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RE: Amphibians Ascendant

 
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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 11/11/2008 6:07:14 AM   
oi

 

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Stardate 2258.  Engineering, 1023 hours.  Pipa is hoping to get signed off on his ion-drive practical.  For the last three watches in a row, he has taken apart and reassembled the backup injector assembly with the aid of Kaloula, but now, under the stern gaze of Lt. Chaunus, it matters not how much he has prepared.  As his gloved claws slowly remove each of the 6 nuts used to support the guard for the charcoal ring, he explains why it should be replaced every six months, and how it is used to trap impurities escaping from the ion flow.  Methodically, he rinses off and wipes the inside of the marmon clamp with methanol, taking care to include the ring seal.  He finds that it is doubly hard to do even the simplest tasks when his every move is being watched and questioned.  One of the screws slips out and drops. Fortunately, it does not roll far, and he hopes that the slight tremor in his claws was not noticed. As he lifts the seal, Lt. Chaunus asks, "Pipa, what is the seal made out of?"  The question momentarily catches Pipa by surprise.  He has seen seals like this many times, and just yesterday cut several new ones out from a square patch of foil.  The metal is shiny and soft, and clearly not made of something ordinary.  "Indium?" he half-croaks cautiously.  "Correct," replies Chaunus.  "And why are the seals made out of indium?"  Pipa has recovered from his initial shock of being questioned, and now suddenly some of Kaloula's words stream back into his consciousness.  "To make a good thermal conductivity contact."  "Correct again," replies Chaunus.  As Pipa begins to reassemble the cryo shell, Lt Chaunus pumps him with questions, in a not too subtle attempt at distraction.  "What happens if you run low on cryo gas?  What does it mean if you hear a chattering noise in the cold-head?  When the pumped down temperature on your nightly readings creeps higher, what is happening?  Pipa recalled all of his complaints to Kaloula (and some whining too), and suddenly was glad that his friend has been so demanding in his training.  As Pipa stood up and took off his white cotton gloves, Lt. Chaunus looked at his data pad and entered in a check mark.  "Good job, Pipa.  You have only five more practicals left before you are qualified on the ion drive.  Luckily, you were there when we had it apart at our last stay in space dock.  Let me know when you are ready to tackle quadrupole confinement."  "Yes sir.  I'll begin my studies as soon as we are out of the Eridani system."         

< Message edited by oi -- 11/11/2008 6:51:34 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 11/27/2008 5:32:55 AM   
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Stardate, 2259.  Bridge, 0800 hours.  In the early morning hours, Aurora has broken warp and is now near orbital position around the innermost planet of the Eridani system.  Captain Rana has made a habit of ensuring that his crew is at maximal readiness for these encounters, and has timed the final approach for the morning 8 to 12 watch.  He looks at the medium sized planet that fills the forward screen, and orders, "Helm, prepare for standard orbit."  "Aye aye, sir.  Standard orbit set.  Will initiate in 2 minutes."  As the starship races along the the dark edge of the terminator, Chief Otophryne calls out, "Large storm, dead ahead."  The darkness below reveals no hint of a storm, with the exception of sporatic short lasting dull glows that might be lightning.  Rana has to make a quick decision.  He can stay safely above the storm and wait for the planet's rotation to reveal the extent of the weather, or he can descend and give the Chief a better opportunity for a good shot to disrupt it.  "Helm, slow to one-third impulse.  Reduce altitude to 60 km.  Chief, I hope that you have the outline of the target."  "Not yet, sir.  It's either very big or very diffuse."  After the smoothness of space flight, the effect of the atmosphere (even at this high altitude) becomes noticeable on Aurora, as the ship begins to shimmy.  Suddenly, without warning, the starship is gripped by a hellish wind, and upends nose first sliding down a huge red-black funnel.  Everything not fastened down flys through the air, crashing on the forward bulkheads.  Panels light up with alarms.  The bottom falls out of Rana's stomach, replaced by a crushing wave of nausea.  "Reverse thrusters.  Go with the spin."  "She's barely responding, sir."  The altimeter, which had been dropping numbers faster than they could be properly displayed, began to steady.  As if on a titanic carnival ride, Aurora with its nose down and tail up, completes five circuits about the maelstrom in just a few seconds.  The resulting centrifugal force presses heavily on the bodies of the crew, bulging their eyes, and making even the slightest movements slow and ponderous.  Then, just as fast as the storm's reach had hooked the starship, Aurora broke free.  For a second or two, the world stabilized, when sheerly by chance, the gyrating storm re-engulfed the starship.  The hull rang out in protest, screeching against the torque.  Overwhelmed by nausea, Lt. Commander Babina vomited up his breakfast.  The liquid and bits only made it half way to the deck, before being flung back at the unfortunate officer, with a goodly portion continuing past him to spat against Chief Otophryne trying to maintain his balance behind him at tactical.  As every second ticked in incredible slow motion, the yawning red-black lightening fanged monster of the whirlwind continuously ripped at the ship.  "Forward thrusters, full power, Now!"  Straining at every muscle, the helmsman slid the lever forward, and the ship shook like the rag doll play toy of an angry dog.  Pulling forward, Aurora entered the eye of the storm, a moment of steadiness and silence, broken only by the calm voice of Chief Otophryne, "Rockets away, sir."  A tiny glow dropped on a straight line directly below the starship, followed by every set of eyes on the bridge.  Concurrent with a sudden burst of brightness, Aurora re-entered the mass of wind, which whipped the starship into another spin, again to port.  Seconds later, the starship was ejected from the storm, which continued to spin in crazy angles, as if cut off from its base.  As Rana and his crew all managed to take in their first real breath in the last 3 minutes, the forward screen showed the storm rapidly dissipating.  Although he found it difficult to speak, Lt. Commander Babina called out a damage report.  "Nuclear generator 19% damage; Optical computer 1 10% damage; Optical computer 2 10% damage; Rocket drive 1 5% damage; Weapons 10% damage."  Otophryne looked up from his screen and announced, "Planet's surface is all clear of sentries."  Rana looked about the battered bridge.  "Helm, resume standard orbit."  "Lt. Alytes are you ready to perform a scan?"  "Give me a few minutes, sir.  I have to reset some of the computers subsystems."  "Very well.  When you are ready, the planet is yours."   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 12/9/2008 6:51:33 AM   
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Stardate 2260.  Bridge, 1242 hours.  The second planet of Eridani is a non-descript type 4 with no sentries or defenses.  Lt. Alytes has to consciously stifle a yawn, as he reads over the live telemetry being sent back by Aurora's class 1 probe.  "The amount of iridium is not insignificant", he notes, when suddenly his eyes pop open.  "Sir, the planet is sending us a transmission," he barks out.  Captain Rana looks up and all eyes on the bridge spontaneously focus on the forward screen.  There, the surface of the planet continued its slow shift under the starship unchanged, and nothing visible betrayed the source of the message.  Opening a window in the lower corner of the forward screen, Lt. Alytes displays the incoming transmission for all to see.  Unfortunately, it is not in Universal, Basic, Karack, or Amphibian.  "I'm having the computer attempt to decode it," announced Alytes.  "On first inspection, it appears to be a set of instructions."  As meaningful words begin to substitute themselves in for the strange combination of letters and numbers projected on the screen, it gradually became clear that the transmission was indeed a set of instructions.  "I don't think that it is a message directed at or specific for Aurora," concluded Lt. Alytes.  "It seems to involve notes on the theoretical background and construction of either an advanced armament or some form of defensive shield."  Just as abruptly as it had begun, the transmission ended.  "As soon as the decoding is complete, send the text to Sol-1, priority one, in code," ordered Rana.  "I do not know whether this was a lucky find, or if the message was meant for us, but no matter what, we have to see if we can understand and use this information," he continued.  Lt. Commander Babina felt that he had to add the thought that, "thus far, the sentries have been neither helpful nor friendly, and it might be prudent to add some words of caution to that effect for anyone reading the message back on Sol-1."  "I agree," concurred Rana.  "Naturally, if we send back instructions to build a weapon, someone on Sol-1 will build it."  Babina continued on his train of thought, "But weapons are always two-edged, and for all we know it could be an advanced technology designed to enable us to be the source of our own doom."  "We are explorers," noted Rana.  "If this tiny dot of a starship encounters a Kerack cruiser, I for one, would like to have something more than a brace of rockets for defense.  What do you think, Lt. Alytes?"  Alytes looked up and thought for a moment before answering, "All knowledge builds on the past, while concurrently revealing the future in an unpredicatable way.  Because it is unpredictable, science contains the thrill of discovery.  But at the same time, some of the steady ground of the past is lost, there is a natural fear of the unknown, and it requires a leap of faith to overstep one's bounds."  "Send the message, Lieutenant," ordered Rana.  "Helm, set course 451-090.  We have another planet to investigate." 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 12/17/2008 6:38:17 AM   
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Stardate 2261.  Captain's ready room, 0620 hours.  Rana reads the incoming report from Sol-1.  Besides the acknowledgement of receiving Aurora's transmission of the advanced research artifact, there is news that a third science laboratory has been completed in Gamma city.  Admiral Ansonia also has included a note that all three laboratories are currently in the midst of developing a laser screen expressly designed for starship defense against electromagnetic weapons.  Rana wonders if this screen bears any resemblance to the idea he submitted on the last visit to Space dock-1.  He continues to read.  Barring no setbacks, a working first generation system will be ready for installation and testing the next time Aurora returns to space dock.  A new freighter route has been established to the Velorum system.  Sol-1 has also completed a large surface mine, the output of which can be directly applied to the space budget.  Currently it stands at $2257, with an increase of $12 per day.  Finally, a freighter captain on the Serpens route reported back the possible presence of a nearby star system with planets.  This observation was later confirmed to be in the Hally system by astronomers on Sol-1.  Once Aurora has completed her mission at Eridani, Rana is ordered to continue on and investigate this new star system.    Finished with the news, Rana cannot help but contemplate that with every passing day, Amphibia's footprint in this corner of space grows larger.  Many back home appear to be feeling optimistic, but he knows that sooner or later (and more likely sooner), someone or something will discover that the Amphibians are out in space.  He glances again at the space budget numbers, and makes a wry face.  He cannot help but think that there's nothing here for ships and weapons.  As he glances up from his musings, Rana is just in time to catch a rare glimpse of Ambystoma peering out at him in the tank.  "Where did all these reflective thoughts come from," he mutters.  "There's work to be done."
       "Captain on the bridge," announces Lt. Commander Babina.  "As you were," replies Rana.  "Sir, we are currently approaching orbit for the third planet in the system," continued Babina.  "Very good.  Helm, when ready, set standard orbit, 100 km."  "Aye aye, Sir.  Standard orbit," came the acknowledgement.  "Chief, can you make out any defenses?"  "Not yet, Sir," Otophryne replied.  "There are no whirlwinds, but there are some rather high clouds."  The medium-sized world below was a type-1, nearly covered with beautiful blue oceans in a partly cloudy sky.  Aurora rapidly approached one of the benign appearing clouds.  "Lt. Alytes, could you scan that cloud?" Rana could not give an explanation for the request.  It was simply a response to an intuition.  "It will take a moment, sir," Alytes replied.  "I have to adjust the settings from those for the surface.  It will be just a moment.  That's odd, the cloud seems to have a rather high metallicity."  At that moment, a round, dark object darted out from the cloud making a bee line for Aurora.  "Evasive maneuvers," roared Rana.  Too late, as one of the object's spindly tentacles touched Aurora, there was a tremendous explosion.  The entire ship both rang and shook like a bell.  The picture of the planet on the main screen rolled, as Aurora was momentarily knocked out of control by the blast.  Fortunately, there was very little loose gear stowed on the starship, as everyone had learned a little lesson from the encounter with with whirlwinds.  After a few moments, the ship righted itself, the ringing in the ears began to fade, and gradually it was possible to hear and see the various alarms on the instrument panels.  "Nuclear generator, 4% damage; Optical computer-1, 20% damage; Optical computer-2, 40% damage; Rocket drive-1, 5% damage; Rocket drive-2, 20% damage; Weapons, 10% damage," Babina rapidly went through the list of just about every component on the ship.  Rana knew instantly that nothing serious was in the report, and he suddenly had a momentary feeling of empathy for his crew, who had worked a double shift the previous evening simply to repair the damage sustained from the first planet in this system.  "Lt. Alytes, check the other clouds to see if there are any more of those things.  Chief, is weapons still on line?  Helm, return to standard orbit."  "Sir, those clouds ahead appear to be simply normal clouds," replied Alytes.  "Sir, weapons remain operational.  No suitable targets available," said Otophryne.  "Despite some concussion effects and flying metal, the outer hull is still intact," reported Babina.  "Anyone that feels the need for medical attention to their ears, let me know.  Lt. Alytes, prepare to scan the surface."  Rana suddenly felt exhausted, his ears hurt, his stomach churned with acid, and he had probably lost two shades of green.  "Babina, you have the bridge.  I will be in my ready room."          

