Star Trek: Gibraltar - The Road Not Taken

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Stardate 55612.3 (August 12th, 2378)

    Donald Sandhurst started awake, torn from troubled dreams and an overwhelming sensation of… wrongness. He stared at the ceiling for a few moments, his mind racing with discordant thoughts.

    “Computer, what’s the time?” he murmured as he sat up.

    ‘The time is oh-three-forty-seven hours,’ the computer replied.

    He grunted in irritation, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and placing his feet on the floor. The solidity of the carpeted deck-plates helped to ground him, pushing back the unsettling sense of impermanence that seemed to infuse him. He rubbed his eyes, feeling profoundly tired and disoriented and unable to explain why. He wondered briefly if he’d taken a sleep-aid before bed and was still under its influence, but he couldn’t remember doing so.

    “Sandhurst to bridge. Sitrep, please.”

    After a moment, the voice of the ship’s second officer, Lt. Commander Pell replied, “Situation normal, Captain. We’re still on course to the rendezvous point at warp six, all systems read nominal. The only thing on sensors other than routine merchant traffic is the Bunati refugee fleet that Dublin’s task force is escorting to the Beta-Trianguli settlement complex.”

    “Acknowledged, Commander. Thank you.”

    Sandhurst decided that for the moment, at least, he was awake. He stood and pulled on a robe over his pajamas, moving to the replicator to order a tall glass of water that he downed in a few long swallows. He sat at his desk and called up status reports for the ship and the sector they were currently transiting. Nothing seemed amiss or out of the ordinary.

    Gibraltar remained on course to meet up with the remnants of Intercept Group Four as the ill-fated task force limped back from their disastrous First Contact with the Kothlis’Ka Armada. As all of Starfleet’s hospital ships in the area were already tasked to refugee relief operations, Gibraltar with its oversized sickbay had been dispatched to serve as a makeshift mobile hospital.

    Sandhurst and his ship’s chief engineer, Lieutenant Ashok, would also assist in ongoing repairs to IG-4’s vessels. Some of them had barely made it to the rendezvous point under tow from their damaged brethren. Without further assistance, few of the ships would be able to make it to the nearest starbase under their own power.

    He sat back in his chair, trying to give voice to the gnawing sense of disassociation that plagued him still. Usually, emotional turmoil from his nightmares abated quickly, but not so tonight.

    His cabin door’s annunciator chimed, and Sandhurst eyed the portal warily before calling out, “Enter.”

    A very disheveled looking Pava Lar’agos stood in the doorway in his nightclothes, his expression equal parts confusion and agitation. “Something’s very wrong,” he said. With that, he pitched forward onto the deck in a heap.

    “Medical emergency, captain’s quarters!” Sandhurst called.

    * * *​

    Five starships sat motionless in interstellar space. The vessels were damaged, their crews dispirited. They had hoped to make First Contact with an oncoming fleet of alien vessels, each of the craft dozens of kilometers long and impervious to sensors. They’d sought to convince those aboard the giant ships to change course before reaching the territorial confines of the Romulan Star Empire.

    The alien ships had ignored all attempts at communication. The only reason anyone knew what to call the Kothlis’Ka was due to the efforts of the former Nyberrite Alliance. That entire coalition of ancient worlds had been laid waste by the depredations of the Kothlis’Ka and their mighty ships. Each of the titanic vessels had disgorged a host of massive robotic landing craft that had stripped the Class-M worlds in their path of atmosphere, water, minerals and biological material. The operating system of one these craft had been hacked by a Nyberrite strike team, who had downloaded a scant few hundred gigs of data before the lander self-destructed in an explosion that sundered a third of a continent.

    When Intercept Group Four had moved into position to force the Kothlis’Ka to change course by laying a minefield in their path, they had been attacked. The intruders had fired on them with hyper-dense slugs of neutronium accelerated to warp speeds by a gravimetric cannon more powerful than anything Starfleet had ever encountered. The starship Narcissus had been destroyed outright, while the others had been damaged by near-misses from these hyper-relativistic missiles.

    The survivors had slowly made their way back to Federation space, a journey that had taken them over four months with two of their number towing another two. It was the first of Task Force Vanguard’s failures, but not the last.

    * * *​

    Gibraltar’s away team materialized into a dimly lit corridor intersection. The corridor bulkheads were warped inward, the ship’s superstructure distorted by the subspace shockwave that had propelled a neutronium bullet the size of a shuttlecraft past at warp nine-point-nine-seven. Severed optical cabling hung from shattered ceiling panels like limp translucent spaghetti and lighting fixtures flickered randomly, victims of a traumatized EPS grid.

    Sandhurst experienced a brief flashback of his service during the Dominion War and the catastrophic damage inflicted upon so many ships during that conflict that he had helped to repair. He recalled starkly that although such mechanical wounds could be fixed by skilled engineers, the humanoids that had occupied the stricken vessels were infinitely more delicate.

    He was clad in yellow engineering coveralls rather than his duty uniform, the red undershirt collar with its four rank pips making an incongruous counterpoint to his ensemble.

    He nodded to Ashok and the rest of the towering man’s engineering team. “Go find their acting chief engineer and report in. I’ll come join you after I’ve talked with their captain. I call dibs on the impulse manifolds.”

