Embers of the Fire - ST: Gibraltar

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    And the innocents suffer again. A dark and foreboding period with not just Starfleet lives on the line. :cardie:

    More development of character as we see Lar’ragos and Ramirez battle the Cardassian dissenters. Nice touch with Lar’ragos sensing the evil intent lurking in ambush BTW!
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6

    Captain Sandhurst tried not to fixate on the pulsing crimson red alert lights that flared in perfect time throughout the bridge. His people were on the surface, under attack, and he was virtually helpless to assist them. Ops had been unable to cut through the sensor jamming at the settlement, and Plazzi had proved equally incapable of pinpointing the source of the interference.

    So this is command, he thought soberly. Sandhurst sat in a compartment full of people and felt as lonely as if he was on a solitary trek across the Vulcan Forge. Now he began to understand why officers like William Riker were loath to give up the first officer’s position. Better to be in the thick of the action than to sit and wait in impotent silence.

    “Chief Towsend to Captain Sandhurst.”

    The transporter chief’s voice seemed to boom from the overhead speakers on the tension filled bridge.

    “Go ahead, Chief.”

    “No go on the transporter lock, sir. Do you want me to put them down outside the zone of interference?"

    “Negative, Chief. Send them to the shuttle bay.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    An alarm began to sound at both the Science and Operations consoles simultaneously. Plazzi acknowledged it first. “Sir, we’re detecting an anomalous energy signature. It…” he paused, his screen flickering as he struggled to divine meaning from raw data, “…it appears to be some kind of subspace disturbance, localized to several sections of Gibraltar’s hull, Captain.”

    Sandhurst sat forward. “Our hull? Explain.”

    Plazzi scratched at his beard. “I’d love to, sir. However, all the sensors are telling me is there’s been some kind of highly localized subspace disruption. It was restricted to within one-one-hundredth of a millimeter of our hull plating.”

    At Operations, Juneau announced, “Sir, I’m getting a distress call from the Phoenix.” She frowned. “It looks like their automated disaster beacon, Captain.” The junior lieutenant took some measure of comfort from not having yelled her observations like a panicked cadet this time.

    Sandhurst stood. “Put Phoenix on screen.” The image on the main viewer shifted and centered on the starship, a tiny silver point holding position above Lakesh’s day side. “Magnify.” Another shift in the display revealed the Nebula-class ship under her own power with running lights cycling normally. “Any information on the nature of the emergency, Mister Juneau?”

    She accessed the encrypted subtext of the signal. “Aye, sir.” Juneau quickly scanned the content, “It appears internal sensors detected a viral contaminant that was identified in several areas of the ship simultaneously. The crew in the effected areas collapsed, and the ship’s computer automatically initiated ship wide quarantine protocols.”

    Sandhurst gripped the back of Juneau’s seat headrest with such force that his knuckles began to whiten. He forced himself to relax his hands as he called to Plazzi, “Elisto, can you confirm that?”

    From the Science station, Plazzi reported, “Confirmed, sir. Scans of the ship show negative internal movement by the crew, although I’m getting normal life sign readings. Emergency forcefields and bulkheads are in place. I’m also reading… a residual energy discharge.” Sandhurst turned to look at Plazzi, the older scientist’s eyes betraying a flicker of momentary terror. “It looks to be the same kind of subspace anomaly we just encountered.”

    The bridge fell totally silent for a full five seconds. Sandhurst then realized all eyes were on him. He managed to ask in a reasonably conversational tone, “Any sign of pathogens aboard?”

    Another ten seconds of silence followed as Plazzi conducted internal scans. “Negative, sir.”

    Sandhurst turned and favored the rest of the bridge crew with a faint smile. “We’re apparently fine, people. Let’s mind our duties and make sure we stay that way.”

    The captain looked to Ops. “Lieutenant, what’s the status of Phoenix’s shuttles?”

    “The three assault shuttles are entering the atmosphere, on course for the Glanisuur camp, sir. They don’t appear to have been effected.”

    He nodded. “Hail them. Let their people know what’s happened. I’ll leave it up to them whether or not they want to continue their mission or divert to Gibraltar.” Sandhurst resumed his seat in the center chair. “Move us to within transporter range of Phoenix. I want medical and engineering teams standing by in environmental suits for rescue operations.”

    Plazzi stepped over to the captain’s chair to whisper as discretely as possible, “Sir, I’d strongly recommend calling those shuttles back and having them hold position in orbit. If the crews were exposed before leaving Phoenix they could spread the viral agent to the planet’s population. We’ve no idea how virulent this pathogen is, Captain.”

    Sandhurst winced almost imperceptibly, and silently admonished himself for not having thought through the problem sufficiently. “You’re right, Elisto.” He leaned forward in his chair as he called out to the Operations station. “Lieutenant, belay my last. Have Phoenix’s shuttles break off and form up with us. They are to observe quarantine protocols until further notice.”


    Lieutenant Jonin Faltyne piloted the shuttle Xodor through the buffeting winds of Lakesh’s upper atmosphere. He was fixated on reaching the target zone as quickly as possible, retribution foremost on his mind. The attack on the encampment had been bad enough, but now Gibraltar was telling him there had been a nearly simultaneous strike against Phoenix. The Andorian’s antennae twitched with impatience as he vectored towards the Glanisuur camp. He had projected his course to carefully avoid the region in which sensors and weapons systems had been mysteriously neutralized. He hoped to set his cargo of heavily armed security officers down at the edge of the interference, take off again and then loiter on station, utilizing the shuttle’s optical systems to direct long-range phaser fire in support of the security team.

    Ensign Robards in the co-pilot’s seat emitted a grunt of surprise as a text message flashed across his monitor. “Gibraltar’s ordering us back to orbit, sir. They’re afraid we might contaminate the surface if we were exposed to whatever bio-weapon those bastards used on Phoenix.”

    Faltyne hissed, “Not a chance. The snake-heads owe us blood vengeance. Don’t acknowledge the message.”

    “Uh… too late. I already did, sir.”

    “In that case, I’ll note in my report that you had nothing to do with this whatsoever. Hang on and enjoy the ride, Ensign.”


    Juneau looked back at the captain, clearly perturbed. “The lead shuttle acknowledges receipt of the message, but is refusing to comply, sir.”

    Sandhurst stifled a sigh. He had been afraid of this. Given the circumstances, he’d expected some resistance from Awokou’s crew. Outright insubordination, however, was more than he would tolerate. “Put me on with them, Lieutenant.”

    “Aye. Channel open, sir.”

    “This is Captain Sandhurst to Phoenix shuttle squadron. You are hereby ordered to return to orbit and take up station alongside Gibraltar. If you land on the planet, you might infect countless people with whatever was introduced to the crew of Phoenix. As much as I know you want to help your crew mates on the surface, I also know you’d never willingly endanger the lives of all those innocents.”

    A moment passed. Then two. “Still no response, sir.”

    Sandhurst turned to the Tactical station. “Have our security team board a shuttle and standby. I’ll relay orders shortly.” To Ops he said, “Have the transporter room begin sending emergency teams over to Phoenix as soon as they’re ready, and have Sickbay standing by for casualties. We’ll need anyone from the crew who has any kind of medical training there to assist.”

    “Mister Lightner, move us into position over the Glanisuur site. Tactical, get a firing solution on those shuttles and lock targets.”

    The ensign at the Tactical station blinked, clearly startled. To his credit, he complied with the alarming order without question.

    Sandhurst sat back in his chair and felt a vague sense of disassociation, as if watching his actions from outside his own body. He observed himself toggle the comms. “Phoenix shuttle squadron, you will stand down or I will open fire on you. I don’t want to do this, but I won’t risk contamination of the planet’s populace.” Dear God, please don’t make me do this, he thought desperately.


    Aboard the Xodor, Faltyne watched in disgust as the other two shuttles in their flight peeled off and began gaining altitude, rising to meet Gibraltar in orbit. Sandhurst was bluffing; Faltyne could hear it in his voice. If the crew of Phoenix had been incapacitated in a matter of moments, it was obvious neither he nor the others aboard the shuttle had been infected. He refused to leave good men and women to die on the order of a man who was not half the captain Banti Awokou was.

    “Ah’m thinkin’ he’s serious, L-T.” The feminine voice behind him belonged to Senior Chief Filkins, the assault squad leader.

    “I don’t, Chief. Our people are in trouble down there, and Sandhurst has a poor grasp of the situation.” Clouds whipped past the shuttle as the craft descended into the troposphere and the gauge on his flight controls counted down the kilometers to their destination.

    “Maybe so, suh, but ah’m not willin’ to bet our lives on that.”

    Faltyne immediately recognized the sudden pressure against his neck as a phaser emitter. His antennae began to tic spasmodically. “We can do this in one of two flavahs, suh,” Filkins drawled. “You can bring us back up… or ah will. Personally, ah’d like to spare you the headache.”


    Juneau looked up from her console as a relieved smile spread across her face. “The last shuttle has broken off and is returning to orbit, Captain.”

    Sandhurst simply gave a curt nod, and it took every ounce of self control he possessed to reign in the deep sigh of relief that threatened to escape him. The most immediate crisis having passed, it dawned on him that much needed to be done in the next few minutes to mitigate the damage suffered by Starfleet forces. He also realized with a hardening resolve that with Captain Awokou dead or disabled, he was now in charge.

    “Ops, access Phoenix’s command codes. Route their helm control to Ensign Babbit at the auxiliary station. Mister Babbit, plot a course for Phoenix to the planet’s LaGrange point with its largest moon and execute. Helm, match the ship’s course and speed.”

    Sandhurst settled into the captain’s chair. He felt for the first time since he’d assumed command that he might actually belong there.

    “Sandhurst to transporter room one.”

    “Transporter room one, go ahead, sir.”

    “Are our rescue teams ready?”

    “Yes, sir. On the pad and standing by in full EVA.”


    “Acknowledged, Captain. Team One is away. Team Two preparing for departure.”

    “Thank you, Chief. Bridge, out.”

    Juneau turned from her station to address the captain. “Sir, the security team has assembled in the shuttle bay. Master Chief Tark informs me that their pilot has been tapped for emergency medical duty in Sickbay.”

    Sandhurst unconsciously rubbed at his chin, a memory tickling him with the spark of an idea. “Ensign Lightner.”

    Lightner stiffened in his seat, glancing back. “Sir?”

    “You were on the academy’s flight team, weren’t you?”

    “Yes, sir. During my plebe year. The team was disbanded when the war started, Captain.”

    “You’re a qualified shuttle pilot, correct?”

    Lightner nodded, unable to suppress a slow grin from taking shape. “Yes, sir.”

    “I have a job for you, Ensign.”


  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 6

    Chapter 6 <cont'd>

    Ramirez crouched next to Lar’ragos in a spot at the mouth of the gully, their position shrouded by dense undergrowth. The rest of their party had moved farther up the ravine to a location of greater relative safety.

    She passed the binoculars back to the security chief. “Nothing so far. Maybe the Cardies won’t be coming.” The crackle of gunfire from the direction of Glanisuur had become progressively more sporadic, and had now ceased almost entirely.

    Lar’ragos grunted noncommittally and slid the optics back into a pocket of his tactical vest.

    “You disagree?”

    “I think that when they’re done with our people at the encampment, they’ll come looking for us. I’m not so naïve as to believe nobody saw us sneak out of there. They simply had other targets of opportunity at the time… the kind that weren’t shooting back.” He gestured over his shoulder at the gully behind them. “The problem is that if we go back up in there and help doesn’t arrive promptly, we’re going to be trapped with no back door.”

    Ramirez gave him a sour look. “You led us here, Lieutenant. Are you saying that was a mistake?”

    Lar’ragos shook his head. “Not at all. This was our best choice for a defensible fallback position, Commander. I’m simply giving you my professional assessment of our situation. If you’d prefer I dance around throwing rose petals and declare us safe from harm…”

    She cut him off and snapped, “Stow the sarcasm, Mister Lar’ragos.”

    He inclined his head apologetically. “Sorry, sir. I’m just bent at having to watch our fellows butchered while we crept out of there.” He leaned back and rested against the rocks. “This war was supposed to be over.”

    Ramirez’s brief flash of anger subsided and she allowed herself a moment to mourn the dead and dying. “Yeah. That’s what we get for trying to help.” She glanced at Pava’s flechette gun, now holstered. “That’s not exactly standard issue.”

    Lar’ragos chuckled darkly, “Not quite.” He brushed his finger across an inert button on his still defunct phaser rifle. “I learned a long time ago not to depend on energy weapons. They’re incredibly effective, providing they work. But if they’re all you’ve got…” He let the sentiment hang as he leaned forward and picked up the projectile rifle Ramirez had liberated from the enemy. After he examined it for a moment, Lar’ragos located a small port in the butt of the rifle containing some rudimentary cleaning equipment. He removed the magazine from the rifle, ejected the round in the chamber, and began to field strip the weapon.

    Ramirez scooted back and settled against the opposite side of the narrow channel as she observed him. “I don’t remember them teaching that in tactical training at the academy.”

    “You wouldn’t. I picked this up in Hekosian army basic field survival.”

    She frowned. “Hekosian? Never heard of them.”

    He smiled. “I wouldn’t expect that you had. The Hekosian Empire was in the Delta Quadrant.”


    Lar’ragos shrugged as he scoured the barrel of the rifle with a cleaning rod. “It’s nearly four-hundred years past. Fates willing, the empire should have fallen ages ago. It‘d be no less than we deserved.”

    Ramirez looked confused. “Were you a conscript?”

    His laugh was a short, sardonic bark. “No, I volunteered.” He held the barrel up to the light and looked through it to examine his progress. “I’ve identified our Cardassian friend’s problem. I don’t think this rifle’s been cleaned in months. Lucky me.”

    “Don’t take this the wrong way, but from what little I know of your people I’ve always thought El Aurians were pacifists.”

    “Peaceful, to be sure. Pacifist isn’t entirely accurate, though. Our ability to hear between the lines makes us natural negotiators; we can more easily identify the other party’s motivations. We’re simply more inclined to settle a disagreement through dialogue than force of arms. It wasn’t that my people couldn’t fight. Our abilities precluded us from having to.”

    “So how’s that explain you?”

    Lar’ragos began to scrape at the receiver and worked to clear away the accumulated residue that had jammed the weapon in his favor mere hours earlier. “The Borg had just annihilated my world. Those of my people who weren’t dead or assimilated were scattered across the quadrant as refugees. I was young, stupid, and angry. I was looking for a fight, and the Hekosian Royal Armed Forces were happy to oblige me.”

    Ramirez appeared thoughtful. “Did you serve long?”

    “Seventeen years and four conflicts. They called them the Korsian Wars. Your basic empire building brush warfare. Encroach, infiltrate, disrupt and conquer. We were pretty good at it, too. I served with the 507th Royal Fusiliers.”

    Ramirez shook her head. “Hard to imagine. I’m guessing it wasn’t the best experience for you?”

    His brush fell silent and a far-away look descended across his features. “The best of times, and the worst of times. I made some incredible friendships… but, we were called upon to do some terrible things.” Lar’ragos seemed to return to the here and now and shrugged wistfully. “That’s war I suppose.”

    He gestured to the XO with the cleaning rod, a less than subtle attempt to change the subject. “How about you, sir? Where are you from?”

    Ramirez had appeared largely unaffected by their running firefight and their present dire circumstances, but now she looked genuinely uncomfortable. “I… I grew up in the Barisa system, a stone’s throw from Tzenkethi space.”

    He smiled in response, “I know the region well. I pulled a tour out there with the diplomatic corps. I should have figured you for a colonist from the provinces.”

    She shook her head absently and pretended to study the rock strata Lar’ragos was leaning against. “Not a colonist, a miner.”

