UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Aug 5, 2012.

  1. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    I have to agree with CeJay that I was pretty sure I knew what was going on here with that little ship, but I remain continually astounded at Gibraltar's ability to write tense, compelling scenes like these even when I think I know what's going to happen. Kudos.

    And now that someone in Star Fleet knows about Masada, I can only imagine how much closer we are to the highly anticipated reunion of Sandhurst and his former XO. :evil:
     
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont’d>

    Counselor’s Office, Deck 4
    USS Europa


    Although it wasn’t entirely unheard of for a Vulcan member of Starfleet to seek out counseling services, it was a statistical rarity. For that reason, when Verrik had contacted Counselor Dao Liu on short notice to arrange this meeting, Liu was intrigued.

    Like nearly all ‘traditional’ Vulcans, Verrik at least outwardly appeared to be very much in control of his emotions. He was calm, rational, and eminently sensible, and Liu hadn’t noticed any behaviors from Verrik that could be deemed unusual.

    Upon his arrival at Liu’s office, Verrik appeared somewhat tense. That, in and of itself, was enough to pique Liu’s professional interest.

    “Lieutenant, please have a seat,” Liu offered.

    “I would prefer to stand, thank you,” Verrik replied stiffly.

    Liu gestured his consent to this, and settled back into his chair as Verrik stepped over to the cabin’s viewport. The stars streaked past with what Liu had always found to be a comforting monotony.

    “What can I help you with, Mister Verrik?” Liu prompted after a long moment’s silence from the Vulcan.

    Despite his already perfect posture, Verrik seemed to straighten even further, as though girding himself for an unpleasant experience. “Counselor, I have recently begun to experience lapses in memory that I am unable to explain.”

    Liu decided to approach the exchange from a Vulcan-like perspective, and discarded any further attempts to put Verrik at ease. Vulcans were direct, and so he would be as well. “Please elaborate,” Liu replied.

    “Twice now I have been involved in dynamic situations that afterwards I am unable to remember with any clarity. This is unprecedented for me, and therefore, most troubling. Like the majority of my people, I was trained from youth in eidetic mental disciplines that give me near perfect recollection.”

    “Were you injured in either of these situations, Lieutenant? Perhaps the memory issues stem from a physical trauma of some kind?”

    Verrik spared a glance over his shoulder at Liu. “I was moderately injured during the first of the two occurrences, but I suffered no cranial trauma. I received a full medical workup after that incident, and I had myself checked again by Lieutenant Taiee following the second event. Scans confirm there is no known physical basis for these memory lapses.”

    Liu pondered that for a time. “Can you be more specific in regards to the two occurrences?”

    “The first time was when the Amon cube ship appeared through the subspace portal. Apparently, I began firing before the captain had even issued the order to do so. I engaged the Amon with my phaser when they boarded the bridge, and then physically after I was disarmed until such time as I was overwhelmed.”

    Verrik finally turned to face the counselor. “I can remember every detail of the encounter leading up to the aperture opening, and everything after the Amon departed with Captain Sandhurst, but nothing of the battle itself. I have even watched the ship’s visual recorder in an attempt to refresh my recollection, to no avail.”

    Liu nodded, making notes on a padd. “And the second event?”

    “The second time was during our next encounter with the Amon when Captain T’Ser gave the order to fire on their ship with the Alpha Weapon. I stunned Commander Lar’ragos when he charged the captain. I have no memory of doing so.”

    After scribbling a few more notes with a stylus, Liu posited, “At first blush, Lieutenant, I see two possibilities. The first is that these events were traumatic to you in some non-physical way that has inhibited your ability to remember them as a result. Perhaps on a sub-conscious level, you were affected more significantly than you realize.”

    “Unlikely,” Verrik offered immediately.

    Liu fought against allowing a dubious expression to settle onto his features. Instead, he asked, “Why do you believe that?”

    “I have meditated extensively in regards to these occurrences, Counselor. I have spent countless hours delving into both my conscious and sub-conscious thoughts, and I can find no logical reason that either event would prove so traumatic that it might affect my memory.”