    This actually generated a rare smile from the taciturn Bolian. “Aye, sir.”

    They parted company and Sandhurst made his way through Mumbai’s battered corridors in search of the ship’s sickbay. The sense of turmoil that had gripped him so tightly earlier was beginning to fade as the necessities of his duties occupied him. He was worried about Lar’ragos, who had always proven highly susceptible to spatial and temporal oddities, doubtless due to his exotic El Aurian physiology. Prior to Sandhurst’s departure for Mumbai, Lar’ragos was still unconscious and under the care of Lieutenant Taiee in their own sickbay.

    He found Captain Daughtry atop a bio-bed in the recovery ward. She had been critically injured during the Kothlis’Ka encounter, and due to the severity of her injuries and the damage to their sickbay facilities, Daughtry had been placed in a medically-induced coma until she had stabilized sufficiently to survive surgical intervention. Daughtry had only been judged strong enough to undergo surgery a few days prior and was still catching up on their circumstances herself as she recovered from the procedure.

    She looked up at him as he approached, her expression questioning.

    “Donald Sandhurst, Gibraltar. How are you feeling, Captain?”

    It took Daughtry a moment to divine that the engineer standing in front of her was a fellow starship commander.

    “Well enough, thank you.” She extended a hand. “Alva Daughtry, Captain. A pleasure, though I’d wish for different circumstances.”

    “Likewise,” Sandhurst agreed, shaking the proffered hand.

    “How’s my ship?” she asked.

    “Well, we’ve only just arrived, but my chief engineer and I looked over your damage reports on route. I think with our team’s help we can get you to where you can make it to Starbase 422 under your own power. With the work your people have already done, it should only take a day or two.”

    She nodded. “They’re also sending a repair-tender, aren’t they?”

    “Yes. The Aberdeen. She’ll be here in about seven hours. She’s slated to begin work on K’mpec and Reprise. Hopefully, once you arrive, the starbase can prioritize repairs to your ships as soon as possible. We need every hull we can get out here.”

    “It’s that bad?” she asked.

    “I’m afraid so,” he replied, glancing around self-consciously at other crew within earshot.

    Daughtry called out to a med-tech and ordered the man to activate a privacy field around the bed.

    “Thank you, that makes things easier,” Sandhurst admitted. “After IG-4 withdrew, the Romulans sent successive waves of ships against the Kothlis’Ka. We’re not entirely sure how many they lost, but it must have been in the hundreds. Their armada cut a swath of destruction right through the star empire's frontier a light-year across. The Romulans finally stopped the armada at Beta Hutzel about ten light-years into their territory, by generating a massive artificial singularity. It gobbled up the Kothlis’Ka and three entire populated Romulan star systems before it collapsed. Conservative estimates are in the tens of millions of casualties, probably more.”

    “Dear God,” she whispered, appalled.

    “We haven’t fared much better,” Sandhurst explained. “Only four of the seven species in the initial wave on course for Federation territory have so far proven willing to change course or settle on an available planet we’ve offered up. We’ve been fighting running skirmishes with the En-Il-Que from fifty light-years out from our space, and we’re building up to repel an incursion from a species called the Voranti that will reach the border in a little less than a month. Our resources are spread unbelievably thin, and that was before they sent a second wave of ships out to backfill losses to Vanguard’s first wave.”

    “Wow,” Daughtry lay her head back onto her pillow. “That’s a lot to take in, Captain.”

    “I’m sorry to dump it all on you at once, but it’s important that you understand what we’re up against,” Sandhurst replied somberly.

    She nodded again, feigning strength through her exhaustion and pain.

    “With your permission, Captain, I’ll join my engineering team. I know your people have taken serious losses, but they’ve done amazing work despite the odds. You should be proud.”

    “I am,” she confirmed. “And thank you, Captain Sandhurst.”

    He left her to rest and entered the corridor, heading for the ship’s engineering section. A large part of him eagerly anticipated diving into repair work and the intense focus that it necessitated. It would keep his mind busy from the dark tidings of the past six months, from Pava’s mysterious ailment, and from whatever wrongs continued to tug insistently at the edge of his consciousness.

    * * *​
     
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  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

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    Wow... I can't wait to read more. The Operation: Vanguard stories have always been interesting to me.
     
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  3. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    A bit reminiscent of "Yesterday's Enterprise," (one of my favorite TNG episodes). I can certainly understand Pava's reaction; interesting that Donald also senses that something is amiss.
    So, will the real timeline raise its hand? Regardless, this is a fast and grueling start to another intriguing Gibraltar story. Despite the carnage, it's great to see the band get back together! :bolian:
     
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  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Had the same thoughts as TLR regarding Yesterday's Enterprise here.

    Very curious to see how far this goes before things reset, if they do at all. No reason this alternate universe could continue to exist although I fear what will remain on the Alpha/Beta quadrant once all is said and done.

    Riveting stuff as always. Dark but riveting.
     
  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Gibraltar - Sickbay

    Sandhurst looked down at his old friend as Lar’ragos lay atop the bio-bed with neuro-cortical monitors affixed to his temples and an intravenous line delivering fluids and nutrients. He had remained in a comatose state for three days now, unresponsive to all the treatment regimens Lieutenant Taiee or the medical holograms could devise.

