Topic: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine  (Read 12272 times)

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« on: July 15, 2009, 03:26:55 pm »
Starring a familiar face from several previous stories by a couple of writers, I give you the start of a story I've been working on quite consistently (if somewhat less frequently with all my other projects) for many months now. Let me knw what you think. :)



Introduction


Lieutenant Commander Lathena, after six months’ leave on her home planet of Beta Hydri IV, returns to active Starfleet duty and is assigned to an Okinawa-class improved frigate (FFG) as Executive Officer in March 2276. Her ship, the USS Falklands NCC-2309, is assigned to the quiet Federation-Tholian border on routine patrol based out of Starbase 27. The border is quiet because the Tholians are highly territorial and defend what they have tenaciously, but only seek to expand every 50-or-so standard years, according to a “realignment cycle”* that no one really understands, but seems to have something to do with the rotation of the galaxy in relation to their homeworld. It has been only 21 years since their last expansion phase (in 2255) so the border patrol is really only to keep an eye on the Tholians, and assist any civilian shipping in the area.

* From the aborted Marvel 'Star Trek: The Early Voyages' comic series
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2009, 03:28:35 pm »
Starring a familiar face from several previous stories, I give you the start of a story I've been working on quite consistently (if somewhat less frequently with all my other projects) for many months now.



Chapter One


Lieutenant Commander Lathena looked steadily at her captain over the tri-D chess board and raised a fine, snow-white eyebrow in an enquiring gesture copied from him. “I know you like to consider all possible moves and stratagems, Captain, but this is supposed to be a friendly game,” she reminded her CO. “You really don’t need to bring grandmaster-level play to the table.”

Commander Sotok spared her a few seconds of dispassionate regard before returning his dark eyes to the board before him. “Commander, if one does not perform to the best of one’s abilities regardless of the situation or rules of the game, then one is, in effect, lying.”

The Andorian rolled her celery-green eyes at the ages-old rehash of the archetypical Vulcan conundrum and let out a short sigh.

Her captain glanced at her again, returning her raised eyebrow with one of his own and successfully conveyed his own understated amusement at their conversation without actually moving a muscle.

Lathena saw it and smiled herself. “That’s as maybe, Sir,” she replied, “but taking so long to move without engaging in conversation does tend to spoil your opponent’s enjoyment of the game.”

“That is unfortunate,” the Vulcan returned agreeably, making no move towards making his move.

Lathena sighed again and felt gratified that she knew her captain well enough by now to know he was just teasing her. He was remarkably free in adopting such activities – in his own understatedly Vulcan manner, of course – and while she was heartily glad of this, as his X.O. she knew that most of his more ‘proper’ Vulcan crew didn’t appreciate it.

“Fine, next time I’ll bring a book,” she retorted good-naturedly.

“Very well, Commander, we cannot have you being bored,” Sotok rejoined, and moved one of his queens to the second level attack board on her side.

Lathena’s antennae flattened backwards in surprise at the boldness of the move and, in a Human mannerism adopted from her last X.O., whistled low to indicate she was impressed. “That’s… a risky move, Sir,” she commented as another raised eyebrow was sent her way.

“I have often found from serving with Humans – and indeed from playing this very game with several of them – that the element of surprise in performing the unexpected is often as valuable as employing carefully-planned and considered moves as part of a larger strategy.”

Staring at the completely changed dynamic of the game that had just been instigated, Lathena couldn’t help but agree. That queen now directly threatens three key pieces of my defence – two of which are the lynchpins of my planned offensive! she noted, still a little too surprised to be annoyed at the upset to her ‘carefully considered’ plans.

She looked up at Sotok from her analysis of her next move what seemed like seconds later when she noticed the expectant air gathering around them. “What? she asked, a little defensively.

He again smiled his not-smile. “Why Commander, I was merely contemplating the six-point-two minutes you’ve spent examining the board without speaking a single word.”

Lathena groaned and dropped her head into her hands. “I thought Vulcans didn’t make jokes,” she stated in martyred tones.

“Indeed not, Commander,” he agreed mildly. “We merely make observations that are sometimes construed as amusing to those around us.”

Lathena looked back up and grinned at him, sweeping her long, silver-white hair back behind her ears and over her shoulders. “Riiiight,” she commented sarcastically. “You’d be great as the star of a British situational comedy.”

She smiled widely at the ‘nonplussed’ flavour of his blank look and just waved it off. “Just something my old X.O. used to say on occasion.” Changing gears and refocusing on the game, she settled in to play her next move. “Right, so, here we—”

She as cut off by the paging whistle of a shipboard all-call. “Bridge to Captain and First Officer.”

Activating his wristcom, Sotok answered, “This is the captain. The First Officer is with me. Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“Aye, Captain,” Lieutenant JG K’Nomi acknowledged. “We’ve picked up an unusual reading from the planet we’re scanning, and Lieutenant Cha’Doth requests your presence on the bridge,” she continued.

“Very well. We are on our way. Captain, out,” he said, getting up to leave.

“Computer, record positions and save,” Lathena instructed before following him. The game bleeped its compliance at her departing back. “I wonder what they’ve found?” she asked rhetorically as they entered the turbolift.

“Speculation is pointless as we shall find out what they know in approximately seven seconds,” Sotok replied, on form for rhetorical questions.

Lathena rolled her eyes again and six seconds later stepped out onto the bridge so that the explanations could begin.

“Captain, Commander,” Second Officer and Chief Science Officer Cha’Doth greeted them as they approached her at the science station. Gesturing to one of her auxiliary monitors, she said, “This screen shows the details of the anomalous reading. It seems to be some sort of energy signature, but ship’s sensors can detect nothing in the area. In fact, we cannot even locate the source of the signature but by comparing signal strengths we have localised it to this ten square kilometre area on the western continental mass.  Previous scans from one year ago do not show this reading.”

Both newcomers looked at the second screen as indicated by the Ur’uth’uul female and took in the nature of the signal and the topography of the area it apparently emanated from.

“Short range scan?” Sotok asked.

“Inconclusive, Sir,” Cha’Doth replied. “We can find no artificial structure in the designated area, nor is there evidence of intelligent life forms; only flora and fauna detected. The region does impinge on the base of this mountain range, however, so it is possible that some natural formation is housing whatever is generating the energy signature.”

“It’s equally likely that the mountains are interfering with the scans, Captain,” Lathena contributed. “Depending on their composition they could radically affect the signal strength and throw off our localising efforts.”

“That has been accounted for, Commander,” Cha’Doth rebutted the X.O. with a slight edge to her voice. It was quickly smoothed away as the science officer continued, but Lathena clearly heard it and wondered at it. “The sensors have been set for maximum sensitivity and narrowest scan focus.”

Lathena hadn’t meant to call their science officer’s competence into question, but the Ur’uth’uul seemed a mite sensitive on the topic. Before she could respond to that, however, the captain made his position clear. 

“Yes Lieutenant, we can see that from the console settings, but the First Officer’s point is still valid,” he stated blandly. The mild emoting he’d allowed Lathena to witness in their “friendly” was not in evidence here. “Your competence is not being called into question, Lieutenant, this is a mere stating of facts.”

The jet black-skinned woman with a cloud of long, candyfloss-pink hair stiffened and her solid silver eyes flashed. “Aye, Sir. My… apologies.”

“Are not necessary but are accepted regardless,” her captain returned evenly. “Recommendations?”

“Records indicate this planet is unexplored, Captain,” Cha’Doth replied, her voice and bearing still stiff as if in anger or embarrassment from her rebuke. “Previous charting and scans have been orbital in nature. While many species of flora and fauna have been detected and deemed worthy of further investigation, no vessel has been detailed to follow up on this. Suggest I lead a landing party with two objectives: investigate and discover the source of the signal, and general scientific investigation of the planet’s wildlife, Sir.”

“Very good. Commander?”

“Captain, we are on an anti-piracy sweep. While the energy source definitely needs to be investigated, we are on a schedule and need to resume our patrol. I don’t believe we have the time nor the qualified science personnel to perform an in-depth botanical survey.”

Cha’Doth looked like she wanted to object to that – and angrily too – but held her peace. Her forbearance was rewarded when Sotok responded to his X.O.

“Commander, I am surprised at you,” the Vulcan stated in an inflectionless tone. “As the exploratory arm and a prime scientific body of the Federation, Starfleet always makes time to ‘stop and smell the roses’, even if our planetary science department is weak,” he chided the Andorian. Addressing Cha’Doth, he stated, “Your suggestion is accepted, Lieutenant. Assemble and equip a botanical survey expedition, which you will lead.”

“Aye, Captain!” the Ur’uth’uul woman acknowledged enthusiastically, with a triumphant glance at the X.O.

Lathena suppressed an urge to get annoyed. Her own objection was really just pro forma, and she too was eager to explore the unknown planet above them. As X.O., though, it was her duty to offer alternatives and not just be a ‘yes woman’.

“Commander, you will assemble and equip an expedition to locate and investigate this energy reading. Since the area seems to be a sensor dead zone, you will determine the reason for this as a priority. If you find a way around this your search will go much faster.”

“Understood, Captain,” she acknowledged crisply.

“Lieutenant Cha’Doth, what is your estimated time to complete our scan of the whole planet?”

“Sir, we were 63% percent complete when this reading was detected. Estimate another seventeen minutes to complete our deep scan, assuming nothing else unusual is detected.”

“Very well. Lieutenant, you and the Commander will work together to assemble your teams once you have someone relieve you to complete the scan. We will make sure the planet has no other points of immediate interest first then return to investigate. Have your teams ready to go by point-three-seven. Carry on.”

“Aye Sir,” both women chorused, and Sotok assumed his position in the centre seat.

“Lieutenant, join me in Briefing Room One when your relief arrives,” Lathena instructed.

“Yes, Commander,” Cha’Doth responded, somewhat smugly to Lathena’s ears.

Damnit Cha’Doth, what is your problem? the Andorian zhen wondered with mild irritation.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2012, 09:57:07 am by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2009, 09:18:05 pm »
Nice.  Lathena, plus a smart-ass Vulcan captain who actually doesn't seem stuck up, and the hints of Jerry Springer-like dysfunctional crew interactions to come!
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
                                                                 ---------Rod Serling, The Last Flight

Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter Two
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2010, 03:12:53 pm »
Hello all;

I'm thinking I need to start posting what I've written to get me back in the mood for more writing. So, here we go. Enjoy. :)

Comments and critiques are welcome and encouraged.



Chapter Two


The silver haze of the transporter effect faded from her vision as her optic nerves were reconstructed from the matter stream along with the rest of her body, and once again, Terilathena zh'Aetheris stood on another world.

She breathed deeply and took in the scent of the alien air, savouring the moment as she had done thirty-eight times before. The air was hot and humid, as if the late afternoon sun was now drying up a heavy rainfall from several hours ago. Already she felt beads of sweat forming and she looked forward to exploring the presumably cool caves she expected to find at the base of the mountains.

The air itself smelled damp, earthy, and full of life and growing things, and she caught sight of several startled animals resembling primates and antelope disappearing into the more dense foliage at the edge of the clearing, no doubt in response to the noise of the transporter effect. It was a truly exhilarating moment, and the twenty-eight-year old Andorian zhen was never more glad to have joined Starfleet than at moments like this.

Pulling herself back to the task at hand, she started scouting the area around the beam-down point and ordered, “Okay people, let’s get the base camp set up and a perimeter established.”

Her eleven crewmates nodded anyway at the unnecessary order and continued in their assigned tasks as Lathena finished her critical assessment of their selected base camp site.

Flipping open her communicator, she hailed the ship.

“Falklands, Ensign Hawke,” the Beta shift comm officer responded.

“Ensign, this is the X.O. Kindly inform the captain that we’ve all arrived safely and the beamdown point checks out. It seems to be the only clear area for kilometres around, so we’ll have to be wary that there’s a reason for that.”

“Commander, this is the Captain. First impressions?”

“Sir, the orbital imagery does not properly convey the actual experience,” Lathena commented in slightly awed tones. “While it is as we expected from the imagery, the true scale of these gigantism-stage plants did not really impress upon me until I was standing among them. Outside our perimeter I can see single-flower plants as tall as I am, with stalks thicker than my legs and flowers that stretch from my antennae to my knees!”

“Acknowledged, Commander. Any further observations?” Sotok enquired.

“Yes Sir. This planet feels incredibly… alive!” she continued. “The air carries a scent of life and growth and there are so many vibrations from living things… Sir, I believe it’s having something of a euphoric effect on me!”

“We had noticed, Commander,” Sotok observed in another of his not-jokes and cautioned, “However, be careful. A planet in gigantism offers many more unexpected hazards than the usual Minshara-class.”

“Understood, Captain. We will stay alert.”

“Very good, Commander. Keep me appraised – and enjoy your shore leave. Falklands, out.”

Lathena stared at her communicator before closing it slowly and replacing it on her belt. “Shore leave” indeed! she groused bemusedly to herself. He is correct though. If we’re not careful this planet is likely to end up killing us in more ways than things a Tellarite can argue about. She smiled one last time at the lush garden planet around her before settling into a ‘work’ frame of mind.

“Lobsang, Greene, perimeter status?” she called out, moving back to the centre of the camp site where the returning security detail stood watch over Lieutenant J.G. Rozen K’Nomi as the Caitian set up the powerful and portable subspace communications relay. It was a necessary precaution to amplify and extend the power and range of their personal communicators in the face of the sensor interference evident in the mountains.

“Commander, we’ve scouted the opposite perimeter and it is clear also,” Security Lieutenant Lobsang Nyima reported, his Federation Standard slightly corrupted by his lyrical Tibetan accent. “The sensor barrier has been set up and is now active. Anything comes through it, we’ll know about it.”

“Excellent. That was fast work,” she commended them.

“Thank you, Sir,” Lobsang replied with his ready, infectious smile.

Lathena returned it and ordered, “Take your detail and perform a longer ranged sweep. Make sure there are no oversized… ‘creepy-crawlies’… too close in.”

“Aye Sir,” the security officer nodded briskly and both stepped away to gather the other two guards.

Lathena strode up to the science contingent, who were busy setting up their heavier analytical equipment and data uplinks to the ship. The scientists were really loaded for bear. Not knowing when they might be dragged kicking and screaming back to the ship, they’d assembled an extensive array of scanning tools and computational power for their excursion. Almost the entire officer and petty officer complement of the Science department had accompanied Lieutenant Cha’Doth to the planet – even though some of their specialities had nothing to do with the Life Sciences – and the X.O. couldn’t fault them for it. The admittedly tiny science department on a frigate rarely got the chance to do much exploring and when the opportunity did arise, the normally placid scientists would wrestle a mugato for the plum assignment of landing party detail.

“Lieutenant,” she greeted the Ur’uth’uul scientist agreeably.

“Commander,” Cha’Doth returned with barely suppressed excitement. All trace of her earlier snide attitude was long gone, and the Andorian was pleased at its absence. “Can you believe this?” Cha’Doth continued, her wonder-struck gesturing encompassing all the sights, sounds, and smells around them. “We’re almost done here and within minutes we’ll be recording and analysing… all this!” she practically bubbled.

This was a side of the normally dour woman that Lathena hadn’t ever seen in the six months they’d been serving together. Maybe she’s unhappy at her posting to a border patrol ship and this is how she normally is? Lathena wondered, her curiosity definitely aroused. Either that or the planet has us all space-happy…

The thought began in jest but tailed off as she remembered Lobsang’s wide grin and her own feeling of euphoria.

“Lieutenant, I want one of your people intensively analysing the atmosphere and air quality in this area,” she ordered seriously, a frown tugging at her features. “It may be nothing, but…”

“Sir?” Cha’Doth queried, puzzled.

“We’re all really happy to be here,” Lathena stated, and at the second officer’s pitying look added, “No, really happy. It may just be that natural high but I want to be sure that nothing in the planet’s biosphere is contributing to it.”

Understanding dawned in the Ur’uth’uul’s body language, if not her eyes or expression. Solid silver eyes with no pupils and solid, deep-black skin which hid the contours of her face made her expression practically unreadable in the visible-light spectrum.

Which is why her species’ eyes see in infrared, Lathena knew. “Look into sound and vibrations as well, Lieutenant. Leave no plant unscanned,” she finished with a slight smile.

“Aye-aye, Commander!” Cha’Doth acknowledged her orders with relish. “We had planned to do so but it is pleasing to have official orders to point to,” she clarified with a smile of brilliant white omnivorous teeth.

“Well, just be careful where you step, Lieutenant,” Lathena cautioned half-playfully. “Some of these plants are undoubtedly carnivorous.”

“Understood, Commander. We’ll be cautious,” Cha’Doth assured her superior.

“Very good. Carry on, Lieutenant. Enjoy yourself – but not too much.”

Cha’Doth grinned one last time at Lathena before turning to her colleagues to create a plan of investigation.

Lathena returned to her own team with a smile still on her face.

“Sir, something amusing?” Lieutenant LG Grace Kim asked as she approached.

“Yes, Mr. Kim. Your fellow scientists over there. They’re all practically enraptured with the opportunities this expedition is offering them,” she commented archly, her white, feathery eyebrows raised.

“Like kids in a sweet shop,” the geologist agreed with a grin. “I’m kinda feeling it myself, I have to say.”

Her too. Damn, Lathena thought with mild apprehension. I really want the results of that environmental scan. Opening a com channel to all her team, she cautioned, “Everyone, a warning. I don’t know if we’re all just exceptionally happy to be off the ship, but something on the planet may be subliminally boosting us into a mild state of euphoria.” At the suddenly surprised or thoughtful expressions of those within eyesight, she added, “I’m having the second officer’s team investigate the possibility, but we may not know quickly enough. Just keep your senses sharp and don’t be lulled into a sense of security, false or otherwise.”

“Understood, Commander. We’ll stay alert,” Lieutenant Lobsang responded from his perimeter sweep. “Just to let you know, I’m not feeling any different than I normally do.”

“Very well,” she acknowledged. “Anyone feeling… an inflated sense of happiness?”

“Greene here. I’m feeling pretty good, Sir, but it doesn’t feel… odd or anything.”

“Na Tchuto here, Sir. I do not notice anything out of the ordinary in the way I feel,” the security man from Guinea-Bissau reported in.

“Thia here, Commander. I too have noticed some kind of... effect. It… it seems to me to be sonic, based in vibrations. I can almost physically feel it on my antennae, but it remains an intangible sensation.”

“Thank you for your input, everyone. I want you to contact the science team and relate this information to them for their investigation.” She shut off her comm channel while they did that to puzzle it over.

Why only some of my crew? Could it be that we are all feeling it regardless but some of us are not aware of it? Lobsang is a naturally happy and exuberant person. He might not notice it as unusual.

Taking stock, she continued her analysis. That’s me, Thia, and Kim on my team, and Cha’Doth, Okeild, MacAllen, and… K’Nomi, who look slightly space-happy in the science team. What’s the common factor? We have Andorians, Humans, Ur’uth’uul, Caitians, and Daenaii in that list and Humans, Vulcans, and Efrosians in the ‘unaffected’ list, so it’s highly unlikely that it’s species-related. So, what…? It defeated her for the moment so she let it go for the scientists to figure out.

“Lieutenant Kim, are you ready?” she enquired next.

“Yes, Sir,” the geologist nodded. “My tricorder checks out, its databanks are loaded with local data, and I’ve confirmed the feed to the relay is active and steady. Let’s go find out what these mountains are made of!”

Even though its possible cause did worry her, Lathena couldn’t help but smile at the geologist’s enthusiasm. “Okay, Lieutenant. Just let me check in with the ship again and we’ll get going.”

Kim nodded her understanding and occupied herself with staring at an unusual egg-shaped plant about half a metre tall just outside the base camp perimeter while her superior drew and flipped open her communicator.

“Report, Commander,” the even voice of Sotok ordered from geosynchronous orbit.

“Base camp has been set up, the immediate area declared clear of immediate danger, and both teams are ready to begin their missions, Sir,” Lathena stated concisely.

“Very good, Commander. Since the sensor dead zone may interfere with communications despite the booster relay, I require you to exercise extreme caution. That is an order, Commander,” he intoned seriously.

“Acknowledged, Captain. There is another item, however…” She went on to outline the ‘Euphoria Situation’ and her orders on it.

“That is interesting, Commander, and possibly cause for concern. In this case, we shall decrease the interval between check-ins and the ship will monitor the landing party closely to ensure nothing unexpected will remain undetected for long.”

“A sensible precaution, Sir, even though it will no doubt annoy the scientists among us down here,” she replied, half-seriously.
“No doubt,” Sotok agreed evenly. “Ensure the entire landing party now knows to check in every fifteen minutes, Commander. Falklands, out.”

Her mouth twisted into a half-grin, half-grimace at her last orders, but signalled Cha’Doth to pass them on. As expected, the scientist wasn’t impressed by her captain’s concern.

“He does realise that in the pursuit of science, time becomes irrelevant, doesn’t he?”

“You mean you’ll lose track of time while ruining your eyes staring at tiny tricorder screens for too long, if I'm not mistaken?”

“I believe I just said that,” Cha’Doth retorted playfully. “Understood, Commander, I’ll pass it along. Good hunting.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. X.O., out.” Switching her com channel, she ordered, “Lobsang, Thia, you remain with the science team and keep them out of trouble. That may include physically checking on them when they inevitably fail to adhere to the fifteen-minute check-in rule. Na Tchuto, Greene, you will accompany Lieutenant Kim and myself. Form up and let’s go exploring.”
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 10:48:09 pm by Scottish Andy »
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The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Tus-XC

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2010, 04:44:10 pm »
Nice.  The euphoria thing kinda reminds me of when I did training in an altitude chamber, to learn my physical response to low O2 quantities.  If you don't train to recognize it, you never realize how you are being affected.  For example, when you looked at a color wheel for the first time after being O2 deprived you don't notice anything wrong.  But when you put the mask back on you almost instantly see the color just 'pop' into clarity. 
Rob

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Offline Andromeda

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2010, 12:49:32 pm »
Yay!  Stuff to read, and that reads well.
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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2010, 02:56:34 pm »
Nice.  The euphoria thing kinda reminds me of when I did training in an altitude chamber, to learn my physical response to low O2 quantities.  If you don't train to recognize it, you never realize how you are being affected. 

Boy, I sure noticed it at FL450!  As soon as I took my mask off, my entire body went instantly numb!  (that's what I get for volunteering to "demonstrate" at that height!)  Euphoria is not what I felt. *grin?* (however, when everyone else went off masks at a lower altitude, they described the euphoria, etc.   ...I don't recall anything in particular about subsequent chamber card renewals)

However, the (depth) pressure chamber was much more fun... at about -120ft everyone sounds like Donald Duck (due to air density). Never did figure out if I experienced being narc'd (nitrogent narcossis).  The two guys having a serious discussion in Donald Duck voices cracked me up too much to notice anything else.  I'd think the laughing was being narc'd, except I start giggling just thinking about it while typing this over a decade later. (*ack* I might be permanently narc'd! *grin*)  And the Donald Duck syndrome continued up to around -80ft on ascent. Think... a room FULL of helium. *grin*

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2011, 04:24:29 pm »
I'm in a generous and giving mood, and since I have almost completed the writing on this story (then comes transcription, and technical editing, and more creative content editing, and integration with previous chapters, etc) I thought I'd post more of the stuff that is set in stone.

Comments are, of course, begged for.

Enjoy!



Chapter Three


“Report, Mr. de Vreij. Have you been able to obtain any further data that could aid Commander zh’Aetheris in her task?”

Petty Officer 2nd-Class Joop de Vreij looked up at his captain from the science scanner and gave a serious, “Negative, Captain. The mountains continue to block our sensors and defy our attempts to retune them for clearer readings.”

Sotok regarded the Dutchman dispassionately. “That is unfortunate. Mineralogical analysis?”

“Inconclusive, Sir,” the squat, sandy-haired sensor specialist answered. “The interference is so strong that we cannot get a clear reading on even that. However, the interference effect does superficially resemble that given by kelbonite.”

“Indeed,” Sotok offered with a raised eyebrow. “That would be even more unfortunate if the two materials are as similar in other properties also. Send this data to the Commander, Specialist. She will require it.”

“Aye, Captain. Downloading to their tricorders now,” de Vreij replied, sweeping his almost-longer-than-regulation blonde hair out of his eyes.

*****

“Data coming in from the ship, Commander,” Lieutenant Kim announced as her tricorder lit up in a new way.

“Yes Mr. Kim, I have it too,” Lathena replied, her own tricorder out and running.

“Damn… similar to kelbonite?” Grace muttered, sentiments which Lathena couldn’t help but agree with. “Great. Our sensors can’t get around that no matter how much we retune them,” she groused. “How are we going to locate any caves in all this soup, Sir?”

“Range trade-off, Lieutenant,” Lathena responded. “If our subspace sensors don’t work outside a certain range—”

“—Use E.M. spectrum and atmosphere sensors in their place,” Grace finished for her superior officer. “I guess we fall back on good old-fashioned radar sweeps then,” she commented, no longer sounding as put out as before.

Lathena’s brow furrowed. “’Radar’?”

“Oh, sorry Sir. Old Earth term for E.M. bounceback systems,” Park explained, and Lathena’s face cleared. “And if that doesn’t work – which might happen, as, far too often for my tastes, subspace interference spills over into the E.M. bands – we go for even less capable echo-ranging.”

“Quite,” Lathena commented archly, using another word from her former X.O.’s arsenal.

Grace bobbed her head and grinned. “Sorry, Sir,” she offered.

“Carry on, Lieutenant,” the Andorian zhen said with a smile, then changed her mind. Addressing her whole party, she ordered, “In fact, let’s spread out some. When the interference gets too heavy set your tricorders for a ‘radar sweep’, and perform a subspace scan every five minutes just to test. Na Tchuto, you’re with Park. Greene, with me.”

“Aye Sir,” they all chorused then split as directed.

*****

“Be careful, MacAllen. You’re so close to that flower you’re practically touching it,” Cha’Doth chided the botanist.

“Sir, my tricorder’s having trouble seeing the plant’s internals,” Christine MacAllen protested.

“And you think that moving in those last few centimetres will make all the difference to a tricorder?” the second officer replied sardonically.

“As a matter of fact, yes, Lieutenant, I do. I think this and have been proven correct by the additional structural data now appearing on my screen,” the junior science officer replied smugly. She looked up at her superior officer and grinned on noting body language that – on a Human – would have been accompanied by eye-rolling. Cha’Doth’s space-black skin and pure silver eyes with no irises made reading her facial expressions difficult at best and usually impossible, but her body language was roughly analogous to Human norms.

“Fine, you’re a genius, MacAllen. Congratulations.” The Ur’uth’uul sighed and turned away.

Just to needle her boss, Christine added, “It’s just a matter of signal strength, Lieutenant. The closer the instrument—”

“Ensign MacAllen…” Cha’Doth stated warningly, pinning the Scot with a narrow-eyed silver glare.

“Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir,” Christine replied meekly, ducking her head and unsuccessfully trying to swallow a smile.

Cha’Doth’s glare melted into a wry smile of her own. “If you’ll excuse me, Miss Genius Scientist, I’m going to examine something that’s farther away from you. I wouldn’t want my merely mundane intelligence interfering with your giant intellect’s ruminations.”

Remaining stock still and not taking her eyes off her tricorder, Christine replied seriously, “Thank you, Sir. I’d appreciate that.”

A choked sound of surprise emanated from her superior officer and Christine had to physically restrain herself from shaking with suppressed mirth.
She therefore immediately lost her balance and fell over when Cha’Doth smacked her playfully upside the head, having returned stealthily to her side amid the various noises of a living forest.

Silver eyes crinkled up in amusement and bright white teeth shone out of a space-black face as Cha’Doth regarded the surprised form sprawled on the greenery before her. She playfully chided, “Stop teasing your superiors, Christine. It’s career-limiting.”

At MacAllen’s outraged look Cha’Doth burst out laughing, the botanist joining in right after. Offering her hand, she pulled Christine back onto her feet, both of them still grinning.

The Ur’uth’uul’s smile faltered as she realised something. “This planet is really getting to me,” she said slowly. “I’m acting like a youngling in a school playground.”

Christine’s smile faded too and she looked around uncertainly. “I think you’re right, Lieutenant,” she agreed, suddenly realising that such easy-going and playful behaviour was quite out of character for the chief science officer. She was further shocked at her own temerity in teasing Cha’Doth as if they’d always related to one another in that way. Soberly, she asked, “How is K’Nomi’s research on the sub-harmonics theory coming?”

“I’m going to go ask her now, Ensign,” she replied slowly but decisively. “I don’t think this is harmful, but we’re here to do a job, not play like younglings.”

“Aye Sir,” Christine nodded firmly. “I’ll… remember to keep my distance. Just in case.”

Nodding to each other again, they set about their respective tasks.

*****

Ensign Skora Okeild methodically ran her tricorder over the egg-shaped plant in front of her and grimaced at the superficial data being displayed for her. It’s odd that I have to practically touch the thing with the sensor grid before it will give up any of its secrets, the Daenaii biologist grumbled to herself. She pulled back and pecked at her tricorder’s settings, routing more power through the sensors at the cost of draining the power source more quickly, and tried again. As hoped for, the sensor’s range increased, but not as much as expected. Something in the plant’s outer shell or perhaps its whole structure resists or dampens my sensor probes, she reasoned.

Rocking back on her heels, she mulled that over. It’s possible that the sensor interference in the mountain rock may be an environmental thing rather than solely limited to the rocks. It could be an element that occurs naturally in all products of this biosphere: rocks, trees, flowers, even insects and animals. Fascinating!

Using the increased sensor power, Skora moved closer again to get clearer readings of the egg’s internals. She noted that the space within the shell was densely packed with more vegetable matter; so much so that there wasn’t any free space in there. They were so densely packed that even so close and at extra power the tricorder couldn’t offer a definitive readout. The tentative conclusion was that they were more stalks of some kind; long, tubular structures as thick as her wrist. It’s got to be some kind of enticement. Some kind of visual and olfactory display vital to its pollination process. Otherwise, how does it reproduce?

She looked around her little area – it was too densely crowded with knee- and waist-high plants to be considered a “clearing” – and noted another seven of the “plant-eggs” within a twenty-metre radius. So, what does it look like when it’s opened up to attract insects? And with the size of insects in this region, I think I’d better be a good three metres back when that happens!

Flipping open her communicator, she hailed the ship. Through the subspace relay, the reception was crisp and clear.

“Falklands, Ensign Hawke here,” the Beta-shift comm officer replied.

“Put me though to the Biology lab please, Edmund,” she asked distractedly.

“Hold, please,” the Englishman replied sarcastically and started humming a very bad rendition of some 22nd century Andorian jazz he knew she liked.

That got her attention, but before she could say more than “Edmund—!” he’d completed her call.

“Biology lab, Specialist Lautrec here.”

I should apologise to Edmund when I see him next. He’s probably been getting calls like that all morning, she thought guiltily. Focusing back on the reason for her call, she addressed her researcher.

“Lautrec, I’m uploading scan data from my tricorder on an egg-shaped plant I need some computer modelling on,” Skora said as she transmitted her findings. “It seems to be completely enclosed and tightly packed inside, so I’d like some extrapolations on what it looks like once it’s opened up.”

“Receiving it now, Sir,” the science specialist acknowledged. ”I’ll start inputting the data now and I’ll let you know when we come up with something.”

“Very good, Claude. I look forward to hearing from you again.”

“Aye Sir.”

Signing off, she reset her tricorder to factory defaults and was intrigued to see a new life-form reading had entered its range. I wonder what that is? She straightened from her crouch and, keeping in mind Cha’Doth’s warning, sent a brief update to the second officer before heading off in search of this new creature.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2012, 11:02:39 pm by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2011, 01:53:10 am »
Interesting.  So far, there's not much, other than the possible (but not confirmed) euphoric effect to indicate anything all that weird going on here, and I'd almost suggest you move things along a little faster, but I'm reminding myself you might be slowly giving us puzzle pieces before anything happens, so I won't.

I also won't suggest a scene where the embattled science team has to fight off giant bumblebees with their phasers amidst a forest of giant plants, for while I like the surreality of imagining it, it might not fit the tone you're going for.

Post more.
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
                                                                 ---------Rod Serling, The Last Flight

Offline Scottish Andy

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Quarantine - Chapter Four
« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2011, 03:06:59 pm »
Curious that you happened to mention that, Larry...  :D



Chapter Four


“Commander, we’ve found something!”

“What might that something be, Mr. Kim?” Lathena responded over her communicator to the excited geologist.

“Our radar sweep has located a large cave 600 metres at bearing 347 from our current location. Shunting the details to your tricorder now,” the Korean scientist elaborated.

Examining the data, Lathena responded, “It’s a kilometre from where we are now, but we’ve detected nothing yet. Make your way to it and we’ll meet you there. Investigate as much as you can but do not go into the cave until we arrive. Understood, Mr. Kim?”

“Aye, Commander, we’ll be careful,” Grace responded with a hint of long-suffering in her tone. “You’re not that far behind us anyway.”

“This is true – but do not go in thinking we’ll get there within a certain timeframe, Lieutenant! We will be there shortly.” Lathena flipped her communicator shut and turned to Specialist 3rd Class Michael Greene after consulting her tricorder again. “That way, Mr. Greene, about one kilometre,” she informed him, pointing in the appropriate direction.

“Aye, Sir,” the tall, wiry blonde answered crisply, moving in the direction she indicated. While not a humourless man, the recently-graduated security specialist was totally professional in this setting and offered no companionable banter to the second highest ranking officer of his ship. In the absence of a direct or acknowledged threat in the area, Greene’s Type-II phaser pistol was on his hip and not in his hand. Instead, a standard tricorder ran continuous rotating sweeps for life-forms and artificial objects. The frowns Lathena caught on his face indicated the mountains were still interfering too much with those scans for the young ensign to be completely happy with the situation.

“Commander… I’m detecting several animal life forms in the area; they seem to be in several groups of around five each, and…” He fiddled with the settings on his tricorder some more before continuing. “…and they seem to be at an elevation of eighty metres.”

“They’re in the lower branches of the trees?” she asked, looking up to try and see them.

“Bearings… 273, 290, 305, and 321. Just come into range and approaching quickly.” At this he drew his phaser but kept his eyes on this tricorder screen.

Lathena drew her own Type-I as well and scanned the massive trees in the direction Greene had read off. A cacophony of hooting and screaming became audible over the rest of the forest noises and it was indeed approaching quickly. A massive buzzing also became audible, like a whole armada of bees, and Greene called out, “Reading very strong insect-like life forces!”

Just then, several of the animal life forms literally swung into view; some very long-limbed primates tore through the lower branches at remarkable speed, far faster than Lathena could have sprinted. It was difficult to assess their size because of the distance, their movement and speed, but it appeared to Lathena as if they were about two metres tall. The hooting and screaming passed over them, the sloth-like primates not even acknowledging the presence of the two Starfleet officers. The buzzing was more enigmatic; it too passed over them without slowing, but neither of them saw what actually caused it.

After the furore had died down, Greene stared at his X.O. wide eyed. “Did a swarm of bees just chase a group of apes through the jungle?”
Lathena was less affected with awe, but she stowed her sudden alarm to answer her crewmember reassuringly. “It would appear so. Remember, animals our size are not likely to be the dominant life form on this planet. However, we have our advanced tools and weapons and our intellects to see us through. Good job in detecting all that before it got to us.”

“Aye Sir.” He acknowledged her praise but still looked apprehensive.

Looks like he’s having trouble believing that. He’ll just have to deal with it, Lathena thought philosophically, and they continued on their way through the forest. 

“Commander!” Grace all but shouted many minutes later as they emerged into a clearing at the foot of the dark granite coloured mountains. She looked like she was really desperate to start exploring and Lathena suppressed a smile any parent of a small child would have recognised.

“Lieutenant. Have your investigations revealed anything significant?” she asked the geologist.

Kim shook her head, causing her brunette fringe to swing merrily. “The mineralogical analysis is still underway, Sir, but we expect to have an answer shortly from the ship. I also took the liberty of informing the captain of our situation, Commander,” the willowy Korean woman stated, a touch apologetically.

Lathena gave an approving nod. “Very good, Lieutenant. Anything else?”

Her slight uncertainty immediately banished, Grace went on more naturally. “We’ve fixed our position, informed the ship, and set up a beacon so that all are informed of the entrance’s location. Standard scans have given us nothing but a hash of interference, and even radar is being heavily affected. From what we can determine, there are no other caves in the rock of this area, but this is one fair-sized cavern. However, as you can see, the entrance is not evident at all.”

“I was about to ask, Lieutenant. Where is this cave and your beacon?”

“Follow me, Sir,” was her answer, and all four strode eagerly towards a rocky overhang liberally festooned with vines, creepers, moss, and other vegetation. It looked absolutely no different from any other section of the escarpment they were near.

The party halted ten metres closer to the rock face from where they started but Lathena still could not see the entrance or the beacon.

Seeing the X.O. about to speak, Lieutenant Kim raised a hand and said, “Now watch this.”

She faced the vegetation-saturated rock face at a roughly 45° angle, took two steps forward…

…and promptly vanished before the startled eyes of the XO.