    Liu inclined his head, tabling that discussion for the moment. “The second possibility is that something the Amon are emitting may have interfered with your short-term memory. Both these events took place during our encounters with the Amon, and Sandhurst himself has said their life-essence energy affected him strongly on a psycho-physical level.”

    Verrik paused to consider that. “It would make sense from a causality perspective, if not for the dreams.”

    Liu quirked an eyebrow in a surprisingly Vulcan-like gesture of curiosity. “Dreams?”

    Only now did Verrik finally sit, easing down into a chair across from Liu with almost exaggerated care. “I have been experiencing unsettling dreams for the past few months, ones that I cannot account for.”

    “I doubt I need to remind you that dreams are our brains’ way of codifying and processing our daily experiences into retrievable memory engrams, Lieutenant. As such, they don’t necessarily make sense, or follow logical patterns, even in Vulcans.”

    “Would that were so,” Verrik replied heavily. “These dreams do follow a logical progression. Additionally, they seem much more like memories than dreams in their content. I have experienced many of them more than once, and they unfold exactly the same way without fail.”

    “Just to be clear,” Liu asked, “these are not your memories that you’re dreaming about?”

    “Correct,” Verrik answered.

    “Tell me about them.”

    “They are invariably of old Vulcan, during the days of Surak. The dreams take place against the backdrop of the Great Schism, the last near-apocalyptic war that engulfed our world.”

    “Could these be remnants of history lessons you learned as a child, or snippets of historical documentaries or dramas you’ve watched?”

    “I do not believe so,” Verrik replied, a far-away cast to his eyes as he revisited those dreams in that moment. “They seem to be the recollections of a single person, a female soldier involved in the war. She fought on behalf of those opposed to Surak’s teachings, and committed various… morally questionable acts against those espousing The Teacher’s path to logic.”

    Liu looked surprised. “That’s a lot of detail to have culled from a dream.”

    “Dreams,” Verrik corrected, emphasizing the plurality. “And I have studied them extensively in my meditations. Again, they do not correspond directly to any historical events I have learned of during my education or viewed in an entertainment venue.”

    Setting down his padd, Liu leaned forward. “Okay, Lieutenant, what’s say we try and find you some answers?”

    *****
     
  3. Blip

    Blip Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I gotta bad feeling about this...

    Methinks the Counselor may uncover enough to make his continued existence somewhat untenable. And then one day, one night.. urrrk! Kobayashi Maru. :(
     
  4. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

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    Mmh, those are some mysterious dreams. But this could be a first step into solving one of the mysteries of the story.
     
  5. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    Well, this is certainly an unexpected turn of events. I thought I picked up on hints of something going on with Verrik (I'll have to go back and see if I can find the references), but I had no inkling of anything like this.

    I like when a story takes me places I wasn't expecting. :bolian: And I'm very much looking forward to seeing where this new Verrik thread carries me.

    And, once again, I'm really enjoying the crew's interactions with their newest member. In Liu, you've given us an interesting, intuitive and multi-layered character who continues to surprise. Again, I like that.

    Carry on. ;)
     
  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont'd>

    USS Europa


    "We are secured from warp speed," Lightner announced from Flight Control.

    Lar’ragos slid into the executive officer’s seat to T’Ser’s right, his expression tightly controlled as he struggled to find a way to address what he found to be an unacceptable security risk to ship and crew.

    He leaned in towards T’Ser, whispering, “Can I have a moment alone with you in the ready room, sir?”

    T’Ser was typing shield configuration settings into the abbreviated console in her chair’s armrest, and answered without looking up. “We’re less than five minutes out from the nebula, Commander. Can it wait?”

    “No signs of Voranti craft in sensor range, Captain,” Verrik announced from the Tactical station behind them.

    “Can I safely assume there’s also no indication of Galaxy?” T’Ser inquired, an unaccustomed edge to her voice.

    Verrik replied dryly, “I would have found any such signs worthy of mention, sir.”

    It was obvious T’Ser was not going to give Lar’ragos a private audience in which to air his grievance, so he pressed in a low voice, “Are you really giving Donald free reign to tinker with the engines?”

    “I don’t intend to have this discussion in public, Commander,” T’Ser answered in an equally subdued tone. She finally raised her head and directed a query towards the Engineering station where Ashok was seated. “How are we holding up, Lieutenant?”

