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Old June 23 2013, 01:37 AM   #16
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UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 2 cont'd)

Chapter Two
<cont'd>

USS Europa

The crew stood at parade rest, assembled in formation facing the dais situated just inside the main shuttle bay doors. They were arranged in alternating red, blue, and gold departmental colors, an unspoken testament to the reality that despite whatever division they served, their destinies were inextricably intertwined.

Between the dais and the crew lay thirty-seven torpedo tubes, each one draped with the powder blue flag of the United Federation of Planets. Most of these caskets contained the body of a fallen crewmember, while others were merely symbolic, representing a person who’d been completely vaporized or was otherwise unrecoverable.

Lar’ragos stepped up to the podium, setting his padd down atop the lectern and reaching out to ring the ship’s bell which hung next to him.

Wu called out, “Attention to orders,” with flawless precision and the crew snapped smartly to attention in unison. She waited for the order to relax to come forth from Lar'ragos, and then activated her padd to transmit data.

Lar’ragos began with the traditional refrain, “We are gathered here today to pay respects to our honored dead.” He paused to collect his thoughts, and then continued in his own words. “Eight of our number fell in the confrontation with the Romulans, and twenty-nine others were killed in the battle with Masada. Like you, I grieve for friends and comrades among the dead. I mourn the lost potential, the end of friendships and familial bonds. A piece of us shall remain with them always, and they in turn will reside within us. Their sacrifice will propel us forward, reinforcing our determination to see this task through to completion.

“Despite the burden of these losses, we must acknowledge that they will not be the last among us to fall. I wish I could offer you more comforting words, but the reality is that Starfleet is all that stands between the Alpha Quadrant and the horde of refugees bearing down upon our respective civilizations. We cannot rely on our traditional allies to rescue us, as we have seen with our own eyes how divided the Romulans are in their purpose, and the Klingons have yet to even arrive.

“Every life given here in the Delta Quadrant may equate to millions, or even billions in the Alpha Quadrant who will remain healthy and whole as a result of our individual sacrifices. We few who have chosen to stand shoulder to shoulder on this line knew the risks that came with this uniform. We have been tested time and again in our training and over the course of our careers. Here is where we will face our ultimate trial, the challenging of confronting this gravest of threats while keeping our morality and our ideals intact.”

Lar’ragos looked out onto the ranks of officers and enlisted personnel, his eyes scanning across their faces, many known to him while others were unfamiliar, replacements filling the positions of those they were there to honor.

“Issara Taiee was affectionately known as ‘doc’, and she was a healer in every sense of the word. Her skills as a surgeon saved my life, and perhaps more importantly, her caring nature and her generous spirit helped to save my soul. Issara possessed a wisdom far greater than her years would suggest, and given the horrors she endured and the risks she ran to treat our wounded during the Dominion War, she could have elected to work at nearly any planetary installation in the Federation.

“Instead she chose to remain aboard an outdated, outgunned escort ship that saw far more action than it should. Then she decided to join Vanguard, knowing full well the dangers involved. Her humanitarian actions aboard In’Drahn Station, working with minimal support and few resources, earned her the Bronze Cadeceus. Doc Taiee’s last action in defense of her crewmates, that of sealing Sickbay off from the rest of the ship, has warranted the submission of her name for consideration for a posthumous Medal of Valor.”

As he spoke, Lar’ragos’ eyes grew glassy with emotion, something he’d once believed far behind him, lost to the mists of time. The man who’d hardened his heart in order to perform the unspeakable, the man who’d so recently studied the intricacies of Vulcan Kolinahr in an attempt to hold his demons at bay, now felt the surge of genuine grief coursing through him.

“Olivia Juneau was a pain in my side from the moment we met. She was opinionated, stubborn, and had a mischievous streak that rubbed me raw. And yet, in the time I knew her, this shy, awkward woman blossomed into something more. She grew into a formidable presence that shepherded this crew through a hopeless battle against the seemingly unstoppable Romulans bent on our destruction.

“Juneau became more than the sum of her parts, and in so doing, she achieved a greatness none of us knew existed within her, not even herself. That will be Olivia’s enduring lesson to us all, that when called upon, there is enormous potential within each of us. We await only that spark, that confluence of circumstances to ignite our true selves.”

