UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Six

    Amon Homeship Transcendent
    In orbit of Planet Alanthal
    Delta Quadrant

    The Starfleet contingent was escorted under guard to what Nestrala had called the ‘diplomatic complex,’ essentially an elegant circular housing structure built around a lovely gardened courtyard.

    After briefly reconnoitering the various spacious rooms, which rivaled those of any of the Federation’s finest hotels, the group met back in the atrium

    Lar’ragos returned to the beautiful garden courtyard, an area favored with a small babbling brook that bisected the greenspace. Among the sun-dappled trees and flowers was a large stone patio graced with tables and chairs that appeared to have grown out of the very rock substrate itself. It was here that Lieutenant Verrik had been left in the custody of Lieutenant Leone while the others explored the structure.

    “At least it’s a gilded cage,” Pell remarked dryly as she emerged from the structure into the simulated sunlight filling the atrium.

    “Mister Verrik,” Lar’ragos began, “I think I’m supposed to place you under arrest at this point, given the charges leveled against you in absentia. Something about going absent without leave and assisting in the escape of a fugitive. Oh, yes, and I believe you also shot me, if I’m not mistaken.”

    Verrik seemed unmoved by that declaration. “I understand, sir.”

    “Therefore, I am remanding you into custody,” Lar’ragos added with a smirk. “Given that we’re all presently in custody, that really doesn’t mean much at the moment.”

    Lar’ragos took a seat at one of the tables, gesturing for the others to join him. Verrik, Leone, Counselor Liu, and Dr. Reskos assumed places around the table while Pell stood off to the side, clearly fretting internally.

    “Lieutenant Verrik,” Lar’ragos directed his focus on the Vulcan officer. “Counselor Liu has confirmed that you came to him prior to your assisting in Sandhurst’s escape, complaining of suffering memory lapses and memories that you didn’t believe to be your own.”

    Verrik inclined his head. “That is correct, sir.”

    Lar’ragos cocked his head to one side, absorbing every vocal inflection and non-verbal nuance that Verrik emitted, however unintentionally. True, Vulcans were far more in control of such tells than your average human, but if one looked hard enough, they could still be detected.

    “Do you believe you were being controlled somehow by this A’lasha individual when you engaged in those illegal acts?”

    Verrik met Lar’ragos’ gaze unflinchingly. “I do, sir. Without reservation.”

    Images flooded Lar’ragos mind suddenly, and he saw the sun-baked Plains of Gol awash in fire, combat lasers flaring as deadly missiles lanced through the thin Vulcan air. The vision was so potent, so visceral, it was as if he himself were there, witnessing the carnage of the Vulcan Schism first hand.

    “Okay…” he breathed shakily, murmuring, “…that’s good enough for me…” He blinked, missing the concerned expression being directed his way by a skeptical Leone.

    “Sir,” Leone cleared his throat. “Respectfully, Captain, I’m not sure that just the lieutenant’s word is sufficient under the circum—“

    “It’s fine,” Lar’ragos cut him off. “I’m the aggrieved party, after all.”

    “As you say, sir,” Leone allowed, falling silent.

    Lar’ragos appeared lost in thought for a long moment, and then addressed Verrik again. “Lieutenant, what level of access have you been allowed to the Amon?”

    “My access has been quite extensive, Captain,” Verrik answered. “Commodore Sandhurst apparently believes that transparency in that regard would be of benefit to our forming an alliance to oppose the other Amon tribe.”

    Lar’ragos nodded distractedly. “Ah, yes. As it happens, his temporary promotion to commodore was rescinded when Admiral T’Cirya assumed command of the task force.” Back on topic, he added, “Do the Amon know what’s behind the other tribe’s more aggressive posture? After he’d returned from his first abduction by the Amon, Sandhurst told me the Amon were both surprised and appalled by the ambush their cousins launched against them at In’Drahn station.”

    Verrik inclined his head in response. “That is accurate, sir. One of the Amon’s highest laws is a prohibition against taking up arms against another of their tribes. When the other tribe launched its unprovoked attack on this group, they became what the Amon refer to as, ‘Skorrah’, loosely translated as ‘outcast.’”

    Lar’ragos cocked his head. “Skorrah. Well, good, constantly calling both tribes ‘Amon’ was becoming confusing.” He sat back in his chair, taking a moment to drink in the surrounding beauty. Even the fierce blue sky overhead looked and felt completely realistic, like a perfectly simulated holographic environment. Lar’ragos focused his attention on Verrik once again. “Lieutenant, my chief concern with our remaining here for any length of time is our potential exposure to the life-essence energy the Amon feed on. I don’t sense any significant changes in you, which leads me to suspect you haven’t been ingesting that energy.”

    “Correct,” Verrik said. “Zeischt has made it possible for me to have access to food sources uncontaminated by the life-essence.”

    “Why the exception for you?” Liu inquired.

    “Zeischt explained to me that he realizes that ingestion of the life-essence binds a person to the Amon irrevocably. If the exposure continues for more than a few weeks, the individual’s dependence on the life-essence becomes permanent. Once that happens, they will die without regular infusions of the energy.”

    Dr. Reskos quirked an eyebrow, taking notes on his tricorder. “So, you’re saying Sandhurst is now inseparable from the Amon?”

    Verrik’s expression darkened so slightly that it may have been obvious only to Lar’ragos. “Yes.”

    “There’s nothing we can do?” Pell asked sharply from where she remained standing nearby, her arms folded defensively across her chest.

    “Unknown without further examination and research,” Reskos replied. “We know Sandhurst was successfully weaned off the bio-essence once after a month of exposure.” He turned to look at Pell. “I’m certainly willing to try.”

    “The problem is convincing Zeischt to cooperate with that process,” Liu added, looking dour.

    Lar’ragos checked a thin wrist chronometer before looked skyward, as if awaiting something. He looked back to Verrik. “Tell us what you know about these Skorrah, Lieutenant. Anything you’ve gleaned from the Amon could be useful, such as their numbers and strength, relative to that of the Amon.”

    “From what I’ve been told, as well as what I’ve overheard, the Skorrah have a population several times that of the Amon, and have apparently traveled throughout our galaxy for much longer than their kinsmen.”

    This piqued Lar’ragos’ interest, and he leaned closer to Verrik. “Do the Amon know why the Skorrah have suddenly initiated hostilities between their tribes?”

    “Zeischt and I have discussed this matter on more than one occasion,” Verrik said. “The Skorrah had developed a taste for more ‘exotic’ life-essence energy in recent times. When the Amon first discovered the Borg and seized control of this assimilation cube, the Skorrah proved endlessly fascinated with Borg research into extra-dimensional travel. The Amon had no such interest, and gave all the data gleaned by the Borg to the Skorrah. It was shortly afterward that the other tribe began to behave atypically, demonstrating heightened aggression and even paranoia.”

    Liu shot a glance to Lar’ragos. “Something they ate, perhaps?”

    “Precisely,” Verrik agreed. “Zeischt believes that the Skorrah consumed the life-essence energy of another species that somehow altered the very fabric of their culture. They were already more inclined to attack other civilizations in order to harvest their needed energy, but whoever the Skorrah fed on this time, it appears to have twisted them somehow, making them hyper-predatory.”

    Pell scowled. “That’s a charming thought, a species so evil that even their cast off souls can poison another species. Perhaps they fed on the Cardassians?”

    Lar’ragos shot the Bajoran a frosty look, but held his tongue. It was obvious to him that Pell was in distress after seeing her former lover so utterly transformed, and clearly involved with the female BattleLeader Nestrala.

    “Our first order of business is escape. The longer we’re here, the more we have to depend on Klingon patience, a substance rarer than latinum.” Lar’ragos turned to Dr. Reskos, once again taken aback by the youthful android body fashioned for the Medusian physician. “Doctor, is there any chance you can use your non-corporeal form to assist us in an escape?”

    Reskos’ face contorted briefly before settling on a look of vague cynicism. “Respectfully, Captain, I’m a non-corporeal entity aboard a ship of humanoids who feed on life-energy. Given that in my android housing, I probably appear to them as inviting as a can of Slug-o-Cola, I’d rather not tempt fate.” Reskos offered a wan smile, an expression he was pleased to have mastered after much practice. “Additionally, seeing one of my kind outside a containment vessel drives most humanoids into a psychotic state. Doing so conflicts directly with the Hippocratic Oath I’ve sworn.”

    Lar’ragos mimicked the physician’s lukewarm smirk. “It never hurts to ask, Doc.” Again, he paused to check his chronometer.

    “Expecting someone, Captain?” Liu asked.

    “Let’s just say that unless Zeischt comes to pay us a visit soon and stops jamming our comms, the next hour or so is going to get very interesting.”

    Pell sighed audibly. “I hate it when you say things like that,” she groused.

    The peculiar little smile Lar’ragos gave her evidenced almost no humor, though it came close to standing up the hairs on the back of her neck.

    * * *​

    USS Europa

    Wu, Shanthi, and a security team that had grown to six members escorted Oddfellow to the airlock leading to the Amon ship. Wu consciously averted her eyes from the being to prevent the sense of vertigo that accompanied his continually changing form. The closer they came to the airlock the more conflicted she became about their course of action.

    “What precisely are you going to do over there?” Wu asked.

    “Whatever is required,” the smaller Oddfellow replied, somehow able to keep pace with the group despite having no eyes.

    “That’s a bit vague,” Wu pressed. “Our diplomatic team’s safety is of primary importance. If you destroy the Amon ship, you destroy ours as well.”

    “We are capable of… finesse, when it is needed,” responded the larger of the two beings. “Though some might argue the point.”

    “Ha! Yes, just so,” chuckled the smaller one, seemingly to reply to his own statement. “The Tkon, for instance.”

    “Pity about their star,” the tall Oddfellow offered with what certainly appeared to be wry humor.

    They came to the inner airlock hatch, itself guarded by a combined Marine and security detail.

    “I’m not sure how this is going to work,” Wu said. “If we open the airlock to let you out, we may well be inviting an Amon reprisal.”

    “We cannot use your transporter,” Oddfellow reiterated, a fact that they had discussed earlier. “If the Amon intended to take your ship, they would not need to limit themselves to boarding via your airlock.”

