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Amphibians Ascendant

 
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Amphibians Ascendant - 6/21/2008 8:27:12 AM   
oi

 

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Previously, in "It isn't easy being Green", I had no idea how to properly outfit a starship and to operate it on anything other than computer control. As a result of inexperience, the only starship under Amphibian command was quickly lost, and with it went the Amphibians hopes of reaching out for the stars and they were soon conquered by the Keracks. Now, having gained considerable experience in the operation of the game, the Amphibians will try again.

First, a few details . . . This will be a game against the computer, skill level 4. Random civilizations, challenging pirates, 150 star galaxy, atomic to singularity ages, random events, no planet killers, no jump techs, and no advantages for either side. And without further to do, we begin.

Stardate 2200, cash 3000, income +13. Commander Rana turns his head to look out both the port and starboard sides of the transparisteel viewports with interest. To port lies radiant Sol-1, the home planet of the Amphibians. Space dock is high enough off of the planet's surface such that only the continental outlines are visible, partially hidden by different cloud formations. To starboard lies the trailing engine sections of Aurora, a scout starship to which he has been assigned command. As he moves down the long hallway (one of the eight arms of space dock) he holds his shoes and socks in his left hand, as his bare webbed feet are bathed in six inches of cool water contained within the conveyer. Under the gentle spin of space dock, Sol-1 is left behind, and his attention is more and more focused on the details of Aurora. She is currently in the final stages of preparation, Amphibia's first attempt to regain space flight capability after 1000 years of Kerack occupation. The outer hull is glows with a soft metallic green shimmer, unmarked by encounters with dust and debris. The bathing glare of spotlights seems to enlarge the ship, even though it is only a scout, and one that lacks much of the beauty and power seen in other galactic starships. Inwardly and outwardly, Rana understands that his selection to command this ship is a bequeathed honor, part politics and part well deserved. The conveyer rounds a corner, gradually bring him to a gentle stop near the busy tube that serves as the gangway entrance to the ship. Rana hops off to put on his shoes.

He raises his hand to salute the officer of the deck and request permission to come aboard. Among the enlistedmen, quite a few heads turn when they see the spotless white uniform of command. Probably there has been more than the usual scuttlebut on who was to be the captain. The dockworkers, in contrast, ignore him, for they have seen plenty of brass both coming and going to inspect the ship, and one more white uniform means little to them. A steady but disorderly procession of pipes, wires, and parts moves both ways along the gangway. "Permission granted, Sir, and my I add, welcome aboard." The OOD eagerly salutes, then offers his hand to Rana in greeting. "Thank you, I'm very glad to be here". The OOD pushes a button, and over the intercom Rana can hear musical tones sounding an alert, and then the expected message, "Attention on Deck". At the opposite end of the gangway tunnel, a nervous looking officer awaits Rana.


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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/22/2008 7:14:29 AM   
oi

 

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Lt Commander Babina stared with tired somewhat blank eyes at the schematics for the dual electronic computer installation. Aurora's humidifier system was not yet on-line, and as a result, the piped in air from space dock felt too cool and dry. Just as he was about to take a mist break, a slight commotion at the end of the entryway tunnel caught his eye. A glimpse of a white uniform suddenly has his full attention, and a surge of adrenaline replaces the stim-caf coursing through his arteries. As the amphibian in white strolls down the gangway, Babina stares intently at the face. At least one of the rumors that he heard was true, for the new Captain will be Commander Rana. Babina is not surprised. A young, fast rising star in the Amphibian navy, Rana accomplished quite a few victories in the Kerack war. Babina raises his hand to salute, "Welcome aboard, Sir." Rana briskly returns the salute and gazes about the bustling confusion on the small bridge with obvious enthusiasm. "Thank you Babina," and the Lt Commander mentally notes that Rana must have put some time into studying his crew list. "Could I interest you in a quick tour, Sir?" "Certainly, lead the way," replied Rana. Babina pointed out what was probably obvious to the Captain: helm, sensors, communications, dual electronic computers, weapons. Rana took a closer look at weapons to note that a set of forward (but not aft) rockets had recently been installed. He knew that as a scout ship, Aurora would be built for speed and scanning ability, not for fighting. Just off the bridge (starboard side) was a small Captain's ready room - a place where one could briefly relax, yet still be available at the sound of a chime. To the port side was a small turbolift, which Babina and Rana took to the second deck. Here they toured the crew's quarters, mess deck, hospital, research station, holodeck, and insectivarium. At the entrance to the insectivarium, Babina pointed out with a certain amount of pride and delight that over 500 different species of live insects (all carefully selected for flavoring) were already in stock. Again, they re-entered the turbolift for descent to the first deck, engineering. Rana noted with obvious satisfaction the twin rocket drives, giving Aurora the ability to outsail most ships. "Is their anything else, Sir," asked Babina. "Thank you, Lt Commander, you have been more than helpful," Rana replied. "It has been a bit of a shuttle ride up from the surface of Sol-1 and I think that I will report to my quarters for a brief freshening up. Have the crew assemble on the mess deck at 1500 hours for a introduction and briefing." "Yes Sir," replied Babina.

Once inside his quarters, Rana spent a few minutes on the refresher, while scanning the hand-held recorder. Currently there were eight Ph.D. trained engineers on Sol-1, directing the assembly of Aurora. At this accelerated pace, Aurora should be ready for space by 2203. Back at his desk, he uploaded the current picture of the galaxy. He knew it to be an annular system, with Sol-1 located at the top (due North) as one viewed the galaxy from face-on. Little was known about nearby space. Although the positions of millions of stars were accurately plotted, only a few of those contained habitable planets, and only a few of those planets contained lifeforms. Those detailed reports brought back by Captain Kermit's abortive first attempt to enter space nearly 1000 years ago had been either lost to time or suppressed by the Keracks. Even a brief thought of the Keracks made Rana angrily punch at the screen with the tip of his claw, and the computer pad brought up Sol-1 pictured in all its glory, a huge type 1 watery planet looking just like the view from space dock's viewport. Probably the camera viewing Sol-1 in real time was installed on space dock. As he slid the scale bar, Sol-1 gradually grew smaller until it was just a dot, with two colored star systems located approximately 2 light years on either side. Just like little moons spinning about a planet, he thought. Based on a detectable wobble of the parent star's motions in the sky, these systems were known to contain planets, and would be the targets of his first mission.

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/23/2008 8:37:29 AM   
oi

 

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Chief Science Officer Lt. Alytes stood in the front row along with the officers on Aurora's mess deck.  Unike those in white, his bright yellow uniform signaled that he was a member of the scientific staff.  Behind him were aligned the other 6 members of his team.  While waiting for the Captain to put in his appearance, his mind drifted to speculations on the formation of Sol-1.  As a huge type I, it had originally accreted further out in the solar system, and there were two smaller mini-giants inbetween its orbit and the parent star.  Then, it was a frozen giant, but gradually, its angular momentum carried it closer to the parent star, and it traded places with the mini-giants.  As it moved closer in, the ice melted and the surface of Sol-1 became dominated by its distinctive huge fresh water lakes.  Over the intercom, chimes played "attention on deck" and the Captain, looking rather resplendent, made his appearance.  As Rana launched into a welcoming speech, Alytes attention again began to drift, and he wondered if he could talk the Captain into stopping on the way out of the Sol-1 system to collect samples from one of the tiny planetesimals orbiting far beyond the mini-giant pair.  Known as the Repiuk belt, he was particularly interested in the set of objects with inclinations of less than four degrees, these he knew to be particularly cold.  If he could get a sample of pristine ices from one of these . . . Suddently, the Captain was right in front of him holding out his hand in greeting.  Lt. Alytes quickly erased the vacant look from his eyes, smiling as he shook the Captain's hand.  "Thank you, Sir.  An excellent staff has been assembled for you and we hope to make many brilliant discoveries."  As he looked at his tall science officer, Rana thought, "With 35% of the total crew invested into the scientific staff, I surely hope so."  Then, without skipping a beat, Captain Rana continued on down the line, to personally greet each of his officers.  In the brief reception held afterwards, Lt. Alytes approached Captain Rana.  "Sir, will you be testing the ion drives before we go to warp?"  I think that we will have to, for this ship is no freighter," replied Rana.  Alytes knew that one arm of Aurora's mission was to find additional resources for Sol-1, which would be brought back by the slow freighters.  "Perhaps a good test run would be to move about 50 au out beyond the twin mini-giants," Alytes suggested.  "Certainly that is well within standard parameters," responded Rana.  "I wonder if it would be possible to stop and pull a sample off of a repiuk object.  It would also serve as a test run for our scanning instrumentation and sampling probes."  Alytes was testing the waters with this Captain, as he was unsure how he might respond to this out of the way request.  "If you would like a sample, I am sure that it would add a bit of interest to an otherwise routine test drive.  Please check in with navigation and be on the bridge for the collection," replied Rana.  "Thank you, Sir.  My staff and I would be very interested to examine these samples on the way to Aurora's first mission."  "Now here is a Captain that I can work with," thought Alytes, as he popped and savored a crust inclosed tube-worm.

