== Flambeau ==
== MD 12 After "The last stroke" ==
The torpedo armed in stages, green lights switching to blinking red, painfully slow.
When all was done, Bruno leaned over the torpedo. He thought of a myriad things, his mind trying to embrace, all at once, all that made a life about to end. He couldn't do more now but he had that one second suspended in time... A fraction of forever.
Stolen from him as the torpedo disappeared from its berth.
A transporter beam grabbed him.
== Transporter Room ==
"Welcome aboard, Sir."
Bruno worked his gaping mouth in command mode. "Bugs got my ship. Quarantine field, immediately!"
He stood still in the grip of the decontamination cycle. By the time it ended, a man he knew entered the transporter room.
"Decontamination complete, Sir" the technician reported. "Bugs, he said, Sir" she added for the benefit of Commander Koslov.
"So we heard. We got your ship, Captain," Koslov told Bruno. "The torpedo exploded out of harm's way. We'll take care of the escape pods in short order. Unless you need medical attention, I'm here to escort you to the Bridge."
Bruno left the pad, suddenly feeling the weight of those 10 minutes. He was on the USS Avalon, he knew. They had been found. All were now safe. He was going to live, after all.
== Avalon Bridge ==
The ship had served to bring them back or away from their area of operations a few times. In one instance, Bruno had been invited aboard. Captain Jules Cormack looked wholly at home on the unusual bridge.
"Captain Mundis got through to Commodore Chapman. She wasn't entirely satisfied with the way searches for the Biglow were going," Cormack told Bruno. "We could hardly take over of course but we did have orders to contact you." He didn't smile before delivering his next line. "Your ship is expected for a bridge refit at Mandukar Shipyards."
Trying to hold it together, guts clenching around a fit of explosive laughter at this fine bit that had to come straight from Chapman, Bruno turned to the forward screen. The Flambeau hung in space, not looking worse for the tractor beam that was towing it to a safe position. A cluster of pods was bobbing in its wake. It was a sobering view.
"We could use a paint job too," he said.
Cormack handed over the Bridge to an officer and stood up. "Let's continue in my ready room, while we're scooping up your people."
== Avalon Ready Room ==
"What about the SS Biglow?" Cormack asked as the three of them sat. "We're seeing more life signs than expected on the planet."
Bruno nodded. "The Biglow suffered a critical failure as she was coming out of the corridor. We got thrown clear. We found them just about in time but it cost us, again. The Biglow headed down the solar gravity well after we finished pulling everyone. I ordered an evacuation of the Flambeau to allow the repairs we needed. The ship wasn't safe..." He rubbed his brow. "Your Chief Medical Officer should know that we have several injured on Harkon IV in need of advanced medical care."
"Our CMO is talking to yours already," Koslov confirmed. "Anything you can tell us about the bugs would help with recovery operations."
"Today I heard that someone on the Biglow crew mentioned they had bugs aboard, the same we were discovering ourselves on the ship. A few must have transported to the Flambeau, there was no time for usual procedures. It's hard to believe they reproduced so fast, deep down into the interhull I guess. We never saw one at the camp, but it can't be excluded."
A yeoman was bringing him coffee. He welcomed that unreservedly.
"We were powering up a number of systems again earlier when they started coming out of nowhere. We lost control of the ship in a matter of minutes."
"Square purple things?" Koslov took a guess, taking Bruno's look for an answer. "They're called the Traveller's Bug. The scourge had to be eradicated from scrape yards something like a century ago. We'll have to send an alert. They can remain dormant a long time but once they wake up, they'll lay grapes of eggs in thick layers and multiply in a manner of days. Your ship's going to get more than a paint job."
"I never heard of them," Bruno frowned.
"The story was still around when we were young," Cormack shrugged, though both of them looked younger than Bruno. "I don't envy you today, Marini. We're going to take it from here. Your people first, your ship next. It reacted well to a few minutes under tow. The engineers will tell us about the return trip to DS-13."
Bruno gathered himself. Every muscle in his body hurt. "I owe you big time, Cormack."
"I got the easy part," Cormack said. "You got all the hard decisions. I think you'll find the first arrivals in Sickbay, before they show you quarters."
They shook hands and Bruno was led away. After the past days, the Avalon seemed pristine and new. Somewhere ahead were a hot shower, a fresh uniform and a glass of something, but not just yet.
OFF: Not completely over, though the mission is in folding phase. :) Plenty to write from your points of view, mid action or post action, on Harkon IV or the Flambeau and now the USS Avalon. Remember the Avalon? avalon.hyperjump.org for the pic (the manifest is outdated of course). Cdr Gisha Koslov is XO, doubling up as CSO.
Medical has a big deck nearly to itself and top of the art everything in Sickbay. The ACMO is (fully competent) acting CMO at this time and can be made up, in the absence of the regular one.
There's plenty of room for some 200 additional people aboard the ship, and this long arboretum promenade alng the central axis.
Transwarp is tachyon-nacelles based so the Flambeau only needs to have sufficient hull integrity to be towed for a few hours.
Capt Bruno Marini