Passing of the Torch

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Dec 21, 2019.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You certainly know how to write war. This felt like it was ripped right out of an old school WWII or Vietnam-era tale, although of course, with all the familiar sci-fi and Trek trappings which make this such a joy to read. Even if the subject is anything but joyful and the pain and anguish people are going through, quite palpable. How messy is this thing going to get, exactly?
     
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  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    CeJay expressed it perfectly - superb writing. I do have to wonder why Starfleet/Federation rules of engagement limit defensive measures to heavy stun? What are they supposed to do when the Cardassian troops wake up? They are woefully undermanned to take prisoners. Apparently, they will learn lessons from this battle that will update ROE in battles/wars to come.
     
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  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Var charged towards the four-story building with a squad of five other men, having separated from the larger platoon at So-Dal Urtrim’s instruction. They were to stage a diversionary attack on the upper stories of the structure, already much abused by rocket and plasma-rifle fire. During their diversion, another squad led by Urtrim would gain entry to the building and clear the structure of defenders floor by floor.

    Their platoon and others had taken significant casualties from the automated phaser emplacements and mortar fire before they’d been able to knock those damnable robotic devices offline. Their drop ship air-cover had strafed the hilltop and thankfully silenced the mortar.

    Var skirted a smoking crater before taking cover behind a smoldering ground car tipped onto its side. From his vantage, he could see up into the defender’s firing positions in the mangled third and forth stories of one of the few buildings in the commercial center not engulfed in flames.

    The occasional phaser beam lashed out from up there, targeted towards the Cardassian troop formations still advancing farther behind his platoon. Those above were apparently unaware the enemy had already closed with them.

    Arvik dropped to a knee at the back of the upturned vehicle, calling softly to him. “We don’t have an angle for a direct shot. Grenades?”

    Grabbing a grenade from his torso carryall, Var nodded soberly to his comrade. He primed it and waited for the digital timer to count down to three before lobbing it overhand though an already shattered third story window.

    A bright flash and accompanying *whump* belched debris from the opening. Shouts and an injured shriek issued forth as Var and Arvik raised their pulse rifles for the expected reaction.

    A silhouetted figure looked out the window and fired a broad swath of phaser energy down at the base of the building, causing the plants and grass there to wither and smoke. It was a futile gesture, as the attackers were sheltered behind cover a dozen meters further out.

    Var and Arvik opened fire in tandem, riddling the figure and the surrounding window frame with scores of plasma bolts.

    There was a gasp from the figure before it collapsed forward and pitched out the window to hit the ground with an audible thud. Var peeked out around the car to see a female Human laying crumpled there, curlicues of smoke rising from multiple impacts.

    Three others from Var’s detachment, having found cover of their own, now began peppering the third and fourth stories with fire.

    Only a few more phaser blasts came from the fourth story as follow on platoons began adding their fire to the increasing storm of Cardassian ire that gnawed away at what remained of the building’s upper façade.

    Var then heard more plasma weapons chattering from within the building. He motioned for his squad to cease fire as he used his comm-link to spread the word to units farther back. Intermittent flashes issued from within the structure, followed by yells and the occasional scream. After a few tense moments of waiting, a green flare was tossed out from what remained of a fourth story window. Their comms sounded with Urtrim’s voice, “Cease fire, we’ve secured the building!”

    The platoon rallied on the ground floor of the building, Urtrim’s entry group supporting a wounded man between them who’d clearly been shot by a weapon set to something higher than the stun setting. Their medic attended to his wound as Urtrim briefed them.

    “Good work,” the So-Dal assessed gruffly. “There were more than fifteen defenders here, and we overcame them with only one man wounded. Most of their weapons are set to incapacitate, not to kill. Many of those we lost on the approach to these buildings are already being revived.”

    Arvik goggled, clearly perplexed. “Why would they do such a thing, So-Dal?”

    “As I said,” Urtrim replied, “they are soft. They actually believe displaying mercy on the battlefield is a virtue.” He pointed up, gesturing to the battle just fought on the floors above. “Not a single one of them still breathes. None of them shall threaten Cardassia ever again.”

