Star Trek: Gibraltar - The Road Not Taken

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

  1. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    Ah, so it seems our intrepid Captain Sandhurst is reality hopping, not unlike Worf in "Parallels". Curiouser and curiouser. :vulcan:
     
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  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The times do change, don't they?
     
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  3. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

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    I'm way late to this party and I've not even begun to catch up with who Donald prime actually is... That said, while there are a lot of comparisons with Yesterday's Enterprise, I'm catching an undertone of STNG S6 Tapestry. This Sandhurst seems off his rhythm. A different guy. Could be the mysterious connection with the Amon or it could be something more similar to 2nd Lt. Picard - one false step leads down a rabbit warren. Lar'ragos doesn't seem to like who Sandhurst has become. I wonder if Sandhurst likes who Sandhurst has become..

    By far my favorite of this collection is the likable romulan captain, completely in touch with reality and facing his fate with integrity and dignity. I'm a big fan of casting against type.

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  4. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

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    So I take it Sandhurst and Aubrey won’t be having a drink together in this timeline?

    I like the concept of two different “outliers” causing space/time disruptions by being in close proximity. You’ve put a lot thought into this, obviously. Ah, if only Loki were written this well…

    And poor Sandhurst! Two gruesome deaths and counting. Maybe it’s worth listening to the time cops after all?
     
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  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    A truly engaging tale with Sandhurst bouncing from reality to reality, only to hit reset with death. What can break the cycle? And, what will be the cost to Donald, Pava, and reality itself?
     
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  6. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Variation 1,473

    Sandhurst fast-walked towards the turbolift, data padd in hand, trying desperately to look as though he wasn’t rushing and failing miserably.

    A short ride in the lift-car deposited him on Deck 2, and he jogged down the short corridor leading to the observation lounge. He passed through the doors in time for the assembled senior staff to look up at him in concert.

    “Nice of you to join us, Commander,” Liana Ramirez noted, a touch of good humor in her voice as she gestured towards the empty chair to her right.

    “Sorry, Captain,” Sandhurst blanched, moving to seat himself. He held up the padd by way of explanation for his tardiness. “Update from Command on the Romulan situation.”

    “Let’s hear it,” she instructed.

    He referenced the device. “Following the Skorrah attack on Romulus, Enterprise was dispatched to make contact with a splinter political faction led by a Reman agitator named Shinzon. It appears this new provisional Romulan/Reman government countermanded the Imperial Navy’s plan for vengeance strikes against Federation targets. The Federation is sending a full diplomatic envoy to Remus to negotiate a plan to relocate tens-of-millions of Romulan citizens to other systems along the border.”

    Ramirez shook her head in amazement. “Figures the Big-E would be in the right place at the right time. That’s one war averted that we could scarcely have afforded to fight. Now all we have to worry about is millions of Romulan refugees along one border at the same time as millions of Delta Quadrant refugees flood in along another.”

    Grim laughter from around the table followed her assessment.

    “I suppose the only good news is that the cylinder probe the Skorrah were using was destroyed along with Romulus,” commented Lt. Commander Manuele Atoa, Gibraltar’s Operations officer.

    Their Vulcan Security/Tactical officer, Lieutenant JG Verrik, directed a skeptical expression at the larger Samoan officer. “The Skorrah reportedly have the ability to open transit portals anywhere in our galaxy, sir. Though we have seen only one of their craft, the aforementioned cylinder probe, it is logical to presume they have access to other spacecraft.”

    “We illogical Humans still cling to hope, Lieutenant,” Sandhurst offered with a wry grin.

    The meeting continued by the numbers as the senior staff discussed their continuing convoy escort assignment, shepherding a flotilla of supply ships a planet in the Yaan system due to be settled by the recently encountered Stahreth refugee species. They would make planetfall a mere two weeks before the migrant fleet arrived, a narrow window in which to erect the foundations for the settlement to follow.

    As the others filtered out of the briefing lounge at the meeting’s conclusion, Ramirez motioned for Sandhurst to remain behind.

    “I wanted you to be the first to know,” she said as he resumed his seat. “I’ve been offered command of the Giacobini, effective in a month’s time.”

    Sandhurst was impressed. “A Nebula-class, that’s quite the step up, sir. Congratulations.”

