Summary: Donald Sandhurst has become one with the Amon, and in the aftermath of his defection and Ramirez’s assault on Europa, Operation Vanguard threatens to unravel. New leadership arrives in the Delta Quadrant with the goal of shaking up the status quo as waves of refugees threaten to overwhelm the task force’s meager resources. Can Pava Lar’ragos, wounded body and soul, rally Europa’s crew to continue the mission in the captain’s absence?
Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: Ensemble Cast - USS Gibraltar
Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama, Friendship, Mystery
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Chapters: 2 Completed: Yes
Word count: 1638 Read: 366
Published: 06 May 2017 Updated: 13 May 2017
1. Prologue by Gibraltar
2. Chapter One by Gibraltar
United Trek: Task Force Vanguard
A Gibraltar / Full Speed Ahead Collaberation
by Sam Redfeather, Michael D. Garcia, and A.J. Gertner
* * *
Amon Homeship Transcendent
The crucible pod split open with a wet crack, spilling the naked form of Donald Sandhurst onto the floor in a flood of brackish fluid. For a time he lay still, seemingly lifeless, until his body was wracked with huge, heaving coughs that seemed to be torn from the very core of him. Wave after wave of liquid was expelled as he gasped and struggled for air.
Nestrala wanted desperately to go to him, to offer him comfort and support, but she dare not. This was his path to walk alone, under the appraising eye of the tribe’s BattleMaster and the Congress of Elders.
Finally, when his lungs had cleared, Sandhurst pulled himself to his feet. His body trembled with the effort, but he would not relent, just as he had refused to yield within the crucible despite the exquisite agonies visited upon him.
“I…” he rasped in a voice that began faintly, but gained in strength and volume as he continued. “I am Zeischt, of the Amon. Though not born to our people, I was chosen by our people.”
Once he was steady on his feet, Sandhurst gestured to Nestrala, who looked to the BattleMaster for permission. Her nod of assent prompted Nestrala forward, where the woman draped a cloak over Sandhurst’s shoulders.
The grand auditorium in which they stood was adjacent to the great forested arboretum at the center of the massive cube. Formerly belonging to the feared Borg Collective, the ship had been seized by the Amon and christened Transcendent.
The interior of the cube could not have been more different from the original Borg aesthetic. The ship fairly blazed with light, the great spaces adorned in stark whites with gold and silver accents. Artwork of every imaginable kind filled the open spaces, a brilliant melange of form, sound and light infused with an unprecedented energy, that of life itself. Plants from a hundred different worlds across three galaxies filled the open spaces, bathed in artificial sunlight projected from the holographic sky overhead.
Sandhurst moved into the center of the auditorium. The great tiered hall could seat tens of thousands, but only a handful of individuals had been called upon to witness this event.
BattleMaster Audwen gave the newest Amon convert a broad smile as she announced, “You are now Amon in both name and spirit, bound to us for eternity through your most fundamental essence. When you pass, your energy will be consumed by the tribe, and so you will live on in each of us. You have become part of the eternal expression of our species.”
Thus bestowed with membership in the tribe, Sandhurst pulled the garment tight around him, fastening it at his waist. He had sacrificed his future in Starfleet for this chance, this singular opportunity to capture and redirect the energy and attention of one of the most formidable species ever encountered by the Federation.
“Now that I have earned my voice among our people, it is of evolution I wish to speak, BattleMaster,” Sandhurst espoused.
The Amon warrior-priestess deferred to him wordlessly.
“There is no evolution here,” Sandhurst called out. “Only stagnation, the slow death that consumes all that refuse to adapt. The Amon are undeniably powerful, but we are bereft of purpose. We lack a core driving force to unify us, to concentrate our collective potential. This is why our fellow tribe turned on us, breaking the most sacred of all our laws, that no Amon should make war upon another.”
The tribe’s senior leadership stood in silence, taking in the words of their newest member, the first outsider to have joined their ranks in well over a millenia.
“We strive to collect, consume, and utilize the essence. It lengthens our lives, gifts us with remarkable strength and insight, but we use these miraculous abilities for no higher calling. We squander these talents, acting as scavengers, preying upon the powerless like some great swarm of carrion eaters. Think what our people might accomplish if we were to invest in the future of this galaxy, in the success of it’s intelligent species.”
“Pretty words, Zeischt,” spoke one of the elders. “We have heard the like before. However, the success of those species, and lasting peace between them would sound the death knell of our people. War and chaos, these are the states of being that keep us fed. It is the truth of our existence.”
