ST: Gibraltar - Gravity

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Sep 9, 2008.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    NOTE: This story takes place roughly one month after the events of Treacherous Waters.

    Gibraltar

    “Gravity”


    Gravity is the ballast of the soul which keeps the mind steady. - Thomas Fuller​



    March 12, 2377
    Atmosphere Siphon Station Eight
    In low orbit of Planet Acheron
    Barisa System


    Delins Grafton inched along the narrow strut, careful to keep his magnetic boots in contact with the beam at all times as he moved towards the malfunctioning maintenance drone. Clad in a radiation-hardened EVA suit, Grafton's margin for safety could be measured in minutes, so powerful was the storm of radiation emitted here in the upper reaches of Acheron's atmosphere.

    The siphon station itself was nothing more than a glorified pumping facility hanging in the upper reaches of Acheron's gaseous skies. A system of powerful anti-gravity generators held the station in place as an interlocking web of force fields and gravitic siphons drew heavier, denser gasses up from farther down in Acheron's layered atmosphere. These gasses were stored in giant reservoir tanks that were eventually off loaded to the bulky trains of tug-propelled holding cylinders that transported the raw gasses to the refinery complexes farther out in orbit of the monstrous world.

    The drone in question had been the last functioning remote assigned to Siphon Station Eight. The cheap credit-pinching, bean-counting bastards at corporate had slowly choked off funds and resources for routine maintenance and upkeep as the company poured every available resource into the new particle fountain. The fountain was the great shining hope of the corporation's CEO, a dream that promised to rake in massive profits while leaving Grafton and his fellow bottom-tier employees out of a job.

    In the here and now, though, it simply meant that instead of sending out another drone to collect the first one, Grafton had been forced to undertake the dangerous task himself.

    He was well over halfway to the torso-sized machine when he felt the first jolt. For the briefest of moments, Grafton thought he'd slipped somehow and his hands grasped for purchase on the surrounding lattice-work of girders. Barely three seconds later and completely without warning, the entire siphon station plummeted into the clouds. Grafton screamed inside his helmet, immune to the panicked voices from the team in the siphon's control center that echoed in his headphones.

    Grafton was plunged into darkness as the siphon station continued its fall into the pitch black clouds. He was held in place only by his magnetic boots and the paralysis of his own overwhelming fear. Light-headed, Grafton stopped screaming just long enough to catch his breath, and suddenly noticed that the falling sensation had ceased. Only then did he recognize the confused mix of garbled comms chatter in his ears as various people vied for control of a few operational channels to voice their shock and consternation.

    Grafton immediately pivoted around, grasped his tether line, and began to pull himself back towards the airlock as quickly as his magnetic boots would allow. He was so focused on this task that he almost missed the chiming alarm that was accompanied by a flashing radiation icon superimposed onto his faceplate. Grafton glanced down at the heads-up display in his helmet and his stomach lurched as he saw that he had already exceeded the suit's radiation tolerances.

    'The fall,' he realized with sudden dread. 'More radiation at this altitude... oh God... I'm going to die out here!' The faces of his young wife and newborn son flashed in his mind's eye as he continued towards the elusive airlock door which appeared so tantalizingly close. His vision began to swim and he felt his chest tightening. Grafton's skin began to tingle and his legs felt exceedingly heavy, almost as if his boots were malfunctioning. 'So close,' he cried internally, 'Not now... I'm so close!'

    It was with dying eyes that Delins Grafton saw the small red cloud pass through the side of the siphon station, near the fading promise of the airlock hatch. He mused idly that it was such a strange thing, very pretty, even if weirdly out of place.

    It was the last thought he would ever have.

    *****

    March 12, 2377
    USS Gibraltar
    Docked at Starbase Deep Space Nine


    “… I really am very sorry, Captain, but this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.” Manuele Atoa certainly appeared appropriately regretful, and to be honest, Donald Sandhurst really couldn’t bring himself to fault the earnest young man. It had seemed a rare stroke of luck when Atoa tendered his application in the first place. Starfleet was rife with newly minted starships just out of drydock, and the fact that someone as capable as Lt. Commander Atoa would be interested in serving aboard a century old escort was nearly too good to be true. Now, it appeared that had been exactly the case. Still, holding the young man’s feet to the flames because something better had come along would serve no one.

