UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Gibraltar, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 4)

    Chapter Four​

    * * *​

    Captain’s Personal Log.

    The board is set; all the pieces are in place for the coming contest. Europa is as ready as we can make her, and the crew is single-minded in their focus on the mission ahead. I wish I were as well… but I’m plagued by doubts and fears of what lies in wait for us. My concern isn’t merely for the crew, but for what failure on our part could mean for the Alpha Quadrant.

    Standing on my own two feet, responsible for none but myself, I am undeniably formidable. This isn’t hubris, but hard fact underscored by my still drawing breath after everything the universe has thrown at me. Yet, I feel as though I must expand beyond myself and spread all that I am into an impossibly thin layer in an effort to encompass and protect this ship and crew. In so doing, I become vulnerable. Decades of refusing promotion, of deferring responsibility, all to avoid this damning weakness that now consumes me.

    The system and situation we’re heading for are promising, obviously, but something deep in my marrow tells me that we’ll find Donald there with his warrior clan. I’m not sure how or why, but it’s a sense of certainty that I’m unable to shake.

    Even if we locate him, will anything remain of the man I remember… of my friend? I fear that I may find him only to discover he has become as twisted by the Amon as Ramirez has been by the Baron. And if so, what then? Could I bring myself to destroy Donald Sandhurst?

    Deities, I can’t even bring myself to say the word in reference to him… me, of all people!
    Kill. Will I be able to kill the only true friend I’ve known in the last hundred years?

    Before this confrontation… this Dark Contact, I must put my house in order. I have neglected members of my senior staff, some out of convenience, and others out of anger. We must form a united front if we are to survive the Amon, and that effort begins with me.

    End Entry

    * * *​
  2. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Short, but painfully to the point.

    Pava reveals his Achilles' heel: self-doubt when faced with the burden of command. The Most Dangerous Man in the Quadrant™ is damn near invincible when on his own - but throw in the elements of responsibility, compassion and friendship and Lar'ragos becomes all too mortal.

    And the salient question - could he kill Sandhurst should it be necessary?

    Hopefully, we won't have to find out.
  3. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    You gotta appreciate a man who can correctly identify his strength as well as his weaknesses. Pava is many things but clearly not self-deluded.

    Now he's going to have to rely more than ever on his crew to be able to face what must be done. And that could be another Achilles' heel considering some of them are anything but tested.

    Oh, this is going to be all kind of fun.
  4. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 4 cont'd)

    Chapter Four

    Pell glared across the ready room desk at Lar’ragos, her flinty gaze causing the exhausted El Aurian to look away first. “Pouting won’t change matters, Ojana,” he offered a bit too flippantly, even for his taste.

    “You bring me on board and then restrict me from your senior staff meetings,” Pell countered in an even voice that belied the hard set of her features. “Please explain to me how that makes any sense whatsoever?”

    “You’re not serving in the capacity of a senior officer here,” Lar’ragos explained as he struggled to collect the shredded remains of his patience. “You’re a diplomatic advisor in case we make contact with the Amon.”

    “So, in the meantime I do what? Sit in the TOC and polish the consoles?”

    “How you spend your time is your affair, Commander,” Lar’ragos deflected. “If I were in your boots, I’d be spending all my available time collating everything we know about the Amon in preparation for our genuine First Contact with them.”

    Pell’s eyes remained fixed on Lar’ragos. “I did that before we’d left Galaxy Station, sir, and as I sent you my compilation of all relevant records prior to our departure, you already know that.” She sat forward in her chair, her posture inviting a candid reply. “What’s really going on here, Pava?”

    He hesitated, but finally answered. “We’re heading for an inhabited planet that’s about to be overrun by two warring intruder species. The mission profile has certain… similarities to Velkohn.”

    Pell nodded her understanding. “You wanted to avoid my causing a scene en route to the planet. I can respect that.”

    Lar’ragos threw her a surprised look, clearly caught off guard by Pell’s sedate reaction.

    “I was forced to learn a good deal of pragmatism as Worf’s XO, Captain,” Pell said by way of explanation. “The mass migration is a tragedy for everyone involved, and I’m not so naive as to think we can save everybody.” She gave Lar’ragos a sanguine expression. “It’s important to me to be of real value on this mission, aside from just being leverage to influence Donald.”

    Lar’ragos raised his hands in a gesture of supplication. “Then I owe you an apology, Ojana. Given our strained history, I thought it was better to handle you with kid gloves.”

    “I can be an asset, if you’ll let me,” Pell offered.

    The El Aurian inclined his head. “I’d welcome that.”

    * * *​

    Lar’ragos hopped from one river-wetted rock to the next in order to get close enough to Counselor Liu to be heard over the burbling river and the chattering of swooping bullet-head sparrows.

    Liu stood waist-deep in the water, wearing hip waders. He cast the line from his fly-rod in gentle, swishing arcs above his head.

    “This another North American river?” Lar’ragos asked, forced to raise the volume of his voice to be heard over nature’s cacophony.

    “No,” Liu called back. “It’s a tributary of the Cochrane River on Alcent.” He gestured offhandedly to the reptilian bullet-heads that flitted back and forth above the river. “Not so many flying lizards on Earth anymore.”

    Lar’ragos nodded distractedly, the gesture lost on Liu. “I’ve never been to Alpha Centauri.”

    Liu continued fishing, and an awkward silence followed before Lar’ragos was moved to say, “I wanted to apologize for snapping at you during the staff meeting. It was out of line.”

    Liu shrugged. “I did lay it on a bit thick, but I’d be lying if I said the moral ramifications of this mission didn’t bother me.”

    “It’s a shit mission,” Lar’ragos admitted, “for all of us.”

    “Apology accepted,” Liu said. “I’m sorry if I struck a nerve.”

    “Some nerves are especially sensitive, even after four-hundred years.”

    Another silence followed, this one more comfortable, leaving both men alone with their thoughts for a few minutes.

    “You’re not Sandhurst,” Liu said finally.

    “I never claimed to be.”

    Liu turned to glance at Lar’ragos. “You keep trying to be, though. You played by Sandhurst’s rules in the engagement with Masada, and they handed us our asses.”

    Lar’ragos’ expression soured. “I’m well aware of my failings, Counselor.”

    “Then play to your strengths,” came Liu’s response. “You’re a bloodthirsty, cold-hearted bastard, Captain. That’s not a criticism, by the way, so much as an acknowledgement of your gifts. When you play against type, you stumble. When you’re so focused on following in Sandhurst’s footprints, you lose sight of the objective.”

    Lar’ragos bit back an acidic reply as he was forced to concede the truth of Liu’s words to himself. “What would you recommend?”

    “Be what you are,” Liu pressed.

    “And what’s that?”

    “They don’t send a man like you to make treaties, Captain. You’re not a scalpel for precisely excising a cancer. You’re the last option, the doomsday weapon launched to lay waste everything in your path.”

    Lar’ragos digested that. “That’s quite the backhanded compliment.”

    “If you want someone to blow sunshine up your ass, look elsewhere,” Liu sighed.

    “You’re suggesting they sent Europa out here to do… what? Destroy the Amon outright?”

    “And Sandhurst, if necessary,” Liu added. “I think Command is hoping you’ll convince Sandhurst’s tribe to make war against their countrymen, before wiping out whoever’s left standing at the end of that fight.”

    A thrill of realization arced up Lar’ragos’ spine as Liu so effortlessly articulated what Lar’ragos had been unable to verbalize for days.

    “When they replenished the Alpha Weapons Ramirez made off with, did Command issue us anything new?”

    Lar’ragos closed his eyes, cursing his own lack of imagination. “As a matter of fact… yes.”

    Liu called out, “Computer, end program.”

    The idyllic environment vanished, leaving both men standing within a naked holodeck.

    “There’s your answer then, Captain.” Liu walked towards the exit, pausing as the heavy doors parted with a pneumatic sigh. “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one,” Liu quoted from the Bhagavad Gita. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

    He left Lar’ragos alone on the holodeck, the younger man’s prophetic words ringing in his ears.

    * * *​
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2013
  5. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    May 22, 2007
    Here and now.
    Pava Lar'ragos - the nuclear option.

    Well, yeah.
  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Pava and Pell make up. Good because I think they could both use a friend, seeing that they are rapidly running out of those these days.

