UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths

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

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Things are getting a bit catty, aren't they? Lobanov makes some decent points but Sandhurst's are slightly more relevant when considering the bigger picture. I think the issue here is that neither of these two is doing a very good job at communicating their points across with the appropriate sensitivity.

    As for this new wave of refugees, any chance we'll meet a peace loving culture for once? Oh wait, we already did. They were called the Voranti. Hmm, I wonder were Ramirez is hiding herself these days ...
     
  2. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

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    I have a feeling Sandhurst's current course of action will end badly.
     
  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

    Chapter 6 <cont'd>

    Engineering Support Deck, USS Europa


    “I hate to say this,” Lar’ragos admitted, “but under the circumstances my duty demands that I ask if you’re absolutely certain of the veracity of what you’re telling me?”

    “Completely,” Ashok answered in a low voice, or as low a voice as the giant was able to muster.

    The pair stood at the safety railing on Deck 13, looking down on main engineering from two decks above where the new reactor chamber thrummed with energy.

    Lar’ragos’ expression grew hooded as the engineer’s assessment served to corroborate his existing suspicions. “Let me see if I have this straight. You’re saying the new engine can’t possibly be generating enough additional power to accelerate us to transwarp speeds?”

    “Not precisely,” Ashok clarified. “The new warp core produces significantly more power than Ra-Havreii’s original design, some twenty-seven percent more. However, that increase is still insufficient to propel the ship to the velocities we’ve seen demonstrated.”

    “How are we doing it then? Happy thoughts?” Lar’ragos fumed, his tension mounting.

    “I originally believed that the modifications the commodore had made to the navigational deflector were serving to ‘slide’ the ship into transwarp space, something akin to how the shape of a wing creates lift in a Class-M atmosphere. My recent evaluation of the new core’s functioning now leads me to believe this is not the case.”

    Ashok stepped over to an auxiliary engineering console, bringing it to life with a touch of his hand. “The power output of the core is several orders of magnitude higher than what the combination of the constituent matter and anti-matter elements should be able to produce, no matter how creative the dilithium sequencing.”

    A cross section of Europa appeared on the screen above the console, highlighting the ship’s main navigational deflector. “My assessment of the energy ‘footprint’ of the new configuration indicates that the power generated in the warp core is actually being shunted into the deflector, which is creating a tertiary graviton beam whose presence is being masked by the deflector’s primary output.”

    Lar’ragos blinked. “If that’s where primary warp energy is being diverted, what the hell powering our warp nacelles?”

    A simulated beam lanced from the deflector cross-section, striking an unremarkable point out ahead of the ship.

    “This graviton beam is tunneling into subspace, though I’m unable to ascertain precisely how far into the strata it’s penetrated.”

    The graviton beam was suddenly enveloped in a larger discharge, this one emanating from the point at which the graviton beam lanced into the subspace domain. The enveloping discharge traced back along the length of the graviton beam like an energetic sheath to be absorbed by the deflector dish.

    “This is where the power comes from to propel Europa to transwarp velocities,” Ashok explained.

    “We’re funneling energy from… subspace?” Lar’ragos asked.

    “It would appear so,” Ashok answered calmly. “I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this technique is very similar to how Commodore Sandhurst explained Amon power generation methods. They are believed to siphon their power from the barriers between subspace dimensions that are comprised of pure energy.”

    Lar’ragos let out a long sigh, leaning his back against the bulkhead as he worked to come to terms with this revelation. “How did we not know about this before? Wouldn’t a basic systems diagnostic have uncovered this setup by now?”

    “Lieutenant Shanthi has discovered that the ship’s diagnostic subroutines have been compromised by invasive programming. In fact, it appears nearly every computer-related system onboard has been subjected to very minute, highly precise software modifications designed to give off false readings.”

    The XO looked dumbfounded. “Is it possible that this is the work of a foreign entity?”

    Ashok lowered his head as he delivered the unwelcome news. “Very unlikely, sir. Shanthi has been attempting to diagnose the full scope of the re-coding, and it’s his opinion that only someone with a detailed knowledge of Starfleet engineering protocols could have carried this off undetected for such a time.”

    Lar’ragos closed his eyes. “And if you and Shanthi suspected this, why am I hearing about it only now?”

    “Counselor Liu is actually the one whose suspicions spawned the investigation, Commander. We initially believed that you were directly involved, and that Sandhurst had pursued the commodore’s position and then transferred Captain T’Ser to avoid her uncovering his plot.”

    The El Aurian wheeled around to face the Bolian, his face tight with barely restrained emotion. “And why do you think that I’d have had anything to do with such a plan!”

    Ashok was unimpressed with Pava’s anger and answered simply, “You have always been fiercely loyal to Sandhurst, and given your prior lack of… restraint, it seemed reasonable to conclude that you were elevated to the XO’s position in order to secure control of the ship.”

    “What made you change your mind?” Lar’ragos asked after a moment.

    “We had no choice,” Ashok replied. “If Sandhurst is still being controlled or influenced by the Amon, that makes him remarkably dangerous. You are the only one of us who might be able to talk him out of this destructive course, or if necessary, outfight him.”

