Starship Enterprise: Strange New World.

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by The Badger, Sep 12, 2010.

  1. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Excellent chapter, Badger.

    I still would like someone, maybe Locke, to make a sarcastic comment whenever Archer talks to the dog. Something like "Let me know when he answers you back. We'll book him on Letterman." ;)

    Loved Autumn threatening to cry at him though. That was just inspired. The girl deserves a promotion for that kind of quick thinking. :D
     
  2. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Great chapter. Porthos flying around the cabin would make a hell of a sight!
     
  3. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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  4. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Good chapter. I am glad CPL James held her ground, good Marine. ;)


    ETA: Lmao that vid is hilarious!
     
  5. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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  6. Jamee999

    Jamee999 Commander Red Shirt

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    You're good at this writing thing. :)
     
  7. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's very kind of you to say so.
    Should you be interested, the first story can be found here:
    http://trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=90084

    It is rather long, but, at the rate I'm going, you'll finish reading it before I get another chapter out.:(
     
  8. Jamee999

    Jamee999 Commander Red Shirt

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    I've read it over the past week or so. It's very good. Polly is a quite silly character, but silly in a good way. You tread the line that stops her becoming an annoying Mary Sue well. :D
     
  9. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The surface of Galador III. October 20th, 2151.

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that if Hoshi Sato is present in any reasonably sized group of people, sooner or later some form of gambling would commence. Within minutes of the landing party disembarking from the Beowulf, she was running a book. The subject was an obvious one. Given that they were involved in setting up a camp site, what exactly would be Professor Partridge's first double entandre of the afternoon? A reference to 'pitching a tent' was considered most likely, closely followed by enquiries as to whether any one 'needed help getting it (i.e. a tent) up'. Such comments were considered so likely that Sato insisted that any one making such a wager must specify a time: if the appropriate phrase was used, whoever got closest would win. There were other, less likely, options. Trooper Tipping seemed fixated on the notion that Partridge would offer to assist with a tent's guy-ropes and claim to be 'good with knots', but this seemed more wishful thinking on his part than any realistic prediction. The fact that the tents in question did not use such ropes didn't even seem relevant to him.

    As the afternoon wore on a number of interested parties made sure to remain within earshot of the professor. A wide variety of sound recording devices were active, ready to capture any utterance she made and determine the time. Yet as the camp took form she remained nearly silent, a behaviour so out of character for her that there were several enquires as to the state of her health. At first she claimed to be still suffering the side effects of the shuttle flight. Later, it was feelings of awe and wonder at being on another world that had so quietened her.

    Could this be true? Could the deep emotional implications of their arrival on this world have done what a thousand exonerations to 'please behave!' had failed? Archer hoped so, but doubted it.

    During a lull in proceedings he took Hoshi Sato to one side. "So. Running a book, eh? Who gets the money if no one wins?" It was a question to which he already knew the answer.

    Sato held her hands up defensively. "Hey, I told them. If no one wins before the first moon clears the horizon tonight, I keep the lot. I've got overheads to think about. Everyone was satisfied with that, no one was forced to take part."

    He snorted. "Yeah, but you're not keeping the lot are you? Polly Partridge, going all this time without innuendo? There must be some pretty steep motivation for that to happen. What are you cutting her in for?"

    Sato scowled. "Fifty-fifty." she grumbled.

    Archer grinned. "And I think I can guess what the worst thing is." At Sato's puzzled expression he explained "She's got a doctorate in pure mathematics. There's no chance of you cheating her out of her cut, she'd spot it in a second."

    "Only if I tell the truth about how much...Damn." Her face fell as she realised she'd been caught out. "I'd only have skimmed a little off the top. Honest."

    "Of course, of course." He leant closer. "Hoshi, now might be a good time to go give everyone their money back. All of it. Tell them you're cancelling because Partridge is unwell, if you like, but give it back."

    A look of pure horror flashed across Sato's face. Returning money was near heresy in her books. But she nodded reluctantly and tramped over to the others, hands deep in pockets. From his vantage point Archer saw her handing over credit chips to some rather surprised looking people. He grinned, and made his way over to the Marines, who appeared to be playing with a model plane.

    As he approached Grant threw the plane forward at a slightly downwards angle. Before it hit the ground the propeller buzzed into life, pulling it into a gentle climb. In seconds it had faded from view.

    "The drones going up alright?" he asked.

    James turned and saluted. "Yes sir. Three of them up now, each covering 140 degrees of arc."

    "Hmm. it's been a while since I was at school, but I seem to remember circles only have 360 degrees."

    "We always try to maintain positive overlap in our coverage sir. There should be no risk of gaps. The three drones will orbit base camp about two clicks out, providing real time surveillance. Nothing will get near without our knowing about it."

    "Yeah, right." Tipping muttered.

    Archer asked "Is something wrong?"

    "Ah, during the war, sir, the Axanar found a way to mask their heat signatures. They managed to get past sentry systems on occasion."

    "Well, I don't think we need worry about that." Archer said. "As long as we can detect wildlife in time we'll be OK. So what's this drone for?" As he'd been talking Grant and Dumont had began assembling a fourth plane.

    James explained. "Extra redundancy sir. We'll have this one stay close to camp. Should any of the others fail this one will automatically take it's place."

    Archer watched, fascinated, as the machine was put together. It was a quick, simple process. The components were modular, just needing to be attached together. Electronic linkages were just clipped into place. The majority of the drone was constructed from a transparent polymer. All the working parts were a low visibility grey, with a thin matt black layer running along the spine. When laid out on the grass right in front of him it was difficult to make out, even with a wingspan of over a meter. It was hardly surprising that it's predecessor had disappeared into the sky so quickly.

    James lifted the craft. Despite it's size there seemed to be no real weight to it. "Here's the important parts. Two cameras. One visible light, the other thermal. The first incorporates a telescopic lens as well as the latest generation of starlight scope. The second is used both to detect heat signatures, but also to scan for thermal air currents. That allows the onboard AI to plot the most efficient course. The drone's light enough to act as a glider. Under ideal conditions it can use thermals to stay aloft indefinitely."

    "So what's the propeller for?"