Later, in his cabin, Rana once again looked at the ship's roster, jotting down a few notes on some of his first impressions.  Aurora would carry 20 crew, although considering the shoestring budget, not all would be trained personnel.  Behind that data screen lay his sealed orders, which he would not open until Aurora was officially commissioned.  The ships lights dimmed.  Although they were still in space dock, the ship's hours were still sunset at 1930 and sunrise at 0630.  Of course, most of the ship's interior was still bright with the 8-12 crew coming on and getting ready to put in a full shift.  Rana realized that sleep might be fitful with the unexpected sounds of banging, cables dragging, buzzes and clatters, as his ship was being brought to life.  Somehow, every Captain since the beginning of time had the ability to hear and feel their ship with almost extrasensory perception.  Rana continued reading, well into the night.   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/26/2008 7:27:01 AM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2201.  "Ouch!"  "I guess it is too late to warn you about that angle iron."  "They call this a crawl space, but they sure don't leave much room to crawl."  Engineering crewmen Pipa and Kaloula were making their way slowly, following one of Aurora's inner hull emergency wiring grids.  "Feel for the fourth beam, and then that panel on the left," prompted Kaloula.  "Why do I have to do it by feel," asked Pipa?  "Because the Chief will ask you to do this blindfolded before he signs off on your qualification."  "He will really do that?"  "He did it to me when I qualified," replied Kaloula.  "But Why?"  "Because the only time you will ever throw the switches in that panel are when the main power is out or the computer is off line.  And this will likely occur because we have been hit, with the crawl space filled with a mixture of smoke and shredded live electrical wires," explained Kaloula.  "Now open the panel and tell me what you see."  Pipa stared at the mass of electrical inputs and outputs.  "The large multi-purpose switch in the center re-routes emergency power to either environmental resources, engineering, or to the bridge, depending on which connection I make."  "Correct," replied Kaloula.  "Look at diagram 7 in your wrist pad and you will see that 50 feet ahead there is a similar panel with the same type of switch.  There is always a manual option, in case of an emergency.  You simply have to be brave enough to crawl up here with the ship on fire, artificial gravity off, spinning out of control, taking hits, and being showered with sizzling sparks."  Pipa was already sweating from the initial stages of claustrophobia, and clearly appeared not ready to relish further thoughts of being trapped in the crawl space of a dying space ship.  "Look at the ship's structural diagram on your pad (push the advance button three times to get to diagram 10).  There is a transverse bulkhead just 15 feet ahead.  Crawl for that.  It is wider, and next to the center beam that red circular marking means that there is a ladder taking you back to the lower deck," instructed Kaloula.  "I can smell the moister air already," replied Pipa, as he began to move faster along the cramped passage.  Both men then paused at the sound of chimes.  "Attention!  Tomorrow's commissioning ceremony will be held in the space dock main hall at 0930.  All crewmembers will be expected to attend in dress uniform."  "Let's wrap this up.  We've got to get cleaned up for tomorrow," said Kaloula.  "Ah . . , fresh air and light," replied Pipa.     

< Message edited by oi -- 7/15/2008 3:29:08 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/30/2008 2:30:32 AM   
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Stardate 2202.  Pipa and Kaloula stood side by side at parade rest behind Lt Commander Babina.  Already a steady stream of brass and civilian big wigs had come to the small podium and spoke about Aurora and its mission of hope for the Amphibian species.  Now, as an admiral droned on and on and on, Pipa glanced (without turning his head) at the yellow clad scientists clustered behind Lt Alytes.  They would get all the interesting tasks, while he and the other members of engineering would be stuck on first deck.  Kaloula looked hard at the admiral's face, and tried to recall if he had ever seen him before.  Back on the surface, he had been part of engineering on the Kron, one of the large assault weapons ships used to defeat the Keracks in the final battle.  But Kron was not a flagship, and never had an admiral on board, especially during combat.  In front of Kalula, Lt Commander Babina swayed slightly.  Probably it was taxing Babina's patience as well, standing and pretending to pay attention.  In a few hours, the ship would get underway and all this pomp and circumstance would be replaced by the very real dangers of space.  "I'm very luck to be here," though Kalula, "but this is going to be no picnic."

Unlike Kalula, Commander Rana knew the admiral.  He was one of the speeder instructors at the academy, when Rana was in his second year.  Learning to operate and fight the one-man speeders was one of Rana's most enjoyable experiences at that time.  Running solo or in teams, the speeders would skim the wavetops, turning constantly at crazy angles, merging and diverging to confuse the opponent, to most riders nothing but sheer fun.  Rana's leadership qualities had first emerged during this time, and the admiral had made note of it.  Their paths had crossed many times since, but it was particularly fitting that he would be here today at Aurora's commissioning ceremony.  Rana listened intently, for the admiral spoke from years of wisdom.  All too soon the time for words would be over, and all Amphibia would soon be nothing more than a tiny dot on an electronic map. 


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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/1/2008 5:58:05 AM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2203.  "Space dock-1, this is Aurora.  Open the outer doors."  "Okay Aurora, they're moving, it will take a full minute until they are in the latched position."  With Captain Rana on the bridge, Aurora was about to get underway for the first time.  Although no sound carried in space, one could imagine some vibrations from the huge sliding doors being felt even on the starship.  "Doors open and locked in place.  Beginning equilibrium sequence."  Lt Commander Babina's eyes watched the vacuum guage, the falling needle of which indicated a steady loss of external air pressure.  He knew that this air was not being lost to space, but was being pumped into the large recycling pressure tank located behind Aurora's docking bay.  Space dock-1, this is Aurora, we're air-tight,  Open inner doors."  On the dock, the klaxon sounded, and the announcement was broadcast, "Standby to open inner bay doors."  All eyes on Aurora's bridge looked forward.  For structural reasons, there was no observation window on the bridge, so what everyone in reality was watching was a large screen on the forward bulkhead, upon which was projected a high resolution camera image of what was happening outside the ship.  An appropriate analogy to the image that appeared at that moment was the view down a telescope, with a fairly long dimly lit tunnel-like aperture, reaching to a black circlet of space at the far end.  The voice of space dock control announced, "Inner bay doors open and locked in place.  Aurora, you are free to exit."  "Helm, release the locking bolts," ordered Rana.  This time the pop and siss of the four bolts retracting into Aurora was clearly audible.  For a few brief moments Aurora hung in space.  "Maneuvering jets only, ahead one-third."  "Yes sir, ahead one-third."  Almost imperceptibly, Aurora crept forward.  Indicators that looked very much like a floating compass, accurate to about one inch, showed a clearance on all four sides of about 10 inches.  Rana's eyes strayed to the view of the starboard side off of engineering.  Aurora tapered near the stern, but the strut projected out, and posed a possible contact point should Aurora depart from a perfectly straight course.  He quickly noted that there was not going to be a problem here.  From a distance, space dock-1 appeared like a mighty haven for a derigible, with a huge front gate, now open, complete with the slowly emerging the metallic green hull of the starship.  "Maintain course and speed."  Yes, sir."  Once Aurora was clear the space-dock, and a last few pleasantries exchanged with the controller, Aurora gradually shifted position and pointed her nose away from Sol-1, and toward the stars.  "Lt Alytes, did you bring the coordinates for the pickup of your snow cones?"  "Sir, I could only give an approximation, as most of these objects are not plotted in yet."  Rana knew that the Keracks had suppressed space technology and that surprisingly more was known about how to build a spaceship than was known about the local space environment.  "No problem Lieutenant."  "Helm stear course 2015 by +1734.  That should take us a few au past the outer mini-giant.  If we have a breakdown out there we can always try and sling shot our way home again, and hope to arrive sometime in our lifetime."                 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/2/2008 6:48:04 AM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2204.  After 12 hours of having his eardrums pounded with the throb of warp engines, Lt Alytes was starting to adapt.  On the main screen of the bridge, the tiny dot that was the Mizar system gradually became a small circlet.  Although Amphibia had not had any recognized astronomers for several centuries, a recently minted Ph.D. had predicted that the Mizar system would contain at least one large planet, based on a regular wobble in the orbit of its central star.  Alytes was pleased to see that this prediction contained some truth, for the profile of a planet gradually emerged.  "Sir, you should take a look at this," mentioned one of his assistants.  Alytes turned and peered into the long-range scanner.  Before his eyes, like ghosts being born from inky blackness, a series of 4 new star systems, each containing planets swam into view.  Alytes noted wryly that although Aurora was on a course due north of Sol-1, these new systems were to the south and southwest of Amphibia's homeworld.  "Our dual electronic computers must really be working well," responded the technician.  "True, but I am not exactly sure why," said Alytes.  "Perhaps we are just passing through a particularly dust free zone of space."  At that moment, the figure of Captain Rana appears in the doorway of the ready room.  "Captain on the bridge," announced Babina.  "As you were," responded the Captain.  "What do you have there, Alytes?"  "Four new star systems with planets, Sir."  "Really?  Good find.  Let me have a look.  Now that's worth a bit of a celebration, particularly if our little visit to Mizar goes well today.

The helmsman turned and looked at the Captain.  "Sir, we will be breaking warp in two minutes."  "Understand, two minutes.  Alytes, prepare a class-1 probe for launch.  Let's see what we have out there," responded Rana.  As Aurora broke warp, the image of a well placed large planet nearly filled the central screen.  "It's a very large type 2," spoke Alytes, as he peered down the scanner.  "This is it for Mizar, no other planets on the sensors."  "Helm, standard orbit.  We'll do a go around before we launch the probe." replied Rana.  Security chief Otophryne, manning tactical, suddenly announced, "I see large whirlwinds reaching up into the outer atmosphere.  There are two, no three, no four major storms."  Lt.Commander Babina wiped off some beads of water around his mouth and muttered out loud, "Nothing is ever easy."  "With the electrical interference from those storms, we will never be able to get a reading back from the probe," noted Alytes.  "It's time to see what Aurora can do," responded Rana.  "Otophyrne, open the outer doors for the rockets.  Helm, steer course 32.17, down angle 3 degrees."  Gradually the bulk of a huge whirlwind filled the central screen.  "Chief, aim for the base of the storm, about 10% of the way up from the surface.  Let's see if a rocket blast will disrupt the wind pattern," observed the Captain.  "Fire one!"  The exhaust plume of the rocket almost instantly disappeared into the colored swirl of the approaching storm.  Babina thought that it looked, if anything, somewhat angry and evil, as the colors and turbulence grew ever more vivid.  "Sound red alert.  All hands brace themselves," barked the Captain.  "If that rocket misses or doesn't work, we will be in for one very rough ride."  "Time for the rocket," announced Otophyrne.  Suddenly the diameter of the funnel tightened, then spun at a crazy angle, narrowly missing Aurora.  "It's working, will you look at that," spoke Rana, somewhat unnecessarily.  In an amazingly short time, the storm just seemed to blow itself out.  Aurora repeated the process for storms 2 and 3, expending only a single rocket on each to eliminate the menace.  With a certain degree of growing confidence the crew set about approaching the fourth storm.  Nearly simultaneously with Rana raising his right hand to signal the rocket launch, Aurora suddently lurched, and entered into a nasty spin.  "Helm, all ahead full, go with the spin," barked the Captain.  Although the force of the spin initially threw two members of the crew to the deck, and some loose gear flew about, gradually it relented, as Aurora moved in ever increasing spirals.  "Damage control, report," announced Rana.  "I see a 3% loss of integrity," reported Babina.  "Well that was no fun," noted the Captain, as everyone looked about the bridge with nervous smiles.  "Let's get that last storm."  This time the approach went flawlessly, and a spontaneous cheer broke out on the bridge as the whirlwind died.  "Launch the probe," ordered Rana.  Let's see what we've accomplished.  "Getting feedback now," responded Alytes.  It appears to be . . . I can see . . .  It's rather poor in minerals for its size.  Perhaps worth $2 on an annual basis."  "Considering it is our very first, I will accept it as a very valuable prize," responded the Captain.  "Everyone, celebration and cake on the mess deck at 1730 hours."      

< Message edited by oi -- 7/15/2008 3:36:21 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/3/2008 4:20:26 AM   
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Stardate 2205.  It's late when Lt Alytes finally gets off duty.  As he enters the mess hall, it is clear that the Captain and other officers have long since left the scene.  The cake looks badly damaged, but there is still one fairly unbroken section to slice out.  Interesting, he notes to himself, looking at the remains.  The formerly circular cake had been layered with a meaty flavored reddish colored gelatin frosting, dyed to match Mizar's type 2 planet.  In fact, there were realistic looking gouges and craters in the gelatin, and apparently what was once 4 blue funnels had been placed on the surface.  Hanging from the ceiling directly over the cake was a plastic model of Aurora, and Alytes felt sure that if he had been there from the first cut, tiny rocket candles would have been lit.  After picking up a drink from the bar, he glanced about looking for a table.  Nearby was one with two open seats shared by a pair of crewmen.  "Got room for another?" he asked.  "Yes, sir."  As the crewman start to stand, Alytes motions for them to relax.  He looks at their lapels and notes the names Pipa and Kaloula, apparently from engineering.  "How is the cake?"  "Excellent, sir," they reply, pretty much in unison.  This had to be true, for little more than crumbs remained from what was once two rather over-sized pieces.  "What are you drinking sir?" asked Pipa, curiously.  "It's one of my favorites, and I usually save it for special occasions.  It has the texture and flavor of slightly muddy pond water, complete with a bit of algae."  Alytes dipped in his spoon and showed them four little strands of green.  Encircling the lip of the earthen mug was a rim of what appeared to be pasted on dragonfly wings.  "It's best when slightly warm.  One takes a slow sip, giving time for the liquid to rehydrate a wing.  Then you pull off the wing with your lips and swallow."  Alytes demonstrated, and smiled, "Wonderful."  "Next, you slightly rotate the mug and start all over again."  "What should I ask for?" persisted Pipa.  "I do not know the original name, but those at the bar call it a Walden," replied Alytes.  "Sir, do you mind if I ask you in what direction we are headed?"  "I am sure it is no secret," responded Alytes.  "When Aurora left space dock there were only two known star systems with potential planets.  We have just scouted one out and are now headed for the other.  Our current position is north of Sol-1, and we are headed in the opposite direction on a south southeast course for the other, which is named Barnard.  I expect that we will arrive there in a couple of days."  "Thanks, sir," said Kaloula.  "As you might guess, information takes a long time to filter down to the lower deck."  Kaloula gave Pipa a slight nudge.  "Sir, if you don't mind, we will have to go on watch in a few minutes.  Thanks for sitting with us."  "No problem," responded Alytes.  "Feel free to sit with me anytime."   

"What was the nudge for?" asked Pipa, as he and Kaloula descended the ladder.  "Nothing really, I just didn't want to see you sprawled out flat in front of the officer like you were in engineering when the storm hit," replied Kaloula.  "Hey, that's not fair.  There was a wet spot on the deck and I had looked down to take a reading," defended Pipa.  "Right," noted Kaloula.           

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/5/2008 10:32:37 PM   
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Stardate 2206.  It is late, and Rana is still in the midst of filling out datapads for transmission to the Amphibian high command.   " . . . In conclusion, the on-the-spot decision to blast the storms at their base proved a highly successful technique.  The fact that there were so many of these storms was surprising (see Chief Science Officer Alytes report for speculations on this subject), and it is not clear whether or not Aurora was simply lucky or very effective in this encounter.  Using the spaceship as a launch platform contains significant inherent risk.  For example, had Aurora been caught by the first storm and spun out of control into the midst of three others, the outcome clearly would have been different.  I whole heartedly recommend devising a means to launch weapons using a secondary vehicle, while leaving Aurora safely in high orbit."  There were several reports by Alytes and his team on scientific findings from Mizar.  Rana absently turned to the middle of one and read, "Mizar's star exhibited a surprisingly rapid rotation (measured at 3.619 days), which creates a strong magnetic field (measured at 1300 gauss).  As a result, the star's charged metal ions exhibit varied and surprisingly detailed patterns, as each ion exhibited regions of both pooling on the surface, and submergence out of sight."  Rana flipped back the pages.  Pretty typical, he thought, with all of Amphibia thinking planets, resources and freighter routes, the science team spent most of its time in the Mizar system studing the parent star.     

On the bridge, Lt Commander Babina was also writing into the log.  "Currently on warp drive, on a south southeast course for the Barnard system.  Anticipated arival time 0810 hours tomorrow.  Ship's integrity 100%.  No new objects on long range scanners."  Although the galaxy was known to be populated with other lifeforms, Amphibia had a very poor idea as to the extent, or their nature.  Babina thought about the horrible consequences of their encounter with the Kerack species, who had treated the amphibians as if they were insects.  After the Keracks had demonstrated that any resistance would result in an eradication of amphibians from the entire planet, the war-like Keracks seemed to lose interest.  A few Kerack fortress outposts were established, and freighters visited to extract resources, but otherwise the Kerack's deliberately avoided the Amphibians.  The Keracks always seemed invincible, yet almost imperceptibly, after 600 years of occupation, the number of visiting ships to Amphibia fell off.  Although no one could be sure, it certainly felt as if the planet existed in a neglected backwater section of the galaxy.  In the subsequent 300 years of occupation, the number of visiting ships ceased altogether, and it was about that time that the first stirrings of revolt coursed through Amphibia.  That revolt lead to the re-establishment of the Amphibian navy, and eventually, to Babina himself, standing as the executive officer on board this starship.  He asked for the outputs of the long-range scanners to be shifted to the main screen, and to all eyes, there was nothing.  Never-the-less, having just escaped the clutches of one evil species, Babina could not help but worry if he and Aurora were about to be front and center in a new encounter that would wake up something far far worse.            

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/7/2008 3:02:12 AM   
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"Chief Otophryne, please report to the bridge," chimed the squawkbox.  "It's a little late to be reminding me," snorted the Chief, talking out loud to no-one, "I am only two seconds away."  As he stepped through the doors of the turbolift and glanced at the main screen, Otophryne could see the bright orange-yellow sun of Barnard, whose glare was about to be eclipsed by the bulk of a nearby planet.  "I relieve you," spoke Otophryne, to the technician manning tactical, who in turn saluted and said, "I stand relieved."  "Helm, put us in standard orbit, 100 km," ordered the Captain.  "Yes sir, standard orbit 100 km," helm responded.  "Lt Alytes, do you have anything on the scanners?" asked Rana.  "Sir, no lifeforms, and unlike on Mizar, no active weather patterns," reported Alytes.  "We'll do one standard orbit and see if we pick up anything," commented the Captain.  "Sir, I am picking up two other objects in orbit with us, port quarter 270 degrees," reported the Chief.  "Put them on main screen, maximum magnification," ordered Rana.  "Now what do we have here?"  "Scans indicate artificial spherical objects 10 m diameter, with some form of sensing probes on the exterior.  They are hollow, and filled with a matrix material of unidentified nature," continued the Chief.  "To my eyes, they look like some form of space mine, or defensive satellite" added Lt Commander Babina.  "Space mines," agreed Rana.  "Probably not guided, but simply placed in orbit to keep the planet's surface from being scanned.  Well, we have no choice.  If we are to see what is on the surface we will have to take these mines out.  Chief, prepare a set of rockets, and fire on my command"  "Yes sir, launch doors are open and rocket number one is armed," responded Otophryne.  "Fire one!"  "Rocket's away."  Due to the magnification on the screen, the rocket's trail was not visible at first, but within a few moments it could be seen drawing a bee-line for the leftmost sphere.  Suddenly there was a brilliant flash, and after everyone's eyes had readjusted, one of the spheres was missing.  "It's clear that we guessed right," noted the Captain.  "I would not like to have hit one of those with Aurora.  Chief, prepare to launch rocket number two."  "I'm ready sir."  "Fire two!"  In a scene that closely paralled the events of the first rocket, the second mine was destroyed.  "Good shooting, Chief.  Lt Alytes, prepare a probe."  "Sir, a mark-1 is ready for launching," replied Alytes.  "Launch the probe."  "Probes, away," reported Alytes.  "I will be receiving data in a few moments.  It's rather similar to the planet at Mizar, not quite as large, but also a type 2."  "Downloading data now to the main computer for later analysis."        

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/8/2008 3:51:04 AM   
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Stardate 2208.  0624 hours, holodeck.  Like everyone else on board Aurora, Captain Rana accumulated time that could be expended in the holodeck.  Right now, he was kicking vigorously in the cold alpine streams of a really spectacular program.  The flowing water was fast in places, digging up holes in the steam bottom near giant boulders.  Rana glimpsed a large fish retreating to the shadows.  Just as he knew that the crew of Aurora was already stirring or soon would be rising, the morning sun gleamed through breaks in the overhang.  Rana hauled himself out of the water onto a rather flat rock, and found to his pleasure that it was already starting to warm.  A turbulent stretch beckoned to him, one that he could not refuse.  Twisting and turning with the current, his moment of enjoyment and forgetfulness was suddenly interrupted by the vibration of his com badge.  Rana rapidly headed for a nearby patch of rocks and pressed the badge.  "Yes?"  "Sir, we are approaching orbit for the second planet," spoke Lt.Commander Babina.  "I'll be right up," replied Rana.

0800 hours, bridge.  After spending the night on a slow parabolic approach to the second of Barnard's three planets, Aurora entered high orbit over its pretty cloud covered blue surface.  "Lt. Alytes, report," requested Rana.  "I am preparing a probe, but my initial impression is that this is a miniature copy of our home planet."  "Chief, what do you show?' asked Rana.  "Nothing on the scanners," replied Otophryne.  "I see nothing."  "We'll do one go around," spoke Rana, "then if nothing turns up, we'll launch the probe."  Nothing did turn up, and the class-1 probe found a very small, very watery type-1 planet, similar to Sol-1 but with considerably less continental surface, and an ocean too salty for amphibians.  Although Lt. Alytes wanted to drop down close to the surface and use a class-2 probe to bring back a water sample to check for life forms, Captain Rana decided to move on to the third planet.  "Helm, break orbit, increase to speed 5, course 34.31+34."  "Yes sir, breaking orbit now," replied the helmsman.  "Estimated time of arrival at the third planet 2.4 hours."  "Understood," replied the Captain.  Looking at Babina and Alytes, the Captain explained, "I feel the need to push on and complete this survey today.  If all goes well, we can be on a new course by tonight."  "It is quite interesting," commented Alytes, "that of the four planets known to us, two are class-1.  It suggests that the galaxy might be a very friendly place after all for amphibians."  Lt. Commander Babina could not help but add his shading onto that thought, "And since most life forms rapidly evolve from watery environments, it also suggests that the galaxy is full of life."

1247 hours, bridge.  "Captain on the bridge," announced Babina, as Rana stepped out of his ready room.  A greenish planet encircled with a prominent ring filled the view screen.  "What is our status?" asked Rana.  "Sir, we will be dropping into orbit in just under two minutes," replied the helmsman.  "Very good," replied Rana.  "Bring us down to the standard 100 km."  "Sir, this planet has a lot of atmosphere and it is difficult to make out the surface," reported Alytes.  "Would it be possible to go lower?"  "Very well," responded Rana, "Helm lower the orbit to 80 km."  "Understood, 80 km," replied the helmsman.  "Sir, there are 3 pinpoints of focused energy on the surface," called out Chief Otophryne.  "I can see a pattern of 3 also," reported Alytes.  "It appears to be some kind of plant."  "Just as a precaution, prepare the rockets," ordered Rana.  "Electrical discharge coming up from the planet's surface!" announced Otophryne.  The view from the forward screen revealed a bolt of lightning missing Aurora by just under two hull lengths, and lighting up the nearby clouds.  "That was no accident.  Helm, begin evasive maneuvering pattern b7.  Chief, launch rockets when ready."  "Three rockets away," said Otophryne.  Although their exhaust plumes were quickly lost, everyone on the bridge self consciously counted the seconds until the rockets would reach their targets.  "Ten seconds to impact," announced the Chief, "four, three, two and . . . "  A pattern of three glowing spots appeared on the screen.  "Direct hit on all three targets."  "Targets appear to be destroyed," reported Otophryne.  "What was that?" asked Babina.  "Believe it or not, it appears to have been some kind of moss," replied Alytes.  "That's not like our moss back home." noted Babina with relief.                    

< Message edited by oi -- 7/12/2008 3:41:58 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/11/2008 4:43:54 AM   
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Stardate 2209.  Captain Rana sat in his cabin filling out reports, while snacking on a pine beetle sandwich.  Everyone had their own preferred method for eating pine beetles - from raw to deep fried, but Rana preferred them over easy.   It was near the end of Aurora's first week in space, and already her primary mission had been accomplished.  He noted that the ship was operating with 100% integrity.  The way was clear for freighter routes to be established between Sol-1 and Mizar ($2 annual income) and Barnard ($7 annual income), the only star systems with planets on the galactic map when Aurora first began her voyage.  The morale of the crew was excellent, and no one had been injured or taken sick.  Based on a predetermined scale of scoring, Aurora had acquired 4% combat efficiency.  Right now, the only limiting feature to further exploration was the supply of rockets, currently down to 55% of stock.  Rana washed down the last vestiges of his sandwich with a gulp of water, flavored with the tang of freshly squeezed termite guts.  The galley had more flavors of water than he could care to count, all in the name of maintaining morale.  In Rana's opinion, snow-capped mountain with fresh termites was one unbeatable combination.  Finally finished with his reports for the night, Rana rolled his tongue against his upper palate to scrape off the one or two pinchers stuck there, and prepared to hit the sack for the night.

Lt. Commander Babina also nursed a drink while sitting at a small table on the observation deck.  The view of the stars slipping by was both beautiful and entrancing.  Just a little under half way up the window was a small metal bar.  Babina found himself peering ahead into space until the first flash of a new star appeared as a point.  Then, as it became brighter and began to move, he would guess to himself as to whether the star would pass over or under the bar as it flashed past Aurora and was left behind.  To Babina, this little game was certainly preferable to focusing on the knowledge that his hand holding the drink was only inches away from the icy deathly vacuum of space.  Babina imagined the viewport pane suddenly developing propagating cracks and . . . he caught and stopped that thought.  A closely bonded pair of stars popped into view ahead.  "Would the bar split these two?" he wondered.

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/12/2008 4:19:00 AM   
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Stardate 2210.  Everyone felt an audible throb as the warp drive kicked in and Aurora began to move with a purpose.  Captain Rana had just received new orders, to explore the Apodis system, one of those recently discovered stars with planets picked up on Aurora's long range scanners.  Apodis was approximately 3 ly South Southeast of Sol-1, well within freighter range, and also within a single days travel for Aurora.  Since this was virgin territory for present day amphibians, Rana's thoughts drifted to his childhood memories of stories about the legendary Captain Kermit and Victorious.  Few real facts were actually known about the voyages of Victorious.  No logbook existed, or eye witness reports had survived the 1000 years.  As a tadpole, Rana had been fascinated with the adventure story, and despite having heard it told over and over again, something about the audacity of the first amphibian venture into space never aged.  "I feel fortunate and somewhat remarkable to actually be in position to follow the flipper prints of Captain Kermit," mused Rana.  As his daydream continued, he realized that Victorious had gone on four voyages, the first of which was known to have explored two star systems with planets.  Rana had no reason to believe that the ancient technology of Amphibia was superior to anything available today, so it was highly likely that Aurora had explored the same two planetary systems as did Victorious.  Logically, Victorious would have investigated the nearest planetary systems to Sol-1, and spent time looking at Mizar and Barnard.  The second voyage of Victorious had stopped at four star systems with planets, and just as likely Apodis was one of these too.  In the legendary story, Victorious had found 13 planetary systems, and thus far, Aurora still had a ways to go to catch up.  Rana could not help but remember that on the fateful fourth voyage, Victorious was destroyed in a battle against overwhelming odds.  To Rana, the loss of this famous ship always served as a constant reminder for him to stay on the cautious side of space exploration.  "The last thing that I want to do is to remind the Keracks that we are still alive and kicking," he concluded.      

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/14/2008 2:15:33 AM   
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Stardate 2211.  The soft blue-white glow that was Apodis gradually took the shape of a disk on the main screen, filtered well down to reduce the glare.  Lt. Alytes looked up from his scanner, "There are three planets, a small one close in and two larger ones further out."  "We'll start with the close in one first and move out," responded Captain Rana.  "Helm, steer course 231+15."  "Aye Aye, sir, course 231+15."  Like a tiny fly speck orbiting the huge sun, the inner most planet of Apodis gradually became apparent.  Backlit by its star, the planet had a distinct reddish sheen and a rather pretty set of rings.  "Helm, standard orbit."  "Lt Alytes, Chief Otophryne, do you have anything?" asked Rana.  "No energy sources, no movement out of the ordinary," reported the Chief.  "No lifesigns, no significant weather, class I probe ready for launching," reported Lt. Alytes.  "Launch probe," ordered Rana.  "Probe's away," answered Alytes.  "Readings coming in now . . . it is a very small type 6, low mineral resources, and a pretty harsh environment for lifeforms to exist.  "Good enough," replied Rana.  "As soon as Lt. Alytes has completed his scan, break orbit and head on course 75-23.  If you need me, I will be in my ready room."  Just over 2 hours later, Aurora put her tail to the sun and for most of the 30 minutes headed outward into darker space.

"Captain on the bridge," announced Lt. Commander Babina.  "As you were," answered Rana.  Again, the main viewscreen was filled with the profile of a ringed planet, although this one was considerably larger and tinted with green.  "Nice color," commented Rana.  "Is there anything out there that we should know about?"  Chief Otophryne looked up from his scanner, "Nothing to report."  Lt Alytes, followed with, "It appears to be all clear to launch a class I probe."  "Launch probe," order the Captain.  "Probe is on its way . . . readings coming in now . . . it is a large type 5, with some, but alot of mineral resources."  "Pretty, but not profitable," commented Rana.  "Also a bit of a blow to those who think that every planetary system should contain some kind of lifeforms."  "If you would like to take the time, we could swoop down low enough under all that methane gas for a class II probe to scoop up a good sample and return it," offered Alytes.  "And if you look closely at that moon to the left, the second largest one, you can see some cracks on its surface that suggests a surface crust of ice overlaying a possible watery environment."  "Thank you for your thoughts, Alytes," but we have an entire galaxy to explore and not enought time today for further sampling, responded the Captain.  "Let me know when you have finished working up the data for this planet.  Until then, I will be in my ready room."  "Yes sir," replied the yellow-suited Alytes.         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/15/2008 3:21:20 AM   
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Stardate 2212.  After spending the off hours circling Apodis-II, the next morning finds Aurora set on a purposeful course for the final planet in the Apodis system.  Already, it is visible on the screen, a very large body, with a dusty red tint.  Although it is fairly typical to find large planets farther out from their host stars, usually they are veiled in thick clouds.  But Apodis-III seems to have lost most, if not all of its atmosphere.  "Point-like energy sources, lower quadrant, there are three of them," barks out Chief Otophryne from his combat station.  "Lifeforms present, but they appear to be vegetable in nature," chirped in Lt. Alytes.  "We have been in a similar situation before," commented Captain Rana.  "Helm, lay in a plot for evasive maneuver delta, but do not execute it until I give the command."  "Plot is laid in, Sir."  "Delta begins with a hard starboard turn, and if the Chief reports an increase in the energy state of whatever it is below, we'll try to dodge it," Rana noted for Lt. Commander Babina.  "I am transferring the image of the objects now to the main screen," reported Alytes.  "To my eye, they look like oversized sunflowers."  "Coming up on the plants sir.  In a few moments, we will be directly overhead," reported helm.  "Power surge," barked Otophryne.  "Execute delta," shouted the Captain.  "Chief, prepare to launch rockets."  As Aurora banked right, a bolt of lightning passed within a hull length, hitting nothing but the empty space of where Aurora would have been had she maintained her course.  "Fire rockets, Chief."  "Three rockets away, Sir," reported Otophryne.  "On target and true, there is no need to compensate for atmospherics.  Ten seconds and counting," he continued.  It was clear from the magnified view on the main screen that the heads of the 3 sunflowers were bending and tracking Aurora.  They were, that is, until all three were lost to sight, submerged by a yellowish-orange glow.  Once the bright light faded, it was clear that the sunflowers were gone.  "Again, nice shooting Chief," commented Rana.  "Lt. Alytes, I believe that the planet is now open for your inspection.  You may launch a class-1 probe whenever you are ready."  "Aye aye, Sir.  I am opening the outer doors now."  "After of couple of relaxing visits to planets, it seems as if your early warning timpani were both on full alert today," commented Babina.  "How did you know it was going to attack?"  "For me, the most difficult part was to overcome the psychological barrier that we have about sunflowers," explained the Captain.  "We see them as a pleasant source of food for some of our favorite insects.  I just kept in mind that threats can be very deceptive, and that these sunflowers could pack a punch and be just as dangerous as those mosses back on Barnard.  Chief, what is our current combat status?"  "We are down to 40% on rockets, and have gained a total of 6% combat experience," replied Otophryne.

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/16/2008 6:05:01 AM   
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Stardate 2213.  Kaloula and Pipa have just gotten off engineering watch.  "We've got four hours," noted Kaloula, what are you up for?"  "I could crush you again at mush ball," responded Pipa.  "I don't think that the words 'crush' and 'again' belong in that sentence." Kaloula smiled dryly.  "Let's do a program on the holodeck.  My treat for the credits.  You pick out the program," said Pipa.  A few minutes later, both were scanning the list of available recreational programs outside the holodeck entrance.  "Here's one," pointed out Kaloula, "It's called Sekans."  "Read the back."  "The label says, Looking for excitement?  Then take a hike in the jungle and win extra holodeck credits if you complete the course in under three hours," read Kaloula out loud.  "Hey, between the two of us, we should be able to win some credits.  Let's go for it," responded Pipa.

A few minutes later, Pipa and Kaloula were eye balling a broad, sluggishly flowing muddy river.  On the opposite shore was a mass of jungle, but pretty much directly across the brown expanse, a small break in the green wall was visible.  "Looks like the path takes us over the river," suggested Pipa.  "Let's hope that the water is warm."  The water was indeed almost body temperature warm.  "No problem as long as you don't drink it," joked Kaloula.  About half way across, Pipa noticed two huge logs blocking their path.  "There's something odd about those logs," he noted.  "That's because they are not logs.  Look closer," suggested Kaloula.  Suddenly, one of the logs sprouted four legs, big teeth, and turned to glare at them.  "Crocodiles!" croaked Pipa.  Both amphibians dove deep, using the poor underwater visibility as a means to get under and behind the crocodiles.  No dummies, the croc's split up, with one guarding the route ahead, and the other responsible for pursuit and herding.  Fortunately, the croc's were big and the amphibians small, fast and maneuverable, and it was not long before Kaloula and Pipa were walking on the trail leaving the river behind.  "They say that size matters," commented Pipa, smiling, "but not that time."  The path was a cross between a swamp and a jungle.  Oddly, every so often the ground would seem to rumble, and visibly shake, making the vines crossing the path sway back and forth.  Pipa whacked at the vines with his walking stick.  "That's different, one of the vines has an interesting repeating pattern," he noted.  "Try not to disturb anything," warned Kaloula, "and look, your vine is moving."  ""It's a snake!  Run!"  Both amphibians hopped for all they were worth, splashing muddy water and trampling leaves and fronds.  The snake quickly lost interest, and once again they were alone.  "Phew, what is that smell?" asked Kaloula.  "It's seems to be coming from that oozing mud along the side of the path," observed Pipa.  Indeed, the path was now higher and dryer, elevated about four feet above a green-black swirl of mud, which occasionally emitted horrid vapors.  Pipa kept up a running conversation.  "Could be worse, at least this place has mosquitoes.  Chewy and tasty.  Looks like were coming to a break."  Both amphibians could now see about 100 yards ahead, where the jungle gave way to the edge of a cliff.  Centered in the cliff was the entrance of a dark cave.  Suddenly, from out of the cave, flew a massive black swarm.  "What the . . ." spoke Kaloula.  As the swarm approached, one tiny black winged creature landed on Pipa's arm.  "Yeeouch! that thing bites," exclaimed Pipa, swatting at the animal.  "Vampire bats!" shouted Kaloula, "Get off the path, head for the mud."  With only seconds to spare before being enveloped by the swarm, both amphibians submerged themselves in the stinking mud.  "Lay still," whispered Kaloula unnecessarily, "maybe they will pass."  "Something better happen soon," gagged Pipa.  The swarm circled the spot where the two amphibians had disappeared, blasting the air with high pitched sonar scans.  Finding nothing, just as quickly as it arrived, it disappeared.  Both Amphibians climbed out of the mud.  "I don't know if we look worse, or smell worse," Kaloula growled.  "What?  I can't hear you," said Pipa.  "My tympani are still vibrating from all that squeeking."  Their complaints to each other were interrupted by a repeat of the shaking earth and a rumbling, followed by the noise of something from above crashing through the trees and landing about 15 yards ahead, coming to rest partially on the path and partially in the mud.  "What was that?" Pipa found himself asking.  Both amphibians cautiously walked up to the the black object.  It was nearly spherical, and smoked and hissed where it contacted the mud.  With a start, Kaloula recognized it for what it was, "Pumice."  "Pumice?" questioned Pipa.  "Volcanic rock," answered Kaloula.  "One must be one very close.  Indeed, the next turn on the path revealed that they were at the edge of the jungle.  Here, the air was noticably hot, smelled a new kind of terrible, and ahead lay only smoking stumps and the narrow path leading up a small hill.  Thirty yards to the right, a stream of glowing yellow molten rock and metal carved a river-like path downhill.  "Up and at em," Kaloula announced bravely.  "Next time you pay the credits," added Pipa.  The top of the hill revealed a spectacular view of a crater filled with bubbling liquid, and a signpost with a red button marked "exit".  Sweating profusely, Kaloula pushed the button, and immediately a door opened to the corridor next to the holodeck, and they were out.  Still covered with partially caked mud, both trooped to the entrance to return the program.  As Kaloula placed it in its slot, a panel lit up.  "You have placed in the top 10 for the time to complete this program," he read.  "Please type in your name."  "Carefully he filled in KALOULA and PIPA.  "What place did we get," asked Pipa.  "Fifth."  "Who's in first?"  "From what I can tell, Chief Otophryne completed the course an hour faster that we did," noted Kaloula.  Pipa had only one last comment, "That's one record he can keep."                             

< Message edited by oi -- 7/20/2008 1:46:49 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/18/2008 2:08:28 AM   
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Stardate 2214.  Evening finds Lt.Commander Babina sitting at his favorite table on the observation deck, going over and filling out reports and reading his mail.  Outside, Aurora is passing by a large nebula.  Back on Sol-1, the nebula can be seen with the unaided eye.  It is a fuzzy jeweled sword handle for the great hero Dendrobates in the constellation of the same name.  Gazing at the turbulent clouds, Babina can recall his first views of the nebula in a small telescope as a juvenile.  Through the telescope, it then appeared as rumpled grey to white coverlets on a bed, backlit by a quartet of tiny suns.  Like himself at that time, he understood that the four stars that fired up the nebula were also juveniles.  The gas, dust, ice, small rocks and metals concentrated in this region of space were all part of the birthing process for these stars, and perhaps for others yet unborn.  Now, in all its three dimentional glory, the nebula flared indeed like an aurora (Aurora's namesake) colored with mostly reds and yellows.  It hung in space like the shades of a suspended lamp, lit internally with the bulb of four suns.  Momentarily, Babina wondered if this vision of an aurora in space contained a hidden meaning as a positive or a negative symbolic sign of impending future events.  Currently, Aurora was on a Westward course for the Pegasus system, located approximately 3 ly West Southwest of Sol-1.  This was the second of the new star systems picked up on Lt. Alytes scanners.  By coincidence, the nebula found itself positioned directly in the projected path of the starship.  In the same spirit that pilots avoided moisture laden thunderheads when flying back on Sol-1, Aurora had altered her course to divert past the dust laden clouds of the nebula.  Thinking of Sol-1, thanks to the adventures of Aurora, he read that the shipyards there were backed up with orders for type-1 deep space freighters.  Just yesterday a new order had gone out to make one for Apodis, and collect its annual output of $5 in minerals.  A note from one of his friends at the university indicated that for nearly two weeks now, research at Sol-1 had been working full time on the plans for a new science laboratory, with additional plans for several of them to be built at the various cities on the planet.  It was hoped that an early investment in research would pay off in long term dividends for the Amphibians.  Certainly, and this was the part that affected Babina directly, nothing was known of the relative differences in technology between the Amphibians and other species that almost certainly inhabited the galaxy.  Babina texted back that, thus far the mission had been fairly uneventful and that he hoped to make it back for a planetside visit within a week or two.  Knowing that he had an early watch tomorrow, Babina took one last long look at the nebula before heading for the sack.         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/19/2008 5:21:52 AM   
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Stardate 2215.  0120 hours, Engineering.  Pipa and Kaloula are standing the midnight to four watch.  Although the passageways of Aurora are darkened, once through the doors into engineering, the lights are turned on full.  At this hour, the only sounds are the throbbing pulse of the warp drive and the blowing of the forced air ventillation system.  "That's it for this set of readings," Pipa commented as he absently pushed a few buttons on his notepad.  "I can feel that cup of stim-caf wearing off," noted Kaloula.  "But if I drink another tonight, I'll never fall asleep later."  Both sets of slowly fading amphibian eyes scanned the monitors and dials, looking for something out of the ordinary.  Something that would betray the slightest departure from the constant steady state hum of the engines.  "Actually, we're lucky to be on watch together," said Kaloula.  "Once you are qualified, we will be standing them alone."  "Speaking of qualifying, what's next on my list?" asked Pipa.  "Let me pull up your program."  Kaloula flipped a few screens on his datapad " . . . its right here and its, metallurgy."  "That will keep me awake," Pipa growled sarcastically.  Kaloula had an idea.  "Tell you what.  I'll watch the control panel and you read the manual.  After you finish the chapter, we'll quiz each other.  Five questions each.  Winner treats the other to desert tonight."  "Your questions had better be fair ones," warned Pipa.  "No problem, they will be word for word out of the manual."  "Okay, you're on," announced Pipa.  He rolled his chair down to the end of the panel and pulled out a large manual.  Opening to chapter 23, he flipped on the screen and began to read, 'Metallurgy, or why starship hulls are so strong.  The study of metallurgy likely began in prehistoric times, when someone sitting aroung a campfire noticed that certain shiny rocks would melt in the heat of the fire.  Later, after the fire was out, the rock would turn solid again, but with a new shape.  The testing of different rocks discovered ductile metals like iron and copper, and later the search for new metallic properties lead to the blending of metals, beginning with bronze and leading to steel.  Problems in creating a homogeneous mixture, and elimination of small discontinuities that resulted in flaws and cracking were addressed by perpendicular deposition of metallic sprays in a vacuum.  Starship hulls were much stronger than those made up of ordinary metals.  They were built in the vacuum of space, and the trick was to project the metal spray at an angle.  In that way, the first atoms to hit formed a small pile; a pile which blocked new incoming atoms from being deposited behind them.  Instead, the incoming atoms would stack on top of one another, forming angled columns.  By periodically rotating the angle of deposition, a submicroscopic geometric pattern of interlocking columns could be created, one that is much stronger that the association of atoms found in a typical melt.'  The next few panels were dedicated to an interactive program, where Pipa was encouraged to use his imagination to create different designs.  Each design was then analyzed for strength, and the results flashed to the student.  "Hey Kaloula, forget the quiz.  I challenge you to designing the strongest starship hull metal."  Kaloula answered back, "Sure, I'm game.  Go ahead and start."  Utilizing his new found knowledge, Pipa drew in a design that would have done justice to a fortress and handed the manual to Kaloula.  Kaloula, in turn, stopped to think for a few minutes, and then drew in a design that would have created raves at a minimalist art show.  On comparing the two designs, Pipa couldn't help but chuckle, "I know what I'm going to be eating tonight."

1723, Mess Deck.  Smacking his lips with a satisfied look, Kaloula observed, "I'm glad I went easy on the main course so that I had plenty of room for a double helping of dessert."  "There will be another time," spit out Pipa. 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/20/2008 2:53:00 AM   
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Stardate 2216.  In the world of amphibians and their leaders, Starship captains occupy a unique and isolated position.  Command decisions are final, made on the spot, under duress, and without consultation.  Like doctors who avoid getting too intimate with failing patients, Captains of warships avoid creating relationships with their subordinates, any one of which he could be forced to order to a terrible fate.  While underway, whether in a wooden sailing ship or in an advanced starship, Captains sense every vibration in the same way that one feels their own skin.  For Captain Rana, the clank of a dropped spanner three decks down and many compartments far away in engineering at three in the morning is more than enough to put him on instant alert.  Just as quickly as it went off, his internal alarm system resets, and Rana dozes off again.

0730 Captain's mess.  A more refreshed Rana is meeting with his executive officer, Lt. Commander Babina.  That this little get together is taking place at breakfast was carefully orchestrated by the Captain.  Of all the officers, Babina is closest to the command position, and mentoring is part of Rana's duties.  Indeed, he welcomes the opportunity to get to know Babina better.  "I'd like to put you in charge of a program of surprise drills," Rana offers.  "One that can keep the crew on their toes and better enable them to respond to emergencies."  "What would you suggest, Sir?" query's Babina.  "Mix in some that involve the whole crew, with others that take place in local stations," the Captain suggested, carefully keeping the details of his plan ambiguous so as not to suppress Babina's initiative.  "During the drills, I'll man the bridge stations, and you can use Chief Otophryne to assist you in monitoring the response and progress of the crew," he continued.  Babina lightly salted, then cut into a slice of bread covered with one of the Captain's selection - over easy pine beetles.  While inherently cautious, he was warming to the thought.  "We could begin with abandon ship," he offered.  "The key here is for everyone to be at their stations in the least amount of time.  Although I hope that the crew would take the drill seriously.  After all, even if everyone made it to the life pods and ejected, no one would rescue us."  "It is up to you and the Chief to make then take the drill seriously," the Captain remarked.  "Aurora may not be the only starship Amphibia ever builds.  Or, it is not out of place to imagine a battle taking place over the surface of Sol-1."  Babina did not want to imagine to vividly any battle that would require the abandonment of Aurora, much less a battle over Sol-1.  "Sir, I'll draw up a program of interesting drills, and have it to you by 0800 tomorrow."  "Very good.  I'll look forward to it.  Please pass me the syrup."                           

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/21/2008 6:02:36 AM   
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Stardate 2217.  The long flight from Apodis to the Pegasus system has given Lt. Alytes time to study his 'snow cone', a cored sample from one of Sol-1's repiuk objects.  He was disappointed, but not surprised, that no life forms could be grown from it.  He had done his best to provide a gentle warming cycle and a generous supply of potential nutrients.  In contrast, spectral analysis revealed plenty of chemistry.  Scans from the instrument read like the back of a list of ingredients from a prepackaged food sample, including:  water, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, and methyl cyanide.  The atoms that made up this exotic concoction were the same as those that made up his body - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.  A faint trace of color betrayed the presence of polyaromatic hydrocarbons, a mixture of larger more complex organic molecules that Alytes imagined were similar to those that gave color to Sol-1's flowers.  Interspersed within the ices were submicroscopic grains of minerals, such as olivine, calcite, aluminum oxide, and even an occasional carbonate and clay.  These were a cause of additional thought to Alytes, for their formation required a certain degree of heating, and as a result, perhaps his sample was not as primordial as he had once hoped.  "Excuse me Sir," interrupted one of his technicians.  "But you should take a look at these readings."  Alytes looked closely at the offered data pad.  Currently, Aurora was heading in a west northwesterly direction.  Shortly after passing the nebula in Dendrobates, she had made her closest approach to Sol-1, and now, every passing minute was leaving their home in the distance.  Ahead lay unexplored space, and it was in this region that the technician had seen something.  In real time, the long-range scanner input was mostly grey fuzz, but there . . . off to one side, a tiny pinpoint of light had stabilized.  "Yes, there is no doubt about it," confirmed Alytes.  Quickly he read off the coordinates.  A new star system with planets was out there, about 4 ly to the northwest of Sol-1 near the star Velorum.  Alytes always enjoyed the surge of life that he felt in those moments where he either learned something new or made a discovery.  This time was no exception.  "Let's take a break," he offered to his assistant.  "We need to celebrate." 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/22/2008 6:37:38 AM   
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Stardate 2218.  Bridge.  The yellow sun of Pegasus, shining from the rear of Aurora, gave a lovely glow to the medium-sized cloud shrouded planet taking center stage on the forward screen.  Aurora had arrived early in the morning hours, found two planets in this star system, and was rapidly approaching standard orbit to the nearest one.  As Aurora seemingly rolled above the surface of the planet, Chief Otophryne suddenly barked out, "Two objects in orbit, heading 232+57, approaching rapidly."  "Main screen, maximum magnification," ordered Captain Rana.  There they were, looking very similar to the objects seen and destroyed by Aurora at Barnard.  Although they really were a form of space mine, the crew had taken to calling them 'killer satellites', primarily because they packed quite a wallop in explosives.  "Change course to 074-33," ordered Rana.  "Let's see if they change course to follow us."  The next few minutes suggested that although the killer satellites did alter their courses, the changes were apparently made at random, and that they were not specifically tracking Aurora.  "Either we are out of range of their sensors, or their movements are on some sort of program," noted Rana.  "They move much faster than we can, so the trick is to rocket them before they can surprise us with a rapid course change.  Open outer doors for the rocket launchers."  "Doors are open, rockets are ready," responded the Chief.  "Wait until they cross paths together and then fire two rockets."  "Yes Sir."  In the mind of Lt.Commander Babina, the killer satellites looked like two very evil little insects, with their antennae probing this way and that, searching for a victim.  "Rockets away," announced the Chief.  There was no sound, but suddenly a pair of bright flashes and residual glows were all that remained of the sentrys.  "All in a day's work.  Lt. Alytes, the planet is yours to investigate," said Rana.  "Yes Sir, it's clearly a type 5, big on clouds, small on minerals," responded the lieutenant.  "Clearly someone has gone to a lot of trouble to place sentinal objects on many of the star systems with planets," said Babina thoughtfully, "but why?"        

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/24/2008 4:13:08 AM   
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Stardate 2219.  Bridge 0810.  There are only two planets in the Pegasus system, and the distance between the already explored outer one and the inner one has been bridged by Aurora during the evening and night hours.  As usual, Captain Rana ordered a very gradual approach; an approach designed not to set off any planetary alarms that a starship is cruising about nearby.  Planet formation follows rules, and in most star systems with multiple planets, the inner ones are small and rocky.  Pegasus II is no exception.  Surprisingly, it is well defended, as Chief Otophyrne's sensors pick up three more space mines.  Thus far these mines (or killer satellites) have not created much of a problem, and Captain Rana debates an idea in his head.  "Lt. Commander Babina," he suggested, "Why don't you take the com for a little live action target shooting?"  Obviously startled, Babina is momentarily torn between feelings of pleasure, responsibility, and uncertainty.  "Go ahead.  Plan out an attacking maneuver and use your initiative," continued the Captain.  Babina recovers enough to bark out, "Yes Sir.  Helm bring us to course 112+23." "Adjusting course now," responded the helmsman.  Not wanting to appear too tentative in front of the Captain, Babina aggressively approaches the waiting danger.  Two lay to port and one was dead ahead.  "Chief, open rocket doors.  Target the mine directly ahead.  We'll hit that one, then turn to starboard, loop, and then go after the other two."  Almost as if they had heard Babina's plan, the three objects slowed in their movements, wavering in space.  Babina's attention was focused on the target, and just for a brief moment he took his eyes off of the pair to port.  Instantly, and moving at several times the speed of the starship, the explosive pair bore in towards Aurora.  "Fire!" ordered Babina.  "Hard to starboard!" ordered Rana.  When one wants to turn a starship in a hurry, it seems that time crawls to a standstill.  Based on the movement of the planet shifting to the the left of the main screen, Aurora's nose had just begun to swing, when there was a shockingly noisy BOOM BOOM towards the rear of the ship.  The ship briefly shook and vibrated, in the same way that a bell sings when tapped by a hammer.  All lighting flickered, then panels lit up with yellow lights like celebratory fireworks.  "All stop," roared Rana.

Engineering 0827.  Kaloula was knocked against the main drive with the mines hit.  His timpani had not yet recovered from the ringing when he felt a burst of depressurization.  Quickly it stopped.  Apparently the outer hull had been penetrated.  Both the inner and outer hulls are lined with a rubbery plastic coating that both expands and gains a transient burst of flexibility under low vacuum conditions.  As a result, in the case of a minor breach in the hull, the ship is essentially self sealing.  "Pipa," he yelled.  "Grab a sealpak, run to the port generator room and check for leaks."  Hanging from the overhead at strategic points, like lifejackets on board a sea going vessel, were wrapped bags of the self-sealing plastic.  Pipa wasted zero time grabbing the nearest one.  As he opened the door to the generator room, smoke poured out.  "Fire in the generator room," he yelled.  "At least where there's smoke there's air," though Kaloula.  Grabbing an extinguisher, he was dimly aware of the main drive slowing down as he hopped down the passageway to aid Pipa.  Once inside the haze filled room, he could see Pipa looking about vainly for a place to put the patch, amid the glare of red warning lights.  "Forget the patch," he panted, "Shut off the generator."  Together they reached for the lever, with Pipa touching it first and slamming it down, stopping the damaged machine.  Even he knew that without a generator, the main warp engines couldn't be charged, and Aurora would turn into an Amphibian memorial to space exploration.  "How bad is it," he asked Kaloula.  "I can't tell.  At least it was still trying to run when we turned it off."   

Engineering, 1846.  Captain Rana stared at his data pad.  It could have been worse, with 60% damage to the generator and 30% to one of the computers.  Fortunately, it was all repairable, and with damage control parties working round the clock shifts, Aurora could be back to full integrity in a few days.  "If there's a next time, I will sure think twice before turning the com over to Babina," he promised.

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/26/2008 3:11:37 AM   
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Stardate 2220.  Captain's ready room.  Although no one was hurt, the almost festive edge to Aurora's first voyage has been erased.  The shaking from the hits on the hull has long since faded, yet everyone's nerves still vibrated uncontrollably. The fun certainly evaporated out of the lives of those crew members putting in long and extra hours into repairs.  Even for those with any extra time, the holodeck is closed until the second computer can be brought back on line.  Rana is talking with his executive officer, Babina.  "I know that you are feeling down right now," said Rana kindly, "But the responsibility, both good and bad, is mine alone.  Some Admiral back on Sol-1 will be barking out questions, but I'll be prepared.  You had no way of knowing, or anticipating in advance, what those satellites were going to do."  "Yes, Sir," Babain nodded.  "I can't seem to get a handle on when to be aggressive and when to hold back."  "Imagine that what you are feeling is merely one of a series of small stepping stones to crossing a creek," offered the Captain.  "You are still close to the near side, and the confidence that comes with command lies on the other.  When your flippers are resting on the stone, it wobbles.  You look about and see nothing but the indecisiveness of flowing water.  Yet most importantly, that step (where you are right now) was a step in the right direction.  Today you feel the wobbly rock.  But be aware that you will not be on that stone very long.  Tell yourself that indecisiveness is an expected byproduct of growth."  "Well Sir, I guess that I have grown in the last couple of hours."  Babina let in a small smile.  "I don't regret my decisions," added the Captain.  "I am glad that no one was injured and that Aurora was only dented.  A good commanding officer maintains focus on making the best decisions in the moment.  Now, what can we do to get everyone to start breathing again and put this event behind us?"  "Well Sir, Lt. Alytes did finish off the planetary survey.  The system is now ready for freighters, and should bring in about $3 annually in minerals.  We are up to 8% combat experience, but the rocket supply is down to 25%"  "Good.  Here are the next set of orders."  Captain Rana handed Babina a datapad.  "We will continue on the investigate the third planetary system discovered by Aurora, in Aquarius.  As far as is known, there are no other planetary systems within type-1 freighter range of Sol-1, so we might as well check out some potential planetary systems for the future.  Flip the panel for a star chart.  Yes, that one.  Aquarius is 5 ly southwest of Sol-1."  "Somehow, I'm feeling better already," noted Babina.  "You're right.  Sailing on is good medicine for everyone."    

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/28/2008 2:36:43 AM   
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Stardate 2221.  Deep space.  The engines of Aurora are silent, as the starship drifts in space between the Pegasus and Aquarii systems.  On three sides of Kaloula's visor there is nothing but pristine stars, but straight ahead, the hull of Aurora eclipses everything, its greenish paint marred by black scorching.  Hanging in space 30 feet behind him a porta-light shines directly on his back.  Another is 30 feet above him, placed to reduce the shadows from the glare behind him.  He can hear the breathing of Pipa, his spotter, nearby.  In the corner of his eye, he is barely aware of the vac-suit belonging to the other team member, Chief Otophryne, suspended about four feet away.  Two hours earlier, when he and Pipa had volunteered to go out on space walk and patch the hull, it had seemed like an adventure.  But now fatigue was starting to edge in.  Kaloula concentrated intently at the crack between the patch and the hull where his fuse-welder was melting metallic alloy to fill the gap.  He reached back, and Pipa placed another alloy stick in his hand, almost as if he was a nurse assisting the doctor on a patient.  Chief Otophryne's job was different.  He was there to save the "doctor", in case a splattering of hot alloy contacted Kaloula's vac-suit.  In that event, if the hole was small, Otophryne was ready with a flexi-patch kit of his own.  Already attached to Kaloula's suit was an emergency canister of air, to be turned on once the Chief had found the leak and sealed it.  This was neither a task for the fool hardy, nor for those without life insurance.  The blast had ripped a distorted star shaped hole through the outer hull, and ever so slowly, inch by inch, Kaloula proceeded down the length of the longest arm of the star.  "Exchange," grunted Kaloula.  He handed the fuse-welder to Pipa, who in turn, handed him a scraper.  Kaloula turned and scraped away at some of the rubber-like flexi-seal that had crept in between the metallic patch and the hull.  Tiny pieces of black rubber floated in front of his eyes like visions of tasty flies.  "Exchange," he grunted again.  Pipa handled him the fuse-welder as if it was a venomous snake.  "Down this side and we're done," thought Kaloula.  Before Kaloula's eyes, riverlets of metal changed colors from blue-white to orange as they cooled.  Most sank into the crack, but an occasional tiny ball floated away.  These glowed briefly, like miniature fireflys that flickered only once before fading.  The heavily insulated glove on his right hand was starting to blacken around the fingers and wrist from the assault of particles seen and unseen.  "Exchange," he requested.  "How are you feeling?" asked Pipa.  "Almost there," Kaloula replied.  Steadily, his trail of molten alloy crept to meet the now ice cold band where he had first started out, in what seemed like hours ago.  Listening in on the com, Lt.Commander Babina could hear three collective sighs of relief breaking out as Kaloula turned the fuse-welder off.  "Excellent job men," he commended.  "Standby to retrieve the repair team."

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/29/2008 3:24:55 AM   
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Stardate 2222.  Captain's ready room.  Rana looks at his real-time pad and observes how the central sun of the Aquarius system has been accumulating magnitudes in comparison to background stars.  "Come," he responds, in answer to his door chime.  Lt.Commander Babina enters, and hands the Captain an updated report.  "Sir, the generator has been upgraded to only 39% damage.  There has been no progress on the second computer and it still remains at 30% damage.  You will note that I have put in a requisition request for a trained damage control officer when we return to Sol-1."  "Yes, I agree," nodded the Captain.  "As you know, we shoved off in a hurry with only a scientific team aboard.  Practical experience has taught us that most of the stars with planets are also defended with sentrys.  It's inevitable that we will accumulate damage in dealing with the variety of defenses, and we have been fortunate thus far in our encounters with them."  Babina could not help but momentarily think that the Captain was making an oblique reference to the Pegasus incident.  That reference to Pegasus reminded him of an additional note, and he added, "Sir, Sol-1 has ordered up a freighter for Pegasus.  The laboratory is completed in alpha city, and a second one is under construction in beta city."  "Well, we are down to five rockets, so unless there are no planets at Aquarius, it seems likely that we will be paying Sol-1 a visit soon," the Captain noted.  "We'll find out tomorrow."  A flash of movement caught Babina's eye, and he found himself looking in the water that filled the Captain's transparisteel aquarium.  A bright red frilled face with two black eyes peered out at him.  "That's Axolotl," pointed out Rana.  "You seldom see him.  The more camouflaged one without the frills is his lady friend Ambystoma."  Babina stared at Axolotl's eyes, which looked back at him with curiosity, and with intelligence.  In the face of Axolotl, Babina could not help but feel that in some way he was looking at a distant evolutionary relative.  "Like us, they have surprisingly large brains for their body size," the Captain continued, "But it's obviously used for a different purpose than what we are accustomed to."  Axolotl momentarily put both front feet on the clear barrier that separated his world from Babina's, then turned and swam off with a flick of his tail.  "Excellent work on the patch to the outer hull," continued the Captain.  "Maybe we can have a get-together on the way back to Sol-1 and I can personally thank each of the crew who have worked so hard doing a variety of unaccustomed tasks."  Babina considered the thought.  "If all goes well tomorrow, I will speak with the cook and see if we can come up with something special," he answered.       

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/31/2008 3:42:50 AM   
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Stardate 2223.  Bridge 0822.   A few scans by the science team revealed a only a pair of planets in the Aquarii system, a small one close in and a gas giant considerably further out.  Based on Aurora's proximity upon entering the system, Rana selected the larger planet as his first target to explore.  It only took Chief Otophryne a few moments to recognize the characteristic signatures of three plaque mosses, looking very much like those on Barnard.  With deadly seriousness and seemingly infinite patience, Rana maneuvered Aurora into rocket position.  Three times, and each time the Chief's calculations, sharp eye and steady hand placed a rocket face on into the tangled center of the deadly moss.  Sharing the silence that reigned on the planet, Aurora circled one more time, searching for even the smallest of abnormal readings.  There were none.  "Lt. Alytes, you may conduct your survey," spoke the Captain.  "Class-I is away," Alytes replied.  "We appear to have a huge planet with minimal accessible resources."  "Take your time," added Rana.  "It seems unlikely that we will be coming back here soon." 

Bridge 1247.  "Helm, break orbit and set course to 124+57."  "Aye, Sir," acknowledged the helmsman, "124+57."  Looking at Lt.Commander Babina, the Captain asked, "What do the long range scanners show for the second planet."  "It's a little far out to tell yet," answered Babina, "Other than that it is rather small.  Let's hope it is not well defended, as we are down to two rockets.  Time passed quickly, and visual orb of the tiny green planet swelled on the main screen as Aurora approached.  Babina's hope was answered, for the surface was devoid of sentrys.  "Lt. Alytes, break out another class-I probe and lets see what we have," requested the Captain.  "Scanning now, Sir.  It reads out as a very small type 6.  Combined with today's earlier planet it looks as if the system carries an annual return of about $5 in mineral resources."  "That's $5 more resources for Amphibia today than it had yesterday," noted the Captain.  "Helm, set course for Sol-1.  We're going home."           

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/1/2008 3:10:53 AM   
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Stardate 2224.  Crews mess.  This time, Lt. Alytes made sure that he arrived early enough to see the celebratory cake.  It was covered with black mite flavored gelatin, and shaped into a square.  As before, hanging over the cake was a model of Aurora, with one side fire blackened.  Suspended from the overhead and swaying near the ship were three tiny figurines, reproducing the Away-team's success at patching the hull.  Alytes approached Kaloula and Pipa's table, who were clearly enjoying their 15 minutes of fame as celebrities.  Although fermented beverages generally were not allowed on board warships, Captain Rana had not only made an exception but also joined in, with a brief toast to all of the crew who had made Aurora's first space mission a success.  "Mind if I join you two?" Alytes asked.  Kaloula half stood up and half pointed to the open chair, and Alytes solved his indecision by promptly sitting down.  "Let me offer you my congratulations on your space walk," he said with a smile.  "We were glad to do it," chimed in Pipa.  The walk had been a lot harder on Kaloula, but he too nodded in appreciation of the officer's comment.  On the lazy susan in the center of the table was a tray of parasitic worms, twisted into a pretzel shape, deep fried, and served with a tangy sauce and toothpicks.  Using a toothpick, Alytes speared himself a worm.  Pipa looked at Kaloula and thought hard about some kind of question he could ask the Chief Science Officer without embarassing himself.  "Sir, I know that we have a warp drive, and how to maintain it, but there are some theoretical questions that I wonder if you could explain in simple language."  Alytes glanced at Pipa, "No problem, ask away."  "Well, if the speed of light is a universal limit, just how do we exceed that limit?  And if we do, why do we not experience time shifting?  For example, considering how fast we are travelling, Sol-1 should have aged thousands of years in comparison to us," Pipa blurted.  "Slow down," requested Alytes.  "Each question requires some thought to put into common language.  To start with, the answer to question number one is contained in the word 'warp'.  Imagine space to be this placemat here."  Writing with his marker, Alytes continues, "I place two dots on the mat far from each other, one can be Sol-1 (marking a circular planet) and the other can represent the Pegasus system (marking a star).  Then I measure the distance between the two dots.  That is the distance that light has to travel to connect the dots, and for the sake of our analysis let us say that they are 100 light years apart."  Alytes draws a line between the two points and marks it with the number 100.  "We also know that space is curved, which for light means that the shortest distance between the two dots is actually an arc."  Alytes then picks up the mat, holding it in either hand, "But let us curve space even more, by bending (or warping) the mat in half.  Now one can see that the shortest distance between the two dots is not the path taken by light, but an imaginary tunnel that leaves the plane of the mat at Sol-1 here and travels between the folded sheet to re-enter the plane at Pegasus there.  Compared to the 100 years that light has to travel, the length of this tunnel is amazingly short.  The warp drive simply creates a whirlpool in space into which Aurora descends, falling in between that dimension of space travelled by light, until it pops out again at its destination.  Because during this process we do not have to attain an enormous speed close to that of light, problems with time dilation are not encountered."  Alytes stops to take another worm and a sip of his drink.  Pipa nods, "So its a kind of secret shortcut?"  "Shortcut yes, but there are no secrets," answered Alytes.  "Countless particles of matter are doing routinely what Aurora needs a warp drive to reproduce."  "Before you sat down, I had no clue, but suddenly I'm starting to see a whole new picture," exclaimed Pipa.                 

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Post #: 27
RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/2/2008 4:34:53 AM   
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Stardate 2225.  Executive Officer quarters.  Lt. Commander Babina stirs restlessly in his cabin, his eyes glued to the computer screen.  Once again, he is playing a re-enactment of the action off of Pegasus.  On the screen, Babina takes manual control of the Aurora image, experimenting with different scenarios.  Given the many choices and approaches one could take to the three mine problem, he is gradually becoming aware that the actual course he had chosen was one of the better ones.  With insight gained from study, he could see that the hidden flaw behind most course selections was Aurora's limited maneuverability.  The starship was quick in handling at forward and reverse, but very poor at turning.  By keeping their distance until the approaching starship was vulnerable on its sides, over and over again the killer satellites exploited this particular weakness.  "It is almost as if the unknown designers of the satellites had known in advance the limitations to starships, and programmed their nasty mines accordingly," he thought.  Pausing the action in mid-program, Babina stood up and walked to the control station across from his desk, where he thumbed up the humidifier another notch.  Sitting down again, he took a sip of hot pond water from the insul-cup, and opened a small side screen for calculations.  Programming these into his computerized 'Aurora', he then re-ran the simulation.  With extra maneuverability in just two movements, the same approach would have resulted in a completely different outcome.  On screen, Aurora destroyed the forward satellite, with plenty of time to execute an up and over maneuver that set the next space mine right within the targeting sights.  With a satisfied look on his face, Babina copied down the parameters onto his hand held pad.  "Once were are back at Sol-1, I will pay my friend at the university a visit," he mused.       

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Post #: 28
RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/4/2008 6:16:16 AM   
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Stardate 2226.  Engineering 1412.  Kaloula and Pipa are standing the 12-4 watch.  The steady thrum of the engine rings with the message that they are more than half-way home from their visit to the Aquarii system.  The generator has been fully repaired, and although the second computer is still off line with 16% damage, life has begun to return to normal for the crew.  Another hour, another set of readings logged in.  If one ignores the pulse of the engines, the lower decks are always among the quietest on the ship, and this afternoon is no exception.  "Do you think that the crew will be given leave on our return to Sol-1?' asked Pipa.  "No one knows," replied Kaloula.  "Certainly it will take some time for space dock to replace our exhausted rocket supply.  And if the computer is still not repaired, they might have to replace it, which will only increase our stay," added Kaloula.  "I certainly wouldn't mind taking a shuttle down to the surface and finding a sweet watering hole to lie in," said Pipa, closing his eyes to better imagine the thought.  "I know a place outside of alpha city that would be perfect.  If we both get time off, I'd be glad to take you for a visit," offered Kaloula.  "Water?" asked Pipa.  "Warm," replied Kaloula.  "Bugs?"  "Thick and juicy."  "Mud?"  "Oozy to your fingers and toes."  "Lily pads?"  "With flowers."  "Count me in.  It sounds great!" enthused Pipa. 

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Post #: 29
RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/6/2008 6:16:45 AM   
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Stardate 2227.  Bridge.  For the past 10 minutes, Aurora has been carefully aligning itself with the open portal of Space dock-1.  Over the ship's comm is playing an amphibian greeting chorus, courtesy of Space dock control.  Everyone on the bridge is spontaneously tapping something to the familiar drum beat and rhythmic croaking.  Only a good dose of military discipline prevents one or two crew members from breaking out in song, but a trace amount of spontaneous humming is certainly audible.  The relief of seeing something familiar so close, after so many days of darkness and alien landscapes, brings out smiles on nearly every face.  "Thrusters ahead one-third," orders Rana.  "Ahead one-third," is the answering response.  After what has seemed a patience testing long wait, Aurora begins moving in toward the dock.  Opportunistically, a shuttle just up from Sol-1 is also approaching Space dock-1 on a different vector, catching a flash of sunlight.  The Aurora finds itself the center of attention for a new audience of shuttle passengers, peering out the transparisteel viewports.  Going back in, just as he had on the way out, Rana's eyes stray to the starboard strut indicator.  Not a problem.  Rana can not help but think how embarrasing it would be should Aurora bend its strut on the final seconds of the mission.  "All Stop," he commanded.  "Set locking bolts."  There was an audible hiss and bang as the four bolts formed a solid contact between the ship and the dock.  "Aurora, standby to close the outer doors," announced space dock control.  "Shut down thrusters, shift main power to space dock," ordered Rana.  The comm hummed again, "Initiating outer door closing sequence."  "Lt.Commander Babina, announce to all hands that a three day liberty will commence starting at 09:45 hours," said Rana.  "With pleasure, sir," answered Babina.         

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