    Taiee stepped over to study the findings of the full medical workup Sandhurst had asked the chief medical officer to run on himself. She glanced at an oversized padd. “Your results all come back as normal, with a slight increase in stress hormones, which is to be expected given our situation.”

    “Well, I guess it’s all in my head, then,” he assessed. “Thank you for your efforts, Doc.” He gestured to Lar’ragos. “No hazarding a guess at when he comes out of this?”

    She lowered the padd, giving the captain her full attention. “No, sir. This is very similar to the neural-fugue he suffered when we encountered that Orion subspace weapon a couple of years ago. Near as I can tell, it’s some kind of protective or restorative trance, not unlike what Vulcan adepts use to speed healing.”

    Sandhurst nodded, giving her a half-smile. “If I recall correctly, you told me then that he’d come out of it when he was good and ready.”

    “Exactly, sir,” she returned the wistful smile. “And it applies here, too.”

    “But what might have caused this?” Sandhurst wondered aloud. “We haven’t detected any anomalous subspace activity that would account for his condition.”

    “Nothing that we can detect, sure,” she replied. “That last event prompted me to work with the EMH on researching El Aurian neurophysiology. It turns out they’re believed to be sensitive to a wide range of phenomena, subspace, temporal and spatial, only some of which can be detected by our sensors.”

    He puffed out a resigned breath. “The mystery that is Pava continues…”

    “So it would seem, Captain.”

    “Thank you, Doc,” he said as he turned for the exit.

    She called after him, “Do you know when we’ll be offloading our guests?” She referred to the fifteen patients currently recovering in sickbay brought aboard from IG-4’s vessels.

    He paused, looking back. “They’ll be staying with us for the time being. I’d hoped we’d escort IG-4 all the way back to the starbase, but our orders have changed. Command need us to chase down a Kimronian frigate that broke away from their convoy heading for the refugee processing center in the Dytallix system. They crippled a Border Service cutter sent to round them up, and now we've been tasked with bringing them in,” he said tiredly.

    “Us? Are we the right choice to be playing sheep-dog?”

    “We’re the only unassigned ship in the sector aside from a couple of buoy-tenders, Doc. Everyone else is setting up the defensive line in preparation for the expected Voranti incursion. With the tactical upgrades we received before our dust-up with the Maquis last year we should be able to hold our own with a single Kimronian ship.”

    Her expression hardened. “I’ll prep sickbay for more casualties, sir.”

    He nodded soberly. “That’s probably a good idea.”

    * * *​

    Gibraltar lurched again, courtesy of a jacketed-ionic pulse from the Kimronian ship’s aft weapons array.

    Sandhurst cast a glance over his shoulder at the standing weapons station located behind the captain’s chair. Lieutenant (jg) Verrik, the ship’s new Vulcan assistant chief security/tactical officer was manning that post. “Forward shields holding steady,” Verrik advised. “That pulse was only at a third of that weapon’s rated output.”

    “Warning shot?” Sandhurst postulated. He looked to Juneau at Ops. “Are they receiving our hails, Lieutenant?”

    “Yes, sir,” she replied. “Still no response.”

    Sandhurst toggled the channel open again. “Kimronian vessel, you have violated treaty stipulations by leaving your people’s settlement convoy and by firing on multiple Federation ships. We have demonstrated significant patience with your unwarranted actions to this point, but that patience is wearing thin. You will disarm your weapons, lower your shields and return with us to the convoy or we will disable your ship and tow you back.”

    “Incoming response,” Juneau advised.

    “Let’s hear it.”

    “We will not go back, Starfleet! We have seen recordings of this [*untranslatable socio-historical referent*] planet. It is a barren wasteland; there is nothing for us there!”

    Juneau muted the channel, looking back at Sandhurst. “I mean… they’re not wrong, sir. Dytallix B makes Nimbus III look like a tropical paradise.”

    There was another jolt from a more powerful weapons discharge impacting their forward screens.

    “Not helpful, Lieutenant,” Commander T’Ser said sourly, directing a withering look at the younger woman from her station in the bridge well.

    Sandhurst toggled the comms open. “As we’ve indicated, the settlement on Dytallix B is only temporary until we can find a habitable world compatible with your unique biological requirements.”

    “We have only your word on that, Starfleet. Our people have not come thirty-thousand light-years to be stranded on a lifeless rock for someone else’s convenience.”

    “We met your people well beyond our borders,” Sandhurst countered. “We approached and offered friendship, then informed you of what lay ahead for your people. You chose to continue on into Federation space at our invitation, and your people collectively decided to accept our offer of settlement.”

    “The Conclave does not speak for all of us!” the Kimronian captain snarled, or so the Universal Translator led Sandhurst to believe.

    Gibraltar slewed wildly as another ionic charge lanced through the space the ship had occupied only an instant before.

    “Good flying, Brett,” Sandhurst complimented the junior lieutenant at the helm.

    “I’ve tried to end this peacefully, but you’ve given me no choice in the matter,” Sandhurst offered in parting. “What happens beyond this point is on you.” He closed the channel and called back to the Tactical station. “Mister Verrik, target their weapons and propulsion systems and open fire.”