    'Besides,' Sandhurst chided himself silently, 'how could anyone want to be Gibraltar's new XO right after you just killed the last one?'

    Sandhurst put on his most sympathetic expression and replied, “I understand completely, Commander. Very few people are accepted to the Advanced Tactical program, and from a career standpoint, it’s a big step in the right direction.”

    Gratitude and relief seemed to wash over the New Kauaian’s broad face as Sandhurst let him off the hook more effortlessly than Atoa had dared hope. “Thank you, sir. You’re making this easier than I deserve, under the circumstances.”

    “Don’t give it a second thought, Mr. Atoa. With this course on your résumé you’ll be an even better candidate for first officer than you are now. You’re going to make some other captain an outstanding XO when you graduate.”

    “Thank you again, Captain.” Manuele struggled to find something else to say to salve his conscience, but was stymied. “Atoa, out.”

    Sandhurst reached forward to toggle off his desktop data terminal, then sank back into his chair as a resigned sigh escaped him. He drummed his fingers on the desk for a few moments, lost in thought. Finally he tapped his compin, “Lieutenant Juneau, Chief Dunleavy, please join me in my ready room.”

    He was already well into reviewing his third application when Juneau chimed the door and Sandhurst granted his acting executive officer access. “Something wrong, Captain?” she inquired as she crossed the threshold.

    Without looking up, Sandhurst answered, “Atoa just backed out at the last minute after being offered the last available spot on the roster for this year’s Advanced Tactical School.”

    Juneau appeared torn, and offered, “Well, good for him, but damn… that puts us back to square one. You think we’ll be able to find another candidate before we make it back from Barisa?”

    “I’d sure hope so. It’s a long trip out there.” Sandhurst looked up suddenly and inquired, “Where’s Saihra?”

    Juneau's demeanor immediately downshifted and grew noticeably somber. “Cargo bay three. She’s standing the beta watch honor guard over Captain Ramirez.”

    “…Oh.” Sandhurst was mortified that he’d allowed that fact to slip his mind. He rubbed his jaw line idly with one hand as he stared out the viewport behind his desk. After a moment, he mused quietly, "This position may end up being harder to fill than I anticipated."

    Juneau looked uncomfortable as she struggled to assess her captain's state of mind. "Sir, I realize I'm speaking out of turn, but I think you really should still be talking to someone about--"

    “No,” he interceded and cut her off gently but insistently. “I’m fine.” He gestured to the seat facing his desk and turned the data terminal so that both of them could read it. “Let’s get started.”

    *****

    The torpedo casing lay in state atop a pedestal in the center of the otherwise empty cargo bay. Draped with a Federation flag, the coffin served as the focal point to what had become a makeshift memorial to the Gibraltar’s former first officer, Liana Ramirez. Pictures of her from throughout her Starfleet career were mounted on the bulkheads, competing with holo’s and detailed presentations on some of the highlights of her time in the service.

    Members of the crew had manned an honor guard that stood constant watch over her casket and would continue to do so until she had been delivered home to her family in the distant Barisa system. This night, Specialist Sharpe and newly promoted Chief Petty Officer Saihra Dunleavy carried the detail, standing at opposite ends of the casing. Clad in their dress uniforms they held their phaser rifles at port arms, remaining perfectly still and silent for hours on end.

    It had been a dangerous search and rescue mission, and it had gone horribly wrong. On a remote planet in the Gamma Quadrant, Ramirez had sacrificed herself to save the rest of the team and complete the mission. It had been a hero’s death, a noble end for as fierce a soul as Liana, yet it had come well before her time.

    She had been on the cusp of promotion to captain and only weeks away from assuming command of her own ship. That fact only added to the sense of loss and regret that seemed to permeate the entire ship. Gibraltar had thus been transformed into a funerary barge. Captain Sandhurst had received special dispensation to convey Ramirez’s remains home to the remote Barisa system, which straddled the border between Federation space and the Tzenkethi Hegemony. There, the crew hoped, Liana Ramirez might at last find some semblance of peace.