    “Thank you. I want you to know that if you want it, I’m prepared to request you succeed me as CO of Gibraltar. You’ve been an exemplary XO and you’re ready for the center seat. Admiral Covey happens to agree with me.”

    Sandhurst sat back, looking surprised. “I… I’ll have to think about it, sir. Regardless, I’m grateful for your confidence in my abilities.”

    “It could be a very painless transition. Atoa could slide into the XO’s post effortlessly; he’s more than ready. Browder’s due for a promotion to JG and could assume the senior Operations spot.”

    Sandhurst nodded, conceding the wisdom of the multiple transitions. “I’d agree with those assessments, sir.”

    “I’m not going to press too hard, Donald,” she continued. “I know you’ve never been driven to promote, but after a year as Ebnal’s XO and two years as mine, you have all the prerequisites. Gibraltar could be as great a stepping stone for your career as it’s been for mine.”

    “Thank you, sir. I’ll give the offer the consideration it’s due.”

    “Please do,” Ramirez replied. “After all, I wouldn’t leave my first command to just anyone.”

    * * *

    “Incoming distress call, sir,” Atoa advised, unconsciously touching a hand to his ear containing a miniature comms earpiece. “It’s garbled, ultra-low frequency. Sounds like…” he quickly typed a series of commands into his console, boosting power to the comms receiver and narrowing the reception bandwidth. “Got it, sir. It’s a distress signal from the Mizarian colony on Forstis V. They say an unknown vessel has entered the Forstis system and is approaching their planet.”

    “Time to the Forstis system, best speed?” Sandhurst directed the query to Lieutenant JG Lightner at Flight Control.

    “Six hours, forty-three minutes at warp eight, Commander, provided we can hold that speed for the duration.”

    “Like all Mizarian settlements, Forstis V has no defenses whatsoever, sir,” Verrik advised from the Tactical station on the bridge’s upper level, his tone conveying the merest hint of disapproval.

    While most Vulcans were acknowledged pacificists, the Mizarians were of the lay-down-and-get-walked-on school of pacifism. Their homeworld had been conquered seven times in the past three centuries, most recently by the Dominion, and their civilization had survived because they surrendered unconditionally every time.

    “Mister Atoa, any additional information on the intruder?” Sandhurst asked.

    “Working on it, sir. There’s some images and sensor telemetry imbedded in the message, but it’s so jumbled that it’s taking me some time to resolve the data.”

    Sandhurst turned to the Science station, occupied by a petite Human female of Middle-Eastern Terran descent who’s hijab matched her science-blue uniform undershirt. “Lieutenant Akbary, are we within sensor range of the Forstis system?”

    “Affirmative, sir.” She began conducting a long-range sensor sweep of the system in question, only to find her display screen cluttered with interference. Sandhurst watched Akbary attempt to increasing scanning resolution to clear up the returns, but the sensor noise only appeared to increase.

    “I’m picking up significant subspace disruption in the vicinity of the Forstis system, Commander. It’s making scans of the system almost impossible at this range.”

    “Source of the interference?” Sandhurst asked.

    “Unknown, sir. The particular wave-front signature matches nothing in our database.”

    “Helm, set course for the Forstis system and execute at maximum sustainable speed.” Sandhurst sat back in his seat, toggling the Yellow Alert indicator on the command chair’s armrest display. He then activated the intraship. “All hands, stand to Yellow Alert. Captain Ramirez, to the bridge.”

    “I have some visuals and fragmentary telemetry from a Mizarian satellite at the outer edge of the system, Commander,” Atoa advised.

    “On the main viewer, please.”

    A fuzzy, static-filled image barely recognizable as a starfield appeared on screen. The viewpoint stabilized after a moment, and a target identifier reticule was superimposed over the image, highlighting a dark, starless patch that appeared to grow in size.

    “Satellite sensor returns identify this as a probable spacecraft, decelerating from near-light velocities,” Atoa narrated the image. “Returns are sporadic, but it appears to measure some one-point-eight kilometers in length, and roughly half a kilometer in diameter.

    The shadowy craft grew larger, offering a brief glimpse of dark hull plating festooned with heat-dissipating fins, weapons blisters, and blade-like sensor arrays.

    Akbary looked up from her station as the computer processed and refined the raw imagery and sensor readings. “Vessel appears to originate from an intelligence unknown to us. No design or materials referents to this type of craft exist in our records. The vessel also seems to be the origin point for the sensor interference.”