    The scene between Lar'ragos and Liu was expertly done. I feel almost a little bad for our El Aurian badass. Here he is hoping to turn a new leaf and become a more balanced individual as a starship captain only to realize that he may be used as nothing more than a hammer to pound Sandhurst and the Amon into submission. Oh well, it's not gonna be as easy as that now, will it?
  7. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 4 cont'd)

    Chapter Four

    The main viewer was awash in the swirling infinity-point perspective of transwarp as Europa tunneled through the void between dimensions at nearly a dozen times her rated maximum speed.

    “Two minutes until deceleration marker,” Lightner advised from the Helm.

    “Acknowledged,” Lar’ragos replied evenly, sparing an approving glance toward Ashok at the Engineering board. “As good as your word, Lieutenant.”

    The Bolian looked up from his panel to receive the praise with his typical reticence. “You may want to wait until we’ve successfully translated back to normal space, Captain.”

    “I’d call shortening an eleven day trip at warp nine-point-nine to a little over eight hours a success, Mister Ashok. You’ll have to forgive my enthusiasm.”

    Ashok turned back to his readouts. “So noted, sir.”

    “Shields on hot standby, precautionary,” Wu alerted from her seat to Lar’ragos’ right. Cool and efficient, Wu remained the crew’s stolid anchor, balancing Pava’s impetuousness.

    “Mister Shanthi, status of our sensor grid?” Lar’ragos queried.

    “Standing by to scan known Amon subspace frequencies for any signs of their energy collection satellites, sir,” came the young scientist’s prompt reply.

    Unlike typical warp propulsion, travel through transwarp space left a vessel immune to the potentially devastating shear of planetary and stellar gravity wells. Thus, a ship could drop out of transwarp in orbit of a planet instead of limping into a system at impulse speeds or risking a potentially lethal warp-engine imbalance.

    Europa had successfully tested the drive on two shorter jumps in preparation for this, the final leg of their outbound journey to the system containing the Class-M world of Alanthal.

    “Here we go,” Lightner urged. “Hang on to your hats.”

    The viewer blinked from the shifting kaleidoscope of a transwarp corridor to the orbital view of a mottled, blue-green sphere. A collision alarm wailed unexpectedly, Europa’s automated systems throwing the ship hard over into a half-impulse turn far faster than humanoid reaction time would have allowed.

    “Report!” Lar’ragos called out.

    “Debris,” Kirk advised from Ops. “Duranium and tritanium elements… “

    “It’s a wing,” Shanthi finished. “Contemporary Klingon design, from a Bird-of-Prey, B'rel-class.

    Kirk’s sudden intake of breath drew Lar’ragos’ attention. “Multiple sensor contacts, sir. Klingon warships, numerous classes and configurations.” Her hands flitted across her control board. “Picking up additional debris in significant quantities.”

    Lar’ragos appeared at a loss for words, but finally managed to blurt, “What in the hell is going on here?”

    Shanthi turned towards the captain from his place at the Science station. “I’m seeing signs of intensive space combat in the vicinity of the planet, sir. The flotsam is consistent with the constituent elements of vessels from both intruder formations as well as Klingon technology.”

    Lar’ragos turned to Wu, his expression one of uncharacteristic confusion. “I don’t understand,” he hissed in a low tone. “How did the Klingons get here before us?”

    “Immaterial,” she countered in an equally subdued voice. “We must respond to the fact that they are here, and have apparently initiated hostilities with the intruder groups.”

    “There’s an audio message in linga-code broadcasting in the open from the planet, Captain,” Kirk noted.

    “I thought they were pre-warp,” Pell Ojana offered from the seat to Pava’s left. “Now they’ve suddenly got subspace radio technology?”

    Lar’ragos waved a hand dismissively, becoming overwhelmed at the influx of conflicting information. “Let’s hear the message.”

    “Be it known to all who approach this world, Alanthal is now under the protection of the Klingon Expeditionary Force. Its people and resources are guarded by the full faith and arms of our empire. If you wish to die with glory, we await you. Otherwise, seek your resources elsewhere.”

    Lar’ragos winced, holding a hand to his head as if suffering the onset of a sudden headache. “This doesn’t make any damn sense,” he murmured. Then, louder, he ordered, “Get me some answers, people.”

    “That’s quite a bit more articulate than I’d expected,” Counselor Liu remarked from where he sat at an auxiliary console. In response to Lar’ragos’ baleful glare, he added, “The Klingon transmission, I mean, sir. Typically they don’t say more than ‘stay out or die.’”

    Wu turned a concerned expression on Lar’ragos, who seemed increasingly addled. “Sir, are you…”

    Lar’ragos extended an unsteady hand to clasp Wu’s upper arm gently. “I—I’ll be fine. Something’s… wrong, though.”

    “Incoming transmissions on multiple Starfleet emergency frequencies.” Kirk glanced over her shoulder to where Lar’ragos struggled to get his bearings. “Inquiries, status requests, and even an emergency beacon remote activation code.” She frowned in confusion. “Some of these were sent weeks ago.”

    Lightner glanced over at the Ops station from his position at the Helm. “What’s the time stamp on those—oh.”

    “Shit,” Kirk breathed, finishing the sentiment for him.

    “Report,” Wu ordered as Lar’ragos fought to find his voice.

    “According to the time-beacon imprint on these transmissions, it appears we’ve arrived in the system approximately thirty-seven days later than we projected, Commander.”

    Lightner looked back from the Helm. “We’ve lost… more than a month?” His voice was incredulous.

    “That would explain my temporal hangover,” Lar’ragos muttered. He forced himself to his feet, walking unsteadily to brace his hands on the backs of the Helm and Ops seats. He called back to Ashok without looking in the Bolian's direction. "Lieutenant, it appears either your calculations were off or my praise was premature. Either way, I’ll expect a full report in no less than six hours.”

    Lar'ragos turned his attention to the Ops officer. “Identify the flagship,” he ordered, sounding as though he already knew the answer.

    Kirk sorted through the active transponders of dozens of Klingon vessels sharing Alanthal’s orbit. “The She’v-Ja, sir.”

    Legacy,” Lar’ragos translated, his expression growing taut. “Gan’Louk’s ship.” He looked back to Shanthi at the Science station. “Kuenre, where’s their command-and-control located?”

    A moment passed as Shanthi swept the planet and inner system with Europa’s potent sensor array. “I’ve detected Klingon C-&-C communications and data traffic coming from what appears to be a nation-state capital on the surface. I’m also reading several hundred Klingon life-signs in the vicinity of the control center.”

    Lar’ragos began making his way shakily towards the turbolift.

    Wu stood, clearly uncomfortable with Lar’ragos’ intended departure. “Captain? Your orders, sir?”

    Lar’ragos braced himself against a support column just shy of the turbolift doors. “Bring us within transporter range. I’m going down there to have a private conversation with the brigadier.”

    The XO moved close to Lar’ragos, whispering, “With all due respect, Captain, I think our priority should be making contact with Galaxy Station and checking in.”

    Lar’ragos snapped his fingers in Kirk’s direction. “Ops, what’s our subspace time-debt to Galaxy Station?”

    The woman’s reply was swift and succinct. “Comms time delay is two hours, twenty-seven minutes, sir.”

    Lar’ragos gestured in Kirk’s direction. “See, you can call HQ and let them know we’re back in play while I’m attending to business planet-side. It’ll be five hours before we receive a reply and new orders, anyway.”

    Lar’ragos turned to step into the lift, and was momentarily startled to see Counselor Liu standing in the car awaiting his arrival. He was not an easy man to sneak up on, and Liu knew Lar’ragos must be very out-of-sorts for him to have been caught so unawares.

    The doors slid shut and Liu took the opportunity to speak before Lar’ragos could silence him. “You’re being somewhat rash, sir. Perhaps unnecessarily so.”

    “Captain’s prerogative,” was Pava’s only reply before ordering the ‘lift to Deck 5.

    “It’s clear you’re feeling the effects of something, sir,” Liu observed. “Is now really the best time to be making impulsive decisions regarding the Klingons? I’d remind you that you recently sullied the personal honor of three of them, as well as publicly embarrassed the very general you’re so set on confronting at the moment.”