    Lar’ragos pursed his lips thoughtfully at that. “This is a good start, Lieutenant, but if I’m going to challenge his authority, I’m going to need more than suppositions to back my play.”

    *****

    Main Bridge, USS Europa

    “We are secured from transwarp, sir,” Lightner called out.

    “Full scans, Mister Shanthi,” Sandhurst ordered.

    The waxing crescent of a ringed gas giant lay before them, its atmosphere a banded mix of blues, greys and assorted shades of white. Europa had taken a brief detour from their intended intercept with the Ferou to investigate the status of the Amon cube which had gone to ground here some weeks ago. Two of Europa’s own stealth recon probes had been dispatched to keep watch, as well as one of TFV’s long-range advanced surveillance probes.

    None of the reconnaissance assets had detected any activity in the gas giant’s rings where the Amon ship had sought refuge, presumably to conduct repairs unmolested.

    Shanthi scanned the vicinity of the gas giant, working his way inwards with increasingly intense sensor sweeps until he had accounted for every square meter of the ice and meteoroid rubble that comprised the rings.

    “No sign of the Amon craft, Commodore,” Shanthi reported at last.

    Sandhurst’s expression tightened. “Something the size of a Borg cube doesn’t just wander out of a star system without someone noticing, especially not the focused sensors of multiple probes,” he fairly growled, his voice laden with unaccustomed disappointment.

    Shanthi shrugged apologetically. “Nevertheless, sir, there’s no indications of the cube here or anywhere else in this system.”

    “Sir,” Lar’ragos spoke up from the Tactical console. “It’s possible the other Amon tribe utilized whatever technology brought the ship here from the Large Magellanic Cloud to forcibly recover the cube.”

    Sandhurst nodded reluctantly. “Maybe.”

    Liu glanced back at Lar’ragos from his chair to the commodore’s left, something unsaid passing between the men via facial expressions. The counselor turned back to address Sandhurst. “We still know very little about Amon capabilities, sir. Wherever they’ve got to, I’m sure it won’t be the last we’ve heard of them.”

    “Undoubtedly,” Sandhurst muttered distractedly before looking to the Flight Control station. “Mister Lightner, resume our course to IP with the Ferou at transwarp.”

    “Aye, sir. Course plotted and laid in.”

    “Engage,” Sandhurst instructed.

    The system fell behind them in the hyper-relativistic tunnel of swirling light.

    *****

    Jefferies Tube Junction Delta-41, Deck 15, USS Europa

    “Well,” Liu said dryly, “this is cozy.”

    Ashok was even more uncomfortable in the Jefferies tube junction, given his size, and merely stared at the counselor with unmasked irritation.

    “Can’t be helped,” Lar’ragos answered as he clambered into the junction from the other direction, sealing the hatch behind him. All three men were missing their combadges, and a device unfamiliar to Liu sat in the center of the claustrophobic compartment on a small tripod. “It’s the only place aboard where I thought we’d be reasonably secure from prying eyes.”

    Ashok added for Liu’s benefit, “The primary warp plasma conduits run directly beneath us, which makes internal sensors non-functional here.”

    Liu nodded, looking somewhat relieved at the news. “So… I’m guessing there’s more to the story of the missing Amon than the sensors might indicate?”

    “Another link in the chain we’ve been observing, Counselor,” Lar’ragos replied heavily.

    Liu frowned. “No, don’t tell me. More computer hi-jinks?”

    “Yes,” Ashok confirmed. “We found indications the sensor telemetry from all three probes stationed in the system had been tampered with.”

    “Meaning?” Liu prompted.

    “It appears that the probes were compromised, likely to allow the Amon cube to depart the system undetected.”

    “That revelation, along with the inconsistencies in the new transwarp drive and the modifications to the bussard collectors and EPS subsystems draw a pretty damning picture,” Liu summarized.

    “Wait,” Lar’ragos said, holding up a hand. “What EPS modifications?”

    “An auxiliary EPS line from engineering to the commodore’s quarters has been adjusted to an unorthodox configuration to carry power on an unusual frequency,” Ashok explained. “The line draws power from a newly modified quantum-matrix filtration buffer installed in the warp nacelles’ bussard collectors.”

    Lar’ragos’ jaw tightened. “Any ideas as to why?”

    Liu’s stare of disbelief was impossible to miss. “Commander, you can’t be serious. You know exactly what this is! He’s jerry-rigged the damn bussard collectors to draw in the energy signature the Amon feed on, and then has it delivered to his quarters via the EPS system.”

    “I can’t accept that!” Lar’ragos blasted back. “If he were still feeding on that energy, it would show up in his medical scans.”

    “Would it, Commander?” Ashok injected. “We believe he’s already compromised multiple engineering systems to include communications, not to mention whatever he’s done to the probes that were supposed to be observing the Amon cube. How difficult would it be for someone of Sandhurst’s abilities to alter the medical diagnostic sensors and the LMH’s programming?”