    “Fair point,” Wu conceded. She turned to the Marine lieutenant in charge of the airlock security detail. “Stand ready to provide covering fire when we breach the outer pressure door.”

    “That will not be necessary,” they said in unison as they stepped forward and passed through the hatch like a ghost.

    “Well…” Wu remarked. “Shit.”

    * * *​
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2014
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    It strikes this is not a situation which can be resolved by sitting at a table and talking about it. Something will have to give, and I think the key remains Sandhurst/Zeist. It still remains frustratingly ambigious as to his chances to revert back to the Sandhurst we know and love.

    Good thing there's another wild card in play. And holy crap, man, did Oddfellow just hint at being responsible for wiping out the Tkon civilization?! Things are about to get serious.
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 7)

    Chapter Seven

    In my left hand there is the familiar
    In my right hand there’s the great unknown
    I can see the madly different grass there
    But I’m drawn to wilder nights at home

    Don’t listen to your friends
    See the despair behind their eyes
    Don’t listen to your friends
    They only care once in a while

    I can feel the draw
    I can feel it pulling me back
    It’s pulling me back
    It’s pulling me
    I can feel the draw
    I can feel it pulling me back
    It’s pulling me back
    It’s pulling me

    ‘The Draw’ ~ Bastille
    - Lyrics by Mark Crew & Dan Smith

    * * *​

    Amon Homeship Transcendent
    In orbit of Planet Alanthal
    Delta Quadrant

    Nestrala had expected rage from Zeischt, so his brooding silence worried her even more.

    She herself was pacing in their shared apartment, her shoes whispering across the sumptuous carpeting as she seethed at what she perceived to be the humans’ duplicity. Zeischt sat idly nearby, his head cradled in his hands as he tried to absorb the momentous news revealed by his former shipmates.

    “What this Lar’ragos told you may not even be true!” Nestrala protested. “Lies designed to pry you from the Amon fold.”

    “No,” Zeischt replied after a prolonged silence. “I could see it in his eyes, and in Pell’s. It happened just as he described.” He stood suddenly, turning his gaze on his lover and mentor. “How could I not have seen this coming? I’ve been gifted with this second sight, this prescience, and yet people so close to me were butchered and I foresaw none of it?”

    Nestrala ceased her pacing, moving instead to embrace Zeischt. “Your gifts are manifestations of the Amon you that exists now. Perhaps the events surrounding your former comrades no longer matter to such a degree that your new insight perceives them?”

    “Perhaps,” Zeischt allowed, freeing himself gently from her embrace. “But our own people were the ones who warned me of the Baron’s vengeance when you came to me in my dreams. How then is it that I couldn’t see Ramirez’s resurrection or her murderous rampage?”

    “The gifts given us by the life-essence are not so easily bent to our own ends, husband. Those abilities are intended to serve the whole tribe, not the vanity of any one individual.”

    “I must talk to them again, to learn more about how and why this has happened,” Zeischt said insistently.

    Nestrala was not so easily swayed. “What does it matter? What do the travails of these people matter to the Amon? This Ramirez is no threat to our people.”

    His expression hardened. “She’s my responsibility.”

    “No, not anymore she isn’t. That life and its obligations are over, Zeischt. I will not allow you to be further poisoned by these outsiders.” The determined set of her features mirrored his own. “I have spoken to the BattleMaster and the Council of Elders on this matter, and we are in unanimous agreement. You are barred from further contact with the Federation representatives, for your own welfare as well as that of the entire tribe.”

    He grabbed her upper arms suddenly in a gesture of shock and outrage. “You can’t be serious?”

    Nestrala tensed, her eyes growing hooded. “Unhand me, husband, or you shall see precisely how serious I am. You forget who it was that schooled you our people’s martial traditions.”

    His eyes widened in response and he reflexively released her arms. “I—I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking…”

    “And that, my love, is precisely the problem. Where your former friends are concerned, your heart wanders from the tribe’s path.”

    “But Nestrala, I must!” he maintained.

    Nestrala gave the Amon variant of a head-shake. “It is forbidden. You are wedded to the Amon, both figuratively and literally, and we will not expose you to further harm. Contact with the Federation representatives will be handled by me. A’lasha will advise me in such matters, should I require it.”

    “A’lasha has her own agenda,” Zeischt countered hotly.

    Nestrala raised an eyebrow in an almost Vulcan-like fashion. “Your command of the obvious does credit to your species.” Her face softened ever so slightly. “The Vulcan has not undergone the trials, and as she remains an outsider, she must earn her keep. She will do as commanded, or she will be cast out.”

    Zeischt’s sour expression went slack as his eyes were drawn away from her face, focusing instead on something behind her. “What is that?” he murmured, stepping towards the grand bay windows of the apartment.

    She pivoted around to see an immense shadow growing in the distance, rising to block the light touching the far bulkheads across the breadth of the cube’s great open space. Somewhere in the distance, an alarm began to wail. A tremor passed through the cube’s structure as dark tendrils began to spill from the shadowy mass, colliding with the surrounding interior of the mighty vessel.

    “An attack!” Nestrala cried, her cheeks flush with sudden outrage. She glanced back at Zeischt as her decorative robes vanished in favor of her mesmerizing battle armor. “We are betrayed!”

    * * *​

    The sound of thunder crashing in the interior of the cube was unexpected and almost deafening. The holographic sky overhead flickered, as did the simulated sunlight. The ground beneath the Starfleet party’s feet shuddered, causing Lar’ragos to glance at his chronometer yet again as the others grabbed hold of the table or their chairs.

    “What the hell?” Pell was bracing herself against a tree trunk as she looked in all directions, though her field of vision was restricted by the surrounding building.

    “Punctual,” Lar’ragos muttered with resigned approval. “That’s nice.”

    “Captain?” Counselor Liu stared at Lar’ragos with undisguised concern. “Something you’d like to share with the rest of us, sir?”

    He looked up at the others with an expression that was strangely untroubled, given the circumstances. “In case we were cut off from the ship, I authorized Commander Wu to deploy whatever weapons were necessary to neutralize the Amon as a threat to the Federation.”

    Liu’s scowl was unmistakable. “Wait… I thought the Skorrah were the threat, not this tribe of Amon?”

    “True, were sent to try and convince the Amon to assist us in putting a stop to the Skorrah’s attacks. However, the Federation Security Council perceives the Amon themselves to be just as significant a threat to Federation security, and rightly so.”

    Something that sounded enormous roared nearby, it’s bellowing call echoing off the nearer interior compartments of the cube. It was accompanied by a thunderous crash and more shaking.

    “Pava, what have you done?” Pell asked accusingly.

    Without looking toward the diplomatic officer, Lar’ragos answered, “Wu has deployed an unconventional Alpha Weapon, one designed to demonstrate to the Amon exactly how serious we are.”

    “An Alpha Weapon? With us inside the ship?” Pell could barely contain her outrage. “Have you gone mad?”

    “Jury’s out,” Lar’ragos replied, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms across his chest. “We won’t be ignored or dismissed. If the Amon require a demonstration of our resolve, so be it.”

    Liu leaned in towards Lar’ragos. “And what happens to us, Captain?”

    “We’re expendable assets, Counselor,” the El Aurian replied gravely. “We knew that when we were assigned to the task force.” He looked skyward in time to see a gigantic ink-black tendril sweep over the top of the residential structure, trailed by a cloud of debris. “Heads up, folks! Incoming!”

    The Starfleet contingent bolted from their seats and scattered to the protective overhang of the surrounding building as chunks of scaffolding and other wreckage rained down into the courtyard. The sound of weapons fire nearby competed with the ear-spitting roar of whatever demonic entity had been unleashed on the interior of the Amon vessel.

    Leone spared a quick glance at Lar’ragos that was laden with incredulity. “This is your idea of negotiating, sir?”

    “Not really,” Lar’ragos admitted. “I took a page from Sandhurst's book, and I'm making this up as I go. This thing is what I’d intended to use against the Skorrah. Nestrala’s forced me to play my ace-in-the-hole early.”

    Liu was about to offer his assessment of their situation when the flash of Amon transporters caught his eye. A cadre of armored warriors, led by BattleLeader Nestrala, had materialized in the center of the courtyard, their battle-staffs held at the ready.

    Nestrala scanned the faces of the Starfleet personnel ringing the perimeter of the courtyard until she spied Lar’ragos. Raising her staff, she charged the man, whose body tensed in preparation to meet her attack.

    Lar'ragos caught a fleeting glimpse across the courtyard of Verrik grappling with an Amon warrior for control of his pole-arm. Dr. Reskos, meanwhile, was using his body's preternatural strength and speed to knock one Amon after another off their feet.

    A force field surrounding Nestrala's unarmored head flared to life briefly as a piece of metallic debris aimed at her face ricocheted away. This distraction, courtesy of Leone, gave Lar’ragos the opportunity to step out of the way of Nestrala’s headlong charge. However, as Lar’ragos lunged to the side, her battle-staff caught his lower leg and sent him sprawling.

    Leone leapt on top of Nestrala, and was forcibly thrown off into some nearby shrubbery for his efforts. “You dare!” she roared, advancing on Lar’ragos.

    Lar’ragos scrambled to his feet, taking up a defensive stance that he knew would be wholly inadequate against Nestrala’s ferocity. “Come back to the negotiations right now, with Zeischt, and I’ll call this off!” he shouted.

    “We invited you aboard!” Nestrala shrieked, “and this rampage is how you repay our hospitality?”

    “You cast us aside and placed us in a cage, Nestrala. You’ve forced my hand. Now you no longer dictate terms, BattleLeader, I do!” Lar’ragos barked in answer. He gestured broadly to the surrounding chaos. “Otherwise we all die together.”

    Another ground tremor accompanied a monstrous cry, and something far overhead where the holographic sky had been moments before exploded brilliantly, showering the area with flaming bits of wreckage.

    In response Nestrala aimed her staff’s energy emitter at Lar’ragos chest. For his part, Lar’agos spread his arms wide, facing the weapon unblinkingly. “Shall I meet you in Hell then?”

    Nestrala let loose a cry of pure rage and frustration before throwing her staff aside and moving towards Lar’ragos.

    He knew that against her advanced armor, his martial abilities would amount to nothing, so he offered no resistance as she grabbed him by the shoulders and lifted him off his feet.