Lar’ragos continued, referencing his padd to draw from painstakingly researched histories to speak with surprising detail about the other fallen crew. Wu had collated these stories and anecdotes the night before during a marathon research session that would have made a Starfleet Intelligence analyst envious. Her findings complemented Pava’s inherent emotive gifts, and the result was a touching memorial that seemed to help salve the crew's psychic wounds while girding them for the challenges yet to come.

Following his words, Lar’ragos moved to join the others, falling into formation at the front of the gathering. The dais and podium dematerialized before a forcefield flickered into existence which separated the ranks from the great bay doors. Those doors opened to reveal the aft end of their drydock gantry and the stars beyond. The engines on the individual torpedoes flared, lifting them slowly off their pedestals and sending them in a staggered formation out and away from the ship. Once clear of Galaxy Station’s traffic, the flotilla of torpedoes turned gracefully and set a final course for the system’s central star.

“We commit these dead to the depths of space,” Lar’ragos announced with finality.

* * *
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Old June 23 2013, 03:26 PM   #17
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

You guys are churning out these segments like a writing factory. Good news for us eager readers.

First we get a glimpse at an uncensored and very drunk Pava Lar'ragos. Man, I hope nobody recorded that uncannily un-PC conversation. That could lead to awkward moments after. In the end it's just a couple of old warriors letting lose, remembering old times. I'm curious about Caldwell. She seems familiar but I cannot place her. Have we come across her before?

Now Pava's new first officer is a bundle of joy, ain't she? I bet she'd be the last person to condone Lar'ragos antics behind closed doors. I'm curious to see how her somewhat abrasive personality will go over on Europa. She may be just what this crew needs. Or she may get thrown out of an airlock before all this is over. Either way, it's going to be a fun ride.

It was good to see that Starfleet and the Cardassians actually managed to fight off the seemingly unstoppable Amon for once, even if it came at a very high cost. Now throw in Sandhurst's possibly reformed tribe and this might actually be a fair fight. I'm sure Ramirez will do what she can to play the spoiler.

Terrific stuff all around.
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Old June 24 2013, 07:36 PM   #18
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

Very good second chapter. I agree with CeJay, the new XO is a wildcard. Very Vulcan-like in her demeanor. I wonder if the mask will hold when flesh is rent and blood is spilled?

And speaking of death, that was a very somber (and well-written) memorial service; appropriate considering the heavy losses and the death of long-time, familiar characters. I liked the imagery of the launch of the torpedo casings. A small thing, perhaps, but it added a degree of finality.
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Old June 24 2013, 08:42 PM   #19
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

Just popping in to say, though I've been away for awhile and am WAY behind on this story, I've downloaded to my trusty e-reader everything you've posted thus far and am incredibly excited to get caught up on my upcoming vacation. And I can not WAIT! Until then, I'll be covering my eyes when I check for further updates before my departure. Carry on.
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Old June 29 2013, 11:20 AM   #20
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

CeJay:

Caldwell makes her first appearance in the novel immediately preceding this one on the FSA side: "Mater Semper Certa Est" -- which has not yet been released. It is the direct sequel to "To Triumph and Not to Mourn."

-- ZC
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Old July 7 2013, 08:00 PM   #21
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UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 3)

Chapter Three


USS Europa


“Lieutenant Shanthi and the Bynar pair are making steady progress in culling any hidden access permissions from Captain Sandhurst’s transwarp systems programming,” Wu noted as she strode along beside Lar’ragos down one of Europa’s corridors.

Lar’ragos smiled grimly. “Perfect. Inform Captain Renault that we’ll be hanging on to oh-one and oh-two for the foreseeable future, on the authority of Admiral T’Cirya. I’m sure the good captain will agree that our regaining transwarp capability trumps whatever operational needs Gwendolyn has at the moment.”

“And shall I use that exact phrasing, sir?” Wu asked as she made a notation on her padd.

“Well, no. Be… you know… diplomatic.”

“Aye, sir,” she said with a subtle clenching of her jaw. “I will employ... diplomacy.’”

He offered her a saccharine smile. “See, that’s the spirit.” He stopped in the corridor in front of the door to his quarters. “Anything else on today’s agenda? If not, I have a date with a couple of dozen heavily armed holograms.”

“Only one, sir. A Lieutenant Commander Ojana is requesting a meeting with you at your earliest convenience.”

Lar’ragos appeared nonplussed. “Pell, actually,” he corrected gently. “She’s Bajoran.”

Wu looked at him wordlessly.

“She’s Galaxy Station’s XO,” he continued.

Wu’s silence stretched on.