    "Less than ideal conditions. Some times it needs a bit of a boost to get height. The motor's electric, near silent, and can run for over a day on a full battery, even with all the other systems running." She pointed to the black layer. "High yield solar cells. Recharges the battery while in use. I'll be very surprised if any of these touch ground before the end of the mission sir. How's it look Dumont?"

    The marine checked a computer pad. "All systems green."

    She nodded. "Initialize." She threw the drone. They watched it fly off.

    "We'll, I feel a little bit safer, knowing we're not going to get trampled by herds of space wildebeest or whatever they have here." Archer said. He thought for a moment. "Have you detected anything in range yet?"

    "No sir. Nothing large, anyway. Small traces, birds, mice, that sort of thing."

    "Hmm. I think I'll take my dog for a walk then, while it's still light."

    "Yes sir. If you're leaving the camp, will you want an escort?"

    He shook his head. "I don't think that'll be needed."

    "Very good sir. You'll be taking your gun then." Before Archer could say no, James mimed wiping a tear from her eye. He rolled his eyes, and nodded.

    The interior of the Beowulf was dark after the bright sunshine outside. He paused at the top of the loading ramp to let his eyes adjust. A scrape of metal on metal caught his attention, and as his vision improved he realised Mayweather was assembling a camp bed at the front of the craft. "Travis? There's plenty of tents. You don't have to stay on here you know."

    The helmsman looked slightly embarrassed. "Ahhh...I'm not really a camping kind of guy. I don't much care for the whole 'great outdoors' thing."

    There was a flushing sound, and Doctor Locke emerged from the lavatory. "Mild agrophobia. Quite common amongst the Martian colonists. If you grow up inside enclosed domes, an aversion to open spaces is understandable." He washed his hands.

    "But surely you've been in wide open spaces before?" Archer asked. "UEMA survival training takes you all round the world."

    "Been there." Mayweather admitted. "Doesn't mean I liked them."

    "What, so you're going to spend the mission cooped up in here?" he said as he unlocked Porthos' cage. The little dog leapt into his arms.

    "Probably not. If we go into that forest, I'll be OK. Or maybe up to the mountains. I'm alright when I've got some proper landscape around me, not all this big rolling nothing. And I do enjoy rock climbing."

    Archer said "Well, there's an expedition planned for the mountains later in the week. Put your name down. It'd be a shame if you came all this way and didn't do anything whilst you were here."

    ***

    Perhaps it was Mayweather's mention of the the forest, but that was the direction Archer found himself strolling in. Despite there being no sign of danger he was reluctant to allow Porthos off his leash, even with a locator beacon clipped to his collar the dog could still run into trouble. Five minutes steady walk was enough to get them to the tree line, and get Archer breathing slightly harder than normal. I must start spending more time in the gym back on Enterprise.

    With a canine's sense of priorities Porthos headed straight to the nearest tree, sniffed suspiciously for a moment, then let nature call.

    "I bet you've been wanting to do that for some time." Archer said, receiving a faint whine as if in agreement. Having completed one biological imperative Porthos then lifted his tail for another. The captain had come prepared. He took a small plastic bag from his pocket to clear the mess up. Half way through the procedure he was struck by the sudden conviction that one of the drones was now watching him, an idea he found most off putting, and had to force himself to finish the task. Sealing the bag he placed it, carefully, into a different pocket for later disposal.

    "No littering." he told Porthos. "We're guests here, in a way."

    Some thing caught his eye. Growing a little over head height on the trunk of a nearby tree was what looked to be some sort of fungus. Dark brown, several growths, spreading out in a wide fan. He approached, leaping back startled as a bird of some kind burst from concealment in the bushes to his left. It shot away at high speed, clearly more frightened of him than he was of it. Well, maybe not much more. He'd half pulled his gun from it's holster. He put it back, and let out a long calming breath. He glanced at Porthos, who wagged his tail happily, and continued his approach more cautiously than before.

    One of the growths was pretty small. He was able to slide one of the plastic bags over it, cutting it free from the tree with his pen knife. "A little present for the scientists. They'll be doing a full survey soon enough, but a head start can't hur...Porthos? What have you found?"

    The beagle was digging at the undergrowth. As Archer watched a small patch of off white showed amongst the soil. Bone.

    "Out of the way Porthos, let me see...No, no, you can't eat it. No. Good find though. You're a good dog, yes you are. A good dog."

    Unearthed, the find consisted of a few centimetres of what, even to his untrained eye, was clearly jaw bone. The attached teeth gave it away. And these teeth were long, sharp. Clearly those of a predator.

    Glancing around, suddenly nervous, he placed the bone into another bag and hoisted his communicator. "Archer to basecamp."

    "Basecamp. Sato here."

    "Hoshi, check with the marines would you? Any heat signatures near my position?"

    "One moment sir." A short pause. "Sir, here's Corporal James."

    Another pause, the James' voice. "Ah, captain, we've got plenty of heat traces. Nothing large though, you're biggest, then your dog. And the patten recognition software suggests that what is there seems to be avoiding you. Is there a problem? We can take the quad bike, get to you in a min---"

    "No, no. No problem." He looked at the piece of bone. Judging from the size of the teeth, whatever it was must have been quite large.

    "Very good sir. Sir, I'd advise you start heading back soon. It's getting dark."

    He looked round. The sun was low on the horizon, the sky in the other direction turning a murky blue. "Acknowledged. I'm on my way. Archer out."

    ***

    A camp table had been assembled by the time he got back, and the smell of food cooking made his belly rumble. Professor Partridge stood by the cooker, doling out huge portions onto the plates of the crew as they lined up. First things first. He sort out the scientific contingent and handed over two of the bags. The Porthos generated one he dropped into a waste disposal bin.

    "Certainly a predator." Salome Murray mused, her attention momentarily distracted from her heaving plate. "Quite large, about the size of a German Shepherd, I'd say. And probably of canine stock, or it's equivalent on this world."

    "A dog then?" Archer asked.

    "Like a dog. Probably closer to a hyena. Good job we've got all this security. I wouldn't want anything like that turning up unexpectedly! Though it's odd we've seen no other signs of them."

    Archer lifted his communicator and showed her the display. "I made a note of it's position. When it's light we can do a survey around there, see what else turns up."

    Salome's husband Jeff had been examining the other bag. "Interesting. it appears similar to the Maine Tree fungus. I'll have to run an analysis."

    Dumont, further down the table, called out. "Doctor Murray, could you check that out for possible nutritional or medicinal value? It's a marine thing, living off the land." he added.

    That reminded Archer that he was still hungry. He headed to the cooker where Partridge was approaching food preparation in the same manner she showed for practically every endeavour: vast amounts of enthusiasm coupled with moments of sheer panic. Pans spat and pots bubbled, Flames leapt. She hit an errant sausage with a fish slice in an attempt to subdue it, and shrieked in terror as hot fat hissed and crackled. Archer didn't dare speak and distract her, instead he picked up a plate from a hot pile and joined the line. The crewman in front offered to let him go first but he declined. He'd wait his turn.

    Sausage, bacon, beans, eggs--both fried and scrambled--, fried bread, fried mushrooms, some stuff he didn't even recognize. It was like a heart attack on a plate. A big plate. Struggling slightly with the weight he carried it back to the table and found a seat. To his surprise he found himself next to Mayweather.

    "Managed to drag yourself off the Beowulf, eh?"

    "I got hungry." Mayweather said. Archer noticed that he sat facing the landing craft, and wore a ship issue baseball cap with the visor pulled low, limiting his field of vision. Probably made him a little less uncomfortable. "You know, the professor's a pretty good cook, for a Brit. But I wish I knew what this was." He pointed with his fork. Half concealed under a slice of bread was a thick circular slice of some black substance, globules of white fat embedded within.

    Archer looked closer. "Looks a bit like a salami. But not as wide, or thinly sliced. And completely the wrong colour."

    Mayweather shrugged and cut himself a chunk, then took a bite. "Not bad. Savoury."

    "It's called black pudding." said Sato helpfully, sitting opposite. "And it's made from blood."

    Mayweather froze. "You waited until I was swallowing before saying that, didn't you?" She grinned.

    Partridge dropped into the chair next to Sato. "Bit of a funny story there. During the Second World War, when the Germans were blockading Britain to starve our country into submission, there was actually a serious proposal to turn some of the stored human blood, donated for medical purposes, into black pudding for food. Of course nothing ever came of it but still, you have to laugh."

    "Is this some sort of revenge thing?" Mayweather asked. "You get sick while I'm flying, so you try to make me sick?"

    Partridge tutted. "As if I'd do such a thing. I'm pretty, not petty. Besides, everyone's got the same. Well, not those whose religion forbids it, or who's vegetarian. But everyone else. See?" She speared a piece of black pudding on her own plate, and devoured it with gusto.

    Archer carefully cut the rind from a bacon rasher, throwing it to Porthos. The dog caught it in mid air and wolfed it down.

    "By the way, are you busy tonight Hoshi?" Partridge asked.

    "Not tonight, no."

    "What about you Autumn?"

    "Well, I'm supposed to be on stag tonight--sentry duty--but the advantage of being in charge is that I can change things if there's a good reason."

    Partridge took a mouthful of egg. "Oh, there's a good reason, a very good reason. Something you girls will enjoy." She held up a data chip, and pointed at it with the other hand. "'Enter The Dragon'! Set up a big display screen in my tent, make a night of it."

    Sato and James exchanged bemused glances. "Dragon...this isn't one of your monster movies is it?" the marine asked. "Only I couldn't sleep for a week after that last one."

    "What? No. No, nothing like that. You'll love it. Trust me."

    Sato shrugged. "OK then. Hey, I've got a couple of bottles of Chateux Picard in my bag. Now I know you don't normally drink Polly...."

    "Hey, special occasion!"

    James said "I may have a little something squirrelled away myself. Hey, Tipping, you've got my stag tonight."

    "What? Now that ain't fair."

    "Yeah, ain't life a bitch."

    Archer leant backwards in his chair and looked upwards. "Stars are coming out."

    All conversation ceased as everyone faced skywards.

    "A new sky." Polly breathed, eyes wide with wonder. "Stars you can't see from Earth. And some you can, but in different positions. New constellations. Beautiful...Thanks John. Thanks for letting me come with you. Thanks for letting me see this."

    He smiled. "You're welcome. Now let's see...that there is Betalgeuse...and that's Epsilon Eridani...that might be Rigel."

    "Which is Earth?" Dumont asked.

    Archer shook his head. "You can't see it from here, we're too far south. Perhaps before we leave we should head north so we can see it, from the surface. It's not the same looking through the transparent aluminium of the ships observation dome."

    "Though you could say that that one is home." Partridge said, pointing.

    Archer looked, then lifted his communicator. "Archer to Enterprise. Come in please."

    "Enterprise. Hernandez here."

    "Commander, you were due to leave orbit more than an hour ago. We're perfectly fine down here, you don't have to watch over us like a mother hen. Go carry out your mission."

    "Ah, yes Captain."

    "Archer out."

    ***

    A few hours later, Mayweather was dozing peacefully in his bed when he was disturbed by a sudden thump. Looking round, bleary eyed and in near darkness, he could just make out a blurred figure stumbling out of the lavatory, banging into things.

    "Wha...hey, you OK?" he mumbled.

    The figure spoke, it's voice female but otherwise slurred beyond recognition. "You....offended m'family...'fended a shaolin temple!" It then began making a series of high pitched, bird like cries, before stepping through the rear hatch, missing it's footing and tumbling down the loading ramp. Mayweather got part way out of bed, intending to offer assistance, when he heard the figure laughing uproariously and staggering away.

    He shrugged, got back into bed, pulled the blankets tight and went back to sleep.
     
  10. USS Avenger

    USS Avenger Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    All right been waiting for this! I really enjoy the way you meld the technology into the story, in this case the drones for local recon and security. The Chateaux Picard reference was cool too. And what could dear Polly be up to now?
     
  11. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    That was really a cool entry. you get the details and make the imagery to allow the reader to picture what's going on. More, please!
     
  12. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Ok, that was a good one. Which of the ladies was making fun of the movie, Autumn or Hoshi?

    Speaking of Hoshi, I'm amazed that she would actually cheat to win. I was under the impression that her gambling wins came from skill, not a stacked deck.


