Star Trek: Pathfinder #2 - The Prodigal Captain

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by jerriecan, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    [​IMG]

    Star Trek: Pathfinder
    The Prodigal Captain - Part One

    Acacia Creek Rehabilitation Facility
    Australia, Earth, Sol Sector
    June 16, 2160


    The walls of Ward C were freshly painted, the eggshell-white shade of hospitals that had endured for hundreds of years. The smell of disinfectant hung in the air, underscored by the hint of blood and burnt flesh. Plasma burns were still virtually impossible to treat in the field with any degree of success, which meant field medics' only option was to stuff burn victims into cryotubes and ship them back to rehabilitation facilities behind the lines - and since they were already in cryo, Starfleet brass decided that they might as well receive the very best treatment, which meant transporting casualties back to their homeworlds.

    Lt. Cmdr. Isobel Beaumont, late of the UES Fearless, sat on a padded bench and watched as a handful of fellow casualties made their way up or down the hall. It was part of the physical rehabilitation regimen most had to endure - plasma burns tended to require high limb amputation, and over half of the residents here had been fitted with replacement prosthetics. The process of tuning a replacement limb to fully replace the original was long and difficult, and it was unlikely that any of these men or women would ever serve aboard a Starfleet vessel again, but they would go on to lead almost-normal lives once they left the facility.

    Beaumont's wound was not so easily treatable.

    And orderly pushed an aging cart past her, and Beaumont closed her eyes at the abrupt irritation caused by one squeaking wheel. For a moment she wanted to stand up and shove the cart down the hallway, just to get the damned thing away from her -

    Relax, she thought, breathing slowly, in and out, in and out. The Starfleet doctors had warned her of this - the abrupt mood swings, the problems with impulse control, the fugue states - that came with traumatic injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain. They had repaired as much of the damage as they could, had made her functional again for the most part - but Beaumont would never again serve in Starfleet.

    "Isobel."

    Beaumont shook her head, noticing after a moment that the shadows had moved, lengthened - she had lost at least an hour staring out the window. She looked up to see Captain Isaac Proudfoot standing beside her, holding two plastic cups of coffee. "How long have you been there?" she said.

    "Only a couple minutes," Proudfoot replied, handing her one of the cups.

    Beaumont took it gratefully and drank deep, letting the sugared brew fill her senses as Proudfoot sat beside her on the bench. For a long moment neither spoke, sharing the view of the bright blue Pacific Ocean spread out before them. "Almost makes you forget there's still a war going on out there," Proudfoot finally said.

    "Might be over soon, if you can believe the rumors," Beaumont replied. "The Romulans are on the retreat after Cheron."

    "Not soon enough." Proudfoot leaned forward, his hands clasped around the cup.

    "I heard about the board of inquiry, Isaac. They made the right call. Losing the Fearless wasn't your fault."

    "Six hundred and thirty-three people went down with the ship," Proudfoot said, his voice tinged with bitterness. "My ship. My crew. I should have done more."

    "Such as what? Die with them? Isaac, you saved my life that day - mine and ninety others. That counts for something."

    "Maybe." Proudfoot watched the waves roll out to sea. "But I'll never have another command." At Beaumont's shocked expression, he said, "Those rumors are true - the Romulans are reaching out, looking to end the hostilities. Seem to have lost their taste for fighting." He shook his head sadly. "Starfleet Command has decided that my experience is best applied... elsewhere."

    Beaumont reached out and rested her hand on his arm. "I'm so sorry," she said. "I know what commanding a starship means to you."

    "Thank you." Proudfoot looked over at her. "I just wanted to give you something before I shipped out."

    "Shipped out? But you just said - "

    "I've resigned my commission," he said. "There are dozens of cargo ships looking for experienced commanders to make the deep-space runs. It may not be Starfleet, but it's still a command." He reached into a pocket and pulled out a data chip, setting it on the bench between them. "Look over this, Isobel. I think they might be able to help. Maybe even get you back into Starfleet."

    Beaumont looked numbly at the chip. "How?"

    "Get in contact with Dr. Makav. I've already told him you might be calling." Proudfoot stood. "Starfleet needs good people, especially now."

    "Then why are you leaving?"

    Proudfoot did not respond, just shook his head sadly. "Take care of yourself, Isobel. Maybe we'll see each other again, somewhere out there."

    As Beaumont watched him walk away, she hoped he was right. But before that could happen she had a call to make.

    * * * * *​

    USS Pathfinder
    Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
    May 13, 2163


    The UESN Vanguard was gigantic, a massive Omicron-class fighter carrier that even dwarfed the Pathfinder. The shuttlepod was barely a speck against the slab-sided hull.

    Proudfoot's vessel was a veteran of the Earth-Romulan War, its hull pitted and scarred by dozens of engagements with a faceless enemy. Two thousand feet long, its twin fighter bays stretched forward from the crew spaces and engines at the stern, each bay capable of housing a dozen short-range warp-capable fighters. During the war, the Omicron-class ships had been heavy hitters = a single carrier with a full complement could easily tip the balance of a battle in Starfleet's favor.

    Beaumont never wanted to set foot aboard one. While she understood the need for such vessels during wartime, it served no peaceful purpose. All of the surviving Omicron-class ships had been converted to long-haul cargo carriers or colonial transports - or so she had believed.

    She eased the shuttlepod closer, above the main fighter bays, moving above the smaller landing pads spread along the dorsal hull. Somewhere below her, Proudfoot was waiting for her. One of the pads lit up and she steered the pod toward it, setting down with a gentle thump. A moment later the pad retracted into the hull, massive doors sliding closed above her. Beaumont felt the whirr of pumps through the pod's hull as the bay was repressurized.

    A man-sized hatch set into the bulkhead swung aside to admit a half-dozen men in civilian dress, each one armed with a plasma or phase pistol. The last one through was Proudfoot himself.

    Beaumont pushed open the shuttlepod hatch and slowly stepped out, her hands raised as Proudfoot's men surrounded her. "I'm here, Isaac," she said. "Now do you want to tell me why?"

    Proudfoot gestured for his men to lower their weapons. Two of them crawled into the pod, hand scanners open, opening every hatch and panel as they looked for hidden weapons or transmitters. "It's clean, sir," one of them finally said.

    "Good. Lieutenant, take your team and report back to your station."

    "Are you sure about this, sir?" the lieutenant said. "She's not one of us. How can we trust her?"

    Proudfoot smiled grimly. "I trust her not to attack me. As for the rest... we'll just have to see. Go on, now."

    The other men quickly departed through the hatch into the corridors of the Vanguard, leaving Beaumont and Proudfoot alone. "It's good to see you , Isobel," he said. "Especially back in uniform."

    "I suppose I should be glad you're not wearing one, pretending to be part of your very own fleet," Beaumont replied.

    "Starfleet made their choice, and I made mine. I have no desire to act in their name - those days are long past. What I have now... is a chance."

    "A chance for what?"

    Proudfoot looked at her, and for the first time Beaumont could see the unbalanced glint in his eyes. "The chance to end the Earth-Romulan War, once and for all."

    To Be Continued...
     
  2. Sandoval

    Sandoval Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The cover is interesting.

    Is this a pre-Enterprise thing or is it a different timeline altogether?
     
  3. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Pathfinder is set several years after the series Enterprise, some three years after the close of the Romulan War.

    Thanks for the interest. :)
     
  4. BlackFire3

    BlackFire3 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    DES Pathfinder
    like i said in his last story: it's episodic :)
    as with before, very nicely written.
     
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Uh-oh... he wants to end a war that's been over for some time now? Apparently, the armistace was insufficient for the clearly unbalanced Proudfoot.

    Yeesh! :wtf:
     
  6. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Um, did someone not get the memo that the war is over? :wtf:

    Methinks Capt. Proudfoot needs a few sessions with a Counselor or three. It's kinda scary to have a 22nd century Don Quixote running around with that kind of fire-power. He must be quite a charismatic figure to garner the following necessary to crew a fleet of ships.

    Great cover art, by the way. If it's indicative of the story line, it does not bode well for Pathfinder and her crew. :eek:

    Good stuff, Jerriecan! :techman:
     
  7. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Thanks for the kind words! :)

    Well, Proudfoot has his reasons - which will be explained soon, I promise. The trouble is making him an antagonist without making him a stereotypical mustache-twirling villain. It's a fine line - and I hope you stay with the story to see if I can pull it off. :)

    Thank you both for reading and for your kind words!
     
  8. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Excellent and always Jerriecan!
    Hmmm...I wonder how Proudfoot's plans fit in with the Siren's call....:shifty:
     
  9. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Jun 7, 2011

    Star Trek: Pathfinder
    The Prodigal Captain - Part Two

    UESN Vanguard
    Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
    May 13, 2163


    "The war is over, Isaac. We won."

    Proudfoot paused and turned to Beaumont, his dark features looking decades older than the last time they had met. "What exactly did we win? Every single attempt to capture rather than destroy a Romulan ship ended in suicide, all too often taking our people with them in the process. The Coalition of Planets acceded to the demands of a retreating enemy who never dared show us their face. Even their surrender was negotiated via subspace radio. Now they sit behind their Neutral Zone, safe from us as can be." He shook his head. "Think about it, Isobel. Do those sound like the actions of a defeated enemy - or an enemy trying to buy time to continue the fight?"

    It sounds like rationalization for treason, Beaumont thought, but held her tongue.

    Proudfoot resumed his walk, easily stepping over the optronic cables that snaked across every meter of deck and were two or three cables deep at the corridor junctions. "Where did you find this ship?" Beaumont said. "I thought all the Omicron-class carriers that made it through the war were stripped and refitted."

    "And you'd be correct. The Vanguard didn't make it through the war," Proudfoot said, running his hand over the grimy surface of the wall. Instead of the advanced alloys and polymers of the Pathfinder, the Vanguard had been built with simplicity in mind, much like the Liberty ships of the Second World War two centuries earlier. Plain titanium struts were covered by aluminum panels that had not even been polished, just stamped in orbital factories and then taken right to the ship for installation. "She was declared missing in ‘58, presumed destroyed in action. We found her in a decaying orbit over Taris Qun, hidden in the radiation belts. She'd been ambushed by a pair of Raptors, had her warp drive knocked out. The crew thought they could wait out the Raptors by staying in the radiation while they tried to get the warp drive back on-line."

    Proudfoot grimaced at the memory of reading the logs of the dying crew. "Turns out the Romulans had been driving ships into that belt for years - one of their favorite tactics in the area. Whole place was a graveyard, and Starfleet never even knew. The radiation baked the Vanguard's crew in hours." He pulled his hand away and looked at it for a moment, almost like it was not his own, before increasing his pace. "That's just one example of what the Romulans did, one of hundreds that happened that we never knew about during the war. Two thousand people died on this ship, burned to death by the radiation. People with families who never knew what happened to their loved ones."

    As they reached the next intersection, Beaumont said, "How does starting another war help them?"

    "Because it's not another war," Proudfoot replied. "It's the same war. The Romulan War never ended, regardless of what Starfleet and the Federation believe. You think the Neutral Zone is keeping them out? We don't even know what they look like. We don't even have a scrap of genetic material to extrapolate from. They could already be anywhere in the Federation - or everywhere."

    "You're paranoid," Beaumont said. "You're seeing an enemy that isn't there anymore."

    "That's what the Starfleet head-shrinkers told me, too," Proudfoot said. "They told me I was thinking irrationally. Can you imagine - people who never served on the front lines, never saw the battles or their aftermath, judging my fitness to command." He looked at his former science officer carefully. "You know exactly how that feels."

    Beaumont nodded, remembering the many sessions she had spent with different psychiatric specialists, both before and after the installation of the cortical processor nestled in her frontal lobe. "Isaac, I can understand your anger. I understand the need for vengeance. But what you're doing out here could bring the entire Federation down, just as we're beginning to trust each other."

    "The Federation," Proudfoot spat bitterly. "The Tellarites, the Denobulans, a dozen others just sat on the sidelines during the war, waiting to see how it all shook out. The only ones who helped us in any meaningful way were the Andorians, and I think that's just because they wanted to piss off the Vulcans. Again. And the Vulcans were the worst of the lot." He looked at Beaumont, his eyes hard and cold. "Have you read the histories that came out of the Reformation? The violence Vulcans are capable of, the destruction, the sheer brutality they inflicted upon their own kind? But when humanity was fighting for its existence, they sat back and did nothing. Your precious Federation isn't worth the price humanity had to pay."

    "Isaac, what happened?" Beaumont said softly. "This isn't just about the Fearless, is it?"

    Proudfoot leaned back against the bulkhead and pressed a hand to his forehead, his eyes squeezed shut in pain. "The Fearless was just the start. There have been attacks out here, along the frontier," he said. "The Romulans are sending assault forces across our lines to ambush our supply lines and colonies. Of course, there's no proof - the Rommies always have a convenient scapegoat, the Orions or the Nausicaans, even the Klingons. But what we've found out on the fringe, the things I've seen on the supply runs..." He paused and wiped his eyes.

    "It would curdle your blood. Hundreds murdered outright or left to starve. Whole colonies wiped out or picked clean. Some of the victims... some of them were... experimented on." Visions of the carnage filled his mind. "No pirate would inflict that kind of suffering, not so precisely. Not even Klingons would be so barbaric. And lately, we've seen signs of Andorian and Tellarite weaponry being used. This is just the start, Isobel, and while they turn the Federation against itself, the Romulans just sit back behind the Neutral Zone and gather their strength, waiting for the right time to strike." He stared into Beaumont's eyes and leaned close. "I will not let that happen, not while it is within my power to stop it."

    In that moment, Beaumont realized two things - one, that Isaac Proudfoot believed each and every word he was saying, and two - that he was utterly insane.

    "How are you going to stop them?" Beaumont said, carefully choosing her words. "The Vanguard may be powerful, but it's insignificant compared to the fleets of the Romulan Star Empire."

    Proudfoot smiled grimly. "Let me show you."

    Without another word he led Beaumont deeper into the ship, past a dozen intersections, making the occasional turn and descent down metal stairs until they arrived at a heavy blast door. Proudfoot pressed his hand to the scanner plate, then entered a long code on a keypad. "The war could have been ended in less than a year, did you know that?" he said as the blast doors hissed and retracted. "Starfleet had the most advance weapon ever developed - they just lacked the will to use it."

    The open doors revealed a massive bay filled with power cables and computer banks, all connected to a long, irregular cylinder that ran the length of the bay. Fins and aerials sprouted from its casing at regular intervals, a spiral of protrusions, and Beaumont had enough engineering background to realize that what she was seeing was a not a weapon but a massive subspace antenna.

    Proudfoot swept an arm across the bay. "Isobel, this is Achilles."

    To Be Continued...
     
  10. BrotherBenny

    BrotherBenny Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    A listening post hidden aboard a troop carrier?

    This just gets better and better.

    Great writing and an incredible story.
     
  11. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    May 22, 2007
    This is excellent, Jerriecan! You've done a masterful job of creating believable characters in a setting with vivid imagery wrapped in a gripping plot.

    Proudfoot may be certifiable, but there may be more than a grain of truth to his diatribe. He's convinced in the righteousness of his cause, he has a brilliant tactical mind and now he may have the means to reignite a war that most everyone thought was over.

    And Pathfinder is all that stands in his way.

    Good stuff!
     
  12. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    A listening post... but is it really? Stay tuned. ;) Thanks for the kind words!

    Thanks - I couldn't have put it any better. :) Hope you enjoy what's to come!
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Feb 5, 2006
    Got caught up with this story and the previous installment and I have to agree that this is a great yarn. I especially appreciate your setting, one that has been underused in fan fiction and it's good to have somebody fill in the blanks of those lost years.

    I also like what you are doing with the characters and I'm already starting to pick my favorites which is a good thing in an ensemble cast.

    The plot is intriguing and clearly kicking off in the second installment. I'm curious to find out how Pathfinder and her crew will resolve the issue of the traitorous former starship captain without inciting a battle which would doubtlessly lead to a great number of casualties. Having said that, sometimes you can't avoid a good fight.

    Looking forward to more.
     
  14. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Another excellent instalment Jerriecan. You continue to write to a very high standard, and the tale you tell is a good 'un!

    Characterisation is superb throughout, particularly Proudfoot. Even though he is the villain of the piece, he's not actually evil, and the reasons for his actions are understandable, making him a tragic figure in the classical sense.

    I have my suspicions as to what 'Achilles' may be, but I'll not post here for fear of spoiling it for others if I'm right, or looking like a fool if I'm wrong! :)
     
  15. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Glad you're still reading and enjoying! :) I've always thought the early years of the Federation would be a wonderful place to set a story - I'm happy that you agree! :)

    Proudfoot is definitely a tragic figure - what's the depth of a cackling, cardboard-cutout villain? That's boring. But a determined man who thinks he's right - that's the character with meat on him, so to speak. And as for Achilles, the truth will be revealed shortly... although I'm very curious as to what you think it is. If you feel like sharing that sometime, PM me - and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the upcoming installments! :)

    Jerriecan
     
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Continued excellence! It seems Mr. Proudfoot has something altogether more complex than the uber-weapon I'd expected. :wtf:
     
  17. jerriecan

    jerriecan Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Star Trek: Pathfinder
    The Prodigal Captain - Part Three

    USS Pathfinder
    Tau Delta system, Sector Nineteen
    May 13, 2163


    The briefing room was nearly silent as Teague sat at the head of the conference table, hands pressed flat against the gray surface. Through the twin viewports, one of the warp fighters was visible, holding station at the Pathfinder's stern, weapons armed and ready to be used should the starship display the slightest provocation. Spaced equally around the Pathfinder were five identical fighters, each more maneuverable at sublight than the starship was - so long as they could keep the Pathfinder boxed in and unable to go to warp, the pack could easily subdue the ship.

    But what worried Teague more were the larger ships - the Roosevelt and the Vanguard. The Roosevelt might not be able to stand toe-to-toe with the Pathfinder, but she could inflict major damage in a fight. And with the Vanguard, it wasn't the weapons he knew about that concerned him - it was the mystery weapon.

    Teague looked at the faces of his senior staff - all except Beaumont. His stomach clenched at the thought of her situation, all alone aboard an enemy vessel, trapped with a madman determined to restart the Romulan War. Everyone's face was a mask of concern and anxiety, though some hid it better than others. T'Vril, as always, betrayed no emotion whatsoever.

    "Tactical assessment," Teague said.

    The wallscreen lit up as T'Vril pressed a switch. Several labeled dots were displayed on a tactical grid, a green dot in the center surrounded by eight red ones. "The Vanguard is an Omicron-class fighter carrier. Typical weapon loadout is six turret-mounted phase cannons along the ventral and dorsal spines, augmented with ten high-yield particle cannons along the flanks. There are ten torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft. Warhead load would typically be six hundred, divided equally between spatial, plasma and nuclear." The display flickered and showed a schematic of the Vanguard. "The hull plating is fullerene-impregnated duranium slab with a polarization rating of seven-point-six. For comparison, our own hull is rated at five-point-nine." That meant that the Vanguard's hull was significantly better at dissipating weapon fire than the Pathfinder's.

    The display changed to a schematic of a warp fighter, eerily reminiscent of the NX-Alpha, the early testbed for Starfleet's warp 5 program - twin warp nacelles on either side of a cylindrical hull, joined by stubby wings. "That does not include ordnance intended for the twelve short-range warp-capable fighters the ship carries. Each carries eight torpedoes and also mounts twin high-yield phase cannons. Add to this the capabilities of the Roosevelt, and the tactical outlook is... unpromising."

    "You're a master of understatement, Commander," said Amara. "We're surrounded and outgunned, not to mention minus our first officer."

    Teague ignored his engineer's pointed comment. "So we can't run, and we can't fight - either would be suicidal," he said. "Proudfoot has us right where he wants us. What is he waiting for?"

    "Maybe we're overestimating their capabilities," said Webb. "That carrier needs a crew of thousands - even a skeleton crew would be in the hundreds - and they'd all need at least basic Starfleet training to operate the systems. Add in the fighter pilots, a crew for the Roosevelt - it's just not possible. There's no way this guy found that many Fleet-trained people who think like he does."

    "What about coercion?" said Marakis. "Maybe he's forcing the crews of the stripped ships to run the ships under threat."

    "I don't buy it," said Webb.

    T'Vril shifted her gaze to Webb. "Regardless, Lieutenant, the tactical situation remains unchanged."

    "Maybe it has," said Amara. "Those carriers were built as fast as we could crank them out of the Phobos and Jovian orbital yards. Sophistication wasn't a priority. Even some of the newer long-range cargo carriers are more automated that that hulk. It makes sense that they would have had to rig up some kind of automated control system." He thumped his fist on the table. "That would explain why they stripped all those cargo ships - not just for cargo but for enough optronic cable to rig up the automation."

    Teague nodded. "It makes sense, but that still doesn't answer the question - even if the Vanguard is at less than full capability, these fighters could pick us apart before we could get into warp. So I ask again - why haven't they finished us off?"

    "They want the Pathfinder intact," Sarria said quietly.

    All eyes in the conference room turned to her. "It's the only rational explanation. Their first targets were civilian transports which they stripped to the spaceframes. Then they took the Roosevelt without a scratch. They're - trading up?" Sarria looked to her roommate to confirm she was using the unfamiliar phrase correctly and Webb nodded. "Starfleet's newest ship would make a fine prize."

    Teague glanced at T'Vril. "The logic is sound," was all the Vulcan said.

    "But that still tells us nothing about the weapon itself," said Marakis.

    Throughout the briefing Kassin had remained silent, gnawing on his left thumbnail. "Thoughts, Commander?" Teague said, an edge of irritation in his voice.

    "Um - there may be a way to detect the full range of the weapon's operating frequencies," he said, shaken out of his private thoughts. "I'll have to tear down one of the sensor heads and recalibrate by hand to account for the tolerances in the system."

    "How long?"

    "Two hours, at least, sir."

    "Get on it. I want to know the instant they try using that weapon on us again." He looked at Dr Ranik. "What about Beaumont's signal?"

    "The cortical processor is still fully functional and broadcasting telemetry," Ranik said. "Of course, all the telemetry does is indicate whether the implant is active or not - it's not a surveillance device. Other than that there's very little that I can surmise about her condition."

    "Let's hope it stays that way," Teague said. "In the meantime I want firing solutions on every one of these ships, both to disable and destroy. We don't have the sheer firepower to take out the Vanguard, but I want the ability to at least disable every other ship out here, including the Roosevelt. If we can do that, we'll have a good chance to escape."

    "And what about Commander Beaumont?" said Webb, her arms folded across her chest. "Do we just abandon her?"

    Teague's expression softened slightly. "Not if there's any other choice," he said.

    To Be Continued...
     
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well… that was a sobering tactical assessment. Pathfinder’s boxed in and with Beaumont trapped with Proudfoot and his separatists, there’s no easy way out that won’t result in casualties of some kind.

    I guess that’s why they pay Starfleet captains the big bucks! :scream:
     
  19. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Great to see another episode. As usual, written well with convincing dialogue. The explanation as to why they took the cargo ships makes sense, too.
     
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Feb 5, 2006
    Not exactly a positive outlook for Pathfinder here. Options are in scarce supply and with the XO still in the lion's den, running isn't exactly the honorable thing to do. I'm thinking Beaumont still has a role to play to get her former CO to give up or sabotage him somehow from the inside.