    Urtrim checked his digital-slate, receiving a download from his tactical interlink. “We’ve cleared out this commercial district. From here we’ll assault towards the colony proper. There are a number of additional defensive lines that we’ll have to overcome or skirt around, depending on the situation on-scene. Change out your magazines and replenish any expended ordinance from our supply sled. Be ready to move again in five.”

    The So-Dal motioned for Var to join him. “You did well with you mission,” Urtrim noted. “You and your squad accomplished the task without taking foolish chances. Durata was struck by enemy fire on our approach, and I don’t know when or if he’ll be rejoining us. You will now take his place as squad leader until you’re killed, wounded, or until you fail me. Questions?”

    “None, So-Dal,” Var answered.

    * * *​

    Sandhurst sat up, causing a layer of displaced soil to spill down from where it had covered him. He shook his head and glanced around to see nothing moving in the darkness. It occurred to him that they needed to get off this hilltop immediately. What if the next strike on us is an orbital bombardment?

    He withdrew his palm-beacon and switched it on, calling out, “Who’s still here?”

    There was a cough and groaning from somewhere nearby, and Sandhurst moved towards the sound, scanning the beacon back and forth. “Who’s there?”

    Cadet Trioni Waller lay with her upper back against an outcropping of rock. Her head lolled and she was making a low, moaning sound. Sandhurst crouched down next to her and practically recoiled as he realized that her right arm was missing just above the elbow. The pool of blood next to her caused him to freeze as his mind blanked, wiped clean of all his first-aid training. He closed his eyes and forced himself to breath calmly, and then remembered his med-kit contained a tourniquet. Sandhurst reflexively reached for his med-kit, only to find it missing.

    Sandhurst scrabbled back to where he’d fallen, panning the light around attempting to locate the med-kit. He couldn’t see it anywhere, making him question how far the explosions had thrown him. He dug frantically through the dirt where he’d lain, but again found nothing. Sandhurst realized that he could not leave Waller to bleed out, and that he’d have to fashion a tourniquet from something else.

    He sprinted back to where she leaned against the rock and moved to tear away part of his pant leg, only to find the durable material to be far stronger than he anticipated. He had no knife to cut away the material and continued to struggle with it in vain.

    It dawned on him slowly that Waller was no longer moaning or moving. He reached out to feel for a pulse at her neck, finding nothing that he could detect. Only then did he spot Waller’s own med-kit affixed to the waist of her uniform jumpsuit. He grabbed the kit, pulled it open and fumbled with the tourniquet, finally managing to apply it correctly to the stump of her right arm. He then placed the small adhesive bio-monitor strip to her forehead with trembling hands, leaving a smear of her blood across her face. The monitor immediately issued a soft, trilling alarm, indicating no cardiovascular activity detected.

    Sandhurst moved to pull Waller away from the rock and began performing chest compressions. He lost track of time, focused only on his ragged breathing, the sweat pouring down his back, his aching, weakening arms… until a firm hand on his shoulder gave him pause.

    Votor, the Vulcan cadet, observed, “She is dead.” He spoke again over the continuing trill of the bio-monitor, "There are others here who require our assistance, and then we must leave this place.”

    Sandhurst struggled against Votor’s superior strength only briefly, reluctant to leave Waller alone. Wasn’t he supposed to close her eyes, or bury her or something?

    Votor led him to where Lar’ragos lay as the man began to slowly pull himself into a sitting position. He gasped, trying to catch his breath as he finally appeared to see his fellow cadets kneeling next to him. “Ju—just got the… wind… knocked out.”

    As soon as he’d ascertained that Lar’ragos required no medical intervention, Votor turned to search for others as Sandhurst remained, looking distractedly back towards where Waller lay in the darkness somewhere behind him.

    “Who?” Lar’ragos said, followed by a fit of coughing.

    “Trioni,” Sandhurst murmured. “Cadet Waller,” he announced with more volume.

    “Sorry,” Lar’ragos offered, then hissed in pain as he rolled onto his hands and knees. “Yep, yep, that’s definitely broken ribs.”