    Ashok turned in his chair to address the captain. “Not well, sir. The increased strain on the warp reactor from our high-speed run has contributed to a worsening of the structural micro-fractures in both the reactor core housing as well as the transfer conduits. Our dilithium crystals are also very close to failure.”

    T’Ser’s jaw set as she considered that. “And if we’re forced to fight?”

    “I would recommend torpedoes over phasers wherever possible, sir. Less strain on the warp reactor that way. We’ll also have to be careful not to abuse our shields, as that would have the same effect.”

    A wry smile graced T’Ser’s lips. “I’ll tell the Voranti to take it easy on us, but no promises.”

    Shanthi called out from the Science station, “We are now entering the transition boundary of Nebula NGC-7492. We can expect a significant decrease in sensor range and acuity. Speed will be limited to three-quarters impulse without shields.”

    T’Ser nodded her understanding of these operational limitations. “Mister Shanthi, deploy your sensor-net probes.”

    The aft torpedo launcher disgorged twenty sensor relay probes that fanned out in all directions. These would parallel the ship’s course and serve to boost Europa’s sensor capabilities in the nebular miasma.

    Lar’ragos addressed Shanthi as well. “Science, with the limits on our scanning range, how long would it take us at three-quarters impulse to completely search the entire volume of this nebula?”

    Shanthi cast a glance over his shoulder at the El Aurian. “Roughly seven months, sir, give or take a couple of weeks.”

    Lar’ragos looked to T’Ser, batting his eyelashes with exaggerated enthusiasm. “Well,” he said, “this should be fun.”

    T’Ser ignored him, silently hoping for a miraculously quick location and retrieval of their fellow starship. It was the kind of prayer, she realized, that was seldom answered.

    *****

    Somewhen else...

    The light had returned to his eyes, and the easy, confident smile she’d once so adored had returned to his lips.

    The Baron reached up a hand to touch the device that now adorned the back and sides of his head like a technological laurel wreath.

    “At last,” he breathed with renewed vigor. “It has been too long.”

    Ramirez frowned, still uncomfortable with the idea. “The device is too new,” she protested. “We can’t know all the dangers, the unforeseen side effects it might have.”

    He stood slowly, appearing satisfied to find his legs steady and strong. “All the more reason to do this sooner as opposed to later, don’t you think?”

    “The neural buffer is a crutch,” she reminded him sternly, “not a cure.”

    “But what a crutch,” the Baron exclaimed. “To be myself again, if only for a short while, is a blessing. It’s invigorating to feel the hate in my hearts and the venom in my marrow again!”

    “It’s too soon,” Ramirez pressed. “The attack on the other ship failed. Give me a chance to make Starfleet suffer again before you confront him. He’ll have no choice but to see their blood on his hands.”

    “There’s no time, Liana,” he said with remarkable gentleness for one whose hands had committed such hard-hearted deeds. “I have to see his face one last time. I have to know the smell of his fear, the taste of his desperation!”

    “It isn’t worth the risks,” she reiterated.

    “I say otherwise.” He moved towards the transmat device.

    Ramirez knew better than to push any further. The neural buffer had restored much of the Baron’s memory, though how long it might sustain it was anyone’s guess. Every other exterior construct they’d tried had eventually fallen victim to the tapeworm. Cloned tissue, cyber-shells, neural-heuristics, even a positronic matrix had proven no match for the Sentinel’s gleefully sadistic retrograde weapon.

    And despite the seeming success of the buffer, restored along with his memories had come his arrogance and his thirst for melodrama. She realized only too well the penalty for pressing him beyond his tolerance. His punishments had been extraordinary, even to someone as inured to suffering as she’d once believed herself to be.

    “What may I do to assist you, My Lord?” she asked submissively.

    *****
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  7. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    I just physically shuddered. :eek:
     
  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Was it something I said?! :rommie:
     
  9. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    Either that or another earth quake. :lol:

    Seriously, The Baron (partially) restored and coming after Sandhurst ... with this ... twisted, fun house mirror version of Liana Ramirez .... The mind reels at the possibilities. :evil:
     
  10. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    I have an inkling as to what Verrik is going through here. If I'm right, the crew may be in big trouble. Scratch that ... more trouble, I should say.