    The others appeared intrigued, but Sandhurst felt a growing sensation of dread as he realized with a certainty that he could not explain that this was a Skorrah vessel.

    The turbolift doors opened and Ramirez stepped onto the bridge, her expression curious and expectant. Sandhurst looked to her and knew that despite the harrowing danger that the intruding ship represented, Ramirez would move to intercede.

    Liana Ramirez backed down from no one. In any other situation, it would be an admirable trait. Here, however, Sandhurst sensed that attribute may well get them all killed.

    * * *
     
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Sandhurst playing XO to Captain Ramirez? An intriguing variation that begs the question as to what went differently in this universe that led to this development.

    The fact that Ramirez is about to move on to leave Sandhurst in command feels like a bad omen, considering what they've just discovered.

    Then again. Everything could work out just fine ..... Right.
     
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  8. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

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    In a way, probably a much happier Sandhurst - or at least one not so stressed out. Until about 3 minutes ago...

    An interesting approach to the garden of forking paths. I didn't see a Lar'ragos in the room. That's probably going to come with a large array of repercussions.

    Thanks!! rbs
     
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  9. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

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    Donald was a reluctant captain from the first. This reality seems to fit, particularly his less than enthusiastic response to Ramirez' offer of the Captaincy. Aaaand, where's Pava? Off-duty, or did he not make it to this reality?
     
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  10. Galen4

    Galen4 Commander Red Shirt

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    Now what the hell is going on?

    I can't help wondering if the "time cops" are behind this? Sending Sandhurst on a "Worf in Wonderland" journey just to teach him a lesson? Or was it that first death that detached him from the AU we started with? And why can't he remember the Prime timeline?

    Looking forward to answers.
     
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  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Are Sandhurst and Ramirez playing musical chairs? I liked this installment. When does the music stop and Sandhurst saves the Universe?
     
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  12. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    A very intriguing warp to this particular mirror.
     
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  13. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Counter to Sandhurst’s expectations, Captain Ramirez had taken a more cautious stance than usual when confronted with such circumstances. She had determined that as the Mizarian colony was not affiliated with the Federation, there was no legal obligation to come to their aid. Instead, Ramirez had contacted Command and requested backup.

    It was unheard of for her to be so reticent, a clear indication that Ramirez understood the stark danger this species represented. And so the crew watched and waited while the Mizarian planet was rendered uninhabitable by energies that Lieutenant Akbary and her science department struggled to fathom.

    A hastily assembled taskforce had been ordered to track and confront the intruder vessel. The starships Sasaoka, Crazy Horse, Hyperion, and T’Kumbra had arrived at Gibraltar’s location, with Captain Solok of T’Kumbra assuming overall command of the strike group.

    Four more ships made little difference. When their attack commenced, Starfleet weapons systems had next to no effect on the Skorrah, while theirs proved as lethal as they were unconventional. Federation technology was constrained by the physical laws of this universe, while the Skorrah appeared to have borrowed new laws from elsewhere.

    The typical elements of a space battle were not to be found, at least not from the Skorrah. They fired no energy bolts, no collimated beams, no torpedoes nor mines. Their weapons failed to register on Starfleet sensors when employed, and the starships’ shields proved useless to prevent the ensuing carnage.

    The destruction of all five vessels took only moments.

    Within the charnel house that was Gibraltar’s bridge, Sandhurst felt the agony of the Skorrah liquefaction field recede. Those horrors were suddenly and unexpectedly replaced by the calm, welcoming environs of the hillside bar in Vethlis at the Kathleron Anchorage ring where Sandhurst had first encountered the female time agent.

    He was seated at the same patio table as before, only the person sitting across from him was unfamiliar.

    “What… how?” he stammered.

    The other man, a Human male by appearance, was nondescript in a way that might serve as the ultimate camouflage. He was dressed in a similarly unremarkable fashion, seeming to blend into the background as though possessing a personal cloaking field.

    The man directed a comforting smile at Sandhurst. “Just take it easy. It always takes a moment for you to reorient yourself.”

    Sandhurst looked around, taking note of the breathtaking balcony view of the descending cityscape below. “How did I get here?”

    “We’ve been here the entire time,” the man answered patiently.

    “I was just…” Sandhurst looked down, surprised to find himself in uniform. A touch of his collar confirmed the presence of the four rank pips of a captain.

    “You were just aboard Gibraltar, commanded by Captain Ramirez until your crew’s tragic demise at the hands of the Skorrah.”

    Sandhurst nodded slowly in response, beginning to recall a host of other divergent realities that sat jumbled in his mind like pieces of a scattered puzzle. “How many?” he asked finally.

    “This was iteration fifteen-thousand one-hundred and three,” the man replied.

    Sandhurst’s eyes narrowed as he examined the plainer-than-plain individual across from him. “How and why is this happening?”

    The man turned and raised a hand, gesturing to a servitor drone for drink service. The floating robotic waiter appeared with two glasses and the man took one for himself and handed one of them to Sandhurst. “You were caught in an existential crisis and were grappling with conflicting moral imperatives. You and what remained of your crew had cobbled together an interstellar coalition wherein the members sacrificed some of their colonies in order to keep the hibernating Skorrah fed, and thus, asleep. You’d hoped to maintain this fragile coalition as long as it took to find some way of defeating or imprisoning the Skorrah…”

    “The starship.” Sandhurst interrupted, his muddled memory beginning to clear. He examined the glass, surprised to see it contained Romulan ale, his drink of choice in this particular establishment.

    “Yes,” the man confirmed. “Starfleet managed to send a ship into the LMC, the presence of which threatened to upset the applecart, so to speak.”

    “How does this explain you… explain all this?” Sandhurst gestured expansively.

    “In a critical moment, you wished… prayed, in point of fact, to know that you’d made the right choice. The only choice. I heard this request, and seeing as I owed you a sizeable favor, I granted it.”

    Sandhurst took a bracing draught from his glass, eyeing the man warily. “You say you owe me?”

    The man settled back into his chair. “You rescued my brother from the clutches of a rather disagreeable individual. At the time you asked for something in return, but I was regretfully unable to assist you with your predicament.” He took a long sip from his glass and winced, coughing convulsively. “Tha—that’s stronger than I anticipated.”

    Sandhurst blinked, finally putting the pieces together. “Q?”

    The man nodded, eyes watering as he coughed into his fist. “Yep,” he croaked.

    “You told me you couldn’t help me when we last met,” Sandhurst recalled. “You said there were new rules imposed by the Continuum, no interference. What’s changed?”

    Q dabbed at his eyes with the corner of his napkin. “From my perspective that was eons ago, and change is a universal constant. Rules are revised, even in the Continuum. As it happens, I was going about settling up old debts when I perceived your entreaty.”

    Another sip of ale presaged Sandhurst’s next question. “Settling debts? You going somewhere?”

    Q nodded in reply. “Yes. We’ve been asked… well, to be more accurate we’ve been told that we’ve worn out our welcome here and will be moving on.”

    A skeptical expression met this admission. “The Continuum is being… what, tossed out on it’s ear? By whom?” Sandhurst inquired.

    “The management,” Q answered cryptically. “We’ve hung around this plane of existence much longer than most do at our evolutionary stage, and it appears we’ve finally caused one too many messes. It didn’t help that one of us has been a bit too preoccupied with humanity and finally broke that last, fragile straw of someone else’s patience. So, onward and upward we go.”

    Sandhurst cocked his head, having decided to accept that at face value. “Picard’s Q?”

    A sober nod from Q confirmed it. “Yeah. That guy. Doesn’t know when to quit. Real jackass.”

    Sandhurst raised his glass in a toast, “In that case, safe journeys to you and your people,” he offered.

    Q completed the toast with a clink of their glasses. “Thank you.”

    Sandhurst finished his drink and set the glass aside. “I think… I think I remember all of these alternate realities,” he mused. “How is that possible?”

    “I’ve made it possible for the time being. Once I return you to your own timeline, you’ll forget, of course. A Human mind, even one augmented by Amon genetic modifications, could never retain the memories from all of those disparate lives.”

    “Then how does it benefit me to have experienced fifteen-thousand plus versions of these events? What was the point?”

    “The point of it is that when I return you to your proper place and time, I will leave you with the absolute conviction that what you’ve chosen is the only path forward. You won’t know how you know that, but you will know it in your bones.”

    Sandhurst contemplated that in silence.

    Q gestured towards him. “You’ve agonized whether giving yourself to the Amon to begin with was the right decision. So far as we’ve seen here, any other choice ends in the deaths of billions, possibly trillions. Take some solace in that.” He waved his hand in a casual gesture.

    The man who was Donald Sandhurst looked down to see his enhanced Amon physiology restored. He was once again clad in the pseudo-Starfleet uniform that he had designed for the mixed crew compliment of the starship Europa, no longer wholly a Starfleet vessel. The man he had been passed through him, ghost-like and then slipped away. Zeischt, Amon warrior, prophet and BattleMaster reasserted himself.

    Zeischt released a long sigh as he considered this. “Well, that’s something.”

    Q appraised him, smirking. “It should help to salve your conscience, since you’d already set things in motion that made open conflict with that starship probable.”

    The Amon captain cocked his head. “Such as?”

    “You left a log buoy in that nebula containing fictitious mission logs, years of them. You booby-trapped a century-old Federation starship caught in a dimensional schism with a malevolent psionic entity you’d captured after it started to prey on Europa’s crew. You did these things, knowing that the entity would attack the other starship’s crew, weakening them if not destroying them outright.”

    “Hedging my bets,” Zeischt replied coldly. “There’s too much at stake to allow the Federation’s over-inflated sense of morality to condemn entire galaxies to death.”

    “Now there’s the man great swathes of the LMC have come to fear,” Q jibed, gesturing expansively at Zeischt. “The crew of that ship, Valhalla, they’re good people, undeserving of what you’ve unleashed upon them.”

    Zeischt looked away briefly, his eyes sweeping across the breathtaking night time vista of the great hoop of the Kathleron Anchorage. The day-side of the ring far above them cast an ethereal glow across the darkened sea and the cliffside city above it.

    “Sandhurst couldn’t stop the Amon, and he couldn’t have stopped the Skorrah,” Zeischt said finally. “He wasn’t strong enough, or smart enough. I could only do these things by becoming Amon.”

    Q held up his hands in a warding gesture. “You’re preaching to the choir, Captain. I know full well how lethal the Skorrah can be.”

    “Given all that, the lives of a single Starfleet crew are a small price to pay in exchange for the lives of every sentient being in the Local Group.”

    “There was a time when you would never have considered trading lives in such a fashion, regardless of the numbers involved.”

    “I’m a betrayer,” Zeischt said heavily. “I betrayed Starfleet by joining the Amon. I betrayed the Amon and helped hunt them to extinction, violating my adopted peoples’ most sacred laws. And now I must betray Starfleet again by consigning that ship’s crew to death.”

    Zeischt held his empty glass up to the light, admiring both it's solidity and fragility. He set it down and then took a last long look around. “I’d always wanted to visit this place. Never got the chance. Now I won’t remember having been here.”

    Q looked at Zeischt appraisingly. “You’re ready, then?”

    “I am,” he confirmed heavily. He met Q’s eyes and allowed himself a fractional smile. “Thank you for this. I’m surely undeserving of such consideration.”

    Q shrugged. “I’m happy to have been able to repay my debt to you. It was fascinating to see all the possible iterations of what may have been, what may yet be.”

    “Send me home,” Zeischt said, and the next instant it was done.

    The semi-corporeal quasi-deity known as Q let out a bemused sigh. Soon, it would be time for him to go as well. For the first time in his experience he knew no more about what fate had in store for he and his people than did Zeischt. The idea both thrilled and terrified him.

    He gestured to the servitor drone for a final drink. One more for the road not taken.

    END​
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2022
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  14. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    That's quite the ending.
     
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  15. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, that sure took an unexpected turn.

    It's pretty impressive how you managed to build a story that appeared like a nice little "What If" style spin-off but, as it turns out, is a fairly integral piece to the Sandhurst/Zeischt saga, full of significant implications for the character and perhaps the universe as a whole.

    This was a great story already, but the ending was really the cherry on top. Nicely done.
     
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  16. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

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    As others have said, quite a turn. I wondered if the Q might not be involved in Sandhurst's time jumps (it seemed one of a limited number of options, but one never knows where your fertile mind might wander), although I had no inkling as to the details or the final resolution. Intriguing and thought-provoking, as always.
     
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  17. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Captain Captain

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    Still catching up with the series over on Ad Astra, so I haven't reviewed this one yet.. Looking forward to it.
    Are you reposting this series to Ad Astra? Thanks!! rbs
     
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This story will eventually be reposted to Ad Astra, yes. :bolian: