Either that or another earth quake.

Seriously, The Baron (partially) restored and coming after Sandhurst ... with this ... twisted, fun house mirror version of Liana Ramirez .... The mind reels at the possibilities.
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Old October 21 2012, 02:25 PM   #70
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

I have an inkling as to what Verrik is going through here. If I'm right, the crew may be in big trouble. Scratch that ... more trouble, I should say.

And it seems T'Ser and Lar'ragos are not quite jelling yet. I can't fault the acting captain nor really Pava, he does make a decent point here.

Oh and yeah, then there's the Baron and his good-turned-evil disciple. Bad things are about to happen here, aren't they? Very bad things.
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Old October 24 2012, 06:02 AM   #71
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont’d>

Hello again, friend of a friend
I knew you when
Our common goal was waiting for the world to end
Now that the truth is just a rule that you can bend
You crack the whip, shape shift and trick the past again


- Black Sheep, by Metric

USS Europa
Captain’s Quarters


The Talarian dirge created a cacophonous background to Sandhurst’s inspiration, flooding the compartment with discordant wailing, clashing percussion, and abused string instruments that sounded on the verge of structural collapse.

It was the closest thing in the Federation database that he had found to the more evocative Amon martial musical forms. If his fevered creativity these past days was any measure, Sandhurst’s subconscious appeared to revel in the dissonance of the atonal lament.

He had been awake for some fifty-two hours, and his quarters were now a shambles. Strewn with data padds, the table tops hosted a collection of portable holo-projectors and hardcopy flimsies upon which were transcribed the arcane hieroglyphics of advanced warp theory.

Sandhurst had asked T’Ser for absolute privacy during this process, and thus far she had kept her word. Even Lar’ragos had been barred from visiting him, and he was a man not easily given to restraint.

It was nearly finished, his translation of Xin Ra-Havreii’s esoteric genius into physical reality, or at the very least the schematics with which to do so. Soon, he would have the capacity to rebuild Europa’s warp core into what it should have been, the device Ra-Havreii had imagined but had proven unable to fully realize.

His fingers traced through the air with manic intensity as he directed the holographic design of a new kind of dilithium articulation frame. His movements were like those of a frenzied painter, scoring his canvas with equal measures of pigment and zeal.

The Baron’s arrival was utterly soundless as he stepped through a doorway that was, and yet was not there. He opened his mouth to speak, knowing full well the reaction his words would prompt from Sandhurst and relishing the experience to come.

Sandhurst was on him before the first syllable had escaped the Baron’s lips. The unexpectedly violent collision triggered the Baron’s personal defense field, but Sandhurst paid the agonizing discharge no heed whatsoever as he slammed his tormentor against the bulkhead with a strength the Baron couldn’t account for.

“What… do… you… WANT?” Sandhurst seethed as the greenish energy field scorched both his tunic and the flesh beneath.

“I… I’ve come to—“ the Baron stammered.

“Not now!” Sandhurst shouted, hefting the Baron by the folds of his cloak and throwing him the length of the compartment to crash bodily into the far bulkhead. “I’m busy,” he added distractedly as he moved across the cluttered cabin towards the collapsed figure.

The impact with the wall had dislodged the device crowning the Baron’s head, and as a result the man sat dazedly on the floor next to a couch, seemingly lost. Sandhurst reached down and took hold of him by the throat with one hand while grasping the neural buffer with the other.

Though terribly confused and utterly disoriented, the Baron was cogent enough to recognize an attack on his person. He struck wildly at Sandhurst with savagely desperate blows that while breaking ribs and bruising organs did nothing else to impede Sandhurst’s actions.

The captain dissuaded further violence by driving the Baron’s head against the bulkhead repeatedly until consciousness had abandoned his limp form. As he dutifully inspected his attacker's intriguing headpiece, Sandhurst murmured, “I’m trying to create something here. Why is that so hard for you to see?” He sighed. “All you know how to do is destroy.”

With that he released his grip on the Baron, who thudded gracelessly to the deck. Sandhurst tossed the neural buffer aside and returned to examine his holographic etchings hovering in midair.

Ignoring the smoldering burns on his forearms and chest, Sandhust called out, “Bridge, Sandhurst. I have an intruder in my quarters. Come collect him,” as he returned to the task at hand.

*****
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Old October 24 2012, 06:15 AM   #72
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Holy COW!!
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Old October 24 2012, 06:23 AM   #73
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Croquemitaine wrote: View Post
Holy COW!!
Ditto.

I did NOT see that coming. I LOVED it, but I absolutely did not see it coming.

Clearly, this is not your father's Donald Sandhurst.

Curiouser and curiouser ....
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Old October 25 2012, 02:11 AM   #74
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Re: UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths



That was unexpected, to put it mildly. I would have loved to the expression on the Baron's face.
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Old October 26 2012, 06:13 AM   #75
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

Chapter 3 <cont'd>

USS Europa


“Target acquired,” the ensign at Operations said quietly, as though a raised voice might spook their prey.