“And… you don’t care,” Lar’ragos assessed with a chagrined smile.

“Respectfully, sir, all I need to know is if you want to see her, and if so, when is convenient for you.”

Lar’ragos considered that for a moment. “Thirty minutes, and send her down here to my quarters.”

Wu logged the meeting on her padd. “Yes, sir.”

Lar’ragos offered Wu the Vulcan salute. “Work long and proper,” he intoned.

She didn’t even reward him with a raised eyebrow, allowing him only her infuriatingly patient stare. She lifted her hand in the same fashion and replied, "Same to you, sir."

“Careful,” he countered with a wry smile, “That’s coming dangerously close to demonstrating a sense of humor, Commander. Goodness knows we can’t have that.”

Wu looked at her hand and quickly placed it back down at her side. "Yes, sir." Though her face never expressed it, Lar'ragos picked up on her slight shift in her posture. The more time he spent with her, the easier it became to pick out her almost-imperceptible tells.

“You’d like to leave now,” he offered.

She stiffened slightly. "By your leave, of course, sir."

He stepped through the doors into his cabin, “Dismissed, First.”

The unorthodox title caused a visible twitch across her scarred cheek just before she turned to stride down the corridor. Out of her sight, Lar'ragos allowed himself an evil grin as the doors closed.

* * *

Precisely one half hour later, the door’s annunciator chimed.

“Enter,” he offered from where he sat behind his work desk, filing the last of the day’s datawork.

Pell Ojana entered, looking somewhat ill at ease, as though she was walking into the lion’s den.

“Come in, Commander,” Lar’ragos said, setting a convivial tone. “Please, make yourself comfortable.”

Pell took a seat across from his desk, her face a mask of conflicted emotions. Lar’ragos sensed a mix of anger, apprehension, and resignation.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

A petulant smirk flitted across her features. “I’m going to give you the satisfaction of hearing me beg, Pava.”

Lar’ragos leaned forward to deactivate his computer display, before sitting back in his chair to appraise Pell. In his most business-like voice he said, “Commander, I’d remind you that I’ve extended you the courtesy of this meeting on short notice. I’ve done so despite an especially busy schedule as we’re making preparations for our departure. Were our positions reversed, I assure you that the last thing I’d try to do was to belittle you, most especially while standing onboard your post. In that spirit I trust you’ll show me the respect I’m due aboard my ship.”

She gulped, “Yes… Captain. I apologize.” Pell would rather have provoked one of the old Pava’s sneering threats, and had been unprepared for the cool, reasoned response of a genuine commanding officer. “I’m here to request a transfer to Europa for the duration of your upcoming mission, sir.”

He frowned. “For what purpose?”

“You mission, as I understand it, is to make diplomatic contact with the less aggressive of the two Amon tribes, sir. I’m one of the most qualified diplomatic specialists presently assigned to Vanguard.”

Lar’ragos ran his tongue along the back of his teeth as he continued to consider the unusual request. “Ambassador Epstein is perfectly capable of handling that aspect of our assignment, Commander,” he replied evenly.

Pell continued, “It’s also obvious that you intend to exploit your friendship with Donald Sandhurst to try and sway that tribe’s loyalties to something more in line with Federation interests.”

“I don’t recall any such provisions in our mission orders,” Lar’ragos noted evasively.

Pell inclined her head. “That’s a guess on my part, but it’s an educated one. If that’s the case, my presence might prove an added inducement to Captain Sandhurst.”

“It just might,” Lar’ragos conceded.

Her eyes faltered, unable to maintain their lock on Pava’s. “I need to be there.”

“For him?” Lar’ragos asked.

“And for me,” Pell confessed. “I’ve been… unable to let go. It appears I’m in need of closure.”

Lar’ragos scrutinized her. “When the Amon made their second appearance, it was you who convinced Captain T’Ser to fire on their ship with an Alpha Weapon, knowing full well that Donald was aboard. If you’ll forgive my saying so, you didn’t appear in especially great need of closure at that moment.”

Pell’s eyes found Lar’ragos’ once again. “I’ve slept precious little since then. Under the circumstances, it was the correct course of action, but that hasn’t stopped me from agonizing over it.”

“You were correct,” Lar’ragos advised. “You made the right call then, and I was the one in the wrong.” He shifted in his chair, bracing his weight on one arm rest as he leaned towards Pell. “Please know that it’s my hope and my intent to bring Donald back into the fold. Failing that, my orders direct me to try and forge an alliance with ‘his’ tribe against the Amon that have been launching attacks against the Alpha Quadrant.”