    “We can help one another, or your people can die right here, right now,” Lar’ragos said in an unaccountably calm voice. “We’re both fighting to preserve our cultures, Nestrala, but your people are blinded by their own sense of superiority.”

    Nestrala held Lar’ragos in the air with one hand as she drew back her other arm, her other hand clenched into a fist. “End this attack!” she demanded.

    “Yield,” Lar’ragos said so quietly that it was barely discernable above the noise of the life-or-death struggle taking place all around them.

    “You don’t have the stomach to sacrifice your own people to this abomination,” Nestrala shouted. However, the timbre of her voice was more plea than mandate now.

    “Ask Zeischt how far I’m willing to go,” Lar’ragos replied. “Or perhaps you already have.” He craned his head forward so that he could see into Nestrala’s eyes. “Donald knows…”

    An achingly long moment followed as the two warriors locked eyes, each trying to divine the other’s breaking point. Finally, Nestrala lowered Lar’ragos back to the ground, “For the preservation of my people, I submit.”

    Lar’ragos raised his fingers to his uniform’s rank insignia, tapping a numerical sequence across the pips with his fingertips.

    The immediate silence was deafening, and suddenly there was a tall, gaunt man in dark clothing standing before Lar’ragos.

    Lar’ragos startled, clearly as surprised as the others at the man’s unannounced arrival.

    “It is done,” said a smaller, eyeless individual inexplicably dressed as some courtier dandy.

    He straightened his uniform jacket before replying, and Lar’ragos answered, “It is, yes.”

    “Our debt to your Federation is paid then?” The tall Oddfellow asked.

    Lar’ragos appeared uncertain. “I’m not privy to whatever agreement you had with my government, but from my perspective, yes. You have delivered as promised.”

    Just as suddenly as he… or they… had appeared, they were gone without so much as a whisper.

    Lar’ragos looked away and collapsed onto his buttocks as his legs gave out. He and Nestrala seemed unable to make eye contact for a full minute before she finally spoke. “It seems your nightmare weapon is no more.”

    “Only one of many at my disposal,” Lar’ragos acknowledged heavily. “It was the only one that I could call off, however. With the others, once released, what is done… is done.”

    Nestrala walked slowly over to where she’d discarded her battle-staff and stooped to retrieve it. “Where does this leave us, Federation?”

    “Tired. This leaves us tired.” Lar’ragos rose to his feet, dusting off the seat of his uniform trousers.

    The others in the diplomatic contingent filtered back hesitantly from the illusory safety of the surrounding structure’s circular overhang. The other Amon warriors shifted uneasily, looking uncertain. This was a day of firsts for many of their people.

    “Nestrala,” Lar’ragos asked, his voice weary. “Summon Zeischt, and let us discuss what needs to be done to rid the galaxy of the Skorrah.”

    * * *​
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2014
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Nicely paid, Pava, even if this gamble could have backfired in a big way. But I did enjoy seeing the sometimes sickenly arrogant Amon humbled for once. You're not as powerful as you think, are ya?

    This chapter also showed who wears the pants in the Zeischt/Nestrala relationship which could still translate to bad news for Pava and the Federation.

    Oh an Oddfellow? We gotta have some sort of explanation at some point. Pretty please ...
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 7)

    Chapter Seven

    Amon Homeship Transcendent
    In orbit of Planet Alanthal
    Delta Quadrant

    The party had returned to the outdoor conference area, though even here there were signs of the earlier struggle. Trees were splintered, plants uprooted, and there were deep gouges in the surface of the ornate meeting table. Borg drones labored silently to clear the accumulated debris under the watchful eye of the Amon, causing Lar’ragos’ hackles to rise. He buried his discomfort for the sake of diplomacy, given that he had been the cause of the near catastrophe.

    Lar’ragos had contacted Europa and informed Wu of the Amon capitulation following the strike by Oddfellow. Her orders were to standby, but if they were to lose contact again, Wu was to deploy the remaining Alpha Weapons in their inventory immediately.

    Doctor Reskos knelt next to a seated Dominic Leone, treating the lieutenant’s right arm which had been broken when Nestrala had thrown him some half-dozen meters into dense shrubbery after his bold but futile attack on her.

    Lar’ragos stepped over to Leone, giving the young man a brief smile. “Good work back there, Dom. You didn’t have much in the way of weaponry, but you used what you had to good effect.”

    Leone winced as Reskos manually repositioned the two halves of Leone’s fractured humerus to set them before placing an osteo-regenerator cuff on the limb. “Thank you, sir.”

    With that, Lar’ragos returned to the table, resuming his seat.

    Across from him, Nestrala smoldered with barely contained anger, shooting daggers at Lar’ragos and the others with her eyes. “Over a hundred of our people died today as a result of your attack,” she noted icily.

    Lar’ragos returned her gaze with an expression devoid of compassion or regret. “It is unfortunate that your decisions made such desperate actions necessary, BattleLeader. Pray I do not choose to continue the assault, for all our sakes.”

    “You’d sacrifice your own people in order to do us greater harm?” her sneer fairly dripped with venom.

    “If you force my hand,” Lar’ragos answered in an unsettlingly reasonable tone, “I’ll kill myself and everyone under my command in order to burn you and the Amon to cinders.”

    This statement elicited an uncomfortable glance from Counselor Liu, but the rest of the Starfleet contingent seemed unfazed by the declaration. Their expressions set, they seemed in accord with their captain.

    Nestrala fell into a sullen silence as Zeischt rejoined the negotiations as Lar’ragos had demanded. The El Aurian immediately picked up on the growing tension between he and Nestrala, a chasm of anger and frustration brought about by current events. Lar’ragos filed that information away for future use, should he need to weaponize it later to suit his purposes.

    Lar’ragos had surrendered to the inevitability of returning to his tried and true methods. He could no longer play by Sandhurst’s rules while working alongside the walking shell of that man as a mercurial ally. What was being asked of him by Starfleet was so shocking to the conscience that only the Pava of old could accomplish the dark deed.

    Zeischt stood as the others took their places around the now blemished table. He called a hologram into existance, one that grew into an oblong assembly of millions of stars.

    “I will now clarify our mutual objective,” Zeischt announced, tossing the image higher into the air where it grew in size and began to slowly rotate above the assembly of Amon and Starfleet personnel.

    “The Skorrah presently inhabit the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that orbits our own Milky Way at a distance of around one-hundred and sixty-thousand light years. A decade ago, the Skorrah seized control of an incredibly ancient space station in the LMC that is located at the periphery of the Tarantula Nebula. This is a facility of tremendous power and influence known as Shul’Nazhar. The station has hundreds of names in as many languages, almost all of which translate to, ‘The Gateway.’

    “The oldest sections of the station are estimated to have been built some three million years ago. It has been fought over and controlled by dozens of different species over the eons, many of them adding on to the structure during their periods of ownership. As it exists now, the station is enormous, measuring over a hundred kilometers at its widest point, a tangled mixture of alien technologies.

    “What makes this installation so coveted by so many is that at some point one of the species in control of the station engineered something I believe to be a highly advanced wormhole generator. Using this device, whomever controls the station can open point-to-point instantaneous transit portals from place to place anywhere in the ‘local cluster’ of galaxies, to include our Milky Way, the LMC, the Small Magellanic Cloud, the Sagittarius, Sculptor, Fornax, Carina, Sextans and Boӧtes dwarf galaxies, as well as Andromeda.

    There were sharp intakes of breath from around the table and a few muttered curses.

    “It’s this capability that has allowed the Skorrah to attack worlds throughout the Alpha and Beta quadrants with impunity and without warning. To deny them this advantage, we will have to wrest control of the station from them, despite their entrenchment and numerical superiority.”

    “How would we even reach them to launch an attack?” Lar’ragos inquired. “Are there Borg transwarp conduits leading out to the LMC?”

    “Unfortunately, no,” Zeischt answered. “The entire Borg transwarp network was compromised during Voyager’s return to the Alpha Quadrant. As a result, the Amon are only able to use a very few of these conduits, and then only with great difficulty and significant danger. None of those available to us are capable of extra-galactic transit.”

    “The question remains,” observed Verrik, “how do we reach a galactic mass far beyond the means of our existing propulsion systems?”

    Lar’ragos directed a pointed look at Zeischt. “I don’t suppose you’d care to fix your transwarp drive that we inadvertently crippled?”

    The former Starfleet officer appeared thoughtful. “I can do that, yes.”

    Lar’ragos nodded approvingly. “That’s a good start.”

    "What can you offer us?" Nestrala asked pointedly. "It seems this partnership is notably one-sided."

    "Federation starships," Lar'ragos answered. "Our combined arsenal of Alpha Weapons for one." He gestured offhandedly towards the approximate location of Alanthal. "And perhaps the greatest gift of all for someone aiming to storm an inter-galactic fortress... Klingons."

    * * *​

    After an hour's worth of surprisingly productive negotiations, the Starfleet contingent was escorted back to the airlock leading to Europa. Lar’ragos fell into step beside Zeischt. “We need to talk,” Lar’ragos prompted. He threw a glance over his shoulder at where a steely-eyed Nestrala observed him warily. “Alone,” he added.

    “Pava…” Zeischt began hesitantly, “…the situation is delicate.”

    “I couldn’t be less concerned with your discomfort, Donald,” Lar’ragos said acidly. “You have things to answer for, matters that require resolution before I’m willing to trust in your and your intentions.”

    Zeischt led Lar’ragos away from the rest of the party to a smaller, less ornate conference room, though one that still met with the almost disturbingly gorgeous Amon aesthetic.

    “What is it that I can assist you with, Captain?”

    Lar’ragos stared at man for a long moment before finding his voice. “What’s become of you?”

    Zeischt spread his arms expansively. “I am that I am,” he replied without a hint of irony.

    Lar’ragos offered a humorless smirk in response. “That’s funny. I see what you did there. So, you’re a god now?”

    “Not a god, no. Whatever I am now, however, is greater than what I was.”

    “I disagree,” Lar’ragos countered. “This… thing that you’ve become diminishes the memory of Donald Sandhurst. He was a good man, a good captain. You’re a parasite that feeds off the lives of the victimized.”

    Zeischt cocked his head to one side as if scrutinizing Lar’ragos. “Brazen words for a man seeking my help as an ally.”

    “You manipulated me, used me as a pawn in your twisted game, knowing that I wouldn’t catch on to what you were up to until it was too late,” Lar’ragos recounted with what he felt to be admirable composure.

    “A calculated risk, Pava,” Zeischt murmured, appearing for the briefest instant to experience a twinge of regret before the expression was banished from his features. “T’Ser was too skeptical, too cautious. Your trust and faith in me were required if I were to achieve my goals.”

    Lar’ragos took a step closer, his face pinched with growing anger. “Your attack on the En-Il-Que wasn’t a tactical necessity to safeguard the Alpha Quadrant. It was a hunting expedition for you, just to sate your thirst for this life-essence, this perverse energy source!”

    Zeischt shook his head fractionally. “Not entirely. It had the benefit of accomplishing both goals simultaneously. I didn’t enjoy the necessary duplicity, Pava. However, the En-Il-Que were fairly warned. Woe unto them for ignoring those warnings.”

    “Why?” Lar’ragos snapped suddenly.

    “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen,” Zeischt explained patiently. “Donald Sandhurst was just one man among trillions, as helpless as anyone to save the Alpha Quadrant. As Zeischt, I have the awesome power of the Amon at my command. I can help orchestrate the defeat the Skorrah and repel the other invading species. I can actually make a difference!

    “So you believe its all for a noble goal, then?”

    “I believe that my energies are better spent in this capacity than in commanding one of dozens of starships, none of which will make any appreciable difference in the end.”

    “I didn’t want this!” Lar’ragos blurted suddenly, his eyes shining brightly with tears that he refused to shed. “I never asked for this, the burden of your command. You know how such a thing weighs on me after-- after the things I've done.”

    Zeischt inclined his head ever so slightly in silent acquiescence. “Just as I never asked to sacrifice all that I was to become whatever it is I am now.” Zeischt looked away momentarily. “You look at me as though I’m some kind of monster.”

    “Aren’t you?” Lar’ragos pressed. "This poisonous energy infects every cell of your body. I fail to see how it's any different than being assimilated by the Borg."

    Zeischt had no answer for him. After a pause he said, “You’ve had your say, Pava. Is there anything else?”

    “Only one,” Lar’ragos replied, holding aloft the isolinear chip Pell had brought aboard the Amon cube. “Messages from your family. What would you have me tell them?”

    Zeischt made no move to claim the chip. “Tell them Donald Sandhurst is dead.”

    * * *​
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Poignant last words and yet they remain hard to swallow or even accept, no matter how much Zeischt and the Amon would try to make us believe.

    At least we've got some sort of alliance going now even if it is based on anything but trust. Can an alliance without real trust stand a chance against an enemy this powerful? I don't know how things are going to go down here but I'm fairly certain it's going to be one hell of a show.
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 7)

    Chapter Seven

    USS Veðrfölnir
    In orbit of Ferenginar, Ferenginar system
    Alpha Quadrant

    Operations Lieutenant Addison Etherby sat listlessly in the captain’s chair of the Norway-class frigate Veðrfölnir, barely a quarter of the way through Gamma Watch. The ship had just been released from a refit three weeks earlier, after completing a six-month rotation patrolling the tense Romulan Neutral Zone.

    Though far less stressful, this milk run to transfer personnel and supplies to the Federation embassy on Ferenginar was hardly the kind of assignment a mid-grade officer could distinguish herself on. Regardless, Etherby was trying hard to apply herself as the duty officer in nominal command of the ship while the XO was asleep and the CO, Commander Gellek, was being wined and dined as a guest of the Federation ambassador to the Ferengi Alliance.

    She’d read and initialed the division reports for Beta Watch and the deuterium fuel consumption logs, updated the official ships log, and completed the Gamma Watch duty schedule for the next two weeks. All that had occupied her for the first thirty minutes of the shift. Now, tedium was the word of the day.

    Etherby was about to stand and walk another aimless circuit around the bridge when she heard a notification trill at the Operations station. The petty officer manning the console rose halfway out of his seat as he blurted, “Lieutenant, sensors detecting anomalous energy readings, range two-point-zero-three million kilometers.” Etherby noticed the slight tremor to his voice as he added, “It’s identical to known Amon transition portal emissions, sir.”

    The ensign at the Tactical board confirmed it. “Looks like we’re not the only ones who’ve noticed, sir. The Ferengi orbital defense grid just powered up.”

    “Red alert! Commander Friedleich to the bridge,” Etherby called out before ordering a tactical plot on the main viewer.

    By now all the governments of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants knew the signs of an impending Skorrah attack. Thus, when Ferengi sensors detected the appearance of a transition portal some two-million kilometers from Ferenginar, the reaction from the planet’s defense mainframe was near-instantaneous.

    It was a little known fact that among the homeworlds of the major Alpha Quadrant interstellar civilizations, Feringinar was one of the most heavily defended. Given the avarice of the Ferengi species and the degree to which they coveted their stockpiles of gold-pressed latinum, they had taken great pains and spared no expense in outfitting the planet with one of the quadrant’s most formidable defense perimeters.

    Hundreds of orbital defense stations coordinated with a cloud of thousands of heavily armed weapons satellites. These were complemented by squadrons of drone fighters and all manner of warships slaved to the planet’s primary defense mainframe As the Ferengi had no social prohibitions against utilizing artificial intelligence technology, the fearsome defense grid was controlled by an impressive Class-III AI known as the CompuLux-5000. This system possessed the comparable computational capacity of sixty Galaxy-class computer cores with the ability to coordinate the actions of the entire defense grid simultaneously.

    The Skorrah’s life-essence collection arrays had entered the system silently, undetectable to sensors as they were just slightly out of phase with the the time/space continuum of this universe. They’d been deposited a light year outside the Ferenginar system, and had encroached over a period of weeks. They remained as invisible to Veðrfölnir as they had to the Ferengi.

    A blistering wave of phaser pulses, disruptor bolts, gravitic-warhead missiles and photon/quantum torpedoes was already on the way when the battered hulk of the Whalesong Probe emerged from the portal.

    The dark behemoth’s neutronium shell had been compromised during the Skorrah attack in Cardassian space weeks earlier, and the barnacle-like clusters of habitats, factories, and hangers were now dark and empty. Gone was the cacophonous dirge, the broad-spectrum carrier wave that disrupted starship and planetary power systems alike.

    The Ferengi defense grid’s opening salvo savaged the exterior of the probe, though the damage done was largely cosmetic. The probe had been accelerated to full impulse speed before translating through the aperture, and the time between detection and impact was a scant twenty-six-point-six seconds.

    “Lieutenant, it appears to be the same probe that’s attacked Klingon and Cardassian systems in the past few months. It measures over five kilometers long, and one-point-five kilometers in diameter.”

    “They’ve opened fire on the probe,” Ops noted, murmuring, “dear god that’s a lot of firepower.”

    “Estimate twenty-three seconds until the probe impacts the surface of Ferenginar,” was the science specialist’s assessment. She gave Etherby a brief but pointed look. “Owing to the hyper-dense neutronium mass of the probe and its speed, the planet will almost certainly be destroyed.”

    Etherby toggled the comms to the transporter room. “Chief Salek, I need an emergency beam-out of all Federation personnel in the embassy. Use all transporter assets to accomplish this. You have twenty seconds!”

    The Ferengi AI assessed the mass and velocity of the inbound probe and correctly predicted a catastrophic impact. With less than a second’s deliberation, the AI initiated a planetary emergency evacuation.

    “Switch to visual,” Etherby ordered.

    The main viewscreen was awash in strobing lights and flashes as the withering firepower of the Ferengi defense grid was unleashed time and again on the inbound probe. So intense were the overlapping explosions surrounding the probe that even at maximum magnification, the dark cylinder itself was obscured by the riot of destructive energy enveloping it.

    Etherby called out, “Science, how much time will we need to get to minimum safe distance when the probe hits?”

    Catastrophic simulations of a planet being blasted apart played out on the Science station’s displays as the young specialist replied, “There’ll be massive gravimetric shock and debris accelerated to at least half-impulse, Lieutenant. We’d either need to break orbit now, or… our best bet might be a limited warp jump.”

    “The hell you say?” Etherby snapped, her head fairly spinning with the untold dangers presented by that course of action.

    “Salek to bridge,” the transporter chief reported, “We’ve recovered fifty-one personnel from the surface, but Ferenginar has just activated broad-spectrum transporter inhibitor fields over all major population centers. I’m unable to penetrate the interference in order to beam up the other three-hundred and twelve people.”

    “Is the captain among the ones we’ve rescued?” Etherby asked desperately.

    “No, sir.”

    “Fifteen seconds,” Ops apprised.

    “Keep trying, Chief. We’ll try and neutralize the interference at our end.” Etherby stood and walked on rubbery legs to the Ops station. “Why would they do this?”

    “Profit,” was the petty officer’s grim reply. “It appears the planetary defense grid has been programmed to give priority evacuation access to the highest bidders, sir. They’re all bidding on a life-or-death evacuation auction.”

    Etherby’s mouth dropped open before she exclaimed. “But that’s just sick!” She blinked, then forced herself back on task. “Can we burn through the interference long enough to get our people out?”

    “Not enough time, sir.”

    Lieutenant Commander Friedleich stepped onto the bridge as Etherby posited, “Fine, we’ll play by their rules, damn them. Tell their AI the Federation will pay out of our latinum reserves for priority transporter access.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Ten seconds,” Tactical updated the others on the bridge.

    “Report,” Friedleich ordered, equal parts startled and mesmerized by the maelstrom of weapons fire displayed on the viewscreen as he exited the turbolift.

    “Tactical, bring him up to speed,” Etherby instructed, unwilling to spare the precious seconds necessary to update the XO.

    “No go, Lieutenant,” Ops said. “The AI says any amount we bid has to be backed by a major Federation financial institution, such as the Bank of Bolias.”

    “Five seconds!”

    “Shit!” Etherby exclaimed. “Tactical, can we knock out the transporter scrambler closest to the embassy?”

    “Negative, too well shielded. Not enough time.”

    “We have to go now, Lieutenant!” barked the science specialist.