    The sound of weapons fire from somewhere down below the hill wafted up to them. Lar’ragos took in a sharp breath and stood with Sandhurst’s help. He reached down and confirmed his phaser pistol was still holstered in his thigh rig. “Okay, let’s get down there and get back in the fight,” he said, his voice carrying more bravado than he felt.

    Sandhurst helped him limp towards where more palm-beacons were flashing, panning around in the darkness. “Shut those off! You want to attract another run by those drop ships?” Lar’ragos demanded.

    The lights were extinguished and in the weak illumination of the twin crescent moons the two of them made out Votor and Cadet Maurice Rennenger. Rennenger was cradling his left arm in his right, a makeshift sling fashioned from Votor’s uniform sleeve supporting his injured arm.

    “This is everyone,” Votor advised them. "The others are deceased and I am unable to locate Chief Schäfer. He was either blown from the crest of the hill or otherwise vaporized.” The Vulcan held up the binoculars Schäfer had been using. They were battered but still usable. “Cardassian forces are securing the commercial center below. I would advise another destination.”

    “Okay,” Lar’ragos told the group. “Everybody find a phaser. We’ll descend the back side of the hill, away from the buildings. We’ll make our way back to the main colony.”

    With that, they began their slow, awkward, and painful descent back into the ongoing battle.

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2020
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  4. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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    Oh, reinforcements... your coffee break is over. Haul ass and save the colonists, Sandhurst, and Lar'ragos!
     
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  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    War is Hell. Or Sto’vo’kor. Or something.
    Aaand the good guys are getting their asses kicked. Pava has broken ribs and the Chief is dead. Sandhurst is experiencing his first taste of combat and it’s going down like vinegar and hot sauce.
    Otherwise, everything is just groovy. More, please.
     
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  6. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    At last, I have reached the last update, so now I will comment.

    Damn. I knew that there was no way there would not be some terrible calamity facing Sandy and Pava, but damn. You write battle so very well, my own attempts absolutely pale in comparison. But then, I tend to focus more on the people than the action, perhaps to my detriment.

    In any case, this is -- as your work usually is -- an incredibly engrossing story. And while we know that Lar'ragos and Sandhurst survive, we don't yet know how scarred their psyches will be by this particular experience. It's definitely going to get worse before it gets better.
     
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  7. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

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    Once more unto the breach, aye? At least for Pava. For Sandhurst, this is his first nightmare taste of brutal combat. So far he's doing an admiral job of keeping his wits about him. Especially at such a tender age.

    I have the feeling that the fun is just beginning.
     
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  8. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Not much else I think I can add, other than to say that your really putting these guys through a crucible here. I may have said this before, but this is part of Federation history we haven't really seen much of before, so it's great to get some context to what people often referred to as border skirmishes, when in reality, this is a full-blown, nasty wall with all its ugly trappings. And no doubt, a defining moment for the young Donald and the man who would become his best friend.
     
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  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Based on information found from sources like those below, I've pictured the conflict as having been a long, protracted series of clashes. Some of them were smaller skirmishes like the Setlik III massacre, while others were full blown military engagements like we're seeing in this story.

    https://memory-alpha.fandom.com/wiki/Federation-Cardassian_War

    Thank you all for the kind words regarding this tale. I had a story outline in mind, but in it's execution the tale's taken me in some unexpected directions.
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
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  10. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Why Sam, I have absolutely no idea what you mean! :rofl::lol::brickwall:
     
  11. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    * * *​

    The sounds of fighting grew louder as Lar’ragos, Sandhurst, Votor and Rennenger neared the bottom of the hill. It appeared that advancing Cardassian forces were skirting the base of the hill, seizing a collection of small family farms and light industrial areas from colonial defenders in series of brief but violent clashes.

    Through his binoculars set to thermal imaging, Lar’ragos could make out Home-Guard and constabulary units falling back piecemeal from these engagements. Some of the groups carried wounded with them while others seemed to have abandoned their weapons during their hasty retreat.

    Lar’ragos looked skyward, but the airspace above the colony appeared free of craft. At maximum magnification he could make out signs of continued fighting in orbit as the Cardassian squadron engaged the colony’s remaining orbital defenses.

    His cramping hip joint was finally beginning to relax, allowing him to move without assistance. However, the sharp pain in his chest that accompanied every breath spoke of broken ribs. The old-style tactical armor he’d replicated had doubtless saved him from whatever piece of high-velocity shrapnel had collided with his torso.

    The El Aurian scanned the area ahead, using both the binoculars and Votor’s tricorder. At present there appeared to be no opposition between their group and the colony’s outermost suburbs. That wouldn’t last, he knew, especially if the defenders continued to surrender ground as quickly as they had so far.

    “We need to find some working ground transport,” Lar’ragos said between clenched teeth. “The enemy is swinging around the hill to our right and making good time.”

    “Are they utilizing vehicles?” Votor inquired.

    “Not that I’ve seen, only foot-mobile so far. They’re advancing at a quick pace, though. At this rate they’ll overtake us in about an hour.”

    Sandhurst pointed off to their left, moonlight reflecting of metal objects in the distance. He gestured for Lar’ragos’ binoculars then raised them to his eyes. “That looks like a farm,” he said. “Even if they’ve evacuated, it’s a good bet they’ve left some kind of transport behind.”

    “Maybe they have a replicator,” Rennenger posited. “I’m starving.”

    Lar’ragos fished a survival ration bar out of a pocket of his fatigue pants and handed it to Rennenger. “I don’t suppose anyone grabbed their backpack before we came off the hill?”

    There were guilty glances all around and Sandhurst cleared his throat. “No… we—uh, only grabbed phasers.”

    He gave a resigned bob of his head in acknowledgement, reminding himself that given the overwhelming nature of the combat environment, he needed to continually remind them of the basics. It was only after the tumult of battle had become commonplace that they could expect to begin functioning more or less normally.

    “Okay, we’re heading for that farm. Sandhurst and Votor, you two have phasers out. No more scanning until we get closer, in case the Cardies are looking for electromagnetic energy traces.”

    * * *​

    Var and Arvik entered the structure, discovering it to be a small warehouse containing different types of robot agricultural equipment. Var gestured for his friend to go and get something to eat at a table where their platoon had set up a makeshift kitchen as he moved to report to So-Dal Urtrim.

    The fight for the commercial complex had been little more dangerous than a training exercise, but the battle for this agricultural station had been significantly more ferocious. The Federation defenders’ weapons were no longer set to stun, and their assaulting force had suffered four killed and another seven wounded.

    Urtrim was busy comparing the tactical map on his digital-slate to a relief map of the colony site displayed on a large viewer in one of the building’s storage bays. Var stepped forward, offering a Cardassian salute. “Squad Four reporting in, So-Dal. We suffered one wounded, Dal Lenek, though not too seriously. He’s being attended to by the medics and should be reporting back to duty soon.”

    Urtrim spared him a glance. “Understood. Your men are eating and gearing up for the next push?”

    “They are, So-Dal.”

    The sergeant went back to his maps, noticing after a moment that Var was still standing there. “What is it?” he asked tersely.

    “Our first wave, So-Dal… the commando units and shock-troops. What happened to them?”

    Urtrim set the slate down on a nearby work bench. “The enemy utilized some kind of transporter scrambler. I didn’t know such a thing even existed. All of them died as a result, three-hundred of our best.”

    Var digested this. “I see. So, we are now the point of the blade?”

    “Just so,” Urtrim confirmed. “That is why I promoted you and other promising young leaders, Var. Fate cares nothing for men’s plans, and we must be ready to adapt when that happens as it so frequently does.”

    Var came to attention. “I see. Thank you for telling me, So-Dal.”

    “Keep it between us, Var. The men have enough to worry about.”

    Arvik stepped up to them, issuing respectful nods to both. “The squad has requisitioned gear and are eating. They’ll be ready in ten,” he reported to Var.

    Var replied, “Good.”

    Distant screams caught Var’s attention, and he craned this thick neck to look back through the garage’s open cargo doors towards another cluster of pre-fab industrial buildings nearby.