    Liu pressed, “Before she left for Valiant, Captain T’Ser told me that Sandhurst was still exhibiting physiological signs consistent with exposure to the Amon life-essence energy, enhanced strength, for one.”

    Lar’ragos’ legs gave out, depositing him on his backside in the cramped junction with his back pressed against the wall. He cradled his head in his hands, his elbows propped on his knees.

    “Pava,” Liu said gently but insistently, “the changes to the bussard collectors were made before the attack on the En-Il-Que. All those people we killed… he was feeding off of them. That wasn’t a raid, it was a hunting expedition.”

    An aching silence followed that both Liu and Ashok were unwilling to challenge as Lar’ragos struggled to find his emotional equilibrium.

    “We can’t allow this to continue,” the XO said finally. “He could turn First Contact with the Ferou into a blood-soaked tragedy.”

    “What do we do?” Liu inquired.

    “Confront him,” Lar’ragos answered heavily. “In force.”

    *****
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2013
  4. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

  5. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Holy crap!!! I mean, you gave us hints that Sandhurst was exhibiting lingering after effects of his time with the Amon, but I had no inkling that he was actively pursuing such a ... "perverse" course. The life essence is clearly akin to a highly addictive drug - only several orders of magnitude more powerful - the need for which is driving Sandhurst to extremes he would otherwise never even consider. Still, I can't help wonder whether he's fully conscious of what he's done (assuming, of course, that it is him who has done these things). We've already seen that he created the new engine design in a mental state in which he was not fully in control of his faculties, and he seemed to be surprised that Europa didn't find the Amon cube in the gas giant's rings. Perhaps there's something on a more subconscious level going on here .... Regardless, you've given us quite a lot to chew on here. Looking forward to the next installment, even more than usual. :bolian:
     
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Mutiny? On a Starfleet ship? Unheard of. Unless of course you count all the other times it has happened.

    We've all known something's up with Sandhurst ever since he came back from the Amon. He's a changed man, for sure. But is he, consciously or subconsciously, under their control? The evidence appears to be in but I'm not yet ready to join the lynch mob.

    I'm curious as hell to find out what happens next though.
     
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Indeed! ;)

    Therein lies the big question... and Pava's conundrum.

    I don't think anyone's mentioned 'mutiny'... at least, not yet.

    Thank all of your for commenting! :)
     
  8. Tribble puncher

    Tribble puncher Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2012
    Location:
    Washington, OK
    This was the last thing I expected, My interest in this story was starting to wane after the introduction of "Super Donald" and his invincible Voyager like Starship. But with this latest twist...you sir...((wags finger in your direction George McFly Style))...have made me a believer, I shall never doubt you again....forgive me
     
  9. Kyhrk

    Kyhrk Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Iowa, United States
    Oh Damn. This is getting interesting. Its stories like these that keep me interested in you folks from United Trek's work.
     
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

    Stellar Cartography, USS Europa


    “Impressive,” Sandhurst murmured as he observed the magnified image of a Ferou colony ship via the enhanced holography of the Stellar Cartography Lab’s cavernous viewing chamber.

    “They’re advanced, that’s for certain,” Shanthi noted, gesturing to an accompanying text breakdown of the Ferou’s hull constituents. ”This is a duranium-analogue, but it’s been enhanced with some kind of sub-structural crystalline lattice. It’s similar to Starfleet’s latest generation of ablative armor, but with significantly higher density. I’d guess they could take an unshielded photon torpedo strike without a hull breach.”

    “Weapons?” Sandhurst inquired.

    “Some kind of high-energy collimated beams,” Lar’ragos replied from where he stood next to the commodore. “Their maximum yield is approximately sixty percent more powerful than that of our Class-XI phasers. They appear to have some manner of missile or torpedo-based standoff weapons, but the launchers are heavily shielded and resistant to our scans. Just based on what we’ve observed from their other weapons and defenses, I think I’m safe in saying we wouldn’t want to take a hit from whatever it is they’re fielding.”

    Sandhurst bobbed his heat curtly in acknowledgment of Pava’s assessment. “Have we observed any overtly hostile actions by the Ferou against any local species or others among the nomadic groups?”

    “None,” Juneau offered. “In fact, we recorded an instance of a Ferou ship rendering assistance to a Voranti vessel that must have fallen behind the Voranti formation some months ago. It looked to us like the Ferou helped get their warp drive back online and then sent them on a course that will have them rendezvous with the rest of the Voranti formation in less than six weeks.”

    “That’s a positive sign,” Sandhurst said hopefully. “Let’s pray they’ll be open to talking with us and discussing options.” He made a few notes on a padd before looking around at the assembled officers. “Any other updates?”

    If Sandhurst noticed the guarded looks exchanged by his officers, he didn’t mention it.

    Ashok, who had been silent until this point, finally spoke. “And if the Ferou are unwilling to communicate with us or cooperate in our plans to divert them or see their species settle on a Class-M world in this sector, sir?”

    Sandhurst’s expression was one of reluctant resolve. “In that case, Lieutenant, we’d have to review our options.” He nodded to the others, “Alright, then. Keep up the good work.”