    Although with Polly involved, something being stacked makes perfect sense. ;)

    btw, I believe you meant sought out, not sort out.
     
  13. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Duncan, no one was actually making fun of the movie. They're at the stage where they've just seen the movie and enjoyed it so much they just want to quote bits. They're also drunk enough that falling down a landing ramp is hilarious. Most things are hilarious. Consider this: between the numbers one and ten there are only three that start with the letter 'T'. Is that funny? Are you doubled over, gasping for breath because you're laughing so much?

    No?

    Then you're not drunk enough.

    Oh, and Hoshi does normally play by the rules, especially for honest games of skill. A wager of this nature though is more a matter of pure chance, and she has no problems tipping the scales in her favour.
     
  14. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador V.
    October 23rd 2151.

    Although relativly quiet right now, main Engineering was usually deafeningly loud. As such the Chief Engineer's office had some pretty heavy soundproofing. Knocking on the door would be useless, as would waiting to here a cry of 'enter' from within. Malcolm Reed hit the door chime. A moment later a green light flashed, letting him know he could come in.

    Trip Tucker was sat behind his desk, intently studying his computer display, plus half a dozen or so pads scattered about. He wore a pair of ear defenders, the engineering ones with the built in communications system. It was pushed up on the left side of his head, allowing him to also use his desk's handset. He looked haggard. Bags under the eyes. A couple of days worth of stubble. As Reed came in he glanced up and gestured to the chair opposite.

    "Taylor, you sure 'bout that? There's a red light on my board, ahm lookin' at it right now. Check the couplin's again." he said into the ear defenders microphone, before switching to the handset. "Clare, if we can't get that subspace variance down below thirty percent, we ain't goin' anywhere. If it stays above fifty percent, then we're goin' everywhere. At once." A pause. "Well try a purge. No, a complete purge. And if that don't work..."

    Despite the invitation to sit Reed stayed at parade rest, eyes fixed straight ahead. In his experience it was better to show respect to officers higher than himself in the chain of command. At least, while you did respect them. If they started messing up things were different. And as Reed had found out, that was a regrettably common occurrence. Still, this Tucker fellow seemed the decent sort, for a UESPA, and had acquitted himself well during the Enterprise's maiden flight. He'd have the benefit of the doubt, for now.

    Eventually the parade of technobabble drew to a close, and Tucker replaced the handset and and removed the ear defenders. He stretched his arms out, joints audibly clicking, and tried unsuccessfully to hide a yawn. "Sorry 'bout that. Take a seat Malky. What can I do for you?"

    Reed paused halfway into the chair. "Actually...you wanted to see me, sir."

    "I did?" Tucker looked bewildered.

    "Yes sir." Reed sat and fished out a mini pad. "I received a message ordering me to---"

    "Oh right, yeah, now I 'member. Sorry, I'm a little caught up in things at the moment."

    Reed nodded. "That's alright sir, things do seem a little busy at the moment."

    "Right, right." Tucker rubbed his chin. "What it was, I wanted to apologise for not allowing my people to take part in the security drills you got runnin'. I know you want everyone involved...." He trailed off.

    "That's quite alright Commander. Even I can recognise that there's some value to having fully functioning engines on a ship. There'll be time for more drills later, when everyone's available. Assuming the Captain allows them, of course." He paused. Tucker could have sent his apology by internal message, or waited until they saw each other at the next daily briefing. No need to summon him for that."Is there anything else sir?"

    "Actually, yes. It's not somethin' I normally take much interest in, but with John away I'm second in command of this ship, so I guess I should be kept in the loop. How are the drills comin' along."

    Reed hesitated. "Acceptable sir."

    "Acceptable." Tucker echoed.

    "Yes sir. The results so far are within the acceptable parameters set down by the Admiralty. Just." he added.

    Tucker closed his weary eyes and pressed the heels of his hands against them for a moment. "Hmm. I need coffee. D'you wanna coffee?" He stood and went to the drinks dispenser in the corner.

    Reed didn't much care for the dispenser's offerings. "Ah...no. Thank you."

    The chief Engineer took a sip from his steaming mug. "So. Just acceptable. What's the problem? No, let me guess, The UEMA guys are doin' OK. It's us UESPAs who are lettin' the side down."

    "It's a bit more complex than that, sir. Whilst it's true that, on average, the UEMA crew score more highly than the UESPA ones, that's simply because of a greater familiarity with weapons and military procedure. If you look at the security trained UESPAs, their scores are comparable to their military counterparts."

    "So anyone with security trainin' does best, huh?"

    The Major allowed himself a small smile. "The Marines do best, sir. Then security trained officers, irrespective of service. Then UEMAs, and then UESPAs. That's dealing in averages of course, there's a bit of variation. Except for the Marines of course. We're always at the top.
    "So there's a number of factors as to why Enterprise fares badly compared to the rest of the fleet. For one, half the crew is non military. Slightly more than half, if you count the civilians. A lower percentage of UESPAs have security training, and many of those are currently off ship on the landing party. So that pushes the score down. I ran a few simulations, based on their official records. If they were with us, that would help. Maybe not equivalent to fleet average, but it'll help."

    Trip dropped back into his chair. "Plus you'll have your own people back, that'll make a difference."

    "Yes sir, although, not as much as you'd think."

    Tucker took another sip. "Really? I'd ha' thought four more marines would make a whole world o' difference."

    Reed shrugged. "It's a question of numbers. Enterprise carries twenty marines, sixteen bayonets and four support people." 'Bayonets' was slang for those whose primary job was fighting. "The other Declaration class ships carry forty bayonets, and ten support. And that's on general duties, routine patrol and such. They can go for double that if sent on a high risk mission. Meanwhile we're toddling along here in unknown space. There's no way to judge just how much danger we could be in at any time. In my opinion sir, Enterprise's security level is critically low."

    "But hang on a minute. The other ships only have ordinary marines. You guys are the Pathfinders, the best of the best. Surely that gives you the edge?"

    "Well, I'd take exception to the idea that any marine could be described as ordinary. But that aside, this is still one of those situations where numbers count. You may think having one super trooper who's the equal of ten normal blokes is a good idea, but what if there are five critical areas, all which need defending at once? The ten normal blokes are a better bet in that situation. And the Enterprise has a lot of critical areas. Plus of course, not even an elite super dooper trooper is invulnerable. One lucky shot by the opposition and it's game over."

    "Huh. I see your point. What ya suggest?" asked Trip.

    Reed leant forward. "Well, we've been planning things out, running a few simulations. Our best tactic seems to be using the security trained crew as our main line of defence, with regular crew as back up. The marines operate in four man squads, shoring up our defences as needed and if possible launching counter attacks. Sealing the main hatches and bulkheads can slow an enemy advance, while our own people can use the service ducts to get behind them. I'd recommend the addition of movement sensors to the ducts, make sure no one tries the same thing with us. And we've identified a few choke points, places where an advance would have to slow down. If we prepared barricades that'd really help.
    "Ultimately though, what we need, really need, is more people who know how to use guns. That's what'll really make a difference."

    The engineer leant back in his chair, deep in though for a moment. He finished his coffee. "OK. OK. I'll be honest with you, I can't see the Cap'n allowin' you to set up barricades on his ship, just not his style. This is a ship o' peace, after all. When he comes back though I'm gonna recommend we offer security trainin' to anyone who wants it. I think you an' your people are qualified to teach. It'll have to be volunteer only though, an' no one'll be officially qualified 'till they take the test. An' they can only do that back at Earth. How's that sound?"

    "Very reasonable sir. Just knowing there are more trained people on board would be highly reassuring, even if they don't have the certificate. And yes, my boys and girls will whip them into shape. Thank you sir"

    "Hey, if the Enterprise is over run by little grey dudes who wanna give us a severe probin', I don't want you on the table next to me sayin' 'I told you so'."

    Reed grinned. "Hopefully, we can prevent that. Is there anything else sir?"

    "No, don't think so. See you later Malky."

    Reed stood, saluted, and turned for the door.

    "Oh, Malky? Just remembered, there was one other thing." Tucker waited until Reed had turned back. "Tell me about the stash, Major."

    It's 'Major' now, Reed thought with foreboding, not 'Malky'. "The stash, sir?" he asked innocently.

    Tucker wasn't buying it. "Yes, Major, the stash. Or the cache, or the stockpile, or whatever the hell you wanna call it."

    "I...don't know what you mean sir."

    Tucker regarded him coldly for a moment. He tapped a few buttons on his computer then turned the screen around so Reed could see it. "Ring any bells?"

    The object on the screen was an olive green storage case, marked with the UEMA Marine Division insignia. A keypad lock held it tightly shut, and sturdy metal struts kept it secure to the wall.

    Reed peered closer, but the resolution was too low to make out the identification number. Damn.

    "We've not ran a scan," Tucker said, "as we weren't entirely sure what sort of safeguards your folk might ha' put in there. But this is a standard weapons locker, isn't it? Half a dozen rifles, pistols, ammo. Mebbe even explosives. Hidden away in one of the service ducts."

    Reed's shoulders slumped. "Yes sir. We...I thought it prudent to have a small stockpile. Just in case."

    "Just the one, eh?

    "Yes sir, just that one."

    Tucker turned the screen around so Reed could no longer see it. "And where did we find it, Major?"

    Reed thought a very bad word. "Ah, well...you don't need me to tell you that, do you? You've already found it."

    "Tell me, Major. That's an order."

    Reed hesitated.

    "You don't know where we found it, do you Major? Because I took steps to ensure there were no distinguishing features in the image I showed you. Even blurring the ID number. There's more than one of these lockers hidden away on board and you can't tell which one we've found. Now records show you brought four of these onboard last time we were at Earth so I reckon there's at least three more."

    Reed tried to brazen it out with forced levity. "Have you ever considered transferring to Intelligence sir? You've got a talent for---"

    "Goddamnit Reed! This is serious. We're having a hard enough time fixing the ship as it is without worryin' about stockpiles of weapons around ev'ry corner."

    "Sorry sir."

    "You damn well should be sorry. You do know we're in this mess because the warp field de-phased, right? Warp fields are affected by all sorts o' things. It's possible, just possible, that one o' your lockers is at a critical point. Could'a distorted the entire field."

    "You mean this could all be our fault?" Reed asked, shocked. He shook his head. "I asked M'boto to double check the placements. He said it would be safe."

    "Your Mr M'boto is a good technician, but unless he's a better warp field specialist than me I wouldn't take his opinion as gospel. And here's a hint: he's not. So the next time you get a break from playin' your war games, you an' your guys go remove those lockers. Understood?"

    Reed nodded resignedly. "Yes sir. Sir, I did get clearance from the XO before installing them."

    "I'm sure you did. But I know you didn't get it from the Cap'n. He'd have told me. Now if, if, he agrees to it on his return, I'll help you find a suitable place or two. Until then you're forbidden' from havi' hidden weapon supplies on this ship. Alright Major, dismissed."

    Reed saluted and left. Tucker stood and moved to the offices window, looking down on main engineering. He waited until the big hatch had closed behind the marine before allowing himself a slight smile. There was no realistic way one of those lockers could have been responsible for the warp field de-phasing, not unless it had been place within the engines themselves, but it was a useful fiction. No way was he having anything hidden on his ship without the Captain's knowledge and approval. It just wasn't on.

    He stretched his arms out, then turned back to his computer. There was still a lot of work to do.
     
  15. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    That was great! You always include things I wouldn't even take into consideration when writing, like the ear defenders. It adds so much to the believability of your stories.
    Looking forward to the next bit...

    (Like the Trip/Malcolm thing, too, btw!)
     
  16. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    OK folks, it's that time again...
    I want to apologise for not updating for a while. I've been busy at work recently, plus my regular bouts of bad health. Nothing major, but enough to take the wind from my sails. It always seems to happen at this time of year.

    I am making progress, but it's slower than I'd hoped. With a bit of luck I'll have something soon.
     
  17. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Don't worry about it Badger. The real world interferes quite often. We all understand this.

    We look forward to more when you have it to give.
     
  18. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador V.
    October 23rd 2151.

    "Ma'am? Ma'am? Is everything alright?"

    Commander Hernandez turned her head. Moshiri was standing nearby, a concerned look on her face. "Yes, Lieutenant, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

    "It's just that, well, you've been standing there for over an hour."

    As soon as Moshiri said it Hernandez was hit by a dozen small aches telling her it was true. Nothing overwhelming, she'd spent enough time stood to attention in her military career and could easily cope, just the little twinges of muscles held in position for longer than comfortable. She grunted, and shifted position, rolling her shoulders and neck to get some life into them. "Got a lot on my mind." she said softly.

    "Yes ma'am." said Moshiri. "That's understandable."

    There was a moments silence.

    Hernandez looked forward again. The huge bulk of Galador V dominated the view outside the observation dome. To allow the dorsal sensor arrays maximum coverage of the area around the gas giant itself, the Enterprise had orientated itself so that the world was almost directly 'above' them. It was a somewhat disquieting panorama. Normally at this time the obs. dome was full of off duty personnel, enjoying a drink or a light meal. There were noticeably fewer people here now. Though reason said otherwise, the sight of the planet looming over them triggered the conviction that it would fall and crush them at any moment. Those who did remain tended to face away.

    It was not the planet itself that held Hernandez's interest, however. Silhouetted against it's lower quarter was the cylindrical shape of a Thor class destroyer. It was too far away to make out details with the naked eye, but long range scans had identified it as the D-11. Or rather, the remains of the D-11. Trip Tucker had studied the sensor readings and categorically forbidden any approach. It was too unsafe. Right now a couple of remotely operated drones were carrying out a close up inspection. Even at this distance she could see the strobing of their anti collision lights.

    No sign, yet, of any other craft, human or Axanar.

    "Well, if there's nothing else ma'am..." Moshiri started.

    "Have you eaten?" Hernandez asked. "I'm about to, and you're welcome to join me."

    Moshiri looked slightly startled by the question. Hernandez usually kept to herself off duty, and wasn't in the habit of dining with the crew. "Ah, no ma'am, not yet. Thank you."

    They found an unoccupied table and sat. Hernandez beckoned the crewman behind the bar over. As he approached she asked Moshiri "Do you want anything sent up from the mess?" There was a dumb waiter system linking the obs. lounge to the galley, as well as a small meal preparation area in the room behind the bar.

    "No, I'm just a bit peckish, it's not worth the trouble. Still, it's good to have a proper chef on board, isn't it?"

    "Oh yes. It's amazing how he can get such good results, even when he's using the same raw materials that the fabricators do."

    Moshiri leant closer. "Ah, but I've heard that he has a special stockpile of herbs and spices. Adds a bit of punch to his meals."

    "That'd explain it." Hernandez said.

    The crewman arrived. Moshiri ordered a light salad. She was on one of her semi-regular diets. After some deliberation Hernandez asked for a cheeseburger with fries. Comfort food, not her typical fare. She felt the need for a bit of comfort.

    And then, as the crewman went to get their meals, she found herself telling Moshiri about her earlier visit to the Galador system...


    Destroyer D-32. Entering Galador system.
    August 19th 2143.

    Ensign Maria Hernandez double, then triple checked the seals on her space suit. She'd been out of the academy for over a year now but the safety lessons still burned in her mind. Having sat through the standard, but distressingly graphic, films on the effects of catastrophic decompression she had no desire to experience the effects for herself. With the ship about to enter a potential combat zone she was not about to leave anything to chance.

    There were some amongst the crew who had worn the space suits near permanently for the past five weeks. They claimed it was nothing to do with safety. That might be true. If anything happened at warp speed that threw a human off the ship, no space suit could save them. Crossing the warp bubble threshold would cause total molecular disintegration. Instead, they claimed, it was to keep out the mosquito whine of the ship's engine. Certainly the helmet did that job well enough, but Hernandez had been able to ignore it with just a pair of earplugs.

    But then, it was the veterans who wore the suits all the time. Guys who had been on Thor class destroyers for years, often turning down postings to other, larger ships. Scuttlebutt said they were all a little odd.

    For Hernandez, getting off this ship couldn't come soon enough. Straight out of the academy she'd been lucky enough to get a posting on the corvette UES Valiant. Not a bad posting, if a bit cramped. The six junior officers had one small room between them, though with bunks on the floor, walls and ceiling that wasn't too bad. The shift system meant that the room was never fully occupied either. Best of all, Diana and Nuyen, two of her classmates, were with her.

    Those were exciting times. She'd quickly proved her worth, getting an official commendation after her first combat mission. Reassignment from secondary to main weapons array came not long after. Her friends also excelled in their fields, sensors and engineering. The Valiant gained a reputation in the fleet as a lucky ship, though those who crewed her said luck had nothing to do with it. Quality of the crew mattered.

    Things were going well, until the day an Axanar torpedo decided to make it's home in the main impulse manifold. Somehow the engineers kept the ship space worthy long enough to limp back to the nearest outpost, but it's days as a combat vessel were over. And so Hernandez found herself re-assigned to Outpost Delta 14. Or more accurately the Thor class D-32, a destroyer based at the outpost. It was a bit of a shock after the Valiant. Thors were small, and the designers had apparently considered the crew to be an unfortunate necessity, grudgingly allowing the bare minimum of room that could be spared from engines or weapons. The good news was that Hernandez didn't have to share a room. The bad news was that her quarters were the size of a rather small elevator, and also doubled as her workstation.

    Zero gravity meant a bed wasn't needed. She slept in an elasticated webbing that also served as a safety restraint during battle manoeuvres. A large visual display unit took up most of the wall in front of her. The controls, inactive at the moment, were down by her side, where her hands were normally. At full throttle the G-force could be enough to stop her reaching ahead, hence the unconventional but more practical positioning. The only other furniture was a small wardrobe built directly into the bulkhead behind her. Lights were recessed into the walls, which were softly padded and an institutional green. There were no windows.

    Despite the change for the worse after the Valiant, she'd coped. Delta 14 was pretty well outfitted for a frontier outpost, and the D-32 spent most of her time near the home port on rapid reaction duty. Mission duration was two, three weeks tops, followed by some downtime. That was the only time she saw her friends, and infrequently at that. They'd been assigned to the same outpost, but to the D-32's sister ship, the D-11. The different patrol rotas didn't always coincide.

    And then came the Galador mission. Five weeks at warp. Five weeks of near total isolation. There were very few common areas on the destroyer, most of the crew worked from compartmentalized cabins like her own. Things were slightly better now. Almost half the stores that had been secured in the main corridor had been used up, so it was a lot easier to move around if she wanted. Everyday she spent an hour strapped to one of the exercise bikes in the tiny gym, staving off muscle atrophy. Every other day the medic came by with a syringe, vitamins to supplement the survival rations.

    A series of chimes got her attention. They were dropping slower than light. An intense whine filled the ship which shook like a wet dog drying itself. It was unpleasant, but at least it meant that this part of the journey had come to an end.

    Hernandez tapped the controls, activating her view screen and bringing her weapons online. A pair of fire linked turret mounted one hundred gigajoule plasma cannon. Even as the streaks of light coalesced into stars she was scanning the sky, ready for any potential threat.

    The gas giant loomed ahead of them, uncomfortably close. A Jupiter type world, according to long range observations. In principle it's gravity would mask their arrival. The mission profile called upon them to establish a secure zone and watch covertly for enemy activity. If it was small scale, they would disrupt it to the best of their abilities. Otherwise they had orders to withdraw without contact. A larger force could be assembled based on the Intel they would provide.

    That plan went out the window within the first seven minutes.

    A chime heralded an announcement from the bridge. The task force were reporting in, all safe, but scattered after their long journey. The frigate Patton had spotted what looked like a partially constructed space station in orbit. The Patton itself had been detected. As secrecy was no longer an option they would engage and destroy the station before withdrawing.

    As the CO's voice died away Hernandez felt herself breathing heavily, her heart thumping in her chest. She tried to tell herself that it was nerves, but she knew the truth. She was excited, even pleased by the idea of a fight. It was what she trained for, what she was good at. And after that journey she wanted to blow things up.

    Information swam onto her screen as the D-32 changed course, data about the enemy contact. It was too far for the destroyer to make out much detail, but the Patton was sending information to the rest of the task force. The object had the look of an Axanar station, clearly unfinished, almost a third of it's superstructure nothing but a metal lattice awaiting it's coverings. Yet lights showed along it's flanks, and a sensor dish spun. Unfinished perhaps, but operational. Floating aside it lay the fat bulk of an Axanar freighter, and a handful of shuttles swarmed about it.

    She frowned. The data from the Patton showed the frigate was heading straight towards the station at full throttle, not waiting for the rest of the task force to assemble. By it's very nature the target wasn't going anywhere, and this class of freighter was slow. No chance of escape, so, she asked her self, why the rush?

    In rapid succession six more contacts appeared on the screen, flashing yellow arrowheads departing the Patton at high speed. Her brow furrowed in confusion. Unlike the destroyers the two frigates were large enough to carry a few torpedoes, much fewer than normal, but hopefully enough to make a difference. The new Mark Fours had been fitted with tactical atomic warheads, the latest small size, high yield devices.

    Standard doctrine said that limited resources should be husbanded carefully. It would be much more efficient for the task force to move as a group to the station and destroy it with conventional weaponry. There was simply no need, that Hernandez could see, to waste the torpedoes like this. She'd be the first to admit that the desire to get into the fight was strong, but surely the Patton's CO, Commander Howell, couldn't be so undisciplined. Wait, wait, Howell has a reputation as a glory hound. I bet he just wants his ship to get credit for the kill, and forget the rest of us.

    One of the torpedoes hit the freighter amidships. On the sensor display it's image blurred and seemed to expand. For a moment the tracking systems registered it as two separate vessels before registering that it had broken apart.

    The remaining torpedoes tore into the station. Hernandez shook her head ruefully. They were all concentrated in the same area. All that fire-power targeting one spot, even more wasteful. Unprofessional. She found herself composing the after action report, which had some very scathing things to say about the Patton's gunner. Leave it for now. The job's not over yet, and there'll be plenty of time on the way home.

    Now the Patton had gotten within effective gunnery range and opened up with the three-fifty gigajoule plasma cannon. The smaller but faster D-19 swooped in to add it's weapons to the attack. The D-32 was the next closest ship, but it would be about two minutes before they were close enough to engage.

    And then it was all over. The station seemed to bulge outwards before simply breaking apart. An anticlimactic end to the battle, and a frustrating one. It was over without Hernandez even getting the chance of a shot.

    It took nearly six hours for the task force to prepare the engines for the return home. The various commanding officers considered going after the Axanar shuttles, which had rapidly scattered when the Earth ships turned up, but it was considered a waste of time to hunt them down. With the warp drives ready they turned and began powering out of the gas giant's gravity well, aiming for the point from which it would be safe to go faster than light.
     
  19. The Badger

    The Badger Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2008
    Location:
    Im in ur Tardis, violating ur canon.
    Continued.


    Sirens screamed through the ship. Multiple contacts, dropping out of warp, almost dead ahead. Seven of them, Axanar light cruisers. Probably returning from a raid of their own, on Earth territory.

    Hernandez fought down her feelings of panic. They were outnumbered, and although an Earth frigate out-gunned an Axanar light cruiser, it wasn't by much. And each enemy ship had more fire-power than her small destroyer. Still, surprise was on the humans side, and if the Axanar ships had sacrificed torpedoes for range, as the Earth ships had, that might improve the odds a little.

    She felt a kick in the back as the thrusters went to combat power. Looks like I get a fight after all. A text message popped up on her display. They were not going to try to evade. When the Axanar discovered their station had been destroyed they'd go to full alert. So they would try to punch straight through the enemy forces before they knew they were there.

    It almost worked. The first volley of torpedoes from the Eisenhower managed to close the range before being detected. Two Axanar ships were hit, badly enough to take them out of the fight. By the time the second volley arrived, along with the Patton's last four torpedoes, the Axanar had their ECM up. Only five of the eight hit, doing damage, but no knock out blows. And now the enemy were fighting back.

    The frigates may have drawn first blood, but it was the destroyers racing forward. Partly this was to close the gap so their own weapons could come to bare. Mainly it was to protect the larger ships by providing a more obvious target.

    A crash like thunder screamed through the D-32 as it lurched sickeningly to port. Hernandez was tossed around like a discarded rag doll, only her safety web preventing injury from smashing into the walls of her cabin. The lights flared then faded, replaced by the crimson glow of the emergency lanterns. Her viewscreen dissolved into static, and fragments of voices hissed through the intercom. Casualty reports. Damage reports.

    She shook her head to clear it, piecing the facts together from what she heard. They'd been hit. Sensors suggested they'd been caught by the heavy laser used on Axanar light cruisers. Must have been a glancing blow. Thor class destroyers were lightly armoured. A direct hit could have sliced them in half.

    Her screen was still blank. She hit the restart switch, and again. It came to life, a wire frame tactical display of the combat zone. Where the hell is the D-19? It should be...oh no. No identifying beacon showed, but a tumbling metallic shape occupied it's last known position. Dead in space...

    The symbol for her own ship was now perilously close to an Axanar vessel. It was manoeuvring in front of them to block their escape. Fortunately it's current aspect meant it couldn't bring it's main batteries to bear, but once in position it'd only take a few moments to reorientate itself. The tactical display would do no good; she hit the keys to bring up her targeting system. For a split second the status board for her turret mounted plasma cannon came up, before being replaced by that for the main gun. That was a bad sign. On this ship she was secondary gunner. If she had access to the main guns then something must have happened to the chief gunner.

    No time to consider that now. The Axanar cruiser was near dead ahead, right in her sights. She hit the intercom, asking permission to fire, getting a 'hell yes' back before she'd even finished speaking.

    At close range a Thor could punch above it's weight. The ship itself was built round the Mjollnir quad barrelled railgun. It was the only ship to carry such a weapon, the size and bulk of which made it impractical to fit into a turret. Only a ship fast and manoeuvrable enough to aim itself at the enemy could hope to use it effectively.

    She toggled the selector over to KEAP--Kinetic Energy Armour Piercing--and selected an aim point near the rear of the target ship. Mjollnir rail guns could only fire forward in a very narrow cone. Manipulating the magnetic fields as the projectile left the barrel allowed a small amount of fine tuning, but otherwise they were locked straight ahead. Fortunately their current course had the ships aft within the field of fire. Intel suggested that main engineering was located about a third of the way between the lateral sensor pallet and the impulse emitters, so Hernandez carefully layered the cartwheeling sight over the likeliest spot and squeezed the trigger.

    Four barrels. Each spewing one 328 gramme projectile every two seconds. Staggered, so a little packet of death departed at half second intervals. Each launch sending tremors through the destroyer. Not recoil, even at over ten kilometres a second the projectiles had too little mass to significantly affect the ship. It was the electromagnets themselves, bucking and thrashing within the weapon as they strained against the very forces they created. Even with cushioning the shock waves carried to the rest of the ship. It was this vibration, coupled with the ship's cylindrical shape, that had given the Thor the nickname 'sex toy of the gods'.

    She released the trigger, waiting a moment to let her eyes refocus after the tremors. It looked like there was considerable damage to the target point, but the Axanar vessel itself was operational. In a moment they'd be past it and on their way to the exit point, but with it still active they'd be running a high risk. They'd be in it's rear weapons arc for several long seconds, time enough for it to return fire.

    Only time for one last shot. She flipped the selector to KEF, fired a sustained burst at the same spot. The Kinetic Energy Fragmentation rounds would be ineffective against the armoured outer shell, but if she could get just a few of them under that armour, they might do some serious damage. They were designed to break apart on impact, releasing a swarm of projectiles that, whilst too weak to work against outer armour, should rip through interior bulkheads, machinery, and crew, ricocheting around inside confined spaces to do even more harm.

    And then they were past, the enemy ship no longer in her fire arc. She switched to the turret mounted plasma cannon, swing it aft to continue her attack. After loosing a couple of rounds she stopped, her target clearly no longer a threat. Secondary explosions cooked off within the hull, sending fountains of molten metal into the void. She scanned the sky fo another target just as the warp initiation chimes sounded. Her last view of the battlefield was of the Patton desperately clawing it's way past two Axanar ships. Then the ships, the planet and the star system itself hurled themselves into the distance.

    She offered a prayer of thanks. They'd gotten away.


    UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador V.
    October 23rd 2151.

    "...and after another five weeks of travel, we limped home. The Eisenhower had gotten there slightly ahead of us. We waited and waited, but no other ship returned. Afterwards, months of physical therapy. Those survival rations can keep you alive but only just. Inquiries, after action reports...quite a few of us were of the opinion that if Howell hadn't wasted his torpedoes on the station he could have gotten his ship past the Axiees. But his father was high up in the Admiralty, so that never made it to the official report." Hernandez leant back, scooping up a dollop of ketchup with her last fry. Oddly enough she felt better for having told the story.

    Moshiri gestured to the distant destroyer with her fork. "So this is the D-11, right? The one your friends were on?

    She nodded.

    "I don't suppose there's any chance they could have survived? Gotten to that Earth type world, maybe?"

    Hernandez sighed deeply. "I'd like that, I really would. But our ships were too small to have life pods. We relied on our space suits to keep us safe. And without engines there's no way to make it there. There was only a twenty four hour air supply. Now the Patton did have life pods. But as we didn't even know there was a habitable world in this system back then, they'd have no reason to even head in that direction. No. No, I can't see anyone surviving, not realistically."

    Moshiri nodded slowly, agreeing with her reasoning even as she wished it wasn't so. "I'm sorry ma'am. I think you're right, I don't think anyone could have survived."

    Hernandez starred at her plate for a moment, before abruptly straightening up, throwing of her despondency by sheer will. She offered a brittle smile. "Sorry to bend your ear like this. Guess I needed to get it off my chest."

    "That's alright ma'am. Any time."


    Later that night, as she was drifting off to sleep, a wisp of a thought wandered through Hernandez's mind. We didn't know about that Earth type world, so of course our life pods wouldn't have gone there. But did the Axanar know?

    But it was a fleeting thought, and by morning, it had gone.
     
  20. Duncan MacLeod

    Duncan MacLeod Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2002
    Location:
    New England
    Good chapter, Badger. I see interesting times ahead. ;)
     

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