    “The Klingons have made a hash of this whole First Contact,” Lar’ragos practically snarled. “They’ve violated the Prime Directive by revealing themselves to a pre-warp civilization, and they’ve completely undercut any opportunity of our making diplomatic overtures to either of the encroaching alien fleets.”

    Liu nodded reasonably, as if giving Lar’ragos’ words due consideration. Then he parried, “Respectfully, sir, the Klingons aren’t bound by the Prime Directive and you know that. Additionally, the inbound alien groups were due to make planetfall on Alanthal prior to our arrival, meaning that the natives would have already been made painfully aware of other spacefaring civilizations.”

    Lar’ragos opened his mouth to make counterpoints, but Liu beat him to the draw.

    “And we’re sitting on an arsenal of conventional and Alpha weapons that we were prepared to use against the intruder species when we left Galaxy Station, so your complaint that the Klingons ruined our chances at peaceful contact is more than a bit disingenuous.” Liu followed this up with a pleasant smile that only grated on Pava’s raw nerves all the more. “In fact, the resulting bloodbath here may make this system even more enticing to the Amon.”

    Lar’ragos broke eye contact with Liu as the turbolift doors opened. “You’re not privy to the full picture here, Counselor.”

    Liu followed Lar’ragos out into the corridor, falling into step beside the smaller man as the El Aurian made his way towards the nearest transporter room. “Please enlighten me, sir.”

    “This is a personal matter between Gan’Louk and I. An old disagreement that he’s using as fuel to drive this little public relations stunt of his.”

    Liu appeared openly skeptical. “Captain, what kind of personal feud would incite a noted Klingon hero to conquer a Level-4 pre-warp culture while simultaneously starting a war with two previously unknown intruder species?”

    Lar’ragos drew up just short of the doors to the transporter room, turning a severe expression on Liu. It was evident he did not intend for the counselor to follow him inside. “Only the worst kind of vendetta for a Klingon...” Lar’ragos stepped across the threshold and as the doors began to close he added, “A family one.”

    * * *​
  8. TrekkieMonster

    TrekkieMonster Commodore Commodore

    Jul 9, 2001
    The Hub of the Universe
    Just when I thought I was getting my feet under me in this tale ... wow! You really don't pull any punches. Exciting as hell and setting the stage for all kinds of new drama. Qapla' :bolian:
  9. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Loved the total sense of confusion which befell the crew the moment they arrived at their destination. And the notion that they've just lost a whole month is a terrific plot device as Pava and crew are suddenly put on the back foot, forced to catch up.

    And then there is that blood feud. Not sure how Pava is going to make this any better by beaming right into the middle of a group of blood-thirsty Klingon warriors. Regardless, it's going to be fun to watch.
  10. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5)

    Chapter Five​

    Class-M planet Alanthal

    The native Alanthalians of this continent favored sweeping, palatial architecture, not completely dissimilar to Terran French Baroque or the Green Period of Efrosian construction. It was into this mélange of blocky but garishly ornate buildings and buttresses that Lar’ragos materialized.

    It took him less than a second to feel the presence of others nearby, entirely too close for comfort. He spun around, reaching for the phaser sidearm he’d requisitioned in the transporter room. With the weapon not yet halfway out of its holster, Lar’ragos came face-to-face with a chagrined looking Lieutenant Leone, decked out in an unfastened tactical vest hastily thrown on over his uniform and cradling a phaser rifle. Two of Europa’s Starfleet Marine contingent flanked the young officer.

    “XO’s orders, sir,” Leone launched preemptively.

    “Where the hell from?” Lar’ragos asked hotly.

    “Simultaneous beam-in from transporter room three, Captain.”

    Lar’ragos grunted sardonically. “Well, in that case, welcome to the party.” With that he turned and walked away, his three-man security detail trailing behind him.

    The locale appeared to be a central government complex, with ostentatious bureaucratic buildings interspersed with meticulously cultivated gardens and park areas. If the planet had been subject of an attack by either or both of the intruder species, it certainly hadn’t happened here. The only things that appeared out of place were mobile Klingon surface-to-orbit torpedo batteries and disruptor cannons that had been stationed in courtyards and some of the park grounds.

    The complete absence of people did trigger Lar’ragos’ suspicion, however. “Take a scan. Is there anyone around or is this all for show?”

    One of the Marines tapped at the combat tricorder built into his forearm gauntlet. “I’m reading both Alanthalian and Klingon lifesigns in the surrounding structures, sir.”

    The Klingon security team that intercepted them was good, very good. Lar’ragos usually had a sixth-sense for knowing when he was being watched, but the stealth-suited commandos were on them in an instant without having registered on the Marine’s tricorder.

    A dozen disruptor toting men became visible simultaneously as their mimetic armor deactivated.

    Lar’ragos cast a suddenly mischievous glance over his shoulder at Leone and the Marines before looking towards what he assumed to be the commanding officer of the intercept cadre. In his most guttural Klingon, Lar’ragos proclaimed, “Take me to your leader!”

    * * * ​

    They and their Klingon escorts entered a cavernous audience chamber, now emblazoned with Klingon banners bearing the imperial trefoil.

    The venue was conspicuously devoid of native Alanthalians, none of whom Lar’ragos had yet laid eyes on. Brigadier Gan’Louk was seated in a large, throne-like chair, surrounded by portable computer work-stations manned by Klingon technicians. Holographic screens projected onto the walls between the gaudy imperial banners denoted activity in orbit as well as on the planet’s surface.

    Lar’ragos moved away from his escorts, making a beeline for Gan’Louk. A Klingon bodyguard who interceded crumpled to the floor so quickly Leone hadn’t the opportunity to see what his captain had done to the man.

    Gan’Louk looked up from a padd, clearly unimpressed and seemingly unconcerned. “That was uncalled for, Commander,” he assessed gravely.

    ‘What is the meaning of this outrage?” Lar’ragos hissed, his whole frame vibrating with barely contained anger.

    Gan’Louk fixed the El Aurian with an inscrutable expression. “Specify.”

    “You’ve invaded and conquered a pre-warp civilization as well as started hostilities with two intruder formations!” Lar’ragos fairly shouted.

    “Your ship went in to transwarp drive over a standard month ago and vanished, Commander,” Gan’Louk explained in an unaccountably reasonable tone. “Now you emerge from the ether, unaware of how events have unfolded in your absence, yet frothing at the mouth and making unwarranted accusations.”

    Lar’ragos pointed a visibly shaking hand at the Klingon general. “You just couldn’t pass on a chance to try and show me up, could you?”

    “Have care, Commander. My patience with your theatrics wears thin,” Gan’Louk warned. “I allowed your unauthorized intrusion into what is now Klingon territory, and have thus far been a cordial host.” Gan’Louk rose to his feet unhurriedly, his eyes locked on Lar’ragos. “I am the commanding general of this theater, and I will tolerate no more insolence from you.”

    Lar’ragos was unmoved. “I’ll give you twenty-four hours to gather your people and get off th—“

    The crack of Gan’Louk’s back-handed strike reverberated throughout the largely stone chamber, followed by the echoing slap of Lar’ragos body hitting the floor and the surprised grunt the blow drew from him.

    “Perhaps you did not hear me, Pava?” Gan’Louk stood his ground atop the dais, near the chair, looking down at where Lar’ragos lay sprawled on the ground. “You’re obviously not yourself, which is a pity. If we are going to settle our differences, I’d rather you be in full command of your inestimable abilities.”

    Leone and the Marines stood by, their hands kept carefully away from their rifles as the Klingon commandos continued to hold them at disruptor-point.

    Lar’ragos scrambled to his feet, his face a rictus of outrage, his eyes burning with an unnamed fury. “Get down here, and let’s do this,” he called out.

    Gan’Louk threw off his outer cloak, revealing a powerful body moving beneath a thin fabric covering. Though his armor paid homage to traditional Klingon garb, it had obviously been designed to allow for ease of movement, with segmented plates that shifted fluidly with the brigadier’s frame. He spoke not another word, but stepped down to the level occupied by Lar’ragos.

    Lar’ragos struck, but he seemed to be moving in slow motion in comparison to the brigadier. Gan’Louk blocked Pava’s blow and responded with a lightening-quick grab and throw that resulted in Lar’ragos rolling inelegantly across the cobblestone-like floor before finding his feet again. “You see that I did not blind you, nor tear out your throat as you taught me,” Gan’Louk spoke as if lecturing to a class of students.

    Again, Lar’ragos rose to his feet, his gaze fixated on Gan’Louk. “You arrogant little shit,” he growled between clenched teeth. He moved forward with surprising speed from a dead stand-still as Gan’Louk stepped back to absorb the oncoming fury of his attack.

    A flurry of blows followed, parried by equally fast defensive counters before the two men closed the gap between them and grappled furiously. Lar’ragos dropped to the ground, executing a leg-sweep that accomplished nothing more than eliciting a laugh from Gan’Louk as his leg absorbed the impact like the trunk of some great, unmoving tree.

    In response, Gan’Louk reached down and snatched Lar’ragos up by the scruff of his uniform jacket before throwing him a full five meters across the chamber to collapse heavily to the floor. “Clumsy,” the brigadier assessed. “Clumsy and slow. Today, it would seem, is not your day, Pava.”

    Lar’ragos let loose a guttural cry as he charged headlong towards the general. Gan’Louk stepped to the side gracefully for someone of his size, delivering a crushing closed-fisted blow to Lar’ragos’ sternum that stopped the smaller man cold in mid-stride. The El Aurian’s whole body shuddered with the force of the impact, and he sank slowly to his knees as a soft groan escaped his lips.

    “I did not stop your heart,” Gan’Louk continued, “nor did I break your neck.”

    Lar’ragos shook his head, rallying his reserves as he attempted to rise.

    Gan’Louk touched a hand to the nape of Pava’s neck, performing a textbook Vulcan nerve pinch that immediately rendered Lar’ragos unconscious. The brigadier lowered Lar’ragos gently to the floor before standing to address the other Starfleet personnel.

    “Return your captain to your ship, and tell your first officer to beam down as soon as practical,” he commanded. “Inform your ship’s surgeon that Lar’ragos is likely suffering from the aftereffects of a temporal fugue, brought on by your transwarp displacement. An infusion of neutrally-charged chronometric particles directed at his hippocampus might theoretically correct his condition.”

    Gan’Louk directed his grim visage at Leone. “Do you understand your orders, Lieutenant?”

    Dominic licked his lips unconsciously before replying, “I do, sir.”

    The brigadier turned his back on them, waving a hand dismissively in their direction. “Then be gone.”

    * * *​
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Ouch, that was painful. And no, I'm not talking so much about the physical battle as the humiliation to Pava's pride who is obviously not firing on all thrusters today.

    But hey, it's good to be reminded that after all his hard-assery, the man is only human ... er ... El Aurian, after all.
  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

    Chapter Five

    USS Europa

    Lt. Commander Wu stalked into Sickbay, a hint of flame in her typically tightly controlled expression. She spotted the new chief medical officer examining an unconscious Lar’ragos on a biobed as a pensive looking Dominic Leone stood off to one side.

    “What happened?” Wu asked, never one to mince words.

    Leone came to attention as Wu’s presence registered with him. “I’m guessing a grudge match, sir. The captain started in on the brigadier, even dropped one of his security detail, and then the two came to blows. It—uh, didn’t last long.”

    Wu turned to address the boyish looking Doctor Reskos. “What’s his condition?”

    There was a prolonged pause as the willowy physician studied his med-scan results on a nearby monitor. “He’ll make a full recovery, Commander,” came his casual reply. The thin, delicate looking man spared the XO a quick glance, his features registering annoyance at her interruption.

    “What are the extent of his injur—“ Wu began.

    “Working,” Reskos cut her off mid-sentence. “We’ll talk when I’m finished.”

    Rather than take offense at the doctor’s terseness, Wu turned back to Leone. “Why didn’t you try to stop him, Lieutenant?”

    Leone stiffened ever so slightly at the implied criticism. “Well, it’s a toss up between common sense and the squad of heavily armed Klingons pointing distruptors at me, sir.”

    Wu blinked, seeming to assimilate and dissect Leone’s response before replying. “Understood. You’re not to breath a word of this to anyone, understood? Make sure those Marines solid copy that order as well.”

    “Yes, sir,” Leone responded. “The general said he wanted you to beam down as soon as possible. Not certain it was an order, but I took it that way, sir. He also offered some possible treatment advice for the captain that I passed on to the doc.”

    “Thank you, Lieutenant. You’re dismissed.” Wu turned away from him abruptly and started towards the exam table.

    Leone nodded curtly and stepped out the nearest exit, wisely keeping his smoldering thoughts to himself.

    Wu moved closer to the exam table in time to see Lar’ragos come suddenly to life, flailing wildly, one of his hands connecting solidly with Doctor Reskos’ jaw with a resounding crack. Wu raced forward, ready to catch the doctor’s crumpling form, but the man hardly seemed to acknowledge the attack.

    The doctor had absorbed the blow gamely as he pressed a hypospray to Lar’ragos’ neck, sending the captain back into the warm embrace of unconsciousness. “Unhelpful,” Reskos murmured. “Now you’ve a broken hand to go along with all your other injuries.”

    He continued his examination for another five minutes before surrendering the captain’s care to a subordinate and finally acknowledging Wu’s presence. “I have an initial report for you, Commander,” Reskos announced softly.

    “Go ahead.”

    “His injuries are serious, but not life threatening. Blunt force trauma, likely the result of his sparring match with the brigadier.”

    “He was acting peculiarly after we dropped out of transwarp, disoriented somehow...” Wu struggled to put a name to what she’d observed.

    “Ah, yes,” Reskos nodded enthusiastically, motioning Wu towards a large display set into a bulkhead. He called up a rotating diagram of Lar’ragos’ brain. “The brigadier was very helpful in that respect, actually. He alerted us to a potential imbalance in the captain’s hypothalamus, which seems to have been an accurate diagnosis.”

    The neurological scan expanded, zooming in on an interior portion of the brain atop the brainstem, about the size of an almond. “El Aurians' are hypersensitive to chronometric variances, such as the one we experienced when we emerged from transwarp at the wrong temporal coordinates. Such variances create a biochemical cascade in the hypothalamus, leading to the production of a number of fight-or-flight related neurotransmitters, hormones, and endorphins. That’s what caused the aberrant behavior you witnessed, sir.”

    “Is there a cure?” Wu inquired.

    “A treatment, yes. Bathing his hypothalamus with neutrally charged chronitons, as the brigadier recommended, has essentially reset the captain’s system. Once I’ve flushed the offending neurotransmitters from his system and he's got some rest, he should be ready to resume duty.”

    Wu appeared skeptical. “So, the Klingons couldn’t have caused this, triggered it somehow?”

    “I’d hardly see how,” Reskos replied. His face shifted through a series of expressions, finally settling on one that evoked dubiousness. “Is this right?” he asked.

    Despite the topic of conversation, Reskos’ naïve inquiry had nearly made her smile. “Yes, that’s an adequate facial expression, given the circumstances.”

    Reskos appeared pleased. “Good, thank you. I’ve been working hard at that. It’s quite amazing that I’d previously paid so little attention to humanoid non-verbal communications. Now that I’m expected to use them, I occasionally find myself at a loss as to which ones are appropriate.”

    Wu shook her head. “It doesn’t help that you look like a sixteen year-old boy, Doctor.”

    Reskos’ jaw dropped open in a look of abject horror. “Really?”

    Wu sighed. “Too much, Doctor. That expression should be saved for when we’re boarded by the Borg. Now, if you don’t mind, back to the captain?”

    “Yes, of course. Ah—where were we?”

    “You were about to poke holes in my theory that the Klingons were somehow behind the captain’s biochemical crisis,” Wu prompted.

    “Yes,” Reskos agreed. “I don’t see how they’d have the capability to direct such a precise reaction. Besides, it doesn’t really seem their style, does it? Subtlety, I mean?”

    Wu cocked her head to one side. “The Klingons can be especially devious, Doctor. They were already practiced at cunning when my ancestors were first learning to walk upright and yours were… well, whatever the hell they were doing several hundred-thousand years ago.”

    The doctor’s youthful visage smiled brightly. “We’ve been spaceborne for nearly twenty millennia, Commander. We were exploring the cosmos even then, albeit very slowly.”