She nodded softly. “As I surmised.”

“However, if I discover that Donald Sandhurst has himself become a danger to the Alpha Quadrant, I will not hesitate to eliminate the threat he poses.”

“Kill him, you mean,” Pell snapped.

“By any means necessary,” Lar’ragos confirmed.

Pell laughed loudly, a sardonic sound devoid of humor. “You think you could actually bring yourself to shoot him? I highly doubt that.”

Lar’ragos’ expression and voice conveyed an absolute sincerity, somehow lacking in overt malice despite the subject at hand. “Your belief is not required, Commander. I have my orders, and I’d rather Donald die as the man he was, rather than live on for millennia as some alien sycophant.”

Pell blanched, all traces of dark comedy having evaporated in the face of Pava’s stark admission.

“You still want in?” he asked sharply.

“Yes.” There had been no hesitation in her response.

“Fine. If you can sell it to Commander Worf, I’ll propose it to T’Cirya.”

“Thank you,” Pell said reflexively.

“Don’t thank me, Commander,” Lar’ragos sighed. “You may well curse me before all this is over.”

* * *

The Klingons arrived the next day, decloaking unexpectedly en mass within half an AU of Galaxy Station. There were a few tense minutes before Starfleet and their new allies could say with certainty that an attack was not forthcoming.

The Klingon fleet was led by one of their mammoth Negh’Var-class heavy assault cruisers, one of only a handful of the ships the Empire’s brittle post-war economy had managed to produce. Ten Vor’cha-class heavy cruisers, and twice that number of light cruisers of assorted classes rounded out their merry band of destructive potential.

Vice Admiral T’Cirya had called her two Klingon experts to her office, Captain Lucian Ebnal and Commander Worf. The Klingons had ignored repeated hails, and the admiral was right on the cusp of raising the defense condition of the station and the various starships in the vicinity when a youthful looking Klingon adorned with the rank insignia of a Brigadier General appeared on their viewscreens.

“I am Brigadier Gan’Louk of the Klingon Defense Forces. The Klingon Empire offers its warriors and its ships in the Alpha Quadrant’s defense. We are ready to assist our Federation allies, as well as those local species that have joined in that honorable cause. Whomsoever stands as an ally to the Federation shall be an ally to the Empire.” The transmission ended with the image of the Klingon trefoil.

In T’Cirya’s office, Captain Ebnal blew out a relieved breath at the brief statement. “At least they didn’t come out shooting.”

The Vulcan admiral appeared to ignore Ebnal’s observation, turning instead to address Commander Worf. “What do we know about this Gan’Louk?”

“Surprisingly little, Admiral,” Worf answered stolidly. “He has an enviable battle record, he is politically well connected within the High Council, and perhaps most importantly, all the right people appear to fear him.”

“Who constitutes the ‘right people,’” she asked, directing that query to Ebnal.

The formidably taciturn captain replied, “He beat out at least twenty-five other top military commanders to earn the honor of leading this battle fleet. That speaks to serious political clout, but Intel has next to nothing on who his direct benefactors might be. His supporters on the Council run the gamut from political conservatives to pro-democracy constitutionalists, which is nearly unheard of. The last person who was able to cobble together that broad of a coalition was K’mpec.”

“You spoke of an enviable war record,” T’Cirya noted, turning back to Worf. “How so?”

“During the Klingon/Federation war, Gan’Louk commanded a task force that pushed all the way into the Talosian Corridor before the cease-fire was signed. He participated notably in the Klingon invasion of Cardassian space, leading the assault on Udrok Nor and seizing Testamus Prime’s shipyards intact.”

“I presume he was equally fortunate during the Dominion War?” T’Cirya inquired.

“Suffice to say he earned great glory for himself, his house, and the Empire,” Ebnal summarized.

“None of what you’ve told me could not be discovered in a simple alliance datanet inquiry,” T’Cirya observed.

Ebnal nodded, “Which is unusual in and of itself, sir.” He shot Worf an almost apologetic look as he noted, “Klingons are larger than life, or at least they try and project that aura. They’re braggarts, shouting to the rafters about their accrued glory and deeds of note. Only, Gan’Louk doesn’t play by those rules. What we know of his victories are only due to their being transcribed in his house’s official history.”

Worf very nearly smiled at Ebnal’s assessment. “I cannot dispute the Captain’s interpretation, Admiral. Brigadier Gan’Louk seems to have intentionally downplayed his own accomplishments. In Klingon culture, it’s highly unusual, and suggests someone who has something to hide.”

T’Cirya considered that. “Who might be a resource in our discovering what Gan’Louk may wish to conceal?”

Ebnal shrugged, and looked to Worf. The Klingon commander responded, “I will have to do some digging. Perhaps there is a scorned member of Gan’Louk’s house who may be willing to air their dirty laundry.”

The Vulcan's agreement drew nothing more than a simple nod. "Captain, I'd like for you to liaise with the General for the forseeable future. I believe they may have expected Commander Worf, but I would prefer to disappoint them." Her gaze shifted to Worf. "Commander, you will continue to advise and report to Admiral Brotman."

Ebnal nodded curtly. "Aye, sir."

Worf stood. “Yes, Admiral. I will have estimates on Klingon capabilities and force strength to Strategic Ops as soon as I’ve compiled the data.”

* * *
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Old July 7 2013, 10:14 PM   #22
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

With all the personnel changes going on, necessary as they may be, it's good to see an old friend rejoining the crew. And the Pell-Lar'ragos-Sandhurst relationship is sure going to make things more complicated (read interesting).

And yeah, I don't trust the Klingons one bit. They like to talk of alliances but we all know, the only thing they usually care about is their own honor. Better watch out for these guys.
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Old July 8 2013, 12:29 AM   #23
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

A few observations:

* Wu needs to start replicating her underwear a size larger. Her current set seem a trifle too snug.

* Pava seems intent on setting boundaries (while lightly tormenting his XO). He set a clear line for Pell. I wonder if he has set a line for himself.

* Good call making Captain Ebnal the liaison with the Klingons. It won't be an insult - the Klingons, no doubt, have a very high regard for Ebnal as a warrior - but the choice might take a bit of wind out of their sails nonetheless. This General Gan'Louk is definitely a wild-card. Wonder what skeletons lurk in his closet?
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Old July 8 2013, 09:34 AM   #24
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UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 3 cont'd)

Chapter Three
<cont'd>

Bazaar Commercial Zone, Galaxy Station

The name of the establishment was an unpronounceable garble to humanoid tongues, a Habertaem expression that translated roughly to ‘The Drinking Hole.’ It was to this tavern-like locale that Lar’ragos brought Europa’s senior officers, sans Wu and Counselor Liu. Wu had already established that she wasn’t the social type, and Lar’ragos had been unable to convince the reticent Liu to leave the holodeck where the man had been fly fishing a remote North American river.

Europa’s relaunch was only two days away, and as the crew had been working long hours to have the ship ready in time for that deadline, Lar’ragos had wanted both to celebrate the achievement as well as foster camaraderie amongst the reconstituted senior staff.

It was evident that Starfleet engineers had exercised some influence on the formerly Habertaem design of the bar, adding more humanoid-friendly chairs and tables to the existing lounging troughs that the scorpion-like aliens rested in.

Lar’ragos was dressed casually in civilian clothing that seemed to defy categorization to any single era, but had replicated a Terran World War II-style bomber jacket for just this occasion. The back of the jacket was emblazoned with a ferocious looking cartoon rendition of a Luna-class starship, reminiscent of the design-team logos favored by the SCE. Around the image were the words, ‘U.S.S. Europa. Mess With The Best, Burn Like The Rest.’

The others were dressed in a mishmash of uniforms or civilian attire, or a combination of the two. Ashok was clad in engineering overalls that still bore holes and stains from his day’s exertions in the ship’s access tubes, while Leone was dressed in a Starfleet Academy hooded sweatshirt and matching sweatpants.

The ship’s new Ops Chief, Lieutenant Georgia Kirk, wore a sleeveless t-shirt and jeans, her mannish figure further accentuated by her closely cropped red hair. The great granddaughter of Peter Kirk, Georgia was the first of the family lineage to pursue a Starfleet career in the past seventy-five years. She had done everything in her power to disassociate herself from her family’s legacy within Starfleet, and had joined Task Force Vanguard with an eye toward making a name for herself separate that of her nearly deified great-uncle.

A Habertaem server scuttled over to their table, taking drink orders as the creature’s glassy black eyes seemed to stare vacantly into their very souls. Those recent arrivals to the Delta Quadrant were still coming to terms with the horrific disfigurements the now deceased Husnock had inflicted on their slave species.

Kirk shook her head as the server moved off to another table. “You’re telling me you folks have grown used to that?”

The tall, ebony skinned Kuenre Shanthi smiled. “We’re getting there. The pheromone inhibitors we helped them to manufacture have taken the edge off the outright revulsion AQ’s typically feel when first meeting the Habertaem.” He craned his neck to look back at the entrance as a trio of large silhouettes darkened the doorway. “The fact that they’re genuinely the nicest people helps, too,” he added.

Lar’ragos gave Kirk a look that suggested he was assessing her. “They were slaves for untold generations, Lieutenant. Despite all they suffered under the Husnock, they’ve made every effort to welcome us to this region, even when their warm welcome invited attack by the Amon.”

Kirk didn’t shrink from his gaze. “I didn’t suggest they weren’t a trustworthy people, Captain. I’m merely noting that this part of the galaxy seems home to a higher-than-average number of exotically non-humanoid species.”

“By design,” Lar’ragos countered. “The Husnock wanted to defile them so completely that they would always be remembered. In that, at least, they succeeded.”

“Speaking of defilers,” Leone muttered, nodding his head towards the doorway.

The hulking trio stepped into the dim light of the bar, revealing themselves to be swaggering Klingon warriors. They pushed past a Habertaem attendant as though the creature wasn’t there, moving farther into the room where they spied a table occupied by a quartet of Yaoshan traders.

The three warriors surrounded the table, glowering at the occupants until the delicate, willowy Yaoshan decided to find a less hostile location to host their social gathering. The merchants beat a hasty retreat as the laughing Klingons seated themselves into their still-warm chairs.

The server returned to deliver the Starfleet officers’ drinks, before clacking over to the Klingon table on its spindly, segmented legs. The Habertaem tried to take the warriors’ drink orders while one of their number amused himself by throwing Gramilian sand peas at the host’s head.

Kirk closed her eyes and sipped at her ale. “I can’t stand bullies,” she murmured, reigning in her emotions.

Ashok frowned but remained silent.

Leone looked away, clearly disgusted but unwilling to risk a confrontation with their newly arrived allies.

Lar’ragos exhaled slowly, and Leone observed his commanding officer’s posture shift ever so slightly, muscles relaxing in preparation for explosive movement. The El Aurian turned in his chair to address the Klingon trio. “Your brigadier claims our allies are your allies.”

The sand pea tormentor paused his snack flicking assault just long enough to snort derisively. “What of it, human?”

“I’m curious as to which of you is the liar, you or your general?”

All three Klingons stood in unison, two of their chairs toppling over. The Habertaem server wisely decided to retreat.

“Watch your tongue, Starfleet, lest I remove it,” called the Klingon that Lar’ragos had identified as the senior among them.

“I would not behave as you have while aboard a Klingon station.”

“You would not dare,” snarled the leader, his hand resting not so subtly on the handle of his d’k tahg knife.

“You’re correct,” Lar’ragos answered reasonably. “I would not dishonor my uniform or my ship by my actions towards the helpless.”

“Stand up and say that to my face, human,” the Klingon officer spat.

“I stand in the presence of warriors,” Lar’ragos said simply, “not cowards.”

The Klingon bolted forward as both Leone and Kirk began to rise from their chairs. The other officers, more familiar with Lar’ragos, remained seated. There was a flash of steel and a blur of movement, followed by a wet cleaving sound and nearly simultaneous grunts of pain.

The first Klingon sank slowly to his knees, his own d’k tahg's blade plunged through his hand, pinning it to the table top. One of the other warriors was leaning against a faux-wood support beam, his hand pressed tightly to his throat as a trickle of blood seeped from between his fingers. The third man knelt on the floor, his hands grasping his groin as his eyes watered.

“This was unnecessary.” Lar’ragos said quietly to the leader, squatting down to look at the man eye-to-eye.

“What?” the officer hissed from between clenched teeth.

“All I asked was that you comport yourselves as soldiers of the Empire.” Lar’ragos ran his finger along the curves and points of the Klingon’s family crest, seeming to admire the emblem. “When you or your friends come in here, I expect you to mind your manners. And the next time you pull a knife on me, you’d best have made reservations in Gre’thor beforehand.”

Kirk and Leone shared a surprised look before slowly resuming their seats. Shanthi leaned over to the lieutenants and whispered, “Welcome to Europa.

Lar’ragos reached out and tapped the Klingon’s comms device attached to his gauntlet. “This is Commander Lar’ragos aboard Galaxy Station. I would cordially invite Brigadier Gan’Louk to come collect three of his ‘honorable warriors’ who appear to have had too much bloodwine.”

* * *

By the time Brigadier Gan’Louk and a host of Klingon soldiers arrived, station security had been summoned, as well as medical personnel whose ministrations the injured Klingons steadfastly refused.

Captain Ebnal had entered moments earlier, but rather than assume command of the scene, he had melted into the background to observe.

The general waved his entourage back as he stepped up to inspect the state of his three warriors. He turned his gaze on Lar’ragos, the only Starfleet member from Europa’s contingent not seated. “Your work, I presume?” he inquired in a disinterested tone.

Lar’ragos leaned against the table in a casual posture, arms folded across his chest. “Your men were abusing the Habertaem. I attempted to address their behavior, and they chose to... escalate the situation.”

Gan’Louk reached out and jerked the knife free from both hand and table, freeing his soldier. The man rose to his feet, clutching his wounded hand to his chest to staunch the blood flow. The brigadier gestured to the cadre that had accompanied him, and they moved to envelope the three troublemakers and usher them out of the establishment.

With a flick of his wrist, Gan’Louk sent the d’k tahg flying towards the deck, where it lodged tip-first in the floor barely an inch from Lar’ragos’ feet.

The El Aurian didn’t flinch, but it was a near thing. He hadn’t seen that coming.

“It’s yours,” Gan’Louk offered in a neutral tone, showing none of the bluster and outrage one might expect. “You earned it.”

“Thank you, no,” Lar’ragos demurred. “I’ve had more than enough Klingon toys in my day, Brigadier.”

The comment seemed to generate the briefest flicker of anger behind the Klingon officer’s eyes. The heat had barely registered on Gan’Louk’s face before he banished it. He turned to address the Habertaem owner of the social club. “You have my apologies for the unwarranted actions of my soldiers. They have dishonored their uniform, their houses, and the empire. We will pay for the damages in the currency or trade goods of your choice.”

Then Gan’Louk stepped close to Lar’ragos, leaning in to whisper, “You never fail to disappoint, outworlder.”

Lar’ragos’ expression was hard enough to humble neutronium. He replied in an equally subdued tone, “Keep your dogs on a tighter leash, and I won’t have to repeat this lesson.”

“Next time, bring the lesson to me in person,” Gan’Louk said in a lethal purr.

A slow smile crept across Lar’ragos’ lips. “I await your invitation... General.”

Gan’Louk turned on his heel and stormed out.

Lar’ragos pulled out his chair and was about to take a seat when a hand on his shoulder stopped him. “Not so goddamn fast, Commander,” came the growling voice of Lucian Ebnal.

Lar’ragos favored him with an innocent expression. “Yes, sir?”

“We have an unscheduled appointment with Vice Admiral T’Cirya.”

* * *

“So Commander Twinkletoes here decides it’d be a hoot to brawl with the Klingons in the bazaar, and then drag the brigadier into the mess to highlight the oafishness of his men.”

Admirals T'Cirya listened to Ebnal's report from behind her desk with Rear Admiral Brotman standing near by. They had been mid-discussion when news of the altercation reached them. Brotman remained within the office at her insistence. "Your penchant for color notwithstanding, Captain, I prefer concise brevity when hearing from my officers," she said tonelessly.

“Very well, sir. In that case, Pava started a fucking fight with the Klinks,” Ebnal enthused.

Brotman began a chortle, but it bit off into a sudden coughing fit. "Pardon me, sir."

T'Cirya paid Brotman no attention. She rose from her seat and approached the viewscreen on the left side of the desk. "Captain Lar'ragos?"

Lar’ragos was seated with his legs crossed, looking rather disinterested in the proceedings. When addressed by T’Cirya, he stood. “Sir?”

"Rear Admiral Brotman and I would appreciate a verbal report on your assessment of General Gan'Louk," she said. "It's timely, considering we were just discussing their strength. It would be helpful to know his character."

“Yes, sir,” Lar’ragos answered crisply. “The brigadier came to the bazaar straightaway and apologized for his mens’ actions. He even offered restitution. It’s likely the three soldiers involved are already dead for having shamed their general.”

Brotman scoffed. "That's to be expected, isn't it? Their idea of maintaining discipline has little to do with discipline at all." His demeanor and reaction betrayed his prejudice toward the Klingons. "Their style of military function is archaic. It's a wonder they've survived this long."

"Thank you, Admiral," T'Cirya nearly cut him off, then turned back to face Lar'ragos. "And thank you, Captain. That's a rather interesting and useful bit of information about him. I daresay you've managed to uncover precisely what we were looking for."

Ebnal stood with arms crossed, his gaze fixed on Lar’ragos. “They way you two spoke, I’d wager that wasn’t your first encounter. Where do you know Gan’Louk from?”

For the first time since arriving in T’Cirya’s office, Lar’ragos appeared vaguely uncomfortable. “Metralus II. He led the Klingon contingent that ransacked our colony there when the Empire invaded. I was captured just before the armistice, and Gan’Louk and I had words. We’re not each other’s biggest fans.”

That drew the very Vulcan expression of the lifted eyebrow from T'Cirya. "Indeed," she said. She returned to her desk and touched the control panel. "Lieutenant, please inform Captain Grelk that I will be delayed in meeting with him. And then, send for Commander Worf. Thank you." She addressed the group once more. "Captain Lar'ragos, Admiral Brotman will be in touch with you regarding any information that you can provide about the general. Furthermore, I believe that Brigadier General Bainbridge may see fit to receive you. He is here with Teams Six, Eight, and Nine."

Lar’ragos inclined his head. “Good timing, sir. Additional assets from the Teams will be a definite force multiplier out here.”

Ebnal continued to give Lar’ragos a skeptical look as the two men exited the office. “I don’t mind you slapping around a few Klingons for a good cause, Pava, but calling Gan’Louk out in front of his people risked kicking over the hornets’ nest.”

Lar’ragos turned to face him. “I’ll keep that in mind, Captain. Thank you.”

“See that you do,” Ebnal retorted. “I know you're demon of hand-to-hand combat, but if you’d fucked up and the Klingons had gone to disruptors, you’d have only been the first person they shot, not the last. You’ve got a crew to think about now, so no more of this interstellar cowboy shit.”

“Less me, more Sandhurst?”

Ebnal grunted. “Something like that.”

* * *
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Old July 8 2013, 02:34 PM   #25
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

“Less me, more Sandhurst?”

Ebnal grunted. “Something like that.”
Gotta love Pava. Sometimes he's as subtle as a tossed hand grenade. Interesting that he has a "history" with the mysterious Klingon general. Not exactly BFFs, are they?

And here I was, thinking the Feddies and Ridge-heads were going to sit around drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches.

Also interesting that Kirk's manly great-niece is now on Europa. I'm having all kinds of fun hearing her speak in Shatner's voice. Hope she can keep her shirt on better than Teh Awesome Kirk. That could be awkward.
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Old July 8 2013, 08:28 PM   #26
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: View Post
Also interesting that Kirk's manly great-niece is now on Europa. I'm having all kinds of fun hearing her speak in Shatner's voice. Hope she can keep her shirt on better than Teh Awesome Kirk. That could be awkward.
TLR, you sick little monkey, that hadn't occurred to me! Now I'm going to have that image stuck in my head.
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Old July 18 2013, 08:05 PM   #27
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

*shrug* Pava's gonna do what Pava's gonna do. These Klingons should have read the memo before stepping onto the station. Their own damn fault really.

Now the big question is, can Pava grow to become more than an incredibly dangerous, near-undefeatable, kick-ass, ninja-style super-solider? Can he actually be more Sandhurst than Pava? Only time will tell.
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Old August 6 2013, 08:14 AM   #28
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

I hope this story doesn't go the way of "Tales of the Bluefin: Trajectory"
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Old August 7 2013, 07:46 PM   #29
TheLoneRedshirt
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

Tribble puncher wrote: View Post
I hope this story doesn't go the way of "Tales of the Bluefin: Trajectory"
Gibraltar shared with the United Trek writers that he will be on hiatus for an indeterminate period. We all hope he is able to resume writing soon.

As to "Trajectory," I apologize for the lengthy delay. Due to work and health issues, I haven't done any writing in over a year. Both situations have improved and I may get back to writing before long.

-TLR
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Old August 8 2013, 02:19 AM   #30
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Re: UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

That's cool, TLR; I always enjoyed your work. Also, I hope all's well with Gibraltar. I devour his stuff and can't wait to see how things play out.
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