    And it seems T'Ser and Lar'ragos are not quite jelling yet. I can't fault the acting captain nor really Pava, he does make a decent point here.

    Oh and yeah, then there's the Baron and his good-turned-evil disciple. Bad things are about to happen here, aren't they? Very bad things.
     
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont’d>

    Hello again, friend of a friend
    I knew you when
    Our common goal was waiting for the world to end
    Now that the truth is just a rule that you can bend
    You crack the whip, shape shift and trick the past again


    - Black Sheep, by Metric

    USS Europa
    Captain’s Quarters


    The Talarian dirge created a cacophonous background to Sandhurst’s inspiration, flooding the compartment with discordant wailing, clashing percussion, and abused string instruments that sounded on the verge of structural collapse.

    It was the closest thing in the Federation database that he had found to the more evocative Amon martial musical forms. If his fevered creativity these past days was any measure, Sandhurst’s subconscious appeared to revel in the dissonance of the atonal lament.

    He had been awake for some fifty-two hours, and his quarters were now a shambles. Strewn with data padds, the table tops hosted a collection of portable holo-projectors and hardcopy flimsies upon which were transcribed the arcane hieroglyphics of advanced warp theory.

    Sandhurst had asked T’Ser for absolute privacy during this process, and thus far she had kept her word. Even Lar’ragos had been barred from visiting him, and he was a man not easily given to restraint.

    It was nearly finished, his translation of Xin Ra-Havreii’s esoteric genius into physical reality, or at the very least the schematics with which to do so. Soon, he would have the capacity to rebuild Europa’s warp core into what it should have been, the device Ra-Havreii had imagined but had proven unable to fully realize.

    His fingers traced through the air with manic intensity as he directed the holographic design of a new kind of dilithium articulation frame. His movements were like those of a frenzied painter, scoring his canvas with equal measures of pigment and zeal.

    The Baron’s arrival was utterly soundless as he stepped through a doorway that was, and yet was not there. He opened his mouth to speak, knowing full well the reaction his words would prompt from Sandhurst and relishing the experience to come.

    Sandhurst was on him before the first syllable had escaped the Baron’s lips. The unexpectedly violent collision triggered the Baron’s personal defense field, but Sandhurst paid the agonizing discharge no heed whatsoever as he slammed his tormentor against the bulkhead with a strength the Baron couldn’t account for.

    “What… do… you… WANT?” Sandhurst seethed as the greenish energy field scorched both his tunic and the flesh beneath.

    “I… I’ve come to—“ the Baron stammered.

    “Not now!” Sandhurst shouted, hefting the Baron by the folds of his cloak and throwing him the length of the compartment to crash bodily into the far bulkhead. “I’m busy,” he added distractedly as he moved across the cluttered cabin towards the collapsed figure.

    The impact with the wall had dislodged the device crowning the Baron’s head, and as a result the man sat dazedly on the floor next to a couch, seemingly lost. Sandhurst reached down and took hold of him by the throat with one hand while grasping the neural buffer with the other.

    Though terribly confused and utterly disoriented, the Baron was cogent enough to recognize an attack on his person. He struck wildly at Sandhurst with savagely desperate blows that while breaking ribs and bruising organs did nothing else to impede Sandhurst’s actions.

    The captain dissuaded further violence by driving the Baron’s head against the bulkhead repeatedly until consciousness had abandoned his limp form. As he dutifully inspected his attacker's intriguing headpiece, Sandhurst murmured, “I’m trying to create something here. Why is that so hard for you to see?” He sighed. “All you know how to do is destroy.”

    With that he released his grip on the Baron, who thudded gracelessly to the deck. Sandhurst tossed the neural buffer aside and returned to examine his holographic etchings hovering in midair.

    Ignoring the smoldering burns on his forearms and chest, Sandhust called out, “Bridge, Sandhurst. I have an intruder in my quarters. Come collect him,” as he returned to the task at hand.

    *****
     
  12. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Holy COW!!
     
  13. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    Ditto.

    I did NOT see that coming. I LOVED it, but I absolutely did not see it coming.

    Clearly, this is not your father's Donald Sandhurst.