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/1/2009 1:19:46 AM   
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Stardate 2262.  Bridge, 0755 hours.  It was amazing what 24 hours could do for the spirits of both the Captain and crew.  Here, in the early morning hours, the fourth (and outermost) planet of the Eridani system occupied much of the forward screen.  Red, large, weak in shrouded clouds, it seemed rather inviting compared to the exploration battles of the previous days.  "Standard orbit", observed Rana.  "Aye aye sir.  Approaching standard orbit at 100 km.  Even at this altitude, the tops of some of the clouds reached high into space.  Big planets always seemed to come with big (thick) atmospheres.  And here, oddly, the clouds seemed more like little round splotches.  "Lt Alytes, what do you make of the cloud shapes?" asked Rana.  "Likely to be plumes from volcanos," replied the Lieutenant.  If there is little crustal motion, then the volcanos can gradually accumulate to enormous size."  "Three of the clouds are moving," barked out Chief Otophyrne.  "They are on a closing pattern.  Range to the nearest one is 250 km."  "No volcanos that I know of can move like that," observed Captain Rana.  "I smell the presence of whirlwinds."  "Helm, right to course 227+43.  Reduce altitude to 70 km.  Chief, we will try to extend the closing time to the first cloud in order for you to get in a shot."  "Outer rocket doors open," replied Otophryne.  "Targeting the base now."  As Aurora changed course, all three whirlwinds responded in kind, however, the course chosen by the Captain forced them to alter their pattern of mutual protection and to attempt to approach the starship single file.  As the first one came within 50 km, Otophryne announced, "Rocket's away."  All eyes on the bridge followed the tiny dot on the screen, which was all that could be seen of the rocket.  "Approaching target in three, two, one . . . "  There was a bright flash, and the lead whirlwind suddenly broke course and began to move erratically.  "Direct hit on the base," reported Otophryne.  "Shifting to the next target."  "Good shooting Chief.  Helm, come left 3 degrees to improve the shooting angle."  "Left 3 degrees, sir."  Undaunted by the fate of the first storm, the remaining two doggedly continued to close the range.  At 35 km, the firing solution was set and Otophryn called out, "Launching rocket."  This time the elapsed time to contact was noticeably shorter than for the previous launch, when again, a large fireball was followed by a collapsing storm.  "Excellent work, Chief.  One to go," said Rana.  The last storm had utilized the sacrifice of the previous storms to gain ground on Aurora, and now had closed the range to less than 10 km.  Although from distant space, the top looked white, now closeup, it was a colored kaleidoscope of whirling red sand.  Lt.Commander Babina could not help but think that 30 seconds inside that maelstrom and the green hull of Aurora would be converted into shiny polished silver metal.  No one wanted to think of what would happen if the starship actually was caught by the storm.  Foreseeing what might be the inevitable, Rana had already aligned the nose of Aurora in the clockwise direction of the storm, as an aid for the helmsman to subsequently break free.  "Rocket's away," announced the Chief.  With less than 1 km to go, the storm was too close to follow the rocket to the base, and Rana passed the announcement for, "All hands to brace for whirlwhind contact."  Ten seconds passed, and then it became increasingly clear that Aurora was putting distance between it and the storm, and that the storm was in distress.  "Great work, Chief.  Three storms for three rockets.  You have just set a new record," noted Rana.  "Pass the word to stand down from the whirlwind.  Lt. Alytes, I believe that the planet is yours."  "Preparing a class-1 probe for exploration," reported Alytes.  "Thanks Chief for not getting us spun."  Otophryne looked up from his station to give the lieutenant a nod, as Alytes continued his preparations for a probe launch.  "Probe's away.  Telemetry coming in.  It's a very large type 2."  Alytes announced, as if he had not already known.  "No damage, another planet in the books.  Yes, today was really starting to look up," thought Rana to himself, as he walked towards his ready room.   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/3/2009 6:27:20 AM   
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Stardate 2263.  Bridge, 0122 hours.  Lt. Commander Babina has the midnight to four watch.  Normally senior officers do not have to stand watches, but he volunteered for this one, knowing how hard the crew has been working on repairs from the previous days battles with the sentries.  Currently, he shares the darkened bridge with only the helmsman and a still warm but half full cup of stimcaf.  Since Aurora is locked into her course, both the helmsman and senior officer are free to wander about and check the various stations.  Babina examines the proximity panel.  Currently, the screen is blank, an indication that of the many objects Aurora is in the act of approaching and passing, none show a course that deviates even the slightest from a continuous trajectory.  Aurora's course is SSW, on a heading for the starsystem Halley, which is about 5 ly South Southeast of Sol-1.  Arrival time is set for about 5 days from now.  Babina's thoughts drift back to last night's celebratory dinner, when the Captain presented Chief Otophryne with the "Crack Shot" award.  This was a prestigious event, as the award also became part of the starship's armament.  The cook had overdone himself with the insect-laden cake, and everyone, including Babina had eaten too much.  By the time he had pulled himself away from the dinner table and "crawled" to his quarters, he had only a hour left before the watch.  Normally, a full stomach brings on that post-prandial urge to sleep, but tonight, being uncomfortably full, he had stayed awake.  Now that some of the cake was moving farther on down his digestive system, he was beginning to feel more comfortable, and becoming aware of the lack of sleep.  Fortunately, there would be no 0800 planetary survey, and he would be able to sleep nearly 6 hours until his 1000 meeting.  Babina walked over to tactical and noted that there were 9 rockets left.  "More than enough to deal with planetary sentries," he thought, "but low enough so that it was very likely that Aurora would be pointing her nose homeward bound after this next starsystem."  This was Aurora's fourth tour into space, and although none were for exceedingly long stretches, Babina felt the constant pressure generated by the cold emptiness of space and the incredible distance from home.  Absently, he punched a button on the panel and noted that according to the computer, Aurora's crew had accumulated 28% combat experience.  Without a doubt, the stress of space exploration and travel was also cumulative, something even the rigors of a military training and lifestyle could not offset.  A soft tone signalled that the comm line was active, and he noted an incoming message from Sol-1.  Although addressed for Captain Rana, it was not marked "priority," and Babina left it for the Captain to pick up later in the morning.  Babina usually tried not to look at the clock, but his eyes strayed compulsively to the spot on the bulkhead.  To his chagrin, it had hardly moved from the last time he had peeked.  Tonight was going to be a long night.           

< Message edited by oi -- 9/16/2011 6:22:09 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/7/2009 5:39:26 AM   
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Stardate 2264.  Captain's ready room, 0822 hours.  Captain Rana is reading a report sent "for his eyes only" from the command center at Space dock-1.  "To Captain, Starship Aurora.  From Admiral Ansonia.  Your recent discovery of a type-1 planet 5 ly distant from Sol-1 has precipitated a command decision that had been previously discussed at length.  We have decided to commit to the construction of a colony ship, one both capable of making the trip to Eridani-III and large enough to carry a significant population of colonists, effective immediately.  In the next few days, the call will go out across Amphibia to find volunteers willing to leave their ancestral homes and to venture out into the new world.  We recognize that this project will entail a considerable investment both in construction time and in funding (currently estimated at $2200).  The commitment of over 84% of our current space budget to this project means that Aurora will continue to be the only warship in Amphibia's foreseeable future.  To assist in raising cash for this project, a new surface mine has been ordered for construction on Sol-1.  It will be built north of Beta city, in a mineral-rich location that geologists estimate to be capable of generating about $5 per year, once it is fully developed.  Establishment of a colony at Eridani-III will open up the entire Southeast sector for exploration, promote the establishment of new freighter routes, and aid in setting up an internal line of communication between the two Amphibian worlds.  Future plans include the creation of a second space dock, increased research capacity, and the growth of a new population base.  Your role in the upcoming period is to explore in detail the space about Eridani-III, noting all planetary systems for commercial exploitation.  I can also tell you that we are initiating a new weapons research project entitled, 'Defensive Fighter Flak.'  This will be a short-range concussion-based system enabling a starship to defend itself against small ships and incoming projectiles.  Normally, high command has been very reluctant to commit resources to weapons, however, since Aurora will be responsible for the protection and safe conduct of the colony ship during its trip to Eridani-III, I was able to obtain approval for this project.  Good luck with the exploration of the Halley system."  After reading the message, Rana taps a few keys to examine the current financial status of Sol-1's space budget.  He reads, $459, with an annual income of $12 per year.  Ansonia was right.  It will take a long time before the budget recovers from this setback.                   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/10/2009 4:46:16 AM   
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Stardate 2265.  Engineering crawl space, 0234.  Kaloula is handling the fuse-welder, working on repairing damage to the inner hull.  Pipa is acting as his spotter.  Bolts penetrate the hull of Aurora rather easily, and it is only a matter of luck on whether or not they will hit a crewmember or something critical during their passage.  Here, there is an ugly melted gash where the bolt entered the bulkhead at an angle.  Nearly spherical droplets of molten metal form a frozen stream that originates from the head-high entrance point and flows all the way down to the deck grid below.  Pipa reaches out and touches a long finger-like strand of rubbery sealpak that extends from the original entry point in the outer hull mid-way across the crawl space towards Kaloula's back.  "The sensitivity of sealpak to vacuum is amazing," noted Pipa.  "It even breaks into needle-like strands at the end."  "It has to be good," replied Kaloula.  "There is not much time to respond to an air breach."  "I suppose that it is no more difficult than holding one's breath," said Pipa.  "You could just take a deep breath and start running for the nearest air-lock."  "It's not like that at all.  Most individuals pass out before they are even aware of an air breach," responded Kaloula.  "Really?  That fast?  Okay, imagine that I am in a normal sized room and suddenly a bolt passes through creating a one-inch diameter hole.  How long do I have to respond?" asked Pipa.  "Just a minute.  Let me finish this spot," replied Kaloula.  He then stood up and stretched, before replying thoughtfully, "Well, decompression follows a logarithmic pattern, with most of it gone in a few seconds.  Probably the last molecules of air would be gone in less than minute.  So, this would give you maybe 6 to 12 seconds before you would lose consciousness.  I would hazard a guess that even if you were fully suited, with the visor up, that there would not be time to lower your visor before blacking out."  "I never thought of vacuum as being so dangerous," replied Pipa, looking at the art-like pattern of exposed sealpak with new respect.  Kaloula continued, "Of course, even though you are unconscious, you would still be alive for a few minutes. There is still the possibility of being rescued and revived. Give me a hand with the tanks, we're done here."   

< Message edited by oi -- 1/10/2009 4:51:44 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/13/2009 5:33:51 AM   
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Stardate 2266.  Bridge, 1945 hours.  Lt. Alytes looks up from his long-range scanner.  Some days ago, he had picked up a star with planets in the Virgo system, 1 ly south of Eridani, as the ship had passed nearby.  Now, today, as the ship was heading southwest towards the Halley system, the opening up of new deep space in front of Aurora had revealed a trio of stars with planetary systems.  Alytes carefully plotted the new systems:  positioned 6 ly south of Sol-1 was the Brache system, 5 ly south southwest of Sol-1 was the Hyginus system, and 5 ly southwest of Sol-1 was the Giglas system.  The lack of star systems north of Sol-1 and the growing collection to the south seemed to be forming a pattern, but as of yet, the general outlines were still unclear.  With a sigh that reflected the long length of his day, he had just turned off the scanner when his comm badge chimed.  "Yes," he responded.  "Sir, this is the mess cook.  I wonder if you could come down here for a minute."  "No problem.  I'm on the bridge and just finishing up."  Alytes, walked to the turbolift, and headed down one deck.  As the door opened to deck 2, the throb of the engines was clearly more audible than on the bridge.  Alytes headed forward.  It took only a few moments to find the mess cook.  "Sir, I want you to look at this."  The cook held out a small cricket.  Alytes looked at the insect.  Nothing looked out of the ordinary.  It was just a common cricket.  "I have a small cricket catcher here that I keep for seasonings, and all the crickets in it are fine.  But the ones in the insectivorium are like this one," said the cook.  "What do you mean, like this one?" asked Alytes.  "They're sluggish, easy to catch, the numbers are down and they look old," added the cook.  "How can you say they look old?"  "Because some of them have white hairs," continued the cook.  Alytes had never heard of an 'old' cricket before.  He pointed to the cricket held by the cook.  "Is this one of the old ones," he asked.  "Well, it's not very white, but it just came from the insectivorium and it was barely moving."  What the cook said was obviously true, for the small insect did not look very chipper.  "Well, let me take it to the laboratory and see what I can come up with," said Alytes.  The cook carefully handed Alytes the cricket, and he proceeded to his analytical lab.  Once there, he set up the insect on the magnifier, aligned a set of magnetic pincers to hold the cricket in place, and dialed up the enlargement until the cricket was about the size of his fist.  Even now, nothing seemed unusual.  He moved the focus over to the insect's head, and continued to increase the magnification.  Now at 400x, a wide variety of incredibly detailed hairs became visible against a geometrically structured exoskeleton.  Most were black, but a few did have the appearance of looking white.  Remembering what the cook had said about an increase in white coloration, he zoomed in on one of the white hairs.  At 1000x, he found something.  What had initially appeared as white hairs were now revealed to be a chain of elongated colorless cells.  These were mycelia masquerading as hairs, and the cricket had a fungal infection.  Sliding a small lever forward, a set of nanotweezers appeared on the screen, and Alytes proceeded to snip off some of 'hairs'.  At the site of each cut, a small droplet of cytoplasm oozed out.  After collecting about eight of the mycelial strands, he teased his small bundle into a oven-like opening in the stage.  He then turned to the computer and punched in a program.  "It should take only about 15 minutes for the DNA analyzer to come up with a species identification match," he noted.  "I'll come back after supper and check the results.  Based on the DNA profile, he would scan the genome for enzymatic susceptibilities, and design a semivolatile antifungal for the insectivorium before hitting the sack for the night.  Hopefully he would be able to get the infection under control quickly, as most of the crew (himself included) was inordinately fond of crickets.                            

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/16/2009 6:10:08 AM   
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Stardate 2267.  Engineering 0310, hours.  Pipa and Kaloula have the midnight to four watch.  Both have just finished their readings and and lounging about near the emergency control panel.  Kaloula stares at the rows of red buttons on the panel, each covered by a small plastic shield to prevent even random flying debris from accidentally flipping one.  Pipa is busy writing and calculating on his wrist pad.  "What are you calculating?" asks Kaloula.  "I'm trying to come up with a new strategy to win at Labacc," is the reply.  "The next time I'm in Beta city, I'll see if I can win a bunch of credits."  "There is no strategy for Labacc," said Kaloula.  "There are some bells and whistles that make players think that they are influencing the outcome, but behind the veneer it's just a game of chance."  "I just can't help but think that there is a strategy or system that no one has come up with," responded Pipa.  "For instance, imagine that there is a 50:50 chance of winning.  You watch the tables and someone has lost 20 times in a row.  Sure the odds on the next bet are 50:50, but doesn't my knowledge of the recent past events suggest that the odds are about to shift?"  "Not really, over long periods of time, the numbers of wins and losses should even out, but there can be some wild swings either way in between.  Even after someone has lost 100 times in a row, it is just as likely that the next bettor will lose 100 more times in a row, than for someone to win 100 times in a row," explained Kaloula.  "Alright, let's do a test.  I walk up to the tables at random and place a bet.  What are my odds of winning a Labacc?" asked Pipa.  "That's easy, depending on house odds, its usually 44.4%," responded Kaloula.  "Now, I watch the table and only place a bet after someone has lost.  Shouldn't that change the odds slightly, since eventually the table will have to let someone win?"  "Okay, I will run a simulation on my calculator.  Here are 10,000 random events termed on and off.  We'll call the on's wins and the off's losses.  After every off, I place a bet and see what the next event is."  Kaloula pushes the buttons, and after a few moments, a readout appears.  "Look at this, the odds of a win are 44.4%," he announces.  "No difference at all?"  "No difference."  Pipa is surprised at the result, but not discouraged.  "I have a new idea.  Wait until someone at the table has lost twice in a row, and then bet," he suggests.  Kaloula runs the simulation again under the new constraints.  "It's 44.4% again.  I think that you will have to come up with a new strategy." "I'm starting to not like this game anymore," growled Pipa.  "Well, if you come up with a new idea, let me know," said Kaloula cheerily.  "Look, it's time for our next set of readings."   

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/21/2009 5:54:40 AM   
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Stardate 2268.  Bridge, 2244 hours.  Aurora has arrived early at the Halley system, and the starship has broken warp and is cruising leisurely high over what could be designated as the North pole of its rather ordinary sun.  Lt. Alytes is just "playing" with his scanner, having already ascertained that there are two planets in the system, yet knowing that Captain Rana will likely not take any further action until tomorrow morning.  Absently, he takes a scan at a tiny dot also residing in polar orbit.  The object catches his attention due to its orbit, which is perpendicular to the ecliptic, something that is normally rather difficult to attain.  The return signal is puzzling, with way too much titanium for a garden variety chunk of space rock.  Looking up, he notices that only the helmsman and Ensign Awa are on duty.  "Helm, could you do me a favor and put the coordinates 335-33 on the forward screen?"  "No problem, sir."  The view on the screen is not much better than that of the scanner, but it is clear that the reflected light from the dot is varying in magnitude in a periodic manner.  "Probably the rock is rotating," murmurs Alytes out loud.  "Helm, could you increase the magnification?"  "I can double it sir, but not much more after that."  "Go ahead, let's see if it can make a difference."  At maximum magnification, the object was still rather blurry, but clearly the image had broken into three parts.  There were two bright patches on either side, and a dim region inbetween.  "Ensign, what do you make of that?" asked Alytes.  "Can't say, sir.  I've never seen anything like that before," answered Awa.  To Alytes, the peculiar orbit, peculiar scan, and now peculiar image all summed up to deepen the mystery.  The only way to settle the issue was to get closer, and to do so he would have to ask the Captain.  And he would have to ask soon, as the distance between Aurora and the tiny object would rapidly only grow greater.  "Is the Captain in?" he asks.  Awa points his claw towards the ready room.  Hesitantly, Alytes goes over and knocks on the door.  "Enter"  The panel parts, and Lt. Alytes sees the Captain standing in front of the glass window that formed the front of the tank holding the two salamanders.  "Yes?"  "Sir, I have picked up something unusual on the scanners and would like permission to change course and take the ship in for a closer look."  Rana briefly looks puzzled.  "What do you mean by unusual?"  "It is a small object, probably just a piece of space metal, but it looks different.  Would you like to see it?  I have it on the front viewscreen."  The Captain follows Alytes back out onto the darkened bridge.  The tiny dot beckons, with its periodic glow and blurry shape.  "Well, we are early.  Let's take a gander.  Helm, change course to match the object's orbit and bring us in a little closer."  "Aye, aye sir.  Changing course now."  As Aurora approached, gradually the shape of the object resolved into a small cylinder with two metallic "wings."  Alytes gave it a full high resolution scan.  "Sir, it is obviously built by an intelligent species.  Currently it is not operating, and based on the reflection, it has been here for a long time.  Request permission to bring it aboard for an examination."  Rana weighed the pros and cons of this request.  Bringing something aboard Aurora put the ship at risk.  At the same time, the ship was in space expressly for the purpose of discovery, and here was opportunity knocking.  "Permission granted.  Helm, bring the ship alongside the object.  Open the doors to cargo bay-2 and we'll bring it aboard."  "Venting cargo bay-2 now," came the response.  "Ensign Awa, man tactical and use the tractor beam to steer the object aboard."  "Yes sir," replied Awa, enthusiastically.  With an eye trained by much practice, Awa manipulated the tiny object and lowered it down onto the deck of cargo bay-2.  "Helm, resume course.  Seal off cargo bay-2, and recharge the atmosphere.  Alytes, let's you and I go and see what we have recovered."            

< Message edited by oi -- 1/21/2009 5:59:22 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/25/2009 12:21:31 AM   
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Stardate 2269.  Crews mess, 0610.  Lt. Alytes woke up early and was working hard on a bowl of warmed pond water with double handfuls of coated fish lice.  Last night's inspection of the ancient artifact brought on board Aurora had revealed that it was some kind of primitive solar observation device, which immediately suggested that this star system contained an intelligent species.  Of course, they would be very much behind the times, in a galaxy inhabited by both the militaristic Keracks, and now the up and coming Amphibians.  From his preliminary look see, Alytes knew that the planet scheduled for investigation today was the only one of the two planets close enough to their sun to be warm enough for liquid water.  As for signals of life, a planet like Sol-1 was practically bleeding oxygen gas, detectable for plenty of ly, so it was somewhat of a mystery to him as to why he had not picked up its characteristic signals on the long-range scanner last night.  "Oh well", he thought, "I'll likely put that question to rest today".  Finishing up the last few spoonfuls of soup, he got up and placed the bowl in the receiving tray.  With all the anticipation of a young tadpole, he headed for the turbolift.  Waiting for it to descend, he was joined by Ensign Awa.  "Morning Ensign.  Are you as interested in this planet as I am?"  "You bet, Sir.  The implications of a new lifeform will create an explosion of knowledge and shed light on our place in the universe."  The turbolift chimed and its doors opened.  Alytes and Awa walked in and Alytes touched the button for 'Bridge'.  "Do you think that they will know that we are here?" asked Awa, who continued, "Do you think that the Captain will communicate with them?"  "We'll soon find out soon enough," Alytes answered.  Just then, the doors retracted into the bulkhead, and both Amphibians stepped through the portal and looked at the forward screen.  There, glowing brightly in reflected sunlight, the view of the first planet of the Halley system (designated as Halley I) dominated the room.  It was a more than a shock.  Both Alytes and Awa had come prepared to see white clouds and blue water, but none was present.  Instead, the planet was mis-shapen, with a massive indentation in its Northern hemisphere.  No clouds, no water, no life, nothing but a sparkling grey silica-laden dusty surface.  Both knew without connecting the dots from the ancient artifact collected last night to the view of this blasted planet, that a civilization-sized tragedy had occurred. 
    There was no sentry on guarding the planet, and several hours later, Aurora got underway and moved out in the direction of Halley II.  For Alytes, the picture was becoming ever more clear.  The evidence pointed to two hits to the planet by asteroid-sized bodies.  The first time had been billions of years ago, an event that created the proportionally large moon in elliptical orbit about Halley I.  The second hit must have occurred in modern times, creating the smaller moon in its more eccentric orbit, with a retinue of space boulders leading and trailing.  The surface of Halley I had been completely remodelled by the second hit, and although the scan could find plenty of oxidized iron, nothing remained of the planet's once plentiful atmosphere.  In between those two events, lifeforms had developed on the planets surface.  They had thrived and advanced to the point where they could nibble on the edge of space with survey and observational instruments, before disappearing in a single catastrophic event.  Likely the only trace that remained of billions of lives and a unique set of lifeforms was the single museum piece now sitting in Aurora's cargo bay-2.  Alytes could not help but wonder at the thin tendril of connected thought that had urged him want to take a second look at a tiny pinpoint of light high in orbit above an otherwise non-descript sun.                      

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 1/28/2009 5:38:30 AM   
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Stardate 2270.  Bridge, 0749 hours.  The place of honor on Aurora's forward screen is entirely taken up by the huge planet Halley II.  Lt. Commander Babina is not alone among those on the bridge intently watching the swirling patterns made by the colorful clouds as they circle the globe.  From the starship's position in orbit, it is even possible to make out glimpses of the surface, through transient openings in the clouds.  "Maintaining standard orbit," announced the helmsman.  "Chief, do you have anything?" asks Captain Rana.  "Nothing yet sir," came Otophryne's response.  "No whirlwinds, no killer satellites, perhaps this entire system is devoid of sentries," offered Babina, optimistically.  "Contact at 342+67," barked out the Chief.  "It appears to be some kind of insect."  "Put it on the screen," ordered Rana.  The image on the screen did show some kind of bug, but whether it was spider-like, or simply pill bug-like was hard to tell.  Most of the time the image was partly masked by clouds, but whatever it was, it clearly was big.  "Chief, is it responding to us?"  "Cannot say sir.  Currently it is not moving.  I am picking up some kind of electrical signal that appears to be gaining strength."  "Didn't we get a similar reading from the sunflowers . . . "  Babina was softly speaking out loud, when Otophryne interrupted.  "The bug is rotating and starting to orient towards us."  "That's enough for me.  Fire a rocket," ordered Rana.  "Rocket's away."  All eyes on the bridge watched as the antennae on the bug (which was definitely responding to Aurora's position) started to glow just about the time the rocket hit.  The explosion kicked up a cloud of dust and dirt form the surface, and it a full three seconds passed before out of the shadows emerged the bug.  It's antenna brightened exponentially, and suddenly a bolt flashed out and Aurora noticeably shook.  "That thing is accurate," noted Rana.  "Chief, fire another rocket before it can recharge."  "Rocket's away."  The movement of the bug had carried it away from the impact of the initial rocket, and as the clouds opened up a momentary hole, it was possible to see that the insect was hurt by the first rocket.  Any doubt about its damage was erased when the second rocket hit, for once the effects of the blast died down, parts and pieces of insect amid a small crater were all that remained.  "Damage report, Babina."  "Sir, optical computer-1 is at 71% and rocket drive-1 is at 90%.  Nothing that can't be quickly repaired.  It looks like the bolt hit us at an angle," replied Babina.  "Well, we faced a new kind of sentry and lived to tell about it, so all's well that ends well," commented Rana.  "I'll be in my ready room.  Let me know as soon as you have an estimate on the time for repairs."  "Lt. Alytes, see what you can find out about that bug, and whether or not it was intrinsic to this planet."  "Readying a class-1 probe now, sir." 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 2/1/2009 4:32:20 AM   
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Stardate 2271.  Holosuite, 0620 hours.  Rana is in mid-channel, kicking away, staying low underwater, and just barely making headway against the cold mountain torrent.  Talking out loud to no one, he said, "The designers of this program really knew what they were doing."  This morning he was travelling upstream further than ever before.  The sides of the gorge grew steeper, the rocks got larger, and the water became whiter.  In a few minutes, it would be time to turn around and race with the water, flying over the drops, and trying one's best not to collide with a midstream rock.  Currently, Aurora was moving at warp speed 2 for the Brahe system, less that 2 ly south southwest of their current position.  Rana knew that most of the crew had anticipated a return trip home after the exploration of the Halley system, but it was not to be.  The admiralty had quickly sent orders that Aurora was to press on, even with only 7 rockets left in the ammunition lockers.  Seeing a small patch of sandy granite and a nearby flat rock, Rana headed for the side.  He hauled himself out of the water and plopped on the rock.  Nearby were some flowering bullrushes, and by tuning the sounds of the rushing rapids out, he could hear the nearby buzzing of some appetizing insects.  Always his thoughts returned to Aurora.  Fortunately, it seemed that bolts loved computers, for everytime Aurora had been hit, it was the computers that came away damaged.  "Perhaps their extensive electronic components somehow serve as lightning rods," he thought.  Fortunately, the repairs consisted of mostly intensive man hours, new fuses, and lots of board swapping.  Based on a statistical survey of how effective the crew had performed on the first trip out, to its current status, Aurora was operating at an improved 29% combat efficiency.  The legendary starship Victorious had gone on 4 voyages, and this was Aurora's fourth tour of duty.  Victorious had found 13 planetary systems, and Aurora had 11 in the bag and was heading towards number 12.  Tiny little Sol-1 now was the hub for 8 freighter-supplied star systems, bringing in a steady $12 per month.  Its footprint in space grew larger every day, yet Rana was acutely aware that Aurora, its trained crew, and 7 rockets was the only defense against the unknown (or a return of the dreaded Keracks).  Rana glanced at his chronometer.  Enough speculating, it was time for his daily damage report meeting.         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 2/22/2009 8:34:30 PM   
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Stardate 2272.  Bridge, 0800 hours.  A small type 3 planet, Brahe-I, looms on the center screen, waiting expectantly as Aurora sets about entering standard orbit.  Thanks to the ever present sentries, planetary exploration has proven to be dangerous work.  Should something go terribly wrong, there is no hope of rescue.  Worst of all, there are millions of stars in a galaxy.  Today, despite the novelty of an entirely unexplored star system, Captain Rana is having trouble lifting his enthusiam.  For both himself and his crew, there are  serious moments when it feels exactly as if they are doomed to crew a mystical ghost ship, one that roams the galaxy forever, destined to seek out star systems with planets.  The atmosphere on the dimly lit bridge is quiet and professional.  Everyone has done this before, and each planetary visitation is starting to blur in one's memories.  "Coming up on standard orbit in ten seconds," announced the helm.  Rana nodded in response, but as the helm had his back to the Captain, he didn't know of the acknowledgement.  "Entering standard orbit," continued the helm, pushing buttons on his panel and throwing a switch.  "Maintain course and speed," responded Rana.  "Whirlwinds, portside 0223+45.  A cluster of three," barked out Chief Otophryne.  "Come about to course 117-74.  Reduce speed to one-third.  Prepare to launch rockets," ordered Rana.  The three whirlwinds were now visible on the forward screen.  In the past, they had sometimes assumed a defensive formation, shaped like the pattern presented if an Amphibian poked three claws out in front of his face, but today they appeared to be carelessly well strung out.  As a result, it simplified the attack angle of the starship as it maneuvered to approach the group from the side.  "You may fire when ready, Otophryne," said Rana.  "Rocket's away," responded the Chief.  Everyone on the bridge spontaneously looked up at the screen to see the first rocket angling down towards the base of the storm.  There quickly followed a flash and a disconnect between the base of the storm and the planet's surface.  Within moments, the storm was rolling up on itself and fading fast.  "Come about to course 124-41.  Prepare to launch the next rocket."  "Target acquired, will launch in three, two, one . . . . rocket's away."  In a repeat of the first performance, the second rocket also was successful, leaving only one last whirlwind.  This storm suddenly changed course, as if becoming aware of Aurora for the first time, and as the starship's forward momentum carried it along, the more nimble storm caught the ship from the side, whirling it three times.  As the viewscreen spun round and round, Captain Rana was momentarily distracted by the effect of additional gravity felt by all aboard the starship.  The helmsman went with the direction of the storm, and quickly re-established control, allowing Aurora to break free.  A brief moment of clarity also presented Otophryne with a very good shot opportunity, which he did not waste.  Even before most of the crew could relax from their tight holds onto supports, the third storm took a critical hit and was knocked out.  The executive officer, Lt. Commander Babina glanced at his station pad and took in the report.  "Only minimal damage, Sir.  Optical computer-1 5%, Rocket drive-2 4%.  Both stations remain on line and report that they can quickly be back up to 100% today."  "Very good, Babina.  Lt. Alytes, you are free to begin you investigation."  As Rana stared at the surface of the planet for one last time, he recalled that neither his pulse nor his breathing rate had changed, even during the brief moments of being whirled.  "Even if a few rockets remain after the investigation of this system, I will recommend that we return for a rest," he thought to himself.  "Everyone needs a break."              

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 2/27/2009 6:47:15 AM   
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Stardate 2273.  Bridge, 0804 hours.  The following morning finds Captain Rana fully recovered from his momentary bout of melancholy.  The sense of isolation pervading space creates a constant pressure on every individual.  Some days are better than others, and today he simply just "feels" better.  The view projected on the main screen is of Brahe-II, a very large reddish colored type-2 planet.  The atmosphere is thin, and he can readily make out dark spots on the surface.  His first thought is that the thin atmosphere will likely not support any of those pesky whirlwinds.  Since Brache-I was well defended, perhaps today we can get off easy.  "Entering standard orbit," announced the helmsman.  "Very good.  Chief, are you scanning for sentries?"  "Yes sir.  Nothing yet."  Slowly the planet seemingly rolled beneath Aurora.  "Interesting.  There is some vegetation at quadrant 64 on the surface," said Otophryne.  "We have a recognition signature.  These are the same kind of oversized sunflowers that we encounted on Apodis-III," barked out Otophryne.  "Helm, lay in evasion course delta.  Stand by for a bolt attack," announced Rana.  "There are three targets.  Opening outer doors.  Centering on target, centering, centering, missile's away," continued Otophryne.  Aurora was rapidly approaching the three sunflowers, and the rocket plunged like a red-hot needle into the heart of the nearest.  The resulting explosion left no doubt over the fate of that particular sentry.  In a knee-jerk reaction, the heads of the remaining two flowers turned to face the starship.  "Execute delta," commanded Rana.  Aurora angled sharply, and within a few seconds of doing so, a yellow-white bolt of light scattered a few ions in the vacuum that had been the starship's previous position.  "Rocket's away."  Again, the Chief's aim is dead-on, with the satisfying result that only one yellow flower remains.  Babina nudged the Captain.  "We are down to 2 rockets."  "Let the Chief work.  All stop!"  As the helmsman leaned on the reverse thrusters, the Chief announced, "Flower is powering up."  Flash! A dazzling display of light lit up the forward part of the ship, as a bolt vaporized ions left behind by the drives a few feet in front of the ship.  "Centering on the target . . . rocket's away."  The trail of this rocket could not be followed, as the eyes of the bridge personnel were still trying to readjust from the overly bright glare.  "Target it hit.  Target is destroyed.  That's the last of them, Sir."  "Good shooting, Otophryne.  Secure from actions stations.  Return to standard orbit.  Prepare to scan the surface.  Let's see if there is something down there for us to find."  "Aurora 3, Sunflowers 0.  Not a bad morning's work," thought the Captain.     

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 3/4/2009 4:57:25 AM   
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Stardate 2274.  Bridge, 0807 hours.  In the early evening hours of the previous night, the Captain and his Executive officer has briefly discussed the merits of continuing on to investigate Brahe-III, or to immediately head for home.  The only reason the question had arisen was because there was only one rocket left in the armory.  But, having already come 20 zillion miles from home to explore star systems, it seemed out of place not to at least try to scout out the last remaining planet.  As a result, the early morning hours found Aurora in standard orbit around a very small type 4 planet, with plenty of swirling atmosphere.  It did not take long for the faint hope that the planet lacked sentries to be dashed, when Otophryne shouted out, "Whirlwinds, and lots of them."  "All stop," ordered Rana.  Logic dictated that it was now time for Aurora to leave, but Rana hesitated, not wanting to return with a rocket left in the tubes.  "Chief, have they responded to us?"  "Not yet, Sir.  Although clustered together, there is one that is slightly out of position at coordinate 12,56," was the reply.  "Change course to 344+57.  Ahead one-third."  "Aye aye, Sir.  Setting course, and ahead one-third," responded the helmsman.  "We'll be very patient and wait to see if there is a window of attack opportunity," spoke Rana out loud.  "I'm opening the port-side launch tube doors now," said Otophryne.  "If our target maintains its course for another 90 seconds, we will be briefly in position for a shot."  "We'll take the shot, try to quickly back out, and then high tail it out of here," noted Rana.  The 90 seconds passed rather slowly, but Otophryne skillfully targeted the whirlwind and counted down, "Three, two, one . . . rocket's away."  "Reverse thrusters, back us out of here," ordered Rana.  As Aurora's forward momentum died away, the rocket exploded, creating a vortex of heated gases that blew the base of the storm apart.  The disconnected whirlwind gyrated crazily for a few moments, then its once powerful winds gradually grew ever calmer.  In direct contrast the fading movements of the first storm, the remaining three storms quickly took notice of the starship and headed in Aurora's direction.  "All we need is another minute," observed Rana, as all eyes were focused on the rapidly diminishing gap between the nearest storm and the backing away starship.  "Thirty seconds."  "Twenty seconds."  Sometimes, the best of plans go astray, and with only seconds to spare, Aurora was caught and whirled.  "Ahead full.  Go with the direction.  Try to gain altitude," ordered Rana, in a reassuring voice to the struggling helmsman.  Just as quickly as the whirling had started it ended, as Aurora broke free.  Lt.Commander Babina looked up from his screen.  "Minimal damage, Sir.  Optical computer-1 is down to 81% efficiency."  "Noted.  Do I have a vote for heading home?" asked Rana.  All hands on the bridge instantly shot into the air.  "I think that we have a decision.  Helm, break orbit.  Set course for Sol-1.  Prepare for warp."  "Yes Sir," came the enthusiastic reply.        

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 3/8/2009 6:16:25 AM   
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Stardate 2275. Chief's quarters, 1920 hours.  The crews quarters on board a scout class starship are pretty spartan at best.  The enlistedmen have only bunks in which the thin mattress support can be lifted to reveal a six inch deep space underneath fit for stowing mostly clothes.  The officers are considerably better off, with shared or individual staterooms, the size of which is based on rank.  Chief Otophryne does not have an individual room, but he does have a small cul-de-sac branching off of the main north south passage on deck 2.  It's only advantage over the bunk of an enlistedman is a small upright locker and a portion of slightly curved blank wall that is part of the inner hull.  The only visible item belonging to the Chief is an antique weapon mounted securely to the wall.  It is a muksta, which looks vaguely like a solidly built trident, with three sharp prongs on one end, and a spiky metallic ball on the other.  In between on the pole are a pair of shielded handle grips.  Each meksta was hand built, and constructed from a single piece of forged metal.  The hand held weapon was a source of pride and accomplishment, from an ancient time when fighting in hand to hand combat was an honor between Amphibians.  It was particularly well suited for switching from offense to defense, and back again, traits that to this day Amphibians felt most keenly.  Otophyrne unfastened the muksta and headed for the holodeck.  Once there, he punched in, "Otophryne, program 3" and the doors opened.  He stepped inside and found himself in what everyone would recognize as an early morning day on Amphibia.  Steam rising from the swampy water was caught in the undercanopy of large trees, sometimes partially masking the sun, and sometimes letting light stream in bright beams.  Otophryne readied his weapon and assumed a defensive stance.  Somewhere nearby was a Kerack, a skin covered creature with a decidedly unamphibian-like long probosis.  Step by step, using the trees as a shield, the two combatants searched for each other and for the initial advantage.  The program was set to step 8, making this Kerack particularly dangerous in multiple ways.  In combat, a step 10 was simply impossible for an Amphibian to beat, and tonight Otophryne sought and would find a severe test of his skills.  Keracks were larger than Amphibians, and wore looser fitting clothes, two disadvantages that Otophryne knew about and hoped to exploit.  "There, just about two feet off the ground, was the smallest patch of red," he noted.  "But was it a decoy or was it a patch of the Kerack's robe?"  Otophryne silently stepped back, using the trunk of the tree as cover, trying to put distance between himself and the target so that he could circle left.  There was no breeze, so it was only the slightest creak in the wood that alerted Otophryne to look up and glimpse a falling shadow.  He instinctively rolled, and somewhere in the middle of the 360 degree movement, his muksta deflected the whack of a glowstic.  A nasty Kerack weapon, glowstics were wand-like, three feet long with a brightly glowing tip.  What the tip did not show was that it was capable of producing a vicious electric shock.  In their history, the Keracks had many warlike encounters with insectoids, and the glowstic was particulaly effective at smearing light over compound eyes, and with one stic acting as a hypnotic distractant, the other could do its deadly duty.  Otophryne knew to avoid the glow and look for the wrists.  His roll completed, Otophryne stood up and both he and the Kerack glared at each other.  The Kerack waved his stics in a rhythmic pattern.  Otophryne had set their shock to 7, powerful enough to create quite a memory as punishment for the slightest bit of carelessness.  Otophryne attacked, but in a defensive pose, keeping his muksta in front to take on the glowstics.  In a practiced move, he stepped to the left side and lashed out with the three prongs at the Kerack kneecap, but all he caught was a piece of robe.  The loose fitting robe served to disguise the placement of the Kerack's body, and a glowstic whizzed by Otophryne's ear.  He countered with an uplift of the ball end of the Muksta, deflecting the glowstic upward, while he pivoted on his right foot.  The second glowstic passed near his mid-section.  A mistake.  Seeing the momentum of both glowstic's moving to his right, Otophryne hammered the ball end of his muksta into the Kerack's face, catching the lower jaw.  The Kerack tried to buy time with a mighty howl, but Otophrne was in full attack mode, again using the ball end to smash at the creature's neck.  Blood spurted out as one of the spikes hit home.   No longer on the offense, the Kerack blocked with his glowstics and tried to step behind a large tree branch.  Otophrne wedged a glowstic with the pronged end of his weapon, and rolling both wrists, ripped it out of the Kerack's hand.  The second stick was weakly aimed at Otophryne's shoulder, but he dipped down to let it pass harmlessly on top.  He aimed at the center of the crimson robes and jabbed with the spiked ball end.  Again the Kerack cried out.  Timing the downward slash of the glowstic beautifully, Otophryne drove the pronged end of his weapon into the Kerack's foot, and as the Kerack glanced downward, lifted and smashed the spiked ball right into where the proboscis met the upper jaw.  Without a sound, the Kerack went face down on the ground, and lay there without further movement.  Panting heavily, Otophryne paused to catch his breath.  "One on one, with a Kerack setting of 8.  He would sleep well tonight."              

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 3/21/2009 5:52:33 AM   
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Stardate 2276.  Crew's mess, 2015 hours.  With an estimated time of arrival in three days, the kitchen staff on Aurora has opened up the larder.  Both Pipa and Kaloula, just off watch, are the beneficiaries of tonights bounty. Placed in front of each is a huge bowl containing an assortment of munchy bug meal, topped with a ring of slugs, and punctuated with a large dark spider in the center.  Since it is only by the grace of well functioning engines that Aurora can get everyone home safely, members of the engineering staff often find themselves with a few subtle "extras", and tonight is no exception.  "It's not often that we get slugs," noted Pipa.  "I wonder where they have been hiding them?"  "No telling," answered Kaloula.  "Umm, gotta love that butter.  You already ate your spider?"  "You bet," said Pipa.  "You have to go for the good stuff first, and then fill up with what's left."  Pipa continued, "I don't mind this four to eight watch schedule.  At least you get some unbroken sleep."  "You're right.  It's those dreaded twelve to fours that mess me up," agreed Kaloula.  "Listen to those warp engines.  What a beautiful sound."  "It's only beautiful when the nose is pointed homeward."  "Hey, we have some time tomorrow.  Do you want to take in a holodeck adventure?"  "Want to try Sekans again?" asked Kaloula.  "Are you crazy?!?"  "Just kidding.  I'll bet no one does that one twice.  I'll never ever forget the smell of that mud."  "I'll ask around as see if someone knows one that they recommend."  Kaloula looked up at the clock.  "Hey, we better get going.  Four o'clock comes up fast unless you get to bed early."  Pipa answered, "I'm finished.  We're out of here."     

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 3/26/2009 6:59:35 AM   
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Stardate 2277.  Holodeck, 0934 hours.  Lieutenant Alytes's Science team has challenged Engineering to a swimming contest.  After some considerable negotiations, it has been agreed upon that each unit will put forth three swimmers, all of which will complete a 1500 meter course.  Lt. Alytes wanted the course to be ocean swimming, and Engineering's Lt. Chaunus wanted a fast flowing stream with obstacles, but in the name of compromise, the holosuite was set up for a continous freshwater swimming pool with six lanes.  Ensign Awa readily volunteered to take a spot on the Science team, and the third spot was taken by crewman Truebella.  For Engineering, both Pipa and Kaloula were off duty, and willing to accept the challenge.  The prize for the winning team would be a small trophy (to be purchased upon their return to Sol-1) and dinner on Sol-1 to be paid for by the losing team.  Looking over at the Science team with a critical eye, Pipa felt that Lieutenant Alytes was too old, and Ensign Awa too young to offer a serious challenge.  That left only Truebella, who clearly was not on the team by accident.  "What a ringer," noted Pipa.  "The only way they could have picked a more physical specimen would be to have Chief Otophryne on their team."  "Well, besides you and I, our Lt. Chaunus is not in too bad of shape.  That means there are three of us against only one of them," replied Kaloula.  "But it's not really a team event," continued Pipa.  "If he beats the three of us, we all lose."  "This race is not a sprint.  So let's swim in neighboring lanes and work together," planned Kaloula.  "Stay as close to the right side of your lane, and I'll stay close to the left side of mine, and we can drag off of each other to conserve energy."  Across from the huddled Engineering team, Lt Alytes was not particularly worried.  He had offered the challenge more in the spirit of fun at the end of a stressful voyage, than to make a serious try at winning.  But with enthusiastic Awa and the muscular Truebella on his team, suddenly all the Amphibians were getting pumped up for a challenge to their honor.  Lt.Commander Babina had agreed to be the starter and to judge the winner.  He would also position the cameras so that the winning team could have a permanent record of their triumph.  Babina called over to Alytes, "Science team, are you ready?"  "Yes sir."  "Engineering team, are you ready?"  "Yes sir."  "Then everyone take their places - Science team with the right three lanes and Engineering with the left three lanes."  All six amphibians lined up at the edge of the pool.  "At my command, dive in.  Three, two, one, go!"  Being a long swim, the start was not especially critical, and after his surprise at finding the water so warm, Pipa suddenly found himself hard-pressed to hang with Kaloula.  Fighting to find a way to take his mind off of his burning muscles, he found himself taking peeks at the large screen in front, which showed an overhead view of the contest.  Awa had the early lead, closely followed by Truebella.  Still within striking range was the entire engineering team, while Lt. Alytes had definitely fallen off the pace.  Sensing a slowing in Kaloula's pace, Pipa dutifully speeded up his own and took over the lead between the two.  Now he had to work even harder, and had no time to glance at the screen.  Five hundred meters passed quickly, before he could sneak another peek upwards.  Truebella had moved out to a fully body's length lead over the other four swimmers, who were fairly even with each other, as Awa had slipped back a bit.  As much as he hated himself for doing it, Pipa had to slow the pace, and to his surprise, Kaloula seemed to have recovered and once again took his spot in front of the Engineering team.  Looking underwater, at the 1000 meter mark, Pipa could see that Lt. Chaunus was starting to slip off the pace, and was now a body length behind himself and Kaloula.  Pipa was tired and not used to swimming for so long with such urgency.  Only the knowledge that his team needed him to contribute made him force his muscles to push past the pain and to take the lead back from Kaloula.  He was so tired, all he could do was to focus on reaching out with his arms and kicking with his legs and flippers.  Perhaps at the beginning of the race he had displayed some efficiency and form, but now neither was apparent.  Pipa was done.  He had given it his best, and as as he slowed, Kaloula pushed past him.  Pipa looked up at the screen.  With only 50 meters to go, Pipa was surprised to see that Truebella had only a half body lead over Kaloula, who had a half body lead over himself.  The short distance to the finish surprised and rejuvenated him, and he pushed harder.  Suddenly, he could see the finish wall ahead in the clear water, and every flailing stroke of his arms seemed to be reaching for that goal.  Exhausted, he half crashed, half reached for the wall, glad the race was over, and for the moment not caring who won.  After all, Pipa was aware that he had never passed Kaloula, so clearly he had not won.  He lay on his back in the water gulping in huge quantities of air.  He opened his eyes and saw Lt. Commander Babina looking down at him and mouthing some words that he couldn't hear or understand since his timpani were still under water.  "What?"  asked Pipa.  "You fininshed third."  "Oh.  Who won?"  "I don't know, it was too close to tell between Kaloula and Truebella."  After a delay of several minutes for everyone to catch their breath, all seven Amphibians were gathered around the monitor for a slow motion replay of the finish.  Truebella had the lead, but Kaloula was closing at the end, and when the display was slowed down to just a hundredth of a second, it could be seen that Kaloula had touched first.  Actually, Truebella's body was ahead of Kaloula's but unfortunately for the Science team, his arm was in mid-stroke rather than reaching forward to touch the wall.  A distant fourth was Lt. Chaunus, fifth was Lt. Awa, and last was Lt. Alytes, who despite his placement was all smiles.  "As team leader, let me be the first to congratulate each member of the winning Engineering team," said Alytes.  "We will be glad to contribute towards an excellent dinner at a restaurant of your choosing."  Right now, the thought of food was the last thing on Pipa's mind, as all he wanted to do was to lie down and not throw up.  Kaloula looked over at him and said, "Thanks, Pipa.  You pushed me to the victory."  Pipa smiled.  He was starting to feel better already.            

< Message edited by oi -- 9/16/2011 6:24:28 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 4/2/2009 5:05:19 AM   
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Stardate 2278.  Lt. Alytes cabin, 2254 hours.  It is stating the obvious that a galaxy is an assembly of multitudes of stars.  Surprisingly, most stars have planets.  Aurora's mission is to seek out those planets that have reasonable surfaces subject to exploitation by interplanetary freighters.  Stars with fairly cool planets are given names, for example, the recently investigated Brahe system.  Right now, Aurora has just put the jeweled nebula of Dendrobates on the rear view screen as she heads for home.  In between the Brahe system and the nebula, Alytes found nearly 100 stars with orbiting planets.  All were strikingly similar, each with a single large gas giant planet orbiting close to its parent sun.  Unfortunately for the space economy of Amphibia, all were too hot (and with too much gravity) to exploit.  Not all planets were the same, however.  Alytes punched up on his computer screen the planet numbered Amp 32457.  Aurora had passed fairly close to Amp 32457 yesterday, and he was able to pick up good data on this system using the long-range scanners.  It's planet was fairly small, just slightly larger than that of Sol-1.  At one time, it was likely a blue watery planet, placed in orbit about its parent star somewhere in the habitable zone midway between being frozen or cooked.  But now, it had been moved to an unusual orbit, one with an astonishing degree of eccentricity.  Although Alytes did not know the cause, this elongated orbit was clearly the signature of a major perturbation event to this system.  Currently, the planet had been pushed much closer to its parent star.  According to orbital calculations, every 150 days the planet would dive like a screaming comet to within 4 million km of the parent star's surface.  As it did so, the temperature of the atmosphere on the sun-facing side would rise by an impressive 850 degrees is less that six hours.  Alytes had been fortunate enough to witness and record just such a passage.  As he replayed the event on his screen, he saw that the initial response resembled an explosion of steaming atmosphere colliding with glowing photons.  As the atmosphere heated up, it generated spectacular winds in the range of 300-400 km per hour, winds that raced from the day side towards the night side.  The planet's rotation then created the buildup of monster sized storms that raged across the planet's surface.  Yet as quickly as the hellish event was created, the planet completed its turn about the sun, and its speedy orbital motion zipped it back into cooler space.  Even within the short period of Aurora's passing, Alytes had observed the storms begin to fade.  He put in an asterisk next to the name Amp 32457.  Someday, if given the opportunity, he would like to investigate this system further.            

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 4/5/2009 5:32:04 AM   
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Stardate 2279.  Bridge, 1347 hours.  Aurora has arrived safely back at Space dock-1, completing her third mission.  It's amazingly quiet, as one's timpani are gradually adjusting to the absence of the warp drives's steady thrum.  Most of the crew are already gone, yet bright lights are everywhere, as the ship is currently being swarmed by numerous hard-working technicians.  Lt. Commander Babina has OOD duty.  The Captain has a date with Admiral Ansonia, likely to discuss past and future voyages.  Babina briefly notes the train of missile carts stretching back into the corridor.  Aurora is scheduled for a full re-load of all 20 missiles.  What has really caught his attention is the implacement of a new defensive weapons system.  From the schematic, he can see that hundreds of connections are being installed in between the inner and outer hulls as part what is termed a "laser screen".  Apparently, it is designed to be effective at either absorbing or deflecting a variety of energy weapons.  This could be wonderful, as Aurora's metallic hull is ineffective at stopping bolts.  Currently, amphibians and machines stand only a lottery ticket's chance of survival in the face of a bolt.  To his trained eye, however, the one drawback is immediately apparent - the system draws heavily upon the starship's single main nuclear generator.  Clearly, Aurora is going to be the test guinea pig for this laser screen, and Babina decides that he will study the power requirements closely, particularly since pulling on the generator's power could significantly delay the ship's ability to power up its main drive.
    The other big news of the day (other than Aurora's arrival) was that Amphibia founded a colony on Eridani-III!  Somehow, an amazing 25% of Sol-1's population accepted the government's incentive program and agreed to start their lives over on a new planet.  Instead of a quiet species of pond-lovers, Amphibia has overnight become a nation of space pioneers.  Babina could not imagine even a small portion of the implications stemming from this daring venture, but he understood that the destiny of Amphibia was now tied more than ever on its tiny navy.  Babina flipped to the financial section.  Current naval cash reserves stood at $499.  Clearly, Amphibia had paid dearly (in advance) for its bright new colony, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it would be awhile before the navy would be expanding.  Babina flipped another page and read that on Sol-1, a new freighter was under construction for the Halley system.  "Here is the bright side of space exploration," he thought.  "Thanks to Aurora, the number of freighters continue to grow."  Every additional freighter route pumped life-blood in the form of cash directly into the naval budget.  As the Eridani system was 5 ly due east of Sol-1, he also realized that soon a whole new set of short-legged freighters would be operating out of that colony as well.  As he thought back over the last voyage, it suddenly came to him that he could recall only one system, Virgo, that was even close to Eridani-III.  "I'll bet that Aurora will soon be heading east on its next mission," he concluded.  Reaching for his cup of stim-caf, a tired Babina stretched his stiff neck.  "Only two more hours and I'll be off duty," he noted.  "Welcome home."               

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 4/18/2009 6:16:54 AM   
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Stardate 2280.  Alpha City, 1750 hours.  The victorious Engineering team and the Science team are seated together in a booth at Lt. Alyte's favorite resturant.  While Kaloula is taking a sip of chilled phytophthora, at the invitation of Lt. Alytes, Pipa is wondering why crewman Truebella is a no show.  His thoughts went somewhat along the lines of, "I'll bet that Lt. Alytes assigned him duty tonight simply to avoid having to feed that physical specimen.  Probably he would have cleaned out most of the menu."  Lt. Alytes is talking with Lt. Chaunus, "Did you notice how empty the city is?"  "Yes, it's amazing, isn't it?"  "Somehow, I always held a slightly selfish vision that the city would be better off if there were fewer amphibians in it," continued Alytes.  "It would be easier to get front row seats at the big game, or to find a quiet spot on the beach, but nothing like this."  "What you are describing can be modeled by propagation crack theory," noted Chaunus.  "For a while, there is apparently no effect, then suddenly boom, a broken pipe.  Before we left, the streets were full, and now boom, it's like a national holiday and everyone stayed home."  "I think that what will happen is that the city will gradually contract in size, with amphibians on the outskirts moving back into the center city," commented Alytes.  "Probably when we return from our next voyage, the crowds will be back and it will seem as if they had never left."  "Based on the number of empty shops that we passed on our way here, there is plenty of room now for someone to move back into."  During this exchange, their waiter had arrived, and Kaloula, Pipa, and Awa were all sending subtle signals to the senior officers that it was time to order.  "You're the guests, go ahead and order," said Alytes.  Chaunus pointed a claw at the menu, "I'll have the steamed prawns."  "Excellent choice, sir.  I often eat them," said the waiter.  "Scallops on a bed of spirulina," said Pipa.  "Tube worms," said Awa.  "A stick of Lacrymaria olor," said Kaloula, with a Chaetoceros elmorei salad and blue cheese dressing.  "And I also will have the tube worms," said Alytes.  As the waiter took their menus, Kaloula asked, "I wonder why we haven't encountered more civilizations?  Even the legendary Victorious had encountered pirates.  And, as everyone knows, pirate ships are manned by polyglot crews.  And just what happed to the Kerack's anyway?"  No one offered an immediate answer, as it was clear that as the size of the Amphibian footprint in space grew larger following the founding of their first colony, the rest of known space remained quiet and empty.  "Perhaps there is a mysterious cloud of deadly dark energy sweeping through the galaxy, and our corner is all that is left," offered Awa ominously.  "It wiped out all those who built the planetary sentries, and it's heading our way."  "A more likely answer is that the galaxy is a pretty big place, and that there is plenty of room for a variety of civilizations to co-exist without being aware of each other," offered Alytes.  "I for one, am glad that we haven't run into a Kerack battle cruiser," said Kaloula.  "What chance would our tiny scout have?"  "Slim if we run, and none if we don't," offered Chaunus.  "Ah, here are our dinners."  "I raise my glass to the victors," offered Alytes.  "To the victors," all spoke in unison with the clink of glasses.               

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 4/28/2009 6:33:09 AM   
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Stardate 2280, Admiral's quarters, Space dock-1, 0847 hours.  Rana glances about the room while the Admiral is taking a call.  On one wall is a large screen, showing the known galaxy.  One large blue ball is Sol-1, and another is the new colony Eridani III.  An additional 13 planetary systems are also plotted.  Sol-1 has the appearance of the central opening of an ant colony, with tiny white worker dots plying to and fro either heading out towards the planets or heading back to home.  These dots are clearly freighters, and Rana wonders if they are being plotted in real time or if it is only an approximation.  Just to the left of Sol-1 is a green dot, which must be Aurora, sitting in space dock.  It is an impressive display of a peaceful expanding world; one that occupies nearly ten percent of the northern quadrant of the galaxy.  Admiral Ansonia puts down the com-line.  "As I was saying, we have recently upgraded the freighters to level-3, which gives them longer legs.  So, your next mission has several objectives.  First, it is most important that you test out the newly installed laser screen.  If it meets expectations, and performs well, we will install a couple to protect the cities of Eridani-III."  "It does seem that we encounter sentries on nearly every planet," replied Rana.  "Many of the sentries utilize energy bolts and beams."  "Just be sure that you have a backup plan in case the system fails," warned Ansonia.  The admiral pointed to the screen on the wall.  "Our long-range goal is to have you explore more to the east of Eridani, so that we can utilize the new colony as a center for additional freighter routes.  Just look at these numbers."  Ansonia clicked a control button and charts appeared on the lower right of the screen, showing that Amphibia's current cash on hand stood at $556, with only a $26/year income.  "The new colony has cost us dearly, but we are beginning to recover.  If we can add a few more freighter routes, our cash flow will improve considerably.  That is why we will be sending you back to Brahe, to clear the last of the sentries in that system.  You should have little trouble completing the survey and mapping.  Then, we will have you take a look at nearby Hyginus."  Ansonia turned off the screen.  "I'm telling you, in confidence, that the science team is currently working on a new weapons system.  It is based upon the idea of a group of small manned jets capable of being launched from either a world or mother ship and flying to the site of combat.  The jets will be fast, maneuverable, carry quite an offensive punch, and be flown by experienced pilots."  Rana immediately recognized the driving force being the idea - he would no longer have to risk his ship when investigating sentries.  "Developing weapons is expensive, but we don't want to be caught with out pants down if you run into something unexpected."  The Admiral abruptly changed the subject, "Rana, you have done good work out there.  I see from your report that Aurora has achieved 34% combat experience.  It takes a lot of skill to juggle a scientific mission, overcome sentries, and to keep up the morale of your crew in deep space.  You must realize that plans are being drawn up for the design and construction of a larger warship capable of defending our home world and colony.  Of course we are talking about the future here, and it is still some time down the road, but I would like you to consider the possibility of taking command of this new ship.  There is a promotion in it for you, and certainly we would permit you to hand pick your crew."  Under this bombardment of unexpected information, Rana was at a loss for words.  His immediate emotion was a strong attachment to Aurora.  "Sir, I do not know what to say."  "Don't say anything.  I simply want to plant the seed.  There will be a lot of bugs to chew on between now and then.  Dismissed."  Rana hardly heard the door hiss shut behind him.  Events were happening very fast for both him and most of Amphibia.                 

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 5/6/2009 6:33:00 AM   
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Stardate 2281.  Sol-1, Alpha City, 0920 hours.  Ensign Awa hands over a few credits, and passes through the portal for the Alpha City Aquarium.  An usher smiles at him and indicates that he is to go down a short slightly darkened narrow corridor.  Like the proverbial light at the end of a tunnel, the passage open up into a spectacular massive chamber, tinted a soft blue by the cathedral-like glass ceiling.  An octagon shaped tank forms the centerpiece of the room.  In spite of its size, the room is quiet and at least temporarily empty.  Awa strides closer to the central tank, and notes that it has a mostly sandy bottom, with a few widely spaced algal plants.  A patch of symmetrical purple blobs are the only other objects visible.  Awa takes the trouble to read the small plaque, "One of the earliest living objects known on Sol-1, Glaeceria is a photosynthetic cell."  He kneels down to take a close look at the creature.  It consisted of nothing other than raw protoplasm, undulating ever so slightly, as if breathing.  A furrow traced in the sand suggested that it likely moved by rolling.  Even as Awa watched, the position of the sun shifts ever so slightly, and a shadow falls over the closest of the Glaecerids.  As if powered by an unseen motor, the purple ball rolls the six inches or so to once again bask in the brightest portion of a reflected sunbeam.  Standing again, Awa glances at a nearby poster, which showed a colony of Glaeceria.  He continued his reading, "It is believed that Glaeceria is one of the photosynthetic organisms that induced an atmospheric climate change on Sol-1, decreasing the proportion of carbon dioxide in the air to its current level."  "It looks as if it would be so easy to scoop up and eat.  I wonder how it protects itself from predators?"  After a few moments of thought, he came up with a plausible answer, "Probably it must taste terrible.  After all, it has had eons of time to come up with a pretty potent chemical defense."  Once past the Glaeseria exhibit, Awa was faced with two choices.  Either go left into the seawater section, or right into the freshwater section.  He chose to go right, and entered a large semi-circular hallway lined with tanks, glass panels, and inscriptions.  In between each of the exhibits there were rivulets of water, some pouring down, some running over intricate rocks.  At floor level, they formed a meandering stream that briefly widened in front of each exhibit, allowing the viewer to step into the flowing water and become part of the exhibit.  "I'll bet that its fresh water here and seawater on the opposite side," speculated Awa.  Shoes in hand, he accepted the invitation, and there in front of him was beautiful Tridacna, with its fluorescent blue trim lines, and a few steps further along, fierce Liceida, a clam on steroids with painfully sharp teeth.  Awa stopped to admire the masterpiece that was Euvola.  Radiating out from a central core were waves of propeller-like webs efficiently trapping tiny water insects.  After all, Sol-1 was a planet of insects.  Looking at the endless variety of shapes made Awa reflect on how much polymerized sugar seemed to be the main ingredient of life.  Yet, he was composed of bones and cartilage.  Moreover, the Keracks were based on a similar chemistry as himself.  For a brief moment, he wondered if calcium and phosphate somehow made him superior to other life forms.  But then he caught himself with the realization that in the eyes (or whatever they had) of Glaeseria, both his species and the Keracks were insignificant flashes.  For all he knew, on Aurora's next voyage they could encounter a species that would laugh at the thought of the dim-witted collections of carbon that flew about space in metal ships.  The thought of Aurora made Awa glance at his chrono.  It was time to cut his visit short, for he had to make the evening shuttle if he was going to finish those reports for Lieutenant Alytes by tonight.                      

< Message edited by oi -- 5/6/2009 3:49:36 PM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 5/16/2009 5:57:33 AM   
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Stardate 2283.  Space dock-1, 1930 hours.  Captain Rana turns a corner in the passageway and sees the portal opening leading to Aurora.  No matter what time of day or night, here at the dockyard there is always the ever present lingering smell of coolant.  A few strides later, he steps over a pair of cables lying on the deck, and then he is on the gangplank.  Rana absently hears the familiar tones acknowledging his arrival, and returns the salute of Ensign Awa, the OOD.  In contrast to the bright dockyard, Aurora's bridge is already darkened, as the ship has returned to observing the day and night rhythm.  Tomorrow Aurora will depart.  This time, it is back to the Brahe system, 6 ly distant on the edge of known space.  The last planet, Brahe III, and its whirlwind greeting committee, awaits.  The sound of the turbolift is surprisingly loud in comparison to the quiet background.  It is always a bit strange to be on board in the absence of the steady and familiar thrum of the warp drive.  As the passageway open to the mess deck, Rana gives a nod of recognition to Lt.Commander Babina sitting alone nursing a drink.  Once inside his cabin, he pulls off his shoes, and gives himself a couple of squirts from the mister.  Thinking to himself, he notes, "I'm not sure about everyone else, but this was a good and needed break." Rana taps his viewscreen and sees that he has one new message from, "Why am I not surprised," Admiral Ansonia.  To his relief, the message comments that there will be no changes in his crew as a result of this stopover, attached is a short list of last minute supplies, and that the Admiral wishes him well.  Rana leans back in his chair, puts his flippers up on his desk, and closes his eyes.  There was once a time, now long ago, in the spring of both his life and in the season on Sol-1, when life was slower-paced and he could sit on a warm flat rock, and . . . rest.                 

< Message edited by oi -- 9/16/2011 6:30:33 AM >

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 5/24/2009 5:46:32 AM   
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Stardate 2284.  Engineering, 1520 hours.  It only takes a watch or two for the crew of Aurora to leave memories of their recent visit to Sol-1 as far behind as their home planet itself.  The thrum from engineering, the slightly sleepless feeling to the eyes, and the need for vigilance to tend to their instruments are as constant as the recycled air they breathe.  Pipa has the watch, with Kaloula and Lt. Chaunus nearby.  Pipa glances at his chrono.  In 4 minutes it will be time for another set of readings.  Kaloula glances at him, and Pipa watches as Kaloula slowly blinks one eye.  "Now what was that all about," he wonders.  "Maybe he picked up a speck of dust, but if so, why blink only one eye and why so slowly?"  Kaloula turned his back to Pipa and engaged in conversation with Lt. Chaunus.  Pipa is about to dismiss the entire thought from his mind when a tiny alarm bell goes off.  "He's trying to warn me.  I'll bet it's a drill."  Suddenly wide awake, Pipa intently scans the main control panel.  Everything seems normal.  Unlike many starships, Aurora is built for speed and has dual drives.  Every light and number has a port and starboard partner.  Pipa wracks his brain for clues as to the what they could have done.  "It seems unlikely that they would do anything to the warp drives, since they are on line," he reasoned.  "That only leaves everything from the ion drives to the still."  Clipboard in hand, Pipa pretends to take a casual stroll past the port ion drive.  All the lights indicate that the drive is in standby mode.  He glances as the many indicators and notes that all seem to be within normal range.  Pipa punches in some numbers, and then heads for the starboard drive.  Lights normal, guages normal, wait a minute.  The argon curtain gas was low.  "How could that be?"  Pipa tapped the guage with a claw.  If anything it only made the needle sink lower.  "Gaak! If there is no curtain gas, then room air will be sucked into the drive and I'll be spending my off time for the next week disassembling and sandpapering blackened ions off of the impeller."  Quickly he tapped into the controls and dialed in an increased flow rate.  Nothing happened.  Even as he watched, the sinking needle matched his sinking feeling.  "They must have shut the gas off at the tank."  Dropping everything, he ran for the gas compartment.  Flinging open the door, he fully expected to see the main valve flipped to the off position, but to his surprise, everything looked perfectly normal.  He was down to his last option.  Opening the local control panel, he took the current argon bottle off-line and replaced it with a backup.  As soon as he knew that the new bottle was connected, he ran back to the ion-drive's control panel.  It now read that there was an over-pressure to the curtain gas.  "Of course, that was from me trying to increase the flow."  Heartbeat starting to slow, he backed off on the flow until it read a normal 0.4 liters a minute.  "How could we have run out of argon?" he wondered.  "Every bottle was changed out at space dock.  Half the time, no one even looks at the argon flow readings unless the drive is operating."  Then, knowing his friend Kaloula well, the answer dawned.  "They must have kept an empty bottle just for this drill."  For a few moments, Pipa stood directly under a blower to speed up the drying of some nervous sweat.  As he saw a smiling Kaloula and Lt. Chaunus approaching, his only thought was, "Nothing like a little stress to feel right at home."              

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/1/2009 6:59:14 AM   
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Stardate 2285.  Bridge 2321 hours.  Lt. Alytes punches the "scan" button for another countless time.  It's an effective instrument, fully capable of comparing thousands of stars at any given moment.  The screen blinks twice in rapid succession, and any object that has moved since the last scan stands out as a bright glow, while those that have remained unchanged have their current image and their stored image cancelled out.  The scanner is sensitive enough to detect star variability, and if it is severe enough, wobble in the motion of the stars due to orbiting large planets.  He actually does not have to manually push the button, as the computer would quickly display anything anomalous for a detailed examination, but Alytes enjoys the process of real-time viewing and discovery.  As Aurora retraces its course southward towards Brahe (arrival time tomorrow morning), this part of the galaxy has become increasingly familiar.  West of Aurora's position lies the previously explored Halley system, while nearly equidistant to the East lies the unexplored Hyginus system.  On a large scale, what has caught his attention is the apparent lack of stars to the south of Brahe.  Even the amount of dust is minimal.  To the eyes of Alytes, it is as if he is peering down into a clear pool of water, but without being able to see to the bottom.  Along the border of this vast open region of apparently empty space, a few aberrant stars can be found.  Plotting their course within the galaxy, he finds it notable that they all share in common a rather high orbital velocity, which (tracing backwards in time) has carried them to the edge of the void from a point of starbirth well inside the star-rich regions near Brahe.  Whatever their current course, all appear to have originated far from their current positions.  Alytes reaches for his cup and takes a sip of stim-caf.  He speculates that, "Most likely, these were once companion stars to supernovas, now accelerated by the force of the explosion out of their parent cloud of hydrogen.  Being blasted in random directions, some have ended up blazing a trail into the void."  He cannot help but wonder if the void ahead is hiding something important.  "For a galaxy full of planetary sentries, where are all the supposed lifeforms?" he wonders.  A quick glance at his chrono shows that Ensign Awa will soon be up to relieve him.  His mind filled with thoughts, Alytes pushes the scan button one more time.        

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 6/11/2009 7:07:40 AM   
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Stardate 2286.  Bridge, 0750 hours.  Aurora has returned to the Brahe system.  Other than the relative orbital position of the three planets around their sun, it appears that little has changed in the weeks since the starship's last visit.  The navigator plots in a course that jumps Aurora over a small belt of asteroids, and the ship heads for the small third planet.  "Captain on the bridge," barks out Chief Otophryne.  Stepping out of his ready room, Rana makes a motion for everyone to remain as they were.  He then stands behind his command seat.  "Achieving standard orbit," announces the helm.  "Maintain orbit.  Chief, I need a report from the scanners," ordered Rana.  "I have three whirlwinds at quadrant 034-45.  Dead ahead," responded the chief.  Actually, the last comment was unnecessary, as the three storms were clearly visible on the forward screen.  Already, they had detected Aurora's arrival and were swirling in to investigate.  It struck Lt.Commander Babina that the storms were far more alert to the threat posed by Aurora than they had been on their previous encounter.  Their tactics were also different, as they first darted towards the starship, then spun away into a defensive formation, seemingly well aware of the potent threat of Aurora's missiles.  "Sir, if change course to 180+45 and they duplicate their last maneuver, I can get in a shot on the storm on the left," reported Otophryne.  "Very well, set course to 180+45.  What is the risk of being whirled?" asked Rana.  "Really high if I miss.  No problem if the missiles hit," replied Otophryne, with a slight smile.  "I trust that you will not miss," said Rana, smiling back.  All the same, the captain sat down in the command chair and passed the word to prepare for an assault on a whirlwind.  "Helm, maintain course.  Chief, fire when in position."  Again, the trio of storms feinted and jabbed, opening a tiny window for the Chief.  "Missile's away."  A glowing dot briefly appeared on the screen before angling off to the left.  "Switching targets," commented Otophryne.  "Timing the first hit, in three, two, one . . ."  Within moments, the storm on the left suddenly veered away from its companions, gradually becoming stationary.  "Target one is dissipating, firing on target two," continued the Chief.  At that moment, the remaining two whirlwinds charged at Aurora.  This unexpected movement caused the second missile to miss, and Aurora paid the price by being whirled by the middle storm.  Never a pleasant experience, but the starship and crew were veterans at this game, and as the helm brought the ship momentarily out of the spin, Otophryne got off a shot at the approaching third target.  Again, through sheer bad luck, a piece of debris actually hit the missile, knocking it off course.  As it exploded harmlessly on the planet's surface below.  Aurora was whirled for the second time by its intended victim.  "Chief, we're getting dizzy and tired of this."  Rana's voice was a little louder now, to carry over the noise of the storm, the groaning of the straining hull, and some loose gear bouncing about.  "Rocket's away."  The forward screen was useless as a source of visual evidence, but as the starship nosed up, the force of the wind rapidly faded.  "Hit on target three.  Target two is right on top of us."  For the third time within a ten minute span, Aurora was whirled.  Chief Otophryne calmly waited for the ship to clear the spin, and fired again.  "Direct hit, target two is breaking up."  "As always, nice shooting, Chief," noted Rana.  "For one, I'm glad that I skipped breakfast," added Babina.  "What's our status?" asked Rana.  "We have only minor damage, with optical computer-1 at 90% our new laser screen at 85%, and the nuclear generator at 92%."  Babina added, "Lt. Chaunus reports that he will have all three back up to speed within a couple of hours, provided we stop spinning."  "I expended five rockets, so we have 15 remaining," added Otophryne.  "Lt. Alytes, are you ready to scan this planet?" asked Rana.  "Yes Sir.  This is interesting.  After the battle, an additional two combat maneuvers popped up on tactical," replied Alytes.  "Moreover, we are now at 38% experience.  "All in a morning's work.  I'd like your report on what you find on this planet as soon as possible," ordered Rana.  "Yes Sir.  I'll be launching a class-1 probe in just a few minutes."         

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RE: Amphibians Ascendant - 7/10/2009 6:16:35 AM   
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Stardate 2287.  Crews quarters, 2230 hours.  Pipa, Kaloula, Ombrana (a mess cook), and Ensign Awa are playing cards at the end of a long day.  Pipa and Kaloula are team-mates, and it is Pipa's turn to deal.  He shuffles the deck rather expertly and stacks the pile in front of Awa to cut.  "Where are we off to now?" he asks Awa.  Few of the second and third deck members ever make it to the bridge, so a friendly novice officer like Awa is an important source of information.  "We are currently heading Northwest, for the Hyginus system," Awa replies.  "We should arrive in a few days."  "Why are we moving in the opposite direction of our new colony? asked Kaloula, "One would think that we should be exploring the nearby space around the colony in preparation for new freighter routes."  Awa answered, "Scannners show very few (if any) star systems with planets to the South, and by moving West, perhaps we can find some stars with planets between the Hyginus and Aquarii systems.  It takes a lot of time to build out a new colony and they will not be building freighters for a while."  Pipa dealt out the cards.  "You may be sure that tonight on watch I will be mapping out much new space to the West," continued Awa.  "Your bid," said Pipa, turning to look at Ombrana.  Ombrana looked twice at his cards and wrinkled his nose.  "Pass."  Not looking up from his hand, Kaloula responded with, "Fifty one".  Three sets of eyes now shifted to Ensign Awa, who determinedly said, "Fifty two".  The ball was now in Pipa's court, and he looked across the table at Kaloula.  "Fifty three."  Taking his cue, Kaloula responded with, "Pass."  The decision now lay between Awa and Pipa.  Awa hung in there with, "Fifty five."  Pipa looked at his hand.  It was not all that powerful.  Probably most of the power cards were split up.  Even if he named trump, there were plenty of other trump cards out there.  Awa seemed to have something, but probably he was hurting for points too, as Ombrana did not seem to have much help for him.  "Fifty six."  At this bid, Pipa simply decided to make it more risky for Awa to continue.  Awa seemed to sense this strategy, for he quickly passed with a, "Name your suit."  "Diamonds," replied Pipa.  Pipa was relieved to see Kaloula lay out fourteen points, giving them a total of thirty, with twenty five to pull.  Having only two aces, he decided to hold this little power for the end game, and lead off with a low trump, which was promptly aced by Ombrana.  "It was going to be close", thought Pipa.  "This will be the last hand for me," commented Ombrana, "I have to prepare mid-rations."  "No problem for me," noted Awa.  "I am already up pretty late."  Ombrana played four aces, collecting points from Awa and non-counters from Pipa and Kaloula, for a total of eight points.  He then led with a low club, which was aced by Kaloula.  This was a good sign for Pipa, as the only suit he could cut was hearts, and unless Kaloula had three heart aces, one of Awa's was going to die.  Very likely, Awa had more than his fair share of hearts.  Kaloula did have two heart aces, leaving the remaining two in Awa's hand.  Kaloula also played five aces (including a total of three clubs), collecting a total of 11 points.  He led into Awa with a low trump, which brought out the third ace from Awa.  Pipa noticed that Ombrana did not put a point onto Awa's ace, which was a sign that Ombrana did not have alot of trump cards.  Awa then led with the ten of hearts, his strong suit, knowing that soon hearts would be cut.  His plan was to hope that both Pipa and Kaloula would cut them, and chew up their trump.  The ten walked around the table for two points.  He followed up with the ace, which Pipa cut with his king, for two points as neither Ombrana nor Kaloula added points to the book.  Nearly all the aces were played, yet there were still plenty of points on the table.  Pipa now was left with only three trump cards, an ace and two tens.  Still out there were eight trump cards, including one last ace and two tens.  Somewhere there was a missing ace of spades also.  He played to find that ace, which of course, was held by Awa.  Awa lead back again to Pipa with a low heart, and Pipa was forced to use one of his tens to cut.  Interestingly, Ombrana also was forced to play a trump, but could not top Pipa's ten.  Book by book, the points with piling up, with both sides getting in their licks, and with Pipa growing more and more uncomfortable at his rapidly dwindling supply of trump.  Already, unless Kaloula held that last trump ace, they were in deep water.  His thoughts went along the following lines, "If Awa has all those hearts, he must be low in another suit.  He kept the ace of spades, so he has at least one more spade.  That leaves clubs.  I'll play a club and see if I can force him to cut it with one of his big cards."  Pipa lead with a club, and to his surprise it was Kaloula who cut it with a ten, followed by Awa who could not top the ten and played a diamond jack.  Suddenly, the gate was open for Team Pipa and Kaloula, as it was Kaloula who held the last ace.  The hand quickly played itself out with Pipa and Kaloula making their bid with points to spare.  As Pipa smiled in relief, the game quickly broke up, and Ombrana and Awa heading out.  "I'm glad that you had that last ace," said Pipa.  "Actually it was hearts that I was most afraid of, so I was glad that you took the bid and named diamonds," replied Kaloula.  "I'm all for some shuteye.  Maybe we can talk them into playing us again tomorrow."             

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