    *****

    Sandhurst stared at the desktop viewer, his expression torn between disbelief and outright disgust. “You can’t be serious, Admiral?”

    “I know this comes as an unwelcome surprise, Sandhurst, but you really can’t have believed that as thinly spread as Starfleet is at the moment that we could detach Gibraltar for a full seven weeks in order to convey Captain Ramirez home?” Vice Admiral Coburn looked maudlin, but determined. “We’re still cleaning up from this mess with the Talarians, plus the loss of the diplomatic mission to the Gamma Quadrant, not to mention the ongoing Cardassian insurgency and the new Maquis uprising. I haven’t ships to spare for honor guard missions, no matter how beloved or deserving the fallen officer in question.” Coburn’s expression softened, “However, the Acheron Heavy Element Extraction Project is an important resource for the Federation, and as the company has been in the Ramirez family for two generations, this assignment allows us to both accomplish our goals simultaneously.”

    “We’re bringing the man’s daughter home in a casket, and you want us sniffing around his operation for… what? Intelligence? Industrial espionage?” Sandhurst fidgeted and wrung his hands unconsciously in discomfort at the idea of tarnishing Ramirez’s memory with such a callous façade.

    Coburn leaned in towards the screen, the crags and crow’s feet that lined his face gave stark testament to the rigors of flag command during and after the war. “The zero point initiators in the warheads of our quantum torpedoes utilize an especially rare, non-replicatable gaseous component. Acheron is one of only four gas mining consortiums capable of extracting and refining the element. The other three together produce barely one third of Acheron’s output. Add to that fact that Ramirez’s company is an extra-Federation corporate entity that’s heavily in debt to its creditors. If the Bank of Bolias or the Lissepian Central Bank were to assume ownership because of loan defaults, they’d likely break up the company’s assets and sell them off to the highest bidders. That could leave a significant contributor to Federation defense in the hands of the Ferengi, the Chrysalians, or gods forbid, the Orion Trade Guild front for the Syndicate.”

    Sandhurst appeared perplexed and asked, “I thought the Federation had at least two colonies in the Barisa system?”

    “We do, but the Ramirez family established ownership rights over the gas giant Acheron and its moons twenty years before the Federation settled Barisa Prime.”

    “Fine, good.” Sandhurst sat back slightly, arms folded across his chest. “And where do we fit into all this, sir?”

    Coburn smiled wolfishly, “I’m glad you asked, Captain.” He touched a control on his interface, and the screen split into a dual display, Coburn’s visage flanked by a technical schematic that Sandhurst immediately recognized, to his regret. “Aldo Ramirez, Liana’s father, is attempting to construct a particle fountain rig that, if successful, promises to increase the mine’s output by nearly sixty percent while cutting their overhead by almost seventy-five percent. It could very well breathe new life into his operation.”

    Sandhurst frowned, “Sir, that’s a dry well, and Starfleet knows it. We proved that in the Tyra system over a decade ago, and then again at Carema and Brundies-Nal. There’s just no way to produce sufficient—“

    Coburn held up a hand and butted in, “I’m sure you realize the war prompted many advancements in deflector and shield technology, Captain. As an engineer, I know you can appreciate this fact more than most. The same advances that allowed us to overcome the Jem’Hadar poleron beams and Breen energy dampers have been adapted to increase the power and control of the impeller matrix aboard the particle fountain.” The cutaway graphic alongside the admiral changed to display the improvements to the original design. “Besides, they’re not extracting ore from a solid body, they’re siphoning heavy elements from a gas giant. That changes the equation significantly.”

    Sandhurst cursed silently to himself, unable to refute the truth of the admiral’s words. As the engineer in him did the math, the starship captain within him chaffed at the duplicity of Coburn’s plan. “La Forge is the real expert in this technology. It was his findings after Tyra and Brundies-Nal that convinced the SCE to bury this line of research.”

    “You conferred with him on those findings, if memory serves,” Coburn replied evenly, his eyes twinkling as he cut the legs out from under Sandhurst’s argument. “Sending the Enterprise out there would be like shooting up a flare, announcing the Federation’s interest in the whole operation and making our enemies wonder what’s out there that’s so valuable to us. You're going to assist Ramirez's build-team in making sure the particle fountain is ready to go, Captain, though as far as anyone is going to know, you’re just bringing his daughter home.”

    That was too much for Sandhurst to stomach. He leaned forward, practically snarling, “I take great exception to anyone who would sully Liana Ramirez’s memory. Defense strategy and quantum torpedoes be damned!”

    Coburn was unmoved. “I understand that you don’t like your orders. That's tough. Liana’s dead, Sandhurst, and she’s not coming back. Nothing anyone can do will alter that fact. We both know that no trace of Ramirez survived. That casket contains nothing more than a few personal mementos and her last transporter trace on an isolinear chip, so I'm really going out on a limb here to allow you to conduct her 'remains' to Barisa in the first place." Coburn donned his most reasonable mien, "If you can take her home and lend a hand to a project that is helping safeguard the Federation’s security at the same time, than that’s what you’re going to do.”

    The admiral’s voice was tinged with iron resolve, and Sandhurst knew immediately the battle’s outcome had already been decided. “A great officer has been lost. I truly regret that, Donald. Nonetheless, she’s going to perform one more duty for the uniform before she’s laid to rest, and you’re going to help her. Are we clear on this, Captain?”

    Sandhurst sat upright in his chair. His eyes blazed as he forced out his reply, “Very clear, sir.”

    “Good,” Coburn returned. He took no joy from Sandhurst’s submission. “You’re expected at Barisa in three weeks.”

    “Aye, sir.” Sandhurst acknowledged as he reached out and terminated the transmission. He moved to tap his compin, only to realize that the three people he had automatically sought to summon to discuss their new mission orders were no longer aboard. Liana was dead, Pell had requested reassignment and he had cast Pava Lar'ragos off the ship. Instead he called the bridge, "Exec, recall all personnel from the station and prepare to depart DS9 in one hour. Then set course for the Barisa system, best cruising speed."

    *****
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2008
  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Location:
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    ST: Gibraltar - Gravity - Chapter 1 continued

    March 13, 2377
    Hades' Apex Station, in orbit of Planet Acheron
    Barisa System


    Aldo Ramirez stood silently facing the enormous viewport that comprised the outer wall of his large office. Beyond the transparent aluminum partition, the dark crescent of the gas giant Acheron dominated, it's night side illuminated by countless flashes of hyper-lightening coursing through the planet's upper atmosphere. The cold from the glass in his hand numbed his fingers as the contents of the tumbler sought to numb his senses to his desperate situation; a situation that was deteriorating even now, just as success and financial solidity seemed within his grasp.

    The door behind him opened with a soft pneumatic sigh and Telbrus Ch'har approached, his footfalls nearly silent in the plush carpet. The Xindi reptilian stopped just short of Ramirez's desk, though the CEO of Acheron Heavy Element Extraction did not turn to acknowledge him. "How bad?" Ramirez asked, his eyes still probing the seemingly endless depths of the obsidian sphere.

    "We experienced a power loss in the a-grav grid on Siphon Platform Eight. Primaries went out, even the backups. Early estimates are that we were less than thirty seconds from losing the entire rig when power was restored. As it was it's slipped a full four kilometers down into the gravity well. The tugs are working to re-set it as we speak."

    "Casualties?"

    "One dead, one missing," Ch'har confirmed. "Delins Grafton was outside the siphon trying to recover a maintenance drone when the outage occurred. Apparently, he was unable to get back into the rig, and died from radiation exposure before the recovery team arrived on scene."

    "You said one missing?"

    "Laurel Freiot, a systems technician. She was confirmed as being on post in the siphon before the incident, and now she can't be located."

    Ramirez frowned hard at that. "Escape capsule?"

    Ch'har countered, "All still accounted for. If she left the station, it was on her own two feet."

    "Families to notify?" Ramirez sighed.

    "No next-of-kin on file for Freiot, but Grafton has a wife and new baby here on the station," Ch'har said, the merest hint of regret in his voice. His branch of the Xindi pan-species spectrum still clung to their historically taciturn ways. "We can expect push back from the guild on this, of course. It will only serve to feed the flames."

    "The Jovian Miners Guild can choke on that damned siphon for all I care!" Ramirez snarled as he resisted the urge to throw his glass in utter frustration. "We're so close, Tel. It's like I can almost reach out and grab the future from here. This god forsaken planet has consumed three generations of my family," Ramirez breathed before he winced and closed his eyes. "Four," he corrected, adding the recent fate of his wayward daughter to the tally.

    "I'm sorry about Liana," Ch'har replied. "We've all missed her, Aldo."

    "She was gone long before this, my friend, and we both know it." Ramirez tossed back the rest of his drink and savored the bite of the caustic liquor in the back of his throat. "I'm thinking this has moved way beyond the scope of coincidence," he observed as he intentionally switched topics.

    Ch'har's reflection in the window nodded. "I would agree. Three incidents in a single week, especially this close to the fountain coming on-line is too much to accept as random happenstance."

    "So who's responsible?"

    Ch'har snorted, "The catalog of people who aren't likely to be involved is shorter. The guild tops the list, though they haven't stooped to endangering the welfare of their own members up to this point. I wouldn't put it past Kubler and his union cronies to try something that callous under these circumstances, if only to stir the pot even more. Then there's half a dozen other outfits that would love to see us go under, not to mention the Ferengi, the Caldonians, and the Tzenkethi."

    "Speaking of the Ferengi," Ramirez interrupted, "when is DaiMon Junt due back?"

    "Two weeks. He's expected to arrive shortly before the starship does."

    "I'd love to know if he's got something to do with all this." Ramirez finally turned to look at his chief of operations, "I want you and Kelsey looking into anyone and everyone who might have a hand in this, understood?"

    The Xindi bobbed his head in response, a gesture he'd picked up from decades of being surrounded by the small, pink humanoids. "Hard or soft?"

    "Soft," Ramirez advised, "for now." He pulled out the high-back chair behind his desk and took a seat. "That's amenable to change, of course." Ramirez fixed a dark look on Ch'har, "We're too close. I'm too close. I won't let anyone stand in the way of my company... my family's solvency. It's a long, slippery slope down into the well, my friend."

    "Gravity," Ch'har noted coldly, "the great equalizer."

    "Precisely," Aldo Ramirez said with absolute conviction.

    *****
     
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2008
  3. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Here and now.
    A somber beginning to what promises to be an intriguing story. Sandhurst is caught between a hard-nosed admiral and the late Commander Ramirez' estranged father. I foresee conflict aplenty coming.

    And the question remains - is Sandhurst and the crew of the Gibraltar ready for such a mission? They're still licking their wounds and trying to regain their footing. I wish them well and look forward to the journey! :techman:
     
  4. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Pava is gone? Didi I miss something? WTF?

    Good lead in to your next story-I think it stands with any published ST piece out there, so far.
     
  5. Uncle Sol

    Uncle Sol Commander Red Shirt

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    A great start. I'm looking forward to the rest.

    I don't remember seeing the ending for 'Treacherous Waters' being posted. Is it available to read?
     
  6. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, that's what I'm saying...
     
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    The end of Treacherous Waters has not yet been posted, but it is being worked on. :lol:
     
  8. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Some clues to be found here: http://trekbbs.com/showthread.php?t=64070
     
  9. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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  10. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Premium Member

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    Poor Sandy--his theme song should be "Caught in the Middle". That "red cloud" has definitely caught my interest--a potential Jovian life form? Added to that: sabotage, a grieving and desperate father, a disconsolate captain, and you have all the makings for an especially tragic tale.
     
  11. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    I probably won't be able to read this til I get home from work tonight, but I just wanted to let you know you've made me one very happy TrekkieMonster. :cool:
     
  12. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    In the illusion, but not of it.
    I totally agree with what's already been said. There is a lot of alienation going around. Hopefully, people will be able to get past it.
     
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Your starting this off with an intriguing mystery. What exactly is happening in the Barisa system and how badly is it going to go after Gibraltar?

    And talking about the old lady, her crew seems decimated. Juneau, as acting first officer? Wow, as if things aren't bad enough already without Pava providing much needed security.

    This is going to be a strange ride. Looking forward to it.
     
  14. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    I just realized that I never posted my thoughts after reading this. As has been said above, this is a wonderful start to the next Gibraltar saga. You've done a really admirable job of subtly setting the very dark and somber tone (as mentioned above).

    I also have to say that I particularly appreciate two aspects of your approach here. First, your attention to detail in establishing the connections and motivations of the players -- everything from the Federation's need for the gas for its torp's to the possible Orion and/or Ferengi connection to the "conspiracy theory." And second, I think your use of modern day analogues is a fantastic way to honor one of the touchstones of the original series, in particular. The topics of the perils associated with economic interdependence, fears of over-dependence on foreign resources, and the real world implications of the loss of employees (or service members) to disasters, whether natural or man-made, really resonate, especially now.

    With every tale you tell, it becomes increasingly clear the time and dedication and thought you're putting into not only the story itself, but refining and honing what is clearly a formidable natural talent.

    As always, I cannot wait to see where you lead us this time.

    Waiting with baited breath, TM. :cool:
     
  15. Ronwald

    Ronwald Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's a great beginning. The characters are interesting, and the mood of the piece is quite captivating.


    I look forward to reading more.
     
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    US Pacific Northwest
    Gravity - Chapter 2, Part 1

    Chapter 2

    Rain pattered steadily against the real glass windows as Juneau took a seat across from her therapist. She could just make out the top of one of the Golden Gate Bridge's support towers over the shoulder of the middle-aged bearded man across from her. The warm glow of the authentic fireplace, the wood-paneled walls, oversized chairs, and understated decor of the room usually comforted her. But not today.

    "It's good to see you again, Olivia. How have you been?" It had been weeks since she'd last run this program. She'd been avoiding it, and doubtless the hologram realized this.

    She smiled tightly, "Stressed. More so than usual."

    "Tell me about it," he urged gently.

    "I've been promoted temporarily to first officer. I should be ecstatic that I was selected for the job, but I'm not. I've gone from being one substandard fitness report away from being kicked off the ship to suddenly being tapped for pro tem XO."

    "Why do you feel conflicted about that?" he asked. "I'd think that would be a reflection of the progress you've made."

    She shook her head sullenly. "No, that's not it. I got the job by default. I was the only available choice, quite literally the captain's last option."

    "You have a tendency to assume the worst about people and situations, Olivia. We've discussed this. If you can't bring yourself to believe that the captain selected you because he trusts your judgment, how are you supposed to trust in your own decisions?"

    "That's just it," she said in a soft, tremulous voice, "I can't."

    He sat back in his chair, braced his elbows on the armrests and steepled his fingers. "The blackouts again?"

    Juneau nodded, "Nearly every situation I've been involved with in which I've distinguished myself I can't remember. Not one detail."

    He shrugged with his hands, "As we've talked about, it's possible those memory lapses are simply stress induced."

    "No, there's something more to it," she answered as her voice regained some of it's resolve. "I don't know how I know it, but I do."

    "Alright, then." He smiled, "We have some options to select from. Do you know anything about memory recall techniques?"

    From someplace behind Juneau's eyes, another presence waited and watched. A single word bubbled to the surface of this parasitic consciousness, an emphatic exclamation in response to the therapist's suggestion. 'Shit!'

    *****

    "I'm sorry, Mother, I won't be able to make it." Ashok wanted desperately to terminate the transmission, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. It was difficult enough to face her, the thought of actually returning to Bolarus for this occasion filled him with a gnawing anxiety. It was all still too raw, too painful.

    She stared back at him from across the lightyears; her eyes brimmed with tears and reflected both anger and deep pain. "You won't be able to make it?" she echoed, her voice laced with incredulity. "To the recognition ceremony of your father's greatest achievement?"

    "The ship is on an important mission. We are going to be out on the rim for the better part of two months."

    Her frown deepened, accentuating the bifurcated ridge that bisected her face. "I have contacts at Starfleet Command, my son. I know very well that your mission is not one that requires the presence of the chief engineer."

    "On this ship, Mother," Ashok replied with conviction, "you can never make that assumption."

    "The Tramordian Spire is one of our people's greatest, most impressive engineering feats. It's already being hailed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Federation. Your father dedicated his last years to making it a reality, and now you refuse to return home long enough to share in the public adulation of your father's triumph?"

    Ashok boiled over at that, and found himself speaking before he could silence the words, "I can think of no greater insult to my father's genius than to have his painfully average son standing there at the celebration of his life's work!"

    His mother's eyes widened, and she found herself without a reply.

    "I am a failure, Mother. Not one day have I ever managed to live up to Father's expectations. As a Starfleet engineer I am a middling journeyman. My own captain is ten times the engineer I am!" Ashok was shaking now, his face a deep blue as his blood pressure spiked. "My presence would only serve as reminder of his greatest failure, Mother. I will never walk proudly in that man's footsteps!"

    His mother opened her mouth to respond but Ashok jabbed at the terminal and cut the comlink. He then swept the terminal and the other contents of the desk onto the floor with a crash.

    After a few moments his breathing returned to normal and he surveyed the mess with a sense of guilt and embarrassment. An acknowledged pacifist, Ashok eschewed all forms of violence. His emotional control should be better, he reflected darkly.

    *****

    Lieutenant JG Verrik stood at attention a few paces from Sandhurst's ready room desk. The tall Vulcan was as stoic as could be expected, and Sandhurst allowed the man to wait a few moments as he finished digesting the junior lieutenant's service record.

    The man's service jacket reflected the career of a painfully average officer. No medals, few commendations, just sundry notations of dedicated if uninspired service. His record was more notable for what it did not contain, namely reprimands for excessive actions or flagrant breaches of regulations.

    "I see your last posting was to a prisoner of war detention center," Sandhurst remarked conversationally.

    If he interpreted Sandhurst's statement as an opener to a dialogue, Verrik did not take the bait. "Yes, sir" he said simply.

    "And what did you take away from that experience?" Sandhurst asked.

    "An appreciation for the cunning and potential lethality of persons confined in such a setting, sir." Verrik remained impassive. "Security is about safety, and safety is never convenient. The slow, correct, and precise search of all prisoners, their living spaces and their personal affects was the only way to ensure the safety of the facility, our staff, and the inmate population."

    Sandhurst sat back in his chair. "Your predecessor at this position left some very big shoes to fill, Lieutenant. Your security staff are expertly trained, and I expect that you will maintain their present level of excellence in that regard."

    "I will endeavor to do so, sir. However, I do not share Lt. Lar'ragos' predilection for tactical training scenarios. Security service is about more than small-unit tactics and close-quarters combat."

    "I agree," Sandhurst said with a nod. "It's your department now, Lieutenant. As long as they have the requisite skills necessary should they be needed, I won't interfere with your training priorities."

    "Thank you, sir."

    Sandhurst sat there for a moment and tried to think of something else to say. When he'd opened the chief security/tactical position to applicants, he'd hoped for someone as un-Pava-like as possible. Verrik certainly seemed to fit the bill. "Very well, Lieutenant. Please keep me apprised of your new training regimen and any resources needs you have."

    Verrik bobbed his head. "Yes, sir."

    "Dismissed," Sandhurst directed.

    Verrik pivoted neatly and walked out. Sandhurst stared at the door for a long moment and hoped he'd made the correct choice.

    *****

    Ferengi brigand ship Prince of Profit

    DaiMon Junt inspected the line of kneeling prisoners as he walked slowly past. Unusually large for one of his species, he cut a dashing figure in his expensively tailored uniform. As he walked Junt made the occasional notation on a padd, and paused every so often to ask a question of one of the sullen pirates. Their ranks included Nausicaans, Orions, Klingons, and even a painfully embarrassed looking Tzinkethi who's large hands were securely manacled behind him.

    As he reached the end of the line, Junt turned to address them. "Your efforts are noted. You fought well today, and there is no dishonor in losing to a more capable foe," he smiled broadly, "even if that foe is Ferengi."