Through the parting swirls of nebular gasses, the long, sleek silhouette of the Voranti cruiser could just be glimpsed on the main viewer. The computer-enhanced image was overlaid with various text notations, denoting the vessel’s course, speed, shield status and armament.

“The Voranti ship is twenty-nine point seven kilometers ahead. No indications as yet that they’ve detected us,” Verrik announced from the Tactical station.

“Acknowledged,” T’Ser spoke from the captain’s chair. “It would appear we have better sensors.”

Ensconced behind the Helm console, Lightner postulated,“Unless they know we’re here and they’re just drawing us in.”

“Always a possibility,” T’Ser conceded. “Everyone keep your eyes open.”

The doors to the forward tubolift parted and Lar’ragos strode onto the bridge, a troubled expression fixed on his features. He moved quickly to assume the XO’s chair to the captain’s right.

“What’s our situation?” T’Ser asked as he settled into his seat.

“The intruder’s been locked in a secured ward in Sickbay. I’ve got a combined Security and Marine detachment posting guard on him.”

“How’s the Cap—“ T’Ser winced ever so slightly. “How’s Sandhurst?”

“If someone in the throes of an obsessive, maniacal fugue can be said to be ‘okay’… then I guess he’s okay.”

“Is our prisoner this infamous ‘Baron’?” she asked.

Lar’ragos cocked his head slightly. “The individual fits the physical description Sandhurst gave of his assailant after he was attacked his quarters the first time. Taiee’s running a full medical workup on him, but initial scans indicate that he’s the same species as our ‘original’ Baron.” He opened his mouth to continue, but then appeared to think better of it, falling silent.

T’Ser shot him a curious look. “What?”

It took Lar’ragos a moment to formulate the thought, as if verbalizing it were somehow painful to him. He finally spoke in a whisper,“I’ve fought the Baron, sir. The man is nothing short of extraordinary in hand-to-hand combat. There’s no way I can conceive that Donald Sandhurst could have incapacitated him so easily.”

“You call fractured ribs, internal bleeding, and third degree burns getting off easily?” she replied.

“Against the Baron?” he asked skeptically. “Yes, I’d call that miraculous.”

“Voranti vessel is coming to two-zero-nine, mark zero-four-one,” Lightner observed. “Their speed remains constant. It looks like they’re conducting a zone search in a descending helical pattern.”

“Stay with them,” T’Ser instructed.

Lar’ragos inclined his head towards the viewer. “What’s the plan, Captain?”

“For now, we follow them,” T’Ser answered. “Actually stumbling across just one of their ships in this mess was lucky enough. Hopefully, they’ll lead us to Galaxy.”

“How do we know Galaxy is still intact?”

“They’re obviously still looking for somebody, and it isn’t us.” T’Ser observed.

“Respectfully, Captain, there’s no guarantee that this ship will eventually find the Galaxy, and in the meantime, our comrades could be fighting for their lives against other Voranti attackers.”

T’Ser sat still for a moment, as if weighing her reaction. Then, she turned toward her first officer. “What would you recommend, Commander?”

“I’d disable the Voranti ship, and then open communications with them. We’ll ask them why they attacked Galaxy, and if it happens that Masada did provoke them, we can explain that ship is a rogue vessel not associated with Starfleet.”

“And why should they believe us?” T’Ser prompted.

“Because we’re taking the time to talk rather than killing them outright,” Lar’ragos responded reasonably.

T’Ser looked thoughtful as she weighed the merits of his proposal. “And if that doesn’t work?”

“Then I lead a boarding party over, seize their command center, and download the contents of their computers. At least then we’ll have a better idea whether they’ve found Galaxy. If they haven't located her, we’ll know where they have and haven’t searched.”

“It’s not especially subtle,” T’Ser mused.

“We don’t have time for subtlety, sir. Our main reactor is failing, and we can’t afford to risk a prolonged firefight with the Voranti. Asymmetrical warfare is our only viable option.”

T’Ser regarded Lar’ragos coolly. Despite his reputation as a blood-thirsty maniac, the man was calm, collected, and rational. As much as she hated the idea of launching an ambush against the Voranti ship, Pava was right. Wasting days or weeks trailing the cruiser in hopes of bumping into Galaxy in the electrical soup of the nebula was wishful thinking at best.

And there were other considerations. They had a broken engine in need of repair. Dozens of their crew were tens of light-years away in nothing more than shuttles and escape vehicles trying to render aid to the survivors of In’Drahn station. Then there was the new Amon threat on top of the danger posed by the mysterious Baron and the inexplicably rogue starship Masada. Ultimately, there was still their original mission to think of, the continual influx of new itinerate species moving through the adjoining sectors.

Lar’ragos was actually surprised when T’Ser ordered, “Do it. Prepare your boarding team. When you’re ready, we’ll disable and confront the Voranti.”

*****
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