    It hadn’t been until his species’ First Contact with the nascent Federation that the Medusans had discovered the promise of warp drive.

    “Then how can you explain why a Klingon general not only doesn’t kill the captain for daring to lay a hand on him, but then correctly diagnoses his rare condition?”

    Reskos laughed aloud at that. “Why, Commander, that’s the first mystery I solved!” He walked over and lifted one of Lar’ragos’ hands. “I took genetic samples of the tissues the captain had come in contact with in order to help diagnose any possible transmitted pathogens being responsible for his condition. As you might imagine, due to their little dust up, the captain has more than a few cellular samples from Brigadier Gan’Louk on him.”

    Wu was tiring quickly of the doctor’s conceited slow-reveal of his own diagnostic prowess. “And?”

    “The brigadier is only half-Klingon, Commander. The other half of his genetic makeup is El Aurian.”

    A long pause followed as Wu computed that new information. “You don’t suppose—“

    “Oh, of course. That’s the first test I ran. Gan’Louk is confirmed as being Lar’ragos’ son.”

    Wu uttered a series of colorful invectives that left Reskos clearly impressed. “Can I use some of those, by chance?”

    The XO headed for the exit, not wanting to make the increasingly enigmatic Gan’Louk wait for her any longer than necessary. “Not while you’re in that body, you don’t. Honestly, Doctor, you’re over a thousand years old, I’m surprised they couldn’t find a Soong-class android body more suited to your age.”

    “But…” Reskos replied to the closing Sickbay doors, “…I like this one.”

    * * *​
  13. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    But yes of course, it's all coming back to me now, that Pava had a Klingon son. And why not, the man is positively ancient. That's got to be one dysfunctional family. And you thought your Thanksgiving was difficult.

    Welcome to the Lar'ragos family reunion. It's gonna be murder.
  14. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

    Chapter Five

    USS Europa

    The gentle daylight crescent of the planet below was visible through the observation lounge’s forward facing viewports. Two officers sat at the briefing table while Wu stood looking out at Alanthal, her back to the others.

    “He’s not going to wait forever,” Counselor Liu remarked. “Especially not after the show the captain reportedly put on down there.”

    “I need a game plan first,” Wu countered, her attention still fixed on the glittering ring of debris that reflected shimmering sunlight in high orbit of the planet.

    “If the doctor is correct about Gan’Louk’s parentage, I’d advise that you keep away from that topic, sir.” This from Pell Ojana, seated one place over from the counselor. “Many Klingons are still highly xenophobic when it comes to matters of ‘racial purity’. It’s very likely Gan’Louk has managed to keep his mixed species origins secret, or he’d never have attained so high a rank in the Defense Forces.”

    Wu turned to look at her advisors. “How far might he be willing to go in order to protect that secret?”

    Liu and Pell exchanged glances and the Bajoran answered, “No telling, sir. The fact that we’re still here in orbit is a good sign. The captain’s provocation, however inadvertent, would have been sufficient reason for a less patient Klingon commander to destroy us.”

    “We’re still awaiting a reply from Galaxy Station,” Liu noted, “so we don’t know if Gan’Louk and his expeditionary force even have permission to be out here in this capacity.”

    Wu smiled darkly. “Klingons don’t tend to ask for permission to do much of anything, Counselor.”

    Liu held up his hands in a gesture of submission. “Perhaps so, Commander, but somehow I doubt even a Klingon general wants to get on Admiral T’Cirya’s bad side.”

    “Okay,” Wu nodded to herself. “I’ll go down and apologize for the captain’s actions, and seek clarification as to the Klingons’ intentions.”

    “I wouldn’t apologize, sir,” Liu offered. “They might perceive that as weakness, which would be worse than the original offense of insubordination.”

    "Agreed," Pell threw in.

    “Then what do I say to the brigadier?” Wu snapped out of frustration.

    “Ask for orders,” Pell suggested. “That infers we recognize Gan’Louk’s authority, whether or not Starfleet Command has sanctioned his presence yet.”

    “Fine… good, I’ll do that,” Wu remarked as she moved for the exit.

    Pell stood to intercede before Wu reached the door. “I should go with you, sir.”

    Wu shook her head. “With the captain out of commission, you’re the only experienced command officer aboard while I’m planetside. Someone has to mind the store.”

    In response to Liu and Pell’s earnest expressions, Wu said, “I’ll take Dominic with me, but that’s all.”

    * * *​

    Leone was waiting for Wu in the transporter room, and inclined her head towards the lieutenant as she entered. He was once again wearing a tactical vest and carrying a compact phaser rifle.

    “Is there anything I should be on the lookout to prevent you from doing down there, sir?” he queried innocently, earning an icy look from the XO.

    “Okay, I had that coming,” she replied grudgingly as she mounted the dais and took her place on a transporter pad. “I apologize for my earlier comment. After speaking with Liu and Pell, it’s clear that any further provocation would almost certainly have resulted in Starfleet casualties.”

    “Nice of you to say, sir,” Leone said as he stepped atop his pad.

    “If things go sideways down there, be prepared to fight our way out,” Wu instructed. “Energize.”

    Leone’s response was lost in the hum of the transporter beam.

    * * *​
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Now that's a meeting I can't wait to see ...
  16. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

    Chapter Five

    Planet Alanthal

    The Klingon command center bustled with activity as Wu and Leone were escorted to where Brigadier Gan’Louk was conferring with a number of harried looking logistics officers.

    The general was delineating orbital paths on a three-dimensional wire-frame hologram of Alanthal’s immediate vicinity in-system. “The survivors from the ships we lost will need integrated into the crews of intact vessels that suffered the greatest losses,” the general ordered. “Scavenge whatever weapons and equipment we can from the wrecks and set them adrift in high orbit. We can use their hulls as bulk repair material for any future damage sustained by our larger warships.”

    He dismissed his subordinates and turned to face the new arrivals. “Commander Wu, a pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The large Klingon extended a hand to her in an unusually human gesture.

    Wu shook the hand firmly, concealing her surprise well. “Thank you, sir.” She gestured to Dominic. “This is Lieutenant Leone, our chief security/tactical officer.”

    Gan’Louk inclined his head towards Leone. “We’ve met, though not officially,” he said, referencing the earlier unpleasantness with Lar’ragos. “You did well to hold your ground without inviting a response from my soldiers, Lieutenant. It is not easy to stand by and watch a well-regarded superior self-destruct.”

    Leone began to reply, but Wu silenced him with a raised hand as she answered, “The incident with our captain was unfor—“

    “There is no need for human apologies,” Gan’Louk interjected. “And my issues with Lar’ragos are personal in nature, not professional. He and I will settle matters between us at a later date. Until then, we have a job to do here, wouldn’t you agree, Commander?”

    “Yes, sir.” Wu answered smartly.

    Gan’Louk traced lines in the air with a finger, changing the holographic image to reveal four triangular markers set at equidistant orbital points around Alanthal. “We’ve identified what we believe to be four Amon satellites. Though our sensor resolution is not as fine as your ship’s, we Klingons have over a century of experience with cloaking technology.”

    “Sir,” Wu interjected. “May I ask as to the nature of your presence here? We’ve not yet received updated orders from Galaxy Station.”

    “All of Taskforce Vanguard’s available ships were already tasked to other vital missions,” Gan’Louk explained without a hint of annoyance. “I volunteered the Klingon Expeditionary Force to go in search of Europa, as well as attempt to carry out your mission in your absence, should we fail to locate you.”

    “I see, sir,” Wu offered.

    “So, yes, we have the official authorization of Admiral T’Cirya to be here, Commander,” Gan’Louk added with just a hint of a smile. “After all, we in the Empire know how secretive the Federation has been about this threat to the entire quadrant.”

    “My query was intended only to gauge the level of cooperation I’m able to offer in the absence of direct orders, General.”

    Gan’Louk replied with a dry, “Of course,” before adjusting the holographic image to now include the ring of debris Wu had observed from Europa. “The attack fleets of the Briari and the Mok had already engaged in a battle for domination over the planet when we decloaked. I offered both species the chance to surrender peaceably. Fortunately for us, they were too foolish to accept my generous proposal.” He directed a toothy grin at Wu. “Pity there was nobody here to inform them that Klingon mercy is almost a contradiction in terms.”

    “Both groups were completely destroyed?” Leone inquired.

    “Not entirely. The Briari formation fled along their original course, yet at only one-third their previous strength. The Mok proved more stubborn. The few thousands of them that survived our onslaught have been settled on a marginally Class-M moon in orbit of the system’s second planet.”

    Wu drank in the graphic, asking, “No sign of the Amon as yet, I presume?”

    “No,” Gan’Louk confirmed with a detectable hint of regret in his voice. “However, with the slaughter of the Briari and Mok, we must have filled their energy reservoirs to near bursting. They will come soon enough.”

    “And if they don’t?” Leone asked.

    “Then we’ll employ Starfleet’s tactic of threatening the collection arrays themselves.”

    Leone let out a slow breath. “Because that worked so well for everyone last time…”

    * * * ​

    Planet Krowtanai
    Delta Quadrant

    “Defensive screens have failed!” barked the weapons officer, blood leaking out from under his combat helmet.

    “What the four hells are they?” the archon gasped as he clutched the arm of his command chair against the listing deck as the warship’s inertial dampeners began to fail.

    “They… they are Borg, Archon!” cried a green recruit sensor officer, his voice cracking with panic.

    The Archon knew of the Borg, the scourge of the Delta Quadrant, having once glimpsed one of their tactical spheres at the edge of the Righteous Hammer’s sensor range. As a young novile the cruiser to which he was assigned responded to a Krowtonan colony that had been attacked by the Borg, only to find the settlement and everyone it contained had been scooped off the face of the world.

    The Borg were a force of nature; plodding, patient, advancing inexorably until their opponent had ground down, overwhelmed and assimilated. Whoever was attacking the Krowtonan homeworld in the guise of the Collective were a passionate people, and if his senses were not deceiving him, they they harbored a vicious streak that rivaled that of his own race.

    Another salvo of corkscrewing missiles slashed from the nearest facet of the cube, punching through the screens of a half-dozen other Krowtonan warships, sundering all but one of them as the archon looked on in horror. Collimated beams of brilliant white scorched across the mighty orbital shipyards, blasting apart those vessels unfortunate enough to have been at anchor when this assault began.

    “Route all remaining emergency power to the engines,” the archon ordered. “Our lives are forfeit, so long as our gods and our nation survive!”

    “Collision course set,” the helmsman announced without hesitation, prompting a swell of pride in the archon’s chest.

    “Prepare to execute.” The archon punched a series of coordinates into his display with a shaking hand. “Bring us to this course, to maximize our angle of impact against the cube’s nearest face.”

    As Righteous Hammer maneuvered into position, a passing missile fractured into twenty independent disks, each one affixing itself to the cruiser’s shield bubble at equidistant intervals along the deflector’s perimeter. They emitted a focused gravimetric pulse that the shields failed to recognize as hostile, and allowed to pass through the barrier. Once inside, however, the pulses overlapped and combined, creating a brief, nanosecond-long flux that instantly liquefied all organic tissue within the vessel.

    Righteous Hammer now drifted, sans crew, a lifeless tribute to the macabre genius of Amon weapons design.

    * * *​

    The Fire Eaters of the Krowtonan Guard burned in what at least some of their many victims must have savored as an especially ironic death.

    Dozens of their mighty warships drifted, some smashed beyond operability and others beyond recognition. The great conflagrations on the planet below raged so mightily that they could be seen from orbit as plumes of ash-laden smoke stabbed the sky and were swept across vast swaths of land and sea by the planet’s trade winds.

    The Krowtonan Ascendancy was an autocratic theocracy that had spread from a single world to encompass hundreds of star systems. Trillions of sentient beings now lived and died under the merciless specter of the Krowtonan pantheon of deities. Those species which could not grasp the grandeur of the Krowtonans' gods because of their biological or cultural makeup had been wiped from the faces of their respective worlds in successive waves of bloody jihad in order to make room for those more malleable in their beliefs.

    The dreaded Fire Eaters, the elite of the Krowtonan Guards forces, fancied themselves religious warriors whose ferocity was gifted them by these same gods. They held themselves to be the finest combatants in the galaxy, having never before met their match.

    Until today.

    Zeischt of the Amon directed the assault on the Krowtonan homeworld with a surgical level of precision. The mighty Amon cube devastated all ships and orbital installations in range while cadres of Amon warriors transported to the surface to engage the Krowtonan Guard in close-quarters-combat.

    The newly ensconced Amon BattleMaster was flanked by a dour Vulcan, the Starfleet Lieutenant Verrik, who watched the pitched battle with undisguised distaste.

    The millennia-old Warlord Jalahar looked on silently as his protégé unlimbered the full might of their tribe’s weaponry for the first time in centuries. He remained unsure and suspicious of the newcomer’s motives, but Jalahar could not deny the new energy that Zeischt and his companions had brought to the Amon people.

    Zeischt toggled a close up of the gravitic pulse weapon’s deployment against Righteous Hammer, musing to himself, “I’d call that a successful test.”

    “Another of your weaponized horrors?” Verrik asked with poorly disguised contempt.

    “Careful, Lieutenant,” Zeischt chided lightly. “You might have an emotional episode if you keep carrying on this way.” He spared the reticent Vulcan a quick glance. “You know who these people are and what they represent. The crimes that the Krowtonan people have visited upon their subjects are nearly equal to the depredations of the Husnock.”

    “And so you kill them for what? Sport?” Verrik accused.

    “This tribe has not had to enter into direct combat in centuries, while our enemy has been sharpening their teeth against some of the Alpha Quadrant’s most potent nations. If they were within our range, I’d have attacked the Dominion. The Jem’Hadar would have made for an excellent opponent. As it is, we’ve had to settle for the Krowtonan Guard.”

    Verrik replied, “Despots often try to legitimize their actions, striving for moral equivocation.”

    Without looking in Verrik’s direction, Zeischt asked, “Tell me, Lieutenant, are you more unsettled at the fact that we’re toppling a sadistic theocracy, or that a Vulcan is leading the invasion force on the surface?”

    Verrik elected not to reply, and instead turned his attention to the holograms of the pathetically one-sided space battle raging above the planet.

    Zeischt triggered the comms, opening communication with their primary planetary invasion contingent. “WarCom to BattleLeader One, do you copy?”

    A’lasha’s voice came in clearly, tinged with authentic glee as her forces sliced through the stunned Krowtonan opposition in the now crumbling streets of their capitol city. “What’cha got for me, Sandy?”

    Zeischt couldn’t help but smile at the Vulcan woman’s persistent flippancy. “You’re really trying to make me regret my giving you a physical body again, aren’t you?”

    The woman’s laugh carried across the comms. “Absolutely, BattleMaster. Look upon your works, ye mighty, and despair!”

    “Well, when you’re done insulting the poetry of my birth world, be advised that you should expect stiffer resistance as your forces approach the Citadel. Comms intercepts indicate they’ve pulled back into defensive positions, rather than coming into the streets to meet your approach.”

    “That would explain why we’ve met so little push back the last few kilometers. You promised me hyper-religious zealots dying with the names of their sundry gods on their lips.”

    Zeischt laughed lightly. “You weren’t complaining when you beamed into the midst of their celebratory parade. I’ll say this for you; you know how to make an entrance.”

    “The revolution will be televised, motherfuckers!” A’lasha cackled as her troop skimmer slalomed between burning skyscrapers.

    “You’re about two kilometers from their holiest of holies, BattleLeader. Odds are, you’ll find the fanaticism you’ve been looking for.”

    “And what should I do with this Oticulon artifact when I’ve pried it from their cold, dead hands?”

    “Desecrate it,” Zeischt replied. “Use your imagination. The more horrific the better. I want the Krowtonan’s slave species to see how vulnerable their overlords actually are, and how their vaunted gods didn’t intercede to save them.”

    “One act of breathtaking religious sacrilege coming up, oh exalted BattleMaster. And yes, I’m twirling my hair around my finger like a mischievous Terran schoolgirl when I call you that. I trust you’ll discipline me later.”

    Zeischt snorted as he moved to terminate the comlink. “WarCom most definitely… out.”

    He turned to face Verrik’s scalding expression. “You know, I think I’m really more of a fan of the Classic Vulcan mindset. No offense intended.”

    * * *​
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    The meeting between Wu and Gan’Louk was a lot more civilized than I expected. Then of course after the rowdy encounter with Pava, it was unlikely to get any worse. And I liked the way Wu played. Very cool.

    As for Zeischt/Sandhurst, he seems to have gone completely native. I get that he's telling himself that he's fighting bad guys here, but the pure viciousness of his battle plan would even put the Dominion to shame. This is a dark road he has embarked upon and God only knows where it will lead.
  18. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

    Chapter Five

    USS Europa, Sickbay

    Lar’ragos sat up a little higher on the biobed. “So, how big a hash of things did I make with the Klingons?” he asked, his face an unaccustomed mix of contrition and embarrassment.

    “The Brigadier hardly batted an eyelash, Captain,” Wu replied, seating herself on a stool next to Pava’s bed. “He says you two will have it out later. In the interim, however, he’s focused on our mutual assignment of coaxing the Amon… Sandhurst’s Amon, into making an appearance.”

    “What’s Command’s take on all this?” he inquired.

    “Gan’Louk has T’Cirya’s sanction to be out here, and Galaxy Station says to give the Klingon Expeditionary Force full cooperation. As for your little dust-up with him, I’ve neglected to mention that to Command.”

    Lar’ragos was not one given easily to expressions of shock, but his countenance registered his surprise. “Really?”

    “As far as I’m concerned, sir, it’s a personal matter between you and the brigadier.”

    He took a moment to process that. “I appreciate that, Wu.”

    “One thing in return,” she countered. “You can’t ever call me, ‘First’ again.”

    His ironic smile was confirmation enough, but still he added, “Done and done, Commander.” Lar’ragos slid his legs over the edge of the bed and pulled himself up into a sitting position.

    “Sir? Going somewhere?”

    A small sigh escaped Lar’ragos. “Time to go and try to fix things with the Kling…” he trailed off. “No, that’s not right. I need to mend an old rift with my son.”

    * * *​

    Klingon Compound
    Planet Alanthal

    Lar’ragos entered, flanked by two Klingon commandos, both of whom evidenced a casual lethality that was unnerving in its subtlety. Given that their race was not partial to restraint, the silent professionalism of these men spoke volumes about their leader, Brigadier Gan’Louk.

    Gan’Louk rose to his feet at the El Aurian’s arrival. The Klingon stood a good thirty centimeters taller than the Starfleet officer, and outweighed him by at least fifteen kilograms.

    The general dismissed the commandos with a wave of his hand, his flinty expression regarding Lar’ragos with undisguised distaste.

    “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me, Brigadier,” Lar’ragos began.

    Gan’Louk merely stared, scrutinizing Lar’ragos as one might do an insect under glass.

    Lar’ragos met the larger man’s gaze, and just like that, all diplomatic pretense and military protocol dropped away, collapsing into an emotional chasm half a century in the making.

    “It’s time for truth between us,” Lar’ragos said simply.

    “By all means,” Gan’Louk spat in Klingon. “Speak and begone!”

    Lar’ragos walked across the seized office that Gan’Louk employed as the headquarters of his expeditionary force’s occupation of the alien world. He took a long moment to pour himself a goblet of bloodwine from a bottle prominently displayed on a counter top. As he did so, Lar’ragos noted, “In all my four-hundred years, I have taken only one wife. Your mother. I despair that you never knew her.”

    “One of your Klingon ‘toys’?” Gan’Louk sneered, turning Pava’s own words against him.

    “If I led you to believe that, then I have yet another sin to atone for.” Lar’ragos turned around to face the general, taking a draught of the bloodwine. “Good. This is the ’38.”

    “You left her to die at the hands of a rogue house,” Gan’Louk countered. “Love must have a different meaning in your peoples’ tongue.”

    Our people,” Lar’ragos corrected. “You’re half El Aurian, as much as you’ve tried to hide that fact.”

    “You know full well that I’ve buried the truth of my mixed heritage. Do have done otherwise would have meant certain death.”

    Lar’ragos raised the goblet in a wordless concession of Gan’Louk’s assertion. “I know what you were told. However, I did not leave her to die, and she was never in the hands of House Ket. She was seized by your uncle while I was away fighting the Tholians with the Defense Forces. You only survived because your nurse and a handful of your family’s loyal bodyguards spirited you away from Qo’noS.”

    “Je’Korl?” Gan’Louk frowned. “You dare accuse the man who raised me of killing his own sister?”

    Lar’ragos took another long drink from his flagon of bloodwine, girding himself. “After your grandfather’s death, Je’Korl was free to act without restraint. He’d protested my marriage to Kelendra from the beginning, and only his father’s iron will stayed his hand. The old warrior died while I was away on the Gossamer Campaigns, and your uncle took control of the house.”

    “Lies,” Gan’Louk seethed, but there was a noticeable trace of uncertainty in his voice.

    “I can no more lie to you than you could to me. It’s part and parcel of our gift, or our curse, depending on your perspective."

    Gan’Louk turned away, his body visibly knotted with tension.

    “I tried everything I could think of to rescue her, and on one occasion I very nearly succeeded. Je’Korl decided…” Lar’ragos’ voice faltered. He cleared his throat and continued, “He decided that executing Kelendra was the only way to ensure I could not recover her. The dishonor of her having taken an alien into her bed and then into their father’s house was so great that Je’Korl cut her throat with his own hands.”

    Still facing away from Lar’ragos, Gan’Louk asked simply. “If what you say is true, how did I come to be raised by this very same man?”

    Lar’ragos finished the wine, dropping the goblet to the floor with a metallic crash. “I joined with House Ket, your family’s ancient enemy. I was blinded by anger, desperate for vengeance, so much so that I allowed myself to be manipulated by Lord Ket. I helped to raise and train an army to destroy House Rokown, an army that Ket instead used to back K’mpec’s rise to the chancellorship.” Lar’ragos stepped over to a point just a few paces behind Gan’Louk, raising his eyes to examine a replica of Kahless’ bat’leth that hung below a flag bearing the Klingon trefoil. He reflected silently on what the symbol and the Klingon people had once meant to him.

    His voice lowered as his throat constricted with the memories of those dark days. “Ket betrayed me, captured the both of us, and handed you over to your uncle as a peace offering between your two houses. As it happened, Je'Korl had discovered that he could not have children of his own. So, raising his nephew allowed the family bloodline, however secretly tainted, to continue. Ket did make the fatal mistake of believing me too valuable to kill, insisting that I continue to train his personal guard. But by the time I escaped his clutches and took my revenge on him, you were already a young man, and you called Je’Korl ‘father.’

    Gan’Louk turned slowly to face Lar’ragos, his arms folded protectively across his chest in an unconscious gesture of defensiveness. “You found me on H’atoria.”

    “Your uncle sent you to the finest martial academy in the empire,” Lar’ragos acknowledged. “And they in turn just happened to hire an alien outworlder as an unarmed combat instructor.”

    “That first day,” Gan’Louk said in a surprisingly gentle voice, “I sensed… something. A familiarity, a comfort in your presence that I couldn’t explain.”

    “We had two good years together,” Lar’ragos admitted. “Being your personal combat tutor afforded me the kind of access that would have been impossible otherwise. To your credit, it didn’t take long before you guessed the truth.”

    “I’d heard the rumors since I was old enough to talk, whispers of ‘halfbreed’ and ‘bastard’,” Gan’Louk confessed. “But I felt the connection between us, the bond of blood. Once you began to teach me to listen, and how to use that skill in battle, I knew I was not fully Klingon.” The general’s expression tightened, became tinged with suspicion. “After you’d acknowledged the truth of my heritage, helped me to hone my gifts, you left me. Again.”

    Lar’ragos shook his head. “I had no choice. Je’Korl’s agents found me out. If I hadn’t fled, I’d have been killed.”

    “You could not take me with you?” Gan’Louk inquired with the voice of a man, but the words sprung from the long-buried agony of the child deep within.

    “Where, son?” Lar’ragos asked. It was the first time he had ever addressed Gan’Louk by that title. “Drag you with me as a refugee to the Federation? What kind of life could I have offered you? You were raised to be a soldier of the empire, to lead men in battle, to bear the crest of your house.” Lar’ragos dared to reach out, grasping Gan’Louk gently by the arm. The general stiffened, but did not otherwise resist the gesture.

    “Rokown was a great and noble house,” Lar’ragos continued, “the power and resources of which you now wield as its head. I could offer you nothing comparable. Instead, I tried to impart to you the skills you’d need to secure a successful future for yourself. Tearing you away from your Klingon family and your culture would have been an act of pure selfishness on my part.”

    “No,” Gan’Louk spoke quietly. “It would have been the act of a father.”

    A long silence followed, finally broken by Lar’ragos. “I have a belly full of regrets from my life, but leaving you behind is not one of them. I look at the man you’ve become, the leader, the husband and father. You are the best parts of two worlds, Gan’Louk; you possess your mother’s soul and your father’s steel. You have all of my strengths, and none of my weaknesses.”

    “Why now, Lar’ragos? What is to be served by revealing this now, of all times?”

    “The Amon are coming,” Lar’ragos replied simply. “I don’t know what will happen, or that any of us will survive what’s next. I wanted you to know that whatever you think of me, I am proud to be the father of such a man.”

    Gan’Louk bowed his head in acknowledgement, and when he spoke his voice with thick with emotion. “You have had your say, father. Go in peace.”

    “So I have,” Lar’ragos agreed. He moved for the exit, turning back to address Gan’Louk one last time on the threshold. “May peace find us all in the days ahead.”

    “Perhaps it is too El Aurian for me to say, but I wish for the same,” Gan’Louk answered.

    * * *​
  19. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    My goodness. That was an actual civil conversation between Pava and a (half) Klingon. And it ended without bloodshed. Let me just read that again to make doubly sure.

    It's not a heartwarming reconciliation, that would be too much, but some form of at least intermediate closure and perhaps even the first step for final closure down the road. Gan'Louk may be closer to forgiving his dad now or at the very least accepting him. It's still a tough nut to swallow and I'd be surprised if all bygones are truly bygones already.

    It's not easy to write scenes where stuff doesn't blow up all the time. This was very nice, very well paced and balanced. Good, gripping, emotional passage.
  20. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    UT:TFV – Part III – Infinities Unbound (Chapter 5 cont'd)

    Chapter Five

    Amon Homeship Transcendent
    In orbit of Planet Krowtanai
    Delta Quadrant

    The Krowtonan Ascendancy had not been destroyed, but it had been humbled.

    The Amon now controlled the homeworld. The species’ most venerated religious icons had been publicly destroyed, the recordings of which had been broadcast by the Amon throughout the Ascendancy over subspace.

    On Zeischt’s command, warp-propulsion cargo modules had been dispatched to dozens of Krowtonan subject worlds, each containing numerous advanced weapons, replicators, and instructions on how to manufacture more. With these, it was hoped, the vassal species of the Krowtonans would be able to rise up en mass to eventually overthrow their overlords.

    Verrik found Zeischt intently observing a holographic map of the surrounding sectors, the outbound trails of the cargo modules delineated in blue.

    “Have you tallied the Krowtonan casualties from your campaign?” the Vulcan asked dispassionately.

    Zeischt’s reply was equally aloof. “Just over seventy-thousand dead, with another three-to-four-hundred thousand wounded. From a planetary conquest perspective, that’s an admirable level of precision warfare.”

    “Given that this world's population is nearly eight billion, I would have to agree,” Verrik noted reluctantly. “However, you doubtless realize that having loosened the Ascendancy’s iron grip on its conquered worlds, you are plunging eight cubic sectors of this quadrant into what will likely be decades of bloody warfare.”

    “If their freedom from a genocidal theocracy is what those species desire, they will have to fight for it. Nothing worth attaining comes without cost.”

    Verrik stepped forward, and now abreast of Zeischt, looked askance at the man. “Are you certain honing the tribe’s martial skills is all this campaign was about?”

    A cloud of emotion briefly darkened Zeischt’s features. “I can’t abide bullies, Lieutenant.”

    Verrik’s eyebrow crested inquisitively. “I trust you are not blind to the irony of that statement, given what has just occurred?”

    “Of course I’m not,” Zeischt answered, a hint of irritation finding its way into his voice. “That’s the whole point behind this, Verrik. The Amon can become a positive force in our galaxy, a catalyst for change on a scale as yet undreamt of.”

    “You speak of the antithesis of the Prime Directive,” Verrik observed.

    Zeischt turned to face him, his eyes bright with enthusiasm. “Think of it! A people whose purpose is to intervene in destructive conflicts anywhere in the galaxy! Despots would be toppled, uncounted sentient species freed from the shackles of slavery and oppression.”

    “Such is the ebb and flow of humanoid civilizations,” came the Vulcan’s response. “Freedom from such tyranny must be realized by each species for itself, according to its own culture, beliefs, and specific circumstances. A one-size-fits-all approach is worse than naïve, it is willful ignorance anchored in a foundation of arrogance.”

    “I disagree,” Zeischt countered. “Those who would strive to become the next Borg or Dominion of this galaxy should have something concrete to fear. They should suffer the knowledge that somewhere out there is a force that can sweep down upon them without warning and lay waste their dreams of empire.”

    “True freedom must be earned; it cannot be given away. History has proven that axiom time and again, on countless planets. Our Federation would not exist had it not been for the earlier conflicts between the founding member worlds. It was their desire to avoid the warfare of the past that forced our ancestors to the negotiating table, and encouraged them to place the collective good above the selfish interests of their individual species.”

    Zeischt’s expression was tinged with pity, as one might direct at a child unable to grasp a particularly vexing adult concept. “I have given the Amon a purpose, Verrik. After untold millennia of aimless wandering, they have a cause to live for.”

    “I am less concerned with what the Amon live for,” Verrik answered, “than how many must die to see their new destiny realized.”

    The Amon BattleMaster was considering his response to this when A’lasha, the resurrected Vulcan, entered the chamber. The woman was undeniably beautiful by either Vulcan or human standards, and her new body was devoid of the sundry scars she’d suffered in her original form. Verrik turned to face her as she approached, his features hardening ever so slightly and giving voice to his disapproval.

    A’lasha was adorned in Amon battle armor, the surfaces of which rippled and swirled with myriad colors and patterns. She nodded casually to Verrik in passing, knowing full well that the spontaneous gesture would cause the traditional Vulcan male added discomfort. To him, she was a throwback to a bygone age, a dinosaur from their species’ shamefully violent past. “BattleMaster, I believe someone is trying to get our attention.”

    Zeischt turned to face her. “How so?”

    “Someone is subjecting our collection arrays in orbit of Alanthal to transphasic probing,” A’lasha informed him. “That’s the first step in identifying the precise subspace dimensional coordinates they occupy. It’s likely a precursor to an attack on the arrays themselves.”

    “Starfleet,” Zeischt assessed.

    “Very likely,” A’lasha concurred. “Regardless, we’ll need the collected bio-essence from those arrays to heal our wounded from this little foray, especially since you refuse to allow us to deploy arrays around Krowtanai.”

    Zeischt canted his head slightly, his piercing eyes delivering a silent rebuke to A’lasha. “We will not feed off those we slay in battle ourselves. To do so would make us no better than our cousins who’ve terrorized the Alpha Quadrant.”

    “As you say,” A’lasha conceded, sidestepping the argument. “My point is that we cannot allow those arrays to be tampered with or destroyed.”

    “Agreed.” Zeischt moved to a control interface, placing his hand upon its surface and closing his eyes. “I’ll notify Warlord Jalahar and the Congress of Elders and request permission to set a course for Alanthal immediately.”

    Verrik took a step closer to Zeischt, prompting A’lasha to tense in anticipation of an attack. None was forthcoming. Instead, Verrik inquired, “And if Starfleet awaits us, what then?”

    “Let us hope they exercise restraint,” Zeischt replied darkly. "It would be unfortunate if we had to defend ourselves."

    The Vulcan officer pressed, "Europa is likely among their number. You would cut down your former comrades? Is that how you would have Donald Sandhurst remembered?"

    "I can't play favorites, Lieutenant. Too much is at stake here. If we are to make war upon our fellow tribe, we cannot suffer distractions from Operation Vanguard or from anyone else." Zeischt opened his eyes to regard Verrik. "And Donald Sandhurst is no more. How he will be remembered is of no consequence to me."

    * * *​