*****

“Lieutenant Cha’Doth, could you come take a look at this?

“Where are you, Ensign?” the Ur’uth’uul replied somewhat sardonically, a gentle chiding about proper comm protocol.

“Oh, my apologies, Sir,” the distinctive, furry contralto of the Daenaii biologist replied abashedly. “Ah, it’s Ensign Okeild here, Lieutenant, and I’m at bearing… 217 from the subspace relay, range… two hundred and thirty-nine metres. I have a fascinating creature I’d really like you to see for yourself, Lieutenant.”

Cha’Doth grinned into her communicator. She’d had several calls of this exact nature over the last hour, but after responding to the first there was no way she was settling for an image over a tricorder screen.

“I’m on the far side of the relay from you, Ensign, looking at someone else’s new pet. I’ll be with you in about ten minutes.”

“Understood, Sir.”

Flipping her communicator shut she looked back to her current companion, Petty Officer 3rd-Class Na-Foreteii, and motioned for him to continue.

“So even though this is definitely vegetable matter, its tensile strength is close to that of steel. It seems to be fairly flexible despite that; we can see it moving easily, almost as if the whole plant is breathing.”

“Yes, I had noticed that,” Cha’Doth commented, taking in the three-metre height and huge tangled mass of trunks as thick as her torso taper at the top down to stalks barely wider than her wrist. “It’s slightly unnerving to see a plant move against or independent of the air currents.”

“Really, Sir?” the lab researcher asked, surprise evident in his gravelly voice.

“To me, at least, P.O. What else can you tell me about it?” she asked, slightly uncomfortable with a personal question and diverting the Efrosian’s attention back to his plant.

“Only that it was quite hard to get a sample from it to analyse. It would be more accurate to state that I took a scraping rather than excised a sample. Also that doing so elicited only a minor reaction from the plant itself.”

“It reacted to you then?” she asked sharply.

“Yes, Lieutenant,” the Efrosian confirmed. “In fact, it moved towards me, though in a slow, almost questing manner. It was easily avoidable.”

Cha’Doth regarded the tangled dark green mass of stalks, leaves and tendrils that softened the appearance of the main bulk of the alien plant with narrowed eyes. Her home planet of Ur’uth had plants capable of independent motion – indeed, some were actually able to uproot themselves and ambulate to more nutrient-rich soil. Such plants had been the focus of endless horror vids in her society in much the same way as insects and spiders had been on Earth. As such, Cha`Doth had an instinctive, base level revulsion of them.

She let none of this show, though, and merely nodded to Na-Foreteii. “Carry on then, Na-Foreteii. Be sure to upload all your data as soon as you complete your scanning. Ensign Okeild now requests my attention on the other side of the camp.”

“Aye Sir,” the Efrosian lab researcher acknowledged and once again focused intently on the object of his investigation.

I think I’ll check the electronic perimeter of the camp, just to make sure nothing can creep up on us unexpectedly if we’re staying a while, she resolved on her way to see Skora.

*****

Lathena looked at the spot where Grace Kim had vanished and hurriedly moved to get a better vantage point as she called, “Mr. Kim, can we safely assume you meant to disappear like that?”

“Yes Commander, I did,” Grace’s muffled voice came back from reassuringly close at hand.

Lathena homed in on where the sound was coming from and positioned herself accordingly. Sure enough, the geologist’s deep red uniform jacket and black skirt were visible in the fissure through which she’d walked, and her Andorian superior’s slight alarm abated. “Come back out, Lieutenant,” she ordered.

She watched Grace wind her way back out, noting that the passage itself seemed quite large, easily accommodating the tall Korean’s frame, but that it was a very crooked path.

Lathena looked over at the science equipment set up beside the fissure. “How long before we get the results of the mineralogical analysis?” she asked an emerging Lieutenant Kim.

“The analysis is still running through the ship’s computers, Commander; I had hoped— ah, there we go,” she interrupted herself as the equipment bleeped satisfyingly. Taking in the results, Grace’s face fell slightly.

“It is kelbonite, then,” Lathena intuited.

“I’m afraid so, Commander,” she agreed, adding, “but not only that. Its molecular structure indicates it’s a more densely formed mineral. These mountains are composed primarily of standard kelbonite but there are vast areas where the material displays twice and even three times the usual sensor interference properties.”

“Fantastic,” Specialist Greene muttered disgustedly.

Lathena couldn’t help but agree. “Why is it that, whenever we develop new and improved sensors, the universe always manages to show us new and improved ways to thwart those sensors?” she asked rhetorically.

“To keep us humble, Sir,” Joao Na Tchuto spoke up. “To remind us that we are not gods and never will be, by showing us there will always be mysteries to investigate, challenges to meet, and obstacles to overcome.”

The security specialist from the United African State of Guinea-Bissau then ducked his head slightly as he became the focus of the rest of the landing party’s eyes.

Lathena broke the short silence. “That’s… a very good answer, Joao. I’d never really considered that question seriously before. Thank you.”

The sincerity in his commander’s voice seemed to embarrass the normally taciturn security man, but he met her eyes and acknowledged her words with a brief nod and a more characteristically short, “Aye Sir.”

Changing gears, Lathena stated, “Let’s begin then, shall we? Joao, keep your tricorder on the standard subspace sensing bands. You’re on rear guard. Mr. Greene, you are our echo ranger at the head. I will run the radar sweeps and place the comm relays to maintain our link to the ship through the beacon. Lieutenant Kim, you are our signal hunter. Our combined mapping efforts should create a half-decent picture of our routes ahead and available options.”

Heads nodded and tricorders were adjusted accordingly as Lathena made a final call to the ship to relay their plan and intentions.

“Very good, Commander. Be aware that if your exploration takes too long without yielding results we will dispatch another team to search for other cave systems in the areas you did not reach. Since we are quite likely to lose contact with you despite your precautions, that other team will have orders to come looking for you if you are out of contact for more than three hours. Understood?”

“Aye, Captain. We’ll be careful. Lathena out.” She closed her communicator and addressed her team. “Let’s go exploring.”
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 01:39:07 am by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Five
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2012, 01:49:53 am »
Hello all! I have great news. This story is almost finished! Just a few more additional scenes to add in, and all the editing and integration is already done.

YAY!!!!!

So to celebrate this, I have reposted chapters one to four with minor mods, so go read them first to remind yourselves what this is all about, then come back here to read...



Chapter Five


I’m so glad I came over to see this, Cha’Doth congratulated herself while telling Skora, “That’s quite an impressive creature you’ve found yourself, Ensign.”

“I know! Fascinating, isn’t it, Lieutenant?” the Daenaii rushed out excitedly. “There’s nothing quite like it in Federation records – though there are a few creatures with close similarities. But no one’s seen one exactly like this!”

Cha’Doth smiled at her subordinate’s enthusiasm, remembering how she’d felt at this moment in her career. “Congratulations on your first discovery of a unique, unknown life form, Ensign Skora Okeild,” she stated warmly, gripping the younger officer’s shoulder in a comradely manner.

“Thank you, Sir!” the Daenaii practically gushed, thinking, My name’s going to be attached to this find! I’ll get recognition! My family is going to be so proud!

“So, what can you tell me about your new friend here, Ensign?” the second officer asked next, bringing Skora back down to the ground again.

“Ah, as you can see, it is a gigantic form of caterpillar, most closely resembling actias selene in its fifth instar stage. It measures some five metres in length of body, with the prehensile pseudo pods around its mouth adding a further two metres,” the biologist began more calmly as her training came to the fore. “Much the same as the caterpillar it moves on paired pincer-like ‘feet’, which I can only assume are strong enough to hold the creature’s body weight as it moves over the underside of the vegetation.”

“Assume, Ensign?” Cha’Doth asked archly.

“Aye, Sir, understood. I have not observed a second specimen yet, and this one appears content to remain stationary in the shade of this massive tree.”

“One thing to remember above all others when cataloguing life forms is not to make such assumptions as you just have based on other species,” Cha’Doth warned.

Skora wasn’t thrilled about being lectured on basic scientific note-taking practices, but grudgingly admitted that she’d brought it upon herself in her excitement at her find.

Getting back to her briefing, she continued, “As you can see, the usual smoothly-curving segments of a caterpillar’s body are instead very angular on our friend here. Also, tricorder scans show more manipulator appendages tightly curled up inside the forward two metres of the creature’s body. They appear to be longer versions of the mouth tentacles. If I were to speculate, I’d say they would be to help the creature ascend a tree bole to reach edible vegetation higher up than it could reach from the ground, escape torrential downpours, predators, and other dangers of being on the ground.”

Cha’Doth’s momentary annoyance at the ensign’s blatant dig was banished by her own mental image of this monster caterpillar clinging vertically to a two hundred-metre tall tree, held scores of metres above the ground by one set of appendages while the other set plucked leaves from the lower branches.

Consciously shaking herself out if her mesmerised reverie, Lieutenant Cha’Doth stated, “Interesting proposition, Ensign. That would be quite something to see. Is there anything else you have on the creature?”

Skora’s face fell slightly at that. “Unfortunately not, Sir,” she replied regretfully. “To even discover the presence of the retracted pseudopods I had to practically straddle the beast and use my tricorder like a stethoscope! The sensor-deflection properties of these flora and fauna are quite remarkable,” she noted sourly.

“And annoying,” Cha’Doth agreed. “I’ve been hearing that a lot from all our party, Ensign. It looks like whatever is hiding what our first officer is looking for is prevalent through the entire biosphere and not just in the mountain rock.”

Skora was pleased to find her thinking mirrored in her superior, but also a bit deflated that she couldn’t bring it to the second officer’s attention. “That means that our investigation is not going to reveal very much data before we have to leave,” she voiced her dismay. “Damnit Sir, that’s not fair! How often does a frigate crew get an opportunity like this?!”

Cha’Doth’s own spirits fell somewhat at that, but she stowed it and encouraged her junior officer. “Then we’d best make efficient use of the time we do have, Ensign. 100% concentration on your readings now. We don’t want to miss a thing.”

Determination puffed out the Daenaii’s chest. “Aye Sir!”

Cha’Doth smiled and patted Okeild’s shoulder. “That’s the attitude. I’ll leave you with your patient then, ‘doctor’,” the Ur’uth’uul commented, and walked away from the biologist’s wry grin.

*****

“Ah, Hell,” Greene muttered almost inaudibly. In fact, it was inaudible to Human ears, but Lathena’s superior aural senses picked it up with little difficulty.

“Another closed passage, Specialist?” she asked. Which makes it our tenth, she griped.

Greene sighed. “Almost, Commander. Echo-ranging says this spur ends thirty metres ahead in a small cave. There doesn’t appear to be further tunnels leading from that cave, either.”

“Mr. Na Tchuto?” Lathena enquired next.

“Subspace scanning is still choked with interference, Sir,” Joao replied. “I’d have to proceed part way into the cave itself to confirm.”

“Understood. No need in this instance; my radar is confirming the echo-ranging,” she retuned. “It seems we cannot take the direct route after all. Mr. Kim, let’s retrace our steps to the main tunnel and try again.”

“Aye Sir,” Grace responded, looking unhappy in the light shed by the landing party’s combined hand lamps.

Lathena placed another beacon onto the wall and set it to indicate a no-through zone, then prompted, “Mr. Greene?”

“Aye Sir,” the lanky blonde acknowledged, and reconfigured the small device so that its audio system would emit an omnidirectional echo-ranging pulse. The youthful security guard was full of surprises. Having taken basic communications theory at the academy as part of his curriculum, Michael had hit upon the idea of maintaining a current map of the tunnels by having the ‘spelunking’ beacons emit repeated ‘sonar pings’ – which had necessitated another explanation of terminology, something Lathena was finding increasingly annoying. Why use ancient terminology no one else outside of your specialisation had ever heard of, never mind used?

Now, instead of mere bearings and elevations and distances between the beacons, the team now had an actual real-time – if intermittent – map of the tunnels they were exploring.

“Done, Sir,” Greene announced moments later, then took up point position again and led them back the way they’d come.

“Lathena to Falklands, come in please.”

“Falklands, Hawke here Commander,” the Beta shift comm officer responded, his voice already distorted by static but still understandable.

“Mr. Hawke, another progress report for the captain. Our latest route has resulted in another enclosed cavern. We are returning to Beacon Sixteen-Alpha to try another route from there,” Lathena told him, feeling rather annoyed at wasting the last twenty minutes.

“Understood, Commander. Please be advised that your signal strength has crossed minimum clear reception levels at this point. At this rate, your comm signals will be swamped with interference and unable to reach us in approximately ten minutes, including your backtracking.”

An irritated frown crossed Lathena’s face at that. “Ensign, based on Mr. Kim’s best estimates, we’re barely half-way to the source of these energy readings, and that’s where we’re turning back from. We’re going to be out of communications with the surface and ship for easily the last third of this excursion. Quite likely more, based on how many detours we’re having to take,” she added with further consideration.

“Understood, Commander. The captain wishes you ‘good hunting’ and asks that you behave yourself once out of direct supervision.” Hawke’s voice was obviously suppressing a smile, even over the static-laced comm channel and tinny speaker of the comm unit.

Lathena felt her frown evaporate and she smiled herself as she answered, “Tell thavan Sotok that we promise we’ll be good. Lathena, out.” As she closed her communicator, Greene was looking back at her with a bewildered expression. “Yes, Mr. Greene?” she asked archly.

“I thought Vulcans didn’t make jokes, Sir,” the young Human told her.

“That’s what I’ve been told, Specialist,” she replied with a grin, but did not elaborate.

Greene realised that was all the answer he was going to get and resumed has trek along the uneven and dank tunnel. The widely flickering shadows cast by the bobbing of their hand lamps lent a somewhat surreal aspect to their procession, but at least the tunnel itself was wide and high, staving off Lathena’s sense of claustrophobia despite the utter blackness of the world outside the radius of their own lights.

At this rate we’ll be down here for days, she groused with a faint core of real worry. I hope we don’t run out of beacons or get lost. They’ll never find us!


“Signal strength increasing rapidly, Sir!” Grace Kim announced excitedly nearly two hours later. “It just jumped five-fold in the last ten seconds!”

“Nothing on sonar, Commander,” Greene put in from up front. “Just the same tunnel continuing.”

“Subspace interference clearing somewhat, Sir,” Joao stated. “Occurred roughly in time with Lieutenant Kim’s announcement.”

“I still have nothing on radar, so it may be that the ‘kelbonite-3’ density has decreased in the rock between us and the object,” Lathena opined. “Has the interference cleared enough for you to get a proper scan, Na Tchuto?”

Having been testing exact that, the Guinea-Bissau man was ready with his answer. “No Commander. However, subspace sensor range has increased to two hundred metres – no, make that between two hundred and two hundred and fifty metres; I’m getting extra range in some directions.”

Lathena’s spirits rose at that, but she carefully squelched them. “That has the subspace scan exceeding sonar and matching my radar ranges. We’re not going to instantly switch over to relying on you exclusively though, Mr. Na Tchuto,” the Andorian stated. “We’ll all continue creating a composite map for Mr. Kim.”

“Aye-aye, Commander,” both security guards acknowledged.

“Mr. Kim, estimated distance to our objective?”

“It now looks like another kilometre bearing zero-three-five mark three-four-one,” the lithe Korean geologist replied, absently sweeping her brown hair behind her ears. “We’ll have to hope the tunnel eventually sweeps down and to the right to bring us there.”

Lathena placed another beacon onto a stalagmite close by and Greene moved in without prompting to reconfigure it like he’d done for the others. While he did that, she checked her own tricorder map of the beacon network. All were still active, though the sheer weight of ‘kelbonite-3’ – as they’d taken to calling the new material – impregnated rock between her and the surface defeated their low-power comm units. Even their handheld communicators coupled with the beacons didn’t have enough power to maintain an open comm link to the surface. The last transmission she’d been certain had gotten through was a torturous, white noise-swamped status update over a hundred minutes ago.

Greene straightened and nodded to his superior. Lathena returned it and urged them onwards. Not long now!
« Last Edit: March 12, 2012, 11:40:49 am by Scottish Andy »
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2012, 07:25:44 pm »
Seriously?
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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 12:23:59 am »
yeah, sorry.  I've barely had time to write and post my own stuff this week.  I promise I'll go back from the beginning and read it through, it might not be until Wednesday that I get an opportunity to do so, though.
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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012, 02:55:44 am »
Nicely written, I'm kinda curious as to what they are going to find here.

Still expecting Giganto-world to eat a crewman before the missions over, though.
"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2012, 11:34:27 pm »
Thanks for your reply, Q. :)
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #15 on: April 02, 2012, 11:01:32 am »
I didn't have the time to really read it, but speed reading gave me enough grounds to want to read it more carefully. And I really liked this one:
Quote
“To keep us humble, Sir,” Joao Na Tchuto spoke up. “To remind us that we are not gods and never will be, by showing us there will always be mysteries to investigate, challenges to meet, and obstacles to overcome.”

It really stuck out for me
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

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Quarantine - Chapter Six
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2012, 07:23:38 pm »
Chapter Six


After running around and personally looking over everyone’s pet projects, Lieutenant Cha’Doth had finally settled on finding one of her own. Being slightly unsettled by the moving plants, and with the rarer huge insects already claimed by fanatical junior officers, the Ur’uth’uul woman had sought out a water-based plant to examine. The large lake offered some likelihood of this, and smaller pools leading up to the lake’s edge boasted some fantastically odd specimens to occupy herself with.

She’d found a small rock formation that held a pool at its heart, and its edges were choked with odd tubular plants. They were translucent in a variety of bright colours – grass green, sky blue, and maroon – and superficially resembled reeds. However, these ‘reeds’ were as thick as her upper arms and had odd globular segments that looked almost like joints.

Structural analysis by her tricorder was easier going than she’d expected from talking to her team members, but she deduced that it was due to the comparative delicacy of these plants compared to the massively fleshy variants growing in the rich, fertile soil of the forest around them.
 
Cha’Doth checked her tricorder was still linked to transmitter Lieutenant K’Nomi was tending back at the base camp, and ran another scan.

Hmm… okay, standard – if giganticised – nutrient-gathering system, but I don’t see any evidence of a reproductive system. No seed pods, flower buds, nothing that looks like a stamen or fruit to drop. Very odd. How to they reproduce?

Just then, she noticed her first arboreal life-form. Something bearing a passing resemblance to a Terran sloth loped over the high rocks and froze upon seeing her. Its elongated muzzle sniffed the air for some moments, but then it proceeded down to the water’s edge to drink, apparently deciding the alien posed no immediate threat.

For her part, Cha’Doth remained still but relaxed. It was actually bigger than she was, some two-point-five metres from head to foot, and its elongated arms gave it a reach of almost two metres, according to a nonchalant tricorder scan. Since they were on opposite sides of the rock pool from each other, the sloth-analogue apparently felt that it was safe in slaking its thirst even with her present, and she in turn felt safe from a sudden attack by an enraged animal.

Then Cha’Doth noticed something that gave her an irrational shiver. The nearest ‘reeds’ to the sloth-analogue reacted to its presence. It was slight and could have been mistaken for the gentle breeze sighing through the rocky hollow – except that plants don’t normally move against the wind. Reeds on both sides of the sloth-analogue leaned towards it. The movement was slight, slow – and deliberate. The sloth didn’t seem to notice and Cha’Doth was overcome with the urge to yell and scare it away.

However, some threshold must have been exceeded, as the sloth finally took note of the crowding and skittered away. It didn’t go far, just retreated up the rocks some before circling and returning to the pool a few tens of metres from its original spot.

Cha’Doth sighed in relief and the release of a little tension she hadn’t noticed gathering. Its dark eyes still focused on her, the sloth-analogue drank again. That’s okay then. The animals have developed an awareness of the plants’ apparently predatory behaviour. Both are part of the natural balance of this world’s ecology, she concluded from her observations.

But why would the plants be moving towards animals in the first place? she wondered next. These reed-analogues don’t seem carnivorous and already have a nourishment system based on sunlight and water. She pondered further. Maybe that’s it? They see animals as a secondary source of fluids? The sloth-analogue moved away quickly enough. Not the reeds’ natural prey then? Smaller animals or insects instead? But how would the plant metabolise them? I don’t see anything that could even eat a grasshopper. Unless those globular joints are actually a fly-trap or mouth mechanism?

Thoroughly absorbed in her work with a frown of concentration narrowing her eyes, Cha’Doth picked at her tricorder, seeking    answers.

*****

“We’re close, Sir! Signal strength is now at one thousand times its original value outside the tunnels,” Kim stated excitedly.

“Mr. Na Tchuto?” Lathena asked.

“Getting something now, Commander,” Joao temporised, continuing to walk forward. “It’s at the edge of sensor range, but there’s something… Got it!” he finished triumphantly. Looking back to his CO, the Security man told her, “This tunnel leads us directly into a huge cavern in about three hundred metres. The closer we get, the more I can tell you.”

“I knew it!” Kim blurted. “This had to be the right tunnel. We moved from cramped, closed-in tunnels to something I could almost pilot a workbee down. These tunnel walls are too regular and obstacle-free to be natural. Either somebody bored this tunnel or they enlarged a smaller existing one.”

“Sounds reasonable, Lieutenant,” Lathena offered, “but the tricorders don’t agree with you.”

Grace’s face flashed a wry grin in the bright lamplight. “You’ve seen how easily kelbonite-3 messes up our tricorders, Sir.”

“True, true,” the Andorian grinned back. “Okay people, pick up the pace. We’ve been out of contact for two hours. This seems like the place so I want some preliminary scans to report to the captain when I send one of you back to beacon Eighteen-Charlie to tell him we don’t need rescued.”

Her party grinned, looking at each other with the light of discovery in their eyes.

“Okay. We don’t know what to expect. Phasers out and on stun, tricorders set to maximum sensitivity. If you detect something that could be dangerous or seems suspicious, call out. We are our own backup, so remember that. Greene, I want you to remain outside the cavern when we get there. Just in case.”

The security specialist nodded seriously. If he was disappointed at being left out of the cavern exploration, he didn’t show it.

“Let’s go.”

Moments later and they stood at the entrance to a vast cavern over one thousand metres long and two hundred metres wide, with an arching ceiling that disappeared into the darkness some three hundred metres above them. Their hand-lamps barely penetrated a hundred metres into the stygian blackness, but their tricorders were much more successful, finally being inside of all the interference.

“I’m reading refined metal alloys, a large power generator – though it’s operating at minimal levels – and a mid-sized multi-level building complex. Footing is somewhat treacherous; there are some deep crevasses littering the whole area,” Grace warned, altering her tricorder settings as she directed its sensors into the depths of the long, narrow cave. “There are stalactites extruding from the cavern ceiling all across its surface area so keep that in mind in case we need to fire our phasers. Outside our light radius there are stalagmites also but paths seem to have been cleared through them. No other life-signs present; not even bats among the stalactites,” the geologist finished with a smile.

“Good to know, Lieutenant, thank you,” Lathena acknowledged her report. “Mr. Greene, you’ll hold position here, still inside the tunnels. We’ll keep in regular contact and monitor signal strengths. If we start to lose contact I’ll place another beacon.”

“Aye-aye, Sir. I’ve already modified the remaining beacons to the same configuration as the ones already employed, should you need them.”

“Good work, Specialist,” she praised him for his foresight. “Mr. Kim, Na Tchuto, follow me.”

The majority of her party fell in step behind her as they made their way deeper into the cavern, threading their way though the waist-high forest of stalagmites. A brief glance backward revealed that Greene had set his handlamp up as an omni-directional lantern, giving himself a globe of light to wait in. A psychological crutch, no doubt, but Lathena understood and couldn’t fault him for it. Being left alone in a pitch-black hole several kilometres under a mountain, she wouldn’t want to turn her lights off either.

A short time later their handlamps finally found the building complex. It was conspicuously not made of the natural rock but instead of concrete with a reinforcement of light titanium alloy.

“Mr. Greene,” Lathena spoke into her flipped-open communicator.

“Here, Commander,” was the short, relaxed reply.

“We’ve reached the buildings but there is no immediate sign of an entryway. We’re splitting up to search; it looks like the buildings are all connected to one another. Lathena out.”

She nodded to her team and they each selected another building to examine then silently split up to finally begin their task.

Grace Kim’s eyebrows rose in surprise at her latest tricorder reading. Opening a channel to the whole team – including Greene – she told them, “My building is made out of the natural rock, Commander. The power signal readings are also strongest from this structure. I’m theorising that this is the generator building and that the generator itself is enclosed in a protective shell made of the kelbonite-3 rock to hide it from scans.”

“An interesting theory, Lieutenant,” Lathena returned, “but if this is the case, how do you account for us detecting the power source from orbit, and such strong signals in this cavern?”

Kim halted her exploration of the generator building’s perimeter. “I’ve just found the answer to that, Commander. A large stalactite or two has collapsed the structure’s roof at the southern wall,” she said, looking at the rubble. “There’s a hole I can fly a shuttle through here.”

“Good work, Lieutenant,” Lathena commented. “We can assume that the reflective properties of kelbonite bounced the energy emissions out of the tunnels like light through a fibre-optic cable?”

“Makes the most sense of anything else I can think of, Sir,” Kim responded confidently. “Sir, I’ve completed my sweep of this building and there’s no other way in except for a covered and sealed corridor linking this building to the rest of the complex. Shall I attempt entry though the collapsed section?”

A few seconds’ silence greeted that proposition as her CO thought it over. “If you go in there we may lose contact with you, Lieutenant. I don’t want to risk that, so scan what you can from the hole and wait for us to complete our sweeps,” the Andorian finally responded.

“Understood, Commander,” Grace replied, covering her disappointment.


It only took another ten minutes to complete the exterior examination of the whole complex. It had revealed a distressing lack of doors, and of the three they’d found none had any means opening them. No sensors, keypads, card swipes, or even good old-fashioned doorknobs and latches.

“Even tricorder scans reveal no apparent locking mechanism or circuitry,” Specialist Na Tchuto related, once the three had reassembled by Grace’s side. “Since the only alternative was to cut our way in – which could be interpreted by any security system or returning owner as hostile or reckless – we’re here to use your ready-made forced entry,” Joao stated seriously. He was not a man who smiled easily, but Grace could detect the undertone of humour and smiled back.

“Mr. Greene, we’re going inside now to see if we can find some lights to turn on,” Lathena stated over her communicator, and after getting his acknowledgement, ordered, “After you, Mr. Na Tchuto.”

“Aye Sir,” the African man nodded before carefully clambering over the destroyed wall and into the facility at last.
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2012, 07:25:29 pm »
Thanks for your comment, Grim! I really appreciate both yours and Q's replies. I hope you enjoy your in-depth read, and I'm glad a line has already stuck with you. :)

Q, it's funny you should mention what you did, and I'm glad it is reading well for you. I do try to ensure it is so. :)
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #18 on: April 03, 2012, 03:23:36 am »
Scanned over the update as well and I must say it like the story thusfar. However, one small crit (and I'm not fully sure if I really feel this way or its just my current state of mind): I'd like for some more stress/tension/action...
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #19 on: April 03, 2012, 05:24:52 pm »
I agree with the stress/tension comment. There's plenty of foreshadowing, intentional or otherwise, with the moving plants. As far as action, seems like its 'winding up' at about the right pace, but I don't get the feeling of 'oh sh*t' from what's going on right now. I always worry about that with my stuff.

Of course, being that I may not have any clue where you're going with this tale, my comment may be completely useless.

I like the pace. Everything keeps right on moving, and we get to see dorks being dorks, playing with bugs and plants and being excited about such. (Not being derogatory about being a dork, btw. Am one myself. Am posting stories on a Trek site, after all... As I tell my wife, I like to get my dork on.)

Keep it coming, Andy. Sorry I am late in replying. I've glanced at the site twice per week since posting the last of Cleo 1, and saw little movement. Thus my earlier comments on lack of action.

Will be back.

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #20 on: May 31, 2012, 10:33:58 am »
This is a little heads' up: I am returning! I've caught up to where I am here on my own website and so will be posting both there and here for the continuation of Quarantine. Look for Chapter Seven on the 3rd of June.
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #21 on: May 31, 2012, 11:03:39 am »
Will do!
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

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Quarantine - Chapter Seven
« Reply #22 on: June 04, 2012, 10:03:22 am »
Here we go. The (hopefully) long-awaited continuation. As always, comments, critiques, and reviews are desperately begged for.



Chapter Seven



Barely noticeable to them standing outside, once inside, the heavy, almost subsonic thrum of the power generator came as a welcome reminder of civilisation after too many hours in the dark, their only aural stimuli being their own voices and equipment, and the constant ploink of dripping ground water in the dank tunnels and caves.

“It’s a standard Tokomak-based fusion reactor on minimal power generation, Commander,” Grace stated as they examined its sleek casing. “Functionally identical to our impulse reactors, though the current magnetic field strength at this power setting indicates it’s only an eighth as powerful.”

“If all it has to power are lights and heat it doesn’t need to be even a twentieth as powerful as our engines,” Lathena stated. “There’s going to be some high-draw equipment located here.”

“It could just be some pirate’s place to lie low while the heat is on. Maybe they relax here and watch sports on a holovid,” Na Tchuto offered, his measured tone giving no hint of humour.

“Let’s go find out instead of staring at a fusion reactor and guessing,” Grace suggested impatiently to him, then turned to look at her senior officer.

“Agreed, Lieutenant, but let’s be careful. We’re a long time from help arriving and we’ve no backup. ‘Caution’ is the operative word.”

“Understood, Sir,” Grace sighed.

Lathena nodded seriously then led the way out of the room, down the covered hallway, and into the complex proper.

*****

“Holy Kolkar, would you look at that!” K’Nomi breathed, frozen into place by shock, awe, and not a little fear. She slowly flipped out her communicator’s antenna grid and hailed the leader of their security detachment.

“Lobsang here,” came the cheerful response.

“Nyima, this is K’Nomi back at base-camp,” she identified herself to him. “Please return to my location, but approach slowly and with caution.”

“What is the nature of the threat?” the Tibetan asked seriously, all business now.

Picking her words with deliberate care, she replied, “There is a three-metre long insect with a three-metre wingspan crawling towards our perimeter. It emerged from the forest minutes ago and it seems to be coming right at me!”

“Already on my way, Lieutenant,” came the reassuring response. “Please contact Lieutenant Cha’Doth for me and let her know the situation. I have to watch my footing here.”

K’Nomi smiled. Even though Lobsang spoke seriously she could still hear the amused undertone he directed at himself. “Will do, Nyima. Thank you.”

“S’what we’re here for, K’Nomi. Two minutes.”

K’Nomi switched channels to raise her senior officer, who answered after a few moments of increasing dread as the massive, multi-winged monstrosity approached her with relentless deliberation.

“Cha’Doth here,” the reply finally came back. “Report.”

Repeating her words to Lobsang prompted Cha’Doth to ask, “Are you in any danger, Lieutenant?”

“Not immediately, Sir,” the Caitian replied, her tail lashing nervously despite herself. “But in observing it for over a minute now it’s definitely coming right for me, Sir. It’ll cross the sensor perimeter as Lieutenant Lobsang gets here and I… I don’t know what to do if it doesn’t stop, Sir.”

“Yes you do, Lieutenant,” the Ur’uth’uul’s steady voice came back reassuringly. “You need to test what is attracting it, if anything. It may be completely unaware or uninterested in your presence and is merely passing through. It could be attracted by your scent, body heat, aural vibrations, or electrical field. It could be attracted to your comm equipment or your power sources. Draw your phaser, set it for heavy stun, and move around carefully to test these hypotheses, then report back in.”

K’Nomi felt abashed. I‘m a lieutenant in the Star Fleet. I’m not a green ensign weeks out of the Academy! she rebuked herself. Gathering her wits, she replied in a stronger voice. “Aye-aye, Lieutenant. Thank you, Sir. K’Nomi out.”

She pulled out her Type-I hand phaser and slowly, gingerly stepped away from her equipment until there was ten metres between them. During all that time, the giant insect didn’t alter course to intercept her.

Okay, phew! It’s either unaware of me and intent on my equipment or its just going for a slow crawl across the forest floor and we’re in its way. Thus reassured, she updated Cha’Doth just as Lobsang carefully entered view some thirty metres to the creature’s left. She watched his eyes widen briefly at the spectacle before him before casting an appraising look at her.

Since the insect hadn’t responded to his appearance, she risked calling over to him. “I’m okay, Nyima. It seems like it may be interested in my equipment instead of me.”

The Security man nodded but even as he did the bug’s metre-long, whip-like antennae quivered and it paused. This was enough to freeze her into immobility again, but it also “sat up”, and its half-metre long mandibles came into view, wickedly curved and solid-looking. Heart racing in her chest, she saw Lobsang staring thoughtfully at it as he drew his Type-II phaser pistol.

Still watching it like a hawk, Nyima called loudly, “Don’t worry, Lieutenant, I‘ve got you covered. What does your tricorder say about it?”

Again, the insect reacted, turning deliberately to assess the new sounds it sensed. The spell slightly broken, K’Nomi grabbed for her forgotten scanner at her hip and started probing the creature with sensor beams.

The insect reacted again, and again it slowly turned to her. Maybe it is sensitive to subspace emissions? That would be quite the evolutionary puzzle! she thought, her innate curiosity and Starfleet training reasserting themselves in the face of a mystery.

It was apparently not to be, however, as the creature’s five paired dragonfly-like wing segments flipped to the vertical then began beating rapidly until they were just a blur. The giant insect rose laboriously into the hot, humid air before more nimbly speeding off through the forest, just under the lower canopy of the trees some seventy metres above the ground.

“Looks like we scared it off, K’Nomi,” Nyima called as he re-attached his phaser to his equipment belt and approached her. “What data did you get on it?”

Whiskers drooping somewhat, the comms officer replied, “Not much, I regret to say. It caught me… off guard.”

Nyima nodded sympathetically. “Understandable. Unnerving, wasn’t it? Excessive size can seem frightening all on its own.”

Glad he actually did understand, K’Nomi smiled in relief. “That’s exactly it, Nyima. Combine that size with animal instinct and a form so… fearsome, and…”

“Yeah. Though, if that’s as fast as it can go I don’t think we have too much to worry about.” Even as he said it, a frown crossed his face.

K’Nomi noticed it and had to agree. “It did seem to move rather sluggishly. Maybe it’s a sick insect? After all, flying insects don’t normally crawl across the ground when they can fly, right?”

“No, I’ve seen it happen a lot. Depends how far it came,” Nyima told her. “I guess we’ll not know until someone finds a second example of that species.” He frowned again, something obviously tugging at his instincts. “Lieutenant, I’m going to back-track its path. If it came in a straight line towards your comm unit I’ll try to pick up its trail and find where it came from. Those are big bugs and if there’s a nest of them nearby they could pose a significant threat to our people.”

K’Nomi’s tail lashed nervously again, but before she could speak her communicator chirped. Flipping it open, Cha’Doth’s stern voice issued fourth, demanding a report.

“We’re okay, Sir, and the creature seems to have been scared off. However, we need to check out where it came from. Lieutenant Lobsang’s going to seek out where it started crawling from.”

“Very well, keep me informed. Have the lieutenant keep an open channel to Lieutenant Thia,” she instructed.

“Aye Sir,” K’nomi acknowledged as Nyima nodded.

“Did you find out what was attracting it?”

“It was the equipment, Sir,” K’Nomi replied. “It only seemed to notice us when we called to each other across the clearing. It definitely has aural senses, and it evidenced typical insect compound eyes. It is possible that it is sensitive to subspace frequencies as well, Commander,” the comms specialist voiced her tentative conclusions.

“Indeed. Start scanning for subspace energy signatures and signals in the region as part of your ‘euphoric’ investigation, Lieutenant. I don’t see how they might be linked at present, but best not to leave any leaf unturned.”

“Aye-aye, Sir. K’Nomi out.” Replacing her communicator on her belt, she looked at Nyima. “Be careful, Lobsang.”

He flashed her a mouthful of brilliant white teeth. “Always, Rozen.” Nodding amicably to her, he set off back the way the insect had come, talking into his communicator.

K’Nomi returned to the subspace relay and altered some settings on its scanner module. Let’s see what this reveals…

*****

“Over here, Commander,” Na Tchuto called from another room. “I think I’ve finally found something that isn’t a maintenance room.”

“Ooooh, really? Promise?” Grace Kim muttered under her breath.

Lathena heard it clearly, if quietly, and smiled to herself. The five rooms they’d explored in the “habitat block” had contained large, complex-looking equipment that had taken tens of minutes to decipher the purpose of. They’d turned out to be waste management and recycling systems for food, clothes, and equipment – a room to each – and an environmental control room for the whole complex. It only made sense to Lathena; keep the habitation sections as far from the generator as possible, and keep the technical and maintenance aspects together.

As they reassembled beside Na Tchuto, there was nothing immediately different about this room. Yet more computer banks lining the walls, and large, industrial-appearing but nondescript equipment dominating the centre of the room.

“Specialist,” Lathena greeted the security man. “Tell me what is different about this room.”

“Well Sir, I’m not sure, but I think this is their computer control room, where all the complex’s server machines are.”

Now you’re talking, Joao!” Grace exclaimed happily.

Lathena had to agree, and immediately set about re-examining the room. While Kim was a geologist, Lathena used to be chief communications officer on a frigate and a destroyer before her current billet as X.O. As such, she knew as much about computer systems as the Falkland’s computer officer. “What makes you say that, Specialist?” she asked while she made her own deductions.

“Lots of computer banks but only two interfaces. More racked and active electronic equipment in the centre of the room arranged to give personnel access to both sides of every rack,” Na Tchuto explained.

“Good eye, Specialist. I concur,” Lathena returned, her eyes fixed on one of the user interfaces. They were on opposite walls, she noted. As if deliberately placed so that no one person can operate both simultaneously. Security measure, definitely, but for what? A pirate boss would want to be able to do everything themselves if necessary and not have to rely on another, especially to erase incriminating evidence. Self destruct? she wondered as she sat down at the console. No, same thing applies. Just another mystery to solve, she decided as she flipped up her tricorder in an attempt to decipher the controls. There was a 103-button keyboard labelled in an alien script; a blank pad some five centimetres square of a different material inset in front of the keyboard; a thirty centimetre by twenty centimetre glass screen inset to the right of the keyboard; and a fifty centimetre wide by thirty centimetre high flat screen in the vertical panel above the keyboard. Deducing that the smaller inset was a touch pad, she gently drew her finger across it. The screen flared to life with a multicoloured display seemingly simulating buttons on the screen, again labelled in the alien script.

“Grace, Joao, does this lettering seem familiar to either of you?” she asked her companions.

They both moved in to look at the screen and keyboard. Grace stared for a few moments before shrugging. “No Commander, I’m sorry. It seems vaguely familiar but I cannot place the hazy recollection.”

Joao frowned at it and commented, “I agree with Lieutenant Kim, Sir. It does seem somewhat – though distantly – familiar, but I cannot place it.” He thought hard for several moments, then ventured, “Perhaps… a Klingon derivative?”

“You may have something there, Specialist,” Lathena said thoughtfully. “My Klingonaase reading skills are somewhat aged, but it’s blocky enough…”

“I assume none of us has a Klingon language or alphabet database loaded into our tricorders?” Grace commented archly.

Lathena sighed. “You assume correctly, Lieutenant.”

“Based on the dimensions of the doorways, corridors, seats, and the use of floor space, it looks to me like this place is used by standard humanoids,” Na Tchuto noted aloud. “This place could belong to Klingons, or an offshoot or lost colony, to allow for phonetic drift.”

Grace Kim blinked. “You’re right, Joao. I keep forgetting that ‘strange, new worlds’ don’t automatically host Human-sized bipeds.”

“Oh, Lieutenant,” Lathena chided playfully as she continued flicking her eyes from the console to her tricorder screen. “Seems Academy standards are slipping from when I was there.”

Kim bobbed her head sheepishly. “More likely it comes from talking to and about rocks instead of aliens, Commander.”

“Okay, proceeding from the similarity to Klingonaase, I think I’ve started deciphering these controls,” Lathena commented with a hint of frustration. “Grace, please examine the, ah, server racks, and note which ones are active or more active than others.”

“Aye, Sir.”

After about ten minutes of mapping out the system, Lathena announced, “Okay, I think I’ve isolated the power-up command sequence.”

Na Tchuto spoke up quickly. “Commander, don’t you think it would be a good idea to examine the rest of this facility before we start to play around with buttons and switches? It seems to me that this computer system is remarkably helpful and open to outsiders. Definitely not the usual pirate mentality, especially regarding computer systems.” At her look, “We don’t even know what purpose this place serves yet!”

“That’s what I’m going to find out, Specialist, from their own memory banks,” she replied.

“Sir, I think it’s an unwarranted risk at this time,” the security man persisted. “We don’t know enough about this complex to start activating its systems. What if—”

“Specialist—” Lathena interrupted him firmly, then changed her mind. “Very well. Your concerns are not unfounded, and it shouldn’t take too much longer to search the rest of this complex. Let’s go.”

Joao let out a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Commander. If you’ll follow me?”


As it turned out, the place just became a bigger mystery. The resumption of their search revealed a standard, comfortable home, with sleeping quarters for twenty: four single rooms and a dormitory with bunks for the rest; a recreation area with holoscreens, game consoles, and other electronics; an exercise area with basic fitness equipment; a small medical room with archaic tools of the trade like pre-packaged bandages, metal scalpels, and presumably sanitised carpentry instruments; sanitary facilities for showers and bodily needs; and lastly, a decently equipped and stocked kitchen. No food synthesisers were evident.

The mystery resulted from the large block with the doors-that-weren’t. From the outside, that rectangular block looked as though it held three floors with dimensions of twenty metres to a side. Even from inside the complex there was no passage, tunnel, door, walkway, or any other apparent means by which someone could access that block.

“It’s right through that wall,” Grace said in frustrated tones, “but that wall and the ground beneath it show as solid, no gaps or entryways at all. And I still can’t scan what’s inside the damn thing!”

“Kelbonite lining the walls on the inside?” Lathena asked, sharing in her subordinate’s frustration.

“That’s what the interference pattern suggests, Sir,” Kim replied.

“They’ve got to beam in there,” Lathena declared. “There’s no other way in, unless there’s more subtle sensor jamming materials or equipment in use to hide an ordinary doorway from us.” She thought further before coming to a decision. “We’re not cutting our way in there. For all we know this could be a bioweapons lab with a whole room full of nasty viruses and agents in there we could set loose. We’ve got no alternative other than to get into their computers now.”

Na Tchuto looked unhappy but raised no further objections.

Checking her wrist chrono, she said, “We have five minutes before we’re declared missing. Mr. Na Tchuto, update Mr. Greene and tell him to go get through to the ship. We’re not leaving here without some answers.”


Back in the computer room, the three resumed their previous tasks and Lathena brought up the same screens on the user interface.

“I’m running the activation sequence now,” she announced. “Keep alert. Grace, I want constant tricorder sweeps of the complex. Na Tchuto, guard the door and be ready to act on Mr. Kim’s sensor data.”

“Understood, Commander.”

“Aye, Sir. Tricorder scans commencing now.”

Satisfied that she’d taken as many precautions as she could, Lathena ran the sequence and watched the user interface intently.

“Computer activity rising.” Kim reported in tune with the slowly but steadily increasing number of indicator lights flickering on computer banks around the room’s walls. “Reading an increase in power being generated by the reactor,” she also noted moments later. An audio alarm went off on her tricorder next and she called out with slight alarm, “Sir, we’re being scanned!”

Lathena came to an instant decision. “Evacuate the complex! Move!

Joao was already through the doorway, visually confirming the corridor was empty as his two companions raced towards him. “Clear!” he yelled, and started for the hallway to the generator building.

Then their world exploded with light and sound.

*****

   SYSTEM ACTIVATION…
   CHARGING CAPACITOR ARRAYS…
   INITIALISING SENSOR GRID…
   RUNNING SYSTEM DIAGNOSTICS…
        o   GENERATOR BUILDING STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY NET FAILED
   SENSOR GRID INITIALISED
        o   GENERATOR BUILDING STRUCTURE COLLAPSED SOUTH WEST QUADRANT
   ALERT! ALERT! ALERT! – LIFE FORMS DETECTED
        o   SCANNING…
        o   CREATOR:                         NEGATIVE
        o   AUTHORISED PERSONNEL:  NEGATIVE
        o   CREATOR SPECIES:            NEGATIVE
   DIRECTIVE: REPAIR GENERATOR BUILDING
   DIRECTIVE: CAPTURE AND CONTAIN FOR GENETIC COMPATIBILITY ANALYSIS
   DIRECTIVE: DEACTIVATE SOMNOLENT PROGRAM
   …
   …
   …
   …
   …
   CAPACITOR ARRAYS CHARGED – REMOTE UNITS READY FOR DEPLOYMENT
   INITIATING CAPTURE PROTOCOLS…
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #23 on: June 05, 2012, 03:03:09 am »
Nice, now the sh*t has hit the fan. Also nice to see even with training people can still be scared by giant bugs. Though it did strike me as odd there is only 1 person sent to check out if he can find their lair. Wouldn't 2 be more secure, even though they are short staffed?
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2012, 10:07:06 am »
Grim, that would probably have been a good idea, yeah.  :)
I just like to think that, while tech advances and people's perception and definition of "normal" changes, there is never an explanation for everything and some things are still wondrous and inexplicable. Others are still scary on many levels, like visceral (gross-out horror), instinctive (base-level repulsiveness), etc.
I am sure that in the depths of unexplored space you will encounter something that terrifies you at  such a base level your training will only mitigate the fear and its still up to you to manage it within the framework of your training.
One of the things that got to be annoying was the various crews' over-professional-to-blasé attitude towards super cool/bizarre/scary stuff, and how sanitised and "ho-hum-everyday" it got to be. Far too close with the analogies to current day. I mean, half a dozen PADDs stacked up on your desk? Who has have a dozen Blackberries or iPhones? What was wrong with shunting what you were looking at on a PADD to their Desktop? Where did the genuine holographic displays from early TNG go? Maybe that is why TOS is still my favourite Trek. Maybe that's why interest in Trek died off. All the form there, none of the substance. This is why I write the kind of Trek I write.

Anyway, moving on.

[tired prod for more feedback while resigned to getting nothing]

No other comments? I'd like some before I post the next chapter, for as Grim states, the faecal matter impacts the air circulation unit then.

C'mon people. I read all your stuff and comment on it.

[/tired prod for more feedback while resigned to getting nothing]
« Last Edit: June 21, 2012, 10:22:54 am by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #25 on: June 28, 2012, 08:27:12 pm »
Feel like I've been prodded. What? Oh, there's a long nacent story here. Ok, Let's read it...
***

Ok, had to go back and skim to remember which one this was. My memory does not retain such detail as to remember everything it needs, when you have several stories on the line at once. How you write like that to begin with, sir, is beyond me. If I did such a thing...you'd have Captain Sharp armed with a sword fighting orcs... And various fantasy characters fighting with phasers in hand. I can't do it.

But, am caught up again.

So far as the giant bug goes, if the character is a greenhorn, the reaction is likley. If the character is not, and given what you see on Star Trek every episode... Some controled revulsion might be in order...but not panic. Thankfully, you didn't go that far. Now, if said character already had a fear of bugs, might be a different story.

I do like that no one flew off the handle and shot the thing or ran screaming off into the woods, though either might have been funny. More so, I like the bit at the last, where as Grim says, sh*t hit the fan. Am interested to know how the 'lifeforms' will be 'captured and contained'. Nice touch. Good thing it speaks English too. Though I'm sure an easy UT explanation will make it all better.

I'm looking forward to more.

As to the comments on Padds stacked up on the desk, you know the reason for such as well as anyone. Its a TV show. Having the character bitch about all his data work and there being nothing or even a single padd on his desk doesn't drive home the same visual impression. You can do that in written form more easily.

Do we keep multiple Blackberries on our desk? Not usually. However, I have a boss who walks around with 3 cell phones. Certain people have a certain number and call pretaining to certain business. When such business is not being conducted, corresponding celly is off. Not quite what you meant, I know, but figured I'd throw it in there anyway. It fit as well as your own rant  ;D

Back to the story, though: I feel like this one is really just getting started. And I'm hoping exactly that. One, it needs some meat to it, but then you know this, otherwise the last part wouldn't even be there. Two, you've established some cool, burgeoning characters here and they beg for a longer, more involved story that this 'intro' yet gives.

I particularly like Nyima (I'm horrible at remembering names, fictional and RL, but I think that's right) and his reaction to the bug situation. Also like that he did not balk at the idea of going off alone to see if there was a bug nest. He was brave enough and confident enough to do so, concerned enough to know they could be a problem and, well, I like characters that are loose with regs.

Anyway, keep er up, man. Looking forward to more.

--the guv
"Jayne?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "

Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #26 on: July 01, 2012, 02:36:42 pm »
If I did such a thing...you'd have Captain Sharp armed with a sword fighting orcs... And various fantasy characters fighting with phasers in hand. I can't do it.

That actually sounds kind of fun.;)
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
                                                                 ---------Rod Serling, The Last Flight

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2012, 11:44:29 am »
I can only write with several stories on the go at once. I have to be in the right mood to write a particular story, and sometimes I get the dreaded Writers' Block. I discovered that when I was trying to finish one story and just could not. I wouldn't let myself work on anything else because I thought I was so close to finishing, but it just wouldn't come. So I finally let myself write something else and it poured out. But long before that, I knew I get inspired about a particular thing and write it, then fall out of the mood or lose the inspiration so I drop it, and come back to it later. I have about 20 stories in various stages of starting or completion right now. :)

As for your cross-genre adventures... I agree with Larry. They sound interesting. :D

The fear of bugs is the aspect I was going for. As she said herself, she's not a greenhorn, she's a Starfleet junior lieutenant. Perhaps I did go overboard a little on the fear reaction though. These are not normal people from the street dropped into a deep space role -- much as mid-to-late TNG implied with its seecondary characters.

As to shooting first and asking questions later or running off screaming, neither are my style. At least, not until I finally write 'Star Trek: IKEA' and the adventures of Chief Engineer Alan Key of the U.S.S. Flatpack. ;)

Well, this being the keystone of the whole story, you will indeed see how the "capture and contain" will happen. As to the computer speaking English, I believe I mentioned that it uses a Klingon-derivative language when they were examining the control room; however, if I'd placed that up there in Klingon script you'd probably not have understood it, now wouldya? Unless I'd put in a C-3PO contrivance to exposit its beeps and whistles... :D

Your point with the multiple cell-phones is well taken, Rog. I will take that onboard for future reference.

As to the rest of the story, the meat is indeed coming; these people do indeed get fleshed out and definitely get more involved in the story -- and pleased I am at those double entendres, as you will read next.

I am glad I've given you a character that you genuinely like; as with Fearless' French Security Chief for Larry, it definitely adds to your enjoyment of a story. Just so as you know, Nyima's based on someone I know.

Anyway, since Larry seems patently unable to comment on stories even when begged, pleaded with, and threatened, screw 'im and here is where it kicks into high gear.  ;)
« Last Edit: July 11, 2012, 12:32:11 pm by Scottish Andy »
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Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Eight
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2012, 11:45:22 am »
CONTENT WARNING!This is where it gets ugly.
You have been warned!

Additional: However, I have also been chastised and have learned from it, so what follows is now a more sanitised version. Now with reduced "squick" factor.




Chapter Eight



Specialist 3rd-Class Michael Greene instinctively ducked and rolled sideways towards the minimal protection of the tunnel wall, dousing his hand lamp as he did, as the pulse of light and high-pitched ringing impinged on his awareness. It hadn’t been very bright or loud but in the stygian blackness and almost complete silence it came through clearly, unmistakable for what it was.

Peering back the way he’d come he could see and hear nothing more than the utter darkness and the ploink… ploink of stalagmite-forming groundwater drips. Flipping open his communicator, he called softly, “Greene to Commander Lathena.” The seconds crawled by with no response, but he managed twenty whole seconds before repeating his hail, edging along the tunnel wall as he did. A quick but intense check of his tricorder gave him a really bad feeling.

It was no longer detecting the three other life-signs that should have been there.

He started back the way he had come, switching on his handlamp and trotting back to the mouth of the huge cavern. Once there he again tried his tricorder and communicator, to no effect. He called every member of the landing party but no response came back. Now, it was likely that they might have just changed their plans and abandoned the computer room and effected an entry into the scan-shielded building and that’s why their life-signs were no longer registering. The flash and bang could have been a charge to breach the room.

But the landing party carried no such charges; didn’t need to as their phasers could be set to ‘cut’.

Worried, Greene adjusted his tricorder to scan a different spectrum and discovered that the fusion reactor had doubled its originally encountered output.

Something had obviously happened. His last update from them had stated they were going to try activating the facility’s computer centre. The lights they’d turned on earlier were still on but the place looked just as lifeless as before, though a bit more welcoming. But his team was not answering. If they could, they would, so something was preventing them. And that light and sound had immediately shouted “stun grenade!” to him.

Greene was now torn. His last orders had directed him to make contact with the ship, but his comrades could be imprisoned, hurt, dying – or all three. But Greene was their sole means of rescue, and if he was captured too it might be hours before anyone else made it through, and even then they’d be completely uninformed about what was down here. Could he risk going to save his shipmates? Could he risk not? A momentary indecision paralysed the young security officer, who was barely six months out of the training school. He did not know what he was up against nor what had actually happened to the landing party. It could be that they had set off a single stun grenade and nothing else – all three might just need to be revived. But what if there was a defence system? Sensors, guards, weapons emplacements, etc.?
 
Greene was glad to find the thought of putting himself in danger made him only mildly apprehensive, despite the unknown nature of the danger. What was freezing him with indecision was the fear of being similarly incapacitated and thus left with no hope of rescue for many hours, with no one back on the ship any the wiser to the urgency of the situation despite the captain’s three hour warning.

Greene checked his chronometer. The three hours out of contact had only just passed. Captain Sotok would no doubt give his crew a short period of leeway since there were no Vulcans among them, then assemble a standard landing party detail that would proceed carefully but with no real sense of urgency through the tunnels they’d already mapped. It might easily be another three hours before anyone else got this far and even then they’d probably not be prepared. Whereas, with his urgent call for help and his equipment to lock onto…

Snarling curses at himself, he gave the lighted mystery facility a last look and sent his hopes and reassurances towards his comrades before taking off at triple-time back up the dank tunnel.

*****

Cha’Doth had made her way around to the sloth-analogue’s drinking spots and was scanning the sky-blue “reeds” she’d seen move to determine how it moved and what sensing and neural capabilities it possessed. Tuning her tricorder to its maximum sensitivity, she’d detected some very slight, very low-level neural activity below the surface of the water.

Makes sense, she reasoned. The roots really are the heart of the plant and being in the water reduces the neural node’s vulnerability to the elements and animals. As for the sensing and movement, just as a bird knows how to use air currents to hover, these plants can sense sound vibrations and air pressure changes indicating an animal’s presence, and ‘knows’ to try and trap it. Fascinating!



Continuing her sweep of the landing party’s widely separated locations, it took Security Lieutenant JG Thiazental sh’Fatehrin a few moments to figure out something that had started to tug at her subconscious.

That sonic-vibration effect is gone! she suddenly realised. It had been a constant presence for almost five hours so she’d finally managed to tune it out as background noise despite it practically caressing her antennae the whole time. Now that it was gone she almost felt sad, but it was likely that no one else had noticed yet. Flipping open her communicator she hailed Lieutenant K’Nomi at base camp to pass on this information for her investigations.



K’Nomi’s sensor readings noted the sub-harmonic effect ease and she began running diagnostics on her equipment to ensure it was the effect and not equipment failure. Satisfied that this was so, she lifted her communicator to hail the second officer but was startled to have it cheep at her instead. “K’Nomi here,” she answered.

“K’Nomi, this is Thia. The sonic vibrations have stopped, it may have been—”

“I know, Thia,” the Caitian interrupted. “It disappeared from my scanners a minute ago. I was about to hail our Science Officer.”

“I’ll take care of that,” the Andorian offered. “Unless you have specific information to pass on?”

“No, you go ahead. I’ll keep trying to figure out what it means. K’Nomi out.”



Christine MacAllen stared with unalloyed fascination at the huge caterpillar-analogue before her, taking in its multifaceted segments and lazily waving sensing tentacles surrounding its mouth.

Skora wasn’t kidding! she thought wonderingly. It certainly is a magnificent specimen. But if its just sitting there like a sack o’ spuds it’s not surprising she wanted to swap. Three hours of staring at a large green lump! Enough to drive anyone to go for a walk, the Scot thought with a grin. I wonder how she’s liking my lily?

Flipping open her communicator, she hailed the Daenaii biologist and asked her that exact thing.

“It’s certainly impressive,” the red-skinned ensign replied. “If my mate brought this home as a ‘forgiveness bribe’, I might well be inclined to forgive them!” she joked.

“Aye, he’s a beaut, in’t he?” Christine agreed, but was then distracted by movement before her. Fine blonde eyebrows shooting up in surprise, she told her friend, “Skora, you’re not going to believe this, but ole sack o’ spuds here is moving.”



Thia switched channels to inform the second officer.

“Understood, Lieutenant,” Cha’Doth acknowledged her report. “I don’t know what significance this event may have, but be alert for something happening. We may find out that it’s some unseen insect like a snarfblat or cricket making that noise and it’ll restart shortly, but in case it is not—” 

A sudden shriek ripped through the dense foliage from Thia’s forward-right quadrant, instantly silencing the forest. Immediately on the alert, the Andorian shen drew her phaser pistol and started visually scanning the forest around her for threats.



“You cannot be serious!” Skora fairly exploded over the comm channel. “The first time I move away from it in three whole hours, and it’s putting on a show for you?” she demanded incredulously.

Chris grinned into her comm unit. “What can I say? Maybe he likes me better.”

“Damnit MacAllen, you’d better have your tricorder out and be getting good scans for me!” Skora chided back. “I’m on my way, but I’ll take five minutes to run over there. Please, Christine, I—AAAAAIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!”

MacAllen fairly jumped out of her skin at hearing her friend’s blood-curdling shriek issue from her communicator and through the trees in bizarre stereo. She spun around in the direction of the lily. “SKORA!!” she yelled desperately into the unit, starting to run towards the Daenaii.

The multitude of tentacles that enfolded her from behind and yanked her off her feet were thus completely unexpected, and Christine let loose her own shriek of surprise and fright.



Closing her communicator, K’Nomi punched in commands to her equipment and became absorbed in her investigation until a tail-curling shriek emitted from somewhere behind her in the forest.

The young comm officer stood rooted to the spot, her tail lashing furiously with its fur all puffed up. At the second scream from a different location on the heels of the first, she dropped to a crouch beside her equipment, eyes slitted and ears flat back against her skull.



Before the second cry had faded completely, Cha’Doth urgently demanded, “Thia! Check on Ensign MacAllen! That scream came from—”

Something bumped into her right shoulder.



Cha’Doth fell silent again and Thia felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. The silence lasted all of two seconds before the forest exploded into noise again, and more shrieks and hoarse cries accompanied them.



K’Nomi pulled her Type-I hand phaser from her belt, but even though she was marginally reassured by its warmth it also felt tiny and puny in her hand. She fervently wished for a Type-II or even a -III as more shrieks, screams and cries erupted from all directions around her.

Pulling her communicator out again she tried hailing the security officers but there was no answer even as the bedlam continued. Just then a huge buzzing began to fill the air, getting louder very quickly. Within three seconds of her noticing it, its source burst through the foliage and sped at her.



Lieutenant Cha’Doth instantly flung herself to her left as Starfleet basic training came to the fore. Retaining her hold on her communicator, Cha’Doth spun to face whatever was there while reaching for the Type-I hand phaser on her belt. Her tricorder bumped against her hip as she let it fall on its shoulder strap. Her solid silver eyes widened in alarm as she saw the maroon reeds rearing back from her previous position and she yelled breathlessly into her communicator.

“Thia! It’s the pl—”

A surprisingly flexible tube of sky-blue struck out at her wrist, knocking her communicator flying and instantly curling repeatedly around her left wrist. She brought her phaser around and almost succeeded in aiming it, but another tube snaked around her right wrist with an intense grip, forcing her to drop her weapon. Thus ensnared, the victorious blue reed plant hoisted her into the air over the shallow edge of the pool where other tubes whipped around to similarly grip her lower legs and hold her horizontally spread-eagled and face-down over the surface of the water, whereupon another tube coiled itself several times around her neck. Her long, wavy, candyfloss-pink hair fell straight down around her face, blocking any view of what was happening around her.



Frozen in shock, Thia stared at her communicator for milliseconds that crawled past like winter on Andor before shaking out of it. She pounded through the forest to the source of the nearest shriek, hurriedly switching channels to raise Nyima.

“Lobsang! Can you see what’s happening?” she asked urgently.

“No! Nothing but damn trees!” came the somewhat breathless response. “They’re still crying out though, so I—”

The transmission cut off so abruptly that Thia almost lost her footing with a fear reaction. She could tell the comm channel was dead and not just open and silent.

What the tezha is going on?! she demanded with increasing fear and alarm.



K’Nomi’s eyes widened in fearful recognition as the giant insect that had visited her an hour ago made a bee-line right at her. Retaining her wits this time she dove away from her relay immediately. It was not a second too soon as the creature’s metre-long mandibles pierced the booster relay’s casing and ripped the unit apart.

Her communicator forgotten for the moment, she raised her phaser and unleashed a bolt at the insect’s body. Her elated feeling at scoring a direct hit immediately faded upon seeing that it had no effect on the creature except to draw its attention to her. Hurriedly checking the phaser’s setting, she cursed and shifted it from light stun to heat/kill and raised it again.

She was too slow.

Showing none of the sluggish behaviour of their previous encounter, the three metre-long flying thing was on her in a fraction of a second. The downdraft from its rapidly beating wings blew her hair and the foliage around her, and as she lined up on it again one wickedly curved mandible smacked the small Type-I from her hand and bowled her over.

Stifling a cry of pain, K’Nomi rolled with the impact and came up two metres to her right nursing a badly hurt wrist, and immediately spun around in the maelstrom of slashing leaves to locate the bug. She raised her communicator again and yelled “K’Nomi to Fal—” only to have it yanked away from her lips as the bug seized her from behind in its eight legs and pulling her a metre off the ground.



Running headlong through the densely packed undergrowth Thia tried re-opening a channel to anyone’s communicator.

No one answered.

She was nearing base camp so she slowed her headlong rush through the thick forest vegetation and checked her Type-II phaser pistol’s heavy stun setting was selected. The foliage ahead was thinning out so she adopted a more cautious approach despite the choking sobs and mewls and a very loud, angry buzzing she could hear up ahead. It occurred to her that she’s better signal the ship and let them know there was trouble in case no one else had managed it.

She was just raising it to her lips when a creeper vine tripped her. She stumbled to her knees and almost dropped her communicator, but ignored it and started to hail the ship.

The vines that wrapped around her wrists and tugged her all the way to the ground therefore came as a complete surprise.



Skora shrieked as something long, flexible, and strong wrapped itself around her waist and yanked her off her feet. The sensation was akin to running full speed into an unexpected metal bar at waist height; her legs, arms and head all snapped forward at the unexpected backward acceleration, and then she was being spun around in midair. The flexible green limb coiled itself around her waist three times as it retracted towards its source somewhere out of sight behind her. She came to rest on the ground, braced against her neck and directly in front of Christine’s massive lily with her arms pinned behind her back and her thick silver-blue hair covering most of her face and obscuring her vision by getting in her solid black eyes.

Biting her lip ‘til it bled, Skora finally yelled out in frustration. “Kolker-damnit, HELP ME!!” she hollered as loudly as she could. “This is Ensign Skora Okeild and I’m being attacked by a giant Kolker-damned flower! It’s got me completely restrained and I’m gonna need to be cut out of the damn thing!”

Listening for an answer she was unsettled to hear other cries of fear and calls for help, muffled and distorted by the thick foliage and the forest’s own noises.

A wave of fear passed through her at the thought she might be on her own because the whole landing party was being similarly attacked. Following on the heels of that thought came the more reassuring one that Captain Sotok’s required fifteen-minute check-in protocol would ensure help arriving within thirty minutes at the most. She just had to hold out until then; the captain wouldn’t let them down.

“HEEEEELLLLLLP!” she hollered again, seeing no need to stay quiet. “Someone call the ship! Let the Captain know! Can anyone hear me?!”

The lily chose that moment to grip her body more tightly, constricting her breathing and bringing her mind back to focus on herself. She knew that the ship’s medical facilities would be able to deal with any physical after-effects of this forced… pollination… and she knew that she could endure what she must until rescued. She believed this right up to the point where another wet, fleshy tentacle bumped against her.
 


Christine heard her scream trail off but she felt no need or urge to stop. The mass of writhing pink tentacles that now held her in their crushing grip included one that was wrapped around her neck, constricting but not cutting off her breathing. Others were repeatedly wrapped around her arms which were similarly pinned to her torso, though her legs were left dangling as the caterpillar-analogue held her effortlessly a good metre off the ground.

Christine regained a measure of her composure and tried freeing herself, but her squirming merely prompted the thing to grip her torso more tightly, threatening her breathing once again. She used her still-free legs and kicked out at the beast’s underbelly but even the hammering of her booted toes seemed to have no effect. It had risen two thirds of its body into the air, revealing some sort of thorax cavity where the mass of tentacles had emerged. She felt herself held by at least three of the prehensile, thick-as-her-arms pseudopods which were exerting great pressure on her body, while at least another three were being used to trace the contours of her body in an almost tentative fashion. The tentacle wrapped around her neck felt like a solid band of muscle but also slick with a thin coating of slime or mucus which felt thoroughly repulsive against her skin. She felt the same gooey sensation from the two pseudo pods tracing the extent of her legs, and regretted her decision to not wear trousers on this landing party duty.

This regret was instantly magnified to extreme proportions as another tentacle was brought into play and Chris immediately started yelling at the top of her lungs for help and to advertise her location. The first surge of terror she’d felt as three metres of giganticised caterpillar-analogue had towered over her returned full force at the thought of what could happen next, and in doing so actually listened for a reply.

All she could hear were more shrieks and cries. Is this happening to all of us? she thought, unable to believe she could be even more horrified than she was a moment ago, but finding it so nonetheless.

Her thoughts were once again drawn front and centre as the tentacle began questing. The rapidly fleeing rational part of her mind noted, This is bizarre behaviour for an oversized caterpillar! Even if it can do what it’s trying to, how would it even know that it could? Why would it even try? I have no eggs it can fertilise…

Fresh horror and revulsion burst forth as she realised It’s going to use me as an incubator! even as the creature pulled her close to it in a crushing embrace. A tentacle grabbed each of her ankles and pulled her legs wide.

Christine cried out in pain and horror, unable to believe that this was actually happening to her. Just a few moments ago, not even a minute, she had been a scientist examining a fascinating new life-form. Now she was a helpless victim in the clutches of some monstrous alien beast. Tears threatened but she forced them back. All she had to do was hold on for a brief span of minutes and help would arrive, either from her colleagues on the landing party or from her shipmates on the Falklands.

She attempted to distance herself from what was happening to her body. It couldn’t have been more than a couple of minutes since she was “taken”, but Chris already felt woozy; it slowly came to her that the caterpillar-analogue was still throttling her and her breathing was ragged and shallow. The crushing pressure on her ribs and squeezing of her neck was inhibiting her breathing as well as cutting down on the flow of blood to her brain through her carotid arteries; she was slowly suffocating, no doubt an intended part of the creature’s attack to render its victims more… pliant. And it was unfortunately working.

In her very woozy, lightheaded state, she started noting things about the caterpillar-analogue: the smooth, hot scales of its sides were like those of a snake; its underbelly was similarly scaled but felt damp, likely from being pressed into the earth all this time; that the creature itself held many similarities to a traditional medieval European dragon…

She suddenly woke up again. A fresh wave of horror and revulsion swept through her and again she started struggling, but that merely regained the beast’s attention and resulted in the tentacle around her neck constricting again, to the point of her seeing stars from the lack of oxygen to her brain.

Damnit, why is this happening to me? she pleaded silently as her vision tunnelled and faded to grey. Why isn’t someone coming to rescue me…?



Odai burn them! Cha’Doth cursed the plants silently. I need to contact the ship! she despaired, spying her communicator lying two metres from where she’d been forced to drop her phaser. She could hear other cries of fear and for help, but as she struggled to free herself, the tube around her neck constricted in an obvious threat. She had to try though. Her crew needed her.

She willed herself to motionlessness and was rewarded by her “collar” loosening. Slowly tensing herself for a breakout attempt, she saw another, differently proportioned tube-reed rise from under the water directly in front of her. Knowing that couldn’t be good, the Ur’uth’uul female erupted into frenzied but directed motion, bending herself in two and using her hands to try and free one of her legs.

She almost managed to touch her boot before the tube-reeds arrested her movement and straightened her body out, all while the collar tube constricted again. Cha’Doth saw sparkles in her vision as her breathing was almost completely cut off and the flow of blood to her brain was interdicted. The squeeze was so intense she almost lost consciousness, but she clawed her way back from the encroaching darkness, tenaciously refusing to succumb.

Tears of fear and despair welled up in her eyes, making the silver orbs glisten even more brightly. NO! I will NOT! she snarled defiantly, summoning rage to her defence and blinking away her tears. The Captain will soon know and be here to rescue us, and once I am free I’ll burn these things to ashes. Then I’ll atomise the ashes!

The tube-reed coiled around her throat rapidly tightened and began to strangle her.

The Captain will come. The Captain will come. The Captain will come…

She held onto the thought, repeating it like a mantra as her vision tunnelled.

The Captain will come.

—Dimmer now—

The Captain will…

—Fading to grey—

The Captain…

—Blackness—

…Captain…

—Nothing.



K’Nomi shrieked with fear and revulsion as she was enfolded into the giant insect’s embrace and pressed tightly against its soft underbelly. The diminutive Caitian was almost completely engulfed and K’Nomi entertained horrified thoughts of being carried off to be devoured later or fed to the thing’s spawn.

Fighting against the repulsive sensation she realised with a start that she still held her communicator. Her arms were tightly pinned to her sides, but perhaps she could—

Squirming her hand and fingers into a less constricted orientation, K’Nomi tried to palm the device and twist her wrist around to where she could flip open the communicator antenna and hail the ship automatically.

She was just getting her claws under the antenna grid when a bolt of pain shot through her whole body. The pain was so intense her muscles spasmed and lost her grip on the communicator, shrieking in pain until her voice was hoarse and she was left sobbing and gasping.

Why is this happening to me? she wept to herself. Why is no one coming to save me?



Lobsang Nyima again tried to force his hand out through the constricting tangle of fleshy but surprisingly tough and flexible thick vines to reach his communicator.

Again, he failed. This led to a spate of cursing in Federation Standard and the Orion Traders Tongue, because the damn thing was a straight-out arm’s length away.

The plant now holding him captive had him bent in half at the waist in a position that would have been laughable if the situation were not so serious. It looked as if he’d been pulled through the seat of a chair, forcing him into a U-shape.

The plant had exploded into lightning-fast movement as he’d ran past it, completely contradicting the lethargic motion the entire landing party had observed in their five hours on the planet’s surface. Its thick, flexible tendrils had ensnared his ankles and then the rest of him as he’d crashed to the ground, his communicator and phaser bouncing close by as he lost his grip on them. But ‘close’ is as good as light-years away at this point, he thought sourly as he pulled his hand back inside the vegetable cage.

This time, though, he noted a burning sensation on his skin, and a faint scent of burning or melting came to him as well. Held almost completely immobile like this, another spike of alarm flashed through him. It’s corrosive! It’s acting like acid on my uniform and skin! The damn plant’s going to try digesting me!

Nyima struggled further, with his whole body this time, and came to yet another unpleasant conclusion: It’s constricting as well. It’s going to crush and eat me, he deduced with surprising calm. At this rate I have some time, but not much. The Captain’d better send someone down to rescue us pretty damn quick!



Lieutenant JG Thia sh’Fatehrin was dragged across the forest floor for a good two metres before coming face-to-shell with her assailant, upon which the limbs that had grabbed her coiled up around her forearms to very effectively hold her in place. She found herself on her hands and knees, staring at an egg-shaped plant which had split down its four seams to reveal a writhing mass of wet, green tentacles, two of which already held her prisoner in an iron grip that felt out of place on a half-metre tall plant.

The Andorian security officer immediately struggled to free herself, trying to wrench her arms from the thing's imprisoning limbs, but she couldn't escape their iron grip. No purchase could be gained to lever herself away from the alien plant and her captor held her in place easily.

She then concentrated on whipping her head from side to side, trying to free herself. This almost worked, but just led the alien plant to wrap another wet, fleshy limb around her neck. The more coils it forced around her neck the less mobility she had and so the thing was able to continue unhindered.

It took a few moments more, but the plant relaxed its chokehold on her slightly. Unable to suck in the great draughts of air she needed, Thia’s lungs burned as she pulled in just enough for life. After a few minutes her breathing steadied enough that she was no longer in intense pain from oxygen-starvation.

She’d managed to hold onto her own life – for now, she thought seriously – but it still left her with the problem of freeing herself. Thia was frankly terrified. This thing could still kill her, though how that would tie into it obviously trying to spread its seed she didn’t know.

The alien plant released her left arm and instead grabbed her upper thigh. Again Thia struggled with as much strength as she had, managing to keep her other arm free and grab at the tentacles besetting her, but the plant’s limbs snaked up around her trouser-clad calves regardless.

Thia spied her dropped phaser pistol not half-a-metre away on the ground and lunged for it, bludgeoning at the plant with her chunky boot heels, as she was no mere primate with only four usable limbs and a prehensile tail to combat the multiple tentacles wrestling with her. She almost got her fingers around the weapon’s emitter array but was yanked back out of reach of it by a victorious enemy.

Both her legs now encased in tentacles from hip to mid-thigh, she was unceremoniously hauled upright on top of the egg-shaped plant with her legs slightly spread, straddling the centre of the thing. She felt the main tentacle poking and prodding at her, but her tough Starfleet-issue trousers defied the plant’s attempts.