    Lar’ragos followed Sandhurst out of the compartment and fell into step beside him in the corridor. “We need to talk, sir,” he said in a quiet voice.

    “We are talking, Pava,” Sandhurst noted wryly as he stepped to one side to allow a crewman heading in the opposite direction to squeeze between them.

    The El Aurian’s voice took on an edge Sandhurst had only heard a handful of times in the past, all of them life-or-death situations. “Respectfully, sir, this is serious.”

    Sandhurst dipped his head, acceding to his friend’s wishes. “Very well. Where would you be more comfortable, my ready room or quarters?”

    “Your quarters would be fine, sir.”

    The two men proceeded in silence, Sandhurst sensing Lar’ragos’ accumulated tension as the smaller man almost seemed to buzz with repressed energy.

    The door to Sandhurst’s quarters slid open at his approach. The commodore unzipped his uniform jacket and tossed it onto the couch as he entered. As he turned to engage Lar’ragos, Pava instead made a beeline for the replicator, ordering a black cup of coffee that appeared in the delivery slot.

    As he brought the cup to his lips, a firm hand on his forearm interceded. Lar’ragos started, not having seen or even perceived Sandhurst move the three meters from the door. He slowly lowered the cup, setting it atop the nearby dining table. “That answers my first and second questions,” Pava said coolly.

    Sandhurst’s expression was neutral. “How long have you known?”

    Lar’ragos turned to face him, his eyes searching Sandhurst’s, probing for any sign of the man he’d once known so well. “We’ve been putting the pieces together for a few days, now. Despite the evidence, I didn’t want to believe it was true.”

    Sandhurst nodded understandingly. “I know, and I’m sorry I kept it from you, Pava. The truth is… I am Amon, by choice.”

    “Liu and I believe differently,” Lar’ragos countered. “The life-essence is addictive, and it alters both your biochemistry as well as your neural pathways.”

    “I don’t deny that,” Sandhurst replied. “After the last of the energy was flushed from my system, I found that I couldn’t stand being the ‘old’ me. I felt slower and more feeble, both mentally and physically. As it turns out, in the midst of my creative fugue, I added design elements to the new drive that would enable me to reclaim my place among the Amon.” He raised his hands, palms up in a gesture of futility. “And so I did.”

    “The attack on the En-Il-Que,” Lar’ragos said pointedly, his tone dripping with contempt. “Was that just to fill your chalice with life energy? Is that why you showed no consideration for the innocent Deobeen killed in the strike?”

    An ironic smile spread slowly across Sandhurst’s face. “You can’t be blind to the hypocrisy of that accusation, coming from someone with hands as stained as yours.”

    “No one is more aware of my sins than I am,” Lar’ragos replied acidly. “Answer the question.”

    “That sounds suspiciously like an order,” Sandhurst uttered, his tone conveying strong disapproval. “I don’t take orders from you, Commander.”

    It took an achingly long moment for Lar’ragos to back down and concede the point with a brief nod. “My apologies, Commodore. Please answer my question, sir.”

    “The attack on the En-Il-Que was necessary and appropriate to the circumstances, and if I recall correctly, it had your full support.”

    “The fact that you’re feeding off of the—“

    “Irrelevant,” Sandhurst barked, cutting him off. “You’re accusing me of butchering sentients for no other reason than to fill my stomach. That’s completely false. The En-Il-Que were preparing to send a recon expedition in force to hunt for more targets of opportunity. We couldn’t allow that. The fact that I made use of the energy shed by their fatalities was a beneficial byproduct of the raid, it was not the goal of the attack. The Amon do not kill merely for the sake of feeding.”

    Lar’ragos reached into his uniform jacket to produce a compact padd which he tossed to Sandhurst. “Tell that to the two-and-a-half million Federation citizens in the Ganopus system that your friends slaughtered two weeks ago, sir.”

    Sandhurst set the padd aside without reading its contents. “I’ve already been apprised by Command,” he said. “My tribe didn’t do this. In fact, they’re the only people who can help us bring those who did to justice.”

    “Your tribe,” Lar’ragos echoed in disbelief. “Can you even hear yourself? You can’t hold dual loyalties, sir, not in this instance!”

    “I’m Amon,” Sandhurst repeated, “but I’m still a Starfleet officer. My loyalty and oath to the Federation are still intact.” He stepped towards Lar’ragos. “You can read people, you can see into the truth of things. So… do it. Sense me. Reveal me as the fraud you believe me to be.”

    “I can’t!” Lar’ragos blurted suddenly. In response to Sandhurst’s skeptical look, Lar’ragos elaborated sheepishly, “I can’t sense anything from you when you’re like this.”

    “Like what?”

    “When you’re Amon,” Lar’ragos spat, as though forcing the admission through clenched teeth.

    “Pava,” Sandhurst answered in a surprisingly gentle tone, “I realize that every instinct you have must be screaming right now that I’m under the control of an alien force.”

    “You’ve got that right.”

    “I can only ask you to believe me that I’m the sole individual in control of my actions and decisions. I have never been sharper or more focused. I’ve never been in a better position to balance the operational needs of the task force with our duty to uphold the Federation’s values.”