    “Helm, come ninety degrees from the stellar elliptic. Warp One, engage!”

    Friedleich reached out to grab the safety railing as Etherby retreated to the captain’s chair. “Wait…”

    The engines came to life and everything went very abruptly black.

    * * *​

    Seconds… or minutes… or perhaps years later (Etherby couldn’t really tell) consciousness reasserted itself in the young officer’s mind. She found herself face down on the deck, her nose almost certainly broken.

    Etherby rolled onto her back, staring upwards at a tangle of optical cabling and shattered duct-work that dangled troublingly from the bridge’s ceiling. “R-report,” she stammered as she pulled herself painfully to her feet with the help of the nearby Flight Control console.

    Around her, others were stirring as well, but nobody seemed cogent enough to respond to her query. Seeing the unmanned Operations board, Etherby slid into the seat, calling up a damage control report.

    Veðrfölnir had suffered serious structural damage, especially her warp nacelles, one of which was completely missing. Engineering had been forced to eject the warp core due to the severe imbalance caused by going to warp within the overlapping gravity wells of both a star and a planet. Most primary systems were offline, but backups were running gamely, and it seemed the ship would live to fight, or flee, another day.

    As a medical team arrived on the bridge and set about treating or rousing the others, Etherby organized and dispatched damage control teams throughout the ship. She was so engaged in the effort to stem the damage to ship and crew that it took her a moment to notice the XO’s hand on her shoulder.

    “Addison, stand down a moment. You’ve done well.” He sat down next to her at the empty Flight Control station, turning in the chair to face her. Friedleich sported a nasty gash across his chin and his left eye was noticeably swelling. “That jump of yours put us just outside the Ferengi home system, and we’re safe for the time being.”

    Etherby felt the adrenaline coursing through her veins begin to abate, making her lightheaded. She looked to Friedleich and inquired, “The captain?”

    He shook his head sadly. “No, but Ambassador Tulloch and her family were among those we managed to rescue.”


    “Gone,” Friedleich replied heavily. “It’s an asteroid field now.”

    A single tear escaped the young lieutenant’s eye, cutting a clean swath through the dried blood on her cheek. “Your orders… Captain?”

    * * *​

    Long range sensor scans would later confirm that the overwhelming mass of the probe, accelerated to one-quarter the speed of light, had torn through Ferenginar’s atmosphere in less than a second and slammed into the crust of the planet at a nearly perfect ninety-degree angle. The explosion at the collision site measured some 1.18 x 10 to the 17th power megatons.

    Ferenginar was obliterated in the blink of an eye, subjected to kinetic and gravimetric forces so awesome as to defy belief. The force of the impact pulverized the planet, sending asteroidal fragments hurtling outward into the star system, and setting the stage for the creation of an asteroid belt over the next few millions of years.

    Grand Nagus Rom, his family, and the highest echelons of the Ferengi government were swept away by emergency transport some eighteen seconds before impact. All told, some thirty-five thousand individuals were rescued just moments prior to the catastrophic collision. That left seven-point-eight two billion Ferengi and eight-point-nine million alien visitors as helpless victims of the horror to come.

    The political and financial repercussions of the destruction of Ferenginar would be significant, as Ferengi financial markets and investments created a web of influence throughout the Alpha and Beta quadrants. It was yet another shock to a quadrant still trying to find it’s footing in the wake of such a destructive war.

    * * *​
  8. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Holy sh#t!!!!!
  9. Rat Boy

    Rat Boy Vice Admiral Admiral

  10. Count Zero

    Count Zero Says who? Moderator

    Mar 19, 2005
    European Union
  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2009
    Vancouver, WA
    Dude... you're getting seriously audited! :eek:
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Well, if you were going for pure shock value, misson accomplished. Now, let's kindly end that program and give us back that lovely, rain-cursed, swamp of a planet.

    Kudos though to Etherby and the crew of the Veðrfölnir. Given the circumstances and facing a no-win scenario they performed admiringly, even if they couldn't rescue their captain.

    Also liked the Ferengi reaction to this apocalyptic scenario. Macabre as it was, it made a certain amount of sense.

    The reprocussions of the destruction of Ferenginar will likely be felt for decades to come.
  13. theonering

    theonering Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Oct 1, 2010
    Wow, just when I thought it was safe to think that it couldn't get any worse, you go and post this entry. As always it was extremely well written and more than conveys the desperation of the moment.

    I'm curious as to the name of the ship... How do you pronounce it and what is the story behind it?
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The name is from Norse mythology, and I actually have no idea how it would be pronounced. ;)

  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 7)

    Chapter Seven

    USS Europa
    Deck 2 - Executive Officer’s Office

    The door to Iris Wu’s office chimed. Without looking up from her sundry datawork, she intoned, “Enter.”

    Georgia Kirk stepped across the threshold, data padd in hand, bearing a curious expression as she came to attention in front of the XO’s desk.

    Wu glanced up from her task. “At ease. What can I do for you, Lieutenant?”

    Kirk relaxed slightly. “Sir, I’ve stumbled across something that’s got me concerned. I’m—I’m unsure whether it’s genuine, or a cataloguing error, or somebody’s idea of a sick joke.”

    Her curiosity piqued, Wu sat back in her chair. “Explain.”

    “The automated system we use to track all Alpha Weapons usage… well, while I was double-checking the reports, I found that we registered not one, but two Alpha-Weapon deployments against the Amon. The… uh, 'Oddfellow?'"

    The XO gave no indication or outward sign of confusion or distress at the news. She held her typical stoic expression and informed Kirk, "That’s probably because Oddfellow was something of a dual entity.”

    Kirk bobbed her head. “That was my first thought as well. However, the second Alpha Weapon has its own designation in the system report.” The Ops Manager set the padd down in front of Wu, so that it’s text was legible: “Weapon Alpha-Three.”

    Wu barely glanced down at the remainder of the entry to verify the evidence before she lifted her dark brown eyes back to Kirk. She said nothing and the silence grew awkward within her office.

    “This has to be a joke,” Kirk insisted.

    “No,” Wu breathed. “I believe this is someone’s rational, dispassionate tactical assessment.” Wu continued to fix her glare upon Kirk. “Truth be told, I’d be hard pressed to argue their point. Can you?”

    After a moment’s hesitation, Kirk allowed. “No, sir. I can’t.”

    “Until I've had a chance to investigate this further, it doesn’t go beyond the two of us, Lieutenant. Are we clear?”

    Kirk nodded wordlessly.

    “Dismissed,” Wu ordered curtly. She returned her attention to the small display on the padd for nearly thirty seconds after Kirk had left the cabin. Finally, Wu picked up the device, gave it one last look, and deleted the entry.

    It read, “Weapon Alpha-Three: Lar’ragos, Pava, No Middle Initial. Category: Biological, WMD.”

    * * *​

    Wu stood patiently at the airlock as Lar’ragos and the diplomatic team returned to Europa from their intensive negotiations with the Amon.

    The exhaustion was clearly evident in their expressions, with the notable exception of Dr. Reskos, who bore the bland mien he’d adopted as his default countenance. They’d been away from the ship for twenty-seven hours, precious little of which had been given over to sleep.

    Pell seemed the most out of sorts, Wu observed. Given her personal history with Sandhurst, that was to be expected, Wu thought sadly.

    Wu gave Lar’ragos an expectant look. “So, Mister Oddfellow worked out for us, then?”

    Lar’ragos responded with a tired smile. “Perfect timing, Commander. My thanks.”

    She fell into step with the captain as he trudged down the corridor towards the turbolift.

    “Any idea what he… or they were, sir? Interacting with Oddfellow was damned surreal.”

    “In fact I have no idea,” Lar’ragos responded. “I think it’s something we’ll have to chalk up to Starfleet having encountered a lot of weird shit in the past two centuries.”

    Wu actually chuckled at that. “Copy that. Where are we with the Amon, sir, if you don’t mind my asking?”

    “Better than we have any right to hope,” Lar’ragos answered. “They’re onboard with our plan to stop the Skorrah.”

    “Skorrah, sir?”

    “Oh, sorry,” he shook his head as if to clear the cobwebs of sleep debt. “A new designation for the predatory Amon tribe.” Lar’ragos shot Wu a rueful glance as he continued. “However, things regarding our mutual enemy are a lot more complicated and dangerous than we’d guessed.”

    They reached the turbolift and awaited the arrival of a car.

    “How so, sir?” she asked.

    “It turns out that in order to confront the Skorrah, we’re going to have to take a little extra-galactic jaunt to the tune of around two-hundred thousand light years.”

    The turbocar arrived and Lar’ragos stepped through parting doors. He turned to find Wu still standing where she’d been, her faced pinched in an unaccustomed expression of shock. “I thought twenty-thousand light years from home was sufficient,” she uttered softly.

    “Going up,” Lar’ragos announced sardonically. “Next floor, phasers, razors, Tellarite lingerie, and Vulcan sundries.”

    Now Wu looked downright baffled.

    “Old-timey elevator humor, Commander…” he sighed. “Never mind. Please arrange quarters for former Captain Sandhurst and Lieutenant Verrik. Zeischt will be coming aboard to assist us with our transwarp engine modifications. I’ll want Verrik reactivated, so note his official status changed from AWOL to Repatriated Prisoner of War.”

    Wu made mental notes on both. “Aye, sir. I’d advise we establish Level-One computer safety lockouts on Zeischt’s cabin, sir.”

    Lar’ragos’ resulting smirk was muted. “Of course, for all the good that’ll do. He was able to program rings around us before while covering his tracks almost perfectly.”

    “I can have engineering sever the ODN trunks leading to his quarters and establish a Level-Three containment field that would prevent wireless data transfer?”

    A brief nod and a genuine smile emerged from her commanding officer. “Good thinking, make it happen.”

    “And Lieutenant Verrik, sir? In what capacity should I assign him? I’d think Mister Leone would be rather put out to be seconded to Verrik after holding the department head post.”

    “No, Leone stays in place, he’s more than earned it. List Verrik as a tactical adviser for the time being, until we can find a more permanent assignment for him. His knowledge of the Amon should prove especially valuable.” He glanced at his wrist chronometer. “I’ve got to go clean up. Meet me on the bridge in twenty minutes. We’re going to undock from the cube, and I need to get close enough to Galaxy Station to confer with Admiral T’Cirya in real-time.”

    * * *​

    Lar’ragos stepped into his quarters and promptly sank to his knees, a soft groan escaping his lips as the wave of agony he’d been holding at bay for hours was finally released. He unzipped his uniform jumpsuit, and collapsed onto the deck on his back as he struggled out of the top and the command red shirt underneath.

    His breath came in great gasps as another searing wave of torment caused him to writhe across the carpet, his hands clawing at the air as he sought some kind of purchase to propel him away from the mind-rending torture.

    After a moment that seemed an eternity, it had abated sufficiently that Lar’ragos was able to roll over and rise shakily to his hands and knees. He crawled with careful deliberation into the sleeping cabin of his quarters, reaching up with a tremulous hand to clumsily retrieve a hypospray from a drawer of his bedside nightstand.

    Another paroxysm seized him, and Lar’ragos collapsed onto his back again. He cried out wordlessly as his chest and abdomen began to glow a dull red, as though he was being lit from within. The hypospray had fallen from his convulsing hand and lay there, just out of reach as Lar’ragos managed to gasp, “No -- Not yet!”

    It took every iota of strength he had remaining to hold the terrible mechanism in check, and as he felt that last portion of control slipping, the pain eased just enough for him to grab up the hypospray and touch it to his neck. He felt himself begin to cool, the blistering agony that had suffused his entire being was easing, becoming once again a more tolerable level of persistent discomfort.

    Once he had composed himself enough to speak coherently, Lar’ragos activated the comms to the bridge. “Commander Wu, I may have… underestimated my level of exhaustion. Please oversee our departure from the Amon ship, and set course for Galaxy Station, best speed.”

    After Wu had acknowledged the order, Lar’ragos rolled onto his side and curled into a fetal position, working on regulating his breathing as his Vulcan kolinahr teachers had instructed him. He reflected that it had been a very near thing, far too close to completely upsetting what was likely their final contingency.

    * * *​

    USS Europa
    Deck 7 - The Monico

    The stars streaking past the forward-facing viewports of the ship’s lounge held no interest for Dominic Leone, who’d become inured to such sights growing up aboard starships and Starfleet outposts.

    Leone stared instead at his glass of synthale held in both hands atop the table. He’d managed to get seven hours uninterrupted sleep after returning from the Amon ship, and was now spending his first free time since Europa had arrived in the Alanthal system.

    He had come down from the incredible adrenaline high of the confrontation aboard the Amon ship, and was now feeling drained and lethargic, despite having slept like the dead. It was, Leone thought, not unlike the post-exam let-down after finals at the academy. His arm was mended, though it still ached, and Leone had steadfastly refused to take any of Dr. Reskos’ prescribed painkillers for the discomfort. The pain, he told himself, was a reminder of how dangerous a situation he’d got himself into.

    An unused padd sat idly atop the table, discarded by Leone after several fitful starts on a letter to Teelis Tei. He wanted to write her to explain to his best friend all that had transpired since reporting aboard Europa. Leone had fought tooth and nail to earn a spot on the task force, even going toe-to-toe with his own fearsome grandmother, a high-ranking Starfleet admiral who’d wanted him to remain on Earth.

    “Is this the legacy table?” Georgia Kirk’s voice startled Dom from his reverie with a sharp intake of breath.

    “The what?” He blinked, then pushed back slightly in his chair gesturing to the seat across from him. “Oh, yes… please, by all means.”

    Kirk settled into the offered chair. “Sure I’m not intruding?”

    The corner of Leone’s mouth quirked in a hint of a smile. “It’s just me and my thoughts tonight, and an interruption right now would be welcome.”

    Kirk took a sip of something that swirled electric blue in her glass. “Sounds like things got pretty intense aboard the Amon ship.”

    Leone’s laugh was sharp, suggesting her assessment was a gross understatement. “I’m still not entirely sure what happened over there. I do know that we’re all lucky to be alive.” He raised his now lukewarm drink to his lips, taking a mouthful of the vaguely peaty synthale. “What did you call this… the ‘legacy’ table?”

    She nodded, grinning. “Well, sure. A Leone and a Kirk? All we’d need is a Paris, Aspinall or Stiles to round out the set.”

    Leone chuckled in reply. “Amen to that, Lieutenant.”

    “Call me Georgia,” she offered. “Unless you’re one of those annoying-as-hell sticklers for protocol and tradition?”

    “No, no,” he demured, raising his glass in a mock salute to his guest. “Please, call me Dominic, or Dom.”

    “You must have had a similar academy experience to mine,” Kirk noted. “I swear that having a famous name is curse there. I actually considered changing my name prior to starting my plebe year.”

    “Right?” Leone agreed wholeheartedly. “At least you didn’t have your mother and grandmother breathing down your neck the entire time, checking in with your instructors, even the damn academy commandant.”

    “Fair enough,” Kirk countered. “But how many buildings on campus carry your family name? I had a dormitory, a lecture hall, and the whole damned Tactical Studies wing!”

    Leone took another draught in response before he offered a slight grin. "None, actually. I may be a legacy, but the Leone name isn't anywhere close to elevated as Kirk. I don't honestly think it ever will be." Off of her look, he raised a hand, "Don't get me wrong, I like it that way."

    She nodded agreeably. “Suffice to say we both bore heavy burdens during our academy years.”

    Dom continued to smirk and then inexplicably began laughing aloud, setting down his glass to wipe at his eyes.

    “What?” Kirk inquired, clearly at a loss.

    Leone tapped his combadge. “Leone to Lieutenant Shanthi.”

    After a moment’s pause, Shanthi’s voice responded. “Shanthi here, go ahead.”

    Kirk’s eyes widened, and she covered her mouth to stifle her own fit of laughter.

    “If you’re not too busy, Lieutenant, why don’t you join Kirk and I at the Legacy Table in The Monico. We’re exchanging tales of woe about our respective academy experiences.”

    There was a discernible chuckle over the comm-link, followed by, “Sounds like something I’d know a bit about. I’ll be right there.”

    Kirk took another drink after managing to catch her breath. “I can’t believe we forgot about the guy…”

    “...whose mother is a Fleet Admiral,” Leone finished for her, prompting another round of mirth from the both of them.

    * * *​

    From: Lieutenant Dominic Leone, USS Europa, Delta Quadrant

    To: Lieutenant Teelis Tei, Utopia Planitia Yards, Sol System, Alpha Quadrant

    I put those replicator patterns you gave me to very good use here in the Delta Quadrant. They might have had the opposite effect, though, because every time I get homesick and I want to have a little taste of San Francisco, the meal seems to remind me of how far away I am from you and everyone else. I hope that you're taking advantage of being so close to the source because sometimes it takes a situation like this to make you appreciate all the little things you took for granted.

    And in that, I mean that I wasn't fully prepared to not have you around for a real time conversation via subspace. It's difficult, sometimes, to really go through the day without having that contact. I've tried my best to get back with my shipmates, but they're a poor substitute. I'm sure by now, your family's probably already moved in to their new home on Beta Zeta VI. When I left, they'd just completed the negotiations, so I'm left to wonder what the Tei family home looks like now.

    As for me, things in the Delta Quadrant have been very busy. Thankfully so, because if they weren't, I'd be left with my own thoughts all the time. I've been reassigned to a new ship as the chief tactical officer and being thrust into the senior staff has had one of the steepest learning curves of my career. Definitely the most action I've ever seen in my life, and I'm including the three years aboard Farragut. I'd be more specific, but I'm not sure how much I can get away with on a personal message... even though you have the proper clearances, I'm going to err on the side of caution. Suffice to say that there's never a dull moment on this ship and with this crew. The missions we go on will make for some very interesting reading, I promise you.

    Sincerely, Dominic.

    * * *​

    The holographic environment in Europa’s holodeck was a perfect representation of Vice-Admiral T’Cirya’s office aboard Galaxy Station, and Lar’ragos’ image stood at attention in front of her desk.

    “Commander Lar’ragos reporting in, sir. I’ve concluded preliminary negotiations with the Amon. The information garnered from this contact was in the brief I submitted to you via subspace yesterday, Admiral.”

    She inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement of his presence. "Please stand easy, Captain. Firstly, what is your current status?"

    Lar’ragos assumed a parade-rest stance. “Europa is fully operational, and crew status is optimal sir. Former Captain Sandhurst is presently aboard, advising my chief engineer on how to reinstate our transwarp capabilities, and Lieutenant Verrik has been repatriated from the Amon.”

    "It appears that you exceeded expectations, Captain. I am gratified that this mission did not result in the worst case scenario presented by Admiral Brotman," she tilted her head toward the mentioned admiral, seated in the corner of her office. "It is my hope that he comes to count on your success, as I do."

    Lar’ragos glanced towards the other flag officer present before replying. “With respect to Admiral Brotman, it was a very near thing, sir. The Amon are at a delicate, very critical juncture in their species’ evolution. If we hadn’t deployed the rather… unorthodox Alpha Weapon you’d provided us, I likely wouldn’t be here speaking with you now.”

    Brotman cleared his throat and turned his head away from the both of them, finding the bulkhead more interesting. T'Cirya's eyes shifted over toward Brotman before returning to Pava. "The admiral also felt that was a mistake, but you vindicated that decision very well. What is your current course?"

    “I’ve brought Europa within real-time comms range to report in, but I’d rather not leave the Amon cube alone with Brigadier Gan’Louk and his expeditionary force any longer than necessary, sir.”

    "Understood," T'Cirya replied. "Admiral Brotman has some questions for you regarding Commodore Sandhurst." She turned her attention toward the rear admiral, "Admiral?"

    Brotman rose and gave Pava a clear inspection of his uniform and stance. "Yes, sir. Captain Lar'ragos, your brief mentioned that the… uh, Commodore is maintaining his status with the Amon, is that still the case?"

    Lar’ragos’ expression grew taut. “I regret to report that Sandhurst has gone completely ‘native’, sirs. He appears inseparable from the Amon, and has even taken a wife, their BattleLeader Nestrala. If Dr. Reskos’ findings are accurate, separating Sandhurst from the life-essence energy that the Amon ingest would kill him.” He let out a short breath, seeming to hold his emotions in check before adding, “In my opinion, he’s been completely compromised.”

    Rear Admiral Brotman shot a concerned glare at T'Cirya. "Sir, this is completely unacceptable. Sandhurst should be transferred to Galaxy Station and put under armed guard. Lar'ragos should alter course to arrive here immediately." He dropped the use of rank completely, showing his disdain outwardly now.

    "I fail to see the logic in that request, Admiral," she replied evenly. "Were I to put that order to Captain Lar'ragos, he would most certainly disobey it. And I would agree with his reasoning."

    Lar’ragos looked between the two senior officers, confusion and consternation evident on his features.

    T'Cirya continued, "As Captain Lar'ragos has stated, Commodore Sandhurst is fully integrated into Amon society at a level that would require a response should we move to incarcerate him here. I see no outcome in direct confrontation with the Amon by provoking them with such a drastic measure. Given that he is willingly cooperating with Europa at the present time, I believe that it would be prudent to allow the captain to operate at his own discretion."

    Brotman nearly sputtered. "Sandhurst is a danger to Europa, sir!"

    "We require his assistance, Admiral," T'Cirya's tone chilled the room considerably. "I trust Captain Lar'ragos to ensure that his first duty is upheld."

    Brotman frowned, but acquiesced with a muttered acknowledgement. He returned to his seat and seemingly lost interest in the rest of the conversation.

    "Captain," she said, "what are your next steps?"

    Lar’ragos paused a moment to consider his next words. “Sir, even with our highly unreliable transwarp drive functioning perfectly, it would be a twenty-six year round trip to the Large Magellanic Cloud at the cost of several times our storage capacity of fuel and replicatable matter stores. Sandhurst… or Zeischt as he prefers to be called, believes we may be able to goad the Skorrah into opening a transit portal at a place and time of our choosing that a battle group could then use to enter the LMC and engage their forces.”

    T'Cirya tapped her desktop terminal to activate the display. "Have you determined the size of the force you require for such an engagement?"

    “The larger the better, sir. The Skorrah have an installation of enormous size and power, plus a number of other warships besides that monstrous probe of theirs they used to destroy Ferenginar. The Klingon Expeditionary Force numbers some thirty ships, but we’d also need whatever Starfleet can scrape together from the closest Vanguard assets.”

    "I may not be able to allocate appropriate resources and assets at your disposal, Captain," T'Cirya admitted as her fingers touched the control panel before her. "Starfleet transferred a mere twenty vessels with the second wave, and we have already distributed them as reinforcements to the intercept groups that formed under Admiral Jellico's command of the task force." She offered, "I can provide no more than a dozen starships."

    Lar’ragos nodded soberly. “Then that will have to do, sir. Also… it needs to be said that this may well be a one-way trip. If we can avoid Voyager’s fate at the array that stranded them in the Delta Quadrant, we will, but I have no idea if we’d be able to decipher the technology aboard Shul’Nazhar in order to make a return trip possible. And that’s if we’re not forced to simply destroy the installation outright.”

    T'Cirya lifted her eyes and stared into Pava's deeply. "The first duty, Captain. You know what is at stake, here." She waited patiently for his acknowledgement.

    “Understood, sir. We’ll make it happen,” Lar’ragos offered without hesitation.

    "Furthermore, you're authorized to ensure your victory under any means necessary," she said pointedly. "I'll leave the details of such up to you. In order for you to maintain command of this new task group, I'm noting in my log that you're to receive a battlefield promotion to the rank of Captain. For the duration."

    Brotman's head turned on a swivel. He nearly jumped out of his seat, his jaw dropped wide open. "Sir! I must protest-"

    T'Cirya's raised hand silenced him. "Admiral Brotman, one more word from you and I'll assign you as his subordinate. I will not tolerate any further interruptions. Do you understand?"

    His response indicated he had no interest in going anywhere with Pava, and Brotman closed his open mouth and nodded. "Aye, sir," he said, then began to clench his teeth visibly.

    "Captain Lar'ragos, do you require anything further from me?" asked T'Cirya, as though Brotman had said nothing.

    Lar’ragos appeared almost startled when T’Cirya addressed him again, so surprised was he at the awesome responsibility that had just been thrust upon him. He’d genuinely believed another more senior commanding officer would lead the attack against the Skorrah.

    “No… no, thank you, Admiral. I’ll hash out the logistical details with the appropriate personnel and have a preliminary action plan to you by fifteen-hundred hours tomorrow.”

    T'Cirya rose from her desk and approached him. "I empathize with the burden I'm asking you to take on, Captain, but I feel… I believe that you will see the mission to its success, at all costs. Should you find yourself without the cooperation you need, please do not hesitate to use my name."

    “Thank you, Admiral.” A small, troubling smile graced Lar’ragos’ lips for the briefest moment. “I shall return with my shield, or upon it.”

    She drew her hand up into the Vulcan gesture. "I prefer with your shield, Captain. Live long, and prosper. T'Cirya, out."

    The office surrounding Lar’ragos vanished to reveal the naked grid of a holodeck. He reached up to brush the three rank pips adorning his collar, fingering the spot that would soon hold a fourth. He uttered a long string of profanity in his native language, followed by a heavy sigh.

    “I hate you so much right now, Donald,” he whispered as he walked towards the exit.

    * * *​
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2015
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Uh, say what now? I mean I knew that Pava is one scary, dangerous dude but a biological WMD? What the hell? Is he carrying some sort of virus and if so has he just affected the entire Amon tribe? Very interesting.

    The man has been through a lot and has finally reached a point of near total exhaustion. Well, not too exhausted it turns out to receive another battle field promotion which comes with even more responsibilities hefted onto his shoulders. I wonder how much more he can take on before he breaks down completely.
  18. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

    Jan 17, 2008
    Silicon Valley, CA, USA
    Heh, well.. I think that what's more interesting here is we're seeing more of Pava's character developing in a very interesting direction under the current circumstances.

    It was definitely an excellent chapter to help put together. :)

    -- ZC
  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 8)

    Chapter Eight

    Kyana Prime
    Krenim Imperium Space
    Delta Quadrant

    The Krenim homeworld was had been at war for two decades against the barbarous and expansionist Rilnar Horde, and as a result the Krenim Imperium had built up formidable defenses around their central planet.

    The world of Kyana Prime, however, was a far-flung colony of the now waning imperium. Though prosperous and well populated, its defenses were nowhere near as potent. That had made Liana Ramirez’s task all the easier.

    A burning Krenim defense cutter succumbed to its catastrophic wounds, imploding silently in the cold vacuum as the starship Masada thrust away at three-quarters impulse. The colony’s orbital defense grid over the Olerta continent had been decimated by the Defiant-class ship, which now escaped under the guise of her cloaking device, a technology as yet unknown to the Krenim.

    “Secure from battle-stations,” Ramirez ordered, rising from the captain’s chair. “Set a return course to the Borg transwarp conduit and engage.” She shot a meaningful look to her android first officer. “Parlan, keep me apprised of any developments. I’ll see to our guests’ accommodations.”

    Moments later, Ramirez entered the converted cargo bay, stepping through the Stygian blackness to where a shaft of bright white light held a middle-aged man floating in mid-air.

    He was baseline humanoid, light-complected with a receding hairline. His skin was mottled with darker spots along his temples and scalp, giving him a similar appearance to either a Trill or Kriosian. However, two circular blister-like sensory organs, one on each temple, gave the members of the Krenim species a more concrete awareness of their place in the time/space continuum than most humanoids would ever experience.

    It was this ‘sixth-sense’ that had gifted the Krenim a particularly rare relationship with space-time, an intrinsic understanding of those phenomena that in some ways defied scientific explanation. It was a sensitivity shared by only one other race they knew of, the now scattered remnants of the El-Aurian civilization.

    “Who are you?” the man croaked, blinking futilely against the harsh glare of the shaft of light that encased him like a fly in amber.

    “Think of me as an admirer,” Ramirez replied coyly. “An old friend of mine shared your keen interest in temporal mechanics. He believed you might be of use to me.”

    “I… I don’t understand,” the man fumbled, still trying to come to terms with having been beamed out of his own home without warning.

    “I’ve come an incredible distance to find you, Doctor, so that you could help me build a weapon,” Ramirez purred, her voice tinged with a predatory elation. “You remember, the one you’d designed to thwart the Rilnar.”

    Annorax struggled feebly against the iron grip of the suspensor field. “It-- that monstrosity was never built! It would have been a nightmare, a doomsday weapon. I couldn’t be responsible for that, no matter how savage the Rilnar’s crimes.”

    “We’ll be hunting much more dangerous quarry than the Rilnar, Doctor.”

    “Never!” he shouted valiantly. “I refuse! I’ll tell you the same thing I told our military… I’d rather die than help you build such a horror!”

    Ramirez bobbed her head thoughtfully before looking back up at where Annorax floated, immobilized. “I’d rather figured that might be your answer.”

    She touched a finger to her wrist-mounted interface, calling two additional shafts of light into being. Suspended in one beam was Annorax’s beloved wife, and in the other, their young daughter.

    “Will you prove so cavalier with their lives, I wonder?” she posited grimly.

    Annorax stared, mouth agape, quite unprepared for this turn of events. Tears began to stream from his eyes as he realized for the first time just how far he might go to protect those he loved most… and given his expertise, at what price.

    “Whatever your darkest, most tormented nightmares, Doctor Annorax, I am capable of that, and so much more,” Ramirez said softly. It was a promise writ in blood and anguish, and he knew in his bones she spoke the truth.

    * * *​

    Holodeck - USS Europa

    Lar’ragos looked around at the thirteen other commanding officers of the respective ships that had been assigned to what was now named OPPLAN DISTANT SHORE. It was, he thought, the most desperate gambit Starfleet had authorized since the darkest days of the Dominion War.

    The expressions on display around the shared holographic briefing room ran the gamut from skeptical, to sanguine, to openly hostile. Lar’ragos had his work cut out for him here, and he knew it.

    “In conjunction with our battle group, we’ll have the support of Brigadier Gan’Louk’s expeditionary force. This will bring our operational strength to some forty-four ships, supporting the Amon cube.”