Thia remembered being told about the new uniforms and all their benefits, not the least of which was the statement that it would take a wickedly-sharp blade to pierce or slash the adaptive fabrics it was made from. I’ll have to send a “thank you” note to the developers once I get out of this! Thia thought with stress- and relief-fuelled humour as yet another attempt by the strong alien plant failed to rip open her uniform trousers. I just have to hold out now until the captain sends another Security detail down to check on us.

This feeling of relief lasted until the plant, reaching up to hook itself in her waistband, managed to unwittingly find the magnetic fastener for her trousers.

“You’ve got to be tezha’n KIDDING ME!!” Thia screamed out in frustration and rage. Powered by the bioelectric field of her own body, the small electromagnet that enforced the closures was activated by a latch just like the one on the flap of her uniform jacket. Without that magnetic field, the closures were just ordinary seam seals – and clothes are designed to be taken off.

The alien plant seized her waistband and forced her trousers down over her slim hips. Thia wept with rage, unable to even look at her phaser lying in plain sight less than three metres away.

You will release me. And as soon as you do, she vowed, I’m picking up that phaser and I’m going to burn you to ash. And then I’m going to find all your insensate, raping kind and I’ll burn them to ash as well. And once I get back up to the ship, I’ll use her phasers to burn this entire forest to charcoal, and then her photon torpedoes to irradiate this place so no living thing grows here ever again!

Unheeding of her towering, insatiable fury, the plant carried out its biological programming with the warm animal body it had captured to fulfil its reproductive directives.

“When you’re done here, you’re DONE! You hear me, you f*cked-up mutant cabbage?! You’re ASHES! You’re whole kind are ASHES! YOUR WHOLE TEZHA’N PLANET IS ASHES!” she screamed, on the knife edge of hysteria.

The tentacles holding her loosened and dropped her limply to the forest floor with her trousers around her knees.

Deeply traumatised, the young Andorian shen mindlessly tugged up her trousers and curled up in a ball beside the egg-shaped plant.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2012, 02:25:13 pm by Scottish Andy »
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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2012, 07:56:34 pm »
Wow... graphic indeed.  Tentacle Rape?  The men are being eaten? I suppose?  But unless there's something specific the plants need about the female reproductive system, the men could serve as incubators just as easily. (I also didn't realize until just now that almost the entire landing party was female) With all this going on, all we have left is specialist Greene, who somehow managed to slip through the cracks.  He wasn't in the compound when it locked itself down, and he wasn't near any plants when they went crazy.

I had been wondering on the time-frame for this story, but the undressing of Thia answered that it is about TWOK or just prior to.

I'm picturing a very emotional scene when the crew gets back to the Falklands, the women wanting payback for what these plants did to them, and the Captain telling them all that they are being far too emotional, the plants did what they logically had to do, and the physical effects can be taken care of in sickbay.  Paying almost no attention to the Emotional and Psychological Scars that will be plaguing all of them for the rest of their lives.

I am... hesitant... to say whether I really WANT to know where this is going or not.  But it's like a car accident... you don't really want to see it... but... yeah you do.

"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2012, 12:02:15 am »
OMFGWTF!!!

Been watching too much late night anime-tentacle-porn? Where are the octopi?

Not that I mind. I find the absurdness of both tentacle porn and this story entertaining, and you have it down right down to the overly self-controlled inner thoughts and dialogue. But I NEVER expected THIS from YOU! Holy sh*t!

I hope they burn this planet to a cinder.

--rog
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Offline Commander La'ra

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #31 on: July 19, 2012, 12:22:51 am »
Yep.  That squicked me out a little.  Needing some brain bleach over here.  Diddddn't enjoy that at all.

However, since you'll ask anyway, I will say that the entire last scene was suitably horrific, if that's what you were going for, though it has some of the same weaknesses as most horror movies.  Given the size of the away team and the fact that military personnel are involved, I'd have expected at least one of them to have reached (or already had) a weapon that they could use effectively, based on nothing more than law of averages.  Yes, the one got off the shot with the phaser, but I still think SOMEBODY would've offered more effective resistance.

I also feel that you may've went too 'whole hog' with the scene.  Simply put, it would've been just as horrific showing it happen to one of them instead of giving us the gory details on all of them, at least in my opinion.  I think the minutae of the detail combined with the number of victims makes the whole scene seem way too exploitative (really, a facial?).  A little too much, as Cap'n Sharp said, like a leering, drooling, hentai anime.

Looking at the story as a whole, I do think your team definitely has 'Starfleetitis' and that definitely contributed to them being so easily overwhelmed, though it would seem that the euphoric effect mentioned earlier may have been part of whatever's going on's overall plan, lulling our future PTSD cases into letting their guard way, way down.  Nothing they did, however, would seem out of place on a Trek episode, however, but you know my opinion of Starfleet's poor 'don't get killed' methodology.

Example:  When face with a giant bug, no sane person would leave a weapon set to an intensity that can be iffy on a Klingon.  I can see them being that stupid on the show, but...well I'll divert myself from that rant.

Characterization note:  After the anger experienced by Thia during her particular ordeal, as shocked as she is, I'm highly surprised she didn't crawl over to her phaser and carry out her threat following her release.  She still seemed pissed when it let her go, and I don't see that just vanishing.

Anyhow, much like the legendary, deleted 'Eaten by bugs' scene supposedly did in the original King Kong, I fear the last scene will have mostly killed the story for me.  I still harbor some lingering curiosity towards what's going on, but the overall squickiness of the scene combined with the sentiments I expressed earlier make me less inclined to read further.
"Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horatio: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Dialogue from a play written long before men took to the sky. There are more things in heaven and earth, and in the sky, than perhaps can be dreamt of. And somewhere in between heaven, the sky, the earth, lies the Twilight Zone."
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Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Nine
« Reply #32 on: July 20, 2012, 04:20:50 pm »
Q, Guv, Larry. Thanks for the replies and the reviews. Honest feedback is the best feedback. I have reasons for including what I have in the previous chapter which I will give once the story is ended -- but that isn't for a while yet.

I do have to cynically chuckle at the reactions a little though. I am reminded of Kyle's mum in 'South Park - Bigger, Longer, & Uncut' (and paraphrasing here):
"Deplorable violence is okay, as long as you don't have a potty mouth!"  :D

I thought the Guv's Endeavour story where Ben pulverises Commodore Shilloah was pretty horrible. Which he then topped with the Endeavour story about the entity which makes the crew start mutilating themselves and killing each other. That's not a dig, Roge, just an observation. :)

Why is it is okay to show the most spectacularly gruesome and gory injuries and deaths possible, yet get so shy around and scared of sexual assault? If onwe is okay, why not the other?
That's a massive can of worms for another time though. ;)

That said, on with the show.





Chapter Nine



“Captain, the landing party is overdue for their last check-in,” Edmund Hawke announced to the man in the centre seat.

“One minute overdue, Ensign,” Sotok agreed in his inflectionless deep baritone. “Hail the second officer, Mr. Hawke.”

The young Englishman did as ordered, but the familiar chirp of an open comm channel was not forthcoming. Hawke tried again, but again the electronic ‘triple thud’ of a failed computer task resulted.

“Hail all landing party members, Ensign,” Sotok ordered next, no trace of worry or apprehension colouring his Vulcan calm.

Edmund programmed his board and sent out a priority hail to all comm units on the planet below, including his direct superior’s subspace booster relay at the base camp, but after thirty seconds of further silence he reported worriedly, “No response from any of the landing party, Captain. Diagnostics show my board is fully functional and my equipment shows all their communicators are still functional.

“My hails are getting through, Sir, but no one is answering them.”

“Understood, Ensign,” Sotok acknowledged the comm officer in that same emotionless tone, then turned to the science station. “Mr. de Vreij, close range scan for life-form readings, one kilometre radius around the base camp.”

“Aye, Sir,” the Dutch scientist responded, already operating his controls. “I still have all the surface members of the landing party on my scanners, Captain,” Joop responded with obvious relief. “One Ur’uth’uul, one Andorian, one Efrosian, one Vulcan, one Daenaii, one Caitian, and two Humans.”

“Topographical display with life-sign overlay on main viewer, Mr. de Vreij,” Sotak ordered. “Mr. Hawke, merge your communicator positions with it.”

The “Aye-ayes” echoed back and the main viewer showed that the communicator signals were located within a metre of the life-signs, except for Cha’Doth’s, which was almost four metres away.

“Mr. de Vreij, orbital telescopes. Display a visual scan of the location of Lieutenant Cha’Doth’s life-signs. Magnify to display a five-metre-square area,” Sotok instructed as if ordering a coffee.

His apparent lack of concern despite the possible danger his crew could be in was starting to get to the young Human officers manning the stations on the bridge. Despite “knowing” about Vulcan logic, suppression of emotions, and even their legendary stoicism, the young and inexperienced officers found it hard to reconcile this knowledge with their gut-level, instinctive resentment of someone who apparently didn’t care about their colleagues and friends.

Hawke spun around angrily to stare at the viewscreen to stop from boring holes in the back of his captain’s head.

De Vreijj hit the transfer button for the orbital telescopes to the main viewer with more force than was necessary, the toggle emitting an audible snap that accurately reflected its operator’s fit of pique.

The image that appeared before them all on the main viewer took no time at all to be interpreted. Believed, processed, and accepted, however, was another story entirely. An Arkenite, a Tellarite, and two Humans looked on in shocked silence as they saw their third in command being horizontally restrained, spread-eagled, and being violated by a blue tubular reed-type plant, suspended above a rock pool. Her maroon uniform with its white highlights, jet black skin and long pink hair brought into sharp relief her situation against the soft blue of her assailant and the water it grew from, and the light grey rock containing the pool.

Captain Sotok responded immediately, pressing down on a direct com-link button on his command chair. “Captain to Security,” he stated quickly and clearly.

“Security, Strøm-Erichsen here, Sir,” the Norwegian security chief answered within two seconds.

“Emergency deployment, all available personnel. Arrive planetside in two minutes,” Sotok ordered quickly and concisely. “Details will be forwarded to your terminal immediately.”

“Understood, Captain. Strøm-Erichsen out,” the security chief signed off, wasting no time.

“Ensign Hawke, transfer coordinates of all our landing party personnel to Lieutenant Commander Strøm-Erichsen.”

Hawke was still enthralled by the image on the main viewer and was slow to respond to his captain.

“Ensign!” For all that Sotok’s voice was inflectionless, it still cracked like a whip and Hawke found himself locking gazes with the Vulcan’s black eyes. “Carry out your orders,” he continued in a flat tone that practically reached out and slapped the junior officer.

“Uh, aye Sir! Sorry Sir!” Hawke flung over his shoulder, already turning to work his board and feeling thoroughly chastised.

“Mr. de Vreij, locate all the landing party members on the surface and ascertain their status,” Sotok ordered next. “And take that image off the main viewer.”

“A-aye, Captain,” a shaken Joop answered as Sotok moved to join him at the science station. Several quick focus changes later and they had found too much forest canopy obscuring their crewmates but also seen Lieutenant K’Nomi in the literal clutches of a huge insect, Lieutenant Thia held down by a plant’s writhing tentacles, and Petty Officer Surek trapped inside a living cage.

“I am accompanying the Security teams,” Sotok announced to a shocked bridge crew. “Ensign Hawke, you will instantly relay any new information developed by Petty Officer de Vreij to me. Acknowledge and comply.”

“Aye-aye, Captain,” they both responded with alacrity.

“Lieutenant tor-Barnaii, you have the conn.”

“Aye-aye, Sir,” the Arkenite Helm officer replied instantly and opened a channel to summon his relief to the bridge.

With that, the captain of the Falklands left his bridge.

De Vreijj and Hawke shared a stunned look, each seeing the new awareness and the personal shame and embarrassment in the other’s eyes.

It was less than two minutes since the image of Cha’Doth had appeared on the screen. Anyone who had doubted their captain’s concern for his crew doubted him no longer. Those last two minutes had taught two Humans, young and inexperienced both, that “emotionless” did not equal “uncaring”.



Sotok rematerialised on the planet’s surface in company with his security chief and ten of her remaining personnel. One “unlucky” soul remained behind to be beamed down in another thirty seconds when the Falklands’ transporters had cycled. They’d beamed down into a clearing inside the base-camp’s perimeter, phaser pistols out and facing all points of the compass.

“There, Sir!” Crewman 1st-class Thoron called out, pointing. “It’s got Lieutenant K’Nomi!”

Even as Thoron said his second word Sotok had confirmed his sector was clear and was turning to view the security male’s assigned sector. The stout Andorian had already aimed his sleek new-model phaser pistol and unleashed a wide, flat bolt of brilliant scarlet energy at the monstrous flying insect. The beast seemed unfazed but turned to escape. Suddenly, twelve beams bathed it in energy and the thing dropped like a stone before getting more than a metre.

It crashed to the ground from the two metre height it had been hovering at, releasing K’Nomi who thudded limply to the ground herself after having been caught in the blast nimbus of twelve phasers set to heavy stun. Crewman 2nd-class Morales rushed up to check on her while the other security personnel covered him.

“She’s just unconscious, Captain!” he called out, and nine of his crewmates breathed easier. The two Vulcans gave no such emotional reaction.

“Have the lieutenant beamed up immediately with special emphasis paid to decontamination protocols,” Sotok ordered, speaking with quick but precise diction. “Stay with her until Medical claims her, then rejoin us with Petty Officer Morin. Inform the medical staff that a full internal scan of the lieutenant would be prudent.”

“Aye, Captain!” Evo acknowledged with alacrity, and flipped out his communicator even as the rest of the rescue party turned to the next nearest crewmember in distress.

“Lieutenant sh’Fatehrin’s communicator signal is thirty-two metres on a heading of one-three-two,” Sotok stated calmly, already jogging in that direction and flanked by his own security detail. “Be wary; our crewmates have been taken by local plants. Remain observant and keep your distance from plants that seem relatively isolated amongst this dense foliage.”

“Understood, Captain,” Strøm-Erichsen replied for all of them, and thus forewarned they plunged forward into the thickening forest.

*****

“Morales to Falklands, two to beam up, these co-ordinates!” Evo barked into his communicator.

“Stand by, Morales; the units are still cycling,” came the unpleasant news from Transporter Chief Jelani Kayibanda. “Just a few seconds more.”

Evo called urgently, “Have a med team waiting for us! I’m bringing up Lieutenant K’Nomi!” He found he was surprised it was still less than thirty seconds since they’d beamed down to begin the rescue. So much had happened already...

Over the open comm channel, Jelani stated, “Energising now.”

The next thing Evo knew he and the supine form of the still unconscious communications officer were on the discs of Transporter Room One, and isolated from Chief Kayibanda by a force curtain bounding the open side of the circular transporter stage itself.

Before he could say anything, Evo demanded, “Is the Med team on their way?!”

Jelani nodded even as he hit the control to begin the decontamination sequence. “They’ll be here shortly, Evo. How is she?”

Morales closed his eyes and shielded them further with his hand as the sterilisation energy field cleansed his skin, hair, and uniform of alien microbes and foreign matter. “She was literally in the clutches of a giant flying insect!” he blurted, hands gesturing for emphasis. “We blasted it, twelve phasers on heavy stun,” he continued as the Med team barrelled in with an anti-grav gurney, “and it was holding her close to it. We think it’s just the blast nimbus, but it may be contact stun as well.”

“What else can you tell us, Crewman?” C.M.O. Louisa Garland-Els asked loudly, over the snap and buzz and hum of the sterilisation field, her distinctive South African accent clipping her words.

Evo hesitated, not sure how much he should divulge – and how graphically he could put it – in a public setting. Settling quickly for a middle ground until he could get into a more private setting, he answered over the noise of decon, “She was bitten by the huge bug which had her trapped! The captain recommends a full internal scan!”

The decontamination process ended abruptly and he was suddenly shouting into a quiet room. Lowering his voice, he urged, “We need to get her to Sickbay!”

“Turner, help Morales!” the doctor ordered.

The two men lifted the unconscious Caitian onto a gurney – Morales careful to keep her legs together to hide the tear in her trousers as Medical Technician David Turner lifted her by the shoulders – and then they jumped into the waiting turbolift car at the intersection of Turboshafts Two and Three, right outside the transporter rooms.

Safely within the car for a few seconds, Garland-Els ordered, “Spill it, Morales!” even as she ran her scanner over K’Nomi.

“Sir, she was being... raped... by that monster bug!” Evo blurted, knowing this was all the time he’d have and not wanting to waste it on dissembling.

Louisa’s eyes widened in shocked disbelief, but as the turbolift doors opened right beside Sickbay she did not question him further.

Running quickly in, she barked, “Prep the Isolation Room, full quarantine protocols! Kemal, activate the sterile field and prep the diagnostic scanner!”

“Doc, I gotta get back down there!” Evo told her urgently.

She nodded. “Go. And Morales? You did good. Thank you, from me, and her.”

Evo nodded seriously and was gone.

Louisa focused her full attention on her patient. “Kemal, Turner, transfer her to the scanner bed.”

The two men quickly and efficiently did so, this time with David taking K’Nomi’s ankles. As her head nurse activated it, Louisa turned back to the med tech. “David, take the stretcher back to the transporter rooms and await... developments.” Her bright blue eyes were deeply troubled.  “I fear you’re going to be needed there.”

“Yes, Doctor,” the sturdy Englishman replied sombrely, then grabbed the stretcher and guided it quickly back to Turboshaft One.

“Kemal?”

“First pass almost complete, Doctor,” the pale Turkish man replied, his dark eyes locked onto the imaging scanner’s full-length display. The results were displayed seconds later, and he gasped, “What the hell—”

Louisa’s voice hardened. “Eggs, Kemal. Insect larvae that will no doubt hatch inside her and eat their way out, given enough time.

“Let’s not give them that time,” she stated, voice hard and flat.

“I’ll get another stretcher, Doctor!” he called out over his shoulder, already on his way back into the I.C.U.

“Hopefully the second pass will be done by the time you get back,” she muttered to herself, directing the sensor head to specific points of concern. “Bruised bones in left wrist. Surface bruising on her arms, ribs, front torso. Reproductive canal trauma. Alien insect eggs implanted in the womb. Foreign biomatter in both. No indications of any other physical trauma,” she muttered to her medical log, mentally adding, as if this is not more than enough to begin with!

Kemal returned moments later and they transferred K’Nomi, still unconscious from the heavy stuns, first to the gurney and then to the surgical table.

“Five cc’s of masiform-F,” Louisa instructed, holding out her hand.

Kemal slapped a hypospray with the requested dosage into it and asked, “Doctor, what about ten cc’s of corophizine?”

“There are no initial signs of infection to prevent, Kemal,” the C.M.O. responded while monitoring the effect of the medication now in her patient’s bloodstream on the table’s scanners. “I don’t treat what isn’t there. Medication without a symptom to treat usually causes more harm than good,” she lectured her less experienced colleague. “We do need to prevent her system from absorbing these alien enzymes.”

Satisfied that there was no unexpected rejection of or allergic reaction to the masiform-F, Garland-Els ordered, “Help me take her uniform off.” She knew it was quicker to take the individual items off rather than cutting off the tough adaptive fabric. Kemal nodded and worked on her maroon top then rolled up her grey sciences under-jumper, while Louisa quickly tugged her boots off then slid her punctured trousers completely off her legs.

“Activate the surgical sterile field,” she ordered next. As she used the surgical table’s scanner to bring up an image of the eggs implanted in K’Nomi’s womb. “Number Five laser scalpel,” she stated next. As Kemal handed it to her, she thought, Let’s get these things out of you, Rozen!

*****

They’d covered barely ten metres before the massive flower they’d seen from base-camp exploded into motion. A very long, flexible green limb reached out, quick as lightning, and wrapped around the security chief herself to start dragging her back by the waist towards the plant’s main body. A spilt second of stunned inaction passed before half-a-dozen phaser beams intersected on the plant.

The heavy stun beams made no impression on the two-metre high flower. Sotok instructed loudly, “Cease fire! First and Third Sections, set phasers to level three and resume firing!”

Half the landing party hurriedly reset their phasers to kinetic impact/heat and fired again, taking careful aim past the struggling, upside-down form of their security chief as more limbs separated from the huge flower’s central stalk and attempted to hold her more securely in preparation for whatever its instincts demanded it do next. Huge sections of delicate-looking petals and thick stalk quickly crisped, blackened, and dropped off, bursting into flame. A particularly well-aimed shot from Petty Officer 2nd-class Mark DeYoung severed the limb holding Strøm-Erichsen and she dropped onto her neck in front of the plant. She flattened herself quickly to the ground and the landing party let rip, burning the entire flower to ashes.

“Chief, are you okay?!” DeYoung called out after he raced to her side under the phasers of the rest of the security detail.

“I’m fine, DeYoung,” she replied, rubbing her neck, though was obviously shaken. She allowed the beefy Ohio man to plant a shoulder in her armpit and all but haul her back to their comrades.

“Lieutenant Commander, are you functional?” Sotok asked quickly as two musical columns of sparkling blue energy resolved themselves into the returning Crewman Morales and newly arriving Petty Officer Hervé Morin.

“Aye Captain, just a bit winded,” she replied gaspingly. “That thing squeezed the air out my lungs, is all...”

“Crewmen DeYoung and Bouteflika, help the Commander. We must press on with all due speed.”

Anne-Grete’s protest died in her throat. Sotok was right; stupid pride should not be allowed to slow their progress to their other still-trapped shipmates. With a wry grimace, she accepted Mark and Abdelaziz’ strong shoulders as they propelled her faster through the forest.

The broad arrow of their formation reached Thia quickly, finding her curled up in a ball beside an egg-shaped plant which did not respond to their approach. Worryingly, neither did she. C.P.O. Susan Kiehl and Crewman 1st-Class Maria Ramirez rushed forward to help Thia up to her feet. DeYoung retrieved the young Andorian shen’s phaser and communicator and returned them to her. She stared at them numbly for a couple of seconds before reaching out to take them. Her hands mechanically accepted them, slowly attaching the communicator to her belt first while staring at the sleek phaser pistol resting on her open palm.

“Lieutenant sh’Fatehrin, you are safe now,” Sotok stated in his reassuring baritone, looking closely at her, “but we need to return you to the ship and continue rescuing our crew on the surface.”

Thia’s eyes snapped up from her phaser to meet his gaze, then around at her colleagues, then down again to the plant she had been found beside. With a sudden, startling shriek of incoherent rage, she slapped the phaser’s power setting up a notch and unleashed its dazzling ruby beam at the seemingly inoffensive egg-shaped plant.

No one made a move towards her; it would have been far too dangerous to try and make her stop firing. They all watched as the plant crisped and blackened, the extreme heat carbon-scoring its sealed shell until the beam blasted through, revealing the mass of tentacles it contained. They too crisped, blackened, and were set ablaze under her assault.

For six shocking seconds they watched and listened as she and her phaser screamed, until the entire egg-shaped plant was no more than ash.

Breathing like she had run the Academy marathon in record time, Thia slowly lowered her phaser.

“Lieutenant,” Sotok stated, his voice actually gentle.

She turned to face him, her phaser now held loosely in her left hand. Trying to regain control of her breathing, she replied shakily, “...aye, Sir.”

“Ramirez, stay with the Lieutenant and beam up with her,” Sotok instructed, still gazing reassuringly at the young officer.

“Aye-aye, Skipper!” the stout Mexican woman acknowledged anxiously.

“P-permission to join the r-rescue detail, Captain,” Thia requested, her voice and body shaky.

“Denied, Lieutenant. You need medical attention immediately,” Sotok told her in a tone that was shading from completely inflectionless to gentle again. “Now go.”

“Aye, Captain,” she sighed.

“Security Detail, form up!” he ordered next. “Ensigns MacAllen and Okeild’s communicators are along this line of advance. Continue in Alpha Six and move out, heading zero eight seven, two hundred metres.”

One less in number but one more in crew, the landing party double-timed it towards another trapped shipmate.

*****

Kayibanda slid the transporter’s three matter stream controllers all the way home and, through the blue-white glare of the forcefield emitters ringing the open side of the transporter stage, saw the delectable Maria Ramirez materialise, supporting Lieutenant Thia.

“Thirty seconds for decontamination,” he called, more for something he could say than to tell them something they both already knew.

Maria nodded, not saying anything back, but looked to Thia and murmured something he could not hear. The Rwandan shot another look at the grim-faced, tight-lipped David Turner on his left, standing silently but with smouldering eyes, gripping the stretcher with hands that clenched and unclenched subconsciously.

What in God’s Name is going on here? No one is speaking but they’re all enraged in a way I’ve not seen since... since the Organian Conflict!

The decontamination cycle completed and, after a final, thorough scan of the air and people on the transporter stage gave no warning flags, he deactivated the isolation forcefield. David was there in a flash to offer his shoulder but Maria waved him off. Thia made it to the anti-grav herself but gratefully lay down on it.

Then the small party all but ran the few steps it took to get to the turbolift station right outside the transporter rooms, leaving a tense and very puzzled Kayibanda in their wake.



Once in the privacy of the turbolift car, Turner – his voice carefully neutral – asked, “Lieutenant, what can you tell me about what happened to you?”

Maria’s eyes flicked up and locked with his, but even as it formed, her resentful, protective expression faded completely at the sight of the hot coals his black eyes so closely resembled.

In a wavering, quiet voice, Thia replied, “...plant captured me... held me in its tentacles... wouldn’t let me go...”

“Did it... bite or wound you?” David asked delicately. “Did any alien fluids or enzymes get into your system?”

Maria admired the medical technician’s tact, and realised he must have known what really happened to Lieutenant K’Nomi.

Thia managed a soft “...yes...” before the doors opened right outside Sickbay. Turner took them inside, straight to the diagnostic scanner room without pause, and instructed, “Ramirez, help me get her onto the table.”

She realised that lifting Thia across was going to be quicker than waiting for the still out-of-it Andorian to make the trip under her own power, and helped the medic do just that. She was pleased to see her injured superior being so expertly and compassionately cared for that she hadn’t had the opportunity to relay the captain’s order before it was already being carried out.

“Turner... thanks,” she told him, and meant it for Thia too. The Englishman gave her a look that could have been a wintry smile. “I’ve got to get back down there. Will she be okay?”

“She will, now,” he replied shortly. “Go, and bring the others back...”

He faltered, clearly wanting to say more but just as clearly not wanting to give voice to his fears. He shook it off. “Just... bring them all back.”

Maria nodded, touched despite herself at the depth of his feelings, and bolted back into the turbolift.



David was about to call for Doctor Garland-Els when she walked into the diagnostic scanner room and immediately asked, “What’s the situation, Turner?”

“Scanner’s making its first sweep now, Doctor, but Thia told me she’d been captured by a plant, held in its tentacles, and its fluids or enzymes got into her system. You can see the stuff on her face too.”

“She went through decontamination procedures?” Garland-Els asked sharply.

“Yes, Doctor. I watched the whole process myself,” he replied. “Whatever this stuff is, it’s been sterilised.”

“Good, and bad; if some of it has got into her system it’ll be harder to isolate it. Take a sample for analysis.”

Turner grabbed a specimen sample lifter and secured a fair-sized segment by basically peeling it off the Andorian shen’s face; it came off in a big slab which cracked at her ear.

The still-dazed Thia flinched at the sound and weakly raised a hand to fend off the med tech.

“Don’t worry Lieutenant, we’ll clean all this off of you shortly,” Louisa soothed, then asked, “Can you tell us what happened?”

Thia’s mouth moved but no sound came out. She looked up at them helplessly.

“It’s okay, don’t speak. You rest and we’ll take care of you, okay?” Louisa told her in her best bedside manner.

The young security officer nodded and relaxed against the scanner bed, closing her eyes to the outside world.

Garland-Els and Turner exchanged a glance before assessing the diagnostic readout. It showed a horror story of its own with foreign enzymes in her mouth and reproductive canal, foreign living biomatter in her womb and inert biomatter on her face and between her legs. The heavy bruising around her wrists, upper arms, thighs, and neck all indicated being held under heavy restraint, her almost-strangulation further attested to by trauma to the dermal neck tissue, and forced intercourse – a given – from trauma to her reproductive canal.

Louisa felt herself growing enraged. What the hell kind of place is this planet? At least two wildly disparate species reproduce by rape! she thought in disbelief and outrage.

Davis was having similar thoughts. How does a plant even reproduce like this? It’s insane!

Louisa hit her wrist-comm. “Kemal! How is K’Nomi’s system responding to the hydroxaline?

“No adverse or allergic reactions observed as yet, Doctor,” the head nurse replied over the intercom. “It’s breaking down the foreign enzymes slowly but steadily. They’ll be completely inert inside another fifteen minutes at this rate.”

“Good. Any negative reactions to the surgery?”

“None,” was his brief, succinct reply.

As expected. It was a very simple procedure. Cut her open, remove the eggs, seal her back up again, save the eggs for later study, she recapped. “Thank you, Kemal. Now please prep a large batch of hydroxaline; make it five litres. I think we’re going to need a lot more of it. Also, start another batch of masiform-F, and I think half a litre should suffice here. Before you do though, bring in forty cc’s of hydroxaline and ten of masiform-F.”

“Yes, Doctor. I’ll be right there.”

She turned to face David. “You’d better get back to the transporter rooms. I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of these cases today.”

Turner’s face and tone mirrored her own. “Yes Doctor. I just hope this is as bad as it’ll get, because this is more than bad enough.”

Louisa nodded. “Agreed, and you and me both, David. Now go.”

He nodded and, grabbing the anti-grav stretcher, was gone.

Kemal came in seconds later with two hyposprays and a large container. “You did say forty cc’s of hydroxaline, didn’t you, Doctor?” the Turkish man asked by way of greeting.

“I did indeed. I think we may need that much to break down and flush out that much foreign matter,” she replied, gesturing to the composite diagnostic scanner image as she administered the first shot.

“My God...!” Kemal exclaimed in shock. “There’s got to be at least a litre in there!”

“Easily,” she agreed, noting no reaction from their technically conscious patient to their discussion or the medication administered. “The enzymes Thia has been exposed to are completely different from those K’Nomi has in her system. These are plant-based, not insectoid. I want to see if the hydroxaline will do as well here.”

“That’s why you went for the lesser-affected area first?” Kemal queried.

Louisa nodded. “Pumping her full of meds is a risk all on its own...” She trailed off, reconsidering. “Scratch that. There is so much biomatter in there that it now seems to me the best way to deal with it is direct removal. Transfer her to the O.R. and prep her for surgery.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

Louisa tapped her wrist-comm. as Kemal went for another anti-grav gurney. “C.M.O. Garland-Els to all medical staff: I am declaring a Medical Alert. All medical staff report to Sickbay immediately. I say again: Medical Alert, all medical staff report to Sickbay immediately for active duty. Garland-Els, out.”

Kemal returned and they both lifted the unresponsive Andorian shen onto the gurney and transferred her through to the surgery unit. There, they transferred the still recovering K’Nomi onto their third and final gurney and Thia onto the surgical bed. Louisa occupied herself with setting up the surgical bridge while Kemal took the Caitian comms officer through to I.C.U.

Her mind and hands automatically activated the sterile field, made the small incision through Thia’s skin, parted the delicate internal flesh and moved aside organs, and finally breached her uterus. Feeding in a sterilised tube, guided by the scanner’s real-time imagery, she gently slid it into the liquid mass of alien biomatter and applied suction.

Doctor th’Merrin, Nurse Farber and Medical Technician Baweja entered Sickbay at that point and she could hear Kemal brief them in. Thank God for Mr. Yaviz, she blessed her capable and dependable head nurse. Now that we know what’s coming, we’ll be prepared.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 12:52:11 pm by Scottish Andy »
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Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #33 on: July 25, 2012, 03:38:08 am »
I can get the sexual assault validity, but 2 different lifeforms and all the women? Seems a bit overkill to me. Plus if it's only one or two, or even one and half (rescued at the last second) you get much more emotional angles to work out imho. still I'm not leaving this one alone not yet...
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Nine
« Reply #34 on: July 26, 2012, 10:45:17 pm »
Q, Guv, Larry. Thanks for the replies and the reviews. Honest feedback is the best feedback. I have reasons for including what I have in the previous chapter which I will give once the story is ended -- but that isn't for a while yet.

I do have to cynically chuckle at the reactions a little though. I am reminded of Kyle's mum in 'South Park - Bigger, Longer, & Uncut' (and paraphrasing here):
"Deplorable violence is okay, as long as you don't have a potty mouth!"  :D

I thought the Guv's Endeavour story where Ben pulverises Commodore Shilloah was pretty horrible. Which he then topped with the Endeavour story about the entity which makes the crew start mutilating themselves and killing each other. That's not a dig, Roge, just an observation. :)

Why is it is okay to show the most spectacularly gruesome and gory injuries and deaths possible, yet get so shy around and scared of sexual assault? If onwe is okay, why not the other?
That's a massive can of worms for another time though. ;)

Mind you, my reaction was not critisism. Unlike Larry, who for some reason wants horror movies to be well thought out and explainable, I quite enjoyed the scenes. I was so shocked they came from YOU, that it made it 1000 times more enjoyably abhorrent. Well done, my friend. You shocked me. This is not easy.

I am not able to write about sexual assault, myself. There is actually a part of me that cringes at the thought of sitting there, writing one. It ain't the scene or what's going on. It's the simple fact that I'm writing it. I can write about attempted rape, or have an investigating character deal with the aftermath...but some part of me will not allow me to write it.

Anyway, I do not feel that the story is damaged. In fact, it's more readable to me now that something off the wall HAS occured. I have yet to read your most recent post, and am crunched for time tonight. Will read tomorrow if time.

--guv!
"Jayne?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #35 on: August 02, 2012, 08:37:02 am »
No other comments on the beginning of the rescue?
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Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #36 on: August 07, 2012, 10:52:03 pm »
First, two 'critiques':

1) No f'ing way their phasers should have been set for stun.

2) Medical Alert should have been called from the get-go.

What I liked:

The Captain's reactions. Very atypical of the 'normal' Vulcan-writer. Too many authors dehumanize them too much. Also liked that the bridge crew got their stereotypical expectations of the captain turned over on them.

Liked the Andorian's reaction upon seeing the plant once her hand had a phaser in it.

Very much liked the crew's at-once reactions, and the detail that one officer was stunned (or perhaps likes tentacle-porn too much) and hesitated.

Question:

So, your transporters cycle like the photons? There are plenty of instances to the contrary in all versions of Trek.

--guv
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"Yeah?"

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"Wishin' I could, Captain. "

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #37 on: August 09, 2012, 03:46:42 pm »
Thanks Guv :)

Agreed on both critiques, especially the medical alert one.

I really enjoy writing Commander Sotok. He's a "Human" Vulcan. It's not that he's part Human, it is just that even as a Vulcan who eschews emotions, he understands that all other species don't suppress them and barely control them. He is not going to insist everyone matches his standards of emotionalism, and honestly I believe that as the captain  of a crew of many disparate species, this would have to be a necessary trait for a Starfleet commanding officer.

I liked writing Thia's rescue. It was very gratifying, felt real and true.

This is effectively the whole point of the story. True reactions to deep emotional trauma, by different people undergoing or discovering different things. People on screen just shrug off physical injuries and some things you'd think would have psychological impact. DS9 was a good series for showing people having trouble coping. Nog with his leg, the Vulcan going on a sniper shooting spree, etc.

Yes, all my ships' systems cycle in an SFC fashion. Transporters, weapons, etc. I'm not sure about on-screen evidence of that -- though just saying that STIII's Kirk&Co.-beam-off-Klingons-beam-on comes into mind, but... oh well. I thought it added dramatic tension and limits to overcome as well as adhering to a rule, as opposed to making it up as you go along and having super-capable systems that rescue you when you don't want to spend ages writing a tighter story because of a script deadline.

More tomorrow. And Larry, this is the bit you may want to consider reading. :)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2012, 04:07:50 pm by Scottish Andy »
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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #38 on: August 10, 2012, 11:15:00 pm »
I am confused more than anything at the moment.  Wondering just what purpose this mystery fluid seems to serve.  The Captain's reaction was, of course, logical.

As for the Transporters, it's just fine.  STIII was Kirk and Co. beaming off through their transporter, and the Klingons coming on from their transporter.  Two separate transporters were in use.  Far too often I've noticed that writers tend to cut corners for the sake of the story.  Yes the story is important, but so is the technology.  Consistency should be maintained, so that everyone (including future writers) know what it can and can't do.
"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Ten
« Reply #39 on: August 20, 2012, 01:27:55 pm »
In the immortal words of Pete Tong, "We continue."




Chapter Ten



They’d barely moved another ten metres towards Skora’s location when another egg-shaped plant split down four equidistant seams and a writhing mass of tentacles ensnared Susan Kiehl.

Verdammt!” she snarled, gripping a slimy limb and holding it off by main strength alone. She couldn’t prevent the other two tentacles dragging her away from her team.

Crewman Mickiewicz’ quick reflexes and sure aim severed all three tentacles before she’d been pulled more than two metres, and the New Yorker followed it up with a brief burst to the main body of the plant that reduced it to a blackened shell.

Danke, Jerry!” Kiehl pushed out as the crewman hauled her to her feet.

“Welcome, Chief,” he replied briefly but with a grin.

On the other side of their party Hervé Morin was likewise being pulled to his feet by Thoron. “Merci, mon ami,” the lanky Frenchman told his rescuer, looking back at the blackened shell of another egg-shaped plant.

The no-nonsense Andorian merely nodded curtly and continually swept the foliage around them with his senses. Morin fell in beside him and did likewise.

It seemed like the massive flower which had almost captured their security chief demarcated a boundary between the relative safety of the base-camp from the wild depths of the forest proper, as attacks from hyper-metabolised plants now came as thick and fast as their warm body–seeking tentacles.

At their head, Anne-Grete stated, “Sir, we’re getting nowhere fast. We need to start burning these things down as soon as we see them, instead of waiting to be attacked.”

Sotok considered that for all of half-a-second. “Agreed, Commander. Issue the order.”

She nodded and turned to her people. “Security detail! Don’t wait to be attacked. If you see any type of plants which has already made a grab for us, burn it down immediately. Formation Alpha-Six, watch your sectors and your crewmates. We need to get to our captive shipmates so we’re going through, fast and hard. Let’s do it!”

Her crew obviously approved of this course of action as the response was an enthusiastic and loud “MA’AM, YES MA’AM!!”

The rest of the hundred and ninety metres to Skora’s location was a nightmare of lunging and streaking green flesh, the scream of phasers, close calls, and arrested grabs that would live in the memories of all on that landing party for a very long time.

“It’s like the entire forest is coming alive and coming after us!” Evo Morales shouted over the massed phaser fire, burning out another egg-shaped snare plant to a crisped and blackened husk.

“I know!” Mark DeYoung shouted back, not taking his eyes off the foliage around them. “I must have burned out a half-dozen of these things alone!”

Almost as soon as the words were spoken the Starfleet party broke into a wide meadow of knee-high grass bordered and thickly dotted with massive trees throughout. Their triple-tiered canopies still spread close enough to each other to present only a few glimmers of blue sky over a hundred metres above them. The going was much easier this time and their path seemed completely clear of the “egg-snare” plants, but the sustained assault on them since beaming down had left the Starfleet party suspicious and untrusting of its apparent lack of danger.

“I wonder why none of those damn plants are here?” Morin thought aloud, eyes scanning the forest around them and phaser pistol at the ready just as Maria beamed back down a few metres behind them. “They were practically everywhere only seconds ago!”

“In all natural ecologies, there are usually self-designated territories or hunting zones for different types of wildlife and predators.” Sotok replied, his sharp Vulcan hearing easily picking out his crewman’s question despite the clamour of the forest around them.

“So that likely means a different sort of—”

Strøm-Erichsen’s comment was cut short as a loud screeching and chattering was heard from high above them in the tree canopy.

“Stand ready!” she shouted. “Watch your sectors!”

Barely glimpsed, swinging from tree to tree, were humanoid-sized primates moving with incredible speed through the lower branches some sixty metres above them. The primates took no notice of them and were gone in a matter of seconds, but before any of the team could comment on them a loud and angry-sounding buzzing was heard from the direction the primates had come from.

“Formation Phi-Three, now!” the security commander barked. The detail formed a compact square with everyone facing the threat axis, the two command officers in the centre, and the front rank crouching low. They just had time to secure the formation when a swarm of ten of the massive insects that had grabbed Lieutenant K’Nomi hove into view. They immediately changed direction and zeroed in on the Starfleet contingent.

“Take ‘em down!” Anne-Grete bellowed over the racket, and twelve scarlet beams reached out like a primitive laser anti-missile battery towards the incoming swarm.

The impact of both heavy stun and kinetic impact/heat beams blasted the first rank of three out the air. Two of the second rank smacked dead on into the back of their hive mates as the kinetic impact arrested their flight unexpectedly, but beyond being knocked out of formation and bouncing off a tree or two, they seemed unharmed and rejoined the end of the formation.

All that took barely five seconds during which time the swarm covered fifty metres, but the Starfleet Security detail had not remained idle. Even as the first rank dropped – stunned and badly hurt – to plough short furrows in the rich soil, the second rank were getting the same warm welcome. Three more of the massive insects fell to gouge short furrows in the earth, but then the last two ranks of two made their final run.

There was no time for further orders, but the mutually supporting formation did its thing. Three phaser beams intersected each remaining target, stunning their autonomous systems and punching holes in their carapaces to instantly cook the soft flesh beneath.

The last four insects were blasted from the sky, their bodies tumbling to the ground, their momentum carrying them right up to and almost into the Starfleet formation.

Anne-Grete scanned the vicinity to check for more attackers but none presented themselves. “Clear!” she called out, still not taking her eyes off the forest around her.

This call was echoed from all her team – she’d counted – but she still ordered, “Sound off!”

“Solok.”

“N’Koor.”

“Kiehl.”

“Ranox.”

“Mickiewicz.”

“Morin.”

“Bouteflika.”

“Thoron.”

“Ramirez.”

“DeYoung.”

“Morales.”

“Sotok.”

Anne-Grete blinked at her captain including himself in the roster but decided it was only logical for him to do so. “Looks like we all made it through this one unharmed then. Captain?” she enquired.

“Lead on, Commander. You know the direction we must take,” Sotok replied, unfazed.

“Okay people, you heard the captain. Let’s keep moving!”

As they forged onwards to their captive crewmates, Anne-Grete felt highly gratified by both her team’s performance and her captain’s confidence in her. Sotok apparently understood and appreciated that a security chief’s job description included being the captain’s personal bodyguard and was smart enough to realise that leading blindly from the front on this planet was a good way to become quickly dead, not to mention putting the lives of his security detail at risk with such reckless behaviour. It was a measure of Sotok’s faith in her abilities that he allowed her to do her job, and a measure of his character in not allowing foolish bravado to endanger himself and everyone around him. That he was down here at all, never mind actually leading the rescue effort, spoke to his bravery and concern for his crew.

They burst into another small clearing without further incident; it seemed that the giant insects were top dog for this area. The reason for the clearing became apparent as another massive lily dominated the area.

“Ensign Okeild’s communicator should be within a metre of that flower,” Petty Officer Ranox stated gruffly, waving his tricorder about. “Ten metres bearing three-five-seven.”

That she wasn’t in sight needed no pointing out. Chief Petty Officer N’Koor activated his tricorder and scanned for life-signs as the rest of the team visually scanned the area with suspicious, hostile eyes.

“There’s too much interference,” the big Caitian announced disgustedly. “There’s just so much alive around here, and with the kelbonite permeating the biosphere…” He trailed off, but not in the tone of disgust and frustration Sotok had expected. This was confirmed moments later when the chief added, “Faint indications of a humanoid life-form, rough bearing of two-eight-one to two-nine-seven. Range indeterminate.”

“This plant most probably captured Ensign Okeild. I want it isolated for study and have so annotated our tricorder maps,” Sotok stated. He then ordered, “Specialist Mickiewicz, retrieve the ensign’s communicator. We shall cover you.”

A hyper-alert security detail watched the flower, ready for the slightest blur of green flesh heading to their crewmember as Jerry fetched Skora’s comm unit. The wait proved anti-climactic as the giant lily remained unmoving, and Jerry returned to them bearing Skora’s communicator. Relieved grins were exchanged then they all pressed on in search of its owner.

“Tricorders on maximum sensitivity, narrow band scan,” Sotok ordered. “Note that this direction takes us toward Ensign MacAllen’s communicator signal. It is possible that Ensign Okeild managed to free herself and attempted to rescue Ensign MacAllen. Form a skirmish line, double ranks, and advance!”

The detail hurriedly reorganised itself as ordered and advanced quickly through the omnipresent knee-high grass. Suddenly the screee! of a phaser broke over the background forest noise, joined by a second. Eyes whipped around to see the shell of an egg-snare disintegrating into ash.

It’s a damn good thing this forest is so humid and damp, Anne-Grete thought with a small burst of apprehension. Otherwise we’d not be able to burn down all these attacking plants without igniting the whole forest along with them.

“More on the right!” Morin called out, and three more phasers screamed.

“Looks like we’re past giant flying bug territory,” Mickiewicz commented with grim humour, letting fly a beam from his own weapon.

“CEASE FIRE!” N’Koor bellowed. The Security detail fell into a tense silence, assuming a back-to-back stance to monitor all avenues of approach toward their party.

“Report, Chief N’Koor,” Sotok ordered dispassionately.

Concentrating on his tricorder readings, N’Koor replied distractedly. “Detecting definite humanoid life-signs, Captain. Bearing…” There was an expectant pause as the Caitian N.C.O. tried to refine his readings. “Bearing one-three-four true. Range seems to be… around fifteen metres.”

“Ensign Okeild!” Ranox bellowed. “Can you hear me?!”

Had she been conscious and within fifty metres she’d have heard that. Sotok and Strøm-Erichsen exchanged a glance. “Security Detail, be extremely cautious. Our crew member seems to be incapacitated and probably lying hidden in the long grass.” Sotok advised.

“Detail, check your fire!” Strøm-Erichsen ordered briskly. “Pick your targets very carefully. Tricorder readings are unreliable at present, so verify your target is clear of friendly personnel. Advance slowly, everyone reset phasers to kinetic/heat and pair off. Watch your partners’ backs. Move out!”

The detail advanced carefully. Occasionally a phaser pair would fire, but the fifteen metres passed quickly enough, and became twenty, then twenty-five—”

“Captain, Commander! I’ve found her!” Hervé Morin’s distinctive French accent came through the forest clamour.

“Keep talking, Petty Officer!” Strøm-Erichsen ordered. “Let us zero in on you!”

“She’s asleep or unconscious, and she’s beside another one of these egg-snare plants, but it’s not reacting to my presence – just like the one that was near Lieutenant Thia,” Hervé began, hearing his crewmates crashing through the thick undergrowth towards him. “I want to pull her away from it anyway, but if I do and it makes a lunge for either of us I’ll not be able to—”

“That’s enough, P.O., we see you,” Strøm-Erichsen interrupted, coming through the foliage behind him. “We can cover you now— Ramirez, help him pull Okeild away from the egg-snare!” she ordered on seeing the Mexican woman break through herself on the opposite side of the plant from them.

“Aye, Ma’am!” the stocky security officer acknowledged and darted in to rescue another crewmate.

“Commander, this plant is behaving atypically,” Sotok noted. “Isolate it for later study and ensure no one destroys it. I have already logged its location in our tricorder maps and annotated with ‘approach with caution’.”

“Understood, Sir,” she replied. Checking the clearing they found themselves in, she mentally tallied the presence of all her guards before announcing, “Captain’s orders: do not damage the egg-snare we found Ensign Okeild beside; it will be examined by the science team.”

Sotok nodded, then addressed Hervé and Maria. “Specialist Bouteflika, beam up with the ensign and ensure Sickbay has her in their care before returning to us. Answer any questions they have about the nature of the assault, and recall that decontamination protocols are in effect for yourself before you leave the transporter pad.”

“Understood, Captain!” he replied and flipped out his communicator. He and his charge dematerialised seconds later.

“Detail, formation Alpha-Six!” Strøm-Erichsen ordered. “Heading one-four-seven to Ensign MacAllen’s last known position, range one hundred and seventy-four metres. Move out!”

The broad arrowhead-and-shaft or their formation again plunged into the thick forest, dodging the lightning attacks and burning down dozens more of the apparently ubiquitous egg-snares.

*****

Again Jelani activated the transporter and again a female officer materialised, supported by a security specialist. This time it was the very young- and cutesy-looking Skora Okeild curled up on the floor with Abdelaziz crouching beside her. Even behind the blue-white forcefield curtain Jelani could see the inexperienced Algerian security specialist’s expressive face working between concern and outraged fury.

“Decontamination sweep will finish in thirty seconds,” he called out again, taking a sidelong glance at David Turner. The stolid, proper Englishman’s stiff-backed anger and all the protectiveness shown to the so far female-only casualties clinched it for Kayibanda. Sexual assault, maybe even actual rape, the Rwandan pieced it together, feeling his own sense of horror and anger begin to rise. But what can it be down there that’s doing it? My scanners aren’t detecting intelligent life… he puzzled it out as the decontamination sequence continued.

“Damnit Chief, can’t you make this go any faster?” Turner blurted out with angry frustration.

Casting a stern glance at the crewman, Kayibanda shot back, “You know damn well this is a procedure that must not be rushed or abbreviated. Ten more seconds,” he added more understandingly, seeing Turner’s white knuckles flexing around the anti-grav gurney’s handles.

The Med tech didn’t answer or even look at his superior N.C.O., keeping his attention fixed on the still unconscious Daenaii on the transporter pad.

Finally the sequence completed. Jelani was satisfied with the results of his final sweep and lowered the forcefield. David all but leapt into action, storming the transporter platform and lowering the stretcher to the deck. He and Abdelaziz lifted Okeild onto it, floated it back up to its usual one-metre height off the deck, and they bolted from the room, all within ten seconds.

They are definitely not messing about, are they? Jelani noted approvingly. But why are they being rescued one at a time? Wouldn’t it have been better to beam down directly to their communicator signals, in teams of three? Wouldn’t that have rescued more people more quickly? What is the captain thinking?

Only three crew members had been beamed aboard so far, all inside six minutes. Jelani now expected more and ran a quick diagnostic of his system even as he reset the controls. He completed it quickly and it returned no issues. He considered performing a more thorough diagnostic, but dismissed the idea. There’s nothing wrong with the system and starting even a Level Four will affect performance. It’s not worth risking it; I could be called on at any—

“Kiehl to Falklands, two for immediate beam up, my co-ordinates!”

Punching the com, Jelani answered immediately. “Locking onto you now, Chief Kiehl.”

And here we go again.

*****

“Barry, how’s Thia responding to the masiform and the hydroxaline?” Louisa asked over her open wrist-comm channel as he placed her hands in the sterile field.

“The masiform-F is doing the trick for her, Doctor, and the hydroxaline is breaking down the foreign biomatter, though at a slower rate,” the Beta shift nurse responded, his nasal New York accent sounding distinctly even over the ‘com system.

Louisa nodded absently even though he couldn’t see her and approached the surgical table where Skora awaited her. “Keep an eye on her, Barry. That could indicate the onset of an allergic reaction.”

“Yes Doctor,” he replied, sounding slightly annoyed.

Louisa felt embarrassed. Your people know their jobs; don’t micromanage! “Let me know if any symptoms develop,” she instructed anyway. “I’m about to start surgery on Ensign Okeild.”

“Understood, Doctor,” the nurse responded more normally.

Louisa looked at the equipment bridge’s scanner readouts. The masiform-E that Turner had administered to the Daenaii seemed to be “doing the trick” for her copper-based blood, which left her feeling relieved. Performing another incision with her trusty laser scalpel, Garland-Els again parted skin and flesh before carefully manoeuvring her way around the Daenaii scientist’s abdominal cavity. Gently pushing and holding apart the young female’s intestines with nanometrically precise miniature tractor beams and forcefields emitting from the surgical bridge, she finally reached the wall of her womb. Another exceedingly careful incision was performed and then Louisa guided a sterilised suction tube down the channel the she’d created, through the cut in her womb wall, and into the liquid mass of foreign biomatter. Anchoring that in place with more tractor/pressor fields, Garland-Els applied gentle suction. The hollow, transparent tube filled with a thick, vibrant yellow-green fluid as it was drained from Skora’s body.

Okay, that’s the big one. The best way to get the rest out of her body would be a simple suction tube into the affected areas, followed by a douche, and finally a smaller dose of hydroxaline to take care of whatever’s left.

*****

The rescue party reached the locale of Ensign MacAllen’s communicator in short order, going through a forest alive with lunging green flesh like a diamond-tipped buzz-saw cutting through sheet metal – fast, noisy, and messy.

This time they had no trouble finding their missing crewmate. Before they had time to recognise the unmoving maroon-and-black form of the young officer their attention was immediately demanded by the massive creature that was in the process of hauling its bulk onto the huge, rough-textured bole of a nearby tree.

Their hesitation was momentary and Strøm-Erichsen barked, “Formation Omega-Three, centred on the Ensign!”

As the security detail deployed around the insensate Scot, Sotok and Anne-Grete stared warily at the slow-moving behemoth, which had by now succeeded in getting two-thirds of its length vertical and anchored to the five-metre diameter tree trunk.

“It doesn’t look like a threat,” Strøm-Erichsen stated dubiously, her phaser pistol never wandering far from pointing directly at it.

Sotok took a quick but thorough assessment of the vicinity as their field medic ran a tricorder over MacAllen. “Perhaps it is not at this moment, Commander,” he commented, “but something rendered Ensign MacAllen unconscious. There are no plants of sufficient biomass within the clearing, and that depression of crushed grass and packed earth next to her suggests that this creature was a threat to the ensign while she was conscious.”

Anne-Grete narrowed her eyes at the giant caterpillar as it continued its upward progress, then risked a glance to MacAllen’s position. Confirming her C.O.’s observations she then asked, “Should we neutralise it, Captain?”

“Captain! Commander!” C.P.O. Kiehl called out to them both. “Ensign MacAllen is waking up.”

They moved within the expanded protective cordon of security guards to kneel beside her as she groggily sat up.

“C-Captain!” she choked out. It was all she could manage before rolling off her left elbow onto all fours and retching weakly. Before anyone could say anything, Susan had reloaded her hypospray and shot her with something.

“Just breathe, Sir. That should help with the nausea,” the older woman told her young charge. “Sir, we need to get her back up to the ship,” Kiehl stated next in her best no-nonsense Bavarian sergeant-major’s voice.

“Accompany the Ensign, Chief,” Sotok ordered immediately. “Brief in the Sickbay personnel and return to the planet as quickly as possible.”

Jawhol!” she snapped off and flipped open her communicator.

As the chief spoke to the ship, Anne-Grete indicated the massive caterpillar-analogue. “And this thing, Sir?”

Sotok’s cold, calculating gaze assessed the now wholly upright beast. “Leave it. We have others who require our assistance.” Addressing Chief N’Koor, he ordered, “Direct us to Petty Officer Surek.”

The big Caitian poked at his tricorder. “Heading… one-zero-four, distance… six hundred and ninety-two metres.”

*****

The imaging scanner showed the main mass was three-quarters drained from Skora’s stomach when a new page came over the intercom.

“Sickbay, this is Transporter Room One. Ensign MacAllen has been beamed aboard and is in decontamination. En route to you in thirty-five seconds.”

“Doctor th’Merrin, acknowledge them and take care of MacAllen when she arrives,” Louisa called into her open ‘com channel.

“Yes Doctor,” her fellow surgeon and junior officer replied.

Louisa returned her attention to her own patient, feeling impatient at having to wait to perform the next steps of her treatment.


David Turner again tried to bury his rage at seeing another respected and well-liked crewmate beamed up in a violated condition. Sticky, partially dried foreign biomatter encrusted the pretty young blonde’s face, neck, and hands.

Christine was conscious but weak and perhaps still dazed. She avoided looking at anyone in their eyes, though, and gratefully accepted the opportunity to lie down and close her eyes on the stretcher.

Attempting to hold onto his bedside manner, David quickly scanned her with his medical tricorder and listened to Susan Kiehl tell him what emergency medication she’d already administered. Her simple anti-nausea shot would not interfere with Garland-Els’ hastily proscribed initial treatment, so he gave her a shot of masiform-D for her iron-based blood as the turbolift sped to Sickbay. Kiehl filled him on the remaining pertinent details and remained in the turbolift which whisked her back to the transporter rooms while he briefed in Doctor th’Merrin.

The now-familiar pattern repeated itself and an unresponsive, inward-focussed female officer was transferred to the diagnostic scanner bed. Doctor th’Merrin gave up trying to question her but continued his examination as if briefing her in on her condition.

“Do not worry, Christine, you are in good hands now and we’ll have you back on your feet soon enough. Hmm, looks like some unpleasant dermal bruising around the throat, wrists, ankles, and torso, but no cracked or fractured bones so that’s fortunate. Foreign biomatter – now inert – on your face, thighs—”

Shut up!!!” Christine suddenly screamed at him, startling both men. “Shut up shut up shut up!! Jist shut up ye blitherin’ ejit! Are ye mad? D’ye think Ah want tae hear this… this… catalogue o’ mah violations? Is it no’ bad enough that Ah went through it already in person that ye’ve got tae read it oot fur aw th’ wurld tae hear?!” she continued in anguished tones tinged with growing anger.

“Christine…” David tried but was instantly interrupted.

“Dinnae you ‘Christine’ me! I—”

“Ensign MacAllen!” th’Merrin boomed, startling the Humans into silence; neither had known the Andorian to ever raise his voice.

Locking eyes with the distressed Scot, Kurojar continued more normally. “You must face what happened to you. If you hide from it, try to ignore it, it will always be there, waiting for you. Face it now and be stronger for it,” he advised her with brutal honesty.

Christine’s eyes went wide and her already pale complexion lost more colour. “But whit happened tae me—whit wiz done tae me—” she began.

Th’Merrin interrupted again. “There is no shame in what happened to you. You were attacked in the performance of your duties, held prisoner, then were rescued by your shipmates. Would you prefer that you were partially digested or killed?” the doctor asked with the same brutal directness.

Christine’s eyes went wide again but this time in disbelieving shock as she stared at th’Merrin. David wanted to drag the idiot doctor aside and smack him silly for his insensitivity. Unable to do that without being thrown in the brig, he instead burst out, “Doctor, are you nuts?! Stop this! Hasn’t the poor girl been through enough—”

“WHAT?!” Christine yelled, this time making only David flinch. Kurojar had been observing her and watched her face darken. “Whit did ye jist say, Med Tech Turner?” she continued in a suddenly low and dangerous voice.

David was caught completely flat-footed. Head wobbling between a suddenly impassive Doctor th’Merrin and a now seemingly incensed Christine MacAllen, his impassioned defence of the latter to the former floundered. “Chris—ah, Ensign, I was defending—”

“’Defendin’, mah arse!” she returned hotly, leaning up on one elbow. “’Th’ poor girl’ is whit ye called me, Mr. Turner. Is that how ye see me? Some poor wee defenceless lassie hurt by the big scary monster? How dare ye—”

“Ensign!” Kurojar interrupted again, though it had nothing to do with David’s now ashen-faced look of baffled guilt. “How can Mr. Turner be faulted for that when you play the part so well?”

“Ah wiz bluidy-well no’ playin’ ah part, ye—!”

“Ensign, I suggest you stop there,” Kurojar quickly interrupted yet again. “I am not suggesting you are falsifying anything. I am saying that the way you are reacting to your very real encounter is evoking these protective feelings and reactions from those around you. My question to you is: is this the way you want to be seen and treated by your friends and shipmates?” he asked with inquisitively narrowed eyes.

That pinned her ears back, David saw, and in it – and his own reactions – he perhaps saw a deliberate strategy on th’Merrin’s part to provoke exactly this result. Turner regarded the middle-aged Andorian thaan with new respect. If I’m right, that was some very astute application of Human psychological knowledge. And if I’m not, it’s one hell of a lucky shot in the dark!

Christine stared at them both while her mind churned away, trying to catch up to where the doctor had led them.

He’s so easily dismissing what happened to me! No way he’d be doing that if it happened to him! one side of her railed.

Perspective! another side of her countered. Would I rather have been badly injured, maimed, or killed – as happens to so many other landing party members I hear about?

Physical wounds are easier to recover from! yet another side chimed in. Other people won’t let me forget this episode, once they find out about it, it’ll be shameful and embarrassing and held over me for the rest of my life!

How will it do that then? the first “voice” asked pointedly. It only has the power over me that I give it. And if I decide not to be ashamed by this, it has no power over me!

Easier said than done! How can I just suddenly not be ashamed of this? voice three nay-said.

Worth a try! chimed in voice two. Or, do you really want people thinking you’d be happier and less damaged if that big caterpillar had bitten your legs off instead? How pathetic does that look?

Both males noticed the change instantly when it happened. The eyes Christine MacAllen’s refocused on Doctor th’Merrin and were bright and clear and her gaze steady. She even seemed to lie straighter, propped up on her left elbow. “Okay Doc. Lay it out for me: what ails me and what you’ll do to cure it.”

Kurojar smiled slightly, his gaze and smile impressed and approving. “What ‘ails’ you, beyond that already described, is mainly dermal bruising and tearing of the assaulted areas and a large amount of foreign biomatter in your stomach and uterus. This biomatter does not match up to what’s already been recorded from your previously rescued crewmates so it is something new again,” th’Merrin told her, occasionally flicking his ice-blue eyes up to the diagnostic scanner readout as he spoke. “Can you tell us what happened to you?”

David felt distinct shock as Christine readily answered. While not going into graphic detail she was still remarkably candid and specific, and Turner couldn’t quite wrap his head around her amazing about-face.

No doubt about it, he thought with no little awe and respect, this is one strong gir—woman. I hope she manages to hold onto her new courage and make it stick. And I wonder if her compatriots will be able to deal so well with their experiences?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 01:41:08 pm by Scottish Andy »
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Offline Lieutenant_Q

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #40 on: August 28, 2012, 03:04:33 pm »
Nice.  I like the way you handled the onset of PTSD.  And the rescue party is moving with the logical efficiency that a Vulcan led crew should be moving.  Will we see what happened to the males in the party soon?
"Your mighty GDI forces have been emasculated, and you yourself are a killer of children.  Now of course it's not true.  But the world only believes what the media tells them to believe.  And I tell the media what to believe, its really quite simple." - Kane (Joe Kucan) Command & Conquer Tiberium Dawn (1995)

Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #41 on: August 28, 2012, 03:27:15 pm »
Aside from the overkill of tentacle porn, you are spinning a great story. I liked the last scene. One nit though, I think you could have made an equally strong point with only 1 victim. But please, prove me wrong ;)
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #42 on: August 29, 2012, 09:54:07 am »
Thanks for your comments, guys. They are much appreciated. And yes, you'll soon see what happened to the blokes.

As for only one victim, well... the rescue would be over already, no? Or perhaps you mean have the multiple victims but only graphically describe one?

Personally, I think the emotional impact is stronger with a small group as opposed to one. If only one gets "taken", it's their problem alone, and no one else can possibly imagine what it felt like to have that done to them. But with it happening to a a small group on a small ship with a small crew... remember that this is a serial. ;)
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Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #43 on: August 29, 2012, 03:58:02 pm »
I find I have to agree with Grim. Have as many victims as you please, but one description would have been plenty.

For me, I thought you were going a totally different direction when you wrote that scene. At first, I was just shocked that you were capable of putting forth such a thing. Then, when one victim gets a face-load of squirt, I decided you were NOT being serious, and were intentionally jerking the reader (me) around. Which I loved. Now, however, it has sunk in on me that this is still meant to be taken seriously. Which I no longer can, unless I ignore the whole tentacle porn scene.

Having one female officer dragged away, maybe also showing a male victim being eaten or whatever, and then cutting to the action on the ship WITH the viewer scene would have been enough to convey what you were after, IMO.

Hope you find my 10 cents helpful.

--guv
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"Yeah?"

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Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #44 on: August 30, 2012, 10:48:15 am »
I do Guv. This is the kind of feedback I am looking for.

I was torn on this story. I was nervous about publically posting this as you see it, worried about the reactions and what people would really think, but I decided to go ahead and brave the reactions.

I felt that the subsequent story needed the initial events to truly resonate. That is still to come, so perhaps I'll just post the rest of it in one go and let you all read to the end and come back with your opinions and critiques then, and see if they alter your perceptions of the story as a whole.

Your comment of a single snatch is well taken, as my proposing that in my answer to Grim was a new thought at the time I made it, so perhaps my own perception on how to tell the story and still get the desired effect will change.

Again, thanks for the feedback. Anyone else care to weigh in before I post the rest of the story in total tomorrow?
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

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The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

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Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #45 on: August 30, 2012, 01:09:14 pm »
Glad you find the comments helpful. Didn't want ya to think I was just sniping you or bitching.

--me again
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"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "

Offline Grim Reaper

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #46 on: August 31, 2012, 02:29:45 am »
What he ^ said. And I am really curious of the rest rest assured. And I still hold you in quite some regards, I mean I might not (yet?) see your point for having so many women affected, but even if at the end I wouldn't agree I still will click with a smile on any notification of a new story or update to a story from you.
Snickers@DND: If there is one straight answer in that bent little head of yours, you'd better start spillin' it pretty damn quick, or I'm gonna take a large, blunt object, roughly the size of Kallae AND his hat and shove it lengthwise up a crevice of your being so seldomly cleaned that even the denizens of the nine hells would not touch it with a 10-feet rusty pole

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Eleven
« Reply #47 on: April 06, 2013, 01:16:05 pm »
Hello again all,

I finally made myself re-edit the rest of Quarantine, taking onboard the feedback from earlier. In essence, toning it down and making it less graphic, while still maintaining the story I am attempting to tell.

I'll be posting this as soon as it is UBB'd, so that you have it all in short order.




Chapter Eleven



As the two women disappeared in a haze of glittering blue and white Moiré patterns, Anne-Grete stated, “Would it not be wiser to beam up and beam down beside Surek? Slogging through this nightmare forest for close on a kilometre…”

“Your idea has merit, Commander, but we do not know what we would be transporting into; there could be twenty of these egg-snare plants which could grab us all quicker than we can defend ourselves after release from the transporter effect. At least on foot we can see what is about to snatch us.”

“Then at least have us beamed to the base camp—”

Suddenly, their communicators chirped. Flipping his open, Sotok demanded, “Report.”

“Sir, this is Surek. I have freed myself from the plant which was imprisoning me. I am currently two hundred sixty-seven metres from base camp on heading of zero-eight-one.”

Relief and fresh concern washed through the rescue party on hearing this. Sotok replied, “Petty Officer, I am gratified to learn you are free. Are you uninjured?”

“Sir, I must report multiple second-degree acid burns to my face and hands. The plant was attempting to consume me. I was forced to rip it apart to avoid this fate,” came the matter-of-fact answer which elicited a few chuckles and eye-rolling from the non-Vulcans of the security detail.

“Surek, we are on our way to your position. Have you any knowledge of the location of Lieutenant Lobsang or Petty Officer Na-Foreteii?” Sotok asked.

“I regret that I do not, Captain. Nor are they within range of my perception.”

“Understood. Have you also retrieved your phaser, Petty Officer?”

“Affirmative, Sir.”

“If you have not already done so,” Sotok ordered, “destroy any plant resembling the one that held you, and any half-metre tall egg-shaped plants that you can observe from your current position. Do not attempt to reach us or move from your current location,” Sotok warned. “These plants have demonstrated that prior capture does not render you immune to the predations of others.”

“Understood, Captain.”

“Once you have done this transport to the ship and report to Sickbay for immediate treatment and a full medical examination. If you are not aboard the ship within one minute we will come for you, assuming that you have been recaptured.”

“Acknowledged, Captain. I will have the ship inform you once I have returned aboard.”

“That will not be necessary, Surek. I intend to beam our rescue detail to the ship now and beam back down to your location once you have rendered your immediate vicinity safe. Captain, out.” He replaced his communicator and stated loudly, “All personnel, assume formation Omega-Three and hold position. We are returning to the ship.”

*****

Surek replaced his communicator on his belt and pulled his phaser free. A Human would have winced at the pain from the corrosive acid burns as the abused flesh stripped of skin came into contact with the ragged edges of his uniform, but Surek merely noted it and engaged his biofeedback routines to lessen the pain, and exerted his control to prevent it from interfering with his actions.

I am returning to the ship and my phaser has a full charge. It would be more logical to save time by disintegrating these plants than it would be to save energy by burning them out entirely by application of heat. He performed a quick visual scan around him as he changed his phaser setting. Especially as there are thirty-four plants that could be within striking distance of a full rescue detail beamed to my co-ordinates.

He quickly analysed the respective positions of those thirty-four plants and assigned them all an order of disintegration that cleared the largest area around his position in the quickest time. Surek raised his small Type-I phaser and began his work, unerringly atomising plant after plant.

Waves of pain washed over him with each movement. Contact: fifteen centimetre by three centimetre burn across lower right-side torso with burned-through uniform edge, the Vulcan narrated internally, the better to picture it so that he could better isolate the abused nerve endings and damp down the pain. Contact: forty centimetre by eight centimetre burn from upper right buttock curving around outer right thigh to inside leg above the knee with shredded remains of uniform trousers. Intense flash of pain. Isolate and control.

His assault on the forest plants continued, as did the fresh bursts of pain. With every move aggravating one burn or another from his completely enveloped position within the cage-plant's embrace, Surek realised he needed medical attention.

The random nature of the flashes of pain, both in duration and location, is impairing the performance of my duties. Further, the extreme damage to my uniform impinges on the dignity of my position. I will remedy both situations upon my return to the ship.

The thirty-fourth plant disintegrated, he returned his attention to the plant that had held him for longer than he'd expected it to hold out against him. Its dismembered fronds – if such a word could be used to describe their very tough and flexible nature – lay where he'd dropped them. The ground around him was discoloured by acid burns and a fair amount of his own blood. This blood still dripped from his many wounds, including his hands now stripped of skin over his palms and the undersides of his fingers.

Surek regarded it intensely, exerting a lot of his control to crush the anger that threatened his equilibrium. This plant cannot capture another. I will leave it for study.

So decided, he replaced his phaser – now slick with his blood – on his belt and pulled off his communicator. After switching channels to the ship's Transporter Master Circuit frequency, he stated, “Surek to Falklands. One to beam up, these coordinates.”

“Stand by, Petty Officer,” came C.P.O. Kayibanda’s strained voice. “Locking on to you now… energising.”

Seconds later, after a passage of time that was immeasurable to the transportee, Surek rematerialised behind a forcefield curtain separating him from six security guards covered in soot, grime, and lurid splatters of multicoloured ichor. Surek thought of raising an eyebrow to comment on their dishevelled state but settled on impassivity as they in turn expressed their own surprise and concern at his own less than pristine physical appearance.

“Surek, are you okay?” Security Specialist Bouteflika blurted.

“I am still functional but my performance is impaired. I require medical attention,” the Vulcan replied impassively, ignoring his blood dripping onto the transporter disc.

“Twenty seconds more for decontamination, Surek,” Kayibanda stated by way of an answer.

“Surek, can you get to Sickbay on your own or do you require a stretcher?” David Turner asked from behind the mass of Security personnel.

“I do not require your assistance, Crewman,” he replied, then realising this may be perceived as rude or dismissive, added, “Thank you for your concern.”

Turner, whose face had fallen somewhat, recovered with a snort of grim amusement. “You're welcome.”

Captain Sotok suddenly appeared before him. “You carried out my instructions?” he asked blandly.

Surek gave a brief, precise nod. “The area around my coordinates has been cleared to a radius of twenty metres, Sir.”

Sotok inclined his head. “Adequate,” he praised his fellow Vulcan.

Surek responded with another brief nod and exerted some control to suppress the pride he felt, then more still to suppress the annoyance he felt at having to use control on his pride. I am impaired if I cannot subconsciously deal with such small matters. I must meditate and centre myself once again.

The light and noise show of the decontamination procedure finally ended. “Report to Sickbay and have your injuries attended to,” Sotok ordered immediately.

“Acknowledged.” Surek stepped off the transporter stage and made his way through the crowd of security to the turbolifts.

Behind him, Sotok ordered, “We are beaming down now. Positions.”

The security detail poured onto the stage and Sotok nodded at Chief Kayibanda. “Energise.”

The transporter room doors closed on the rising whine of the dematerialisation process.

*****

The silvery transporter haze faded from Sotok’s vision to reveal a seemingly untouched forest of thriving greenery – with the obvious exception of a roughly dismembered plant surrounded by blackened, corrosively melted grass and liberal amounts of bright green blood. Very carefully he scanned the area with his tricorder but could not detect any readings of elevated metabolisms.

Calls of “Clear!” echoed through the clearing of tall grass, prompting Anne-Grete to state, “It seems Surek disintegrated them instead of burning them down.”

“It would appear so,” Sotok agreed. Flipping out his communicator, he hailed he ship. “Sotok to Transporter Room One. We have all arrived safely and are proceeding with the rescue. Captain, out.” Addressing Ranox, he asked, “Life-sign readings?”

“Nothing yet—wait! Yes, now getting humanoid readings on a general south-easterly heading, but there’s still too much interference to tell what species or exact location.”

“N’Koor?”

“Two hundred and thirty-seven metres on heading one-two-seven to Na-Foreteii’s comm unit,” the Caitian returned concisely.

“Then let us proceed.”

“You heard the Captain! Formation Alpha-Six and move out!”

They managed to get perhaps eighty metres through the field of tall turquoise grass before something new happened.

“Getting some unusual metabolic readings…” Hervé Morin announced, glancing up at his tricorder. “Somewhere bearing zero-zero-three—”

“Captain, look out!!” Strøm-Erichsen yelled and made to shove her C.O. out of harm’s way.

She – and everyone else – was too slow. What had been a metre-high “bush” of lighter green, purple, and red arrayed like the concentric and overlapping petals of a closed rose suddenly exploded into motion and became a three-metre tall nest of even longer limbs that snatched at both Sotok and Maria Ramirez with stunning speed.

The entire detail was ready for it thanks to the Frenchman’s timely warning, but they had to wait until the writhing tentacles had finished dragging their captured crewmates towards it and hoisted them into the air to give them clear shots at the thing without fear of tagging their own people.

The by-now highly experienced security detail’s first rank dropped to one knee and cut the plant’s stalks out from under it; even now they dared not attempt to chop off the ensnaring tentacle tips as they were jerking and whipping the captain and crewperson around too much to allow that kind of precision.

Having been literally cut down to size, the severed tentacles reflexively curled and uncurled as they fell, dropping their captives. The whole detail rushed up to the dismembered plant, where Strøm-Erichsen helped Sotok to his feet and DeYoung did likewise for Maria.

“Are you both all right?” the security chief asked.

“I am unaffected,” her captain replied.

“I’m okay,” echoed Ramirez, though her shaky voice showed that the experience had rattled her.

“So, a new plant to watch out for. You all saw it, so keep an eye out for more of the same! Let’s keep moving!”

The crew moved out again, phasers at the ready and senses extended, alert for the slightest aggressive movement. The entire party was sweating with the tropical forest’s hot and humid environment, smeared with ash and soot from carbonised plants, and spattered with the internal fluids of countless alien plants that had met their demise at the business end of their phasers.

Their adrenaline-spiked slash-and-burn rampage through the forest had brought them to yet another new area with yet another new type of flora. Cautiously, they advanced towards another field of high grass populated with twisted and tangled shrub-like plants, made up of very dark green, wickedly curved, blade-like fronds.

“Morin, Ranox, N’Koor: sensor readings,” Sotok ordered.

“High metabolic rate, but only slightly more so than the grass around them, Captain,” the Frenchman reported.

“Humanoid life-signs on our rough heading, range… approximately a hundred-ten metres,” Ranox stated uncertainly.

“Comm signal strong and steady, range one hundred and twenty-three metres, on this heading,” N’Koor stated authoritatively.

“Straight through this field of odd plants,” Strøm-Erichsen stated quietly. “Care to bet Na-Foreteii is being held by one of them?”

“While not a certain outcome, I place a high degree of probability on this being the case,” Sotok agreed. “However, we are not here to indiscriminately raze the forest, Commander. In self-defence only. Let us proceed.”

“Aye-aye.” If the Security commander was displeased by this decision she did not show it. “Continue in Alpha-Six. Let’s go!”

They started moving again, though still more slowly and cautiously than before. The leading members got to within three metres of the closest two plants, intending to pass between them, when – as expected – they exploded into lightning-fast motion and snared both Thoron and Bouteflika.

Merde, how can they move so fast?” Morin asked – rhetorically for the present, as the rest of the team were involved in chopping up the two plants that were still partially extended in their attempt to grab their humanoid prey.

“They seem to be made of sterner stuff, too!” DeYoung called back over the extended screeee of their phasers. “We’re not slicing them up as easily as the others!”

It took all of the remaining team’s phasers split between the two plants to quickly cut through all the seeking limbs. A slightly acidic smell permeated the air at the extensive spilling of their vital fluids, and the ground smoked slightly where it fell.

Once the ensnared crew had been freed and recovered, Morin noted, “These could have been the plants of which one captured Surek; we all saw what he looked like. These plants may be trying to eat our crewmembers instead of…”

He tailed off, not wanting to finish that thought. No one needed him to finish anyway.

“Captain?” Strøm-Erichsen asked.

Were he Human, Sotok would have sighed. Being Vulcan, he merely stated, “Burn down any of these plants which we will pass within five metres of.”

“Aye, Sir.” She addressed her crew. “You heard the Captain. Keep going!”

The seemingly peaceful meadow of long turquoise grass overshadowed by hundred and twenty metre tall, triple-canopied trees came alive again with the scream of phasers.

*****

“I see him!” Bouteflika yelled to his comrades, who were fanned out in a skirmish line again, searching by eye where instruments had failed them. “Converge on my signal!” Switching focus, he called “Ziaron! Are you okay?! Can you hear me?!”

The Efrosian lab researcher did not respond and Abdelaziz feared the worst.

As the others crashed and burned their way through the forest towards him, Bouteflika spied another of the same shrubs that held Na-Foreteii and he burned it down with an extended phaser blast. Even as he did, Hervé, Susan, Thoron and Jerry burst through the foliage to arrive beside him.

Abdelaziz told them, “He’s not answering, I think he’s unconscious, and I think it’s because this plant is almost done crushing him. We have to get him out of there but it’s so tightly packed around him that using our phasers to cut him out may not be possible.”

The others could now see this for themselves, and within a few more seconds the whole rescue party arrived to find Jerry, Thoron, and Abdelaziz pulling with all their might to peel back one of the steel-like “fronds” so that Susan could phaser it off at the base.

Sotok took it all in instantly and snapped out orders. “Commander, Morin, Ramirez, DeYoung, do similarly for this frond here. All others, assist me.”

Everyone set to with a will, spurred on Kiehl’s cry of victory as she finally sheared off her frond. Raising her tricorder as the three men continued to heave at the frond to unravel it from their unresponsive shipmate, Susan finally got clear readings of Na-Foreteii’s health.

“Captain, we need to get him to Sickbay immediately!” she yelled urgently. “I’m reading multiple broken bones and fractures, several second-degree corrosive burns, and extensive internal haemorrhaging! He’s unconscious and his life signs are weak and failing!”

His voice showing no apparent strain, Sotok ripped enough of the frond away from Na-Foreteii to offer a clear shot – which DeYoung immediately used to phaser through its base – and replied conversationally, “Chief Kiehl, you will accompany Mr. Na-Foreteii back to the ship to educate the medical staff.”

Seconds later the third frond had been unwrapped from the critically injured Efrosian. Utilising the utmost care, Sotok and Thoron extracted the lab researcher from the remains of the plant and laid him gently on his side on the forest floor, trying to move as few of his broken and constricted limbs as possible.

Falklands, two to beam up immediately, medical emergency!” Kiehl called urgently into her communicator. Seconds later they disappeared in a blue sparkle even as the remains of the plant disintegrated in a blaze of red.

Not even pausing for a moment, Sotok stated, “Chief N’Koor, bearing and range to Lieutenant Lobsang’s communicator.”

The Caitian security officer raised his tricorder and performed a quick sweep. “Heading two-zero-seven, range one-nine-three.”

“Move out!” Anne-Grete yelled.

*****

“Sickbay, Transporter Room Two: Medical Emergency declared! Incoming critical injury, life signs very weak!”

The rising whine in the background let Louisa know that transport was still in progress, but the alarm in P.O. Hussayn's voice let her know this was going to be bad.

“Kemal! Get in here and help Ensign Okeild to Recovery!” she shouted into her comm unit even as she deftly removed the suction tubes from the young Daenaii’s person and started shutting down the surgical bridge. She helped the still-unresponsive young woman upright on the O.R. table and wrapped a Sickbay gown around her as Kemal hurried in.

“Decontamination complete, E.T.A. in ten seconds. It's Na-Foreteii and it's real bad!” the transporter operator updated them all over the Sickbay Master Circuit.

“All staff, be ready to join me in the O.R., I may need everyone for this!” Louisa called out as she ran into I.C.U.

Turner had just run in with the anti-grav stretcher and his face told it all. Chief Kiehl was urgently still relaying info to him but broke off and addressed Garland-Els, but before she could say a word Turner broke in.

“He's going into systemic organ failure!”

“O.R., now! Everyone!” Louisa barked into her wrist-comm.

“B.P.'s so low I'm barely getting a reading!” Turner shouted.

“Cordrazine, four cc's, now!” Garland-Els ordered as they pushed the gurney into the O.R. The ever-efficient Kemal Yaviz slapped it into her hand and she instantly pressured it in.

“He's responding!” Turner yelled, eyes bonded to his medical tricorder. “Vital processes strengthening slightly!”

Garland-Els grabbed the tricorder and quickly assimilated the horror story it told. She managed not to exclaim but she did pale.

“Ignore the limbs, we need to open him up now! Onto the table on three – one, two, three!

Her own heart lurched with the damage she was doing just to get Ziaron into a position she could start her battle to save him but she rammed her feelings aside to focus on doing exactly that.

Kurojar and Farber joined her all ready to go. “Activating sterile field,” Farber stated.

“Fifteen laser,” Louisa demanded. It was slapped into her outstretched hand. She flipped it on and quickly opened the Efrosian up from thorax to sternum, expertly cleaving his breastbone as she did.

“Spread him wide!”

Kurojar with quick dexterity tapped in commands to the surgical bridge, and exactingly precise tractor/pressor beams hinged open Ziaron's ribcage and peeled back the flaps of skin all the way down Garland-Els' incision with speedy care.

They all got their first look at the extent of the problem.

The inside of Ziaron Na-Foreteii's torso was awash in his blood.

“Oh… merciful Allah,” Kemal uttered.

“I cannot see anything in this soup. Sensor readings!” Garland-Els snapped. “Get the recirc unit online and get some suction in here! We need to get his blood back in his veins!”

Kurojar added, “Get Na-Foreteii's own blood stocks in here and prep the synthetic plasma as well. We may need it all.”

Kemal was already pulling the blood purifier and recirculation unit over before the C.M.O. had stopped speaking. Baweja took off at the Andorian doctor's order, tossing off an “On my way!” over his shoulder.

Kemal swung the blood recirculator in beside the surgical bridge, punching in its activation commands and programming it for Efrosian physiology. He then attempted to find a suitable vein in Na-Foreteii's burned and compound-fractured right arm after handing over the suction tube attachment to Doctor Kurojar.

“Jar, get that tube in around his heart first, then liver and spleen,” Louisa ordered, her gloved hands already stained up to the elbows in bronze-based Efrosian blood.

“Doctors, we have a ruptured spleen, punctured left and right lungs, crushed left kidney, punctured upper left and lower right ventricles, ignoring all dermal, subdermal, and bone injuries,” Farber stated worriedly, his nasal New York accent noticeably reduced.

“We don’t get everything mentioned under control,” Louisa muttered tightly while easing a broken rib out of Ziaron’s left lung and using a protoplaser to seal the hole, “the rest won’t matter.”

Kemal had – finally – found an undamaged vein and took over suction from Kurojar, freeing the Andorian to direct his own efforts to cleaning off the ragged skin of the ruptured spleen before attempting to close the tears there.

Baweja returned with all the blood stocks requested and started attaching one to the recirc unit, which was just starting to reintroduce filtered, clean blood back into Ziaron’s arm.

“Ashok! Get to the clone banks and pull Ziaron’s spleen!” Kurojar ordered sharply.

“Bring his left kidney also!” Garland-Els yelled suddenly. As Baweja left at the rush, she elaborated, “We may need that replacement by the time we get to it.”

“Tachycardia!” Kemal called, watching Na-Foreteii’s heart start revving up, immediately start misfiring, then falling off completely. “He’s flat-lining!”

“Charging to one hundred, clear!” Garland-Els immediately yelled. The others cleared their physical contact and Louisa zapped his heart.

“Nothing!” The monitors remained stubbornly flat.

“Charging to one-fifty! Clear!”

Zzzzaaap!

One hundred and fifty millijoules of electrical energy were beamed onto Na-Foreteii’s punctured and unmoving heart directly by a laser from the surgical bridge.

Beep! … … … Beep! … … … … … …

All eyes swung to the biobed readouts as Ziaron’s sorely wounded heart tried once, twice— then failed again.

“Charging to two hundred! …Clear!”

Zzzzaaap!

Beep! … Beep! … Beep! … Beep!

“We got him back—” Farber breathed a sigh of relief along with everyone else except—

“Get back in there!” Garlands-Els crashed in as Na-Foreteii’s heart struggled back to life.

“Kidney failure! He’s going into septic shock!” Kemal called out before the Andorian doctor could even make a move.

“Damnit! Get Baweja in here now!” Louisa snarled, recognising the increasing slide of organ failures. We’ve still got a chance of stopping this but it’s going to be close!

*****

An increasingly weary landing party, running on determination and adrenaline (and equivalents), fought their way through yet another field of tiny-shrub-to-metres-high-snarl-of-tentacles-bushes to find Assistant Security Chief Nyima Lobsang trapped similarly to Petty Officer Na-Foreteii.

“Lieutenant Lobsang, if you can hear me, hold on a few minutes longer and we’ll have you in Sickbay!” Commander Strøm-Erichsen called out as they raced up to him.

She thought she heard a weak response from him but couldn’t be sure over the scream of multiple phasers burning down several more of the carnivorous plants, clearing a safe zone around their imprisoned crewmate.

“Repeat our earlier procedure!” Sotok called. The twelve-strong landing party split into the same three groups as before and started physically pulling the plant apart, heedless of the corrosive skin burns they were getting. Within a minute, Nyima was free.

The security officer coughed weakly but could not unbend. “I think my left arm and leg are broken and I felt pops on the left side of my ribcage,” he gasped out as once again the two Vulcans gently lifted him out of the plant’s remnants and lowered him to the forest floor.

“Tricorder confirms this, Captain,” Ranox spoke up. “Three cracked ribs, broken tibia, femur, upper and lower arm bones, crushed collar bone—”

“Beam up immediately with him, Ranox,” Sotok interrupted him. “We have one final crewmember to rescue.”

“Aye Captain,” the stout Tellarite acknowledged, flipping out his communicator.

Before he and his charge had even begun to dematerialise, the last of the rescue party had disappeared into the dense foliage at Chief N’Koor’s direction, again to the accompaniment of heavy phaser fire.

*****

“Transporter Room Two to Sickbay, another injury case coming up,” Petty Officer Hussayn stated from the transporter room over the rising whine of his unit. “Same injuries as Mr. Surek.”

In the O.R., Louisa snapped out, “Turner, get over there now!”

“Yes Doctor,” the med tech acknowledged and, stripping out of his O.R. gear and gloves and grabbing an anti-grav gurney, sped out of Sickbay.

Good God above, Ziaron, hold on! Don’t give up! David sent to the critically injured Efrosian even as the turbolift whisked him to the transporter rooms. He got there just as the decon process completed and the forcefield switched off.

Ranox called out to him as soon as he rushed over. “Same plant as had Na-Foreteii, but it was weaker or it caught him later. Second-degree corrosive burns, broken left side limbs – all the long bones – broken collarbone, and three cracked ribs,” the Tellarite told him as they both lifted Lobsang onto the lowered anti-grav gurney, “Standard anti-pain and shock meds and doses.”

“Thanks, P.O. I can take him from here if you want to get back down there.”

“Good man,” Ranox growled, “I do. Take care of my officer.”

Turner nodded and started towards the turbolift as Ranox stepped back onto the platform. The turbolift doors closed on the rising whine of the transporter.

In the turbolift, Lobsang asked, “How is everyone else?”

Turner, so used to unresponsive passengers, started. “Oh! Sorry, Lieutenant. I didn’t realise you were… with us.”

Nyima’s originally pained expression vanished and his eyes narrowed. “How are the others, Turner?” he asked again, his usual cheerful tone conspicuously replaced by worry and anger.

“Everyone’s alive so far. We’ve gotten all the botanical party except Lieutenant Cha’Doth. But Na-Foreteii… he’s in surgery right now and we’ve already almost lost him twice. He’s very badly hurt. Everyone else is working on him right now; I was pulled to come get you,” the obviously worried med tech told him.

Lobsang forewent the usual, obvious, and obviously unanswerable “Will he make it?” and instead said, “I can wait. Just immobilise my left side and give me the occasional squirt of happy juice.”

David reacted. “Lieutenant—”

“I mean it. Sounds like no one can be spared to treat me anyway. So make sure they stay focussed on Na-Foreteii and aren’t distracted by me.”

Lobsang also did not say something stupid like “That’s an order, Specialist,” as they both knew full well that medical authority superseded everything else shipboard.

Plus, David felt that this is exactly what would happen anyway. They were in a triage situation and Nyima’s injuries, severe as they were, were not life-threatening.

“I’ll get you set up on a biobed, Lieutenant.”

“Good man.”
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The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Twelve
« Reply #48 on: April 06, 2013, 01:44:15 pm »
Onwards!




Chapter Twelve



Cha’Doth’s consciousness edged forwards, alerted by the new sounds she could hear. Faint at first, barely discernable over the racket of the forest, the sounds gained in volume and clarity until they became unmistakable.

Phaser fire!

The second officer returned to full awareness at the rush only to find herself in the clutches of a second tubular plant, the brown-rust-coloured one she’d managed to first dodge. Held in a similar manner to the first time, she was unable to call for help and had to wait, impotent, but with increasing hope as what was undoubtedly a rescue party approached.

She wanted to show she was fighting it as they crashed through the final bank of foliage separating them visually, but doing so would merely have the plant strangle her to the point of unconsciousness again and she didn’t want to miss the moment of her rescue the same way she’d obviously missed the first plant finishing with her and the second one grabbing her.

Emotionally numbed to her current predicament, she patiently waited and was rewarded by a sharp call of “I see her!” The voice she recognised as that of a security specialist, Jerry Mickiewicz, and he was somewhere off to her right. “Hold on, Lieutenant! We’ll have you away from that thing in seconds!” he shouted to her from much closer.

Cha’Doth could only wait. She couldn’t convey any information to him and in truth she did not know herself what would happen if someone cut through or disintegrated a reed that was holding her. She wanted to tell Jerry to sever the restraints first and all of them simultaneously, as one possible reaction of the plant to being attacked could be that it would crush whatever was in its coils.

More crashing during these thoughts had presumably brought more rescuers, but she couldn’t see them.

“Damnit, we have to get her out of that thing, but it could kill her if we do it wrong,” came the voice of Falklands’ security commander.

“Since we are all here now, Commander, severing each appendage simultaneously is the safest option.”

Hearing her captain’s emotionless words and uninflected tone conversely brought tears of gratitude to her eyes. He came! My captain came and is personally leading our rescue effort from this nightmare!

She heard various sounds of movement as at least ten people positioned themselves around her. She flinched at the scream of phasers before she’d expected them.

“There’s more of them around the water’s edge!” Specialist Thoron warned in a throaty whisper. Several more phasers sounded off as the party cleared a safe-zone around her.

“Stand ready, everyone, and… fire!” Strøm-Erichsen ordered.

Multiple beams lanced out again and though Cha’Doth could not see them directly, she could feel their heat—

—and then she was falling, the coils around her wrists, ankles, waist and neck already loosening—

—and then someone caught her, preventing her from impacting the unyielding rock surrounding the pool, and held her like she weighed no more than a small child.

Captain Sotok, she thought with immense gratitude, looking up at his noble features even as he reached around to pull the vivisected plant’s appendages from her person. The handsome Vulcan looked down at her, his face as emotionless as ever, but still somehow managing to convey an air of concern for her.

“Lieutenant, you are safe now,” he told her in his rich baritone.

“Thank you, Captain,” she sighed. With it went a little of the tension that still had her wound up tight, and which probably wouldn’t leave until she was safely off this nightmare of a planet.

He nodded at her calmly and asked, “Are you able to stand?”

Cha’Doth realised with her first words and Sotok’s question that her awareness of her own body was only just returning. She’d completely disassociated from the sensations her body had had forced upon it, but upon her release she realised she hurt all over and her legs were as weak as a newborn’s.

She shook her head mutely while inwardly cataloguing her body’s woes.

“Commander, we are returning to the ship. Call for transport,” Sotok told the security chief.

“The others?” Cha’Doth asked numbly, as Anne-Grete flipped out her communicator and spoke quickly into it.

“They have all been rescued, though several are badly injured and extremely traumatised. However, we recovered all of you alive and Sickbay awaits you even now,” Sotok told her.

“Everybody’s safe,” she repeated softly, relieved, and felt herself settle more securely into her captain’s powerful arms.


Sotok’s keen hearing picked out Anne-Grete’s conversation with Ensign Hawke even over the copious sounds of the forest and was aware of the situation before she could relay it.

“Commander! Emergency call from Specialist Greene! He requires a heavily armed and armoured Security detail and medical team to be beamed to his location!”

Sotok did not allow the flare of rage that burned inside him to reach his face or colour his tone. Not taking his reassuring gaze from his second officer’s eyes, he called to his security chief.

“Commander! We are finished on the surface. Have Transporter Room One beam up Squad Two immediately. Have Transporter Room Two prepare to relay Squad One to Mr. Greene’s position.”

Anne-Grete nodded and spoke in clipped, efficient phrases into the communicator, approaching her captain so he could converse directly with his ship.

“Orders relayed, Captain,” Hawke reported a moment later but continued, “Captain, Specialist Greene is still deep underground. He is at the last comm beacon they planted before the signal degraded into unintelligibility. He says speed is of the essence and wants the team beamed down to a small cavern beside him rather than have them come through the tunnels for hours.”

Sotok quickly reconsidered his orders. “Very well. Beam up all personnel from the planet’s surface in ten seconds.”

“Aye, Captain!”

Sotok addressed his landing party in a loud voice. “All personnel, we are returning to the ship. Hold your position and expect transport in seven seconds.” Still carrying his traumatised second officer secure in his arms, he waited for his ship to reclaim him.


Thirty seconds later he was on the bridge of the Falklands with Security Chief Strøm-Erichsen.

“Specialist Greene, this is the Captain. We are outfitting your requested detail as I speak. It will be difficult to get them to your position, but we will get them as close to you as possible. Report your status.”

Greene’s voice came back laced with static but understandable for all that. “Captain, I do not know what happened to Commander Lathena, Lieutenant Kim, or Ensign Na Tchuto. They were exploring a facility we discovered in a huge cavern down here and I was left as rear-guard. All I know is that I heard and saw what was most likely a stun grenade or something like it, and when I tried to raise them they did not answer. They also did not show on a tricorder scan where they had before. There is a building down there shielded from scans, but they could not find an entryway into it and at last report they’d said they were going to activate the facility’s computers.” Greene paused a moment, then added, “Sir, they may be all right and just exploring that building. They may have set off a booby trap and nothing else and have already recovered. But Eddie was telling me about the trouble on the surface and they could be in serious danger. I just… don’t know! And I… I didn’t go and find out either. Please, Captain, we must get back down there! It took me almost thirty minutes just to get back here at triple-time!”

Sotok heard the young security man’s desperate and distraught tone and decided remedial action was necessary before the Human’s efficiency became seriously impaired by worry and self-recrimination. He stated, “Specialist, you chose the right option. We are now aware there is a serious problem and are effecting a return fully prepared. The security detail will arrive within ten minutes. Hold your position until we contact you again for beam down.”

“Understood, Captain,” Greene replied, sounding less impaired, “but please hurry!”

“Noted. Captain out.” Turning to the being manning the science console, he ordered, “Mr. de Vreij, display their ‘sonar map’ of the tunnel system on your screens. Ms. Strøm-Erichsen, Mr. Niyoyankana, join me there.”

The Falklands’ chief engineer had just stepped off the turbolift as Sotok said that and the Burundian looked at him in surprise but moved to the science station without a word.

“Captain, the signal that led our team down there has been weakening in irregular jumps for the past fifteen minutes,” Joop stated quickly into the first pause that presented itself in the captain’s actions. “It cut off completely just before you arrived on the bridge.”

“Noted. Bridge to Sickbay,” he stated next.

Joop blinked in surprise at this piece of data being immediately dismissed from further discussion, but then realised that other issues had priority right now. He further realised that this was fine with him.

Several seconds passed before a response came back. “Sickbay O.R., Med Tech Turner here.”

Raising an eyebrow at the O.R. responding, Sotok nonetheless outlined his needs. “Mr. Turner, this is the captain. Inform Doctor Garland-Els I require a medical team to accompany a security team on a rescue mission deep underground to proceed further underground where there maybe crewmembers in need of medical attention.”

“Captain, this is Garland-Els,” the C.M.O. called, her voice echoing as if from across the room. “All my staff are involved in emergency surgery at this moment and for the foreseeable future trying to stabilise P.O. Na-Foreteii. I cannot spare anyone for an extended mission.”

“Understood. Captain out.”

A few looks were exchanged at his easy acceptance of the C.M.O.’s words but the captain was already considering his alternatives. “Mr. Niyoyankana, we need to beam down a fully equipped security detail to this location, or as close to it as possible. Tell me how it will be done.”

Germain stared at the screens of data on location and environmental make-up in silence for almost a minute as he ran through the possibilities. Sotok and Strøm-Erichsen maintained their peace, but de Vreij fidgeted nervously.

Finally, the Burundian spoke. “This dense kelbonite makes it impossible to scan the area for a safe beam in. It would be done blind. We are also beaming through nearly a kilometre of solid rock, and kelbonite-veined rock at that. If we shut down all non-essential systems we should be able to beam down… four people at a time. Those are the mechanics of the situation. But to actually get down there…” Niyoyankana lapsed into silence for almost another full minute. “If Greene links his phaser and tricorder power packs to his communicator, activates its emergency beacon, and boosts it further by altering the tricorder circuits, the signal should be strong enough for us to lock onto and beam down a transporter waveguide with enough electroplasma to power it for a few cycles. Then we can beam down our personnel with minimal risk.”

“Acceptable,” Sotok nodded. “Mr. Greene did imply it would take approximately thirty minutes to return to the cavern. Since medical personnel are unavailable medical aid will have to be supplied by Security’s field medics. Also, even under optimal circumstances it will require over one hour for any injured crew to return to the beam-out point. This is unacceptable. We need to have an engineering team set up a portable transporter pad within the cavern itself. Please arrange this.”

“I’ll have the waveguides ready to transport in five, Captain. I’ll also talk Specialist Greene through the necessary modifications, and pick three of my people to accompany the security detail to set up transporter relay buffers down into the cavern and another portable transporter pad,” Germain asserted.

“Captain, my people will be on the pads ready to go in five minutes,” the security chief stated crisply.

“Proceed with alacrity,” Sotok stated. “This is a rescue mission.”

His tall, blonde, Norwegian security chief nodded and quickly strode up to the turbolift and disappeared off to her own domain.

“Mr. Hawke, contact Mr. Greene,” Sotok ordered.

“Aye Captain,” Hawke responded even as the Burundian relayed his instructions to the engineering team to release the waveguides from storage and prep them. “I have Specialist Greene, Captain.”

“Then let us begin.”

*****

Awareness returned slowly to Lathena; the position she awoke in just added to her disorientation. Awaking as if from a deep sleep, the Andorian zhen became aware of herself, then her surroundings, then finally her body.

The room she was in was all hard edges and stark colours – or shining chrome and polished metal. She had a sense of a large room around her, though she could only see perhaps half of it in front of her. What she could see was mainly blocked by a large flat wall of highly reflective silver metal, allowing her to see herself quite clearly, as well as the extent of the room behind her. The reflection confirmed her earlier, sleepier sense impression. Off to the left was more empty floor space, but the wall before her cut away from her at a 90° angle, leaving her unable to see what adorned that particular surface. However an angled console ran from her edge of the wall and she could see it was control surfaces for some kind of computer equipment.

It was, possibly, the control console for the entire facility they’d discovered.

Awareness now rushing back in, forcing out the wooziness in her head, she realised that she was now held in a set of polished metal clamps fitting snugly against her lower shins just above her ankles, and her forearms just above her wrists. These held her in a partially seated position, or more like a half-squat. All this she could see and feel from her own senses, and the polished metal surface perhaps two-thirds of a metre in front of her confirmed all this quite handily.

Lathena twisted her head to the right and was confronted by a blank wall two metres away reaching into the empty space behind her. Turning to her left revealed two very odd contraptions spaced out against the far wall. The one in the far corner behind her looked like a stainless steel examination table tilted almost fully vertical. The one in the far corner in front of her seemed to be some kind of glass tank… a tall, vertical cylinder large enough for a humanoid to be held in.

Filing that away for the moment, she extended her senses and tried to find the inhabitants of this place. She could detect no other biological life-form in the vicinity and the whole facility was quiet and still, with the exception of soft bleeps and chirps from the computer console beside her. She could also tell from the lack of their mass that her phaser, communicator, and tricorder were no longer with her. The reflection confirmed this as well as showing it she was still in full uniform; insignia, buckles, and all.

Lathena’s first real thought since returning to the land of the wakeful was to get angry. Understandable, but stow it, she commanded herself. She was the first officer of a Federation starship and she had a duty. Carefully, she tested the metal restraints but her wiry Andorian strength could make no impression on them. She felt not one millimetre of give. She twisted around in place to take in the room behind her; the bright omnidirectional light and vivid pink and black décor of the room reflected in the mirror- wall was beginning to hurt her eyes. She took in the wide, transparent-panelled doorway behind her and the nightmare of bright pink and black… extrusions was the best word that came to her mind through in the room beyond.

But they’re not really extrusions, are they? Huge spatters of solidified pink goop. Latex polymers, maybe? she hypothesised from their apparent visual properties.

The computer chattered beside her. She turned back to assess it but could only make out indicator lights blinking on and off. What they indicated, she had no clue.

Okay, I’ve played mute for long enough, and been awake long enough for someone to come if someone was going to, she decided. Clearing her throat to do away with false starts she announced in a strong, clear voice, “I am Lieutenant Commander Lathena of the Federation starship Falklands. My party and I came on a mission of peaceful exploration and discovery. We mean you no harm.” She managed to say this last in an even tone, but it cost her. “I request that you release me and let my party rejoin me, and we can begin a dialogue.”

Her firm voice aired quite well in the high-ceilinged room, with no odd echoes or aural flattening, but it elicited no response – within range of her perception – from any being. After several seconds of lengthening silence, she was suddenly hoisted up off the floor in a smooth, noiseless motion. The vertical tracks she’d subconsciously noted earlier on the mirror wall made sense now, and looking more closely she could see finely-machined seams of various panels across the height and breadth of the wall. She was unhurriedly raised to about two metres off the floor and one of the metal panels now level with her chest recessed and slid up, allowing a meal-tray sized dome to slot outward and lock into place. It was lit from within its clear dome by a soft red light which began to play over her, radiating in a 360° cone.

Some kind of sensor, Lathena deduced from the scanty clues. Perhaps there is no one here after all and an automated security system was left on standby. Now it’s finding out about us the only way it can – capture and examination. She felt no small amount of chagrin about pressing forward with her attempted computer access over her security man’s concerns. Time enough for recriminations later. I can only hope Joao and Grace are doing better than I am, and that Michael got away cleanly.

With nothing else to do except wait and hope for release, rescue, or an opportunity presenting itself for her to escape, Lathena tried communicating again. “I say again, to any intelligence in or operating this facility, I am an officer on an interstellar space vessel and I want to begin communicating with you. There is no need to hold me captive and perform scans! I will talk freely with you on a wide range of topics on a basis of mutual exchange of knowledge. Please release me and we can discuss this.” She paused, then added. “No form of payment is required.”

Again, silence was the loud reply. Lathena started to get frustrated at her inability to do anything, but harshly quashed the feeling.

The scan – if that’s what it was, as it could just have been the facility’s attempt at soothing music – ran on for several minutes before her sensitive antennae picked up approaching vibrations, followed by the tingling sensation of a bioelectric field and a magnetic field. Her ears then picked up an approaching hum. Twisting her head to catch a glimpse if they passed by the open doorway, she called out, “Hello! I require your attention and presence! If you can hear me, please respond!”

Still no answer came, but entities were getting closer. Less than thirty seconds later she was finally rewarded for her persistence as what could only be described as an externally primitive design of robot or automaton hove into view and entered the room she was restrained in. It moved almost silently on anti-gravitic or more likely magnetic field propulsion. What was far more noteworthy was the figure it carried in its blocky, polished chrome arms.

“Grace!” Lathena shouted out in high concern, for the young officer was apparently unconscious, head lolling and arms hanging limply where the robot’s limbs failed to brace or support her form.  “Lieutenant Kim!” the senior officer called out louder and more forcefully this time. “Are you all right? Can you answer me?”

Lathena had not expected a response but was still disappointed when none came. The Human looked completely lifeless and only the robot’s smooth glide and rock-steady hold allowed Lathena to see Grace’s chest slowly rise and fall. That, her bioelectric field, and her otherwise unmarked form allowed Lathena to again control her own growing anger. Besides, there doesn’t seem to be any being here to get angry at! she thought – angrily. Anger gave strength, though, and determination. Lathena watched as the blocky robot delivered Grace to the examination table and began manoeuvring her into it. Extra appendages came out of flush-seamed panels on the boxy, basically humanoid-shaped but rectangular-sided body to support the insensate Human as her legs were secured into the lower brackets.

“Computer, respond!” she barked out.

Nothing.

“Machine! Halt current task!”

It ignored her.

“Automaton!”

“Robot!”

“Servitor!”

Kuuve!

“Slave!”

“Thing!”

Lathena ran through a list of possible labels for such a device in all the languages she knew, but it still paid her no notice all the while locking Grace firmly into the examination table with ankle, wrist, and waist restraints. Her head was locked into another frame which was adjusted by the blocky robot to conform to her head’s contours; specifically, her head was properly supported so as not to injure her neck and her eyes lined up with what were apparently viewing lenses. There was no physical contact that Lathena could see, so it was very probable the machinery would project images directly into her eyes through those twin lenses.

Something else will have to be in place for that to be effective, Lathena deduced. Otherwise there is nothing to stop Grace from merely closing her eyes and blocking out whatever she’s going to be forced to see.

Once Grace was fully locked in place, the robot merely retreated into the far corner facing the computer console and apparently went into standby mode. It gently settled to the floor, its “extra” appendages retracted, and the whole thing went silent and completely still. Lathena could no longer detect its electromagnetic field nor the faint vibrations its machinery had made. The “scanner” dedicated to looking her over, however, whirred incessantly as its “sensor beams” played over her.

Lathena felt her frustration and anger climb again. She was completely helpless, at the mercy and whim of whatever limited, uncomprehending, or uncaring intelligence was running this place. She didn’t even know the fate of the rest of her landing party. She could only hope that Greene had gotten away from whatever had snared them, and had either already informed the ship and had a rescue party dispatched or was right now on his way to do exactly that. She had no idea how long she had been out for. If she’d woken naturally from the assault it could be less than an hour since then, but Grace’s still-insensate form argued against that. She was obviously heavily sedated – or far more susceptible to whatever was used to render them unconscious. If it was the former, it could have been many hours. The absence of a rescue party meant nothing. It was either such a short time later that the ship hadn’t been informed yet, or the rescue party was mere minutes away from completing their three hour return journey from the surface. She was completely without referents or useful data.

A third option – that a rescue party had already tried and failed to free them – was one that flitted against her consciousness and was instantly banished.

The examination table’s head apparatus hummed to life, drawing her from her ruminations. Grace still seemed unresponsive but a thin beam of soft pink light, collimated like a laser, was directed at her forehead. Lathena reasoned that it could be a neural component to the lenses’ projection system, or possibly a scanner of a similar nature to the one before her.

The stylus-thin beam had been on for perhaps a minute before the next thing happened, just as Lathena had feared. Her anger and frustration boiled over and she let it power her voice.

“All right, this has gone far enough!” she yelled in a tightly controlled voice that clearly expressed her mounting fury. “You are assaulting a representative of a sovereign interstellar nation, and unless you want serious diplomatic and criminal repercussions, you’d better release my officer IMMEDIATELY!!

Her strong, furious voice rang clearly through the complex, but she was paid no more heed now than at any other point since regaining consciousness.

“DO. YOU. HEAR. ME?!” she screamed in a rage so tightly controlled that her whole body practically vibrated with its power. “Release us now and this can be forgiven! Proceed any further and there will be CONSEQUENCES!!”

No one answered.

Finally completely enraged, Lathena tore at her bonds with the strength of unbridled fury, first thrashing from side to side then focussing her whole body’s effort into tearing free from one of the metal arm clamps.

It was all utterly ineffectual, but Lathena was too blinded by rage to accept this or succumb to the beginnings of despair. “You will cease these offensive actions against our persons!” the Andorian roared, still jerking her arms to try and free them. “We will not tolerate these abuses!”

Still no reaction from anyone or anything, and the only sound or motion came from room she was in.

Lathena could have wept with rage.
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Thirteen
« Reply #49 on: April 06, 2013, 02:34:40 pm »
CONTENT WARNING!Language and... stuff.
You have been warned!




Chapter Thirteen



After Sotok had gently set her down on Med Tech Turner’s gurney in Transporter Room One and returned to the bridge, Cha’Doth was whisked away to Sickbay. She was wobbly on her feet and still unable to talk clearly and without causing herself pain, and she was glad she was lying on the gurney as what Turner was telling her was making her weak and sick with rage and horror.

Having been ordered by the captain to fill in the second officer on the current status of her landing party members, David had related similar tales of capture-and-rape and capture-and-aborted-digestion for all her charges. Not one had escaped an encounter, though fortunately no one had died.

Yet, she thought, furious, waiting in the diagnostic scanner room as Turner ran the unit to catalogue her body’s abuses. We still don’t know if Na-Foreteii will survive the surgery he needs to live. And everyone who was raped is traumatised into unresponsiveness – with Christine as the sole exception. As usual.

That thought at least managed to distantly amuse her for a moment, but it was soon smothered at the catalogue of disasters which had befallen her landing party rearing up afresh in her mind.

And we still don’t know what has happened to the X.O. and her companions. I don’t rate the chances highly that they have not suffered more of the same.

David Turner gained her attention before speaking. “Lieutenant, I’ve built up a solid picture of what has happened to you for the doctors to treat you. We’ll go through to the examination room now and make you comfortable there. Can you make it on your own or do you want back on the stretcher?”

With feeling returning to her injured parts and repeated working of overloaded muscles, Cha’Doth felt able to speak again. “I can walk.”

“Okay, Ma’am. If you’ll come with me?” the Englishman requested respectfully.

She sat up and swung her legs around – together – and lowered her feet to the floor. Carefully standing up she made her way unaided to the doorway. She felt her bruised bones protest as her blood pressure rose with the activity. She winced, but was grateful for Turner keeping his distance. Getting through to the examination room she hoisted herself onto the bed there and gratefully relaxed.

David bustled around, making sure she was properly comfortable but going no further. Giving her a professional nod, he left the Exam room to return to the O.R. The exam room door hissing closed cut off the sounds of frantically beeping medical equipment being drowned out by urgent shouts and orders.

Ziaron, she knew. You can survive, Na-Foreteii. Believe it.

Brooding over what had happened to her landing party, it was several minutes later before Cha’Doth realised she’d been left with nothing to do but stare at the walls. The exam room table did not have a library reader like those in I.C.U. There was no video she could watch or hardcopy or books to read.

The minutes began crawling past until the passing seconds themselves expanded into seeming minutes.

It was only then that she fully realised her own situation. Here I am in the sickbay of my own ship, I’m hurt and filled with alien fluids and no one is getting them out of me!

Even without moving, she could feel the weight of the alien biomatter pushing on her internal walls, and even still taste it in her mouth.

Can no one give me the time to even get me some mouthwash?! She looked around her and found herself totally alone in the small exam room. The others she'd glimpsed were in the I.C.U. and it seemed all medical personnel were in the O.R. She felt utterly cut off.

Shouldn't there be someone at least looking after all the other patients here? Why do they need everyone in there?

She shifted uncomfortably and felt the alien fluids shift with her.

This is unacceptable! I want this crap out of me!

Testing her throat out, she tried to shout, “Doctor Garland!” but all that came out was a raspy, hoarse call at normal volume. She tried again.

“Doctor Jar!”

Again her voice sounded as if it barely made it to the door, never mind getting through it.

No no no. This isn't happening, she flatly denied it, failing to recognise the beginnings of hysteria. The captain rescued me. It should be over now. It should be OVER! she demanded of the empty room. I should not be alone on my own ship with no one taking this crud out of me!!

They'd taken her communicator – or rather, hadn't returned the one she'd been forced to drop – so she couldn't signal anyone from the biobed.

No. I want this out of me now!

She got up, slowly but as fast as she could, and braving the pain in her limbs and her cracked ribs, made her way out of the exam room and towards the O.R. door.

It didn't open.

“Damnit! Open up you snorfax! I want this out of me RIGHT NOW!” she yelled, enduring the raw pain in her throat, and thumped on the door, then again and again and—

The door opened to show a surprised Barry Farber.

“Lieuten—”

“Farber get this crap out of me now! I don't want it in me not for one second longer, you hear me? Not one SECOND!”

Barry's eyes widened momentarily before he gently took her by the arm and guided her back to the bed. “Okay Lieutenant. I'll take care of it. Get back on the bed and I'll get a portable suction kit out and warmed up for the doctor—“

“Not waiting for that! You do it!” the traumatised Ur'uth'uul demanded. “And get me some damned mouthwash and some water, Kolkar-damn it!”

Barry flung a glance over his shoulder and got a nod from Garland-Els. “Do what you can for her, Nurse Farber. We'll call you back if something happens that we need you for,” she confirmed, already looking back down at Ziaron. “You know what to do.”

“Yes Doctor!” he called back and finally moved out of the door's sensing range, allowing it to close. Returning his attention to his impatient patient, he told her, “Lieutenant, I'm going to have to insert suction tubes into the cavities David located that contain the biomatter. For some, like your stomach, I'll need to perform minor surgery. For others, the best way is to merely… insert them directly.” He paused meaningfully. “Do you understand what I have to do to help you?”

Cha'Doth's immediate and disparagingly snappish answer was swallowed when she realised what he was really doing: asking permission to perform basically humiliating procedures. Sobering and calming slightly now that the treatment she sought was in fact imminent, she finally replied, “Yes, I do. Please… get it over with, Mr. Farber.”

He nodded and gave her a professional nod. “Yes, Ma'am.”

*****

Michael worked feverishly to hook up his three pieces of equipment as the chief engineer had directed, after moving to the centre of the small cavern he’d selected as large enough for safety’s sake. Greene was not overly happy with the plan as it necessitated the burning out all of his own equipment to ensure a strong enough signal for the ship to lock on to. However, if it came to it, he at least could find his way up to the surface thanks to his handlamp and the emplaced beacons.

There, he thought with nervous satisfaction. Things are still happening far too damn slowly, but this will still be quicker than a slog through the tunnels, he consoled himself as he activated the emergency beacon and stood back against the wall. An achingly long twelve seconds later and the loud musical chime of an incoming transporter beam filled the small cavern, its blue light illuminating the roughly elliptical ten metre by four metre by three metre hollow in the mountain.

The longer-than-usual cycle finally completed and before him stood a transporter waveguide receiver pad mounted on a small antigravity sled, along with a replacement communicator and his personal body armour. Michael was surprised but very happy to see it and the communicator. He strode quickly forward and deactivated the antigrav which gently settled its delicate cargo to the uneven, rocky ground.

Greene quickly and efficiently set up the waveguide and ran it through its diagnostics. There was no room for error here; the last thing he wanted was the rescue party being killed on arrival by a transporter glitch from an unchecked system.

Interminable minutes later the device was happy with itself, and Greene activated the waveguide beacon and, dragging his gear off the pad itself, once again stood back against the cavern wall and flipped open the new communicator. “Greene to Falklands. I’m all set up down here. Diagnostics show green lights on everything.”

“Very good, Specialist,” Sotok’s voice came back instantly, though thick with static. “The beacon’s signal is strong and clear and we have a positive lock on your coordinates. Transport commencing in five seconds.”

“Understood, Sir. Standing by.” Greene counted down in his head and five seconds later another chime began, accompanied by the blue glow of the re-materialisation process. Fifteen seconds later, the party of four armoured security officers armed with phaser pistol side-arms and phaser rifles finally solidified and were released from the annular confinement beam. Greene recognised the tall, lanky form of his immediate C.O. and said, “I’m damn glad you’re here, Sir!”

Lieutenant Commander Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen’s armoured form nodded, her low-light and IR sensor visor already in place and operating. “Glad we all made it in one piece, Specialist,” she answered, handing him a replacement tricorder and phaser pistol. “Clear the pad, there’s more coming after us. And get your armour on.”

“Aye-aye, Sir! That way, Sir,” Greene directed, grinning and pointing to the way into the tunnels from the cavern they were in. Anne-Grete nodded and led her three officers out. Greene spoke into his communicator again. “Captain, all four of the first team have arrived safely and the transport area is clear. You can transport the next group.”

“Transport commencing. The Lieutenant Commander has your orders. Be careful, Mr. Greene.”

“Yes, Captain. We’ll get our people back, one way or another. Greene out.”

One minute later and a now-armoured Greene was leading nine fellow security officers and three engineers down through the tunnels and back to the hidden underground facility where his crewmates might be in danger.

*****

Grace Kim slowly swam back up to awareness through a massive fog of disorientation. She was distantly aware of being held in place – though in what position it was she couldn’t quite tell yet.

Endless moments crept lazily past as she slowly surfaced, puzzled by her dreams, before full awareness dawned. She suddenly realised she was restrained, imprisoned against her knowledge and will, being violated, and her “dreams” were actually images being projected into her eyes, flicking from one still picture to the next – and that most of the images were of arboreal sloth-like creatures apparently in heat or mating season!

Her own reaction was instinctive. She jolted violently trying to free herself, and screamed, “Get me out of here!”

“Lieutenant! Are you injured?!” the first officer’s sharp voice came from off to her forward left quarter and apparently above her.

“Commander! Please, get me out of this… thing!” she demanded hotly. “What the hell is it doing to me? What for? Why am I in it?”

“I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I cannot free you—”

“Why the f*cking hell not, Sir?!?!” she shouted back in outrage. “I’m being raped—”

“Lieutenant Kim!” Lathena’s voice cracked like a whip, and only then did Grace hear the anguish, rage, and frustration in the Andorian’s voice. “I am also being restrained, and nothing I’ve said or done in the past fifteen minutes has done a Guardian-damned thing to alter anything!”

Kim fell silent for a moment, trying to think past the pervasive images that were being transmitted directly down her optic nerves. The other things that were happening to her were far more easily ignored. “Greene? Na Tchuto?” she asked.

“I’ve detected no trace of them,” Lathena replied. “They may be held in another room in this place, as you were, or one or both of them may have gotten away completely.”

Kim digested that tidbit in silence for a few moments. “So, they may have gotten word to the ship and a rescue party is already on its way.”

“Very true, Lieutenant,” Lathena confirmed, hoping to bolster the young Human’s psyche with a healthy dose of hope. While not believing it herself – or, believing that help would come eventually, rather than sooner – Lathena’s prior experience with Humans had taught her that they needed hope in order not to completely give up.

“You didn’t wake up to find me here already?” Kim asked, struggling to keep her voice level and rational despite indignities and violations she was being forced to endure.

Lathena noticed her voice steadying and admired the effort, and her spirit. “No Lieutenant, I regained consciousness to find myself alone and restrained in some sort of… scanning device. It’s still scanning me.”

“Is it… experimenting… on you, too?” Grace asked with remarkable calm.

“No.” Lathena answered shortly, actually scared to say any more both for her own sake and for fear of upsetting Grace’s undoubtedly fragile emotional state. After a pregnant pause, Lathena forced herself to say, “You were brought through about five minutes after I regained consciousness, by some sort of primitive maglev-propulsion robot. Nothing I said or did made any difference to it, and it shut itself down in the far corner next to the huge computer console my restraint apparatus extends from.”

Grace was having a hard time processing Lathena’s words. Quite apart from the physical violations she was being forced to endure, the visual input that was being beamed almost directly into her brain via her optic nerves made concentrating on anything else extremely difficult except in short bursts.

Even so, and despite herself, Grace found herself resenting Lathena’s apparent “good” fortune in only being scanned. Why is this happening to me? Why am I being singled out? What the f*ck kind of sick, twisted people set up this kind of “laboratory”, anyway?

“Lieutenant, is there any way you can free yourself? I… cannot make any impression on these metal restraints,” Lathena’s frustrated voice came from above and behind her.

After her initial frenzied struggle to get out of her predicament, Grace had been trying hard to listen to Lathena and had made no further attempt along those lines. Tensing herself again, she strained every muscle she could to have her ankles, neck, and wrists freed, or even move slightly.

Not even the burst of rage-spawned adrenaline gave her any minute success to draw hope from. The only benefit derived was that the intense effort had momentarily blocked out the incessant images being beamed into her mind.

Her voice choked with rage, Grace had to report failure.

Lathena heard it and felt her own banked rage flare up a notch. She felt some justification venting that rage, and in a voice that would have cracked tritanium with its deep cold, stated, “Grace, when we get out of this I’m going to have this place ripped apart, molecule by molecule if necessary, to find out who’s behind it and what the tezha they thought they were doing with it. And then we’ll pay them a visit.”

Grace found that those words did help a little, but that they were still cold comfort in her present circumstances. At least I’m still able to talk, she thought, giving herself more of the same.

“All we need to do is hold out and wait for Michael to return with full Security detail—YAAAAA!!!”

“Lieutenant!” Lathena cried, but Grace could no longer respond coherently.

“Just what the f*ck is this?!?! It’s totally INSANE!! Why is it doing this? What f*cking conceivable scientific reason could anyone have for doing this?” she raved with tightly focused rage.

Lathena could hear how shrill Kim’s voice was and it worried her. Physical indignities could be endured, but some took a higher toll on the psyche than others and this was clearly one of these times for the young Human. Hearing her enraged and helpless cries for help, Lathena lost it a little herself.

“Guardian-damn you! Whomever or whatever is funning this farce of a laboratory, shut it down now! Right bloody-well NOW!” she screamed. “Just who the tezha do you think you are, performing these so-called ‘experiments’ on sentients!? If you don’t stop now and offer very hefty compensation and apologies, my government will find you and you’ll face serious consequences!!”

Grace heard her X.O.’s words and the venom with which she all but spat them out, her tone at odds with the more moderate line she verbalised, and agreed wholeheartedly and more. Yeah, “consequences” to include complimentary photon torpedoes up the ass for everyone involved in this… this… this travesty!

Hot tears spilled from Grace’s paralysed-open eyes at the pain and the violations of person. I will get through this, she promised herself. All of it. And once my crewmates rescue us, I will smash every piece of this chamber of horrors into very, very small fragments, she vowed, then retreated into herself to await that rescue.

*****

“The new kidney is in and seems functional,” Kurojar reported, relief evident in his voice. “Going back to his spleen.”

“Good news. Add to it his repaired and drained lungs,” Louisa stated, though her relief was tempered by her next words. “Returning to his heart. Blood stocks?”

“Sixty percent. We’ve managed to reclaim most of what was in his chest cavity but he’d already lost a huge amount,” Baweja reported.

“Okay people, we’re almost—”

“Tachycardia!” Kemal barked grimly as once more the sensor alarms blared.

“Two cc’s medlitsa, now!” Louisa ordered.

Ashok slapped the loaded hypo into her hand and she instantly applied it, but all it did was start the racing heart warring with the slowing medication.

“Arrhythmia! He’s crashing!” Kemal called.

“Baweja, get his heart from the clone banks! Charging and clear!” Louisa yelled as she prepared the surgical bridge again. “Farber, set up total life support and prep the heart bypass,” she ordered and zapped Ziaron’s failing heart for what seemed like the n-th time.

“No response!” Kemal called.

“Charging to three hundred!”

“Doctor—!”

“Clear!” she yelled, glaring at him.

“Clear,” he replied, subdued.

Zzzzaaap!

Beep! … Beep! … Beep!

“He’s back. Again.”

“We cannot keep doing that,” Kurojar stated flatly.

“Dammit, Jar, I know that!” she snapped back, tapping more commands into the surgical bridge. On the imager, Ziaron’s patched-together heart appeared, pulsating weakly, slowly. “I thought I could repair it but the damage is too bad for mere surgical fixes. It needs regenerative treatment…”

“…and even then it may not heal. And even if it does, it’ll be weak and he’ll likely be invalided out of the Service,” Kurojar finished for her bluntly.

“Which is why we now need his cloned heart.”

“He can only take so much surgery—”

“I know, damnit! We could lose him to shock even after all this, and we haven’t even addressed his burns or broken bones!” She glared at her second. “I need you to stop telling me things I am already aware of and start working with me to have Ziaron fully recover. I don’t need Andorian pessimism right now!”

Kurojar’s eyes narrowed. “And I’m not going to let blind Human hope and inability to give up continue to butcher this male.”

Louisa’s eyes went wide with anger and she took a breath to bite his head off—

—then let it out.

“You are right, Doctor th’Merrin. I stepped over the line there. I apologise,” she said quietly.

“Accepted. Options? Should we put him in our stasis tube? Get him back to Starbase?” Kurojar replied, trying to smooth the edge from his voice.

“We cannot leave him shredded like this.” And where the hell is Ashok? “Compromise. Total life support until we treat his bones and skin, and then stasis?”

“The strain on his system… I don’t know, Doctor.”

“The broken bones add strain to his system already and prevent his healing. It is not proscribed for entry into stasis. Or for emergence from,” she added pointedly.

“Compromise: leave his heart, close him up, set his bones and treat his burns, then stasis.”

Dammit! she raged inwardly but knew it would be the best she got. “Fine. Let’s get started on his ribs. Kemal, activate the stasis pod.”

The two nurses, frozen in place while the doctors had battled over the best treatment for the patient over the patient’s open chest, jumped to obey.

*****

Lathena despaired. She had never before been so completely helpless and out of control of her own destiny. There was literally nothing she could do except wait for rescue or whatever opportunity for escape that might present itself.

She was still held captive by the large clamps on her forearms and calves, and that red-eyed sensor kept scanning her – if that was in fact what it was actually doing. So much of what has happening to them was pure conjecture at this point.

Over to her left and behind her, Grace was still being experimented on. The young Human had stopped making any kind of noise; Lathena assumed she’d gone completely unresponsive as a self-preservation or psychological protection measure, but her lack of response did worry the Andorian zhen.

Moments after having these thoughts, something new happened. The robot in the corner, the one which had brought Grace in and then turned itself off, hummed to life and rose smoothly from the floor to pass out of her field of vision. Lathena heard a shot of compressed air, servomotors whining, and then metal clamps unlocking.

Grace is unresponsive, perhaps comatose. She may also be trying to trick the computer, so it gave her a sedative or knockout shot before unlocking her, and it’s now taking her away? Lathena tentatively deduced and speculated. Her speculation proved immediately incorrect, as the Human was not in fact released at all. Lathena heard more whirring and then the clamps locking shut. Another compressed air shot sounded and moments later a small groan escaped the formerly insensate Human’s lips.

Lathena felt at once both relieved and more deeply worried. Grace was not catatonic, but her change of position indicated something new was about to take place – and based on experience to date, it wouldn’t be pleasant.

Out of desperation and an inability to accept her powerlessness, Lathena shouted, “Robot! Release us both, immediately!”

It ignored her, as before. Grace moaned though, and asked, “Commander?”

“I’m still here, Lieutenant,” she replied, voice strong but laced with frustration.

“How long was I out?”

“From the time you went unresponsive, about ten minutes.”

“They shifted me.”

“Yes, just now.”

“Any sign of the others?”

“Not yet.” Lathena injected confidence into her tone, trying to imply that it was only a matter of time before someone came. Which indeed it was. It was just a case of how much time they’d have to endure the trials of their captivity.

A moment of silent contemplation passed, then Lathena thought to ask, “Can you see anything new from where you are?”

Grace hesitated for a few seconds before answering. Lathena assumed she was looking around. “I’m in the far corner of the room, beside the doorway. My head is not restrained this time and my vision is unimpaired,” she began, apparently retreating into a scientific stating of established conditions. “I’m being held on a horizontal platform, spread-eagle, manacled at the wrists and ankles again. I can see you, facing the blank wall and the red light emitter, held off the ground in your own set of manacles.”

Lathena listened with growing alarm and distress. Grace’s voice held no more life than the rest of this facility. I’ve got to get us out of here! she raged inwardly, and again tested the bonds that held her.

It had the same result as all her other attempts:

None.

Grace went on describing the rest of the room that Lathena could already see for herself, in that same horrible, lifeless voice. Lathena now wanted her to shut up as it was affecting her own emotional equilibrium. She felt her control over herself slip even further away from her.

Just to shut off her unnerving monologue for a moment, Lathena interrupted with a question. “Lieutenant! Can you see outside this room? What’s in the next room?”

Another hesitation. “That room is covered in some kind of pink and black viscous goo. There are large puddles of it all over the floor, and also it seems some solidified columns and bars are creating some odd frameworks, as well as bigger… glops, dangling from the overheads. I don’t see any restraints in there – wait, I hear one of the robots coming back!”

Lathena welcomed the life and interest surging back into the young Human’s voice, but feared the opposite now happening and that should they be subjected to more experiments the Human would, as Lathena’s previous X.O. would put it, “go off the deep end”.

Paying attention to what Kim had said, Lathena refocused her senses and did indeed pick up the vibrations of a robot – and also of another living being.

“Grace, I think the robot is bringing someone else! Can you see who it is?” she asked urgently.

“Not yet… yes, there it is! And it’s carrying Joao into the goo room!”

Lathena nearly swore in frustration at not being able to see this for herself but managed to hold it in. Grace had to believe nothing was going to make her superior lose control – and Lathena had to believe it herself.

“What’s it doing?” she asked evenly.

“I can’t really see, the robot itself is blocking my— oh! It’s positioning him on a puddle of goo, just holding him there, and— oh, wow. That’s impressive,” Grace said, sounding back on balance and more like her old self.

Lathena had to bite back a bark ordering her to quit reacting and just report what she’d seen.

“The goo just flowed into a new shape and locked itself around Joao. The robot’s let go of him, but the goo is now holding him in position. He’s sagging against it, in fact. The goo must have become rigid, and Joao seems to be unconscious.”

Lathena’s heart sank again, her hopes for immediate action and subsequent freedom dashed at least momentarily. “How is he held?” she managed to ask.

“On his knees, arms straight back behind him with pink goo in an ornate letter ‘I’ shape with cuffs at each edge on his wrists and ankles. And he has a thinner shell of goo over his head and secured around his neck. It’s mostly transparent and it’s moving with him as he lolls around. I think he may be regaining consciousness!” Grace added excitedly. “Joao! Joao, it’s Grace! Can you hear me?”
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2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Fourteen
« Reply #50 on: April 06, 2013, 03:13:39 pm »
CONTENT WARNING!Again, language and... stuff.
You have been warned!




Chapter Fourteen



Joao Na Tchuto’s awareness returned slowly and his perceptions remained fuzzy and indistinct for a short while. The security man took this as evidence of having been drugged and came to the conclusion that he was still a captive of whatever had hit them with the flash-bangs in the deserted facility.

Supposedly deserted, he mused, still a bit woolly-headed. He shook his head trying to clear it. It helped with that but also made him feel worse over all. Whatever drugs they gave me are not agreeing with my system. And why is everything pink?

A murmur of a far-off voice tickled his awareness just before he heard a muffled call of, “Joao! Joao, it’s Grace! Can you hear me?”

Joao shook his head again to try to clear it and his vision, but this time it didn’t help any further with his head and had no effect on his eyes. His instinctive next moves before thought even occurred – to turn his head in the direction of Grace’s voice and then to move the rest of his body – met with a similar lack of success.

I’m held in restraints, was his obvious conclusion of less than a second later. “Yes, I—owww!” he started to reply in a loud shout but was quickly silenced by the overloud resounding of his voice in his ears. It’s like I just yelled inside a helmet! He realised that this must be the pink field across his vision. Another method of restraint, he deduced as his still fuzzy brain finally caught up to his awareness.

“Joao! Are you okay?!” Grace’s voice came again, from what sounded like a great distance.

“I think so!” he yelled back, enduring the discomfort to communicate. “Nothing feels bruised or broken; only nausea and a headache!”

“Probably drugs!” Grace called back. “Commander Lathena is with me here; we’re both in restraints but were drugged to be put in them!”

Joao felt relief and anger at this news: relief that the commander was also apparently okay and her whereabouts now ascertained; anger that she was a prisoner as well.

“And Michael?” Joao shouted back, wincing at what his own voice was doing to his strengthening headache.

“We don’t know! We hope he’s gone to get help but we don’t know how much time has passed overall! You were just brought in a few minutes ago. I’ve been conscious for about fifteen minutes, and the commander another ten before that! If Michael got away he could return at any moment – or in hours!”

The drugs, Joao realised. We could have been put under for hours or minutes, and none of us can tell. Shame we don’t have a Vulcan with us, he grumbled inwardly.

“Joao! Did you hear the commander?!” Grace suddenly called after a pause in the conversation.

“No!”

More murmuring greeted his answer, and he sighed. This is going to be very difficult if Grace has to relay the X.O.’s words, and has to shout them at that. He tested his bonds and came away convinced he was held by transparent aluminium or some form of plastimetal. There was no give in their material, but neither did they have the coldness or hard, sharp edges of true metal.

“Can you free yourself?!” Grace shouted moments later.

Joao was pleased he had anticipated this, but less so at his resulting answer. “No! No leverage or give!” he shouted back. “It’s also deafening shouting inside this pink bubble!” he added moments later. His head really was beginning to pound unmercifully and he didn’t want to continue conversing like this.


Lathena cursed. Great! His head rings every time he answers us, and I can barely hear him at all as it is! The Andorian zhen’s rage was growing again due to her sheer helplessness, and again she fought it down. Our duty is to endure until help arrives, and to be alert for and take advantage of any opportunity to escape, she recited to herself, then decided she need not keep this to herself. She listened with intense irritation as Grace yelled this into the next room for Joao to hear, and added to herself, and it’s my duty to keep a level head and provide leadership and disciplined actions to boost the morale and determination of my crew. So keep it together, Terilathena zh’Aetheris!

It was at this point that something new happened. A whirring noise began and another flush-seamed panel slid aside and out from it extended a thick metal arm of solid, uninspired construction and a dull, dark-grey material.

Lathena saw what was attached at the end of the arm as it slid out. She knew exactly what was going to happen and again she was powerless to stop it or escape.

“Commander—!” Grace shouted, sudden sick realisation in her voice, but Lathena cut her off.

“I know, Lieutenant. I see it.”

“But… Sir…” the Human spoke, as helpless-sounding as they all were.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now,” the Andorian said over the sound of motorised whining. “I’m not going to give this scanner any reaction to record, but as soon as we are freed, this place is getting ripped apart,” she stated with cold vicious implacability.


Grace watched in horror as her X.O. finally suffered the same fate she had.

Lathena’s stone-cold, stone-like face as reflected in the mirror-like metal wall she faced brought hot tears to the Human’s eyes. “Joao!” she called, unable to bear the silence. “Joao! The commander is being experimented on, the same way I was! It’s… it’s just not going to stop until we are rescued! Joao, you have to try and free yourself! Please!”

“I’m trying!” came the straining, worried voice. “What’s this place doing to her?”

“Grace!” Lathena’s voice was also strained, but was straining to remain in tight control. “Let it be. I’ll endure. We all will.”

Helpless, all Grace could do was echo her superior's previous vow. Molecule by molecule. That’s a promise.

*****

“Glad you could finally join us, Mr. Baweja!” Garland-Els snapped, working quickly and methodically on Ziaron’s arm with a protoplaser. “Where the hell were you with Na-Foreteii’s heart?!”

“With respect, Doctor, Lieutenant Lobsang fell into shock from his injuries and I had to treat him. I know Ziaron is on bypass and there is no one else out there!”

“Damnit, we’re not equipped for this!” Louisa blustered, embarrassed for shooting off her mouth before finding out what had happened. “Well, as it transpires, we’re no longer going to transplant his heart. It’s too much surgery to expect his body to handle all at once, so we’re going to repair his limbs and dermal tissue and place him in stasis until we get back to starbase. We’ve healed the standard breaks while you were gone,” she couldn’t help but gibe at the absent nurse, “but the compound fractures are going to stress his system fiercely and we need everyone in here for what might happen when we set them,” she briefed everyone in. “We’re going to set one at a time and ensure that he’s stable for each one before proceeding to the next. We’ll start with the left ulna and radius, then the right upper arm, left tibia, and right femur and shin. So are we all ready?”

Nods met this and she stated, “Then here we go. Positions.”

David, Barry, Ashok, Kemal, Jar, and Louisa took their places around table for the first limb to be set. Kemal ensured the anaesthetic was doing its job and would continue to do so. The medical technicians stood close at hand next to carts of medical equipment, supplies, and surgical instruments, ready to hand over whatever was needed. The doctors and Barry carefully placed their hands on the wounded limb.

“Ready?” Louisa asked Jar a final time.

“Ready,” he confirmed.

She very carefully cleaned off the ragged edges of the broken bones but did not sterilise them; that would be bad for the bone marrow which produced every defensive organism the Efrosian’s body fielded.

“Okay, ready to set it now.”

“Go ahead, Doctor,” Kurojar stated, preparing himself for the act.

“On three. One… Two… three!

Griiiiinnnnd-SNAP!

The sickening sound of the bones being forcibly realigned caused David and Ashok’s stomachs to lurch and Kemal twitched in sympathetic pain, but the two doctors remained steadfast.

So did the medical monitors. It was fortunate Ziaron was so far under as if he were awake the pain was enough to make him pass out. Similarly, if he were not unconscious enough, the pain was plenty to have him wake up screaming – and perhaps pass right back out again.

“Okay good, now give me the bone-knitter,” Louisa instructed.

The largish device was handed to her and she positioned it on a stand so that its full effect would be tightly focussed on the break. She tapped in a few settings and activated it, then they all had to wait as its healing properties encouraged short-term hyper-accelerated growth of the bone. Both sides of the break would meet, intertwine, and weave themselves together to form a whole just as strong as the original unbroken bone.

After five minutes, the device clicked off. Louisa looked at the sensor image and announced, “It looks like a good heal.”

With this news, everyone present felt their heads bob in acknowledgement and a small smile tug at their facial muscles.

“Dermal regenerator,” she asked for next, removing the bone-knitter.

“Dermal regenerator,” Ashok repeated, handing it to her the smaller instrument and receiving the bulkier device in return.

Louisa used the new tool to repair and realign all the tissue, musculature, and major veins and arteries over the newly healed bone, a process which was much quicker.

Finally, she asked for the protoplaser and used that to repair the skin over the break, even healing Na-Foreteii’s corrosion burns in the treated area.

“It looks good, Doctor,” Jar opined. “Fully healed as far as these sensors can determine.” He looked up at her and added, “Good work.”

She smiled back at him, her first in what seemed like days. Yes, ten minutes to completely heal and return to full functionality a compound fracture with no scarring. I’m okay with that being called “good work”. He’ll need to work out a little muscle stiffness and have a full night of natural sleep to let the knitting bone fully set.

“Okay, that’s one. Four more to go.”

*****

Cursing himself and the universe in general for the length of time all this had taken, Greene reached the cavern mouth over an hour after he’d left it.

Dammit all to hell, anything could have happened to them in all this time! he raged, though at whom he really wasn’t sure himself. Flipping open his replacement tricorder he scanned the area inside the massive subterranean cavern.

“Anything, Specialist?” his C.O. asked.

“No, Commander. Same readings as when I left: no life-signs, no movement, and quadrupled reactor output – but the reactor reading signals are much weaker, for some reason…”

Strøm-Erichsen said nothing as Greene continued to peck at his tricorder settings to try and explain that discrepancy and switched her helmet communicator over to Greene’s landing party frequency. “Commander Lathena, this is Commander Strøm. Respond, please.”

As expected, the channel remained silent. Anne-Grete tried the other landing party members with a similar lack of success before switching back to her own team’s comm frequency.

“P.O. Hussayn, get started on the transporter pad. Bouteflika, you’ll stay here to protect and assist our engineers. The rest of us will perform a two stage covered advance to the facility, which we’ll then go in and secure. Okay people, by the numbers. Let’s go.”

Grim nods and weapons checks accompanied this, and then they were off at a run. Carefully watching their footing, First Section ran twenty metres in and found positions offering at least minimal cover among the stalagmites at the side of the path. Bracing themselves, they scanned their sectors visually and with their rifles’ targeting scanners. Over their built-in helmet communicators they signalled all clear and secure. Upon the last trooper calling in, the Second Section ran up to, through, and past them for another twenty metres and repeated the operation. Greene took over Bouteflika’s  position in Second Section and remained with them until their section passed through and the advance squad became the cover squad.

In this manner the Starfleet personnel advanced toward the facility, meeting no opposition and all without the slightest reaction from their objective.

*****

Lathena mentally refortified herself as the infernal machine did its diabolical work. She hated the thought that whatever they were “testing” the Starfleet contingent for, they seemed uninterested in or even unaware of her emotional and intellectual responses of extreme hatred, a desire for revenge, and a coldly rational, utterly furious desire to place whatever had designed this chamber of horrors into their own machines – regardless of gender, if any.

She heard Grace weeping and Joao grunting in the next room – no doubt trying to free himself. Resistance is never futile! she mentally screamed. You may violate me, but you’ll never break me! You’ll never get my cooperation! Damn you, you non-sentient, non-sapient, soulless piece of tezha’n flahn! When Greene returns with a rescue party, I’m going to find your tender spots and shove my probes into you innards – then I’ll khest’n rip you apart into your molecular components!


Grace cried openly now, over what had been and what was still happening, but then it got worse again.

Her own horizontal table hummed suddenly and a light played over her slowly from above, from head to heels and back up again, in what seemed like some sort of medical imaging scan. Then another panel rotated at the end of the table…

“Nooooooo!!!” she screamed in abject horror. “Not again!! Nooo!!! Please don’t do this! Stop and let us all go!!!”

Her frantic, panicked cries drowned out the mechanical whine of the machine, a monstrously indifferent hunk of automated machinery directed by some hideously programmed idiot computer.

Lathena was shouting at her; so was Joao, who was driven into new frenzied attempts to break free at her soul-wrenching cries of horror and despair. Grace was oblivious to both; oblivious to everything except her own situation and the hot tears flowing down her face.

*****

The glowing red eye before Lathena and its rotating scanning beams continued to watch and record all the reactions, physical and emotional, of the undocumented arboreal primates that had manage to find a route into the facility…

*****

“Here’s the facility, but not exactly as they described,” Greene commented upon seeing the undamaged wall of the reactor building. “This corner of the natural rock building – which houses the reactor – was described as having been collapsed by falling stalactites…”

“Then someone has obviously repaired it,” Strøm-Erichsen stated grimly. “You were correct to come and get us, Specialist. This place is not as deserted as you first thought. Are you detecting any activity at all?” she asked next, voice now professionally devoid of feeling.

“Nothing, damnit. This could be a drill against an empty assault course for all the reaction we’re getting.” Michael’s frustration and concern came through clearly in his reply. On their approach his cremates had filled him in on the short version of everything that had happened on the surface, fleshing out Eddie Hawke’s bare-bones update. Michael now had an abject horror he was trying to keep at bay to stop it from overwhelming his professionalism, but he was having a tough time with it due to his mounting guilt over leaving his shipmates here.

The Security Commander’s words helped.

A little.

“All that can change in the next few seconds, Specialist. We’re about to go in and we don’t know awaits us in there, the layout of the place, possible defences, or anything else about it,” the security chief stated calmly. “Mickiewicz, you and Greene will remain here as our rearguard. My team will secure the building and call you in when you are needed.”

“Understood, Commander,” the field medic replied evenly.

Greene wanted to object, wanted to go in with his fellow security personnel and be there when they found his comrades, but knew that with his extreme sense of personal guilt he would be a weak link in the chain, a liability who would need watched and restrained from foolish moves rather than helping them reach their goal.

He held his peace and shifted unhappily.

Anne-Grete saw and clapped an armoured gauntlet on his shoulder. “I know, Michael. I know,” she told him, understanding in her tone. She caught his look of thanks mingled with frustration and gave him a slight shake before turning to the rest of her team. “Okay people, let’s get in there. It’ll be easier and less dangerous to cut a hole through the reinforced concrete of the access corridor than forcing our way through the kelbonite shell of the reactor room. N’Koor, Ranox, blow us a hole we can enter through four abreast. None of this ‘one at a time’ crap.”

“Gladly, Commander!” N’Koor growled as he and Ranox raised their rifles. A quick nod at each other, and a few seconds later a five metre wide hole had been blasted through the corridor wall.

“Rearguard, hold position here until we call you. Low-light sensors to standby. Thoron, Morales, you’re on scanner detail. Sling your rifles and use your pistols set to heavy stun.”

The two crewpersons instantly complied.

“Let’s move!”

The security team hefted their equipment and ran into the facility.

*****

   INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT! – LIFE FORMS HAVE FORCED ENTRY INTO THE COMPLEX
        o   REACTOR BUILDING ACCESS CORRIDOR WALL BREACHED
        o   STRUCTURE COLLAPSED EAST SIDE
   DIRECTIVE: REPULSE ATTACK
   DIRECTIVE: PROTECT FACILITY AND EQUIPMENT
   DIRECTIVE: CAPTURE AND CONTAIN FOR GENETIC COMPATIBILITY ANALYSIS
   DEPLOYING REMOTE UNITS…
   HOSTILE CAPTURE PROTOCOLS NOW IN EFFECT…
   USE OF DEADLY FORCE IS AUTHORISED…


*****

“Commander! Getting some indeterminate motion now… still no life-form readings however…” Morales reported as the team spread out into the corridor linking the reactor room with the rest of the facility.

“Careful, everyone! Our people are still in here somewhere,” their C.O. cautioned as they continued their advance into the main facility.

“Getting technology readings!” Thoron hissed out. “Maglev propulsion signature…”

“Get ready people! The local defence—”

She was cut off as a blinding flash of light and a deafening noise erupted all around them in the corridor. Fortunately prepared for this, their helmets protected the security officers from the worst of it but still left them slightly disoriented. Morales and Thoron, who’d been concentrating on their tricorders instead of looking around, were almost completely unaffected. Thoron called, “They’re moving in! Corridor ahead and to starboard, also aft from the reactor room, high speed!”

Everyone braced themselves in preparation. The two sharpshooters, Ranox and N’Koor, set up their kill-zones; the burly Tellarite covered the starboard corridor while his Caitian comrade covered the front.

“Formation Kappa-Four!” Strøm-Erichsen called out, blinking to clear the stars from her eyes as their assailants hove into view.