    Lar’ragos folded his arms across his chest, and now it was his turn to appear incredulous. “You’ve made significant, secretive modifications to the ship’s computers and software, in addition to unauthorized alterations to the nav-deflector and bussard collectors. We also suspect you’ve tampered with the telemetry of the probes we sent into the Dalikar system to monitor the Amon cube.” Lar’ragos opened his arms expansively. “Now why would you think any of that would give me cause to suspect your motives?”

    Sandhurst met his friend’s gaze with unwavering conviction. “If I’d informed you of my intent to make those modifications, you’d have stopped me.”

    “All of which should have been an indication you’d wandered into dangerous territory, Commodore.”

    Sandhurst moved behind his desk, taking a seat. “I can understand and appreciate your concerns as my XO, Pava. I am presently working with my tribe to locate the Amon responsible for the attacks on Federation and Klingon worlds. Once we’ve found them, my tribe and our intercept group will strike hard and fast to excise the rogue element.”

    “It’s a good plan, sir, and under different circumstances I might entertain it,” Lar’ragos said, stepping toward the desk. He took a breath before stating, “I regret that given the information I and the other senior staff have uncovered, I must place you under arrest on the charges of Conduct Unbecoming and Failure to Obey Order or Regulation.” Lar’ragos’ hand moved toward the miniature phaser holstered in a pocket at his waist.

    Sandhurst’s face took on a sober mien, his eyes growing flinty. “Don’t do this. Starfleet can’t stand against the rogue Amon tribe alone.”

    “I’m sorry, Commodore,” Lar’ragos answered regretfully. “That’s beyond the scope of my position. Given the circumstances, I’m compelled to carry out my duty.”

    The door slid open to admit two security personnel, and Sandhurst could make out the presence of at least two fully geared Marines in the corridor beyond.

    Sandhurst nodded despondently, moving to touch a finger to the computer interface set into his desktop. There was a faint null-function buzz from the interface and then… nothing. Sandhurst looked slightly perturbed.

    “I’ve taken the liberty of having Lieutenant Ashok manually disable all transporter functions, sir,” Lar’ragos announced without a hint of satisfaction. “Given your abilities, I figured you’d have planned for such an eventuality.”

    A wry grin, tinged with sadness slowly formed on Sandhurst’s lips. “Well played,” he murmured as he closed his eyes and touched another of the controls.

    A brilliant, blinding flash surged from the cabin’s lighting fixtures just as Sandhurst shot from his chair. As he rose to his feet, he grabbed hold of the underside of his work desk, tearing it free from its fasteners and throwing it into the air, tumbling end over end.

    Lar’ragos’ eyes slammed shut in response to the flaring lights, even as he sensed the rush of air from the upset table and moved to drop beneath it. The spinning desk arced over Pava’s head and the lip of one edge caught him in the back of the head as the desk began its descent. The impact sent him sprawling forward, the compact phaser flying from his grasp as Lar’ragos threw his arms out to try and break his fall.

    Sandhurst moved through and past the two security specialists, throwing open-palm strikes into both their sternums that sent the two crashing bodily into the bulkhead on either side of the door.

    The first Marine was just starting to raise her phaser sidearm as Sandhurst emerged from the cabin and plowed into her. He drove a fist up into her chin from below, delivering a devastating uppercut that sent her off of her feet.

    Her compatriot swung the butt of his phaser rifle at the attacking blur, striking Sandhurst a glancing blow to the shoulder. In response, the commodore grabbed the Marine by his bulky armored breastplate and threw the man six meters down the length of the corridor. The Marine slammed into the seam where the ceiling met the floor as his rifle and dislodged combat helmet tumbled further down the carpeted passageway.

    Sandhurst turned to sprint down the corridor only to see a forcefield snap into existence in front of him, blocking his escape.

    “That’s… enough,” Lar’ragos called out from behind him, one of his security team’s full-sized phasers gripped in his shaking hand.

    Groans filtered into the passageway from Sandhurst’s quarters as Lar’ragos limped into the corridor. He gestured for Sandhurst to lay down. “On the deck, now!”

    “Are you certain a stun discharge will prove sufficient should he resist?” Verrik’s voice issued from further down the corridor as the Vulcan stepped out from the nearest intersection, phaser in hand.

    Lar’ragos spared the security chief a brief glance before fixing his attention back on Sandhurst. “I’m hoping he doesn’t force the issue, Lieutenant.”

    Sandhurst lowered himself slowly to the deck, eyeing the other two men warily.

    “Then I’m afraid I’ll have to, sir,” Verrik offered as he sent Lar’ragos crumpling to the floor with a burst of stun energy.

    The Vulcan looked dispassionately down at Sandhurst. “Commodore, if you’d like to make good your escape, I’d advise you to follow me.”

    *****
     
  11. Blip

    Blip Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That- that- GREEN BLOODED SONOFABITCH!!
     