    Curiouser and curiouser .... :bolian:
     
  14. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

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    :lol:

    That was unexpected, to put it mildly. I would have loved to the expression on the Baron's face.
     
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont'd>

    USS Europa


    “Target acquired,” the ensign at Operations said quietly, as though a raised voice might spook their prey.

    Through the parting swirls of nebular gasses, the long, sleek silhouette of the Voranti cruiser could just be glimpsed on the main viewer. The computer-enhanced image was overlaid with various text notations, denoting the vessel’s course, speed, shield status and armament.

    “The Voranti ship is twenty-nine point seven kilometers ahead. No indications as yet that they’ve detected us,” Verrik announced from the Tactical station.

    “Acknowledged,” T’Ser spoke from the captain’s chair. “It would appear we have better sensors.”

    Ensconced behind the Helm console, Lightner postulated,“Unless they know we’re here and they’re just drawing us in.”

    “Always a possibility,” T’Ser conceded. “Everyone keep your eyes open.”

    The doors to the forward tubolift parted and Lar’ragos strode onto the bridge, a troubled expression fixed on his features. He moved quickly to assume the XO’s chair to the captain’s right.

    “What’s our situation?” T’Ser asked as he settled into his seat.

    “The intruder’s been locked in a secured ward in Sickbay. I’ve got a combined Security and Marine detachment posting guard on him.”

    “How’s the Cap—“ T’Ser winced ever so slightly. “How’s Sandhurst?”

    “If someone in the throes of an obsessive, maniacal fugue can be said to be ‘okay’… then I guess he’s okay.”

    “Is our prisoner this infamous ‘Baron’?” she asked.

    Lar’ragos cocked his head slightly. “The individual fits the physical description Sandhurst gave of his assailant after he was attacked his quarters the first time. Taiee’s running a full medical workup on him, but initial scans indicate that he’s the same species as our ‘original’ Baron.” He opened his mouth to continue, but then appeared to think better of it, falling silent.

    T’Ser shot him a curious look. “What?”

    It took Lar’ragos a moment to formulate the thought, as if verbalizing it were somehow painful to him. He finally spoke in a whisper,“I’ve fought the Baron, sir. The man is nothing short of extraordinary in hand-to-hand combat. There’s no way I can conceive that Donald Sandhurst could have incapacitated him so easily.”

    “You call fractured ribs, internal bleeding, and third degree burns getting off easily?” she replied.

    “Against the Baron?” he asked skeptically. “Yes, I’d call that miraculous.”

    “Voranti vessel is coming to two-zero-nine, mark zero-four-one,” Lightner observed. “Their speed remains constant. It looks like they’re conducting a zone search in a descending helical pattern.”

    “Stay with them,” T’Ser instructed.

    Lar’ragos inclined his head towards the viewer. “What’s the plan, Captain?”

    “For now, we follow them,” T’Ser answered. “Actually stumbling across just one of their ships in this mess was lucky enough. Hopefully, they’ll lead us to Galaxy.”

    “How do we know Galaxy is still intact?”

    “They’re obviously still looking for somebody, and it isn’t us.” T’Ser observed.

    “Respectfully, Captain, there’s no guarantee that this ship will eventually find the Galaxy, and in the meantime, our comrades could be fighting for their lives against other Voranti attackers.”

    T’Ser sat still for a moment, as if weighing her reaction. Then, she turned toward her first officer. “What would you recommend, Commander?”

    “I’d disable the Voranti ship, and then open communications with them. We’ll ask them why they attacked Galaxy, and if it happens that Masada did provoke them, we can explain that ship is a rogue vessel not associated with Starfleet.”

    “And why should they believe us?” T’Ser prompted.

    “Because we’re taking the time to talk rather than killing them outright,” Lar’ragos responded reasonably.

    T’Ser looked thoughtful as she weighed the merits of his proposal. “And if that doesn’t work?”

    “Then I lead a boarding party over, seize their command center, and download the contents of their computers. At least then we’ll have a better idea whether they’ve found Galaxy. If they haven't located her, we’ll know where they have and haven’t searched.”

    “It’s not especially subtle,” T’Ser mused.

    “We don’t have time for subtlety, sir. Our main reactor is failing, and we can’t afford to risk a prolonged firefight with the Voranti. Asymmetrical warfare is our only viable option.”

    T’Ser regarded Lar’ragos coolly. Despite his reputation as a blood-thirsty maniac, the man was calm, collected, and rational. As much as she hated the idea of launching an ambush against the Voranti ship, Pava was right. Wasting days or weeks trailing the cruiser in hopes of bumping into Galaxy in the electrical soup of the nebula was wishful thinking at best.

    And there were other considerations. They had a broken engine in need of repair. Dozens of their crew were tens of light-years away in nothing more than shuttles and escape vehicles trying to render aid to the survivors of In’Drahn station. Then there was the new Amon threat on top of the danger posed by the mysterious Baron and the inexplicably rogue starship Masada. Ultimately, there was still their original mission to think of, the continual influx of new itinerate species moving through the adjoining sectors.

    Lar’ragos was actually surprised when T’Ser ordered, “Do it. Prepare your boarding team. When you’re ready, we’ll disable and confront the Voranti.”

    *****
     
  16. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    Not much to say but, I loved everything about this installment. Everything: Pava's implications regarding Sandhurst's current "enhanced" physical abilities, as well as his mental state; the very logical, practical considerations regarding their course of action; T'Ser's acceptance of Lar'ragos' recommendation. Things are really coming together, and the suspense is ramping up in a very exciting manner. :bolian:
     
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Ha, in your face evil Baron. Bet you didn't count on the new and improved, kick-ass Donald Sandhurst, huh? Well, neither did I, to be honest. But I like how the tables have turned here even if I can't help but worry about Donald's transformation. What will he be like once all is said and done? Will there still be a place for him on Europa and Starfleet in general or is he destined for something else?

    Like Pava's latest plan to go on the offensive. Good thing T'Ser agrees, if begrudgingly.

    Can't wait to see what happens next.
     
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont'd>

    USS Europa


    Verrik’s aim was true, and in less than fifteen seconds the Voranti ship was rendered toothless by a flurry of precision phaser strikes against their weapons emplacements and shield generators.

    Believing their sensors were superior within the nebula to Starfleet’s, the Voranti had elected not to keep their shields raised. It was a mistake Captain T’Ser exploited to the fullest.

    Europa went head-to-head with the cruiser to better illustrate Starfleet’s resolve as T’Ser opened a hailing frequency to the stricken warship.

    “Voranti vessel, this is Captain T’Ser of the Federation starship Europa requesting a cessation of hostilities between our peoples. I regret that it was necessary to forcibly disarm you, but you have been firing at Federation craft on sight. We believe there may have been an extremely unfortunate misunderstanding between us, and we would like to halt the violence before more people are hurt. Please respond.”

    T’Ser shared an impatient look with Shanthi as they awaited a reply from the aliens.

    After a lengthy delay, a tone warbled at the Operations console, identifying an incoming transmission.

    “Voranti are responding with a visual feed,” the ensign announced.

    “On screen,” T’Ser instructed.

    An aquatic being not terribly different from the Federation’s own Antedeans sat examining them with what appeared to be cold, calculating expressions. The Voranti had large, bulbous eyes that extended out from the sides of their flat, narrow heads. Pulsing air-bladders below and behind the eyes inflated regularly as some component of their species respiration.

    Their command center was gracefully designed, all spherical workstations and monitors, with rounded doorways. A fine water mist could be seen descending from the ceiling, keeping the Voranti’s sensitive dermal surfaces well hydrated.

    “An unfortunate misunderstanding?” the Voranti in the center of the image cried out angrily. “You approach us under a flag of peace and then slaughter our hatchlings and destroy our food supply, and you dare call this a misunderstanding?”

    T’Ser stood, walking forward toward the viewscreen. “We think the attack upon your vessels may have come from one of our ships, a rogue vessel which was believed destroyed some years ago. I would like to send images and sensor information to you in order to confirm our suspicions. May we do so?”

    “Your first attack on us was initiated by a computer virus transferred via info-packet! I will allow no such thing!” The Voranti commander was trembling with anger now, his fury evident even to those with no knowledge of his species’ non-verbal gestures.

    T’Ser was calm in the face of the Voranti leader’s rage.“Please understand I mean this as an observation, not a threat. We have already disabled your weapons and shields. You are at our mercy. What benefit would there be to us infecting you with a cyber-virus now?”

    “You are correct; we are at your mercy, Federation. Vaporize us if you will, but we will not be complicit in our own destruction!”

    With that the comm-link was severed, leaving T’Ser staring at the Voranti ship adrift amidst the gently swirling tendrils of gas and energized plasma.

    She settled back into her seat, feeling impossibly weary in the face of the aliens’ intransigence, understandable as it may have been.

    T’Ser reluctantly keyed the comms to the transporter room.“Commander Lar’ragos, you and your team are a go.”

    *****

    Near In'Drahn Station

    It was the sheer magnitude of the disaster that at first threatened to overwhelm Pell Ojana.

    Growing up on Bajor during the Occupation and having most recently served on the relief mission to the war-ravaged world of Velkohn, Pell had naively believed that the evacuation of a ‘mere’ space station would be a relatively minor undertaking.

    How wrong she had been.

    In’Drahn station had been home to tens-of-thousands of former Husnock vassals from a dozen different species, all of them with highly divergent biology.

    The Habertaem and other former slave races had long been inured to suffering. Despite their resilient natures, the horrific injuries the survivors had sustained during the Amon attack tested the resolve and medical capabilities the Starfleet rescue teams, as well as their emotional endurance.

    Using the twenty-person capacity ASRV as a central hub, the Europa crewmembers had affixed their two dozen escape pods filled with emergency supplies to the larger craft’s multiple airlocks. The X-shaped formation was now referred to as ‘the MedHub’ and had become the nexus of the growing relief effort.

    Dozens of local ships had arrived over the hours and days following the disaster at In’Drahn station, offering whatever help they could. Pell had utilized her experience with triage situations to determine how best each ship and crew could contribute to the overall effort, and little by little, Pell’s influence had grown until she had been accepted as being the unofficially recognized leader of the relief effort.

    Transports, bulk freighters, tenders and craft of a many other types were now filled with injured refugees from the station. Thousands had been transported or shuttled down to the surface of the planet around which the station orbited, but the most seriously wounded were best treated in a zero-g environment where their severe burns were spared the agonies of gravity.

    Thirty-six hour shifts in the MedHub had become routine, and although Dr. Multorlo needed very little sleep and the EMH required none, there were always more critical patients waiting than their tiny makeshift operating rooms could handle.

    It was during one of the rare quiet moments that an exhausted Pell sat slumped in a corner, wedged between a crate of compression bandages and a robotic articulation frame they’d been using to reinforce the exoskeletons of the crustacean-like Oenan species while they underwent surgery.

    Pell tore open a foil packet of survival rations, chewing absently on a protein bar as an equally spent Olivia Juneau staggered into the tiny compartment. The lieutenant shed the chest plate of an EVA suit as she bobbed her head towards her commanding officer in the only gesture of acknowledgement she could manage under the circumstances. “Hi, boss.”

    Pell raised the half-eaten protein bar in a mock salute. “How went the recovery op?”

    Juneau eased herself to the deck, leaning her head back against the wall and closing her eyes for a blissfully peaceful second. “Just what we’d feared. No survivors forward of bulkhead epsilon-six. Anyone left who hadn’t burned to death had asphyxiated.”

    Pell thought about that for a long moment. “Prophets, is it horrible for me to think that given our workload, that might be for the best? I don’t think we could have handled another influx of casualties. Most of us haven’t slept in nearly two days.”

    Juneau cracked an eyelid to observe her superior officer. “I’d be lying if I said the same thing hadn’t occurred to me, sir.”

    “In that case, we’ll fall into the Fire Caves together,” Pell chuckled darkly, gallows humor buoying the last vestiges of her emotional strength.

    “It feels like Europa’s been gone for months,” Juneau sighed.

    “It’s been six days,” Pell clarified. “If the engines held out, they’d just be reaching the nebula by now.”

    “Six days,” Juneau echoed. “Unbelievable.”

    Pell sealed her ration pack back up, sparing a glance at her wrist chronometer. “I’ll set the alarm for three hours. They’ll have breached aft of bulkhead sierra-twelve by then.”

    Juneau folded her arms across her chest. “Sounds like a plan, sir.” Within second she was asleep.

    Pell watched her for a moment, considering the admirable effort the younger officer had put in this past week, and the many lives saved as a result. The Bajoran murmured a prayer for the dead and dying of In’Drahn station, then promptly followed Juneau into slumber.

    *****
     
  19. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    Looking forward to seeing Pava's up close and personal interaction with the Voranti. It is, perhaps, too much to hope that it might end "peacefully". On the other hand, given their fierce determination, they could be a valuable ally if they could be convinced that they were duped and come to trust the "real" Star Fleeters.

    And, I'm very happy to see what's happening with Pell back at the station. Grim does not begin to describe what you have presented here.

    As always, looking forward to more, and thanks for this installment. :bolian:
     
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 3 continued)

    Chapter 3 <cont'd>

    Voranti Warship


    2nd Lieutenant Tiedermeyer and his Marine squad moved hastily through the command center and adjoining compartments, stepping over and around the unconscious forms of Voranti crewmembers. The boarding party’s transport in had been presaged by the arrival of dozens of photon stun grenades throughout the bridge complex of the alien warship.

    Lar’ragos stood by while Shanthi waved his tricorder back and forth over one the globular interface units, trying to get his device to sync with the Voranti database. “Anything?”

    Shanthi frowned. “They’ve cobbled together a pretty formidable encryption matrix, sir. Plus they’ve distributed their database across a score of remote nodes throughout the ship, and locked all those out with different random ciphers. So, every file we try to access requires us to break ten or more security lockouts at various stages of the download.”

    Lar’ragos smirked at the younger man. “But you’re up to it, right?”

    “Yes, Commander,” Shanthi deadpanned. “I am hot cyber-death incarnate.”

    “Keep at it.” Lar’ragos stepped over to where Tiedermeyer was frowning at another display as he cradled his phaser carbine. “Problem, Lieutenant?” he asked.

    Tiedermeyer answered without looking over at the XO. “We’ve filled all occupied compartments with anesthazine gas, sir… or the Voranti equivalent of it.”

    It didn’t take a Listner’s skills to realize this didn’t set well with the brash Marine lieutenant. “And that troubles you.” It was a statement, not a question.

    “My people are combat Marines, sir, “Tiedermeyer replied frostily. “We could have taken the bridge complex easily without stun saturating the area first.”

    “I’m sure you could,” Lar’ragos replied evenly. “But why fight when you don’t have to?”

    Lar’ragos moved away before Tiedermeyer could form a reply, circling back around to Shanthi. “When you crack their database, get us everything they have on Galaxy, as well as all their information on the other species in the migration.”

    He squat down on his haunches next to the Voranti ship’s commander, pursing his lips regretfully. “Would this could have gone differently,” he lamented quietly to the unconscious aquatic.

    *****

    Thirty minutes later Lar’ragos and Shanthi stepped back onto the bridge, a grim yet somewhat satisfied expression radiating from the El Aurian’s face. “Mission accomplished, Captain,” he announced succinctly.

    “Location of Galaxy?” T’Ser asked.

    “Unfortunately, no. As it turns out, the Voranti can’t communicate in this mess any better than we can. The good news is that if any of the Voranti have run into our friends, it’s been individually rather than as more effective hunter-killer squadrons.”

    T’Ser digested that. “What do we know about where they’ve searched?”

    “They’d run across one other Voranti ship three days ago, and exchanged maps and data,” Shanthi explained as he relieved the duty officer at the Science station. “Neither ship had come in contact with Galaxy, but we know where both have searched.”

    “And,” Lar’ragos added, “thanks to Kuenre’s diligence, we’ve got terabytes of information on many of the other species in the migration.”

    It was the first genuine smile T’Ser had formed in days. “Excellent work, gentlemen.” She cast a look back at Lar’ragos. “Commander, have our transporter rooms beam over the antidote canisters to the airborne sedative. I don’t want the Voranti drifting helplessly any longer than necessary.”

    As Lar’ragos set about carrying out her orders, T’Ser settled back into her chair. “Let’s go find our people."

    *****