    Their opening salvo against the Kimronians prompted the aliens to drop out of warp and come about for a stand-up fight. Though Sandhurst was in the mood to accommodate them, he had too many other competing priorities. A brace of photon torpedoes tailored to overwhelm the Kimronians’ shields was followed by a single quantum torpedo that disrupted the vessel’s power systems. A few surgical phaser discharges quickly wrecked the frigate’s weapons emitters and crippled their engines.

    He opened the channel. “This is Captain Sandhurst of Gibraltar,” he announced in a flat tone. “You have been disarmed and immobilized. Stand to and prepare to be boarded by our security teams. If you cooperate, we will assist in effecting repairs to your systems while we tow you back to your fleet. If you resist, we will tow you back with your crew in cryonic suspension in our cargo holds. Again, the choice is yours.”

    He turned in his seat to face Verrik. “Lieutenant, you lead the security boarding party. Once the ship is secured, have Mister Ashok and an engineering team beam over and inspect the damage. I want the Kimronian captain in our brig until I’ve had the chance to talk with him in person.”

    “Captain,” Lieutenant Shanthi called from the Science station in an alarmed voice, “I’m reading internal explosions aboard the Kimronian ship. It looks as if with their warp-drive offline they’ve initiated their secondary destruct protocols.”

    “Transporter rooms, this is the captain. Beam everyone off that ship bef—”

    “Brace for impact!” Juneau cried from Ops as the frigate on their main viewer erupted with a furious series of detonations that consumed the entire ship in seconds.

    Gibraltar bucked as the shockwave from the frigate’s death throes struck them. Sandhurst clutched at his seat’s armrests to keep from being thrown from the chair. Consoles flickered and then stabilized as overwhelmed EPS junctions shifted power-delivery priorities in favor of the shields and structural integrity field.

    The bridge crew stared aghast at the expanding sphere of gas and debris that marked the final resting place of a ship which had begun it’s journey some fifty years earlier and thirty-thousand light years away.

    “Wh—why?” Juneau stammered. “Why would they—”

    “Their choice,” Sandhurst declared coldly, rising out of the command chair. “Either way, we’re done here. Exec, you have the bridge.”

    T’Ser nodded wordlessly, rising from her station to assume the chair he’d vacated as Sandhurst walked through the narrow hatch leading to his ready room.

    Juneau looked to her left and met the gaze of Lieutenant (jg) Brett Lightner seated next to her at the Flight Control station. They shared a look of mutual resignation which harbored seeds that if allowed to germinate would soon sprout a harvest of full blown despair.

    “Another day at the office, hunh?” she offered sardonically.

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2020
  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Damn...
     
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  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    This Conclave, they say, does not speak for all of them but all these people on the ship decided it was better to turn into space dust than temporarily settle on a barren planet? Sounds fishy to me.

    Also, damn, Sandhurst has gotten cold in this timeline. Tough that might be preferable to his fate in the prime universe.
     
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  8. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    To be fair, Sandhurst gave them every opportunity to stand down peacefully. Why the Kimronian captain chose the self-destruct option may be rooted in their culture (death before dishonor) or some other reason that will remain a mystery for now. Yes, Sandhurst came across cold, but I can’t really blame him. By now, he’s seen too much senseless death.
    Hope Pava wakes up soon. Oh, and tell T’Ser “hello” for me. ;)
     
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  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

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    Yeah, I can see how a cultural aspect could make a lot of sense here
     
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  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
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    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    USS Gibraltar - Captain's Ready Room

    “I’ve noticed a significant shift in your behavior and attitude of late, Captain,” T’Ser offered, her voice carefully neutral.

    Sandhurst stared across his ready room desk at his XO, his expression guarded.

    She continued, “I want to make sure that you’re okay, and that if you’re not okay, that you’re accessing available resources to seek help.”

    He sat back in his chair, crossing his legs before responding. “I appreciate your noticing and asking, T’Ser. In fact, I’m not doing so well at the moment. I’ve been feeling anxious and out-of-sorts lately, something beyond just the dire situation we’re facing day-to-day. I went to Taiee a couple of days ago and had her run a complete medical work-up on me. She told me that I was stressed, which I already knew.”

    “Nothing more?”

    “Nothing that she could detect,” he countered. “I began feeling it at the same time as Lar’ragos fell ill. It’s probably a coincidence, but it doesn’t feel like a coincidence.”

    “Can you articulate what, specifically, is bothering you, sir?”

    Sandhurst waved a hand around, gesturing to encompass the ship. “This. This is… all wrong, somehow.”

    “The refugee crisis?” she asked.

    He frowned, struggling to give name to his unease. “It’s more than that. My being here, on Gibraltar, feels wrong… inappropriate. And then I look at certain people, and their presence hits me like a wave of… cognitive dissonance.”

    “Which people?”

    “Pava and Pell Ojana, for starters. I encounter them and it’s like… a malfunctioning resonator, it sets my teeth on edge, though they’ve done nothing wrong.”

    “Bridge to Captain Sandhurst,” Juneau’s voice called out, interrupting his musings.

    He glanced up reflexively. “Go ahead.”

    “Sir, you wanted to be notified when Task Force Qin made contact with the Voranti fleet. Command reports TFQ has engaged forward Voranti elements in the Atrein system.”

    “Yes, thank you, Lieutenant.”

    He looked to T’Ser. “I’d like to monitor this, Commander. Any objections?”

    “None, sir.”

    Sandhurst leaned forward and toggled a control on his desktop, calling to life a three-dimensional tactical hologram in the air above the desk. Delta-arrowhead icons representing the task force’s constituent starships were merging with symbols representing the Voranti Diaspora, a semi-aquatic species that had thus far rebuffed all Federation attempts at peaceful contact.

    “Computer, put Starfleet frequency one-seven-two-nine on audio,” he ordered.

    The steady voice of Captain Nekvasilová of the Repulse carried over the channel as she issued orders. “This is Repulse to Cumberland and Tolstoy. Take up position at Mobile Position Two and be prepared to intercept any ships that try to outflank our main formation. Jericho, Ahwahnee, and T’Pring, stand by in Reserve Assembly Zone One and be ready to be head off any breakthrough of the main defensive line.”

    As the location designators joined and overlapped, the comms-traffic became more chaotic as multiple channels began to bleed over into each other. Sensors detected energy blooms in the vicinity indicative of massive exchanges of missile weapons and collimated energy discharges.

    “The Voranti have opened fire. All units are free to engage. Focus on their combat vessels and try to avoid damaging their civilian colony ships.”

    The voices of their comrades competed for attention and cut one another off. Some were calm, others frantic, while still others sounded laden with mortal resignation.

    “Lexington, you’ve got two cruisers bearing down on you from your port-side, take evas—"

    A rumbling explosion carried over the channel. “Ventral shields collapsing on Trafalgar! Request immediate assista—”

    “Galacia’s just closed the gap, but has detected three more cruisers inbound…”

    “Hang tight, Trafalgar. You’ve got Shenyang approaching to cover from your port-aft quarter—"

    “T’Pring, come to three-zero-five, mark two-four-two to backstop Repulse and Ulaanbaatar—"

    “Thirty dead, seventy-two wounded on Trafalgar!”

    “What was that? Solstice just collided with… something! She’s been totally destroyed and it appears whatever she hit is decloaking…”

    Sandhurst and T’Ser shared an alarmed glance at the unanticipated development.

    “This is Admiral Glover on Archimedes, I am activating our reserve force. Tolstoy, report to Solstice’s last known location and investigate the array that just appeared and search for survivors of that impact. Crazy Horse and Tinubu, head for Trafalgar and cover her while Shenyang tows her clear of the battle area.”

    “Suleiman, Yassim, Cumberland and Azetbur, join Galacia and plug that gap before those colony ships can exploit it.”

    T’Ser studied the hologram. “What do you think Solstice collided with?”

    “Energy syphon,” he replied without thinking. His eyes widened in alarm.

    “A what?” she asked, looking at him skeptically.

    “I have no idea why I said that,” Sandhurst murmured. He shook his head lightly and touched a hand to his temple.

    The comms-traffic continued as the Starfleet task force began to fall back in a running battle designed to attrit the oncoming Vortani formation. Greater numbers of Voranti vessels began slowing as their engines were crippled. Others’ icons vanished completely indicating destruction of those ships.

    “Such a waste,” he said quietly. “For us and them. They come tens-of-thousands of light-years only to annihilate themselves in a suicidal orgy of pointless violence.”

    “We warned them off,” T’Ser countered. “We showed them a dozen different courses that would have taken them around Federation space. We offered them settlement on available worlds. We even offered to escort them through our space if they agreed to our very reasonable terms, but they refused our every overture.”

    “I know,” Sandhurst sighed. “That doesn’t make it any less tragic, though.”

    “Wait, sir…” T’Ser held up a hand, listening in to the comms-traffic that had become increasingly urgent. “They’re picking up the formation of a subspace fissure,” she reported.

    Sandhurst closed his eyes, overwhelmed with a sense of foreboding mixed with an inexplicable yearning that threatened to consume him.

    Captain Nekvasilová’s voice broke through the overlapping clamor. “It’s a Borg cube! All ships disengage and withdraw!”

    T’Ser shot to her feet, her expression tight with shock.

    Sandhurst remained sitting, his face buried in his hands. “Not the Borg,” he whispered.

    “It’s caught Repulse in a tractor beam,” came another voice. “Archimedes and Lexington are moving to try and break her free.”

    “Captain, we should set course immediately to assist,” T’Ser blurted, every instinct in her crying out to sprint onto the bridge and give the order.

    Sandhurst lowered his hands to his lap, looking up at his XO. “This will be over in ten minutes, Commander. We’re hours away. We may be able to assist with whatever’s left of the Voranti incursion, but Captain Nekvasilová is beyond our help.”

    T’Ser evidenced confusion and now anger. “The captain? Sir, the Borg are attacking our task force. We must go to their aid.”

    “It’s not the Borg, and they want nothing from the task force but Nekvasilová.”

    The V'tosh ka'tur Vulcan threw up her hands in exasperation. “How do you know this, sir? If it’s not the Borg, then what would they want with a Starfleet captain?”

    “To be one of us is to have always been one of us…” he murmured distractedly in reply. He raised a hand to avert her heated counterpoint as he appeared to force himself back to the matter at hand. “Commander, go to the bridge and make best speed to the task force. I’m… clearly compromised, somehow. I’m placing you in command until further notice.”

    She nodded tersely, “Understood, Captain.” T’Ser swept out of the room, the personification of purpose.

    “Repulse reports their bridge has been boarded,” the comms-link blared.

    Tears streamed down Sandhurst’s cheeks that he could not account for. His own voice sounded in his mind, repeating the words like a mantra. It should have been me. It should have been me…

    * * *​
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2020
  11. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Are realities overlapping? If so, Sandhurst is truly compromised. And what of Lar'ragos? He's still down for the count - perhaps in an unconscious attempt to preserve his own sanity. The unfolding scenario bodes ill for all and I, for one, don't see a glimmer of hope.
     
  12. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    This is getting confusing. Lar'ragos is unconscious and Sandhurst is compromised. T'Ser, it's time to take over. And someone call Sanitation Services! This is going to be a big clean-up job.
     
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  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Man, nothing quite like listening to the comm-chatter of a doomed fleet and without the ability to lift a finger to help. That's first-rate torture right there.

    There's also clearly some-sort of quantum bleed-through effect taking place with Sandhurst the only person other than presumably and incapacitated Lar'agos with any inclination that he is in an alternate timeline. I assume this must be related to the unusual fate which befell him in the prime universe which must have made him more attuned to these kind of things. A fate which will now claim another starship captain it seems.

    What a splendidly awesome mess this is.
     
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  14. Orbing Master

    Orbing Master Ensign Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2008
    Call me selfish... but while Donald and Pava may be out for the count, I'm immensely pleased some familiar faces are back from the dead... so here's hoping it lasts.
     
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  15. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    First Officer’s Personal Log, Stardate 55601.0.

    “We have arrived at the border to find that the oncoming Voranti fleet has scattered in the wake of the Borg cube’s appearance. The cube vanished back into its subspace fissure after a boarding party to Repulse’s bridge abducted Captain Nekvasilová. From the ship’s visual recordings, it’s apparent that whomever these attackers are, they are most certainly not Borg.

    I’m still at a loss to explain how Captain Sandhurst seems to have known about the species and their intent to abduct Repulse’s captain. He himself appears unable or unwilling to explain it. I’ve agonized over whether to inform Command of the captain’s insights, but I fear that revelation without the necessary context could endanger his command of Gibraltar.

    In the meantime, we’ve been ordered to join the task force. Aside from abducting a single officer, the mystery species mercifully left our starships undamaged, enabling us to deal with the remaining Voranti before their scattered ships can unite and threaten the border region again.

    Our specific assignment will be to scour the systems proximate to the Federation border for Voranti craft. We will try to elicit cooperation from them if possible, but if necessary we’re authorized to neutralize the weapons systems of their military ships. If they still insist on breaching the Federation border, we will do what’s required to protect our territory and nearby colonies from Voranti incursion.

    As do many of us, I have great empathy for the plight of the Voranti. That being said, the lives of millions of Federation citizens potentially hang in the balance, and my empathy for these refugees ends where their efforts to bludgeon their way into our territory begins. I am all to clear upon which side of that dividing line my duty lays.”

    T’Ser sat back in hear chair, pondering the words of her personal log entry. The annunciator to her office’s door chimed, and she granted the person entry. Lieutenant Commander Pell Ojana, the ship’s Bajoran second officer and diplomatic specialist stepped into the compartment.

    Though ten years T’Ser’s senior, Pell’s exceptional genetics kept her looking youthful despite the horrors of her early years spent growing up in Bajoran refugee camps and fighting on behalf of her people’s resistance movement.

    Pell fixed a curious expression on T’Ser. “You asked to see me, sir?”

    T’Ser motioned to a chair facing her desk. “Yes, Commander. Please, have a seat.”

    The Bajoran sank into the offered chair and made herself comfortable.

    “I wanted to get your input on what’s happening with the captain and Lieutenant Lar’ragos. You’ve served with the captain longer than anyone aboard, and I hoped you might be able to give me some insights on what’s going on with him.”

    Pell spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness. “I’m not sure what help I can offer, sir. The captain can be a very private man when he wants or needs to be. Breaking through his defensive screens can be near to impossible.”

    “That’s what I’m afraid of,” T’Ser said, inclining her head. “He seems to know more than he should about whoever attacked Repulse, but he won’t divulge what he knows or how he knows it. He’s handed day-to-day command of the ship over to me. In the short term I can run interference for him, but if this goes on too long, Command is going to get suspicious.”

    “You think they’ll take Gibraltar away from him?”

    “I sincerely hope not, but it’s a possibility. I know he has some significant psychiatric-trauma and PTSD from something that happened shortly after he assumed command, but it’s classified beyond my clearance. Whatever’s happening now might reopen those wounds, and a recurring psychiatric disability might make Command decide that he’s too fragile to maintain this commission.”

    “That’s crap!” Pell barked, surprising the both of them. “I—I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean for that to come out quite so… forcefully. What I meant to say was that Donald Sandhurst is one of the strongest, purest individuals I know, and he’s earned the right to command this ship a dozen times over since I’ve been aboard.”

    T’Ser offered her a warm smile. “So noted. And, despite my much more limited interaction with him, I agree with your assessment of the man.” She leaned forward. “Do you think this is related to the classified event that injured him? His record notes that he was away from the ship for two months undergoing rehabilitation.”

    Pell shook her head. “That earlier trauma was from before I joined the crew, but I’m pretty certain it’s not related to what’s happening now. The crew that were here for that event have all been sworn to secrecy. Captain Ramirez was his XO at the time and Yassim is part of our task force. You might be able to convince her to tell you something, but I’d doubt it. I don’t think she’d endanger her new command by revealing classified information.”

    “Okay, well, I think probing for classified information is only going to attract the kind of attention from Command we’re hoping to avoid. Setting the past aside, do you think you might be able to get him to open up about what’s happening now?

    The Bajoran officer appeared decidedly uncomfortable. “Sir, you may or may not know that Sandhurst and I were romantically involved when we served together previously. We made a conscious decision not to renew that part of our relationship when I reported aboard Gibraltar. I’m… not sure I’m comfortable trading on that earlier intimacy to try and pry information out of him.”

    T’Ser cocked her head, raising one of her very Vulcan eyebrows in an unmistakable expression of incredulity. “Commander, I’m trying to save Sandhurst’s career, and quite possibly the life of Captain Nekvasilová of the Repulse. You’ll forgive me if your comfort level isn’t my foremost concern.”

    An awkward silence followed during which T’Ser thought she could almost see Pell forcibly readjusting her personal priorities.

    “I understand, sir,” Pell finally said. “I will try.”

    * * *​
     
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Glad you're still working on this alternate universe story. Very eager to see where this goes and how significantly different these events will turn out compared to the prime timeline.

    Maybe there'll be some rekindling of old relationships perhaps ...
     
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  17. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Sol III, within the universe of United Trek
    Yeah, I'm still hooked on this one. I'm wondering if this an "changed timeline" or a straight out AU.

    Either way, great character work all the way around, as always.
    Looking forward to more. (that's code for "I want it soon".)
     
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  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Two

    Sandhurst stepped across the threshold and into Sickbay. Although he greatly enjoyed the company of the ship’s Chief Medical Officer, Lieutenant Issara Taiee, he tried whenever possible to avoid coming to the medical complex. Too often on too many ships during his career, as either a patient or a visitor, he had been traumatized by the sights, sounds, and smells of Sickbay.

    Especially this one.

    Here he had seen the agony of his own crew members, some wounded, some dying. Here he himself had clung stubbornly to life after weeks at the hands of a psychotic torturer. Here also he had brutally killed Maquis terrorists who had boarded Gibraltar to seize weapons and medical equipment by reprogramming the Emergency Medical Hologram into a spinning bladed nightmare. That dreadful encounter still haunted his dreams.

    “Good evening, Doc. You called?” Sandhurst said by way of greeting as he spied Taiee standing next to Pava’s biobed.

    She turned and favored him with a welcoming smile. “Captain.” Taiee stepped to the side and waved a hand over Lar’ragos like a stage performer introducing a new act. “Voila! He has awakened.”

    “Well, miracles never cease,” Sandhurst professed. “Thank you, Issara. Once again, you’ve rescued Pava from the dangerous mysteries of his own biology.”

    “And as per usual, I can’t take credit for it,” she demurred. Taiee took a last glance at his vitals displayed on the monitor at the head of the bed. “I’ll leave you two to talk.” She moved on to check in with the patients brought aboard from the surviving ships of IG-4 who occupied several of the other beds in the ward.

    As Taiee departed, Lar’ragos grinned sheepishly, clearly embarrassed to have been brought low by some unseen phenomenon.

    Sandhurst took hold of a stool and pulled it to Lar’ragos’ bedside. “I’m glad to have you back among the living,” he said.

    “Not as glad as I am,” Lar’ragos rejoined. He propped himself up on his elbows. “What happened with the IG-4 rendezvous?”

    “Over with already,” he replied, gesturing to the other patients, “though we’re still treating a number of their wounded. Then we played sheep-dog to a Kimronian ship that self-destructed rather than accompany their fleet to Dytallix B. After that we were dispatched to assist Task Force Qin when their battle with the Voranti was crashed by a Borg cube.”

    Lar’ragos looked nonplussed. “You’re pulling an old man’s leg,” he offered hopefully.

    Sandhurst raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. “Vulcan Scout’s honor,” came his acerbic confirmation.

    “It wasn’t the Borg, was it?” Lar’ragos ventured to ask.

    A slow shake of the captain's head accompanied a resigned sigh. “No, it wasn’t.”

    Lar’ragos pressed, “Who then?”

    “I… “ Sandhurst’s voice trailed off, a thousand-meter stare seizing his features. “They’re called… Amon,” he finished, almost choking on the last word.

    “You know,” Lar’ragos breathed, wondering at the implications. “How can you know?”

    “I think… I believe I have Amon memories.”

    Lar’ragos studied him carefully. “How is that possible?”

    “Damned if I know, Pava. More of it comes to me each day. Flashes of… recollection, things that I remember but that I’m sure have never happened. Not to me, anyway.” He touched his temples. “Gods, is this what it’s like being you?”

    “Not too far from it, actually,” Lar’ragos allowed after a moment’s consideration.

    The red alert klaxon sounded, red tell-tails flashing throughout Sickbay in concert with the warbling alarm.

    “This is the XO, all hands to battle stations.”

    Sandhurst glanced over his shoulder, his yearning to respond to the alert all too evident. By force of will he turned his attention back to Lar’ragos.

    “You’re not going?”

    “T’Ser has the ship,” Sandhurst answered reluctantly.

    “Why?”

    The captain looked disbelievingly at his friend. “Something’s putting someone else’s memories in my head. I think that constitutes a security risk, don’t you?”

    “I don’t think it’s that simple, sir.”

    Sandhurst cocked his head, returning the El Aurian’s earlier scrutiny. “How so?”

    “I think you’re wrong about the origin of these memories. You and I, we’re the ones out of place here. Given my heritage, it at least makes some kind of sense that I know this. I feel it, viscerally. But you? Even if you’re in the wrong place and time, you shouldn’t be able to tell.”

    “Being a lowly hew-mon and all?” Sandhurst asked with the merest hint of a smirk.

    “Precisely.”

    “So who’s memories are popping into my head, and who put them there?”

    “They’re your memories, Captain,” Lar’ragos answered heavily. “I think that you are Amon, or at the very least, you were.”

    Sandhurst had no response to that.

    * * *​

    Bridge

    “All stations report ready at battle stations, Commander,” Verrik advised from the tactical console immediately behind T’Ser’s command chair.

    “Voranti frigate is continuing to shadow us from the underside of the ring system, sir,” Juneau noted from the Ops station.

    From her perch in the center seat, T’Ser instructed, “Mister Lightner, maintain course and speed. I want them to keep thinking we don’t see them.”

    Gibraltar had entered high orbit around a ringed gas giant, having tracked a Voranti colony ship that had fled the Starfleet blockade and subsequent arrival of what most believed to have been a Borg cube.

    Now it seemed the colony ship was guarded by one of the Voranti’s few surviving frigates, likely determined to safeguard their charges from what they doubtless felt were ‘marauding’ Starfleet vessels.

    “The colony ship’s power systems are failing, sir,” noted Shanthi from the Science station. “They appear to have suffered heavy damage to their engineering section, by Voranti weapons from the look of the blast signatures.”

    T’Ser cast a glance over her shoulder at Verrik’s solemn expression. “Thoughts, Lieutenant?”

    “Many of the Voranti ships were in close formation when they ran the Starfleet blockade. It appears their weapons systems or the personnel operating them are not as discriminating as we are, Commander.”

    She cocked her head thoughtfully in response. ‘Ops, tie in the universal translator and open a channel to the Voranti colony ship.”

    “Aye, sir. Channel open.”

    “Voranti vessel, this is Commander T’Ser of the Starfleet ship Gibraltar. We mean you no harm and will take no further defensive action against you so long as you cease your attempts to violate the Federation border. I offer assistance in repairing your engineering systems so that you may resume your journey.”

    The bridge crew awaited a response, concentrating on their various readouts as the minutes ticked past.

    Thought even she couldn’t say why, T’Ser felt moved to open the channel again. “Voranti vessels, you have come so far over so many years, please don’t let your journey end in tragedy. We are determined to protect our borders against intruders, but we offer sanctuary to those who would be our friends. We stand ready to assist your people and to learn from you. You must have encountered much on your voyage here, many different species and phenomena. We wish to know your stories…” her voice trailed off, and a greenish blush tinged her cheeks. She felt foolish for trying so desperately, for sounding so unprofessional.

    Oh, well, T’Ser thought while emitting an outward sigh. “Hold position here. I don’t want to spook them.”

    “They’re replying, sir.” Juneau sounded genuinely surprised. T’Ser empathized.

    “Let’s hear it.”

    “Federation vessel, we and our guardian frigate are standing down. We have significant damage and many injured aboard. I do not know if it is wise to trust you, but we have no options left and we are so very tired. Tired of running, tired of fighting.”

    “As are we,” T’Ser offered.

    “We…” the voice said haltingly, “…are at your mercy.”

    * * *​
     
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  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Looks like the good old fashioned altruistic approach may actually work out for a change. Well, let's not celebrate yet least we forget this is a Gibraltar tale.

    In the meantime Sandhurst and Pava seem close to a breakthrough. Of course, realizing what is wrong with you is only the first step. Where do you take it from here?

    Riveting stuff, as always!
     
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  20. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2001
    Location:
    The Hub of the Universe
    Holy temporal paradox, Batman! I absolutely LOVE this! As much as I've enjoyed where you've taken your characters in the Vanguard storyline (even the extreme "dispositions"), it's always nice to dive back into my favorite crew back on their original ship. I like the way you've incorporated themes and ideas from "Yesterday's Enterprise", as well. I am completely captivated, and can't wait to see where you take this story, and how it may be reconciled with the Vanguard timeline.
     
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