  12. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Premium Member

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    You are just FULL of surprises. This is amazing. No other word for it. I want more. NOW! :evil:
     
  13. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Commander Red Shirt

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    Vancouver, WA
    That... that pointy-eared, green-blooded... hobgobling! Well, this just proves that Sandhurst is just as deadly as well. Maybe even more. Let's hope Lar'ragos and T'Ser can handle the situation properly.

    BTW: What happened with Ramirez?
     
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You are forgiven, my child! :lol:

    Thank you for the high praise on behalf of us United Trekkers.
     
  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Hey, now... why do you have to go and make this a racial thing? ;)

    Patience is a virtue, my friend. :D

    Oh, you can rest assured that she's still out there, biding her time. :devil:
     
  16. Zefram_Cochrane

    Zefram_Cochrane First Faster Than Light Red Shirt

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    Sam:

    This is an amazing addition to the story and now I'm really hanging by a thread to see what happens next with Sandhurst. I feel like Pava forced his hand, though, owing to his own paranoia about what's happening. I think for the first time, you've really captured his fear-motivated reaction to recent events.

    Looking forward to more!

    -- ZC
     
  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

    Chapter 6 <cont'd>

    Their escape from Europa proved far easier than Sandhurst had anticipated. Verrik collapsed the interior forcefields in sequence as the two made their way down the corridor and into an empty VIP stateroom, utilizing nothing more than a padd to circumvent the ship’s security protocols.

    Sandhurst discovered that many of the escape contingencies he had put in place had been preemptively thwarted by Lar’ragos, presumably with the help of Shanthi and Ashok. However, Verrik suffered no such setbacks, navigating and bypassing Europa’s subsystems with inexplicable ease.

    Out the cabin’s viewports, the swirling tunnel of light through which the starship passed while at transwarp velocities vanished. The static starfield in its place suggested the ship had dropped to impulse speeds. Verrik tapped quickly on his padd, noting, “Security teams are responding to our location. I’m flooding the surrounding corridors with anesthazine gas.”

    “Dare I ask who you represent and how you’re doing all this?” Sandhurst inquired.

    Before Verrik could reply, the two officers dematerialized, regaining cohesion an instant later aboard Europa’s captain’s yacht, Mediterranean. Verrik slid into the pilot’s seat as he answered the query. “Suffice to say that I recognize the danger to the Federation posed by the more aggressive of the Amon tribes. I agree that it’s in our best interest to use your relationship with their species in order to force a confrontation between the two factions.”

    Sandhurst lowered himself into the copilot’s seat, startled to realize that Mediterranean was already navigating freely and was powering away from Europa. The large shuttle jumped to warp as Verrik scanned the starship falling behind them. “I’ve temporarily incapacitated their warp drive and long range sensors. I’m establishing a sensor blind spot that will mask the shuttle from the ship’s sensors once they’ve re-established control over their compromised systems.”

    Verrik felt Sandhurst’s gaze linger on him and finally looked up from his controls to return the commodore’s scrutiny. “Yes?”

    “Lar’ragos indicated that he’d had the senior staff scouring the ship’s computer subroutines for any signs of tampering. Seeing as they located and disabled most of the little ‘cheats’ I’d put in place, how the hell did they manage to miss yours?”

    The Vulcan’s smirk was very faint, but it was there nonetheless. “I’m not at liberty to say,” he replied guardedly.

    “Where are we going?” Sandhurst pressed.

    Verrik transferred the navigation controls across to Sandhurst’s station. “They’re your people. You tell me.”

    *****

    Main Bridge, USS Europa

    Lar’ragos limped painfully onto the bridge, fairly collapsing into the command chair as he called out, “What’s our status?”

    “Both warp and transwarp drives are offline,” Ashok apprised from the Engineering station.

    “Long and short range external sensors are inoperative,” Shanthi called out from Science.

    Chief Petty Officer Dunleavy manned the Tactical console behind Lar’ragos’ chair. “No sign of either Sandhurst or Verrik on internal sensors, Commander.”

    Holding a hand to his woozy head, Lar’ragos muttered, “Have security and Marine personnel check that all our shuttles, escape pods and ASRV’s are in place.”

    At Ops, Juneau reported, “Someone’s overridden our internal security lockouts and isolation subroutines, but I’m not detecting any invasive programming present in any of our systems.”

    Dunleavy checked a series of updates scrolling across one of her displays. “I’m being informed by security personnel that the captain’s yacht is unaccounted for.”

    “Find it,” Lar’ragos groaned, struggling mightily not to vomit as his head thundered.

    Another update found its way to Dunleavy, who announced,“I’ve got a Marine squad in EVA’s that’s just cleared the commodore’s quarters. They report four injured personnel who are being transferred to Sickbay, and six others from an earlier response team who were apparently overcome by anesthazine gas.”

    Ashok frowned at his own console. “I don’t see any indications that we’ve deployed anesthazine anywhere aboard. I’m reading positive seals on all the supply canisters slaved to the environmental systems.”

    “We can’t trust anything our systems are telling us,” Shanthi answered loudly, ostensibly addressing Ashok, but offering the comment for all present. “I thought we’d ferreted out all of the commodore’s back-door programming, but there must have been a whole other layer, even more deeply embedded.”

    Ashok stood from the Engineering console, surrendering the board to one of his subordinates as he moved to sit in the empty XO’s seat next to Lar’ragos. “Commander,” he said as gently as possible to the visibly pained El Aurian. “If Sandhurst gets away we lose the only person who understands our new drive well enough to repair it if it suffers damage or breaks down.”

    A medic stepped onto the bridge from the fore turbolift and knelt next to Lar’ragos, running a hand sensor over him as the first officer considered Ashok’s words.

    “Understood, Lieutenant,” he finally managed to say between waves of nausea. “Get down to the computer core and prepare a full shut down and system wipe. We’ll reload our operating systems from the protected archives.”

    “We’ll lose all the programming modifications Sandhurst made to the propulsion and deflector systems,” Ashok noted grimly. “That means we lose our transwarp capability.”

    “I know,” Lar’ragos hissed. “It’s either that or continue to be at Sandhurst’s mercy. He's already proved he can shut us down at whim.”

    Ashok nodded curtly and headed for the ‘lift as Juneau called over her shoulder to Lar’ragos, “Sir, we’re getting reports from around the ship that people are seeing sublight starfields out their viewports. It looks like we’ve dropped to impulse speeds.”

    “And this is what it’s come to,” Lar’ragos muttered sullenly under his breath. He craned his neck to allow the medic to inject him with a painkiller and anti-inflammatory for the concussion he’d sustained as he toggled the PA from his armrest. “This is the XO. All personnel, standby for emergency shutdown and restoration of all computer systems. There will be momentary interruptions in primary power and all LCARS functions.”

    *****

    Cargo Hold, USS Masada

    Edward Jellico’s ragged sobs had long since ceased to amuse her. To the contrary, his having eventually succumbed to her tortures only served to underscore her already low opinion of humans altogether. They were weak. Fragile. Soft.

    She had visited all manner of cruelties upon him in the past weeks, many of which she herself had suffered at the hands of the Baron. After a period his considerable resistance had faded and he had been broken, at which point he no longer held her interest. Now she inflicted additional pain upon him for no other reason than she had nothing else to occupy her time.

    Parlan entered the compartment, stepping past her to look up at the bloodied, torn, and barely recognizable form of Jellico as he writhed in the clutches of the suspensor field. The android cocked his head to look at her. “Long range sensors have detected Europa’s sudden appearance a mere six-point-seven light-years from us.”

    “Where did they come from?” Ramirez asked, suddenly showing the first real signs of life in days.

    “Unknown,” Parlan replied. “There were no indications of a warp signature or any previous sensor contact with the ship prior to its unexpected appearance.”

    “Perhaps they’ve got themselves a cloaking device, too?” she surmised.

    “Perhaps,” Parlan allowed. Without preamble, he extended an arm and fired an energy pulse from his hand that vaporized the grievously injured Jellico, whose body vanished with a screech as air rushed to fill the void of his passing.

    Ramirez wheeled on him. “What the hell are you doing?”she seethed.

    “I am eliminating the unnecessary distraction of your toy,” he replied in an aggravatingly reasonable tone. “Our master has been in enemy hands for weeks now, and you’ve made no appreciable effort to secure his release. In fact, you’ve done nothing more than poke at that pathetic captive. You will immediately assist me in recovering our master, or I will do so without you.”

    “I am the Baron’s chosen successor!” Ramirez cried, her eyes blazing with neurologically induced conviction.

    Parlan was unmoved by her passion. “Be that as it may, you have elected to allow him to rot in captivity. That is intolerable. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were stalling to avoid a final confrontation between you and your former crewmates.”

    The anger behind her eyes dimmed with that accusation, and she blinked as if startled. “Ridiculous. That battle will be the culmination of the Baron’s long-held plans. It is to be his legacy!”

    “Then let the battle begin, Liana,” Parlan coaxed, managing to make it sound like a plea rather than an order, but only just. “We have made preparations for exactly this contingency, and you well know our master was willing to sacrifice his life to see his dreams of vengeance fulfilled.”

    Her eyes glistened with tears. “It… it is hard, Parlan. To consign such a man to death, it’s like striking down a god.”

    “I understand,” Parlan empathized, or at least he pretended to. They had both been programmed by the Baron, and Ramirez still didn’t know if Parlan could experience emotion, or merely mimic it. “Nevertheless, it must be done if we are to honor his memory.”

    “It will be,” she said in a trembling voice, weeping openly now. “I swear it.”

    *****
     
  18. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Things have truly taken a turn for the worse here recently. What fascinates me the most is the fact that I still haven't been able to make up my mind about Sandhurst. By all accounts I should be firmly in the anti-Donald camp by now. After all his actions here were totally not okay.

    But then I can't help but root for him a little bit. And he might be right about the Amon being the only ones able to stop ... the Amon.

    And Ramirez is back. And here I was thinking things had gotten as ugly as they get ... not likely.
     
  19. Count Zero

    Count Zero Welcome to the Danger Zone! Moderator

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2005
    Location:
    Procrastination Plaza
    Wow, a lot of unexpected events. The revelation about Sandhurst was really disturbing and I think he's kidding himself about the life energy and his intentions regarding the En-Il-Que to some degree.

    I believe I have an inkling of what will happen regarding Ramirez and the Amon but I might be totally wrong about that. In any case, things will become a lot worse for Europa's crew and Sandhurst, too.

    Poor Jellico.
     
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 6 continued)

    Chapter 6 <cont'd>

    The cryogenic stasis tank containing the Baron resided in one of the ancillary medical wards on Deck 5. He’d been placed in stasis after it had become apparent that none of their medical technology seemed capable of reversing or even arresting the unknown force behind the Baron’s neural degradation.

    Putting him ‘on ice’ as it were had seemed to slow the rate of cerebral decay by a third, and so he had remained while Dr. Multorlo and Lt. Taiee researched his condition when not consumed by other medical emergencies. Utilizing the LMH’s vast database, the pair had examined and discarded dozens of possibilities, leaving an infinite number of others yet to check.

    A discrete subspace signal, very nearly indistinguishable from the background radiation of the nearest pulsar, was received by a sub-micron transceiver disguised as one of the Baron’s cellular ribosomes. The signal initiated a chemical cascade that spread throughout his body, slowly at first, given the lethargy of his cryogenically suspended physiology.

    It would take some time for the plan to come to fruition, but the die had been cast.

    *****

    Shuttle Mediterranean

    Sandhurst brought the captain’s yacht out of warp and coasted into the system, coming to rest in orbit of a frozen Class-L planetoid.

    Verrik was still trying to determine what this common rock in this unremarkable system had to do with the Amon when he became aware that Sandhurst was facing his direction with a phaser trained on him.

    “That escape was far too easy,” Sandhurst offered. “And if I’m not mistaken, I believe you’d removed yourself from duty over a week ago due to unspecified ‘personal issues.’”

    The Operative in command of Verrik’s body was suitably impressed. She wasn’t easy to dupe, and yet she’d suspected nothing untoward on the brief journey here. To make matters worse, she had not even perceived the danger posed by Sandhurst until it was too late.

    “Your point?” Verrik replied calmly.

    “I suspect that you are also part of Pava’s little cabal. It makes sense that he’d take you completely offline in order to allow you to investigate the alterations I’d made to Europa’s systems without drawing attention to yourself.”

    “That’s a very logical supposition, Commodore,” Verrik said. “However, it’s also completely incorrect. Verrik took himself off duty because he suspected that his psyche may have been compromised.”

    Sandhurst gave him a curious look. “Do you often talk about yourself in the third person?”

    Verrik smiled, and Sandhurst found the gesture from the normally Surak-adhering Vulcan to be disturbing. “I usually try not to,” he answered with a hint of playfulness in his voice. “It usually generates unwelcome attention.”

    “Who are you?” Sandhurst asked. The fine edge to his tone suggested that further evasion would be met with harsh reprisals.

    “I’ve served with you two and a half years, Commodore, first as Olivia Juneau, and now as Verrik. I represent a faction of devout Federation patriots for whom the preservation of our grand union is the highest calling.”

    Sandhurst’s eyes narrowed. “Both Juneau and Verrik?” he asked, clearly incredulous.

    “What better covert operative could you have than one who can remain hidden in plain sight? I’m what’s known as a neuro-adaptive personality matrix, an intact mind-state that can, with some difficulty, transfer from person to person. I hide behind the scenes, watching and waiting, only coming to the fore when absolutely necessary to accomplish my assigned tasks.”

    Verrik saw the light of realization take hold in Sandhurst’s gaze. “Juneau’s seemingly inexplicable displays of bravery and tactical acumen… that was you.”

    “Yes,” Verrik answered.

    “I’m guessing you belong to one of those secretive cabals we’ve had hints of in the past, like the organization that destroyed Captain Aurelia’s ship.”

    “Yes. Pity about Independence and her crew.”

    A scowl swept across Sandhurst’s countenance, like a dark storm front. “Wait… Aurelia’s turncoat officer, the one she suspected of being the saboteur, she died under highly improbable circumstances. Was that your doing?”

    “It was,” Verrik confirmed. “She’d blown her cover and jeopardized our organization in an egotistical display that was unworthy of the trust that had been placed in her. I eliminated the threat she posed.”

    “So, you’re an assassin?”

    “I’m an operative, Commodore. I fulfill my assignments in order to defend the Federation against threats both foreign and domestic. Sometimes that necessitates taking lives for the greater good.”

    “Given your track record,” Sandhurst asked in a reasonable tone, “how am I supposed to trust you?”

    Verrik’s reply was immediate, and voiced just as sensibly. “I saved your life and the lives of your crew at Lakesh.”

    Sandhurst nodded knowingly. “The mystery device affixed to the structural integrity field.”

    A wistful smile was Verrik’s only confirmation.

    “It appears that you’re the only ally I have left,” Sandhurst noted.

    “So it would seem.”

    Sandhurst lowered the phaser and turned back to his flight controls. “Seeing as I'm suffering from a decided lack of options, you'll have to do.”

    *****
     

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