“Death is a constant,” Sandhurst countered. “All corporeal species meet their mortal end, and we can feed just as easily on the essence of those who die peacefully in their sleep as we can those stricken down on the field of battle.”
“Who are you to question our ways?” came the accusatory reply. “You have only just donned the robes of allegiance, and yet here you stand calling upon the leadership to justify the tenets of our culture.”
Sandhurst answered without hesitation, “I am Zeischt. I am the one being in all the universe that the Amon sought out individually. I called to you from across the gulf between galaxies. I was bound to you before I knew you existed, and my departure from the tribe at our first meeting was aligned with our betrayal by our cousins.”
He turned a slow circle, his eyes beseeching those of the Congress of Elders for understanding. “There can be only one reason I was summoned at this precise moment in our people’s history. I was meant to lead our people into the next phase of our evolution!”
* * *
The dream had seemed endless, yet strangely ephemeral, as though his mind had lived a thousand different lifetimes which he couldn’t fully recall. Consciousness began to reassert itself, bringing with it a renewed self-awareness. A name. He had a name. And… a title? No, a rank. He had a name and rank. It was… ‘Dom’ he heard his mother’s voice call from some distantly firing memory neurons. That was it. Dominic. Dominic Leone, lieutenant junior grade, Starfleet.
“Easy, sir,” a kind voice said softly to him. “A bit of confusion is perfectly natural when reviving from cryosleep. You’re safe and in good hands.”
Leone tried to ask a question but all that came out was a hoarse squeak. He felt a plastic straw touched to his lips, and began sipping greedily, realizing only after the fact that he was drinking a sickly-sweet solution. Having expected water, he choked on the liquid.
“Sorry, sir. I know it tastes awful, but it’ll stabilize your electrolytes.”
“How--” he croaked. “How long?”
“You’ve been asleep for nine months, sir. Adamant has arrived safely in the Delta Quadrant. You’re at Galaxy Station.”
Adamant, he remembered. Intrepid-class. Captain Caldwell’s ship. And... Vanguard… that’s right, Task Force Vanguard. He’d gone toe-to-toe with his own grandmother to secure a posting to the hazardous mission, whose first contingent had suffered a nearly thirty-percent casualty rate.
He’d been sent out on the second wave of ships from the Federation’s corward frontier, dispatched some thirteen-thousand light-years distant into the nearer reaches of the Delta Quadrant. There, an armada of starships dispersed over dozens of parsecs in various intercept groups was attempting to stem the tide of an influx of nomadic alien fleets bound for the Alpha Quadrant.
Unlike the first wave of starships in the task force, Adamant and her sister ships had been dispatched under their own power, carrying their crews in stasis. This added three months to the journey, but allowed Starfleet to outfit a more robust third wave with the same high-warp carrier sleds that had conveyed wave one. That tertiary relay of ships would arrive in another three months.
The medic helped Leone up into a sitting position as he struggled to get his bearings. He dimly recognized Adamant’s main shuttle bay where dozens of cryotanks were arranged in rows. Several of the other tanks had medtechs attending to their occupants as well, with the crew being revived in groups according to rank and function.
His last coherent memory was of falling to sleep in Starbase Bastion’s cryo-prep ward in the station’s MedCenter.
The medic pressed a hypospray to Leone’s neck, injecting a metabolic stimulator along with vitamin and mineral supplements. “You’re going to undergo an exam, sir, and then you’ll be escorted to your quarters to rest and recuperate.”
“I haven’t had enough rest already?” Leone asked groggily.
* * *
Europa limped into the system, slowing to sublight from a leisurely Warp Four, the best speed the battered starship could safely maintain.
“Secured from warp speed, Captain,” Lightner addressed Lar’ragos from the Helm.
“Galaxy Station within visual range, sir,” the rating at Ops advised.
“On screen,” Lar’ragos ordered, interested to see how much had changed since their last visit.
The hodge-podge space station appeared on screen. Significant construction had taken place in the past few weeks, though still in the same haphazard fashion that had become the sprawling complex’s hallmark. This time, however, the structure was accompanied by a number of new ancillary drydocks and over a dozen unfamiliar starships.
“Looks like reinforcements have arrived,” Liu observed from beside the captain.
Ops announced, “We’re being directed to a mobile drydock facility, sir.”
“Bring us in, one-eight impulse on docking approach.” Lar’ragos said tiredly. “Gods know we’ve earned some respite.”
Lightner shot Lar’ragos a darkly ironic look from his seat. “And which gods are those, sir?”
Lar’ragos’ reply was expressionless. “Whichever capricious deities oversee this horrid little tract of the universe, Lieutenant.”
* * *
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