    One of the Klingons growled in dismay and despair with the realization that not only had he lost to a Ferengi, he was now being freed by one.

    "I understand that this is business. You were sent after me by your employer, and I refuse to hold that against you. You will all be safely returned to his employ, but I will be keeping your vessel to help offset the expense of the damage suffered to my ship and crew."

    Junt gestured for the prisoners to be led out, but held up his hand as the trailing member of the multi-species assault team was marched past. The daiMon examined the Angosian ex-soldier admiringly. "Your attack on my bridge was well executed. If the command center had been populated by real crew rather than holographic simulacrums, you might well have won the battle."

    The Angosian inclined his head, "Thank you. Your ruse was unexpectedly brilliant and... irritatingly effective."

    Junt bared his sharpened teeth in another smile at the mercenary's grudging admission. "Whatever Ahmet-sur Kehsal is paying you, I'll triple it." Junt held up his padd, which contained a very lucrative service contract. "I have an eye for talent, and I think you'd make a capable addition to my crew."

    The Angosian took the padd in hand and perused its contents. "This is... generous," he admitted reluctantly.

    "Think about it," Junt offered. "You'll have a few days transit time before you're back in Orion territory. Keep in mind that Kehsal has a low tolerance for failure, and his temper is rather legendary." He gestured towards the other prisoners as the last of them filed out of the compartment. "Your comrades there may not fare so well upon their return."

    The Angosian considered this. "You make an excellent point. How long would I be in service to you for? How much would I have to pay to buy my freedom?"

    Junt blinked in surprise and then laughed outright. "This is a contract, friend. You would be my employee, not my slave. You can leave any time you wish, but the longer you stay, the more profit you stand to make. It's one of the reasons my people stay with me as long as they do."

    As he touched his thumbprint to the padd, the Angosian confirmed, "You have yourself a deal, DaiMon."

    "Excellent," Junt stepped aside as another Ferengi sidled up. "Bresk will show you to quarters. You can get suitable clothes and bedding from ship's stores. Welcome to the crew of the Prince of Profit."

    As the Angosian departed, Junt's first mate stepped up beside him. "We've already arranged for a buyer for their ship, sir. The Nyberrite Alliance has been gobbling up every vessel they can get their hands on for the past few months, though nobody's sure exactly why. They're paying top latinum for them, too."

    "Best news I've heard in hours," Junt affirmed. "Anything else of note?"

    Grulak's lobes twitched with anticipation, "We've just received a lead on a Romulan covert reconnaissance ship that's operating in the area."

    Junt pondered that, "The Romulans pay well to get their people and equipment back. Do we have time for a fishing expedition before heading back to the Barisa system?"

    His first mate frowned, "I still don't see what it is about that system that interests you, DaiMon."

    "That's for me to know and for all of us to profit from, if things go our way." Junt paused and looked around at the wide, brightly lit corridor of his Ferengi D'Kora-class marauder as he weighed his options. "Fine. Let's go jump some Romulans."

    This brought a toothy smile to Grulak's features. "At once, DaiMon."

    *****
     
  17. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Re: Gravity - Chapter 2, Part 1

    A likable(so far) Ferengi freebooter? You create interesting characters. I didn't realize this was a continuing story-I thought it was a short piece only. Very interesting set-up.
     
  18. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Never trust a smiling Ferengi. Or a frowning one. Or . . . well, you get my point!

    A very interesting and well-written segment. It's obvious that Captain Sandhurst is attempting to piece together a senior staff following Gibraltar's recent losses. It looks to be a very different crew, indeed! The new security chief is an under-achiever, Ashok is dealing with esteem issues, and Juneau's alter-ego seems worried that her host may begin peeking under the rocks.

    DaiMon Junt seems to be a formidable character. It will be interesting to see how his interest in the Barisa system adds to the mix. Not for the good, I'll wager! ;)
     
  19. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Location:
    Between the candle and the flame
    Paint me confused-mixed up the title with Best Served Cold-which was a oneshot. I'm sorry, I can't help things like that-I'm part Polish, part Homer.;)
     
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    No problem! :lol: