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RE: Amphibians Ascendant

 
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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/7/2008 4:13:02 AM   
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Stardate 2228.  Space dock-1.  Dressed in his best set of whites, Captain Rana carefully steps over a pair of disconnected cables lying on the deck.  They lead to a set of gapping holes, the former sites of Aurora's pair of electronic computers.  Rana chuckles with irony, at the thought of the extra hours of hard work put in by his crew all the way from Pegasus to repair the instruments, only to have them yanked out and sent to the recycle yards upon their return.  "Perhaps the repair of the computers was a more realistic project than running one of Lt.Commander Babina's drills," he considered.  Right at this moment, a shuttle carrying both of the newly designed optical computers was in route to space dock-1.  Rana had read the spec's, and theoretically these new babies were designed to increase the scanner range by up to 5-10 ly.  "Provided, of course, that they do not come with their own insects," he thought.  He did not want to find this out the first time he ordered tactical to fire some rockets.  Also in his mind flashed a brief worry that his favorite holodeck program might not be compatible with the new programming, but if anything, new holodeck software would soon be specifically written for the optical computer system.  Lengthening his stride, Rana traversed the small tunnel that served as a gangplank between Aurora and corridor-7 of space dock.  Resting in the corridor to his right he saw a long train of wheeled platforms, each containing a rocket.  Rana turned left, seeking conference room A113.
       At precisely 10:00 hours, he knocked briskly.  "Enter," commanded the voice from within, and the panel rose.  Seated at a prominent desk, he recognized the face of Admiral Ansonia, one of his old instructors from the academy.  Ansonia's features were no longer smooth like those of most amphibians, but his eyes sparkled with interest and wisdom.  "Commander Rana, how good to see you.  I want to congratulate you on your mission's success."  "Thank you, Sir," replied Rana.  "Have a seat."  Rana sat down in the large chair next to the desk, a chair that immediately conformed to his posture and came equipped with flexi-cooling water coils.  Aurora obviously did not have a seat like this one.  "I have read over your report, and wonder if you could tell me more about the sentries that you continually encountered."  "Sir, they fell into two categories - either mimics of natural systems like storms or plants, or obvious alien artifacts, like killer satellites."  "And why do you suppose someone went to a lot of trouble to install these sentries?" queried the admiral.  "Certainly not to defend the planet," answered Rana.  "Perhaps they are more like markers."  "Markers?" asked the admiral.  "Yes.  In order to scan the planet, each of the sentries had to be removed.  Since sentries were in place on every star system that we visited, it is apparent that no other star ship has visited those planets since the sentries were initially put in place," continued Rana.  "Well, we knew that historically the Keracks considered this quadrant of the galaxy to be somewhat of a backwater location," suggested the admiral.  "You have provided a new piece of evidence that also fits this pattern.  Perhaps this is good, considering our embryonic state of space flight."  Ansonia then picked up a data pad and read off the list.  "Your next mission will be to investigate the Serpens system.  Currently it is outside of type-1 freighter range, but we expect that the new type-2's will be available shortly.  Your efforts have enabled Sol-1 to improve its fiscal status to $2570, with an annual income of $12.  As a result, I am augmenting your scientific staff with an additional two scientists, bringing your total to eight.  In addition, I am granting your request for an engineering officer.  Lt. Chaunus will report to Aurora prior to your departure.  He comes highly recommended."  "Thank you, Sir," answered Rana.  "You do not have to thank me," continued Admiral Ansonia.  "I always knew that you were the right amphibian for the mission." 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/11/2008 4:14:27 AM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2229.  Sol-1.  Pipa and Kaloula are resting on separate lily pads floating on a wide shallow pond.  To the right are reeds and bullrushes poking through the surface of the water.  To the left is a muddy shore, beyond which one can see a meadow, with a small herd of quadrupeds grazing.  All the visual effects are secondary, however, to those of sound - the glorious thrum resonating on the ear drums made by the riot of a thousand wingbeats of different frequencies.  From the tiniest of near invisible flies to the heavy pulse of beetles, Pipa can hear and track them all, much in the same way one would draw geometric patterns to connect stars in the night sky.  He lays back, eyes closed, with flippers hanging in the water from the knees up, half dreaming and half listening.  The decaying mass of fecal droppings from the quadrupeds has attracted flies, and when the wind shifts ever so slightly, hordes of thirsty flies drift to the water.  Confronted with a smorgasbord of chewy meaty choices, Pipa half-interestedly debates over whether to try a fly, a freshly hatched mosquito, or that pair of mating dragonflies.  "What did I tell you, isn't this the place to be?" asks Kaloula, contentedly.  "I will never question your choices again," replies Pipa, who has a habit of questioning Kaloula's choices.  Kaloula takes slow deep breaths of the rich oxygen, while dipping and lightly flipping his wrists in the greenish water to orient his lily pad.  He is thinking of a conversation with the science officer, Lt.Alytes, who had mentioned that the presence of oxygen is one of the key elements that the scanners are tuned to when sampling the atmosphere of planets.  For until life can form and release oxygen from water, it is rare for planetary atmosphere's to contain oxygen.  "The sensors would have maxed out when testing Sol-1," he thought.  For the combination of early development of plant life and late development of animal life had allowed atmospheric oxygen levels to approach 24%.  As a result, many insects of Sol-1 grew to huge sizes, which in turn, lead to the rise of amphibian life on the planet, and to this happy moment on the pond.  "Don't fill up on flies," he called to Pipa.  "See that grove of trees bordering the meadow?  Those are figs.  And ripe figs mean only one thing."  "Fig beatles!" cried out Pipa, enthusiastically.  "Yep, too big to swallow in a single bite," Kaloula continued.  "But stuck with a stick and slow roasted over a charcoal fire . . . its a dream come true."  "I can remember catching fig beetles as a juvenile," Pipa reminisces.  "They are so heavy, it is absolutely amazing that they can fly at all.  We would tie strings to their legs and fly them like kites.  After flying about erratically, most would slip their strings and escape."  Kaloula added, "Camping at night, a small fire, embers rising to meet the stars, and fig beetles, what a perfect combination."    

< Message edited by oi -- 8/13/2008 5:39:28 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/13/2008 6:12:55 AM   
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Stardate 2230.  Space dock-1, 0645 hours.  After darkening the lights, Lt. Alytes stares out the clear transparisteel viewport of space dock-1, looking at the myriads of stars.  The sun has recently set behind Sol-1, and rapidly the atmospheric rim faded, leaving a dark sky.  He is searching for a small periodic comet, named Atelopus.  As a juvenile, he can recall seeing the comet, which has a period of a little more than 106 stardates.  Perhaps once every few years or so, a really bright comet lights up the skies over Sol-1.  But no one could ever mistake Atelopus for a spectacular object.  This year's pass features a particularly favorable close approach, and even knowing exactly where to look in the sky, Alytes is having trouble picking it out.  Finally, as his eyes adjust, he can make out the faintest of fuzzy glows, no tail, nothing to indicate that it is out of the ordinary, except that it will not be there tomorrow.  Mission accomplished, and feeling satisfied at his success at making contact with this celestial visitor, Alytes turns the lights back on and heads down the corridor for Aurora. 

Aurora, 0817 hours.  Lt. Alytes checks up on three members of his staff who are recalibrating the scanners, using inputs from the new optical computers.  Although both machines were designed to be identical, putting out the same outputs, in practice small adjustments always have to be made.  Looking at the printouts, he notes that considerable progress is being made, and compliments his staff accordingly.   

Aurora, 1147 hours.  Alytes has been pushing piles of paperwork around in his cabin for over an hour when there is a knock on his door.  "Come in," he replies.  As the door opens, he sees Lt. Commander Babina, with two yellow-clad strangers.  "I found these two wandering the passage ways, and I wonder if they belong to you," asked Babina rather cheerfully.  "I'll claim them," answered Alytes, as he recognized that these must be the two additional staff members reporting for the next mission.  "Welcome aboard, I'm Lt. Alytes.  Come on in, take a seat.  You've just been assigned to go on the ride of your life."           

< Message edited by oi -- 8/21/2011 9:11:09 PM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/14/2008 4:06:18 AM   
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Stardate 2231.  Space dock-1.  Although Lt.Commander Babina has not had the opportunity to get down to the surface of Sol-1, the last few days have been fairly relaxing.  Gone are the constant sounds of a starship in space.  Instead, with only a skeleton crew, and most of the upgrades near completion, the interior of the ship rings with silence.  Since meals are not being served on board, Babina has made an occasional sojourn to the space dock's canteen, with surprisingly good results.  The selection is far more extensive than what can be found on a warship, even if Aurora barely qualifies as such.  Babina has discovered pill bug ice cream, a grey concoction that cleverly masks the added bugs that pop with favor when they hit the palate.  Putting down his data pad for a moment, he helps himself to a heroic sized scoop, and closes his eyes with delight.  His duties require that he remain close to the ship, but otherwise there is not a lot to do, and right now Babina takes particular interest in reading smallest details from the Sol-1 Times.  Ordinarily, he would not have the time to even scan the headlines, but now the easy reading serves as a relaxant.  Flipping the screen brings up the crossword puzzle.  Absently, he looks at the first clue.  "An eight letter word for a space visitor that begins with the letter A," he reads.  His first thought is that, "Aurora has only six letters."  Being closer to space than most of the millions of readers who might consider trying the puzzle, he should easily solve the clue, but his brain is focused more on ice cream than on power thinking.  He flips the screen, and looks at several pictures of the new laboratory up and running in Alpha city, with construction of a second well underway in Beta city.  His thoughts drift back to Aurora.  "I wonder if the holodeck is back on line?  Maybe I could try out the diving pool and work off some of the excess calories that I've just consumed."  Today is a good day to do so, for the Captain should be back tomorrow from his meet and greet the big brass and news media tour.  "Once the Captain returns, I'll be able to shuttle down to Sol-1 for at least a few hours."  With departure date set at 2233 0800 hours, the rest of the crew will be returning tomorrow also.  With those limited plans in mind, he punches a few buttons and makes some calls.   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/18/2008 1:43:02 AM   
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Stardate 2232.  Space dock-1.  Captain Rana is relaxing in his ready room, reading the Bio on Lt. Chaunes.  He plans to assign him the duties of a combination engineering/damage control officer, as Aurora currently has both slots open.  Right now he is one happy amphibian, particularly since all the wining, dining, and hobknobbing with reporters, public officials, and naval brass is finally over, and he is safely back on board his ship.  To Rana, it is personally very difficult to accept full credit for Aurora's successful first mission, when in his opinion, much can be put down to simple luck.  Had the tiny ship been trapped amid giant storms, upon visiting its very first planetary system, and had to return for repairs, the reception would not have been quite as warm.  Despite his best persuasive efforts, few on Sol-1 appreciated the loneliness of space, when home is just a tiny dot on a screen, and the constant dangers for which there is no safety except in one's own resourcefulness.  He puts down the Bio and picks up the replenishment report.  Aurora is pretty much topped off.  Nearly all the crew has returned, and departure is scheduled for 0800 in the morning. 

Suddenly a little thirsty, he gets up and walks out onto the empty bridge, heading for the turbolift.  Just as the doors open with a soft swish, he notices the white uniform of an officer carrying a heavy bag, approaching through the gangplank.  "Ah, the new Lieutenant," he murmurs with recognition.  "Permission to come aboard," calls out Lt. Chaunus, saluting.  "Permission granted, and welcome aboard," responds Rana.  "I was just taking the turbolift to the crews mess.  Bring your bag and I'll show you to your cabin."  "Thank you, Sir", said Chaunus gratefully.  "Things are a little tight on board a Scout class warship, but I'm sure that you'll be able to squeeze in," continued the Captain.  "We are now on Deck 2, follow the passageway to starboard for the crews quarters.  Here it is, and look, your name is already on the door.  On Aurora, we walk a thin line between the tightness required for instant action, and relaxation necessary to deal psychologically with isolation.  Put down your bag, refresh, and walk around a bit.  Meet me at 1700 hours at my ready room for a briefing."  "Thank you for the assistance, Sir.  It has been a pleasure meeting you," replied Lt. Chaunus.                

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/21/2008 3:00:11 AM   
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Stardate 2233.  0822 hours.  Aurora pulls away from Space dock-1 as if the ship and its crew were veterans of over 200 missions, rather than its being only the second.  The only fanfare to accompany its departure was a selection of drum music, picked out by someone in space dock control.  Although it was morning on board the starship, it was rapidly approaching early evening at Beta city planetside.  Two days ago, Captain Rana had been talked into doing a flyover of the city, as part of a publicity gesture.  Although the citizens would see little more than a large bright star-like object moving across the sky, it was a chance for each amphibian to both interact with and feel the adventure of space travel.  From horizon to horizon, Aurora would only be visible for about two minutes, before it would turn away and head out for deep space.  Although it had not been broadcast over the newsnet, the crew of the starship was well aware that their mission was to explore the Serpens star system, currently just over 4 ly South southeast of Sol-1.  It was outside of type-1 freighter range, but as Aurora had cleaned up all the easy star systems on its last trip, it was time to both find new ones and to take on the more distant ones.  Suddenly, as if to celebrate the mission, an brilliant auroral event began, creating a huge circlet of light over the planet's northern pole.  On the bridge, Lt. Alytes projected a small screen from his magnetic scanner onto the upper right quadrant of the main screen, and one could see plasma gas from the solar wind braking to a halt in the magnetic field of the planet, about 5 planetary diameters out.  Concurrently, about 8 planetary diameters behind the planet, a second neutral zone was forming.  In between, collected electrons rained down on the upper atmosphere, creating the magically colorful lights.  As Aurora approached her 100 km standard orbit, the angle between the ship and the aurora decreased, and the image of the circle was lost, only to be replaced by the visually satisfying sight of actually growing closer to the aurora.  Finally, Captain Rana gave the order for a small course correction, and the starship turned south for Beta city.  After the flyover, Aurora gained altitude and changed course again to head away from the planet and its sun.  Interestingly, at about the same time, a huge oval of relatively hot plasma broke free from its string-like tether to the earth's magnetic field, and seemingly briefly chased them, before soon being left far behind.     

< Message edited by oi -- 8/21/2011 5:45:21 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/23/2008 2:27:39 AM   
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Stardate 2234.  Bridge.  Lt. Alytes is training the two new members of his staff on the use and capabilities of Aurora's complex scanning system.  The starship is about one-third of the way on its journey to the Serpens system, currently approaching the previously explored Barnard star system.  To starboard in the far distance lies the jewel box nebula, while to port, Aurora is passing a pretty cluster of stars.  "It is Cluster A47, also known to astronomers as the Cophylin cluster," Alytes pointed out.  "As you can see from the projected motion indicators, all of the members of this cluster share a common motion.  Overlay with the spectrometer (pull down the rainbow symbol) to examine the star colors, and it is clear that all the cluster members share both a similar age and a similar composition."  "And why is that?" he asks.  "Because they were once part of the same giant molecular cloud that was shocked into condensing, probably by a nearby supernova," answered the youngest amphibian.  "Correct," noted Alytes.  "Had we the time to analyze the system in detail, we could actually trace out the initiating event."  "For example, where would you start?" he asks the other.  "Uh, look for a supernova remnant?" he guesses, after a brief pause.  "There are more logical approaches, and that remnant is likely long gone," replied Alytes.  "How about you?" he asks again, directing his gaze at the younger amphibian.  "I think, sir, that since its formation this group has been circulating about the galaxy.  Perhaps for nearly 100 million years, based on the reading on the upper panel," he adds, pointing with his claw.  "Flipping to the next screen, like this, it is possible to arrive at an approximate orbital path for the cluster through the galaxy.  The date of formation can be better calibrated by looking at the spread of the individual cluster stars.  For example, had one of the stars deviated even a little from the others, its motion relative to the others would have been magnified many times, thus widening the cluster's diameter.  The actual cluster diameter thus aids in constraining the time of origin."  "Very creative," remarked the Lieutenant.  "We'll meet here in 2 hours, as we pass the Barnard system.  I want you both to practice long-range scanning on it's type 2 planet.  Although we will not approach anything like optimal scanning range, it is still a system that we know very little about and everything that you learn will serve you well at Serpens."  "Yes sir," both amphibians chorused.

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/24/2008 4:50:52 PM   
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Stardate 2235, Captain's ready room.  Captain Rana is reading the latest reports from Sol-1.  These confirm that the second new big laboratory has been completed in Beta city, and that Sol-1 has begun the process of shifting over to the more advanced optical computer system.  So far, the pilot version on Aurora has been operating smoothly, but it would be nice to have all the Amphibian computers using the same platform.  Rana can appreciate that upgrades (for the most part) equate to progress, but for both him and his crew it translates into a never-ending learning curve.  Just as soon as one masters a particular instrument or piece of equipment, it is taken out and replaced by a new one - usually complete with a set of unreadable instructions.  Rana glances at the chronometer on the bulkhead.  In 12 minutes, one of Lt. Commander Babina's drills will commence.  Thinking of computers, today he has scheduled a total failure of both optical computers.  Rana's role is to slip out a few minutes ahead of time and to place a list of critical systems into standby mode in front of the impending power outage. He is also to act as an observer to follow the response of Lt. Alytes's science staff on the main scanner, when it goes dead.  "Who's on duty today," he wonders, glancing at his data pad. "Ah, the two newest and junior members of his staff. That should make it more interesting." Sighing just a little, he gets up and heads for the bridge.  This has become a monster of his own creation.  "One of the best things about arriving at a new planetary system is not the feeling of discovery," he thinks, "it is the feeling of knowing that there will not be a drill that day."  

< Message edited by oi -- 8/24/2008 5:12:27 PM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/24/2008 8:04:26 PM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2236.  Bridge 0807 hours.  During the early morning hours, Aurora broke warp, and is now on a parabolic glide approaching the innermost planet of Serpens.  Captain Rana's philosophy is to have everyone but the off shift up and alert when investigating the unknown, and he had given instructions to plot a course that arrived at the planet very close to 0800 hours ship time.  Currently, Aurora was nearing standard orbit about an obviously huge planet.  It displayed a distinctly greenish cloud cover, with a rather picturesque set of rings, backlit by Serpen's parent sun.  All was quiet and still in the early morning hours, until Chief Otophryne barked out, "Two objects, 0240 degrees, closing fast."  The view on main screen forward winked out, replaced by the appearance of two rather tall cylindrical metallic objects.  Each looked like up-ended starships, and were obviously self powered.  Their change of course to track that of Aurora also tipped off the information that the pair were well aware of the Amphibian starship.  "These clearly belong to the artificial sentry class, likely some kind of drone," noted Rana.  He ordered a slight course change and watched as the strange objects adjusted their approach accordingly.  "If they are unmanned sentries, then they betray a level of sophistication that we have not yet encountered," said Rana.  "Chief, open outer doors and prepare a set of rockets."  "Doors are open, sir.  I have a bead on the port side one," replied Otophryne.  "Fire rockets," ordered Rana.  A brace of rockets raced away from Aurora, and the Chief's aim was true.  On both of the sentries, there were explosions, and metallic pieces could be seen flying off into space.  All too soon, however, both objects emerged from the glow, looking relatively unscathed, now way too close to Aurora.  "Chief, report."  "We hit them, sir, but without much effect.  I'm reading that maybe there is 10-20% damage on each.  Am reloading now," replied Otophryne.  Suddenly, from the top of both drones, a bright light issued forth, and Aurora shuddered.  As everyone's ears popped from the loss of pressure, Lt. Alytes looked up from his scanner just as the turbo lift doors opened.  Smoke poured out from inside, along with the upper torso of an amphibian.  It's burning yellow clad uniform told him that it was a member of his own team.  The body lay partly blocking the entrance of the lift, and the doors kept softly opening and closing with little hisses.  Unconsciousness and death had come swiftly to the amphibian from the huge blood loss.  Alytes jammed a claw at the emergency button to take the lift off line, and then noticed a second yellow clad amphibian slumped in the corner.  Even as he yelled into his comm badge, "Medic to the bridge," he knew it was too late.  Although Aurora was billeted for a medical officer, only a corpsman was on board, and even he was part of Alyte's science team.  No one on Aurora had the skills to deal with catastrophic injuries.  "Reports," roared Rana.  "Nuclear generator hit, 10% damage."  "Optical computer 1 hit, 9% damage."  "Optical computer 2 hit, 50% damage."  "Port rocket drive 1 hit, 24% damage."  "Starboard rocket drive 2 hit, 10% damage."  "Weapons hit, 10% damage."  Rana's decision making processes were shaped by years of combat against the Keracks, and it was instantly clear to him that this was not a situation the ship could run from.  Aurora had been drilled like a set of nails pounded through a ball of cheese.  In turning and running, the ship would likely take on damge faster than the time it would require to charge up the warp drive.  "Chief, I need those rockets, Now!" ordered Rana.  A second set of rockets spit out from the starship.  Chief Otophryne was a center of calmness, the eye in the middle of the storm, and again, both drones were hit.  "Drone damage at 45% and 40%," he reported.  "Reloading again."  The drone to starboard was still spinning as it emerged from the rocket blast, and its return bolt veered crazily off into space.  The port drone came out of the blast a little more intact, and its bolt slashed a glancing blow at Aurora, ripping out a few holes in the outer hull forward.  Aurora shook, just as the chief was firing.  His first rocket sped true and splatted up against the hull of the nearest drone.  The second rocket missed badly.  "Drone damage 65%," Otophryne reported.  "Not enough," thought Rana, "We have to buy time.  Helm, course 013.  Chief continue firing until the targets are destroyed."  Both drones glowed, and two new bolts headed for the starship.  Aurora's change in course threw off their aim, and a pair of bolts criss-crossed in the starship's wake.  "Something is wrong with the portside rocket tube," sensed Otophryne, and he concentrated his effort into getting one good hit on the most damaged drone.  The distance between the twisting combatants became reduced to only a few hull lengths, and Otophryn's rocked excavated a mighty chunk of molten metal from the starboard side drone.  Just as he yells out, "Drone damage 85%," a bolt from the other drone fries Aurora.  Lights flicker violently.  The starship jumps at the contact, and briefly veers out of control.  Another damage report pours in on Rana, "Nuclear generator hit, 20% damage."  "Could have been worse," he thinks.  "If we can knock out one drone, there is a chance that we can survive this."  The nose of Aurora had been slammed to starboard by the last hit, and rather than wait for a course adjustment, Otophryne aimed his next rocket at the better off of the two drones.  The resulting flash of the hit eerily lit up the darkened, smoke filled bridge, and Otophryne noted that the drone had suddenly acquired 70% damage.  In the turbolift, Alytes elevated the head of the dying amphibian.  With every bubbling breath, blood pumped out over Alytes, and both amphibians slid about on the slick deck as the starship careened from side to side.  Again, the starboard drone blasted away, it's bolt narrowing missing the starship by just a few feet, vaporizing some metal chunks shed earlier by its partner drone on the opposite side.  Like punch drunk boxers, each loading up to land haymakers, the ships circled each other.  Again, the starboard drone fires, and Aurora staggers.  "Optical computer 1 hit, damage 67%."  "Starboard rocket drive 2 hit, damage 15%."  Although the starship is still quivering, Otophryne is now at point blank range and cannot miss the port side drone.  He watches on the scope as the rocket actually enters a blasted out hole in the side, and expodes somewhere deep inside the drone.  Like a straw squeezed in its middle, both ends of the drone emit red glowing slag, parts, and shredded metal plating.  The drone is gone.  While Otophryne reloads, the remaining drone fires twice, but either its main fire control station has been damaged, or Rana's constant course shifting from forward to reverse throws its aim off, for both bolts miss.  Otophryne aims a rocket at the heart of the drone.  Somehow, out of the glow and splatter, the drone emerges, badly hurt but still moving as if alive.  Otophryne fires again, and the battle is over. 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/26/2008 2:59:06 AM   
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Stardate 2237.  Bridge.  It never entered Captain Rana's mind not to continue on and scout the second planet of Serpens.  His orders were clear, and despite the loss of life from yesterday's encounter, and the fact that Aurora was drilled with holes, he was not going to return to Sol-1 without completing this mission.  The crew and his new damage control officer had worked through most of the night, and Lt. Chaunus had assured him that although the damage was widespread, nothing was so critical that it could not be fixed, given sufficient time.  Given that Aurora had shot 50% of her rocket supply in one encounter, she would have to return home soon anyway.  Grim and determined, the Captain and his bridge crew looked out at the second planet.  It was rather small and dark, with ancient craters mostly filled in with dust.  For whatever reason, those who had placed the sentries had also decided to defend this pile of rocks as well.  "There is a lot of surface activity down there," reported the Chief.  "It looks like a trio of thunderstorms, with clouds rising into the stratosphere."  "We'll attack them like we did the whirlwinds," replied Rana, "Prepare a set of rockets."  Following yesterday's battle, it was noted by the helmsman that Aurora had gained in maneuverability, as if the combination of amphibian and computer that controlled the ship had learned something.  This new option gave Aurora the ability to flex port and starboard, and improved her turning radius.  Today, however, the sheer size of the storms made this extra turning power irrelevant.  Rana set a course that bore down on the trio, noting as he did so that the storms somehow just casually drifted into a rather tight defensive alignment.  "Chief, open outer doors.  You may fire when ready."  As the starship dropped down past the 100 km mark, breaking orbit for the attack, suddenly lightning flashed from the two nearest storms.  Aurora bucked, and for the second time in two days, the lights dimmed and alarms sounded.  "Hit to both computers, number 1 - 89% damage, number 2 - 39% damage."  "Hit in engineering, rocket drive 2 15% damage."  "Fire, Chief.  Now."  A pair of rockets sped downward, away from the starship, their trails gradually diverging to merge with separate targets.  Each storm briefly absorbed the glow of an explosion, but unlike yesterday's sentries, neither storm emerged intact.  First the portside storm changed color to grey, and rapidly contracted.  The color changed again to a pale yellow, and then it seemingly evaporated.  The starboard storm followed suit.  The third storm however, acting as if it had fore knowledge of what would happen should Aurora reload its rockets, fired a long range lightning blast.  If yesterday was not one of Aurora's best, then today was no better, for the bolt came just as Aurora was executing a turn and caught the underbelly of the starship smack in engineering.  For just a moment, the starship lost both power and lights, until the backup circuits came on and held.  "Nuclear generator hit, 30% damage."  Rocket drive 1 hit, 34% damage."  "Rocket's away."  All eyes on the bridge followed its contrail in the atmosphere, as the rocket sketched a bee line for the last storm.  Again, the Chief's aim was true, and the storm took a hit, changed shape and colors like the others, and faded.  "Lt. Alytes, check out the surface of that planet and see what was worth two more hits to Aurora."  "Sir, I see only a very small type-3 planet, low in minerals.  In fact, the whole Serpens system has only a net worth of $4 annually."  "Report from engineering, sir," added Lt. Commander Babina, "One crewmember was killed by the last lightning bolt hit."       

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/30/2008 3:07:14 AM   
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Stardate 2238.  Escape pods.  As Aurora drifted silently in space, Captain Rana surveyed the scene before him.  He was not unused to death.  In battles against the Keracks, he had seen amphibians die quickely, mashed and die slowly, burned.  They were his crew then.  These five bodies were his crew now.  As a survivor, he hoped (wishfully) that those memories would someday subside as flickering embers of pain.  These memories right now gleamed brightly, like the dressed uniforms tenderly pieced together on each of the bodies.  On the first day of battle, two had been killed in the turbolift, another in engineering.  Unbeknownst to him at the time, the second bolt had hit Aurora in the forward crew's compartment.  Two amphibians just off watch had been hit.  One was instantly electricuted, the other had lingered on barely alive until this morning.  Although united as one world, Amphibia was a kaleidoscope of groups and tribes, each with their own traditions and beliefs about the dead.  Some celebrated the lives of the departed.  Others caressed the loss of a friend and companion.  Had Amphibia been a colonial species, like ants, no one would have missed the scavenger that left the nest in the morning but failed to return in the evening.  Amphibia, in contrast, was a species that glorified the individual, and these five green bodies would be missed, today, tomorrow, and when the ship made port.  In saying a few words to the assembled crew, Rana chose a compromise approach.  He addressed each of the dead individually, as if they were standing for an award (not lying stiff and still), recognizing their achievements and accomplishments.  He then turned to their friends and acknowledged the severed connection between the living and the dead. 

The scout starship was far too small to have a morgue, and did not carry a shuttle.  The only way to dispose of the bodies was to have them loaded one by one into a (now no longer needed) escape pod.  Rana invited the closest friend of each to assist in this task.  Three were placed into one pod and two into another.  At a signal from the Captain, the pods were launched.  Somewhere in deep space, partway between Serpens and Apodis, far from Sol-1, a pair of pods will drift for a very very long time.    

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 8/31/2008 5:16:37 AM   
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Stardate 2239.  1427, Deck 2.  Aurora is pointed home.  The combination of internal and external damage, crew loss, and lack of offensive rockets have all conspired to abort any further attempts to continue the mission.  At this moment, Captain Rana is inspecting domage to the second deck.  Although not an essential part of the ship's operations, it is an area traversed by the crew several times a day, and he does not want them to be continually reminded of the recent past events.  He and his officers are currently working the crew hard, as a psychological ploy to keep their minds off of their losses.  Rana has joined in with this effort by touring all the damaged areas, some several times, while speaking kind and encouraging words to the amphibians on the job.  No matter how far the repairs proceed in the next few days, there can be no doubt that Aurora is facing extensive dock yard time.  Here, in the crew's berthing space forward, the decks have been cleaned, and one of the mess staff is applying a sealant to a portion of the scorched sections.  Because of its natural high humidity, the interior surfaces of the starship are plasticoated, protecting them from oxidative damage.  Extensive areas of this plasticoat were melted by the passage of the bolts, and where the bolts contacted something more substantial, hot metallic splatter melted additional bizarre patterns into the passageway surfaces.  The best way to remove the evidence of the bolts was to fill in the melted channels with sealant, smooth down the surface to match, and then repaint it.  It was a task more suited to someone experienced in restoration of ancient artwork, and Rana was particularly pleased to note the care and consistency of the workmanship here.  "You're doing a really fine job," he noted to the crewman.  "Thank you, Sir.  I'll have this section feeling like home again soon."  Rana tapped a few notes into his data pad, and proceeded forward.  Here, where the shp narrowed at the bow, were several missing sections of bunks, still a partially cleaned up mess of molten metal and charred bedding.  Despite the rapid exchange of air from the ship's forced air ventillation system, a burnt smell lingered.  As a result of this damage, some of the crew had to 'hot bunk it', sharing the same bed space, depending on who was on watch and who was off.  "It's only temporary," he thought, "As we will be in port in a few days."  He traced the outline of the temporary patch in the inner hull with his fore claw, noting remnants of sealpak.  Rana knew that just an arm's length from this patch was a huge blob of sealpak plugging a much larger hole in the ship's outer hull.  "More work for space dock-1," he sighed. 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/3/2008 2:46:34 AM   
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Stardate 2240.  Deck 3.  Lt. Chaunus and Kaloula are trying to bring optical computer-1 back on line.  At the far end of the space, Lt Alytes is going to test out the long range scanner, once power is brought back up.  "Ensign Awa, reporting for duty, sir."  "Ah yes, good to see you Ensign," replied Alytes, looking up.  Being the youngest member of the scientific staff, Awa always brought a measure of enthusiasm to any task assigned, and suddenly Alytes was a bit more cheerful about the outcome of the test.  "We're waiting for the computer guru's to give us some power, and then we will see if the long range scanner is still working," Alytes continued.  From out of Alyte's com badge came the words, "Initiating startup, now."  More than a few indicator lights and screens suddenly lit up, coming alive for the first time in days.  "Main scanner has power," Alytes reported back into his badge.  "Awa, hit the coarse adjustment for me.  There are stars out there but right now they look like blobs," observed Alytes.  "Yes, that is much better.  Now for the fine adjustment.  Awa, will you look at that," Alytes suddenly exclaimed.  In an amazing coincidence, the scanner had been pointed to the intersection of the first and fourth quadrant, East of Sol-1, and here was a star with a planetary system.  "Wow," exclaimed Awa, "It's only 5 ly due East of Sol-1."  "Why is the image becoming so sharp?" asked Alytes.  "Look, the scanner is running at 107% efficiency," noted Awa.  "That's odd," said Alytes.  "Check the power supply bus.  Third one down, bus 2A."  "It's got the right voltage, but it's running hot," reported Awa.  "How hot?"  "Just over 130 degrees, and going up."  "Chaunus, we might have a problem here.  See if you can lower the power to scanner bus 2A," reported Alytes.  "Checking it out," reported back Chaunus.  "Scanner now at 109% efficiency.  Look at that signal.  It's clearly from the Eridani system," observed Alytes.  "Bus temperature 157 degrees and rising," reported Awa.  "Chaunus, if you can't get the power down to bus 2A, then we had better consider . . ."  Lt. Alytes was interrupted by a 'popping' sound, and in unison all the screens and lights went dark.  "Uh, computer-1, we've lost power up here."  "We're off-line down here.  Something blew.  Probably you are done for the day," said Chaunus.  "Kaloula, what did you find out?"  "Sir, the power supply transformer to bus 2A was fine, but when I cranked it down, there was no effect," replied Kaloula.  "Okay, take off the panel.  Let's get to the bottom of this," said Chaunus with a mixture of reluctance and determination.  "Use your wrist beam to light up the green and white lines leading out of the transformer.  What do you see?"  "It starts out fine, but then there is a section 3-4 claw lengths long that is melted, along with a number of other lines," reported Kaloula.  "Probably a bolt branch point went through there.  It's funny that we didn't pick it up on the diagnostic," questioned Chaunus.  "Okay Kaloula," he continued, "Tell me what you need and I'll pass it in to you.  It looks like we'll be here awhile."       

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/8/2008 12:08:21 AM   
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Stardate 2241.  Bridge, 0847.  A blast of sunlight breaking past the curve of Amphibia-1 finds Aurora in a slow dance with Space dock-1.  Captain Rana watches the helm slowing the rotation of the ship to match that of the cavernous entryway into the floating dock.  Twin sets of lights all in a row mark the way, like a bubble on a level, guiding the alignment.  Once the rotation rate is set and locked in, then it is the turn of matching both the vertical and the horizonatal.  Again, the helmsman makes a series of correct choices, his skills honed by constant practice.  "All ahead one-third, maneuvering thrusters only," adds the Captain, on cue.  "Ahead one-third, sir," is the acknowledgement.  The starship moves toward the entrance, with anxious eyes watching the clearances.  Space dock-1 was built to accomodate much larger starships than Aurora, but docking is never a piece of cake for any ship.  "All stop," commanded Rana.  He watched as Aurora now continued to drift inward.  The port camera revealed that a large section of extruded sealpak outside the ship's hull was rubbing against the sides of the space dock.  As Rana watched, a section of it broke off and floated between the ship and the dock.  This was not really a problem, as the rubber-like material would not cause any damage, and there was plenty of sealpak remaining between Aurora's inner and outer hulls to maintain pressure.  More worrisome was a torn section of hull, blasted outward by one of the bolts.  Another look told him that it was not going to be a problem.  "Back one-third," Rana spoke quietly.  "Reversed thrusters, one-third," came the answer.  "Shut down thrusters when our velocity reaches zero."  "Aye aye, sir.  Thrusters off."  "Aurora, you are in position, standby to close outer doors," announced a voice from space dock control.  That was it, Aurora was safely home from its second voyage.  Unlike the first, Rana had less to look forward to.  He anticipated that relatives from some of his lost crew were already on board the space dock, and the remainder of his day would be dedicated to giving them a tour of the ship and explaining in detail what had happened.  Thus far, the media had not gotten ahold of the story, at least in its finer details, and he wanted the relatives to be the first to learn the truth so that they would not become further victims to distortions or fallacies that inevitably crept into reporting.  A soft bang and some vibration told him that the gangplank was being laid out at this moment.  He glanced at his wrist pad to see who had the officer of the day duty.  "Lt Alytes," he noted, a rather compassionate amphibian for a scientist and a good choice for today.       

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/9/2008 2:45:17 AM   
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Stardate 2242.  Space dock-1, Admiral's quarters, 1012 hours.  Captain Rana and Admiral Ansonia have been discussing Aurora's just completed voyage.  "Sir, I estimate that it will take at least 7 to 8 stardates to complete repairs," reported Rana.  "Very good," noted the Admiral.  "I see that your current roster is stands at 9 scientists, 1 engineering, and 1 naval personnel.  You are short a scientist, and I will see that one is assigned to you."  "Thank you, Sir."  The Admiral continued, "Recently, we have completed the design and construction of an improved freighter, classified as a Type-2 Freighter, with a 20% greater range than the previous versions.  One of these has recently been commissioned, and in part due to your exploratory efforts, will depart today for the Serpens system.  Currently, the space budget stands at $2705, and this additional freighter route can only improve the cash flow."  "That is good news indeed," said Rana, looking as if he was not all that impressed.  "Sir, if you don't mind, I would like to comment on the critical need for more protection against bolts."  "Go ahead."  "I wrote about this in detail in my report, but Aurora's hull cannot stand up to this weapons system.  After even one or two hits, the ship is seriously compromised, and I can conceive of situations where we would be unable to fight our way past a pack of robotic sentries."  "I have noted your concerns, and have asked the scientific staff to look into this problem," responded Ansonia.  "There are several conceptual solutions being discussed and tested, but at this time, I can only tell you that they are still works in progress.  Perhaps when you return from your next mission I will have more to offer you.  Currently, Sol-1 is in the process of rapidly expanding its research capability, with a new technology lab being build in Delta city.  Once we have all three laboratories up and running, progress in solving some of your problems will be more rapid."  "Thank you, Sir.  Our own chief science officer Lt. Alytes has submitted an outline for a protective screen that has the potential to deflect the energy from the bolts, which I have attached to my report."  "Very good, Captain," replied Ansonia.  "Amphibia is moving rapidly into the unknown, and in these dangerous times ideas are like treasures."       

< Message edited by oi -- 8/23/2011 5:01:44 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/11/2008 3:31:31 AM   
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Stardate 2243.  Sol-1.  Given a few days off, Lt. Alytes decided to return to his pad in Alpha-1 and relax.  Popping a credit into the speeder, he takes the slow way home, touring the sights and sounds of the city.  On Amphibia, speeders are readily available to all.  On a single credit there is enough range to take one throughout the city.  When done, simply park it for someone else to use.  Occasionally, he draws a stare, as he is still in his uniform.  "Probably its the color," he thought, as amphibians in uniform are a common sight.  On Aurora, he always was in uniform and there was no need for civilian clothes.  Certainly no one noticed or cared on the shuttle down, and it was only after going some distance from the naval yard that a bright yellow uniform would stand out.  Speeders never go higher than two body lengths off of any surface (depending on the speed, of course) and as Alytes slows down, his approaches the ground, allowing him to step off and walk the remainder of the way.  He politely parks the speeder in a convenient space.  Alpha-1 lacks streets.  Instead there are shallow streams averaging about six inches in depth, with gentle curving courses shaped by multicolored duracrete rocks, and sudden surprising turns.  For some reason, he recalls (with a mixture of disgust and horror) pictures of streets from the Kerack's homeworld, with its flat surfaces that imitated geometric figures.  Alytes's flippers flop plop plop, a sound that is as pleasant as it feels in the slightly cool water.  Stategically placed reeds and brushes indicate openings that become the entrances to shops and resturants.  The stream that he is currently in gradually directs him toward the harbor, where it ends in a small waterfall.  Alytes absently watches the splash and bubbles that form at the base of the waterfall.  Out in the harbor, waves sparkle in the sun and various amphibians in recreational watercraft cruise in all directions.  To contrast this sight, three grey battlecruisers lay together nearby, gently swinging at anchor.  "The Kron, Kravitz, and Kone," reads Alytes, looking at their sterns.  All appear to be disbanded, and are probably scheduled to join the mothball fleet.  "Without any Keracks, there is not much need for surface battlecruisers," he mused.  Walking over to a nearby small stand he scans the offered sweets and treats.  "There's nothing like this on Aurora," he notes, as he purchases a creme-filled pastry.  Just a few steps away is the entrance to his pad, and after inserting the coded card, he is finally free to let out a sigh of relief.  Right now there is only one thing on his mind, "To sit in the hot tub and pretend to be a vegetable."   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/13/2008 5:31:23 AM   
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Stardate 2244.  Sol-1.  Amphibian politics can be confusing.  Until the last of the universally hated Keracks was escorted to extinction, the planet welcomed unification under military rule.  The sudden vacuum created by a loss of purpose saw the return to civilian rule, which immediately had to deal with issues like reconstruction, revitalization, and what to do about a massive military.  Although there were no political parties, per se, there were two opposing camps of thought.  One, possibly termed the "passive camp" felt that invasions by armed aliens was a relatively rare event, perhaps happening on the scale of one every million years or so.  In their opinion, it was more likely that a giant asteroid would crash into the planet before another invasion.  Although no amphibian was around several million years ago to build up a batch of statistics on the rate of alien invasions, the fact that only one had ever occurred (bad as it was) in recorded history, at least supported the argument that alien invasions were not very common.  The other side, possible termed the "active camp" felt that having discovered that the heavens are filled with both stars and military hardware, a prudent species should take all steps to protect itself.  Under a compromise decision, much of the planetside military might was in the process of a stepwise reduction, hence the disbanded ships anchored within view of Lt. Alytes's pad.  The proportion of resources dedicated to the military budget would be trimmed down to almost nothing, as both camps realized that land based armies were useless against star cruisers.  In a compromise, the military was put in charge of space exploration, with resources gleaned from nearby star systems to provide the funding for a space defense system.  Strong arguments were waged over whether or not the space program would (by making incidental contact with a powerful alien species) accelerate a new attack on Sol-1.  Lt. Alytes himself was neither a big fan of the active camp nor of the military.  He had a lot of respect for Captain Rana and his crew, but was worried  that as chief science officer, his services (and discoveries) were complicating the future for Amphibia.  Already, Amphibian freighters were plying space out to 4 ly, ensuring a level of activity that could not go unnoticed for long.  Yes, thus far only rocks, dust, and hydrogen clouds had showed up on the scanners, but Alytes recalled that nearly every planet scanned thus far had contained sentries, obvious indications that this region of space had been visited in the past by an intelligent species.  One piece of missing information was how long these sentries had been standing guard.  Previously, Aurora had left the scene of an encounter in a hurry, lucky (in the most recent example) to have survived.  Alytes came to the decision to discuss with the Captain the possibility of stopping after their next encounter to collect fragments from one of the artificial sentries, and to try to date it.         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/16/2008 2:11:38 AM   
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Stardate 2245.  Space dock-1 shuttle.  Pipa and Kaloula have just boarded the shuttle, heading back to Aurora.  They have just spent the last few days at the pad of Pipa's parents, a little bit north of Alpha city.  "Your parents sure treated us like kings," said Kaloula.  "I know, wasn't it great."  "The food, the heated water pool, even their cute little pet armadillo (or whatever it was)," continued Kaloula.  Pipa chuckled, "The funniest part was when you were in the pool and they were trying to give you floating lessons."  Most of the amphibians can float on their stomachs for hours, but for some reason, Kaloula does not.  Eventually, ever so slowly, he always sinks.  "No matter which part of you they held up, the other end would go down," said Pipa.  "If I did float, I would have fallen asleep in the warm water.  It was just so relaxing there."  "Everyone laughed when you lay flat on your back on the bottom of the pool," continued Pipa good naturedly.  "Just call me 'Mr. Rock'," added Kaloula.  Both amphibians took a few minutes to look out the viewports as the shuttle lifted off.  Before it was lost to a cloud bank, there was a good view of Alpha city and its harbor.  Rapidly the shuttle rose, until even the cloud bank over Alpha city was only one small patch of many.  "What do you think Lt. Chaunus will have waiting for us," asked Pipa absently.  "Every repaired and installed piece of equipment will have to be tested several times," replied Kaloula.  "That is where you and I come in, and why we had to come back a little early.  Lucky for you, there will be opportunities to qualify on some instruments that normally we do not have alot of access to while standing engineering watches."  "Somehow, being Mr. Lucky doesn't quite carry the same feel to it as it should.  What am I missing here?" asked Pipa, mournfully.  "Don't worry.  Between Lt.Chaunus, the chief, and the 'rock', you'll be feeling something real soon," laughed Kaloula.         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/19/2008 4:54:34 AM   
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Stardate 2246.  Sol-1.  Taking a day off as a diversion from his many tasks aboard Aurora, Captain Rana is hiking in the outback of Sol-1.  Although amphibians are the most intelligent lifeforms on Sol-1, the planet is really dominanted by insects, and of these, beetles are everywhere.  Scientists estimate that there are over 200,000 different species of beetles, and there may be alot more that have gone uncatalogued.  Rana has also mapped out quite a few by taste, and he snaps up a yellow darter.  Swallowing, his eyes close, and the pungent flavor dredges up a long-held memory of childhood.  Then, the days passed ever so slowly, and he spent much of the time playing in the swamps.  He used various shaped leaves and half-cracked shells for ships, crewed them with tiny broken pieces of twigs, and fought massive battles of Amphibians v.s. Keracks.  As his miniature fleets engaged, he stood off and fired tiny cannon balls of mud, taking turns playing both sides.  A stout lily pad with upturned walls became a Kerack land fortress, and the tiny amphibian leaf-ships would try not to be swamped by near misses as they lobbed a steady fire of mud balls into the Kerack base.  Depending on the winds of the day and the currents, ships of his fleet would either venture dangerously close to the fortress, or attempt to hide among the bullrushes.  Sometimes a leaf would be flipped by a near miss, spilling its cargo of crew into the splash.  Rana would briefly stop the action so that other vessels could maneuver to rescue the floating lifeforms.  Sometimes a ball would land directly on the leaf, taking both crew and ship to the bottom.  Rana kept careful records of his crews, and even had specially marked twigs representing the various leaders.  This war was a campaign, and he also had Amphibian and Kerack factories churning out new warships, and recruiting the crews to man them.  He recalled that gradually he had run out of Keracks, a scenario that replayed itself out in real life so many years later.  "Bzzzt."  "Hello.  Yes, Admiral.  No, no bother at all.  I see.  A laser screen.  I am very glad to hear that you are making progress on the problem.  I will read all the details tomorrow when I return.  Yes sir.  Thank you, sir."  His reverie broken by the call, Rana resumes his hike.             

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/21/2008 1:47:14 AM   
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Stardate 2247.  Aurora.  "Hello, Lt. Alytes?  Yes, this is Ensign Awa.  How goes your vacation, Sir?  There are a lot of amphibians crawling all over the ship, but the repairs do seem to be progressing smoothly.  A variety of new programs have been installed for the optical computers.  Most are directed at improving our analysis of surface details on the planets.  Well, not to bother you Sir, but the reason I'm calling is that I've had an idea.  You know how it is when ideas come and you just get excited and have to share them with someone?  Well, this is about the issue that you and I discussed over why there are so few lifeform filled planets in our quadrant of the galaxy.  Yes, you are right.  Other than sentries, we have not encountered any other lifeforms.  Here's my idea.  We know that Sol-1 is located at what we term the extreme northern edge of the galaxy.  Yet there are still myriads of stars positioned to the North, Northeast and Northwest of us, none of which are known to contain lifeforms.  In fact, our scanners show that space beyond Sol-1 seems to mysteriously lack infrared signals from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, signatures that we associate with the molecular building blocks necessary for carbon-based lifeforms.  You will recall that we jokingly referred to it as the 'dead zone'.  Our own neighborhood is loaded with these hydrocarbons (no surprise, since we are here), but further out, the IR signals fade rapidly.  No hydrocarbons, no lifeforms.  So what happened to create the dead zone?  Yes, you are right, Sir, the large nebula to the Northeast of us could be part of the puzzle.  But I think that I have found out what caused the dead zone in the first place.  It's all about that band of hot stars in the Pelobates arm of the galaxy Northeast of us.  Using the set of scanners on Space dock-1, I was surveying the cluster (and transferring the data to Aurora), and couldn't help but notice how low all of them were in heavy metals.  Suddenly, I put two and two together.  Low metallic stars emit prodigious amounts of ionizing radiation, since it can easily escape from their atmospheres.  As you already know, this radiation is particularly damaging to organic molecules, and thus like a firestorm it sweeps that region of space clean of all its interstellar chemicals, creating our dead zone.  The reason that we see the nebula to the Northeast of us is because it's Northern most edge is lit up by a portion of that radiation.  Yes, Sir, it is lucky for us that we are downstream of the nebula.  Thank you, Sir.  You are very kind, Sir.  Yes, I too look forward to discussing this further on your return.  See you in two days, Sir.  Bye."   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/25/2008 5:27:00 AM   
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Stardate 2248.  Sol-1.  Tomorrow, Lt. Alytes is scheduled to report back to Aurora.  As a result, he can think of nothing better to do than to spend the rest of the evening dining out on the town.  Stepping through the pebble-lined sloshing path, he cannot help but notice the ubiquitous firefly-like flashing lights.  Multicolored, and moving by design, they serve as attention grabbers for amphibians, advertising the wares and services of the various shops.  As a scientist, he understands the purpose behind the seemingly random movements and colors of the lights, each the product of many hours of testing and analysis, specifically designed to work their magic on an unwary amphibian neural system.  Even so, as his great eyelids blink, he cannot help but feel the pull of the lights calling for his attention.  Other shops advertise with sounds, and tonight the evening air is filled with a cacophony of a thousand night calls.  Somehow, they never manage to form an interference pattern for each other, and instead, as he passes, each distinctive call reaches out for him.  The best way not to get distracted is to have a purpose, and right now his purpose is in sight, his favorite resturant, beaconing with a flower-filled path.  Stepping inside, he is escorted to a pleasant booth.  Alytes adjusts the control panel inset into the table to adjust its height, and notes the settings for lighting and humidity.  Along the wall to his side, a small stream quietly flows, the source of a trickling waterfall moving past his booth, and the other three that share the wall.  He sticks in a claw to test the water temperature.  It is neutral, but in the process he frightens a group of small fish that scatter, looking for shadows in the partially darkened room.  "Sir, can I offer you something to drink?  Here is tonight's menu."  Alytes looks up into the face of the young waiter and nods an acknowledgement.  "Thank you.  I think that I will have a chilled glass of phytophthora."  "Excellent choice, sir.  I will be right back with your drink."  Phytophthora is nothing to look at, with its texture of a liquified fungus, to Alytes, it had a pleasant taste, something of a mixture between kelp and diatoms.  He picked up the menu and scanned the selections.  Previously, he had tried the steamed prawns, and liked them, but tonight he wanted something to recall while spending the next - who knows how long - dining on the standardized fare of a warship.  When the waiter returned with his drink, Alytes chose the tube worms.  Now, while waiting for his dinner to arrive, he pressed a button on his control panel, causing a view screen to pop up before him.  Absently, he flipped the channels.  Several were of sporting events.  Normally, Alytes would have followed a team but his tour on the Aurora, with its broken periods of contact from home, had disrupted his interest.  "Your dinner, sir."  Three enormous tube worms, each encrusted in a calcium shell, lay on a bed of algae and covered his plate.  "Thanks.  They look wonderful," he replied.  The waiter handed him a silvery metallic pliers, to be used for cracking the tubes and extracting pieces of worm.  The chunks of tissue were buttered and salted to perfection, and Alytes had to consciously resist the temptation to gulp them down.  He focused on slowing down and trying to activate as many taste buds on his tongue as was amphibianly possible.  What made the flavor of tube worms so unique was the hint of metabolized sulfur that hammered home the memory as an aftertaste.  Between the inky black depths of the sea to the inky black depths of space, for just a moment, Alytes discovered and rested at a harmonic centerpoint.             

< Message edited by oi -- 8/23/2011 5:03:17 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 9/29/2008 3:03:39 AM   
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Stardate 2249.  Aurora engineering.  With Aurora scheduled to begin its third mission in 2 days, Lt. Chaunus, and seamen Kalula and Pipa are under a pushed schedule to finish cleaning the ion drive injectors.  Unlike most starships, Aurora has twin drives, as it was felt during her design that the greatest portion of time consumed by a scout ship is used travelling between star systems.  The extra boost of the second drive was projected to allow her to explore more systems in less time.  Not spelled out in their projections, was the amount of time sitting in space dock, where Aurora has spent the last week.  Right now, the containment rings are off of the portside one, and before them lies the metallic cylinder, about eight feet long and a foot in diameter.  Pipa thinks of it as the 'long dark tunnel".  For once, the giant cryo pumps that take up much of the space underneath the cylinder are turned off.  When operating, they add a noticeable thump to the cacophony of sounds that characterize a starship's engineering spaces.  Having taking readings of the cylinder's operating temperature many times, Pipa recalls quite well that it normally operates at between 15 and 17 degrees kelvin, colder than outer space itself (which in the vicinity of Aurora's hull averages 40 degrees kelvin).  This extreme cold is necessary to create a powerful vacuum, which in turn, allows the ions free passage down the length of the tunnel.  For now, both amphibians are wearing white cellulose-fiber based gloves, and are scrubbing out the central portion of the tunnel with Q-tips and methanol.  Lt. Chaunus has disassembled the platelike metallic lenses responsible for magnetically guiding the ion stream, and occasionally he hands one to Kaloula for the Q-tip treatment.  All three are engrossed in the work, and there is little need for conversation.  To Pipa's eyes, the 'long dark tunnel' looks amazingly clean, but none the less, he painstakingly rubs every piece of exposed surface.  A patch of charged ions looking like so much dust can deflect the ion stream, and rob them of power.  No one has to tell any of the three amphibians that the ion drive is used when the ship has broken warp, and is either combat or close-on maneuvering.  Pipa chuckles at the irony at the thought of the so-called vacuum of both the cylinder and the vacuum of outer space are both heavily contaminated with dust.  "A near infinite amount of space, with nothing but dust, and here I am trying to clean the world with a Q-tip."    

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/2/2008 7:08:34 AM   
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 Stardate 2250.  Aurora, Lt. Alytes cabin, 1940 hours.  Alytes is reviewing some redrawn schematics for the optical computer's links to his scanner set.  As always, there have been last minute changes, but whether or not they are improvements remains to be determined.  At this hour the spaceship is quiet.  All the workers have left, and although most of the crew is already aboard, a few will trickle in for most of the rest of the evening.  Unexpectedly, there is a knock on his door.  "Come on in, I'm here," he calls out.  The door opens to reveal the ship's executive officer, Lt. Commander Babina.  "I'm glad to see that you are still up.  Are you all set for tomorrow?" asks Babina.  "Ready as I will ever be.  No one sets out on these missions lightly," replied Alytes.  "I just stopped by to give you a small gift."  The tired lines on Alytes face melted, and his eyes lit up.  "A gift!  I'm totally surprised."  "Yes, I was window shopping in Beta city and couldn't resist bringing this little item back for you," remarked Babina, as he handed Alytes a small box.  The box was not wrapped, and was easily opened to reveal a chunk of rock with a metallic stand.  Looking curious, Alytes picked the rock up and held it up to the light.  Then, his eyes sparkled with recognition.  "It's a Chondrite."  Babina looked pleased to see that his gift was well received.  "Well, I'll leave it to you to name it.  The shopkeeper certified that it was a genuine meteorite."  "It's the real deal alright."  Alytes pointed with a single claw to the polished side of the rock.  "See these gray circular spots.  They almost look like sliced through bubbles.  Those are the chondrules.  They are particularly rich in sulfur and iron minerals."  "I'm sure that if that rock has a story, that you be glad to tell me all about it someday," said Babina with a chuckle.  "Oh yes, every meteorite has a story, began Alytes excitedly.  "Look at the recrystallized texture.  And I will wager anything that it is low in volatiles."  "I'm sure that you will soon be analyzing it with all your equipment," noted Babina with a smile.  Alytes almost didn't hear him as he continued on, " I'd like to find evidence that it originated along the innermost edge of the early accretion disk when our star was only a protostar. . . ."  Alytes looked up just in time to catch Babina starting to slowly back out the doorway.  "Thank you, thank you, sir.  I don't know what to say.  What made you think of me?"  "Aurora is our home, and on the last tour of officer's quarters, I couldn't help but notice how plain your desk was.  Everyone needs something to connect to.  Even the Captain has Axolotl and Ambystoma."  "I see what you mean," said Alytes thoughtfully.  "Rest assured that your rock will occupy center stage on my desk (as soon as I work out some of its mysteries).          

< Message edited by oi -- 8/23/2011 5:05:50 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/5/2008 2:46:27 AM   
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Stardate 2251.  Bridge 0802 hrs.  "Captain on the bridge," announced Chief Otophryne.  "As you were," replied Rana, as he strode out of his ready room.  Aurora had been on her own power for several hours, but the executive officer, Babina, completed one last scan of the vessel's hull to ensure that all lines had been cast off and the gangplank stowed in preparation for her third mission.  "Sir, Space dock control reports that both the inner and outer doors are open and all boards show that we are green to go," reported the helmsman.  "Release the locking bolts," replied Rana.  Once freed from her constraints, the spaceship was carefully maneuvered out and away from the dock.  As the nose of the ship and the viewscreen camera crossed the threshhold into space, a flash of bright light momentarily saturated the image before being automatically adjusted.  "Engage ion drive, take us to 235+37."  "Aye aye, sir."  As Aurora cleared Space dock-1, a portion of the main screen showed the view in the rear - of a shrinking image of the dock brilliantly lit in reflected light from the sun.  "Is the course for Velorum laid in?"  Yes, sir.  Just over 5 ly to the Northwest," came the answer.  "Weather report for you, sir," said Lt. Alytes, trying to keep a straight face.  "Weather report?"  Rana looked at the offered data pad and read, "Fair seas and blue skies."  "That's deep blue skies to you Lieutenant.  "Warp engines are fully charged, sir," came the report from engineering.  Rana looked at the chronometer, which read 0827.  "Engage warp drive."     

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/5/2008 9:06:59 PM   
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Stardate 2252.  Crews berthing, 0332 hrs.  Kaloula is shaken out of a dream by a gentle claw on his shoulder.  He blinks open his eyes and sees the outline of the watch messenger in the dim light.  "Are you awake?"  Kaloula croaks back what amounts to a "Yes," and the messenger moves on.  With effort, Kaloula moves his flippers out of his rack and onto the cool deck.  Further down the corridor, he hears Pipa mutter something, as it is his turn for the messenger.  Kaloula drags himself up, trying to shake the images the dream has left behind.  Once in the refresher, he splashes some water on his face and eyes.  It's brighter here than in the berthing compartment, but he dares not turn on the lights too bright yet.  "These four to eight watches are tough on the old body," he mutters, half out loud.  Still, it is far better here on Aurora than in the surface navy.  In space, one only has to work while on duty or at action stations.  Of course, Captain Rana has a habit of going to action stations right at eight.  But back on Sol-1, the four to eight watch would also be expected to put in a full days work, usually cleaning and painting, in the constant battle that perpetually engages metal and water.  Here, the best thing about four to eights was that soon he would be shifting off to do the eight to twelves.  Closing the door to the refresher room behind him, he plods aft, and heads for the mess room.  The cooler contained sandwiches, but the knot in his stomach makes him turn instead to settle for a cup of stimcaf.  Down the passageway, he hears an audible "ouch" as Pipa apparently has stumbled into something.  Warm stimcaf in hand, Kaloula head further aft, to frame 22.  There he lifts open the air lock on the deck, and after carefully resealing the hatch, climbs down the ladder to deck 3.  It's 0345 hours, right on time, and the tired but eager face of the 12 to 4 watch awaits his arrival.  "We're on warp, and I've just filled the ion drive compressor with argon.  Chief says to monitor the still closely, as for some reason its output is down ten percent.  Control panel is green, and here's your data pad."  Feeling a bit more like a zombie than an amphibian, Kaloula accepts the pad and briefly scans it.  "You are relieved," he says to the watch.  The amphibian quickly turns, and almost bumps into a still too slowly moving Pipa.  "I'll see you two at lunch," adds the departing amphibian.               

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/12/2008 6:06:58 AM   
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Stardate 2253.  Observation lounge, 2243 hours.  Stopping by the observation deck, Lt. Alytes is looking for something warm to drink before hitting the sack for the night.  Sitting in a corner table he notices Ensign Awa reading a book, and so with drink in hand, he heads that way.  "Evening Ensign, mind if I join you?"  "Not at all, sir," responds Awa, looking up.  Lt. Alytes has been duly impressed with the young Ensign, and is curious to learn more about his interests.  "Can I ask what you are reading?"  "It's a science fiction work with a historical background.  I'm following the story of the Wren, a sentient species that live on a planet very similar to Sol-1.  Millions of years ago, the Wren evolved from amphibians to become flying specialists.  But rather than live close to the ground, they carved out a ecological niche in the upper atmosphere.  Currently, they are in the midst of a new evolutionary transition, where they can survive in the vacuum of outer space."  "That's a pretty harsh environment," commented Alytes.  "Well sir, if you think about it, it is not very much different from the transition from the ocean to the land.  Certainly we still carry a little piece of our 'ocean' with us in our body fluids, surrounded by a protective skin covering.  The Wren simply took this concept one step further," explained Awa.  "How do they move in space?" asked Alytes.  "They had very large surface to volume ratio bodies and wings that were adapted to high altitude living.  These were used to act like sails to catch the solar wind.  For close in maneuvering they use excretion glands on their backs, in the same way that Aurora uses her maneuvering jets.  Sir, do you think that we could ever encounter such a species?"  Lt. Alytes looked up at the streaking stars moving past the transparisteel window.  He briefly considered the idea that a creature might be staring back at him, face plastered on the outside of the pane.  "Currently, we only briefly scan the surface of planets for lifeforms," he answered.  "We only see what our instruments are designed to detect, which is limited in part by what we expect them to detect.  I could believe that lifeforms may exist that lie outside our ability to sense them.  For example, imagine a cloud-like creature that lives inside the extended envelope of a gas giant star.  We would only notice a local assemblage of different concentrations of ions."  Ensign Awa also peered out at the passing stars.  "That's why I was so excited to be assigned to the Aurora.  It's like actually living in a science fiction story," Awa noted.  "That it is," smiled Alytes, as he got up.  "Don't stay up too late with your book.  We have a whole new world to explore tomorrow."      

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/22/2008 6:47:43 AM   
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Stardate 2254.  Bridge, 0650 hours.  Lt. Alytes is up early, scanning the Velorum system.  Aurora still has not broken warp, but even at this distance he can see that there are three rather large planets, an asteroid debris field, and on the parent star, several surprisingly large sunspots.  Following its initial discovery, he recalled writing a note about the brightness of the star undergoing changes, and the presence of the sunspots clears up this temporary mystery.  Aurora is rapidly coming up on the system, and Alytes takes another look at the innermost planet.  It is clearly a massive giant, with an orbit about twice as large as that of Sol-1 about its parent star.  "Captain on the bridge," announced Chief Otophryne.  Alytes stands up in time to see Captain Rana make a gesture for everyone to resume their activities.  "Breaking warp in five, four, three, two . . . switched to impulse," reported the helm.  "Make course 230+57," ordered Rana.  The turbolift doors hissed open, and the executive officer, Lt. Commander Babina joined the group on the bridge.  "You are just in time," said Rana, "We should be making orbit in a few minutes."  On the main screen loomed the huge planet, obviously a type 5.  Babina pressed the alert button, and everyone jumped just a bit, each subconsciously recalling the events connected with the last time those tones echoed in the air.  "Helm, take us into standard orbit."  "Aye aye sir.  Standard orbit."  Suddenly, Otophryne looked up from his station and announced, "Whirlwind in quadrant 2, sector 2.  Putting it on the screen."  The main viewer quickly shifted to a closeup of the whirlwind, with the previous view of the body of the planet now moved to a smaller inset in the upper right edge of the screen.  "Is there only one storm?" asked Rana.  "That is all I'm picking up," replied Otophryne.  "Well, we've seen worse.  Prepare a rocket greeting card," ordered Rana.  "Launch doors open; setting coordinates now; arming rocket," toned the Chief.  "Fire rocket."  Rana made a forward motion with his hand and wrist for emphasis.  "Rocket's away," called out Otophryne.  All eyes on the bridge followed the trailing glow of the rocket as it headed for the base of the storm.  Within a few seconds, there was a bright flash, dampened somewhat by buffers in the viewscreen, and when full visibility returned, it was clear that the storm was in trouble.  Even as Aurora continued to approach it, the storm's main body twisted, broke into a large and small portion, each beginning to evaporate.  "Nice shot, Chief.  Lt. Alytes, I believe that the planet is yours," said Rana.  "Yes sir.  I'm preparing to launch a probe," replied Alytes.  The tone in Rana's voice suddenly downshifted to one of a more quiet confidence, shared by all in the room.  "Switch to alert condition yellow.  Babina, you have the bridge.  I will be in my ready room if needed."     

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/23/2008 6:47:04 AM   
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Stardate 2255.  Bridge, 0837 hours.  Chief Otophryne is a natural born warrier, with little interest in the scientific aspects of Aurora's mission.  While some might find the repetitive nature of visits to planet after planet tiresome, he is stimulated by the opportunity for combat and to match wits with the challenges presented by the sentries.  At this moment, his combat viewscreen is filled with the bulk of a large type 6 planet, defended by a patch of four sunflowers.  Otophryne's philosophy of combat is simple.  He who gets in the first critical blow wins.  His success at utilizing this strategy has depended on honing his concentration and nerves to discard the irrelevant in favor of an intense focus on the moment.  In a mirror of movements, Aurora closes the range and his claw closes in on the trigger.  Suddenly, the ship quivers, there is a momentary flash of heat behind him, and yellow lights flash on his panel.  Calmly he reports, "Four percent damage to weapons, firing now."  Ignoring the path of the rocket, he switches over and targets the next sunflower.  Over the com line he hears, "Four percent damage to the port drive."  The image of the sunflower inches toward dead center.  Again his claw tightens on the trigger.  If the captain can just maintain this course for another second . . . and its off.  The departing glow of the rocket briefly saturates his screen even as he is switching to the next target.  The third sunflower is rotating its head to point at Aurora.  The chief feels a surge of joy as he is almost there.  Suddenly Aurora jumps, as the helm has flung the ship into a violent course change that overwhelms the dampeners.  Otophryn momentarily falls off balance, and his arm lands heavily on the computer panel.  The image of the sunflower winks out, and he curses as he sees that instead the screen is displaying a number of useless diagnostics and reports.  Consciously slowing his breath, he starts to push buttons and throw switches.  The glow of a distant bolt missing is momentarily caught in a change of lighting on the bridge.  In the back of his mind, as if speaking in the distance along a long dark tunnel, he hears the voice of Lt. Commander Babina reporting to the Captain that sunflowers 1 and 2 have disappeared.  He exhales, as finally the image of the sunflower returns to the screen.  Racing to make up for lost time, he begins to squeeze the trigger.  FLASH.  Momentarily he is blinded as it appears as if the sunflower fires a bolt right into his eyes.  Aurora shudders as the bolt zips past, close enough to ionize paint on the forward section of the ship.  The combination of perfect timing, reflex eye blink, ship shudder, and maneuver are all summed up to cause just enough inertia that he finishes the trigger squeeze.  He curses again, as the wasted rocket veers off target.  Steady.  Steady.  In the fraction of a second that it takes his eyes to recover, he reloads, and then notes with satisfaction that his previous attempt at targeting was largely preserved.  It would only take a slight twist of the knob and . . . rockets away.  Aurora is coming up on the last sunflower.  It's head is rotating, as it trys to track the starship.  Like two gunfighters trying to stare each other down and get an advantage in the draw, both fire near simultaneously, and amazingly enough both miss.  Otophryne senses the weak moment when the flower has to recharge, and having been prepared for such an opportunity, fires again.  As Babina turns to the captain to report that sunflowers 3 and 4 have disappeared, it seems as if the dial on his voice his voice has been turned up, the bridge lights concurrently brighten, and Otophryne's world snaps back into normal.           

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 10/26/2008 4:14:47 AM   
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Stardate 2256.  Captain's cabin, 2240 hours.  Captain Rana is spending a few minutes catching up on his personal log.  He notes that all the minor damage incurred during the encounter at Velorum has been repaired, and that fortunately, the passage of the bolt through the hull managed to miss his crew.  He then restated the need for some kind of defense against bolts, as currently Aurora remains completely vulnerable to them.  The expenditure of seven rockets is quite alot for just one system, but couldn't be helped.  He notes that the Chief shot very accurately, considering the trying circumstances, and that the combat experience of the starship is now a robust 24%.  In addition, a pair of new combat maneuvers are now available, giving the ship far more flexibility in combat.  Unfortunately for his science officer, the sentries of this encounter were all organic based, and remained on the surface of the planets, so Lt. Alytes was not able to get a sample for dating.  As a result, much of the mystery of the sentries remains, even after this latest encounter.  The third planet at Velorum, a huge type 3 had no defenses and had been quickly scanned.  Based on the results of those scans, the Velorum system will generate a steady source of income in minerals for Sol-1 (estimated at $6/year).  From a strategic viewpoint, Rana notes that although the long-range scanners found plenty of stars to the southwest of Velorum, none appeared to be the center of planetary systems.  North of Velorum, along the edge of the Pelobates arm, the number of stars rapidly fell off, approaching the dead zone.  Thus, it is becoming more and more apparent that both the north and west neighboring regions of Sol-1 are devoid of star systems with planets.  These observations continue to fuel speculation that the Amphibians really are isolated on the outer fringe of the galaxy.  As a result, they may escape encounters with other species along what are likely highly travelled central routes of the galaxy, an idea that suits Rana perfectly well, considering that the tiny scout Aurora is the only starship available to the Amphibians.  On the other hand, if the Amphibians are really serious about becoming a space power, then they will need far more resources available to them than the meager handful of planets currently visited by Aurora.  As a result, rather than continue to the west in an attempt to discover unseen new planet systems, Aurora has reversed course, and is currently heading for the Eridani system, 5 ly east of Sol-1.  Currently, the starship is nearing the Mizar system, just north of Sol-1.  Rana sensed from the throb of the engines that all was well, so he helped himself to a couple of chocolate-covered crickets and headed for the sack.        

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 11/9/2008 1:39:34 AM   
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Stardate 2257.  Bridge, 0220 hours.  The turbo doors hiss open, and Lt. Commander Babina steps through.  For some reason, he woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, and on a whim had gotten dressed.  As is typical for most of the ship during so-called "night" hours, the lighting on the bridge is subdued.  He also notes that the temperature is set a little cooler than during "daylight" hours.  "Probably it is an aid to keep crewmembers awake," he muses to himself, noting that it must surely be working for him.  A quick glance at the nav panel shows the current position of Aurora, 0.2 ly Northeast of the Mizar system, heading East Southeast.  "How's everything this morning?" he asks the helm.  "Very quite, sir," is the response.  "All panels are green and we are exactly on schedule."  The only other member of the 12-4 bridge watch is at tactical, and Babina walks up to his station to glance at the screens.  "Nothing to show sir.  A small freighter left Mizar about 30 minutes ago, heading back to Sol-1, but it's off the screen now."  "Thanks," replied Babina.  "I was having a little trouble sleeping and thought that I would come up and see what was going on.  It looks like I have not missed anything."  "Not tonight, sir.  If you wish, I can have you called if something comes up."  "No, I don't think that it will be necessary.  I was just following up on an impulse."  The watch called out, "Goodnight, sir," as Babina turned for the turbolift.  "Responsibility never ends," thought Babina as the lift descended.  "It even follows me in my dreams."

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