    In answer to his questioning look, Urtrim provided, “The Obsidian Order is interrogating enemy soldiers.”

    Arvik smiled thinly at this revelation and began heading in that direction. Var called after him. “Dunan,” he said, using Arvik’s given name. “I wouldn’t. You may see things you’ll later regret.”

    Another shriek could be heard, this one sounded like a female.

    With a slight shake of his head, Arvik answered, “It is only the enemies of Cardassia receiving justice. Nothing to fear from that.” He walked away, his gait purposeful.

    Var sighed. Urtrim watched him for a quiet moment before observing, “You may have a future in soldiering, Var. You fight well, you think quickly and correctly in dynamic situations, and you don’t crave casual violence.” He cast a glance in the direction of the screams. “They have a duty to perform; I know this. It is not necessary for them to enjoy it, however.”

    “You don’t approve?” Var asked.

    “There is a stark difference between interrogation and torture,” the So-Dal said. “One is of genuine military value, the other is merely an avenue of personal gratification.”

    The younger man gave Urtrim a questioning look. “Such candor, So-Dal. You don’t fear the Obsidian Order?”

    Urtrim shrugged as he picked up his data-slate and returned to mapping the platoon’s next advance. “Die at their hands or at the hands of Cardassia’s enemies… what’s the difference? Dead is dead.”

    * * *​

    There was something indescribably comforting in the low hum of the truck’s a-grav drive as the four cadets barreled towards the colony along a deserted roadway. Lar’ragos and Sandhurst were up front, while Votor sat silently in the back seat with a well-medicated Rennenger sleeping next to him.

    From the passenger seat, Lar’ragos looked across to where Sandhurst drove. “And how does a nice Earth boy like you know how to hotwire a farm truck?”

    Sandhurst smirked in the darkness of the truck cab. “It’s a century old duotronic module design. I started hacking those when I was eight.”

    Lar’ragos chuckled. “You’re full of surprises, kid.”

    “Don’t call me ‘kid,’” Sandhurst snapped back. “As of the end of this training cruise, we’re no longer plebes. Given that Sagan is almost certainly gone now, I’d say our cruise is over.”

    Lar’ragos gave him a sidelong glance. “Okay. Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you angry.”

    “Besides,” Sandhurst added, “You’re not that much older than me. A decade or two doesn’t count for much these days.”

    The El Aurian turned his head to regard the young Human. “I’m four-hundred years older than you, Donald.”

    Sandhurst snorted derisively, “Sure you are.”

    Lar’ragos shrugged in the dark, then pointed ahead towards the road. “Start slowing down, we’re approaching the outskirts. I don’t want to roar up on our defense line and get shot to pieces.”

    A moment later, a silhouetted figure stepped out onto the road ahead of them and began waving frantically. Sandhurst slowed, and the truck whispered to a halt just meters away from what looked to be a hastily assembled roadblock manned by Home-Guard and colony constables.

    From beside Sandhurst, Lar’ragos growled under his breath, “You have got to be kidding me.”

    A Home-Guard sergeant approached the driver’s side and scanned the interior of the truck with a flashlight. “You people might be the last ones out,” the man remarked.

    Sandhurst heard the truck’s passenger door slam shut and before he knew it Lar’ragos was around the cab and squarely in the sergeant’s face.

    “Who’s got the tricorder?” Lar’ragos demanded.

    “The what?” the sergeant sputtered.

    “The scanner,” Lar’ragos roared. “How did you know we were Starfleet and not a truck full of Cardassians?”

    “The Cardassians are advancing on foot—”

    There was an abrupt sound of bone on flesh and the sergeant went sprawling onto the road.

    “Do you have it?” Lar’ragos shouted at another Home-Guard reservist. The man held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, backing away. Lar’ragos rounded on a constable on the other side of the road. “You? Do you have it?”

    The burly constable shook his head, stepping forward. “Nobody here has a scanner.” His hand moved towards his waist. “Why don’t you calm the fu—”

    The stun-pistol he’d been drawing from his holster clattered to the roadway an instant before his unconscious body did.

    “This!” Lar’ragos snarled. “This… bullshit… is why all of you are going to fucking die!”

    Two reservists and another constable rushed him in unison. Despite Sandhurst giving the headlight-illuminated melee his undivided attention, he couldn’t precisely say exactly what had happened. The end result was undeniable, though. All three lay at Pava’s feet, two of them sufficiently conscious to be writhing.

    Lar’ragos pointed back towards where the oncoming Cardassians were, somewhere out in the darkness. “If it were me calling the shots out there, I’d pack explosives into a truck like this one and drive it right up to you idiots! Boom! No more roadblock!”

    “Okay,” came a voice out of the darkness. A senior constable stepped into the glare of the truck’s headlights, her voice stern but steady. “You’ve made your point. Stand down, cadet.”

    Lar’ragos stepped over the prostrate bodies at his feet, shaking his head in disgust as he made his way back around the truck. “Where are the Starfleet personnel from the commercial district?”

    “Those that made it out alive are helping to man a defensive strongpoint about five klicks west of here,” she answered him. She stepped forward with her hands up, one them containing a padd. “I can show you on the map.”

    She did so, and afterwards Lar’ragos gestured to the truck, still obviously seething. “Would you care to examine the vehicle to make sure we’re not being held hostage by Cardassians hiding in the back before you allow us to go about our business behind your lines?”

    A cursory examination by an armed party followed and then the constable-captain waved the truck through.

    “Goddamn amateurs,” Lar’ragos muttered as he clambered back into the truck.

    “Your predilection for unanticipated behaviors continues,” Votor noted from the back seat.

    “Shut up, Votor,” Lar’ragos said with no small amount of satisfaction.

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2020
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  12. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    The So-Dal seems like a pragmatist - do your job and try not to get killed. If you die, does it really matter how?
    And Pava is apparently the only good guy on the planet who has a clue to what he's doing. Good grief, he was ticked when he came up on the roadblock, though I can't say I blame him. "Unanticipated behaviors," indeed. :lol: Sandhurst is at least being useful, though somehow he missed the fact that El-Aurians live a very long time, or simply assumed Lar'ragos was Human.
     
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  13. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    ^ Yes, Pava may have... misdirected some of his anger. :klingon:
     
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  14. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I get you, Pava, I really do. But you gotta chill out, dude, not everybody understands warfare the way you do, and you probably do a better job teaching these greenhorns without going off on them like a mad man.

    If anything, I think this shows just how deeply scarred he is by a life he has likely hoped he had left behind. But as they say in the Godfather: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."
     
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  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    You, sir, have hit the nail directly on the head. :bolian:
     
  16. CamSPD

    CamSPD Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    Damn. Pava certainly has a point, but he won't be teaching anyone anything if he's screaming at them. He definitely has issues, but then having met Pava Lar'ragos' future incarnation...we already knew that.
     
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  17. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Nehru Colonial Command Center, Arandis IV

    Director McCullough looked up from the map-display table where she and the head of the Home-Guard were tracking the multi-pronged Cardassian advance on the colony proper. Their defenses were crumbling along the main axis of enemy advance after the Cardassian air assets had overwhelmed the colony’s defensive strongpoint at the commercial complex.

    There were at least three other enemy formations advancing from other directions, but these appeared to be weaker attacks, possibly diversionary in nature. For now, their focus was on throwing as many Home-Guard, constabulary and Starfleet units as they could into the breach to slow the main Cardassian thrust.

    McCullough’s eyes settled on Commander Morozov who stood a few paces away, kitted out in Starfleet away-mission uniform and cradling one of their new bulbous-nosed phaser rifles.

    “Hopefully they won’t get this far, Commander,” she remarked.

    “I intend to make sure of it, Director,” he replied. “There’s nothing for me to do here that you can’t do for yourselves. I’m going out there to lead my people.”

    She held his gaze for a moment as she decided that arguing the point was fruitless. McCullough had no authority over Morozov or his surviving crew, and his argument was valid. He likely could do more out on the front lines than he could in the Ops Center to support their cause.

    “I understand. Good luck out there.” McCullough stepped forward and extended a hand.

    Morozov shook it firmly. “To us all, Director.”

    He beat a hasty exit and McCullough turned her attention back to the map display. “What’s between their spearhead and our water reclamation center?” she asked.

    The Home-Guard colonel nodded towards Morozov’s retreating back. “About seventy Starfleet personnel and soon to be one very determined captain.”

    “Commander,’ she corrected him with a confused expression. “I thought Morozov was their first officer?”

    “He took a temporary reduction in grade for this mission,” the colonel replied. McCullough remembered suddenly that the colonel had served in Starfleet as a junior officer before transferring his commission to the colonial Home-Guard when he emigrated to Arandis IV. “A ship can only have one captain.”

    McCullough furrowed her brow. “I guess I don’t get the difference.”

    “He’s wearing four pips now,” the colonel observed. ”And regardless of actual rank,” he added with a note of admiration in his voice, “that man is a starship captain.”

    * * *​

    Casualty Collection and Triage Center

    Dr. Cavanaugh had, rather uncharitably, expected the emergency medical processes on this crisis-stricken colony to be chaotic and slipshod. To her surprise and appreciation, the civilian medical staff had proven professional, creative, and stalwart.

    Casualties from the battlefield were transported via ambulance or other conveyance, as the colony’s transporter scattering field remained active. Once they arrived at the makeshift hospital, they were triaged and those in most critical need of emergency care were quickly seen to.

    Once stabilized, the post-operative patients were moved to the colony’s hospital, a structure nearly as well shielded as one of the hardened civil shelters.

    Cavanaugh stood in a pre-fab surgical module, closing a surgical incision with her protoplaser. Her patient was a constable who had taken three plasma bolts to the torso and by all rights should have died from her wounds before reaching help. However, the young woman simply refused to die, and had held on long enough to receive advanced medical care and surgical intervention from Cavanaugh.

    Though the Cardassians plasma-based small-arms were technically more primitive than Starfleet’s phasers, they were rapid pulse weapons rather than firing a single columnated beam and inflicted ghastly damage to unprotected humanoid tissue.

    A humanoid wounded by these weapons would experience severe systemic shock, a byproduct of the plasma burns they suffered, both external and internal. The superheated gasses that comprised the jacketed plasma bolts tended to expand once they had penetrated the body, pulverizing organs and creating cavitation effects that shattered bone and created massive internal wounds and secondary hemorrhaging.

    The patient Cavanaugh had operated on immediately before the constable had been one of the cadets from Sagan, a young man that she only vaguely remembered from her brief time aboard. He had died on the table when Cavanaugh had been unable to locate a massive internal bleed that had begun as she had worked to repair horrific damage to his liver.

    Cavanaugh stepped to the sterilization field at the door to the operating theater, doffing her gloves, facemask and apron as she exited, telling her chief surgical nurse, “I need a cup of coffee if I’m going to stay on my feet. Back in five. Please work with Dr. Hoang to get the next surgical patient prepped.”

    As she moved towards a small portable replicator unit nearby, Cavanaugh could hear distant sounds of battle. The crackle of plasma-rifle fire provided counterpoint to the whine of small-arms phasers amid the random *crump* of explosions. People here moved with purpose, transporting wounded on litters and hauling crates of medical supplies, but nobody was panicking. Even with the fighting now on their proverbial doorstep, the colonists maintained an air of grim determination.

    A hand grasped her shoulder causing her to start as she reached for the cup of coffee in the replicator’s delivery slot. Cavanaugh spun around to find Morozov staring intently at her.

    “For God’s sake, Evgeni, you scared the hell out of me!”

    “Forgive me,” he said breathlessly, grasping her by the shoulders. “I have to go. I’m heading out to join what’s left of our crew.”

    His meaning was plain to her, but her mind was too shocked to fully accept what he was saying. Her discussion with Abidemi Tinubu about the captain’s impending death had brought Cavanaugh to tears. In this moment, however, the thought of her lover’s potential demise left her speechless.

    “You… can’t,” was all she was finally able to utter.

    “I have to, Carol. They’re a bunch of kids with a few junior officers commanding them. I can’t stay in a command bunker and direct them remotely. It’s not who I am.”

    She took in a deep, steadying breath and gave a weak nod. “I understand. I still don’t have to like it.”

    “While all of this is happening all I can think of is that farm in Alberta we talked about,” Morozov said quickly, knowing he lacked the time to say all that he needed to. “If we survive this, I’m yours. All I want is you, the farm, some animals, we’ll leave Starfleet behind us.”

    “Yes,” she answered. “Yes to all of it, but first we have to make it through this mess.” Cavanaugh grabbed hold of his jacket collar and pulled the shorter man in for a brief kiss. “Go. Do what you have to out there while I do the same here. But you’d damn well better come back to me, Evgeni Vladimirovich.”

    He embraced her for a fleeting moment and was then gone into the crowd.

    * * *​

    They rode in silence for approximately ten minutes before Lar’ragos had calmed sufficiently to be able to navigate to the coordinates of their shipmates from Sagan provided to them at the checkpoint.

    “You hurt people back there,” Sandhurst finally said. “Our people.”

    “They’re fools,” Lar’ragos snapped back. “They’re just lucky it was me and not the Cardassians. The Cardies would have killed them.”

    “Just try to remember whose side you’re on,” Sandhurst chided him. “What will you do if we come up to another checkpoint manned by our crewmates and you find the same situation?”

    Sandhurst could hear Lar’ragos’ dissatisfied exhalation at that idea. “If I have to repeat the lesson, so be it.”

    “Injuring our people is counterproductive,” Votor offered from the back seat. “The ’lesson’ as you call it is delivered at the expense of our collective security.”

    “I don’t remember asking your opinion,” Lar’ragos replied coldly.

    Votor shifted in his seat, leaning forward and reaching for the nape of Lar’ragos’ neck with his right hand.

    Lar’ragos caught the Vulcan’s hand at the wrist, bending and twisting the joint despite Votor’s superior physical strength.

    There was a sharp intake of breath from Votor, but he did not cry out.

    A bright flash of orange light filled the truck cab, accompanied by a high-pitched screech. Lar’ragos slumped unconscious in his seat, releasing his grip on Votor’s wrist.

    Sandhurst holstered the phaser he’d drawn unobserved during the El Aurian’s brief struggle with the Vulcan.

    “Are you okay?” he asked Votor.

    “The injuries to my wrist appear… reasonably superficial, though I will seek medical attention at our destination to confirm that,” he replied stolidly. He then added, “Your timely intervention is appreciated.”

    “You’re welcome,” Sandhurst offered unhappily.

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
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  18. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    It's been a minute since we last visited Nehru and it turns out, it's still a ghastly place to spend your vacation. Especially during a Cardassian invasion.

    I hold zero hope that Morozov will make it out of this alive. He committed the cardinal sin of making plans with his woman for once the fighting has stopped. That's a death sentence. Either for him or the good doctor.

    Interesting that the Pava/Sandhurst relationship survived the latter phasering the former. Of course the El Aurian had it coming the way he has been behaving like a phenomenal ass.

    The last part of that final segment included a bit of a double post which you should be able to clean up easily.

    Would love to see he next entry to this riveting tale in less than half a year but I guess beggars can't be choosers.
     
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  19. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Ah, much obliged. Fixed now.
     
  20. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    Wow. Just wow. I don't know what else to say. I'm finally getting caught up, and this story almost literally took my breath away. Your writing in this installment may be even more dynamic than usual, which makes reading the battle scenes completely encompassing. As always, you have succeeded in a surprisingly short period of time to introduce us to new characters who seem absolutely fully developed, and your gift for conveying their histories and relationships and personalities smoothly and without paragraphs of straight exposition served to bring the reader up to speed and to completely immerse them in the story and the action almost immediately. Of course, I especially enjoy watching the relationship between Sandhurst and Lar'ragos develop. But, the added perspective not only of the other Federation and Starfleet characters, but the Cardassians adds a richness and depth that kept me utterly enthralled. All I can say is ... "please, sir, I want some more." And, of course, thank you. :bolian::bolian::bolian:
     
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