    “Oh, really?”

    “Gas mining,” Ramirez said quietly, lost in thought. “My family owns the Acheron heavy element extraction consortium. It’s been in the family for three generations. I grew up on an orbital station, surrounded by some of the toughest, hardest working people in the galaxy.”

    As she spoke, Lar'ragos fell victim to his people’s unique gifts. Images suddenly flitted unbidden across his mind’s eye as Ramirez described her childhood, visions pulled from the woman's past. It was not telepathy, at least not in the way that ability was conventionally understood, though not even the El Aurians themselves could explain the whys and wherefores of it.

    He saw a gargantuan gas-giant, black as night. A distant and unavailable father, obsessed with his family’s legacy. A vain and selfish mother distracted by the trappings of wealth. An accident… a death. An embittered young woman fleeing home for Starfleet Academy at age seventeen…

    Lar’ragos closed his eyes briefly to drive the angst-ridden visions out and spoke without intending to. “I’m sorry.”

    Her reverie broken, Ramirez looked at him curiously. “For what?”

    As Lar’ragos searched for some cogent response, both of them heard voices nearby. Guttural shouts in Cardassian, someone issuing orders by the sound of it. The universal translators in their compins had been affected by the disruption field, so Lar’ragos couldn’t determine what was being said.

    The two officers moved to crouching positions as Lar’ragos handed the binoculars to Ramirez. He quickly reassembled the rifle, loaded it and racked a round into the chamber before handing it back to the exec. He whispered, “Remember, it’s going to kick up every time you fire. I’d suggest using the single shot setting to conserve ammunition.” Lar’ragos drew his flechette gun and checked the action and propellant pressure.

    Ramirez nodded, still scanning the vicinity through the high powered optics. She whispered back, “Mister Loudmouth is ordering a grid search of the area, teams of three. Don’t know how many people he’s talking to, though.”

    Lar’ragos quirked an eyebrow. She speaks spoon-head; that’s helpful, he mused appreciatively.

    After she handed the binoculars back to Lar’ragos, Ramirez sighted in the rifle. “Take that non-regulation gun of yours and fall back to the others.”

    He hesitated. “Commander, I’m a better choice to remain behind.”

    She took aim at the head and upper torso of a Cardassian insurgent as the man pushed noisily through a copse of small trees. “We’re not having a debate, mister. Go.”

    “Aye, sir.” Lar’ragos holstered his pistol and scrabbled up the dry creek bed as quietly as possible, already formulating ideas for successive lines of defense if Ramirez were to be overwhelmed.

    Ramirez waited until she was certain the rebel patrol was about to stumble across the mouth of the gully. Taking a deep, steadying breath, she squeezed the trigger, accepted the recoil, switched targets and squeezed again.


    The shuttle Heyerdahl plummeted toward the planet; its shields glowed a bright orange-red with the accumulated heat of a high velocity atmospheric entry. In the pilot’s seat, Ensign Lightner handled the controls with a skill that belied his age. Behind him in the rear compartment was an ad-hoc security team made up of personnel from various departments with prior combat experience. Master Chief Tark, a stout Tellarite security NCO led the team. Prior to their departure, Tark had familiarized the group with the newly replicated projectile rifles and pistols. Plazzi had cautioned Tark that the effects of the null field on the surface might extend to interfering with collimated energy weapons, and so Tark had ordered these produced as a contingency. Now they loaded their weapons and prepared for a high speed landing and tactical deployment.

    Lightner called back to the team, “Two minutes!” A proximity alarm began to wail as two shoulder-launched missiles targeted on Heyerdahl flashed up from the surface within seconds of one another. Lightner smiled as he increased power to the inertial dampeners and threw the shuttle into a corkscrewing dive. The shuttle’s phasers vaporized one of the missiles just seconds from contact as the second projectile raced past and detonated well behind the wildly maneuvering craft.

    Lightner observed the surface rushing up to meet them far faster than he had intended. He threw the engines into reverse and pulled up violently. The shuttle’s hull groaned in protest as the small craft flared out for a landing. The rear hatch slammed open, disgorging the now thoroughly rattled security team.

    Tark gathered his wits about him and switched off the safety on his rifle. He tapped his compin to signal Lightner. “Stay on station. We’ll be out of communication once we enter the disruption field. We will be back with our people.”

    Lightner waved vigorously in response as the cargo door closed behind them.

  4. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    I like the fact that we're seeing som El-Aurian background emerging with Lar’ragos' ability to "sense" Ramirez's memories. Nice touch, it explains their inate ability to listen and understand a little better.

    Ramirez knows her job and her respnsibilities it would appear. A strong woman without any macho tendencies.

    They're in a tight corner though, even if it's against inexperienced cannon fodder. :cardie:
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 7

    Chapter 7

    Sandhurst ducked through the small hatch and eased himself into the maintenance crawlway. Despite never having been this far into the bowels of his new command, he felt immediately familiar with his surroundings. He had spent countless hours in similarly cramped Jefferies tubes on a variety of starships during his career. At times Sandhurst still felt like a visitor on the bridge. But here, surrounded by the vibrations from the pulsing heartbeat of the main reactor, this was home.

    The captain reached junction room D-3 and found Ashok inhabiting most of the volume of this tiny compartment. As he squeezed in beside the Bolian, Sandhurst grinned despite himself. “They couldn’t find you a smaller ship?”

    “Negative, sir,” Ashok rumbled. “I suffer from acute claustrophobia.”

    A second passed, then two. Ashok gave no indication that he’d been joking. Sandhurst opened his mouth to say something meaningful, but nothing came to mind. The lieutenant gestured down the adjoining crawlway. “It’s down there, sir. I sent my scans of the device topside to Commander Plazzi. He confirmed my suspicion.”

    Sandhurst levered himself into the narrow passageway and crawled on hands and knees to get into position. He rolled onto his back to gaze up at a decidedly non-Starfleet mechanism affixed to the plasma flow regulator for the structural integrity grid. It was a featureless black ovoid about five inches long and three inches wide. Sandhurst fumbled for his tricorder and scanned the device for a full three minutes before he called back to Ashok. “So, you believe this thing is siphoning power from the EPS regulator?” He felt he already knew the answer, but wanted to hear if from his chief engineer.

    Ashok’s deep voice echoed down the crawlway, “No, Captain. Plazzi and I think it is phasing a portion of the plasma energy into the subspace range, around one-hundred seventy milli-cochranes.”

    “To what end?”

    “We’re not entirely sure. One of the effects it’s having is a fourteen percent reduction in overall structural integrity field strength.”

    Sandhurst pondered that. “It’s an awfully ineffective form of sabotage, Lieutenant. Why didn’t we detect the drop in field strength?” By ‘we’ of course, he meant Ashok and his staff, and the lieutenant knew it.

    The Bolian replied, “The apparatus has tapped into the ODN feeds for this plasma conduit and the flow regulator. It appears to be sending false power readings that have been fooling our monitoring and diagnostic systems. “

    The captain nodded appreciatively. “Clever.” He craned his neck to look down the crawlway to where Ashok squatted uncomfortably in the junction. “Opinion, Mister Ashok. Why is this here?”

    “Commander Plazzi and I believe that the device is causing a minute subspace harmonic effect in our structural integrity field that is being transmitted to the hull plating. That effect is what appears to have spared us the fate suffered by Phoenix and her crew.”

    Sandhurst sighed. “I don’t suppose Bolians believe in guardian angels?”

    “We do not,” was the terse reply.

    “Yeah. Me neither.”


    Glinn Trevar monitored the slaughter at the Glanisuur encampment from atop a nearby hill through a pair of sturdy Cardassian combat oculars. He was flanked by five men, all seasoned veterans of the Dominion War. Trevar himself had fought the Federation many times over the decades, beginning his career as an enlisted foot soldier in the border skirmishes that foreshadowed the first Cardassian/Federation war.

    Vuram, his lieutenant, noted with disdain, “Had we been allowed to participate, Glinn, none of them would have escaped.”

    Trevar knew that the logic behind the plan had been explained to Vuram numerous times; the man was simply irritable at having to sit out this engagement. Trevar gave the grizzled non-com his most saccharine smile. “If I’d let you take part, old man, I’d have to suffer through the screaming and begging from one of your impromptu ‘field interrogations.’ We haven’t time for such luxuries.”

    This brought muted laughter from the others as a grinning Vuram clapped Trevar on the back.

    The ‘volunteers’ that Trevar had sent against the Starfleet and civilian personnel at Glanisuur had acquitted themselves as well as could be expected. Experienced soldiers were in short supply, and it had been decided that the most recent converts to the insurgency would be blooded in this attack. What these young men and women lacked in experience, they made up for in enthusiasm.

    Starfleet had fought harder than anticipated, however, especially given their severe tactical disadvantage. Trevar had also been appalled to see Cardassian citizens fighting and dying alongside Starfleet in a vain attempt to thwart the attackers. He had ordered that the Cardassians in the encampment be spared, except if they tried to resist or otherwise aid the off-worlders. The glinn wouldn’t have believed so many of his own kind could have bought into the Federation’s lies, and so quickly.

    The sound of someone moving through the underbrush caused Trevar’s comrades to turn in unison, weapons raised. It was the runner, who moved to the glinn’s side as he fought to catch his breath before relaying his message. “Sir, three assault teams beamed down from Phoenix just before we attacked the ship. They attempted to penetrate our perimeter on foot, but our combat teams successfully repulsed them. The survivors have fled back out of the field area and appear to be reassembling. Glinnsed Oko’s team is ranging a mortar attack on their coordinates as we speak.”


    The man’s labored breathing slowed, and he continued, “We’ve detected a shuttle from the other Starfleet ship. We think it may have crashed just outside the zone. Glinn Weluss is dispatching a scouting team to locate any survivors from the shuttle.”

    “Understood. Tell the other team leaders that we have nearly finished here. We will withdraw to assembly point three in ten minutes. There we will join with the other returning teams, and then make our way back to the bunker. Is that clear?”

    The runner nodded as he gulped air in preparation for his return trip. “Yes, Glinn.” He turned and scrambled back down the hill.

    Trevar peered through the oculars again to watch a burly young Cardassian insurgent pulling a screaming human female in civilian clothes across the ground by her hair. Tactically speaking, he knew it would be wise to pull his team out immediately, but Trevar felt it important for these raw recruits to experience the full extent of their blood lust. He was pleased to see that the dehumanizing nature of their indoctrination was paying off handsomely.


    Ramirez spared a quick glance at the rifle’s translucent magazine. Five rounds left. Another bullet whip-cracked past her head and glanced off the rocks next to her, sending up a spray of particles that stung her face and neck. The surrounding walls of the gully were now pocked with dozens of such small craters, the result of the poorly aimed fire directed at her from the attacking insurgents.

    She had fallen into a comfortable rhythm. She allowed her combat training to take over while she observed idly from a disconnected part of her mind. In what she fully expected to be the last minutes of her life, she combed through her memories to savor the successes of her career even as she mourned the lost opportunities to reconcile with her estranged family.

    Upon graduating the academy, Ramirez’s career had become her most prized possession. She felt she had risen through the ranks through sheer determination, by making sacrifices and taking chances that other more cautious officers would or could not. That was all the more reason that dying here and now, cut down by ill-trained Cardassian conscripts on some remote colony offended her sense of justice. Ramirez was destined for greater things. Her own command, a chance at a real relationship unencumbered by her substantial personal baggage… maybe even happiness, for heaven’s sake! she raged silently. Ramirez vowed that if this was where she was going to meet her end, she would take a great many of the enemy with her.

    She held her fire and waited for a clear shot. She had lost track of the number of Cardassians who had fallen in the crosshairs of the rifle’s scope. How many bullets had she started with? Twenty-five? Thirty? Not every shot had been a kill, but there had been precious few misses.

    The battle had ebbed and surged. There had been brief periods of silence, which she’d intentionally broken by calling out in the Cardassian tongue. She’d harangued the young militants, mocking them and insinuating she’d been a Bajoran resistance member, doubtless responsible for the deaths of some of their relatives. That had worked out well for her, with two young men provoked into a screaming charge towards the mouth of the gully.

    They hadn't made it even halfway to her hiding spot.

    Movement in the scope caught her attention. Three insurgents crept slowly and deliberately though the underbrush trying to get themselves into an advantageous firing position. The thick scrub around Ramirez made it difficult for the enemy to get a bead on her exact whereabouts.

    The fighters had finally begun firing single rounds in her direction, rather than spraying bullets blindly as they had in the beginning. Ramirez guessed they had expended nearly all their ammunition in the orgy of violence that had consumed the Glanisuur camp.

    Just as she was about the pull the trigger, something dropped into the bushes beside the three Cardassians with a metallic clink. An explosion sent a fount of dirt and shrubbery skyward, along with remains of the rebels. As the echoes of the detonation reverberated off the surrounding rocks, she could discern a flurry of muffled gunfire, then silence.

    A quiet keening broke the stillness, a sound torn from the very soul of someone whose demise was near. It was silenced by a barely perceptible pop. A gruff voice from somewhere nearby called out, “Omicron!”

    Ramirez’s body began to tremble involuntarily as she realized that, in defiance of Klingon tradition, today was not going to be a good day to die. She sat back hard, her knees having held her in a crouch for far too long. Suddenly, the rifle seemed to weigh a metric ton. She cleared her throat, and with careful precision, gave the proper countersign. “Beta-four-seven!”

    The bushes to her front rustled, and then parted to reveal the beaming, pugnacious face of a Tellarite. “Someone called for a taxi?”


    Working in an environment suit was something every Starfleet officer trained for, yet simulations had done nothing to prepare medical technician Kasmu Yoichi for the frustration that five long, chaffing hours in the sealed garment had produced. Despite the much vaunted comfort controls built into the suit, Yoichi was sweating like a pig. The improperly fitted helmet rubbed against his neck and forehead, and delivering medical care in the supposedly tactile-friendly gloves made him feel as clumsy as a raging Targ in an Andorian ice cathedral.

    He moved from one bio-bed to another as he checked readings, dispensed injections, and generally tried to stay on top of the casualties that now threatened to overflow Gibraltar’s substantial Sickbay complex.

    The most disconcerting thing was the utter stillness. Kasmu had served aboard a Federation hospital ship during the war, and was not new to treating wounded on a mass scale. He was used to the sights and sounds of a disaster scenario: the moaning, crying, pleading, and the occasional patient trying to argue his or her way out of Sickbay.

    Not here.

    The casualties transferred over from the starship Phoenix were as silent and motionless as corpses. Their autonomic systems continued to function. Heartbeat, respiration, digestion all uninterrupted by the viral contagion visited upon them. But all neural paths to their voluntary muscle groups had been destroyed by the pathogen. They were unable to move their heads or limbs, their eyes could not focus, they could not speak.

    A Vulcan engineer practiced in the mental arts had determined that the effected personnel were still conscious and aware of their situation. She had been forced to cease her efforts after the second mind-meld almost overwhelmed her with the fear and panic of the victim she had telepathically contacted.

    Fully two thirds of Phoenix’s crew had been neutralized by the contagion. Four-hundred seventy-three people had been struck down in seconds, and were now totally reliant on constant medical care for their lives. Gibraltar’s teams were helping the survivors to decontaminate the larger ship deck by deck, but the process was projected to take days.

    Kasmu looked at the chronometer on his suit’s forearm display. Another hour until he rotated to a non-quarantine ward. He tried not to look too closely at the faces of his stricken comrades, as he could not bear to dwell on what they must be experiencing.


    Sandhurst walked into the crowded surgical suite, one of the few compartments in Sickbay not operating under strict quarantine procedures. Taiee lay atop the exam table, the clamshell surgical support frame raised over her. The EMH worked tirelessly to heal the grievously wounded officer as nurses and medical technicians attended to the other away team members.

    Ramirez stood, arms crossed, her eyes fixed on Taiee. She appeared oblivious to the med-tech who swept a dermal regenerator over the cuts and shrapnel punctures on her face and neck. Sandhurst suppressed a smile as he noticed Lar’ragos, unable to sit idle, as the El Aurian assisted the busy medical personnel by readying hyposprays for injection. As bad as things are, Sandhurst thought, there are still come constants in the universe. The captain approached the exec, “Report, Commander.”

    Ramirez blinked and seemed to notice Sandhurst for the first time. She gathered herself together, stood straight and answered crisply. “Sir. The camp was attacked shortly after our arrival. The enemy used some manner of disruption field to knock out our weapons and communications. We managed to take a few weapons from the attackers, and along with some other survivors of the ambush, we exited the area. Lieutenant Lar’ragos identified a defensible position, and we held out until the rescue party located us.”

    Sandhurst nodded. “I spoke with Master Chief Tark. You all did very well under difficult circumstances.” He glanced at the doctor, but the hologram was utterly absorbed in his task. Sandhurst turned back back to the away team. “Unfortunately, the Master Chief’s team only recovered twelve other survivors of the attack on Glanisuur. The Cardassians were brutally thorough.”

    Ramirez’s jaw muscles rippled with repressed anger, and for want of anything better to do she abruptly waved off the med-tech who’d been assisting her.

    The captain continued, “I wish I could give you the break you deserve, but the situation on Lakesh is getting worse. There have been over a dozen separate attacks on relief missions in the past six hours. Owing to the insurgents’ new bio-weapon, I’m ordering the withdrawal of all Federation personnel from the surface until we can put together a plan for a workable defense.”

    He looked to the exec and security chief as he somberly intoned, “Pava, I need you back on the bridge as soon as you’re cleaned up. This is going to get worse before it gets better.” Sandhurst focused on Ramirez, “Commander, you’ll be getting your first command billet. I only wish the circumstances were better. Report to Phoenix as acting CO.”

  6. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Commodore

    Dec 13, 2003
    Nothing like saying hello to some old friends once again! Ramirez, Larragos, et al, coming together in a classic story.
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8

    What little remained of the Nausicaan raider drifted lazily past the Klingon battlecruiser Kang. The vessel had been shredded by Kang’s forward disruptors during the final seconds of a last-ditch suicide run at the imperial warship. General K’Vada marveled at the audacity of their Cardassian foes, to attack a Vor’cha-class cruiser with only a handful of corsairs, fighters, and shuttles in support of a modified Talarian cargo vessel outfitted with capital weapons.

    The insurgents here in the Esob system were not lacking in courage, K’Vada would grant them that. They had not picked their battles wisely, however. In a single engagement, the Klingon forces had destroyed a contingent of vessels that might have harried Federation and Klingon aid convoys for weeks had they not been so carelessly committed.

    Cardassian rebel assaults on allied military and relief forces had been on the rise since the end of the war, but thus far they had been scattered and of inconsistent intensity. Thankfully, no single figurehead had risen up to accept the mantle of leadership and coordinate the efforts of all those Cardassians who hungered for freedom from the occupation that, in K’Vada’s opinion, they so richly deserved.

    The general would be hard pressed to admit it, but he was glad that the resistance was being so quickly overwhelmed. When he looked into the eyes of his comrades, he no longer saw the call of the hunt, the warrior’s spirit. The war had exhausted them; it had actually managed to sate the previously unquenchable Klingon desire for battle and conquest.

    These men and women wanted to return home to their families, to share their stories of courage and honor with their loved ones and carve their names into their Houses’ ancestral histories.

    He stood from the command chair as he nodded to Captain Yejokk. “The ship is yours. Proceed to Quedis Prime and carry out retaliatory bombardment. We’ll see if these insolent back-births can be taught to heel before we’re forced to expunge them entirely.”

    K’Vada strode off the bridge to walk the dimly lit and echoing corridors of the Kang. He was treading in dangerous waters, and he relished the sensation. The High Council had not given the general permission to conduct reprisals on such a large scale, but neither had they forbade it. Doubtless, the Federation would howl indignantly and insist that the many could not be made to pay for the crimes of but a few. So be it. Mercy was not the Klingon way; victors subjugated the vanquished. The conquered could not be allowed the indulgence of armed rebellion, lest others see their impudence as a sign of Klingon weakness. The Cardassians had proved too dangerous to be allowed to exist as anything other than a servitor race to the Empire and its allies.

    At last, K’Vada reached his destination, the ship’s strategic intelligence center. In this spacious compartment, dozens of warriors and assorted technicians hunched over computer terminals as they compiled and analyzed all manner of data collected by subspace transceivers, remote spy drones, and intelligence agents in the field. All potentially relevant information collected from throughout the sectors of space that K’Vada’s Eighth Allied Task Force was responsible for was routed to this room.

    Commander Vurdis held the duty watch officer’s post at this hour and maintained a vigil over all SIC operations from a large console atop a raised dais in the center of the room. She stood as K’Vada ascended the steps to the platform, then executed a formal Klingon salute which brought a bemused grunt from the general. “Status?”

    “Nominal, sir. Units in all sectors have reported in on schedule.”

    “Anything of note?”

    Vurdis handed a data padd to her superior. “Yes, General. We’ve had some interesting subspace traffic from the Crolsa system. Decrypted intercepts indicate the Starfleet task force there is apparently experiencing difficulties with the Cardassian colony world of Lakesh. From what we’ve been able to gather, they’ve lost one starship in the past day, and suffered serious casualties on another. It looks as if they’re also facing stiff resistance from insurgent forces on the surface.”

    K’Vada scowled as he scrolled through the report. “Why is this the first I’ve heard of it?”

    Vurdis replied, “It appears as though Starfleet has been careful to keep this information restricted to their chain-of-command, sir.”

    The general snarled, “You mean they’ve kept this from us intentionally?”

    “It would appear so, General. Either they are genuinely embarrassed about their inability to control the rebellion on Lakesh, or they fear what Klingon retaliation would mean for the population of the planet.”

    K’Vada growled with disgust, “Fools! Resistance must be met with overwhelming might, not words.” He leaned forward and pounded his fist on the comms switch. “Bridge, new orders. Inform the Yaku and Vaj’la to continue with the present mission. Set course for the Crolsa system immediately, best speed. Tell the Grolkam they will escort us.” He abruptly severed the channel and then looked to Vurdis. “It was a mistake to entrust Cardassian worlds to Starfleet supervision. Better that we had conquered the Union ourselves four years ago. The Dominion would never have gained a foothold in the Alpha Quadrant.”

    The general jabbed at the control interface to call up an image of Lakesh on one of the room’s master view screens. “Whoever is responsible for these attacks must not be allowed to capitalize on their success.”

    He turned and stormed back down the steps as he headed for the exit. “If we must save Starfleet from their own incompetence, then that is how it shall be!”


    Vice Admiral Salk’s stern countenance filled the viewer on Sandhurst’s desktop terminal. The Vulcan flag officer was stationed on Starbase 375, the closest major Federation outpost other than Deep Space Nine. The captain had just spent the last half hour updating Salk on the perilous Federation situation on and around Lakesh.

    At Sandhurst’s insistence, the seven Federation supply ships and four other non-aligned relief vessels in orbit had withdrawn to positions at the LaGrange points between Lakesh and the planet’s two moons. The personnel wounded by the bio-warfare attack on Phoenix had been transferred to some of the recently emptied civilian cargo ships and had been placed in medical stasis chambers. The industrial replicators on the surface had been reprogrammed to produce the components necessary for the stasis tanks, before Gibraltar and Phoenix’s retreating security teams destroyed the invaluable devices to prevent them from falling into insurgent hands.

    Salk was, to put it mildly, unimpressed with Sandhurst’s strategy. “I am curious as to the logic behind a complete retreat from the surface of the planet, Captain.” The Admiral’s vocal inflections were irritatingly precise, and Sandhurst wondered if they were intended to produce the level of frustration he was currently experiencing. The Vulcan’s unwavering gaze continued to bore into the captain from lightyears away.

    Sandhurst made sure to keep his tone calm and even as he formed his rebuttal. “With respect, Admiral, the security situation of our forces in orbit had been compromised. Even without the bio-weapon used on Phoenix, we’d have been hard pressed to maintain an effective peacekeeping presence on the ground. I can’t say for certain that the enemy has us outnumbered, sir, but I am sure they are fielding advanced weapons and sensor countermeasures that we haven’t encountered before, not even at the height of the war. Given the losses suffered in the past twenty-four hours and our enemy’s apparent ability to strike us at will, I felt the only sensible recourse was to pull back, study the situation, and reconstitute our assets.”

    Reconstitute our assets? Sandhurst felt as if he were making a cadet’s presentation in an academy strategic command course.

    The admiral appeared unmoved by Sandhurst’s argument. “You would have me believe your only option was to evacuate the entirety of the Federation presence on Lakesh, leaving control of the planet in the hands of what is assuredly a tiny, militant minority? I presume you realize that such action will only encourage similar uprisings among other like-minded groups?” Without waiting for a reply, Salk admonished, “I would caution you that historically speaking, a single such event can be the proverbial spark that ignites an inferno.”

    The captain held an exasperated sigh in check. “I understand your concerns, sir. In fact, I share them. We’ve been on the defensive since Gibraltar arrived in orbit. Right now, we’re in an untenable tactical position. We’re fighting the enemy on their terms and time table. As acting on-scene commander, I believe our best hope of success under these circumstances is to gather intelligence on our enemy while making ourselves as difficult a target as possible.”

    “So noted. I have documented my objections for the record, Captain," Salk returned dryly. "I will not attempt to micro-manage this mission from here. However, in the eventuality that your conduct on this assignment results in further review by Starfleet Command, I have logged my formal opinion of the decisions you have made to date.”

    Abruptly changing tacks, the admiral held up an isolinear optical chip, which he then inserted into his terminal. “We have analyzed the information gathered by your sensors during the attacks on your ships, and Starfleet Intelligence has made some interesting discoveries. It appears Phoenix has fallen victim to what we’d hoped to be a peculiar technological dead end.”

    Still on the defensive, Sandhurst remained silent, waiting for his superior to elaborate.

    The captain’s monitor now displayed a split screen, with Salk on one half and technical schematics overlaid with text on the other. “More than a decade ago, a little known terrorist organization on the planet Rutia IV created a device utilizing a spatial fold as an alternative to standard matter/energy transport…” The admiral went on to explain how the device had been used, and how Starfleet Command had ordered all data regarding that particular line of research classified.

    Well, the captain mused, that explains why Elisto couldn’t find anything similar in the Federation database. I’d almost begun to doubt his competence.

    Salk finished his brief, then raised an eyebrow in an expression tantamount to a look of complete incredulity on a human. “Captain, can you explain how a device that seems to have no other purpose than to create a defensive barrier against just such a dimensional shift has simply appeared aboard your ship?”

    Sandhurst answered without hesitation. “I cannot, Admiral. Lieutenant Ashok assures me that he inspected every meter of maintenance conduit in the ship prior to leaving drydock. He personally oversaw the final phase of Gibraltar’s refit. If he tells me it wasn’t there when she left Starbase 234, it wasn’t there.” Sandhurst clasped his hands together and rested them in his lap to prevent a bout of nervous fidgeting. He didn’t like where this was going.

    “In which case you have a saboteur on board. I trust you are taking appropriate measures to identify the culprit?”

    “Yes, sir. My chief of security is conducting interviews as we speak. However, I’m not so sure the intent was sabotage. Had the person or persons in question planted a bomb on that same flow regulator instead of the mystery device, it would have seriously compromised our structural integrity field. As I see it, whoever did this appears to have saved my crew from a debilitating bio-warfare attack.”

    Admiral Salk paused to digest the captain’s comment before he delivered his acerbic reply. “Your conclusion is based on defective reasoning, Captain. The presence of the device aboard your ship indicates a fundamental collapse in your onboard security and safety protocols. To trust in the intentions of parties whose objectives are unknown is illogical in the extreme.”

    Sandhurst rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Be that as it may, sir, that’s my decision.” He raised his eyes to the screen again and forged ahead. “I could use any assistance you could provide by way of more ships or resources.”

    Salk consulted a padd. “I have routed the starship Soval to your coordinates, but it will not reach you for another five days. I regret that no other Starfleet assets can currently be diverted from ongoing assignments."

    Terrific, the captain thought bitterly. Nothing from command but criticism and empty promises. I guess we go this alone.


    Banti Awokou’s ready room aboard Phoenix was a comfortably outfitted office, meticulously decorated with cultural artifacts from dozens of worlds which, despite their divergent origins, somehow managed to compliment one another. Taguan death masks hung alongside Hutu tribal idols. A replica of a pre-Surak Vulcan sand sculpture sat next to detailed model of humanity’s first lunar base. The captain’s forceful personality was stamped into every book, tapestry, picture, and bauble in the compartment, and their presence only served as a reminder to Liana Ramirez that she was trespassing here.

    As she sat at the desk reviewing progress reports on Phoenix’s ongoing decontamination operation, she mused that this was not precisely how she’d envisioned her first command experience. The crew was still in shock from the severity of the attack, and the grotesque nature of the injuries inflicted on the victims. The pathogen had effectively decapitated the vessel’s command structure and had infected the entire senior staff with the exception of one person, the chief operations officer, Lieutenant Faltyne.

    The crew’s distress at their collective loss was only magnified by the perceived indignity of being placed under the command of Gibraltar’s XO. Ramirez was tempted to wonder if Sandhurst really needed her here, or if this was pay back for her attitude upon his taking command of Gibraltar. Considering the meeting she was about to have, the irony was thick enough to choke on.

    The door chimed, and Ramirez sat a little straighter in her chair. “Enter.”

    Faltyne, the Andorian lieutenant responsible for the abortive mini-mutiny among Phoenix’s shuttle flight to Lakesh, walked in and came to attention, flanked by two security officers. “Reporting as ordered, sir.”

    His statement was clearly meant as sarcasm, but Ramirez let it slide. She could not help but feel a certain kinship for the man. In many ways, Faltyne’s career had mirrored her own. Beginning his service in the Security/Tactical branch, he’d demonstrated a gift for leadership early on. Each of his service evaluations had contained greater praise than the one before, and in preparation for an eventual rise to the command division, he’d transferred to the Operations branch. He had been pegged by higher-ups a rising star, one of the up-and-coming young officers destined to one day captain his own ship. His fit of temper and blatant insubordination following the attack on Phoenix had called all those assumptions into question, however. Now, his future as a Starfleet officer was hanging by a fragile thread.

    Ramirez motioned to the chair facing the desk, and Faltyne sat. She dismissed the two guards, who took up station just outside the doors as they hissed closed. “Lieutenant, I want you to hear me out before saying anything. Captain Sandhurst has authorized me to drop all charges of insubordination and conduct unbecoming that you’re currently facing, providing you agree to his terms.”

    Faltyne looked intrigued, but maintained a defiant posture.

    “I need someone to function as my first officer, and your name is at the top of the list. The crew knows and trusts you. However, before I make my decision, I want assurances from you that you’re done running off and trying to play by your own rules. I won’t have someone’s thirst for revenge jeopardizing the safety of the crew.”

    Faltyne’s blue skin darkened with a blush as his antennae waved in short, frenetic bursts.

    Ramirez had attended the academy with an Andorian cadet who had become a close friend, and knew from experience with their non-verbals that the lieutenant was wrestling internally with extreme agitation. “Permission to speak candidly?”

    Ramirez nodded wordlessly.

    “I should be sitting in that chair, not you.”

    “You probably would be," she responded icily, "if you hadn’t violated Captain Sandhurst’s orders yesterday. Honestly, after your little performance, you should be in the brig instead of restricted to quarters. However, with so many of your crew out of commission, the captain felt we’d be better served with you doing your duty.” She leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table, hands intertwined. "You owe him, Lieutenant.”

    Faltyne looked unconvinced. “You’re saying that if I tow the line and do my job, he’s going to forget about the whole thing?”

    Ramirez nodded slowly to emphasize the point. “That’s what I’m saying. The man could end your career with a single incident report, but he’s not going to do that unless you force his hand.” She fixed the steeliest gaze on him that she could muster, but Faltyne met her eyes unflinchingly.

    “The deal is this: You become my XO. You follow my orders, and we follow his orders. It’s a nice, cozy little chain-of-command.” She rested back in the chair to observe the lieutenant as his antennae now cut slow, thoughtful arcs through the air. “Does that work for you, Mister Faltyne?”

    Faltyne’s expression was a mix of resignation and relief. In truth, despite his bluster he was grateful to have been given a second chance. His actions on the day in question seemed so alien now, so completely unlike him. He’d let his anger and his warrior ethos guide his hand, and his quest for vengeance had temporarily overridden his common sense and his dedication to duty. The Andorian was also thankful that Sandhurst wasn’t any more enthusiastic than he to publicize the incident.

    “I agree, sir.”

    Ramirez reached out and toggled the intercom to address the waiting security officers outside. “Gentlemen, thank you. You’re dismissed.”

    She stood to extend a hand. “I’m looking forward to working with you, XO.”

    Faltyne rose as well, and took her hand in a firm grip. It was less a mere handshake, he thought, and more the confirmation of a sacred clan pact. Having witnessed what he believed to be the end of his career, he found himself pulled back from the precipice, spared the indignity of a court martial and a return to Andoria in disgrace. “As am I, sir.”


  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 <cont'd>

    Legate Urlak looked on with approval as his captains put the finishing touches on the next phase of the insurgents’ resistance strategy.

    Guls Dien and Panor had devised an impressive attack plan for the modest squadron of ships available to them. They would begin by confronting the depleted Starfleet presence in orbit of Lakesh, and would eventually move outward, taking their fight to the occupiers’ forces system by system.

    For the initial attack, the Cardassian ships would emerge from a holographic sensor blind established in a crater of Lakesh’s largest moon. They had remained undetected there since before the arrival of Federation ships to the Crolsa system weeks earlier, protected by the same sensor dampening field that had been employed in the Glanisuur operation.

    Urlak hoped the Klingons would soon appear on scene. More so even than the continued attrition of Starfleet forces, the Empire’s presence would serve to give the insurgency assured longevity. The legate believed that only when the inevitable Klingon reprisals began would the average Cardassian, already wearied and traumatized by war, understand the necessity of continued resistance. This was to be a fight for the very survival of their species.

    A Klingon campaign of attempted genocide against the Cardassians would poison the Empire’s relationship with the Federation. At the very least, the alliance between the two powers would crumble as the Federation worked to distance itself from Klingon atrocities.

    The most fortunate outcome in Urlak’s opinion would see the two governments going to war over the issue. The legate relished the idea of pitting the Federation’s sense of moral superiority against the Klingons’ codes of honor and tradition.

    Holographic symbols that represented the insurgency’s three Hideki-class corsairs trailed thin lines through the air to join with the icon representing their single Galor-class warship. A cloud of Ordis-class fighters, small one-man craft, enveloped the image of the Federation starship Gibraltar. As the four larger craft concentrated their fire on Phoenix, Gul Panor continued his presentation, a running commentary on the battle strategy on display overhead. “While the fighters harass Gibraltar, we will focus our firepower on the Nebula-class ship, clearly the greatest enemy threat. We will utilize the dimensional shift transporter to beam photon torpedoes inside the ship’s shield bubble. If successful, this tactic should result in our disabling of Phoenix.”

    Urlak knew that Panor had included the proviso ‘if’ because of the DST’s failure to successfully deliver the engineered virus onto Gibraltar. The technicians still had no definitive explanation. The best they could come up with was that perhaps the DST had delivered the pathogen off-target and had missed the ship entirely. The competing theory was that the virus had arrived on time and on target, but that the interdimensional transit had warped the virus’ DNA to such a degree that it was rendered inert. Regardless, Urlak now had serious doubts about what had been the movement’s most promising new weapon.

    Panor continued, “Once Phoenix has been dealt with, we will make short work of Gibraltar. After we have neutralized both starships, our forces will attack the civilian relief vessels holding at the moons’ LaGrange points. We estimate these ships contain sufficient foodstuffs, medical and survival supplies to support our cause for the next year.”

    That brought mutterings of approval from the assembled insurgent leadership. “We’ll take those ships we believe can be retrofit with weapons, and we’ll scuttle the rest.”

    Urlak smiled. “Well done, gentlemen. Your plan is approved. How quickly can we implement it?”

    Dien spoke up, “Twelve hours, sir. We only need to finish the installation of the DST onboard the Vintar.”

    The legate rose from his chair. “Proceed.” He took a last look at the plan, then turned and walked away. Better not to over think things, he thought. Events will transpire as they ought to. The future of Cardassia depends on it.


    The maintenance bay was located just off main engineering. Captain Sandhurst, Lt. Commander Plazzi, and Lieutenant Ashok were gathered around the central work table, under the glare of lighting directed at the surface from overhead. Atop the table was a partially assembled device bearing a striking resemblance to the apparatus joined to Gibraltar’s plasma flow regulator.

    Sandhurst was irritated. Reverse engineering the multi-phasic distortion generator, as they had come to name it, was proving more difficult than anticipated. They had detailed scans of the device’s internal components and structure, and Sandhurst had felt certain their understanding of how the mechanism operated was sufficient to enable the three of them to build a working reproduction. So much for his vaunted engineering skills, he thought soberly.

    Plazzi examined the schematic displayed on the wall-mounted view screen. He scratched idly at his beard as he tried to puzzle out one of the more mystifying attributes of the device, namely how it managed to infiltrate the ship’s monitoring and diagnostic computer subroutines. He gestured at what they had all agreed was probably the central computational nexus, “You see these tubule looking structures here? I’m betting these are what the device extrudes in order to penetrate our optical data network. They appear very similar to Borg technology, both in design and function.” He traced a finger along a circuit pathway. “And this processor here, this is a Bynar design.”

    Ashok spoke up, his voice booming unexpectedly in the confines of the work bay. “The programming that I managed to download from the original contained a series of complex algorithms. They were in a Vulcan programming language, if I am not mistaken.”

    "I hate to say it, but if a foreign power built this, they based it on a great deal of Federation know-how.” Plazzi shook his head.

    The captain frowned, as if having come to a difficult conclusion. “I think we built this.”

    Plazzi gave the captain a sidelong glance. “And by ‘we’ you mean?”

    “The Federation. This thing was constructed by someone using our techniques, utilizing technology only we have access to.” The captain sat down on a stool at the table and looked thoughtful. “Somebody who either knew or suspected that we’d encounter the dimensional shift transporter technology put this thing on our ship.”

    Plazzi appeared confused. “Why not simply tell us? Why the secrecy? If we’d been notified, we could have more easily integrated the device into our systems.”

    Sandhurst shrugged. “I don’t know. Whatever the reason, it’s damn troubling.” He shook his head sadly. “And why only us? If they’d placed one of these devices aboard Phoenix, we might not have four hundred plus people in cryo-sleep now.”

    Ashok’s imperturbable visage cracked slightly, and the huge Bolian actually looked annoyed. He struck his sizeable fist against the top of the table, which rattled the assorted tools littering its surface. “Regardless, we need to finish this. Until we can safely maintain orbit of the planet, we are effectively useless.”

    Plazzi quirked an eyebrow at the engineer’s outburst. He winked at the captain as he set back to the task at hand. “Right, Lieutenant. To work, to work.”

    “No argument here, Mister Ashok.” Sandhurst raised his hands in a good-natured gesture of surrender.

  9. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    Ooh a mstery device from a perhaps even more mysterious benefactor? Curiouser and curiouser.

    And Ramirez gets a command, just not in the way she would have wished although she seems so far to be dealing with the unexpected posting commendably. But then, in the wings, waits trouble...
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Yes, indeed. :devil: Thanks for the comments!
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9

    A pall of smoke hovered above what little remained of the Glanisuur refugee encampment. The structures erected by Starfleet had been set ablaze, as had the much sought after survival tents. The attackers had expended little effort distinguishing between those buildings supplied by the Federation relief groups, and those simpler structures cobbled together by Cardassian survivors. People here rooted through the debris, scraping through ash, twisted metal and melted polymers in search of food or water or usable refuse.

    Tel Hizeal, a Cardassian physician, stooped to check yet another fallen relief worker’s neck for a pulse. Nothing. Tel marveled at his own species’ seemingly endless talent for dispensing death and destruction.

    The Cardassian survivors of the insurgent attack on the camp wandered through the smoldering wreckage in a daze. Ruins and anguish. These had become the constants in their lives since the end of the war. Every time these hardy refugees had begun to dig themselves out from under the rubble of the past, even greater evils were visited upon them. Tel wondered idly if this was the universe’s revenge for the Cardassian occupation of Bajor. Perhaps there was some great karmic pool of energy somewhere beyond the stars, which had focused the sum off all the torment the Cardassian Union had caused the rest of the galaxy back onto his people. He could more easily believe that than the more mundane notion that the agony he and his countrymen were suffering was a result of something as obscure as galactic politics.

    He found a shovel, clutched in the hands of a Betazoid medic. Hizeal wrenched it free of the man’s death grip as he silently apologized to the recently deceased for the horror that had been their reward for their good works. He began to dig a grave, the first of many. As he slung scoop after scoop of dirt, Tel swore to himself that the deaths here would not be in vain. Cardassia must have a future in which personal freedoms and peace were things to be embraced rather than shunned. When the insurgents next appeared, he vowed, they would find themselves facing at least one more enemy.


    “Bridge to Comman… uh, bridge to Captain.”

    Ramirez was at her desk in the ready room, deep into a Starfleet Tactical primer on counterinsurgency operations. She rubbed her bleary eyes. “Go ahead.”

    “Incoming message from Captain Sandhurst, sir.”

    “Put him through.”

    Sandhurst’s face sprang to life on her viewer. He inclined his head. “Morning, Captain.” Ramirez was momentarily flustered. Sandhurst had said it without a trace of sarcasm or irony.

    “Good morning, sir.”

    “How’s the decon coming?”

    She reached for her mug of coffee and took a swig . “Better, actually. We’re close to being six hours ahead of schedule. Seventy-six percent of the ship is now habitable.”

    “Good to hear. Anything else you need from me on this end?”

    Ramirez said, “Not that I can think of, sir. Any luck with your new toy?”

    Sandhurst smiled. “Yes. That’s one of the reasons I called. We’re putting the finishing touches on it right now. I’ll be sending Ashok over to assist with its installation.”

    “Are we absolutely sure there’s nothing buried in the programming that we don’t know about?” Ramirez’s expression was tinged with concern.

    “I’ve had Plazzi and Ashok sift through the programming line by line," Sandhurst replied. "It’s a complex code, but they haven’t seen anything that would indicate a booby-trap.” The captain leaned closer to the screen in an unconscious attempt to convey sincerity through proximity. “I wouldn’t dare place this device aboard Phoenix if I had any doubts as to its safety.”

    The acting captain of the Phoenix found herself nodding, “Understood, sir.”

    Sandhurst sat back and his mood grew visibly more somber. “Seeing as you’re our resident expert on the Cardassians, I wanted your opinion of our current predicament. Who are we dealing with here? What’s their endgame?”

    Ramirez pondered the question for a long moment before answering. “My experience would lead me to believe that we’re dealing with military holdouts. Extremists who can’t stomach the idea of Cardassia existing under the authority of any foreign power.” She took another sip of coffee. “As for their endgame, that’s easy. They want control. They refuse to live in a free society where they don’t get to make the rules. They don’t want the Federation or Klingons in charge, and they don’t want to see a civilian government put in place. These guys are traditionalists, and in Cardassian society nothing is more traditional than despotism”

    “They don’t care about the consequences of their actions for the rest of their people?” Sandhurst shook his head in near disbelief.

    Ramirez chuckled darkly. “These monsters don’t think like rational sentients, Captain. In their eyes, the average Cardassian citizen is chattel. They’ve no compunctions about sacrificing as many of their people as necessary if it gets them what they want.”

    Sandhurst winced at the assessment. “Nice.” He glanced at a padd on his desk, which contained the latest updates from Medical on the state of Phoenix’s injured crew. “Any ideas as to how they got their hands on all the hardware they’ve been using against us?”

    She looked less sure of her answer this time. “That I can only guess at, sir. I doubt they’re producing the weapons and countermeasures themselves. What industrial capacity the allies didn’t destroy during the war, the Jem’Hadar were more than happy to finish off. Somebody must be funneling these weapons to them, except I’ve never seen anything like these systems offered on the interstellar arms markets. I’ve been pouring over everything Intel has on weapons brokers and mercenary groups, but I haven’t found any matches.”

    The captain shifted in his chair, frowning. “Conjecture?”

    Ramirez gave a barely perceptible shrug. “Under normal circumstances, I’d say that maybe the Romulans were responsible. But I can’t see where supporting a Cardassian rebellion would help them, especially now. They’d have to know anything they started in our zone of control would only spill over into the areas of Cardassian space they’ve annexed.”

    “I see. Well, maybe we’ve got a new player somewhere behind the scenes.”

    “That’s always a possibility, sir.”

    The red alert klaxons on both Phoenix and Gibraltar began to sound within seconds of one another. As both ship commanders rose from their seats, they shared a resigned look before they terminated the connection.


    Sandhurst stepped onto the bridge and moved to the command chair. Lar’ragos had already left it in favor of his post at the Tactical station. “Report.”

    His friend responded, “Sensors just detected multiple threat vessels emerging from the far side of Lakesh’s larger moon. We are at red alert. Shields are up, all weapons standing by.”

    “Type and number?”

    “Reading one Galor-class cruiser and three Hideki-class pursuit vessels.”

    Sandhurst sat forward slightly in his chair. “Helm, place us between the threats and the civilian ships.”

    Ensign Lightner sprang from the turbolift. He maneuvered past the captain’s chair and hurried down into the well, where he seamlessly replaced the duty helm officer as he called out, “Aye, sir. Coming to 272-mark-41.”

    “Tactical, issue challenge. Warn them off.” Sandhurst looked to Plazzi at the Science station. “Elisto, where did they come from?”

    The older man appeared genuinely perplexed. “Unknown, Captain. We’ve scanned that moon at least a dozen times since arriving in orbit. Unless they’re equipped with cloaking devices, the enemy’s done one hell of a job of hiding them.”

    From Operations, Juneau announced, “Now reading additional targets inbound, Captain. Looks like… seventeen single-seat fighters… Cardassian design, Ordis-class.” She checked her readings again. “Phoenix is matching our course and speed.”

    At Tactical, Lar'ragos called out, “All inbounds running with shields up and weapons hot. They’ve received our challenge hails, but are still closing.”

    A warning chimed at Lar’ragos’ station. “They’re locking targets on Phoenix.”

    The captain toggled a control on his armrest to open a channel to the other starship. “Sandhurst to Phoenix, you are weapons free. Repeat, engage enemy targets at will.”

    Sandhurst watched the approaching ships on the view screen as his mind racing with various tactical calculations. Closing speed, maneuverability, pull from the planet's gravity well, shield power, competing weapons yields and ranges. Though not a terribly inventive student of space combat, he had always found tactical simulations to be relatively straight forward. They were equations of a sort and contained a limited number of variables in a given situation. “Mister Lar’ragos, set photon torpedoes to proximity detonation, maximum dispersal pattern. Let’s take out those fighters before they can get at the civilians.”

    “Aye, sir. Firing.”

    Gibraltar’s opening salvo sent four photon torpedoes into the formation of interceptors. The projectiles blossomed brightly as the fighters executed violent evasive maneuvers in an attempt to avoid the detonations.

    Phoenix took advantage of her superior weapons range to loose a volley of five torpedoes at the enemy before she herself was in range of their guns. Two torpedoes flared briefly against the forward shields of the Vintar, while the other three tracked towards the more maneuverable Hidekis, registering one hit and two misses.

    Lar’ragos assessed, “Three enemy fighters destroyed, two disabled, and four others with varying degrees of damage.”

    Sandhurst gritted his teeth. His blood pounded in his ears as his pulse increased in tempo. “Concentrate phasers on the fighters when they come in range. Target the Galor with torpedoes.”


    The Galor and Hidekis opened fire in unison, their destructive energies targeted exclusively on the Phoenix. Multiple disruptor blasts and two torpedoes slammed into the Nebula-class starship’s shields. From somewhere on the bridge, a voice brittle with tension said, “Shields holding at eighty-three percent.”

    Ramirez clung to the command chair as the ship jolted from enemy fire. She watched as the Hidekis maneuvered to envelope Phoenix while the Galor continued to bear down on them, trading blow for blow. She looked to her tactical officer, previously the ensign who manned the late watch, now the senior member of his department. Ramirez spoke to him in her most reassuring voice, “Keep up the fire on the cruiser, we’ll worry about the corsairs later.”

    Sweat glistened on the ensign’s forehead, but he nodded and maintained his concentration. From somewhere off-screen, two photon torpedoes from Gibraltar flashed past and pummeled the Galor’s starboard shields.


    Gul Panor opened a channel to his fighter squadron and directed them to make a strafing run on the old Constitution-class, then break off and make a dash for the civilian relief ships. He surmised that should be enough of an inducement to draw Gibraltar away from the main fight long enough for them to finish Phoenix.

    Panor grunted as Gibraltar’s torpedoes struck and threw him sideways against the armrest of his command seat while further sapping their precious shield strength. The warship trembled under Phoenix’s withering phaser fire. On his viewer, Vintar’s spiral wave disruptors answered in kind and lashed out at Phoenix again and again. Just a bit closer, he urged silently. “Prepare to engage the dimensional shift transporter,” he ordered.

    “Target now in range,” his weapons officer declared.

    “Forward and starboard shields are weakening,” proclaimed the engineer as his voice betrayed a hint of alarm. The new regenerative Son’a shields were a vast improvement over standard Cardassian technology, but repeated hits from high-yield Starfleet torpedoes and the constant phaser barrage were taking their toll.

    Panor smiled mercilessly. “Initiate transport.”


    The Cardassian fighters swarmed over Gibraltar and peppered her shields with a fusillade of plasma blasts and guided missiles. The older ship’s phaser banks did not cycle as quickly as Sandhurst would have liked, and in the rapid exchange of fire Gibraltar only managed one kill and another fighter disabled.

    From Ops, Juneau noted, “Sir, the attack squadron is breaking off and heading for the civilian ships.”

    Sandhurst was momentarily torn. He wanted desperately to pursue the fighters in order to prevent any further civilian casualties, but he knew that the Galor must be dealt with first if they had any chance of surviving the engagement. “Ops, hail the task force. Order the most vulnerable ships to run while those with weapons keep the fighters busy.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    He turned his attention back on the Galor and ordered, “Target all weapons on that cruiser and fire.”


    Two torpedo casings emerged from within brilliant white flashes of light to materialize inside the perimeter of Phoenix’s shields. The first detonated just meters away from the ship’s triangular dorsal-mounted weapons pod. The resulting explosion decimated both the fore and aft torpedo launchers. The second device exploded on contact with the starship’s navigational deflector, and the initial blast reacted with the negatively charged anti-protons on the surface of the dish. The secondary hull of the Phoenix vanished in a concussive detonation that sent the vessel’s severely mauled saucer section spiraling away like a broken discus.


  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 9

    Chapter 9 <cont'd>

    The blossoming explosion on his view screen heralded the end of the starship Phoenix, and although it had not been Gul Panor’s intent to destroy the vessel completely, he was far from disappointed. His attack force was taking more damage than anticipated. However, with the Nebula-class ship finished, the battle would soon be over. “Bring us about, 301-mark-187. Route auxiliary power to shields and wea…”

    Vintar bucked violently as another broadside of four photon torpedoes hammered her aft and starboard shields, followed by a phaser beam that punched through the Galor’s failing starboard grid and scythed across her engine blade.


    Gibraltar had landed a solid blow on the enemy, but Sandhurst took no satisfaction from it. He had just witnessed Phoenix torn asunder with what appeared to be ridiculous ease.

    From behind him, Plazzi remarked, “Registering dimensional rebound deflection, Captain. That cruiser’s equipped with a DST.” Admiral Salk’s classified data on the dimensional shift transporter had come complete with the techniques pioneered by Enterprise-D’s crew to track and pinpoint the use of the device.

    “Keep up the fire, Mister Lar’ragos. I don’t want to give them opportunity to use it on us.”

    “Aye, sir.”


    Vintar wheeled about to turn her wounded flank away from the oncoming starship and expose her most robust shield grid. Her Hideki-class escorts raced to her aid and battered Gibraltar’s defenses with a sustained fusillade of disruptor fire. This forced the Starfleet ship to break off its attack run and reposition for a follow-up assault.

    As she withdrew, Gibraltar launched a salvo of torpedoes at the three corsairs from her aft torpedo tube, an advantageous addition of the recent overhaul. Two of the torpedoes struck their targets, destroying one Hideki and damaging the other.

    Panor studied Vintar’s damage control board and noted that they would have to finish this battle quickly. The insurgency’s available resources for ship repair were minimal, and the damage accrued by the cruiser thus far would take weeks to fix. He read his tactical display and felt a vague sense of relief that the Hidekis had driven off Gibraltar for the moment. For a relic, the Constitution-class ship was proving surprisingly tenacious. He would have to do something about that.

    “Charge the DST for another transport. I want you to put a torpedo onto their bridge with a five second delay.” He knew it was both petty and tactically unsound, but Panor wanted Gibraltar’s captain to have time to recognize his terrible fate before being consumed by the violent matter/anti-matter reaction.


    Ramirez had been thrown from the captain’s chair by the unexpectedly ferocious impact, only to crash head first into the base of the Operations console. Although still conscious, she was dazed, and didn’t immediately recognize the face that now appeared over her, its features distorted by her swimming vision.

    “Sir, we’ve got to go.” Lieutenant Faltyne pulled her to her feet and allowed Ramirez to steady herself against him as she struggled to regain her equilibrium.

    “Go? Where?” She was confused. The bridge was bathed in blood red emergency lighting, with intermittent strobe-like flashes from shattered, sparking consoles. The air was an acrid mix of smoke and the smell of charred flesh. Faltyne began directing her towards the emergency access hatch located behind a wall panel at the back of the bridge.

    Ramirez struggled weakly against Faltyne’s grip. “I don’t understand. Why aren’t we returning fire?”

    The lieutenant remained calm as he continued to assist her and guided her over the body of a fallen crewman whose features had been wrecked by an exploding console. “Sir, the ship is gone; we’re going to the escape pods.” He paused at a wall-mounted comms panel and activated the ship’s public address. “This is the XO. All hands, abandon ship. Report to designated evacuation areas and board the escape pods.”

    The Andorian had lost a ship once before, in a doomed attempt to re-take Betazed from the Dominion’s clutches just hours after the Jem’Hadar had seized the planet. It wasn’t proving any easier the second time around. He took some small solace in the fact that most of Phoenix’s crew who had been struck down by the contagion days earlier were safely encapsulated within cryogenic stasis chambers aboard a the civilian relief ships. At least Sandhurst had possessed the forethought to remove the injured from the two starships, the most likely targets of further attacks.

    He helped Ramirez through the hatch and into the lifeboat access compartment. The lieutenant urged her towards the closest pod and then sealed her inside the tiny craft. Faltyne quickly input commands into the touch-pad beside the hatch and set the escape capsule for atmospheric entry and landing. The way this battle was going, a Federation lifeboat drifting helplessly in orbit might soon become a tempting target for victorious insurgent ships. Phoenix’s survivors would have better luck on the surface.

    He pulled on the manual release lever which caused the explosive bolts holding the escape pod in place to discharge. This initiated the thrusters on the pod and launched the lifeboat away from the wreckage of the doomed ship. His task complete, Faltyne turned back towards the bridge. There were still others there too injured to reach the pods themselves, and he would be damned if anyone was going to be left behind.


    Gibraltar continued to spar with the more nimble Hidekis, exchanging fire with the corsairs as she turned to make another run at the Vintar.

    Sandhurst gripped the armrests of his seat as the ship was buffeted by disruptor impacts. They were outnumbered, outgunned, and the momentum of the fight was shifting in the Cardassians’ favor. He stole a glance over his shoulder at Lar’ragos, who was working his Tactical console like a concert pianist, targeting and firing weapons, modulating shield strength, and generally giving a better account of the old ship than anyone had a right to expect. The captain noted that Pava was smiling to himself. The silly bastard’s actually enjoying this, he thought with grim amusement. Sandhurst envied the El Aurian’s ability to lose himself in his duties despite the direness of their predicament.

    He turned back to the viewer and forced himself to concentrate on their plight. Sandhurst crunched the numbers in his head, but repeatedly drew the same conclusion. Not enough time, not enough firepower, not enough speed. There were no easy answers here. If we had another ship. If only Sojourner hadn’t been…

    The idea occurred to him like a lightening strike, a blazing white-hot kernel of inspiration. Sandhurst stood. “Helm, initiate evasive maneuvers. Tactical, keep up the fire on those pursuit ships.” The captain staggered across the trembling deck plates and seated himself at an unoccupied auxiliary console. He accessed Sojourner’s command codes and linked to the wounded starship’s main computer. He called up a quick diagnostic on the vessel’s operational systems which caused his heart jump in his chest as the screen indicated that the Nova-class ship could still move under partial impulse power. Sandhurst silently thanked the engineering teams from Phoenix who had restored some of Sojourner’s key systems.

    Sandhurst started a slow power buildup in Sojourner’s impulse engines and hoped that the Cardassians would be too fixated on his ship to notice. He tied in the smaller ship’s reaction control thrusters, planning to squeeze every ounce of propulsion that he could out of the craft. He looked to Helm. “Mister Lightner, bring us within one kilometer of Sojourner’s bow, then hard turn to 42-mark-320 and reduce speed to one-sixth impulse. I want them in tight behind us.” After he routed the other starship’s helm control to the interface on his command chair, Sandhurst resumed the center seat. “Lieutenant Lar’ragos, I want a full spread of torpedoes in the aft launcher. We’re going to employ Tanner’s gambit.”

    “Aye, sir. Programming torpedoes now.” Lar’ragos didn’t bother to look up from his console. He set the warheads so that their detonation would translate mostly into electro-magnetic shockwaves, rather than kinetic force. This technique had first been used by a United Earth starship captain in the late 22nd century, Irene Tanner, in order to blind a pursuing Romulan warbird. The lieutenant deduced that it was the captain’s intent to confuse the Galor’s sensors for a few seconds, though he couldn’t guess why. “You’ve got a plan?” Lar’ragos asked. He sensed a surge of confidence in the captain’s tone and demeanor.

    A grim smile took shape on Sandhurst’s lips. “Indeed I do.”


    Gul Panor watched Gibraltar flee before him. He surmised that her captain must have finally realized the seriousness of his position. The starship could still escape, of course, but what ship’s commander would be allowed to retain his rank after leaving helpless civilians behind to be slaughtered? No, Panor thought, this one would stay until his defenses had been whittled down and his options exhausted. The Cardassian had seen it before, during the war. Starfleet captains who, in their final moments, succumbed to panic and fear after running out of clever ideas.

    Men and women who had made perfectly competent explorers and diplomats had been reduced to flailing like wounded animals because in the end they had not known when to cut and run. The gul could now see the telltale shimmering of Gibraltar’s weakening shields as a Cardassian torpedo punched into the retreating starship’s aft grid. “Status of DST?”

    “Almost there, sir. Eight seconds remaining on the recharge cycle.”


    “Elisto, focus all sensor jamming capacity we have back at the Galor, every watt you can give me.”

    “Aye, Captain.” Plazzi routed all available sensor power to the aft arrays and prayed quietly that the new captain knew what he was doing. The battle hardened Cardassians they were facing didn’t seem the type to show leniency to an inexperienced captain and crew.

    Sandhurst watched the hulk of Sojourner grow larger on the main viewer. “Pava, aft torpedoes on my order…”


    “Gul, recharge cycle complete. Standing by to initiate transport!”

    “Do it.” Panor felt the accumulated tension in his body ebb, and he settled back into his chair to watch the fruition of his efforts. He only wished he could see the Starfleet captain’s facial expression when their surprise package arrived.

    “Transport complete.” A pulsing alarm at the weapons officer’s station caused Panor to look askance at the man. The younger officer’s face was a mix of disappointment and disbelief. “Sir… it looks like our transport has somehow been refracted away from the starship's hull!”

    The combat information officer announced, “They’re trying to jam our tactical scans.”

    Panor’s neck ridges tightened as his face contorted into a mask of dark rage. Not a miscalculation, he seethed. They have a defense against our most potent weapon. This ends now. “Weapons, all batteries forward." He leaned forward and raised a clenched fist. "Fire!”


    With surprisingly little force behind the words, Captain Sandhurst uttered, “Fire aft torpedoes.”

    Lar’ragos gladly compensated for his friend’s lack of enthusiasm. He grinned wickedly as he announced, “Torpedoes away.”

    Lightner tapped the conn control pad which initiated a nearly ninety degree turn, “Coming to 42-mark-320, decelerating to…” His sentence terminated abruptly as Brett was thrown forward against his console in an impact that drove his breath from him. The deck lurched and bridge lighting flickered as a cacophony of thunderous impacts shredded what remained of their aft shielding. Crew went sprawling across the bridge, consoles sparked and died, and a clamor of panicked voices filled the compartment.

    Somehow, Sandhurst managed to stay upright in his seat, his eyes fused to the abbreviated helm controls and sensor window displayed on his armrest console. Oblivious to the frenetic activity surrounding him, he watched the three torpedoes flare dazzlingly as they radiated interference across the electromagnetic spectrum. Sandhurst counted to five; the seconds ground past in an excruciating torpor. Finally, he depressed forward thrust tab and sent the starship Sojourner on her final mission, in valiant defense of her older sister.


    Gul Panor braced himself as Gibraltar launched three torpedoes aft towards the Vintar, an instant before the Cardassian cruiser’s salvo bludgeoned the old starship and sent her careening off course in a lateral spin. To his surprise, the missiles did not impact their forward grid, but instead erupted some hundreds of meters ahead to wash out the view screen and tactical sensors in a storm of electrons.

    “Direct hit, sir. Their aft shields have failed.” The weapons officer shielded his eyes against the glare before the screen automatically adjusted to compensate. “We’ve lost sensor contact. Reading partial depolarization of the main sensor array.”

    Panor leaned further forward in his seat as his taut muscles unconsciously yearned for some kind of physical release. This was it. The Starfleet captain’s final ruse. It was an old trick, one practiced by every star-faring species bred to war. Blind your opponent, then run like hell.

    Gibraltar intended to confuse their sensors, cut behind the drifting hulk of the Nova-class ship, and accelerate away. Apparently, he hadn’t given the human commander enough credit; the man did know when to quit. Panor hoped Vintar’s last strike would delay the starship’s escape until his sensors cleared. “Conn, maintain course and speed.” He looked to the combat information officer. “Shut down the primary array and begin immediate restart cycle on the sensors. Uncover the auxiliary sensor node and power it up.”

    A gasp from somewhere in the command center sent an unexpected chill through him. Gul Panor turned to the crackling, static filled view screen. A shadow loomed there, taking shape with frightening speed. Just as his mind identified the specter for what it was, a starship on a direct collision course, he was thrown off his feet by an impact that washed away all consciousness.

  13. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    Now THAT'S how to describe starship combat! Breathtaking Gib, well done!:techman:

    Ramirez's first command, albeit temporary, ripped apart beneath her and the Cardassians using technology that shouldn't be theirs!:cardie:

    The mystery deepens and the threat multiplies x amount!

    And inspired thinking by Sandhurst! Looks like the Sojourner is about to reap her revenge posthumously!

    Once more I'm engrossed and impressed simultaneously which gives me a very odd expression! :guffaw:
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Thanks! :lol:
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10

    The crippled starship and the Cardassian cruiser had met almost head on. Sojourner’s mass proved more than sufficient to pierce Vintar’s already battered shields. The science vessel’s duranium hull plunged into the larger warship’s interior as it crumpled, shearing away load bearing struts and opening deck after deck of the cruiser to vacuum. Gouts of flame boiled from Vintar’s catastrophic wounds, and were quickly suffocated for lack of oxygen. The combined momentum of the two ships very nearly cancelled each other out, leaving the fused spaceframes, wed in devastation, to spin slowly in the penumbra of the tortured planet below.

    For a brief moment, silence reigned on Gibraltar’s bridge. Sandhurst sat motionless in the captain’s chair, head bowed as he struggled to reign in the torrent of conflicting emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Part of his mind acknowledged the sound of someone weeping nearby, but he found himself momentarily unable to focus completely on anything exterior. He wanted to laugh. He wanted to cry. Neither urge was appropriate under the circumstances.

    Sandhurst found his reaction strange because he had been in combat many times before, and this was not his first narrow escape. Being in command, however, had somehow changed the timbre of the experience dramatically. Someone, perhaps Lightner, called for medical assistance to the bridge. Sandhurst struggled internally to rouse himself. Come on. Pull it together. You just snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. What the hell’s the matter with you?

    Olivia Juneau sat mutely at the Ops station as her console displays flickered randomly. Tears streamed down her face as she cradled her visibly broken left arm in her lap. Her breath came in great juddering sobs.

    Ensign Lightner deftly brought the ship back on course as he stopped the lateral spin that had resulted from Vintar’s final attack. “Helm control reinstated, Captain. Back on previous heading, speed holding at point-one-six impulse.”

    Plazzi pulled himself back up into his chair at the Science station with assistance from another crewman. The older man’s hand was pressed firmly to his forehead to staunch the blood seeping from a gash he had suffered when he was tossed to the deck. He looked at his console and squinted to try and clear his blurred vision as he checked the readings. He cleared his throat and announced, “Captain, the cruiser has been neutralized. They’ve lost main power, and all weapons and defenses are offline.”

    Plazzi winced and bit back a groan as his head pulsed with pain. “Looks like auxiliary power is failing over there, sir. I’m picking up approximately fifteen life signs aboard, most of them quite weak.” His report complete, Plazzi pushed back his chair, leaned forward, and vomited loudly beneath his console. As he tried not to spatter his boots, the scientist reflected mordantly that he’d not had a single such concussion during his years away from Starfleet.

    At the engineering station, Ensign Audette reported on their status. “Captain, we’ve sustained moderate damage to the dorsal section of the secondary hull and the starboard nacelle and strut. Lieutenant Ashok reports we’re still warp capable, but we won’t want to push it above four-point-five or so, sir. I’m also showing three of our four shield generators for the aft grid have overloaded and will need to be replaced.”

    Sandhurst didn’t respond, so Lar’ragos broke the silence. “Can we compensate for the shortfall in the aft grid by overlapping the laterals?”

    “Yes, sir. However, I estimate we’ll get less than thirty-percent coverage on our aft quarter.”

    “Do it, then,” said the El Aurian.

    The roar of a fire extinguisher discharging finally snapped Sandhurst back to life, and he craned his head around to see Lar’ragos spraying down the smoldering remains of a ruined console. The lieutenant glanced up at him to give the captain an inscrutable look as he handed the extinguisher off to a crewman, then moved to resume his post at Tactical. He assessed his board, “The two remaining corsairs and seven fighters are withdrawing, sir. Shall we pursue?” His message was clear. The fight’s not over, Captain.

    Sandhurst hesitated. The Cardassians were vulnerable. He wanted to chase them down, to capture or destroy the remaining ships and spare anyone else the misfortune of an insurgent ambush. However, he felt his first responsibility was to the survivors of Phoenix and his own wounded.

    Finding his voice once again, he queried, “Status of the civilian ships?”

    Lar’ragos answered crisply, “Reading light to moderate damage on a number of the civilian ships, sir, but they’re all intact. It appears some of the larger cargo ships may have bloodied the interceptors’ noses.” He touched a series of controls and noted, “Sir, I’m picking up multiple distress transponders from Starfleet lifepods. I’m scanning upwards of twenty escape vehicles in orbit and on the surface.”

    Two medical technicians carrying a backboard and loaded for bear with several satchels of first-aid equipment arrived from the turbolift. The captain stood, his legs feeling decidedly rubbery beneath him. He moved down into the well and gently turned Juneau’s chair so that she could more easily be removed from her station. Sandhurst called back to Lar’ragos, “Negative on the pursuit. Track their progress; I want to know where they’re going to ground. Helm, plot a course that will allow us to rescue the Phoenix survivors in the least amount of time and execute.”

    “Aye, sir.“

    As he braced himself against his console with one hand in between bouts of nausea, Plazzi asked, “What about the Cardassian survivors aboard the cruiser, sir?” One of the med-techs swept the gray-haired scientist with the sensor wand from a medical tricorder while injecting him with an analgesic.

    Sandhurst answered coldly, “If they’re still alive when we’re done recovering our people, we’ll pick them up as well.” The captain assisted the other med-tech in placing Juneau atop the backboard as gently as possible. He gestured to a nearby crewman, who then picked up one end of the board as the med-tech lifted the other. The two men carried the lieutenant into the turbolift, then paused to wait for Plazzi as the second medic escorted him into the car.

    Sandhurst turned back to Lar’ragos. “You have the conn. Carry out recovery operations, and oversee the reformation of the task force. Make sure they circle the wagons, Lieutenant.” The captain stepped up to the upper deck and through the parting doors to the ready room, “I’m available if needed.”


    He had been expecting the chime. Pava had given him nearly thirty minutes. Sandhurst had expected him in half that time. “Enter.”

    Lar’ragos stepped into the ready room and moved just far enough into the compartment to trigger the doors to close behind him. “I have a status report, sir.”

    Sandhurst reached out and toggled his computer terminal off. He’d been assiduously avoiding writing the report detailing Phoenix’s destruction. The event was too fresh in his mind. He needed both time and emotional distance from the incident before he could chronicle it in the sterile prose of a Starfleet missive. “Proceed.”

    “We’ve begun recovery ops for the escape pods, and we’ve identified a largely intact section of Phoenix’s primary hull that was thrown clear of the explosion. Science’s life scans of the wreckage are indeterminate, so I’ve ordered search and rescue teams beamed over.”

    The captain’s expression was unreadable, but to Lar’ragos’ ear his friend’s vocal inflections were saturated with competing levels of angst and regret. “What of the surviving Cardassian ships?”

    “Sensors tracked them to the Crolsa system’s asteroid field, where we lost contact. I don’t know if the interference was a natural byproduct of the asteroid debris, or if they’re employing more sensor countermeasures.”

    Sandhurst nodded distractedly, turning away in his chair to look out the large circular viewport behind him. “Any word on Commander Ramirez?”

    Lar'ragos remained at parade rest, feet shoulder width apart with hands clasped behind him. “No, sir. None of those rescued from the pods so far were from Phoenix’s bridge. However, it sounds as if her exec was the one who gave the order to abandon ship.”

    Sandhurst closed his eyes tightly, then opened them to find Lar’ragos scrutinizing him. He swiveled back towards his security chief and said, “Casualty report?”

    “Eight injured; two of them seriously. Sickbay reports that all are expected to recover fully.”

    Even that news seemed to bring Sandhurst little relief. “Thank you, Lieutenant. Is that all?”

    There was a barely perceptible hesitation before Lar'ragos responded. “That’s all I have to say in my capacity as the ship’s Tactical officer, sir.”

    Sandhurst shook his head. “Pava, I really don’t have time for…”

    The lieutenant cut him off. “We lost you for a little while out there.” He smiled disarmingly.

    Sandhurst met Lar’ragos’ eyes tentatively and looked pained. “Yeah. Not quite sure what that was about.”

    The El Aurian’s smile transformed into a conspiratorial smirk. “Well, if you’re going to freeze up, I’d rather it be after the crisis has passed than squarely in the middle.”

    “I didn’t say I froze up, Pava,” the captain bristled.

    Lar’ragos inclined his head, as if conceding the point. “Perhaps not. I’ll say it, then.”

    Sandhurst stood suddenly and brought his hands down on top of the desk with sufficient force to make his computer terminal jump. “Is there a point to this conversation, other than intentionally pissing me off?”

    “Good, there you are. Glad to have you back.” Lar'ragos looked strangely relieved.

    Sandhurst exhaled loudly as he visibly deflated. He sat back down in his chair. “I don’t know what the hell happened. It’s as if I didn’t expect to live through that engagement. When it ended in our favor, it caught me off guard.” He glanced at his data terminal, where Ramirez’s image and service record had been displayed moments before. “That poor woman didn’t have a chance. It was bad enough that I shanghaied her into this assignment, but I’ve taken every opportunity available to place her squarely in the enemy’s sights.”

    Lar’ragos relaxed his stance and stepped forward to pull out a chair and seat himself. “She did her duty. Liana knew the risks of wearing the uniform. You delegated necessary tasks to your first officer; don’t beat yourself up because things didn’t turn out the way you’d hoped.” He steered the conversation back to the incident on the bridge. “I don’t think anybody else really caught on to your little ‘episode.’ Nevertheless, if you want this crew’s confidence and respect, you have to play the part of the captain, regardless of what you’re actually feeling.”

    Sandhurst pursed his lips and looked as though he’d just tasted something especially unpalatable. “Thank you for that brief yet oh-so timely refresher from Starfleet Command Officer’s training.”

    Lar’ragos glowered at his captain. “Don’t. Don’t dismiss what I have to say. I’m speaking from experience. No one really knows how much of the aura of command is pure theater until they’re sitting in the big chair.”

    “Your point?”

    Lar'ragos looked as though he were addressing a particularly dense pupil. “You just saved the ship against incredible odds by pulling that stunt out of thin air. What you should have done was acted as though you never had any doubt that it was going to work. Swagger off the bridge like an anointed demigod for all I care, but don’t you dare let those kids out there know how close we just came to cashing it in!”

    Sandhurst folded his arms across his chest as he fought the instinct to toss Lar’ragos out of his ready room. He weighed their years of friendship in the balance and forced himself to listen to the other man, as damning as his words were. “So it’s supposed to feel like this? Command, I mean?”

    “Absolutely.” Lar'ragos nodded. The lieutenant’s features softened and his voice assumed that easy, conversational tone that he reserved for his pep talks. “Look, your problem is that when you were serving with Captain Ebnal, you always had a safety net. Sure, you had to make some tough calls on your own on occasion, but you knew you’d have his backing when the dust settled. Now, you’re truly on your own for the first time.” Pava leaned across the table, his expression conveying an unusual amount of earnestness for the typically lighthearted officer. “You’re out there, hanging in the proverbial wind. I know it’s scary as hell, having to play the part of someone you’re not. In time it’ll be easier, but until that time arrives you’re going to have to paint on your best captain’s face and be the man your crew expects and deserves.”

    Sandhurst digested this. Lar'ragos had more than his share of quirks, but unwarranted candor was not in his repertoire. Sandhurst had been coming to the slow realization that since he’d accepted Admiral Covey’s offer of the Gibraltar commission, he’d been waiting to become ‘the captain.’ It was as if he expected to suddenly undergo a miraculous transformation whereby the confidence and knowledge exhibited by those captains from his past that he so revered would be bestowed upon him.

    “I should see to the crew.” Sandhurst stood abruptly. He rounded the desk and moved towards the door. He broke stride to pat his friend on the shoulder. “You’re a good man, and I value your advice.”

    Lar’ragos, still seated, grinned up at him. “But?”

    “But if you come in here aiming to set me off again, I’m going to have Tark shoot you." Sandhurst very nearly smiled. "A lot.”

    “Yes, my captain.”


    Standing on the surface of Lakesh for the second time in less than a week, Liana Ramirez wondered what she’d done to anger the fates so. Most of her harrowing escape from the burning remains of Phoenix was a jumbled blur, which she attributed to the head injury she’d sustained in the explosion. Five hours and three hyposprays later, her vision had cleared and her searing migraine had subsided to a dull ache.

    Her life pod had set down on a small but verdant island somewhere in Lakesh’s equatorial region. The skies overhead were choked with clouds, and a light rain of soot and ash filtered down from the beleaguered grey mass above. It was clear that although she might go undetected by the Cardassians for some time here, she would not be able to survive on the island for more than a few weeks at best. The foliage was already beginning to brown and wilt with the reduced sunlight caused by the growing layers of dust and smoke in the planet’s atmosphere.

    Ramirez was in pure survival mode. When, on occasion, her mind wandered to the topic of Phoenix’s destruction, she found herself largely numb to the event and its repercussions. Instead, she focused exclusively on the matter of endurance. She had assessed her emergency survival supplies, and determined that with strict rationing, she could stretch her water and foodstuffs for a month. Unfortunately, the escape pod had no refrigeration or stasis capability, so it would be impossible to gather and preserve any of the island’s edible fruit or vegetables to stave off the inevitable demise of the local flora.

    As far as Ramirez could tell, she was the only person on the island. The lifepod’s sensors failed to show anything else of note except several varieties of small marsupial and avian analogues. She didn’t know if her apparent isolation was by accident or design, but surmised that whoever had programmed the final destination of the lifepods might have wanted them scattered as widely as possible across Lakesh, to better increase the odds against their all being wiped out by a single attack.

    She carefully packed up her survival rations as she resisted the urge to finish off the energy bar she’d consumed half of. Unexpectedly, her compin crackled to life; “This is the Gibraltar hailing any survivors of the USS Phoenix on coded emergency channel 38.7. Please respond on this channel, utilizing encryption matrix Zed-Alpha-1.” Ramirez froze, uncertain if she was hearing something genuine, or a ploy by insurgent forces to locate any survivors. It seemed unlikely that Gibraltar might have survived the pitched battle in orbit. The message repeated, and Ramirez decided it that she would have to take the chance that it was real.

    Forgoing the delicate task of opening and reconfiguring her combadge, she climbed back inside the escape vehicle and accessed the pod’s communications system. She set the appropriate encryption and pressed the transmit toggle. “This is Lt. Commander Liana Ramirez to Gibraltar. Repeat, this is Ramirez, do you copy?”

    “We read you, Commander. Good to hear your voice. Standby for transport.” She recognized the voice as belonging to Ensign Browder, the Beta-watch Operations officer.

    “Hang on, I’ll need to gather my things and set the pod’s self destruct.” Ramirez didn’t want Federation encryption ciphers falling into the hands of the enemy. She quickly gathered up the pod’s ration stores and then set the destruct mechanism on a five minute delay. Her task complete, she tapped her compin. “Ramirez to Gibraltar, one to beam up.”

    Ramirez vanished and left the slowly dying island behind.


  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 <cont'd>

    Sickbay was once again a crowded place. The most recent upsurge in the facility’s cycle of feast or famine owed to the destruction of Phoenix, many of whose survivors now rested in the bay’s bio-beds.

    Sandhurst entered only to pause just inside the door at the unsettling sight of nearly every bed occupied. He had made a habit of avoiding Sickbay in the course of his career, as a trip to Sickbay that didn’t involve a routine checkup usually meant that somebody somewhere had screwed up. Now, he was expected to perform an obligatory good-will tour through the bay. Sandhurst quashed his own discomfort as he caught the attention of a nearby nurse from whom he inquired as to the general well being of the patients.

    The Bajoran man smiled diffidently. “They’re doing well under the circumstances, sir. The Phoenix survivors are still shaken up, but that’s to be expected after all they’ve been through.” The nurse gestured behind him to one of the ship’s two medical holograms, currently with its back to them as it studied something on an oversized medical padd. “Old Doc Photonic isn’t much of a ship’s counselor, as you might imagine. I guess their psychological needs will have to wait for a starbase, sir. Physically, though, they’re on the mend.”

    Sandhurst thanked him and moved on. As he wound his way between the beds, he made idle conversation with those patients who were awake and tried not to disturb the others. He spotted Juneau who slept peacefully with her left arm encased within an ostio-regenerator cuff. The device hummed softly as it worked to knit her fractured humerus back together.

    The captain found Plazzi resting idly beneath a neural scanner. The device hung above his bed on an armature and emitted a greenish beam that swept back and forth across his forehead. “Elisto, how’s the head?”

    The geologist grinned. “Apparently composed of duranium, or so they tell me. My brain, alas, seems to be somewhat more fragile.”

    “So I see. Any idea when we’ll have the honor of your presence back on the bridge?”

    The older man attempted a shrug and winced with the effort. “Tough to say. I guess I don’t heal as quickly as I used to.”

    Sandhurst nodded amiably. “I’ll tell the medical staff to hurry up. We need you back.”

    “Thank you, Captain.”

    A few beds further, Sandhurst happened upon Taiee. The Chief Medical Officer was sitting up in bed as she pushed against an isometric pulley system as part of her physical rehabilitation. Her expression brightened as she saw the captain. “Hello, sir.”

    “Evening, Lieutenant. Good to see you up and awake.” Sandhurst seated himself somewhat awkwardly at the foot of the bed. “Interesting strategy you’ve come up with for observing your staff at work.”

    Taiee laughed. “Getting shot, you mean? And here I was hoping nobody would catch on.” She fell silent long enough to finish off a set of five isometric presses. “I like that idea much better than the thought of needing remedial training on away team survival skills.”

    Sandhurst shook his head. “There’s no shame in being caught up in a bad situation, Lieutenant. I’m just relieved that you pulled through. The EMH said it was touch-and-go there for awhile.”

    Taiee glanced over at the hologram, her expression thoughtful. “The Mark-I’s are competent surgeons, I’ll give them that. Obviously, in that regard I’m grateful to have them. As a resource, they’re terrific. I’m less comfortable having them running the whole show in my absence. If the nursing staff doesn’t up and quit en mass, it’ll be a miracle.”

    Sandhurst raised an eyebrow. “You want me to modify their interpersonal communications subroutines? I could make them as meek and compliant as you’d like.”

    The lieutenant flashed a devious grin. “I’m tempted, sir, but no. The consensus among the Fleet’s medical community is that the longer you leave them running, the more their adaptive programming has a chance to learn. It’s better if we let the holograms and the nursing staff work this out on their own; hopefully their dispositions will be better for the experience.”

    The captain stood. “Suit yourself, Lieutenant. Just remember, the offer stands.”

    “I will, sir. Thank you.”

    “Take care… Doc.” Sandhurst walked on and mused that it sounded strange to call the CMO anything other than that. He made a few more stops along the way to visit with some of Phoenix’s crew, but as a group they gave him a reticent reception. He couldn’t be sure if that was because he wasn’t their captain, or simply due to the recent trauma they had all shared.

    “Transporter room three to Captain Sandhurst.”

    Sandhurst toggled his compin. “Go ahead.”

    “Sir, we’ve located Commander Ramirez. We’re beaming her up right now.”

    “Fantastic, I’m on my way.” Confident that he’d at least made the attempt, he stepped out of Sickbay and left the medical professionals to their work.


    The captain entered the transporter room to find both medical and security personnel giving Ramirez thorough examinations. She appeared to be suffering them patiently, and the exec directed a raised eyebrow at Sandhurst as he stood by for the specialists’ results.

    “She’s cleared security screening, Captain.”

    The medic, however, was less obliging. “I’m reading a low-grade concussion, sir. She’ll need to been seen in Sickbay. Shouldn’t take long, though.”

    Sandhurst nodded. “Very well, I’ll walk her down there.” He turned to the XO and inquired, “You up to it?”

    Ramirez grinned, still reeling from the relief of her unexpected liberation. “I think I can manage that, Captain.”

    The two stepped out into the corridor. As they walked, Sandhurst glanced over at her, his expression pensive. “It’s good to have you back, Commander. We thought we’d lost you.”

    He registered that the two of them were momentarily alone, and Sandhurst stopped. Ramirez went another few steps, then turned back with a confused look.


    “Ramirez, all evidence to the contrary, I want you to know that I’m not trying to get you killed.”

    She chuckled. “Tell that to our Cardassian friends. They seem to have it out for me.” She took a moment to fully register Sandhurst’s earnest expression. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”

    “Yes. Every time I give you an assignment it seems that you just barely survive it.” He frowned, not liking how that had come out. “I don’t… what I mean to say…”

    Despite the fatigue that had arrived on the heels of her ebbing adrenaline she mustered a smile. “It’s alright, Captain. I know what you’re trying to say.”

    Sandhurst rubbed the back of his neck absently with one hand. “Look, you’ve already endured more on this assignment than anyone could have expected of you. Whatever the outcome of our mission here, I’ll get you back to Starbase 71 and Admiral Covey. You’ve more than earned it.”

    She nodded. “Thank you, sir. I’ll hold you to that.”

  17. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    It seems Ramirez has tweaked a little conscience in Sandhurst but she's more than earned the centre seat already it seems.

    Lar'ragos and Sandhurst's obvious deep friendship allows the mentor type approach that age brings even with the apparent reversed rank disparity and I like how that works.

    Of course the Cardassians are still out there!!

    More Sir, more!
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11

    The headquarters of what Legate Urlak had christened the Crimson Order had begun as a Cardassian military ordinance depot. Constructed beneath the towering Avendra mountain range and taking full advantage of the region’s fistrium-laced geology, it had been designed to be both undetectable and impenetrable. With the coming of the Dominion and their wondrous engineering aptitude, the Vorta had expanded the facility and turned it into an advanced weapons research outpost.

    Dominion engineers had installed an experimental interphase generator, which shifted the entire facility point-zero-four millicochranes into the subspace realm. A series of complicated interphasic ‘airlocks’ had been created in order to transition persons from the base to the outside world safely. Without them, the abrupt transition from one dimension to another would have been instantly lethal. Submerged as it was in the nearer layers of subspace, the base was now completely hidden and utterly impervious to attack.

    The cavernous chamber that held the facility’s meeting hall roared with the dissonant clamor of angry voices. The whole of the Lakesh insurgency’s leadership had gathered to discuss not only the aftermath of Gul Panor’s failed attack, but the larger issue of the movement’s future outside the confines of the Crolsa system.

    Legate Urlak presided over the ill-tempered crowd with a sense of barely contained fury. He harbored no illusions as to the true agenda here; his enemies wished to debate his continued leadership of the movement. Panor’s defeat had done much to undermine Urlak’s position, and those who desired to challenge his authority were now capitalizing on his lack of active military experience.

    Although Urlak had attended the Union’s most prestigious military college in his youth, he had been recruited away from a more mundane career by the Obsidian Order. He had become a spymaster, with vast knowledge of intelligence procedures and planning, but little experience with more standardized military operations. His current rank had been awarded him when the Dominion had selected Urlak to co-administrate the Lakesh research facility. As such, many of the hard-core militants accepted his leadership only grudgingly.

    Gul Javin En’Roel, potentially next in line to command the movement’s military wing, had the floor. Decades Urlak’s junior, En’Roel had been a promising young warship commander at the outset of the Dominion War. In the intervening two years he had become something of a legend among the rank and file in the armed forces, a man who led from the front, unafraid to confront any threat himself that he would send his men against.

    En’Roel’s personal charisma was something Urlak couldn’t match, as he had made a career of blending into the background and presenting himself as more average than the median. The legate could be sufficiently menacing when necessary, but he possessed little in the way of the kind of appeal that would inspire men to throw themselves into battle with his name on their lips.

    “We have followed the dictates of Legate Urlak since the inception of this rebellion.” En’Roel turned dramatically to engage his audience as he mixed oratory and movement in a stylish synthesis that the assembled insurgents found captivating. “And while I agree that the legate cannot be held totally accountable for Gul Panor’s disastrous failure, Urlak was the one who selected the officers responsible for planning and executing the attack!”

    En’Roel scanned the faces of his fellow soldiers, his expression beseeching them to hear his words. “He has chosen to keep us confined here, limiting the scope of our operations and denying our brethren the fruits of the wondrous technology left to us by the hated Dominion.” The gul reached out his arm to point an accusatory finger at Urlak in a gesture so theatrical it made the legate’s stomach turn. “Instead, he uses the quantities of bio-memetic gel and ketracil-white we took from the Founders by force, and uses them to bargain with the likes of Ferengi and Lissepians. He squanders what should be the birthright of a new, more powerful union! Our union!”

    Arms outstretched, En’Roel turned a complete circle and looked every bit the ringmaster of a Ravalian Carnival. He called out to the audience in barely tempered desperation. “I ask you to walk with me! My path will lead us to victory! His path has been proven one of half-measures and compromise, ultimately leading to defeat and supplication before the Federation and their Klingon dogs! Are we to become brothers to the Bajorans? Cousins to the Vulcans? Are we simply one among many as the Federation would have us believe, or are we as a people destined for something greater?” Murmurs of assent rippled through the crowd.

    The hint of anguish in his voice lessened, and En’Roel’s features hardened. “Others have already tried to unite the scattered bands of resistance fighters. The True Way movement was once our greatest hope, yet now it clings to life by a thread. Gul Keshet’s cell of brave soldiers will be sacrificed on the altar of greed and deception unless we take up the banner of their cause! No other groups possess our resources, our courage, or our determination to see the enemy driven from our homeland finally and forever!”

    A respectable wave of applause met the conclusion of En’Roel’s presentation, and Urlak took some relief that the crowd had not roared in approval. Gul En’Roel yielded the central podium to Urlak, and the legate took his time in mounting the steps to take his place at the rostrum.

    This would not be any easy or pleasant task. He used an intentionally somber tone and sought to differentiate his performance from that of his melodramatic challenger. “Although I take exception with the quality of Gul En’Roal’s performance, he does make some salient points which I will attempt to address.”

    As he looked out across the auditorium, he yearned to feel some deeper sense of connection to the people he had led, and hoped to continue leading. Instead, he felt nothing. For all his words, these men and women were little more than ciphers to him. The idea of a strong and united Cardassia was the only thing that warmed his heart, much as he might wish otherwise. If En’Roel experienced some manner of genuine camaraderie with these men, then he was to be envied as well as despised.

    “Do not forget that it was I who led our successful rebellion against Dominion control of this facility. It was my planning that allowed us to overwhelm our supposed allies with minimal casualties and collateral damage.”

    The legate held himself fully erect and tried to eek out every millimeter of height. “I acknowledge that these actions alone are not sufficient to warrant my continued leadership. Instead, you must take into consideration who has the more realistic vision. Gul En’Roel speaks of great victories against the enemy and the unquenchable fire of the martyr’s spirit. These are poetic notions that bear little resemblance to the realities we face.”

    “I will not fill your heads with such foolishness. I offer difficult, dangerous work that may see the end of many of us. Mine is the more demanding road of hard won, incremental gains. We will fight when it is to our advantage, striking our enemies when and where they are weakest. When we are not engaging the enemy on our terms, we will hide. This is not glamorous or noble, but it is how insurgencies are fought.”

    Urlak paused to assess his audience, most of whom seemed to be paying close attention to his words. “We will not seek great victories against our enemies, for we haven’t the resources to engage them in bold frontal attacks. Instead, we shall prey on their vulnerable underbelly, bleeding them when they can least afford it until they have grown so exhausted of wasting lives and treasure on us that they will declare victory and leave.

    “And although we will be both valiant and vicious when engaging our foes, I cannot and will not promise you victory in every battle. As soldiers in this cause, you deserve to be told the truth, and those of you with military training will doubtless know the old axiom that no plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” Urlak noted the nods and murmurs of assent in the crowd.

    “The gul is correct when he accuses me of ‘conspiring’ with the likes of the Ferengi and Lissepians. I have used them as intermediaries in the spread of our resources to our countrymen. I have purchased ships and weapons that will be distributed not just on Lakesh, but throughout the worlds of Cardassia! Schematics and samples of the devices we have captured from the Dominion will accompany these arms, so that others may join our cause. These actions were taken in great secrecy, as the very future of our race may depend on their success.

    “Let me say in closing that I understand your frustrations. We are a great people facing the darkest of times. The old guard betrayed us to the Dominion, and as a result we now face slavery, perhaps even genocide, at the hands of the Federation, the Klingons, and the Romulans. So long as you and others like you refuse to bow before our enemies, Cardassia will remain forever strong. I ask only that you help me lead us to the day when we may stand and gaze upon the flag of the Union and know that every meter of our soil has been freed from oppression and occupation!”

    The legate finished and his body trembled with the effort. A moments silence reigned before the crowd seemed to rise to their feet in unison. Some clapping and a few cheers met his conclusion, but nothing like the thunderous ovation he’d hoped for. The assembled leadership moved en mass towards the privacy cubicles where they would cast their votes.

    So it will be decided, he observed gravely.


    A sensor contact alert beeped at the Operations console. Ensign Browder called back to Lar’ragos, who was seated in the command chair. “Lieutenant, a Klingon warship has just decloaked twenty kilometers from the hulk of the rebel Galor-class ship.”

    Lar’ragos sat forward. “Identify.”

    Browder tapped at his console. “Vor’cha-class… receiving transponder ident code now.” The ensign glanced back at Lar'ragos. “It’s the Kang, sir. General K’Vada’s flagship.”

    Lar’ragos grimaced, and then announced with a decided lack of enthusiasm, “Yay. The cavalry’s here.”

    “Now reading transporter activity, sir. It looks like the Klingons are sending boarding parties over to what’s left of the Galor.”

    The lieutenant frowned as he reflected that Gibraltar should have done the same thing hours earlier. Donald needs to start thinking with his head instead of his heart, he assessed. “Hail the Kang and welcome them to the scenic Crolsa system, where no good deed goes unpunished.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    Lar’ragos said, “Bridge to Captain Sandhurst.”

    “Go ahead.”

    “Captain, we’ve got company.”


  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Embers of the Fire - Chapter 11

    Chapter 11 <cont'd>

    The column of energetic particles coalesced into the imposing form of General K’Vada, undisputed leader of the Allied 8th Task Force, Cardassian Administration Command. He wasn’t especially tall for a Klingon, nor was his Defense Force uniform adorned with the various medals and emblems customary for one of his rank. Nonetheless, from the moment he regained corporeal substance he took command of the room and those within it.

    Master Chief Tark blew a piercing tone on the boatswain’s whistle, and Lar’ragos issued a terse, “Atten-shun!” that brought the assembled honor guard snapping into formation in unison.

    The Klingon’s eyes searched the compartment as he scanned for unseen opponents and dangers despite the obvious presence of his allies. K’Vada was a creature of habit, and the warrior’s training could not be undone. His gaze finally settled on Captain Sandhurst, who, like his officers was standing at attention. K'Vada decided impulsively to invoke Klingon tradition for the sake of nothing other than his own amusement. He growled, “Who is master of this vessel?”

    Sandhurst was caught flat-footed. He tried to keep his expression neutral and he replied with as much passion as he could manage. “I am, sir.”

    From beside him, Ramirez managed to address the captain sotto voce without breaking ranks. “…I yield to you, General.”

    “But I yield to you, General.” Sandhurst parroted as he stared at the back wall of the transporter pad, careful to avoid eye contact with his belligerent superior.

    K’Vada grunted, secretly amused that the humans had enough presence of mind to cope with his mercurial nature... thus far. He stepped down off the pad unbidden to take measure of the crew of the only Starfleet vessel to survive the perils of the Lakesh operation. He scrutinized the senior officers present and finally set his unyielding gaze back on the captain. “So, you are the one who allowed our enemies to escape.” K’Vada then swept past Sandhurst declaring, “I would speak with you alone, Captain.” With that, he strode through the parting doors and into the corridor.

    Unable to maintain his poker face, Sandhurst blushed fiercely as he followed the general out of the compartment. He looked mad enough to chew neutronium, and Ramirez and Lar’ragos exchanged worried glances before falling into step behind their CO.

    As he stalked down the corridor behind K’Vada, Sandhurst asked in a tone tight with emotion, “Does the General require an explanation?”

    The Klingon wheeled around, his hand instinctively moving to grasp the handle of his d’k tagh blade, sheathed on his uniform belt. Sandhurst came up short, uncertain if an attack was forthcoming. K’Vada spoke calmly, but the menace in his voice was unmistakable. “If and when I require an explanation, Captain, you will know it.”

    Lar’ragos stepped forward to stand abreast of Sandhurst as his eyes took in all of K’Vada at once. Sandhurst could sense his friend’s anticipation, the man’s body coiling like a spring. The Klingon and El Aurian locked eyes and gauged each other in a long moment of tense silence.

    Sandhurst smiled wanly, and said by way of introduction, “This is my Chief of Security and Tactical, Lieutenant Lar’ragos.” To Pava he murmured, “At ease. Everything’s fine here.”

    K’Vada scowled; the expression accentuated his prominent cranial ridges. “If your man does not yield, I will soon take offense.” The hiss of his d’k tagh sliding halfway out of its scabbard raised the hairs on the back of Sandhurst’s neck.

    Sandhurst offered Lar’ragos the slightest of nods and the Tactical officer stepped back a pace. “With your permission, Captain, I’ll resume my station on the bridge.”


    Lar’ragos about-faced and left, very much against his better judgment. Ramirez remained a few steps behind and tried to look as innocuous as possible under the circumstances.

    After he had regained some of his composure, Sandhurst began again. “You said you wished to speak with me, sir. I’d suggest my ready room, unless you’ve any objections?”

    He drove his blade back into its sheath and K’Vada said, “Lead on.”


    Sandhurst had spent the better part of forty-five minutes reporting on the current situation in the Crolsa system, largely the same report he’d given to Admiral Salk less than forty-eight hours earlier. As luck would have it, K’Vada’s expression was almost as inscrutable as the Admiral’s, which left Sandhurst to deliver his account in the absence of feedback.

    He decided to hold nothing in reserve, and so the captain delivered the most accurate description possible, blemishes and all. “…and we were able to arrange a collision between the cruiser and Sojourner. I then ordered a recovery operation for the survivors of the Phoenix.” The captain hesitated, despite his wariness of overemphasizing his next statement. “I felt it more important to rescue our people than hunt down the remnants of the insurgent attack wing.” Sandhurst met K’Vada’s stony visage and finished, he thought, rather lamely. “And that’s where you arrived.”

    K’Vada sat in silence for a full minute, clearly mulling over all he’d heard. When the general was finally moved to speak, Sandhurst found himself unable to read the Klingon with enough accuracy to prepare for praise or damnation. “You and your crew fought well, Captain. That is no small thing.” He rose unexpectedly from his chair and K’Vada loomed over Sandhurst. “However, allowing your enemies to escape the field of battle to fight another day is inexcusable. Were you one of my captains, my blade would now be buried to the hilt in your chest.”

    Sandhurst cleared his throat. “Then I’m thankful I’m not a member of the Defense Forces, General.”

    Ignoring the captain’s glib reply, K’Vada continued. “I am also displeased with your lack of foresight. Despite telling me that you knew there was an interdimensional transport device aboard the Cardassian cruiser, you’ve taken no steps to secure anything that might remain of it.”

    Sandhurst’s face colored but he held his tongue, as much because of his concern for the Klingon’s reaction as for the fact that the general’s words rang true.

    The warrior’s arms were folded across his chest and the full weight of his glare was directed at the human. “In spite of your neglecting the Vintar, my soldiers have managed to recover not only the remnants of the ‘DST’ as you call it, but two survivors from the ship’s wreckage. I am informed that both require more medical care than our doctors are capable of providing.”

    Without thinking, Sandhurst quickly snapped at the bait. “I’m sure we could be of assistance in that matter, sir.”

    A brief smile was all that announced K’Vada’s pleasure at the small victory. “It will be so. The prisoners will be transported over shortly. It would have been a shame for them to expire before having been thoroughly interrogated."

    I stepped right into that one, Sandhurst fumed. We fix them up so he can torture them for information. Lovely. I’ve got to stop thinking of this guy as some half-witted thug.

    Out loud, Sandhurst merely said, “Indeed.” The captain stood and moved to the replicator station recessed into the ready room’s wall. “Would you care for a beverage, General?”

    The Klingon refused with a terse grunt as the captain fiddled with the replicator controls manually. Sandhurst stalled and tried to make his next question sound as inoffensive as possible. “Have you decided on our next course of action, sir?”

    “I have.” With Sandhurst out of his chair, K’Vada took the opportunity to move behind the desk and look out the viewport at the shadowy disk of Lakesh’s night side. “I am a believer in the old ways, Captain. My people were subjugating alien worlds when humans still fought with swords and primitive firearms. We will take and fortify a foothold position on the surface, and then expand our sphere of influence incrementally. I will install a planetary overseer who will implement martial law among the civilian populace.”

    Sandhurst turned back towards the general, cradling a mug of Rigellian spice coffee in his hands. “And the insurgency?”

    Still examining the faint outline of the planet through the transparent aluminum partition, K’Vada smiled darkly. “Such movements do not exist in a vacuum. The rebels undoubtedly draw resources from the general population, including new converts to their cause.” The general turned to look at Sandhurst, clearly intending to measure the captain’s reaction. “We will identify those civilians with ties to the insurgency, and we will apply the necessary pressure to exploit that information.”

    Sandhurst carefully controlled his facial expression, determined not to show further weakness in front of this man. “And how will you respond to additional attacks?”

    “That is a simple matter. For each of my warriors killed by the cowards’ hands, I shall terminate a hundred civilians. If that proves insufficient, I will increase the number of retaliatory casualties until I achieve positive results."

    And there it is, Sandhurst sighed inwardly. He couldn’t have drawn a clearer line in the sand had he wanted to.

    The captain steeled himself for the next exchange. “With due respect, General, the Khitomer Accords specifically forbid mass retaliation against civilian populations, even in wartime. Such policies are the underpinnings of the alliance between our peoples.”

    K’Vada laughed; a harsh sound devoid of humor. “Perhaps the Starfleet captain who laid waste the surface of the Cardassian colony on Loval was unaware of this?”

    Sandhurst blanched. Not only did he know of the incident K’Vada alluded to, he was personally acquainted with the captain who’d given the horrific order during the waning days of the Dominion War.

    “That was wartime, General. It was spit second decision that saved the lives of tens of thousands of allied soldiers.”

    Captain Terrence Glover of the starship Cuffe, aboard which Sandhurst had once served, had led an allied attack group which had been caught in the crosshairs of a giant planet-based vadion cannon. An abortive attempt to knock out the weapon with tactical fighters had failed, and in a last desperate gambit, Glover had invoked the infamous ‘General Order 24’ that had reduced the surface of Loval to scorched rock and carbon.

    Despite the personal enmity that existed between he and Glover, Sandhurst had often wondered if he himself possessed the necessary fortitude to have issued such a command under the circumstances.

    “Yes, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of ‘innocent’ Cardassian lives. It proves that your own people have committed similar acts when such measures were warranted, Captain. That officer was cleared of any wrongdoing by your own admiralty, so do not presume to flaunt your human morality at me.”

    Sandhurst shook his head slightly, the gesture so minute as to almost go undetected. He set the untouched cup of coffee on the corner of his desk, his thirst now forgotten. “I won’t stand here and debate such actions on a case-by-case basis, General. I can only say with conviction that war crimes of that nature go not only against my training as a Starfleet officer, but every fiber of my being.”

    K’Vada smiled and his mouth contorted into a toothy grimace that merely hinted at the horrors the general was capable of inflicting. “Then it is fortunate that I have no intention of ordering you to participate in this operation. As far as I am concerned, Captain, your responsibilities here at Lakesh have been fulfilled.”

    He glanced down at the carpet for a long moment before he raised his eyes to once again meet the general’s. Sandhurst felt what little control he had over the present situation slipping away from him. “Those orders would need to come from Starfleet Command, sir.” That was a formality, a stalling tactic, and it was blatantly obvious to both of them.

    “And so they shall.” K’Vada turned his back on the planet to grip his uniform belt as the well worn leather of his uniform creaked. “Before you leave, I require the schematics of the plasma modulating device that you discovered aboard your ship.”

    Sandhurst was still trying to wrap his head around his summary dismissal from the crisis that had so enveloped he and his crew for the past week. He replied in an absent murmur, “I can do one better, sir. We’ve put together a prototype copy of the device that I’d intended to put aboard Phoenix.” He fought to regain focus and added a bit more forcefully, “Of course, it would need to be modified to adapt to your systems, but that shouldn’t take long.”

    “Very well, Captain.” The general stepped out from behind the desk and moved toward the door. He paused on the threshold to turn back towards Sandhurst. “The mission to rebuild Lakesh may have ended in failure, but you have survived everything the enemy has thrown at you. It does not taste like victory, to be sure, but it should give you some solace.”

    With that, K’Vada stepped out onto the bridge while the captain followed behind. “Commander Ramirez, please escort the general to the transporter room.” Sandhurst looked to Lar’ragos, "Lieutenant, a moment of your time.” He turned and stepped back inside as Ramirez and the Klingon entered the turbolift.

    Lar’ragos found the captain in the same position held by K’Vada moments earlier, his back to the door as he examined the bright crescent of the planet’s impending sunrise. “As bad as I think?” the El Aurian posited.

    “Worse, probably.”

    “What’d he say?” Lar’ragos looked skeptical.

    Without looking back at the Tactical officer, Sandhurst sighed. “Take your pick of the most notorious Klingon occupations of the 23rd century. He’s a fan of the classics.”

    Lar’ragos blew out a breath. “Great. Where’s that leave us?”

    Sandhurst was silent and continued to stare out the viewport. After a few moments he replied, “K’Vada will contact Starfleet and inform them that he’s taking command of the situation here. Admiral Salk will be only too happy to wash his hands of this mess, and will order us out of the system. We’ll either be replaced by the Soval and her compliant Vulcan crew, or Starfleet will abandon the Crolsa system altogether, leaving these people to the tender mercies of their Klingon overlords.”

    “When you say it like that, you make it sound so sinister,” Lar’ragos noted dryly.

    Sandhurst laughed despite himself, but the gesture was weighted with irony. “Don’t I, though?” He turned back to pull out his chair and settle into it. Hands clasped over his lap, the captain scrutinized his friend for a long moment. “So, you think you could take him?”

    Lar’ragos appeared surprised by the question. “K’Vada? I don’t know.” He side stepped and took a seat on the small couch facing the desk. “Maybe not.”

    Genuinely shocked at the admission, Sandhurst looked nonplussed. “You’re kidding. You’re the most dangerous man I’ve ever met.” He cocked his head to one side thoughtfully, and Sandhurst amended, “Alright, second most dangerous after Terry Glover. He kills planets.”

    Lar'ragos smirked as he shrugged lightly. “Hey, I spent my youth studying painting, poetry, and philosophy. The general spent his youth with a bat’leth in hand, kicking the shit out of friend and foe alike.” Pava leaned back to drape his arm over the couch. “I’ve done my share of scrapping in the interim, but that man’s bred to battle.” He gave Sandhurst a suspicious look. “Why, you want me to challenge him to a duel?”

    He shook his head and Sandhurst gazed down at his hands. “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t considered it.” He turned to look out the viewport again. “He even got me to agree to treat the two Cardassian prisoners they fished off that Galor. Even latinum says he’s looking to us to render them hail and hearty enough for a good bout of agonizer assisted questioning.”

    “That sounds right.” Lar’ragos trained his inherited senses on the captain, prepared to dissect every nuance of Sandhurst’s reply. “So what do we do about it?”

    “I don’t know that there’s anything we can do, Pava.” Sandhurst glanced up at his friend, looking self-conscious. “Remember my Directive Number One from the academy?”

    “Of course. Birds fly, fish swim… and Donald follows orders.”

    Sandhurst bobbed his head, looking morose.

    “Personally, I think you need to bring Monica in on this.”

    Sandhurst’s head snapped up as his expression shifted at near light speed to one of alarm. “Admiral Covey? Why? She’s got nothing to do with this sector.”

    “Perhaps, but unlike Salk she’s got a conscience she’ll admit to. If nothing else, she can let the rest of Command know what’s going on out here before Salk and the Security Council wrap this sector up in so much ‘eyes only’ secrecy that you’d need a presidential order to admit that we were ever here.”

    “I’ll… think about it.”

    Lar’ragos stood. “Good. In the meantime, I’ll start coordinating with my Klingon counterparts, let them know everything we’ve discovered about our enemy so far.”

    As he directed another glance out the viewport, Sandhurst mused, “You think K’Vada can wreak so much havoc with one ship?”

    Lar’ragos gave Sandhurst a dubious stare. “That ‘one ship’ has over a thousand battle hardened Klingon ground troops aboard, and that’s aside from the vessel’s own crew compliment. And I’d remind you, we only see one ship in orbit. I’ve always believed you have to worry more about the Klingons you can’t see than the ones you can.”

    “You’re saying the Kang isn’t alone?”

    Lar'ragos nodded curtly. “Count on it."

  20. unusualsuspex

    unusualsuspex Captain Captain

    Jul 12, 2009
    Norfolk UK
    Well that explains the Cardies abundant supply of technology they shouldn't have!

    Plus Urlak being on the verge of demotion with En’Roel in ascendance!! Internal strife among a race already devious and plotting really muddies the waters!

    And Sandhurst feels the heavy hand of being made subservient as well. K’Vada's intentions don't bode at all well.

    I had to put this (and your other stories) into the recommended thread as an example of how fanfic writing works at it's best Gib.

    Inspiring mate, well done.