    “Before we jump into tactical planning and logistics, I’d like to beg your indulgence for a moment.” Lar’ragos stood to address the assembled officers. “I didn’t ask for command of this task force, and I understand that there are any number of you here today who are far more qualified than I to do so. Regardless, Admiral T’Cirya has placed me in charge, and as I realize the responsibility that this places on me, I want to assure you that Europa will be the first ship into battle, and it will be the last to leave the field. Should it become necessary for a ship to remain behind in order to see the others safely back to our galaxy, it will be my ship and my crew that undertake that task.

    “That being said, I choose to believe I’m leading this battle group because I have a reputation for getting the job done. To be blunt, that’s all that matters here. Protocol, policy, and our own individual egos are irrelevant to the task at hand. We are not going to the LMC to negotiate an armistice, nor will we be making any diplomatic overtures to the Skorrah. This species killed seven-hundred thousand Klingons on Kitumbra II, over two-million Federation citizens on Blue Horizon, and laid waste the Ferengi homeworld at a cost of nearly eight-billion souls.”

    Lucian Ebnal, the legendarily acerbic captain of Venture, expounded, “There are those among us who believe that the admiral placed you in command because this is a one-way suicide mission.” Ebnal scrutinized Lar’ragos closely, awaiting his reaction to the inflammatory accusation.

    For his part, Lar’ragos merely bobbed his head in assent. “That could well be true,” he confessed. “The Skorrah are enormously powerful, as their attacks throughout the Alpha and Beta Quadrants have proved. I can’t promise that even if we make it through a transit portal into the LMC that we won’t be immediately annihilated the instant we arrive.”

    Ebnal snorted. “Aren’t you just a basket of summer flowers?”

    Lar’ragos fixed the more senior commander with an incredulous look. “If you’d rather I blow sunshine up your ass, Captain, that can be arranged. Myself, I’d like to go into something like this with my eyes open.”

    That comment received a smattering of laughter from around the table, and even garnered an amused head-nod of acknowledgement from Ebnal.

    Captain Lockett of the starship Samarkand raised two fingers up until Lar’ragos gestured towards him. “What, if anything, do we know about the LMC? I mean… with the exception of Endurance in Andromeda and a brief extra-galactic jaunt by the Enterprise-D courtesy of the Q Continuum, no Starfleet vessel has been outside the Milky Way. Do we even know if our physics apply there?”

    Commander S’Rael of the Amel-Saff thanked her Vulcan discipline for allowing her to avoid the look of abject disbelief that was Lockett’s due. “The physics we experience in our galaxy apply equally to the LMC, or anywhere else in the known universe for that matter, Captain. Where physics as we understand them break down is when we’re conceptualizing other realities, such as contiguous subspace domains or alternate dimensions.”

    Lockett blushed fiercely, having realized his gaff. He tried to shrug nonchalantly with middling success. “Hey, so long as our phasers and torpedoes still work, I’m good.”

    The commanding officer of the Defiant-class USS Gallant raised a hand, and spoke when Lar'ragos acknowledged her. "Sir," began Lieutenant Commander Pellew, "while I'm sure that we all appreciate your intent to lead the charge, Gallant stands ready to assist as a screening force for the fleet." In other words, she volunteered her ship to join the tip of the spear.

    Lar’ragos inclined his head at her gesture. “It’s appreciated, Captain. My thanks.”

    Cudgel's skipper rolled his eyes, but raised his hand, not wanting to be outdone. "I think Gallant's going to need some help with that duty, Captain," said Lieutenant Commander Norman. "We can lend a hand."

    Captain Stanley Broadalbin muttered, "They say that corvette captains have to be a little touched in the head to assume command. I guess they're right." Sheffield One's words brought smirks to the lips of his fellow heavy cruiser captains. "Captain Lar'ragos, I'm sure that these younger captains are in awe of your methods, but I prefer to see this brilliant strategy before I go any further." He eyed Pellew and Norman briefly as he added, "This isn't my first time at the rodeo, see?"

    Lar’ragos refused to take the bait, remaining implacable. “We’re still working out the details with the Amon and the Klingons, Captain. However, the broad-strokes of the plan are that we’ll follow the cube through a transition portal and attempt to disable Shul’Nazhar’s defenses, taking the station if possible, destroying it if necessary. We have a number of Marine elements, supported by three Special Missions Teams available to spearhead any boarding action required in order to take control of the station. If necessary, we can supplement those with our combined security personnel. Brigadier Gan’Louk’s force boasts over ten-thousand battle-hardened Klingon warriors added to the effort.”

    Ascendant's Captain Endilev gestured with his open right hand and spoke without waiting to be called upon. "We're carrying two elements of the Twentieth MEU," he mentioned casually when speaking on the Marine Expeditionary Unit. "I imagine that their commanding officer would be very pleased to be included in any conflicts. They're quite hungry for battle." He wore a satisfied smirk upon his dark blue lips, and glanced around the room for signs of subtle reaction.

    Lar’ragos smiled toothily. “Very good. I anticipate they’ll get their fair share on this mission, Captain.” He regarded the other officers. “We’ll also have a squadron of our new UWCV unmanned attack drones at our disposal for this assignment. They can help screen our cruisers from Skorrah counter-attack by their own vessels.”

    Pellew smiled. "That will be of tremendous assistance, sir."

    “Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” interjected Captain Arwen Duparc of the Istanbul. “A one-way mission aboard ships loaded for bear with Alpha Weapons. We’re talking about a mission of extermination, aren’t we? This is going to be an act of genocide.”

    “Not necessarily,” Lar’ragos countered. “We don-”

    “Please,” Duparc waved away his protests to the contrary. “Despite their crimes against our galaxy, I can’t justify annihilating an entire species for something that may be the work of a handful of their leaders.”

    Lar’ragos’ voice dropped an octave. “The Skorrah aren’t after territory or power or wealth, Captain Duparc. We can’t negotiate with them, as they’ve never even attempted to open a dialogue with any of the systems they’ve attacked. To them, you and I are nothing but prey. We’re their food.”

    Duparc broke eye contact first, her expression hard-set but her eyes gave voice to the conflict waging in her soul as her Starfleet ethics warred with her stone cold pragmatism.

    “I can’t say for certain whether destroying the space station will mean killing all of the Skorrah. With Shul’Nazhar’s capabilities, they could have established colonies in any of several galaxies.” Lar’ragos briefly scanned the expressions of the other starship commanders present. “But if it comes down to it, us or them, I choose us.”

    Commander Ban Uraad, the Deltan captain of the starship Carthage spoke without prompting. “Admiral T’Cirya placed you in charge because none of the rest of us… not even Captain Ebnal, could in good conscience wipe out an entire species.” The intensity of Uraad’s eyes practically burned a hole through Lar’ragos. His inference was as obvious as a supernova.

    Lar’ragos held his gaze. “Am I supposed to dispute that, Captain? Under the circumstance, you may well find yourself grateful to have me leading the charge. That act, if it comes, won’t be your order to give, nor will it weigh as heavily on your conscience.”

    “Cold comfort, that,” Uraad replied dourly.

    “And should we refuse?” Duparc interjected.

    “You’ll be relieved of duty by the admiral, and your executive officer will take your place,” Lar’ragos responded without missing a beat.

    Duparc’s eyes narrowed. “What if our objection comes after the mission is underway?”

    Again, Lar’ragos remained impassive, his response coolly rational. “I would hope the XO of the ship in question would move to assume command. Failing that, I would take control of the ship via their prefix codes, slaving its systems to Europa’s auxiliary bridge.”

    That brought a muted eruption of coughs and muttered protests from the others.

    “You really prepared to be that tyrannical, Lar’ragos?” This from Ebnal, whose arms were folded across his chest in an openly defensive posture.

    Lar’ragos walked over to stand just in front of the holographic projection of Ebnal. “Captain, as you well know, the needs of the mission come first. Especially this mission. Call me tyrant if you wish, but I will be obeyed.”

    “And what about Gan’Louk,” Ebnal pressed. “Given the bad blood between you two, do you expect him to follow your orders as well?”

    “We’ve settled our differences for the time being,” Lar’ragos answered. “He’s a Klingon warrior, one who understands the necessity of a strong chain of command in battle. Gan’Louk has acceded to following the instructions of a ‘mere’ captain for the duration of this assignment.”

    Lar’ragos looked around the room, his gaze settling upon those of the other starship commanders who’d so brazenly questioned his experience and authority. “The Brigadier will do his duty. As much as he dislikes me, he will follow my orders without question.”

    Lar'ragos allowed that to hang in the air, the damning accusation issued by inference.

    Ebnal glanced around the room at the others, absorbing their resistance and indecision. They had reached a tipping point. Orders or no, each captain had to decide whether they trusted in Lar’ragos enough to sacrifice themselves and their crews at his whim. Such things in Starfleet were built upon loyalty, won at the cost of years and shared experience in most cases. Ebnal knew Lar’ragos wielded neither of these.

    Ebnal faced Lar’ragos and stood, making a point of coming to attention. “Venture and I stand ready, Captain.”

    Duparc stared at him. As his ex-wife, she knew Lucian Ebnal better than anyone, and despite his penchant for being the most sardonic, mocking bastard she’d ever known, he seemed utterly without guile in that moment.

    In ones and twos, the others stood as well, joining Ebnal in coming to attention until only Duparc remained seated.

    “I can think of no better cause in which to give my life,” Ebnal explained, his tone free of pretense.

    Duparc heaved a sigh, surrendering to the inevitable. She rose to her feet, nodding to Lar’ragos. “Istanbul stands with you as well.”

    “Good,” Lar’ragos replied. “Let’s get to it, then.”

    * * *​
    Last edited: May 10, 2015
  20. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    It's been a minute since your last post, I nearly found myself wishing for a "Previously on Task Force Vanguard" recap.

    It all came back quickly enough though.

    Pava might have accepted his recent promotions kicking and screaming, but he's really growing into the part of starship captain and task force leader. He is more than able to hold his own against men and women with much higher seniority and possibly starship command experience. In fact it is hard to argue that he isn't the perfect choice for this particularly desperate mission.

    And while his peers may valuable arguments, many of which I agree with, Pava and his superiors are no less correct. This is a threat almost unparalleled in its scope, impossible to argue since the utter obliteration of Ferenginar, and it will require an approach with little to no prejudice.

    I expect though, not many shall return from this final hurrah.