Greene heard the same noise as what had started off his own particular personal adventure and had to physically check his motion; his reflexes already had him moving towards the broken wall to get in there and help his crewmates. Similarly, Mickiewicz restrained his reaction and continued to watch his area of responsibility in case this was the start of a multi-pronged attack.

Michael thumped a fist into his palm in frustration and momentary helplessness. What’s going on in there?


“They’re robots! Pretty primitive-looking ones too!” Ranox called out to his comrades. “HALT! Cease your advance!” he shouted at the robots which sped down the long corridors toward his group. They paid him no heed. Plenty enough warning, he thought next and quickly fired his rifle at the nearest target. The powerful beam of collimated nadions unleashed a lethal kinetic impact and massively damaging thermal effect, and it caused the robot to spin into a wall, the “shoulder” he’d hit now a slagged mess of suddenly liquid metal and sparking crystal circuits.

The robot beside it kept coming even as Ensign Solok’s rifle fire punched a whole clean through its chest area and slagged its internal components. Solok dragged his beam down and carved its maglev system in two, upon which the automaton exploded handily some five metres away, peppering the armoured Starfleeters with half-melted fragments of metal, crystal, and plastic composites. Meanwhile, Ranox’ target had righted itself and now had a long probe extending from its waist area, tipped by what looked like a nasty electro-shock stunner. Ranox sighted in again and slagged the robot’s maglev sled. As intended, the robot thumped to the ground and remained motionless but did not explode. No more robots came behind it, so he and Solok called out “Clear!”

Similarly, so did all other members of their detail. Ranox was relieved to hear everyone sound off and was surprised to find barely ten seconds had passed since the flash-bang had gone off.

Morales immediately grabbed his tricorder again and scanned the vicinity. “Commander, we’ve got more incoming!” he warned, then took a moment to check the corridors around him. Two more slagged robots crowded the hallway back to the reactor room, looking like partially melted chrome snowmen. In front of his C.O. and N’Koor, the last two robots involved were flaming hulks scrabbling on the floor, one still trying to right itself. They’d fallen over from their own momentum when their maglevs had been destroyed and they’d hit the ground at a fair clip. One was missing its “head” and not moving at all.

“Okay people, possible second wave approaching. Aim for the head or maglev unit. Keep moving!”


Listening to the chatter on the team comms, Michael managed a grin and a flash of satisfaction. Atta girl, Boss! Go get ‘em! he mentally encouraged.


Anne-Grete side-stepped the hurtling mass of chrome and crystal as it crashed to the floor and slid right at her. A blast wave rolled over her from behind and more shrapnel pinged off her armour as another robot exploded.

“Dammit people!” she yelled, sighting on another chrome body, “stop blowing these things up! They’re too close and this shrapnel’s gonna make a warm body its new home!” she snarled as the robot she’d shot crashed into the wall, its shoulder a slagged smoking ruin. She promptly slagged its maglev next and left it impotently facing the wall.

“Commander,” Solok stated as if ordering an Altair water, “with all the appendages these devices have capable of accosting and injuring us, their total destruction would seem to be more desirable an outcome,” he suggested to her as he relieved another robot of the burden of its head.

“Ensign—” Strøm-Erichsen started, then changed her mind. “Shut up and do as you’re told,” she finished.

Despite their dangerous situation, most of her team chuckled at this. Anne-Grete cracked a momentary smile herself, then took aim at another robot rounding the corner ahead of them. How many of these things are there? We’ve taken out nearly fifteen of them now!

“Commander! I have a lock on where they’re coming from! Corresponds to the large scan-shielded building on the far side. Straight ahead ten metres, right twelve metres, left three metres to the robot access way!” Thoron shouted.

“Good work, Specialist!” Anne-Grete praised him. “You heard him! Let’s go!”

*****

   WARNING! WARNING!
   REMOTE UNITS 60% DESTROYED/DISABLED
   UNAUTHORISED LIFE FORMS APPROACHING CORE LAB SPACES
   DIRECTIVE: PROTECT CORE LAB SPACES
   DANGER! – REMOTE UNITS INEFFECTIVE
   DIRECTIVE: CONTINUOUS AUDIO-VISUAL ASSAULT TO INCREASE REMOTE UNIT EFFECTIVENESS


*****

“Dammit! Looked up at the wrong damn time!” N’Koor howled, blinded for a few seconds.

“Whoever or whatever’s directing the defences really wants us kept away from this doorway!” Ranox yelled gleefully over his comm unit, the ringing assault from outside being held at bay but not completely nullified by their helmets. He poured it on from his rifle, accompanied by two in their assault on the hidden access way while the rest of the team fended off the final assault by the robots. The air around them rang non-stop with the shriek of their phaser rifles, and sonic blasts and explosions of light that their helmets only mostly protected them from.

“It’s a good job you caught the ‘bots coming out of here, Thoron!” Specialist Ramirez yelled. “Otherwise we’d never have found it!”

The blank section of wall glowed white hot until finally the overstressed metal gave way and a ragged, gaping hole tore open through it.

“Cease fire!” Anne-Grete shouted, and took a rolling dive through the huge molten-edged hole, closely followed one at a time by the rest of her team.

“N’Koor, Morales, guard this way out. The rest of you, come with me!”

“Aye Sir!”

*****

Joao Na Tchuto listened to the high wasp-like whine of phasers and felt the vibration of explosions with a sense of ultimate relief. His imprisonment was about to end, as was his torture. The molecular plastics holding him in a duranium-like grip had not completely impeded his hearing, and even enraged berserker strength had not allowed him to free himself and rescue his fellow officers from treatment that had made the taciturn Guinea-Bissau man weep with rage. Held in a position that denied him any leverage at all, he’d been forced to listen to the cries of his two charges as the mindless machines running this pace had followed their horrific programming.

Unable to stop it and unable to block it out, he’d been possessed by such a rage as he’d never known before or thought himself capable of. And all he’d been able to do with that rage was let it eat at him for the last thirty minutes or so.

But now the rescue party was here and making pretty short work of their opposition, judging by the elapsed time since the first rumble of an explosion. The screeching buzz of massed phaser fire finally broke through then ceased, and mere seconds later there they were! The most beautiful sight on a thousand worlds: a fully armed and armoured Starfleet Security team. Joao wept with gratitude even as he yelled out at them through the semi-transparent pink bubble enclosing his head.

“IN THE NEXT ROOM!!” he roared. “MOVE IT!!”

A split-second of hesitation passed as their surprise wore off. The recognisably lanky form of his C.O. nodded at the equally recognisable squat form of Ranox before taking off at a run for the experimentation room next to the holding room he was in. Na Tchuto let out a long, tremulous breath as he could see Ranox trying to figure out how to release him.

Both were distracted by a hoarse cry of “NO!!” and a phaser blast in the next room.
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2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #51 on: April 06, 2013, 03:59:59 pm »
We continue...




Chapter Sixteen



SNAP!!

Beep-Beep- Beep- Beep!

“Doctor!”

“I hear it! Damnit! Four cc’s medlitsa, now!”

The medication was slapped into her hand and she immediately pressured it into Na-Foreteii’s heart to slow its spasmodically irregular beating.

“Not working! Induce electrical stimulation to regulate its beating!” Kurojar ordered mere seconds later.

Turner quickly brought that online and while they waited the precious seconds it needed to determine if it was having the desired effect, Louisa ordered, “Kemal, reduce anaesthesia levels, we need to bring him up so his own body functions are stronger!”

“Bringing him shallow now,” the head nurse stated and watched his monitors like a hawk. Moments later he announced, “That’s as lightly under as I dare, Doctors.”

“Damnit, there’s barely any difference in the strength of his functions,” Louisa swore, then reversed herself. “No, wait, there it is. The electrical pulse is now having the effect we want. Okaaaay…” She let out a long breath. “Give me the bone-knitter. Kemal, ease him down again. We have to confirm he can handle more.”

Turner handed it over and everyone except Louisa exchanged relieved looks and let out their own held breaths as Ziaron’s weak and irregular lifesign functions strengthened and evened out.

That was a close one, Kemal thought with equal measures of worry and relief. But we’re operating on borrowed time here. He could still die even after all we’ve done to this moment. We have to finish the surgery and get him into stasis! 

*****

Anne-Grete was slightly startled by the muffled but still clear shout that came from their left as they ran into a nightmare room of pink and black goop splattered and stretched across walls, stanchions, and the floor. Looking over she saw Joao Na Tchuto held prisoner by some of the goop, which looked as solid as hull-plate at present.

Heeding her officer’s urgent cry, she sent Ranox to help him and led the rest of her team into the next room – and a worse nightmare than the one they’d just left.

Dammit, NO!! she raged as she took in the scene before her. Someone else obviously felt the same way and a rifle was levelled.

“NO!!” she yelled and knocked its emitter cone back up toward the ceiling. A very brief blast of phaser fire blew through a small section of the roof.

“But, Chief—!” Maria Ramirez demanded hotly before being overridden by her commander.

“We need that computer in one piece, Maria,” Anne-Grete told her in a tightly controlled voice, seeing where the specialist had aimed. “Now you and Thoron cut Lieutenant Kim out of those restraints. Do it!” she yelled as Maria hesitated, brooking no disobedience. “N’Koor, get in here NOW! You too, Ranox, if Joao is free, and bring him in. Mickiewicz, get yourself and Greene in here!”

Turning back to the machine, she called up to her X.O., “Commander, my team will cut you out of this thing. Just hold on a little longer!”

“Quickly if you please,” Lathena gritted out.

N’Koor, Ranox, and Na Tchuto barrelled in then and stopped dead, the horror and shock on their faces visible, through their helmets in the case of the first two.

“Snap out of it! We’re cutting her out of that thing. The head lock will be the hardest. N’Koor, rifle to chop off those lower appendages. Solok, Ranox, rifles on both the arm clamps. I’ll take the head appendages. Positions, now!”

Moments later all were in place and Strøm-Erichsen ordered, “Fire!” Four beams of energy reached out to perform blunt but necessary surgery. Anne-Grete was relieved to find this machine was made of the same stuff as the robots, and their weapons cut easily through the polished chrome metal clamps and flexible cabling imprisoning their senior officer. Solok and Ranox took the initiative and took aim at the leg clamps as a weakened Commander Lathena struggled to free herself from the now severed head appendage, her arms weighed down by the severed arm restraints. N’Koor, Na Tchuto, and the just arrived rearguard formed a braced pyramid to support their X.O., and then the last two clamps were cut with precision phaser fire. The traumatised Andorian gratefully relaxed into the armoured arms of the Security team, who as gently as they could lowered her to the floor.

No orders were necessary. Everything that could be done was done, instantly, almost before the need was revealed. Anne-Grete herself had immediately gone to help Ramirez and Thoron cut Grace out of the frame she was shackled to, as had the rearguard, and a shaken Kim was released even as Lathena was lowered to the floor.

Mickiewicz, Greene, and Joao all worked feverishly to ensure no lasting damage had been done and the two imprisoned women were reassured they were finally safe, while six heavily armoured and completely incensed Security beings faced outward with weapons levelled, enclosing them in a protective ring and just begging for a reason to shoot anything connected with this atrocity.


Lathena finally managed to uncoil the cables wrapped around her and let them drop away to the floor. The hard, armoured gauntlets of the Security team gently held her and braced her as the leg clamps were secured, then she was lowered the two metres to the floor. She allowed herself to be laid down and the clamps themselves removed from her arms and legs by precisely aimed phaser pistols. During this time, Field Medic Mickiewicz scanned and examined her, his face set in stone and carved with lines of outrage and fury that he could not smooth away.

It was this last that instantly decided her.

As soon as the bracelets were cut off her, she made to stand up. “Commander, you shouldn’t—” Jerry said, gently pushing her back down, but she held up a hand to forestall the expected advice. He sighed unhappily but nodded and removed his hand.

She stood up – a little to soon it seemed, as she stumbled. Michael Greene was there before she could blink and he held her up – no, he let her lean on him to stabilise herself.

“My thanks, Specialist Greene,” she told the young Human sincerely. She saw his eye moisture increase and noticed that he couldn’t hold her gaze, and she also saw the massive guilt that had taken root there and was steadily growing.

“Commander, I’m – I…” he began, but couldn’t finish.

“I’m safe now, Specialist,” she told him gently, before letting go of him and finally standing on her own. Turning to the security chief she ordered, “Report, Lieutenant Commander.”

The Security detail turned almost as one to face her at this, their faces unreadable though their fully-tinted visors, but their body language radiating tightly controlled anger. Strøm-Erichsen flipped up her low-light/IR visor to respond and Lathena could see the anger, sympathy, admiration, and respect in the other woman’s eyes. She could also feel the awe from those around her as she reclaimed her rightful place at their head. She further noticed Na Tchuto sticking very close to Grace, just as Greene was doing with her, and it warmed her inside.

Anne-Grete nodded crisply and stated, “We need to get you out of here, Commander. The facility is not yet secure but we have destroyed over twenty-five robots that tried to prevent us reaching you. The computer running them is still active and is able to flash-bang the entire outer facility, it seems. I’ll leave Solok, Ranox, and Thoron on guard here, and you, Lieutenant Kim, and Ensign Na Tchuto can use their helmets to leave the facility.”

Lathena nodded. “Very well, Lieutenant Commander. I’ll want a science team down her ASAP to rip this place to pieces to discover its purpose and builders. Make sure you have thoroughly explored and completely secured the entire complex beforehand.”

“Aye, Commander.”

“Then let us proceed,” Lathena ordered in a firm voice.

A nod from Anne-Grete and the three guards gave up their helmets with an alacrity that would have been comical in a different situation.

“Solok, you are in command. Hold this room until we return, and stay on guard. This place is fond of hidden entrances.”

“Acknowledged, Sir. When do you expect to return?”

“Fifteen minutes or less, Ensign. As soon as the commander and her party are safely out into the main cavern.”

Another nod and the three guards took up defensive positions in three of the room’s corners as Strøm-Erichsen checked that the landing party’s borrowed helmets were properly worn.

“Bouteflika, make your way to the facility and wait for us outside. I want you to escort Commander Lathena and her party out of here,” she ordered into the landing party’s frequency. “When you arrive I’ll want a progress report on the status of the transporter pad.”

“I’m on my way, Commander,” Abdelaziz Bouteflika responded briefly, hitherto silent as he minded his own business assisting the engineers at the cavern entrance. 

“Let’s go.” Strøm-Erichsen led them out through the rest of the facility, the other four guards surrounding them in a lethal, protective cordon of armour.

*****

   UNAUTHORISED LIFE-FORMS HAVE BREACHED CORE LAB SPACES
   DEFENSIVE MEASURES INEFFECTIVE
   AVAILABLE REMOTE UNITS: 5%
   DAMAGE TO LAB EQUIPMENT
   PROBABILITY OF REPULSING INVASION WITH AVAILABLE RESOURCES: 0.000000351
   DIRECTIVE: TOTAL SYSTEM SHUT DOWN. PASSIVE SCAN ONLY.
   DIRECTIVE: BACKUP OF DATA CORES INTO SECURE VAULT AND PURGE OF ACTIVE SYSTEMS.
   DIRECTIVE: AWAIT DEPARTURE OF INVADING LIFE-FORMS.
   DIRECTIVE: AWAIT CREATOR’S RETURN.


*****

The corridor – and the rest of the facility – was suddenly and instantly plunged into darkness. Low-level light visors were activated and the Starfleet contingent kept moving.

“What now?” Joao growled, moving closer to Grace.

“Nothing on motion sensors,” N’Koor noted.

“Perhaps it is giving up?” N’Koor opined. “If all it had to defend itself are the flash-bangs and robots, they’ve proven completely unable to stop us.”

“Quite likely, Chief N’Koor,” Lathena announced, voice firm and clear. “But stay sharp. Even if surprise is the only thing it has left in its arsenal, surprise is a big equaliser.”

“Yes, Commander,” the Caitian answered respectfully, making Lathena smile faintly in the dark. “Thirty metres.”

The rest of their journey out was uneventful and the guard from the cavern entrance was waiting on them when they got out in the “open”, though the pitch black still made it feel like the cavern walls were close about them, just beyond arm's reach in the intense, suffocating darkness.

Flipping up her helmet visor, Strøm-Erichsen spoke up. “Mr. Bouteflika, status report. Is the transporter pad operational?”

Returning the action, which was echoed by everyone else present now that they were safely distant from the facility, Abdelaziz replied, “Yes, Commander. We’ve even test-beamed equipment back and forth.”

“Excellent. Accompany the X.O. and her party to the pad and then return immediately. We’ll need all personnel to help in searching and securing the facility.”

“Aye Sir,” Bouteflika responded smartly.

Addressing the X.O., Anne-Grete stated, “With your permission, Commander, I will return and secure this facility.”

“Permission granted, Lieutenant Commander,” Lathena replied, then removed her helmet and handed it back to the security chief. “Do not let your guard down for an instant. Keep your people fully armoured while inside those buildings,” she instructed, and Anne-Grete nodded as the rest of the released personnel also removed their helmets. “I will send you additional help and a science team as soon as I can, but feel free to explore and examine as much as possible without damaging or destroying anything there.” Ramirez shifted slightly at that, but Lathena ignored it and her voice hardened. “I want answers from this place and I’m not leaving until I have them.”

“Understood, Commander,” the security chief returned crisply. “Once the place is secure, we’ll start by examining the damaged but intact robots.”

Lathena nodded her approval, then gave her a warm look and told her, “Thank you, Anne-Grete, from all of us. I’ll be back.”

Though it was not necessary or even protocol, Lieutenant Commander Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen drew herself smartly to attention and snapped off a militarily perfect salute to her senior officer. Her action was echoed a fraction of a second later by her entire detail and another fraction after that by Joao and Michael as they all pivoted to face Lathena and Grace.

It almost undid her. Lathena swallowed a lump in her throat and blinked away tears of gratitude, hearing Grace sniff noisily beside her, and swept her gaze over her crew, who were still holding their salutes, pride on their faces as she made eye contact with each and every one of them in the stark light of their portable beacons. Then she drew herself to attention, fixed her eyes on Anne-Grete’s, and returned the salute, echoed by Grace. Three seconds later, she dropped it, followed by everyone else. Lathena nodded a final time at the group then turned and led her party and their escort out into the cavern proper.

*****

“Doctor.”

Louisa looked around in surprise at her captain’s voice from the O.R. doorway, which was closed behind him.

She hadn’t even heard him come in.

“Forgive me, Captain, but I’m – we’re all really busy right now,” she told him bluntly, returning her attention to her patient. “Whatever you want has to wait.”

“Understood. However, I thought you should be informed of the arrival of the last of our landing party personnel from the planet’s surface. All personnel are accounted for with no fatalities, but many from the surface and from the mountain caverns are in need of further medical treatment.”

Hell of a long-winded way of saying “We rescued everyone and they need checked over”, but that’s a Vulcan for you, I guess, Louisa thought distractedly.

“Very good, Captain, but as I said, I cannot spare anyone yet and we’re still not sure if Na-Foreteii will survive this surgery,” the C.M.O. told her commanding officer in a hard tone which was directed more at her inability to fully heal Ziaron than her C.O.’s interruption. “We’ll be out when we can, but not one second before. Unless any of the new arrivals have life-threatening injuries…?”

“No, Doctor. You can remove that worry from your consideration,” Sotok responded evenly. “What is Petty Officer Na-Foreteii’s condition?”

Louisa grimaced and sighed, then reeled off Ziaron’s grim statistics. It was evident from her voice that she was angry, but no one present mistook what that anger stemmed from or was directed at.

Sotok acknowledged her report with a brief, “Thank you, Doctor. I will distract you no further, and inform your new patients of the situation.”

“Thank you, Sir,” she replied and added, “If you could send Mr. Turner back in, I’d appreciate that.”

“I will do so.” The O.R. doors swooshed open and closed, letting in someone’s voice in high distress and anger but cutting it off before anyone could make sense of it.

“Okay, last one,” Garland-Els stated firmly, encouragingly, making sure everyone was again focussed on their patient, but they could all hear the fatigue in her voice.

And no surprise there, Kurojar thought sympathetically, checking the wall chronometer. This is the longest, most intense, and most complicated surgery I’ve ever been in on.

Louisa spared one last glance at the Efrosian science specialist’s life signs and suppressed a grimace. They’re dangerously low, and the last break is, while not the worst, still pretty nasty. If he has a reaction like on the third bone realignment…

She sighed. “Very well, here we go. On three. One… Two… Three!

SNAP!!

The sickening crunch just sounded wrong, and this was immediately borne out by the spike in pain readings and the flattening of all his other vitals.

Louisa didn’t need even one glance. “Stasis, NOW!” she barked.

*****

“What do you mean, there’s no one around to treat us?!”

Lathena heard the edge of hysteria in Grace’s voice, under the anger and indignation, and knew it did not bode well. Kim was taking the events on the planet hard; the fun-loving personality she usually had for all was conspicuously absent and instead of bearing the subsequent upsets and delays with a modicum of, well, grace, she was winding herself up further and further with them.

If she doesn’t relax herself and wait out what must be, she’ll snap, Lathena knew. Plus, when she regains her equilibrium after these events she will be embarrassed beyond measure by her behaviour during them.

“Lieutenant, everyone is involved in the surgery to save Ziaron Na-Foreteii—”

“Everyone? Everyone?!” Grace screeched, her face flushing an alarming shade of scarlet. “There’re two doctors, nurses, and med techs each, the Security medics, and the numerous crew members with basic first aid training—”

“Lieutenant!” Lathena finally broke in as the poor med tech wilted under the tirade from the angry rape victim. “None of this is Mr. Turner’s fault—”

“Commander! Stop. Please,” she added, almost as an afterthought. “I do not need you to tell me whose fault this – all of this – is,” she added balefully, waving her arm around the small Sickbay packed with injury and rape victims.

Lathena felt her eyes widen and her mouth fall open as the accusation and the full weight of the blame was cast upon her head. She floundered as Grace continued to glare at her. She found she could not answer or deflect that charge. Nor could she drag her eyes away from Grace’s molten, furious brown eyes.

The moment seemed to stretch to eternity for Lathena, but in reality only a couple of seconds had passed before another voice answered for her.

“The blame game is one which never produces any winners. I suggest that you do not indulge yourself with it,” Captain Sotok stated quietly from the O.R. doorway he’d stepped through unobtrusively milliseconds before Grace’s damning accusation.

Almost comically, heads snapped around to him. Lathena noted Cha’Doth’s glare at her matching Kim’s before the science officer too found herself looking at their captain.

“Captain!” Grace exclaimed, but found that she had nothing more to say to him or what he’d said.

“Mr. Turner, return to the O.R.”

David gratefully jumped to obey, his relief at getting out of that situation palpable, as Sotok returned his attention to Lieutenant Kim.

“I know you are impaired from your recent experiences, but this is not the way to deal with it,” were the next vastly surprising words from their Vulcan commanding officer. “Striking out to hurt another does not lessen your own pain; it only masks it with the selfish satisfaction of seeing the one you blame also hurting. Vengeance and retribution are not the Vulcan way – any longer. They are not and never have been the Starfleet way.”

These words, spoken quietly and with just enough inflection to make a more straight-laced Vulcan’s teeth ache, engulfed the charged Sickbay atmosphere like a fire blanket, suffocating the impending conflagration before it had a chance to truly ignite.

“Lieutenant Kim, all medical personnel are needed to save Petty Officer Na-Foreteii’s life. He will not be coming out of that O.R. whole. Even with all our advanced medical equipment and techniques, and with our entire Medical staff working tirelessly to save him, he will still need to be placed in stasis with the expectation of the starbase facilities being enough to save him. Our Medical staff have worked on your colleague and friend for over one hour, first fighting to save him, then fighting to have him stable enough to survive entering and exiting stasis.”

Sotok’s pause to let that sink in was expected, and his gaze as it passed over everyone present was piercing. Many found that their outward displays of anger guttered and died at his words and their meaning.

Grace’s eyes dropped and she felt ashamed for demanding attention under such circumstances, but also felt resentment for having to bury her legitimate anger at the X.O.

If she’d listened to Joao none of this would have happened! She was reckless with our safety and endangered everyone on the surface! She didn’t consider the consequences, or didn’t care about them! She’s not fit to be our second-in-command!

“The Medical staff will be out to treat you all as soon as they can. They know you are here. Until they have done all they can for your crewmate, I ask that you be patient,” Sotok resumed in what was obviously a chiding. He continued more gently. “All of you have done well in enduring personal trials of the worst kind. Now that the immediate ordeal is past, I… hope… that you will continue to deal as well with the aftermath.”

That said, their commanding officer departed Sickbay without waiting for any kind of reaction. He left behind a heavy silence regardless.


Grace raised her eyes to watch him go, but once the Sickbay doors slid shut behind him she had nothing left to look at. She cast her eyes about the I.C.U., taking in her crewmates and their various physical and apparent emotional states.

She could see K’Nomi and Skora forcibly trying to realign their thoughts after the captain’s hard-hitting words. Nyima was still unconscious from falling into shock earlier. Christine was alert and also gauging everyone else’s reactions; Grace avoided meeting her eyes and continued looking around herself, though she caught the Scot’s expression soften from corner of her eyes. Joao and Michael were stealing glances at Lathena and her, exchanging looks of shared guilt. Grace found she could not look at Lathena any more; when the X.O. impinged on her awareness she felt a growing resentment. Thia… still stared blankly at the decking. Surek was once again meditating after paying attention to the captain.

Then she found her eyes locking with those of Second Officer Cha’Doth. It took no great perceptiveness to read what was in them, despite her lack of irises. Her entire being radiated distress and anguish and Grace found herself immediately sympathetic.

She saw her reaction mirrored in the other woman, and they nodded slightly at each other but were then distracted by the O.R. doors sliding open.


Cha’Doth watched Grace Kim look around the I.CU. She was obviously trying to determine how the others thought and felt about what had happened to them all and how the captain was expecting them to continue as if nothing untoward had happened.

It was just as obvious what the Human was herself thinking and feeling. Cha’Doth was still shocked by her intimation that that what had happened had been Commander Lathena’s fault, but the more she thought about it, the more likely it seemed to her that it was the truth.

No one on the surface could have done anything to trigger instant and simultaneous action across a square kilometre of forest. Grace would know what had gone on under the mountain. She would not make such an accusation – in public! – unless she had a specific incident to point to.

Cha’Doth felt her precarious grip on her own equilibrium begin to slip at this new data. Having it happen was more than bad enough to incense her but she’d had nothing to focus her cloud of rage on except mindless alien nature. Given enough time, perhaps, that cloud would have dissipated.

But now, it seemed quite likely that it was someone’s fault that all this happened. That it was one of their own made it far, far worse and so much harder to bear, but all of Cha’Doth’s animosity, outrage, and shame began to coalesce around this new datum.

She couldn’t help a molten glare at the Andorian executive officer, but the O.R. doors slid open and redirected her gaze – along with everyone else’s – to the exhausted-looking medical staff as they trudged into the I.C.U.


The disheartened medical staff filed back into Sickbay’s main ward, and everyone there took note.

Christine asked, “Ziaron…?” Her face was full of concern and fear.

Garland-Els, as C.M.O., fielded the question and spoke into the heavy silence. “He’s in stasis. We took care of most of the major injuries, but it was just too much for his system. We’ll have to take him back to starbase where they can keep him on long-term total life support until his body regains enough strength to resume working on its own.”

Quiet gasps and low cursing greeted this news, but the relief that one of their own had not died was tangible.

Addressing her own staff, Louisa stated firmly, “Okay everyone, we have new patients. Let’s get them taken care of.”


Lathena looked around her in the I.C.U., her head still ringing from Grace’s accusation and Captain Sotok’s words.

All this… is because of me, her thoughts echoed Grace. These people are all here because I did not fully consider what the consequences of my actions could be.

She recalled the reactions of everyone within her perception immediately after Grace’s accusation. Remembered the looks of surprise and non-comprehension on the faces of those in her party and those not. Looks that had turned troubled for some and disbelieving for others.

When they learn the full truth of why this all happened…

Lathena’s head dropped and she closed her eyes.

They’ll never trust me again. They’ll never be able to believe my judgement is credible. I should have left that damn computer alone! I could easily have set off a self destruct that could have killed all of my team. I could have set off an antimatter bomb in a populated city on a different continent! I could have activated planetary defences which could have destroyed the ship!

In her mind’s eye Lathena saw each of these events happen in terrible clarity. She snapped her eyes open because she couldn’t bear it any more and instead furiously glared holes in the deckplates.

I just didn’t think! How can I command these people? How can I lead anyone?! My first real test as a command officer, and in my eagerness to have something to report, I get seven crew raped to be used as incubators and three more almost crushed to be eaten! the distraught Andorian castigated herself.

I… I’m not fit to lead. To be a Command officer.

Lathena’s eyes burned with tears she refused to shed.

I… I’ll request a transfer to a base posting. Or I…  I’ll… resign.

In the roaring silence of her mind caused by considering those options, the sounds of Sickbay once again impinged on her awareness. The murmurings of the Medical staff as they treated “everyone else first”, as she’d snarled at poor Doctor th’Merrin. The whirs and beeps of the shipboard and hand-held equipment. The thrumm of the warp reactor through the deckplates from aft of them one deck up in the Engineering hull.

Unbidden, Sotok’s words came to her again: “I… hope… that you will continue to deal as well with the aftermath.”

She remembered his presence in the transporter room, there to personally welcome them back to the ship. The sight of her commanding officer – and yes, her friend – had immediately made her feel better. Knowing it was partially because the burden of responsibility had eased, been lifted from her shoulders and again placed on his, made her feel guilty but no less relieved because of it.

But then he’d informed her of the happenings on the planet’s surface and she’d felt herself fall into some level of shock.

All of this… my responsibility. I… I have to find out why. Why it all happened, and just exactly what the hell it was that did happen.

Lathena felt some of her usual resolve coalesce around these particular thoughts.

Yes. Even if they are my last actions before leaving this ship or the Service, I will go back to the planet and rip that facility apart, molecule by molecule, to find out what the hell we all got caught up in.
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

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Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Seventeen Pt I
« Reply #52 on: April 06, 2013, 05:36:18 pm »
And finally... the conclusion!

Or rather, Part One of it, since I've been told I've exceeded the 50,000 character limit for a single post.




Chapter Seventeen



Lathena sat alone in the briefing room three days later, holding her gently steaming cup of katheka, awaiting the arrival of the others. She’d come a good ten minutes early just to give herself some thinking time and to reflect on what she’d learned.

She hadn’t had a mug of Andorian coffee in years. Not since leaving her homeworld, the pre-Federation Andorian colony world of Sh’Tarr IV. The zhen realised that what she was doing was a retreat into the known, the things that brought her troubled mind some peace by reminding her of the familiar, or better times.

Even in this, however, she knew she was already faring better than easily half of the ill-fated landing party. While still as violated as every other female, that she and Grace had been experimented on by clinical machines somehow made what she had endured easier for her to bear than what those on the surface had gone through. Lathena shuddered to think about that and knew that if she’d been on the surface instead of in the caves she’d be feeling as withdrawn and traumatised as Cha’Doth and Thia still were.

What they had learned about the place made it easier still to deal with, easier to distance herself from the events and close the door on the whole thing.

Lost in these ruminations she did not detect the others’ approach until the briefing room door slid open and in strode Sotok, Cha’Doth, Strøm-Erichsen, Engineer Niyoyankana, and the rest of the original landing parties – with one notable exception. The table didn’t have seats for all of them but Lathena noted with an inner warmth that had nothing to do with her katheka that all the women were given first shot at them. Cha’Doth, Thia, and Grace took their places beside her, an air of apathy and dejection around them, whereas Skora, Christine, and K’Nomi stood proudly, defiantly asserting that they needed no special babying from their crewmates.

We each react in our own way, Lathena mused, noting her own more introspective and slightly withdrawn reactions. I’m still a command-level Starfleet officer, for however much longer that lasts, she reminded herself. I have to lead by example. I cannot let them see this has me running scared.

“Commander, I trust you have not been waiting long?” Sotok inquired, inflectionless as ever.

“No, Captain,” the ship’s X.O. replied simply, letting the topic drop without further elaboration.

“Then you may begin your briefing, Commander,” the Vulcan ordered levelly.

“Aye, Sir. Everyone, please direct your attention to the wall screen.” Operating the library computer terminal, Lathena brought up a video log of the facility’s exterior. Grace, Michael, and Joao’s faces took on a strained look. “As some of us already know, this is the underground facility which is the source of the energy signature we detected from orbit. It is completely abandoned and has been for sixty-nine years, as close as we can determine. Its systems were in shutdown for all that time, and its care and maintenance were handled by a primitive monitoring system which itself went into standby mode roughly forty years ago.”

“That explains the damage to the reactor building then,” Michael stated quietly.

Lathena nodded. “Correct. The monitor program only reactivated when we triggered sensor alarms after I accessed the computer, upon which the monitor program assumed it was under attack, perhaps by unknown aliens, perhaps merely escaped test subjects, and reacted to defend the facility and contain the intruders.”

 “And its subsequent actions against us?” Grace asked suddenly, her voice hostile, but not looking up. Lathena couldn’t tell if that hostility was directed at her or not.

Lathena had spent every minute of the last three days in the cavern, obsessively seeking her answers, with Michael and Joao working alongside her. But Grace had remained holed up onboard the ship, unwilling or unable to face the source of her current distress, and Lathena had not sought hr out.

“Our investigation has determined we were ‘captured for genetic compatibility analysis’, as if we were no more than arboreal primates,” she replied flatly, staring challengingly at the Korean woman. Grace finally looked up and they locked eyes.

Kim’s anger remained in check and she subsided, but Lathena could also see that it simmered not far below the surface. It was only reasonable for the young Human to blame her, call her reckless, even hate her for it – and Lathena could now tell from her attitude that she still did.

It didn’t make it any easier to bear. Especially as Lathena now had to live with the guilt of being responsible for this, for having directly caused it. In the deathly silence of her quarters in the aptly-named graveyard shift as she tried to fall asleep each night since it happened, she was questioning her judgement and fitness to command and lead others. She’d replayed the scenario again and again. If she’d just returned to the surface with a report instead of taking it upon herself to try to learn more; if only she’d taken a larger team down to the caves with her – but while the latter option might have saved her own team it would not have prevented the events on the surface. So many ‘what ifs’, but given the situation again with what she knew at the time, Lathena knew she’d do the same again. She was curious, she liked to explore and investigate, find things out for herself. It was why she was in Starfleet to begin with. What happened was just a hazard of the job, unfortunately. Fortunately this kind of thing did not happen often.

At least all my crew are alive and in one piece, if only just barely on one case, she consoled herself, thinking of Petty Officer Second Class Ziaron Na-Foreteii of Efros Delta. And you have to be alive for it to hurt.

Continuing with the briefing, Lathena cued the video to the lighted facility interior. “The standard part of the facility is exactly what it appears to be: living space for the beings who’d staffed it. From the facilities available, we can deduce that their physiology and psychology is much like ours. Exercise room, entertainment room, audio and video programs, games of strategy and bluff.” Lathena cued the video to the “Latex Lab”, as their investigative team had taken to calling it. As soon as the control console room appeared Joao’s eyes narrowed, and his jaw clenched on seeing the “goo room”; Michael tensed, his eyes flicking to his fellow landing party members; Grace flinched violently and stared with furious concentration at the screen. Lathena couldn’t blame them; her own feelings on the room had bordered on homicidal rage.

“From taking apart this room and its control computer piece by piece, we determined that this is a fully isolated biohazard laboratory,” Lathena stated with absolute certainty. “Their technology lags behind ours by easily two centuries, but within those constraints it has been carefully designed to prevent an outbreak. The engineering and computer science personnel taking this place apart found chemical analysers, electron microscopes, computer modelling software – basically, the whole roll of cloth.”

 “A biohazard lab with full containment procedures.” Cha’Doth stated harshly. “Was it creating those plants on the surface?”

Unlike Kim, the Ur’uth’uul female’s anger did not seem to be focussed on Lathena, but with the very delicate nature of this topic and having its traumatised survivors present gave rise to a very tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. Michael fidgeted. The young security specialist still felt ashamed of not going to his team-mates’ rescue immediately, even though the fully-equipped rescue party’s trials proved that alone he could have done nothing except get captured himself – which would have meant the team would have been held for hours longer and the subsequent search party would not have been equipped to rescue them.

“No, Lieutenant,” Lathena answered into the charged silence. “In fact, quite the opposite. It is our conclusion, of which we are one hundred percent certain is correct, that this laboratory facility was set up to study the flora and fauna on the planet’s surface.”

“What?!” came the startled exclamations of several present, to the shocked gasps of several more.

“What is your proof of this, Commander?” Sotok asked, sounding intrigued.

Lathena shrugged, a very eloquent Human gesture she’d learned from the C.O. of her previous ship. “Unfortunately, the monitor program lobotomised itself and totally wiped all its data storage crystals so there are no mission directives from the builders themselves,” she began, “but certain logical deductions can be made from the set-up of the facility, it’s location, the equipment within, and the directives it gave to its robots. First of all, the lab is set up as an investigatory room. There are all sorts of sensors, probes, analytical equipment, specimen holding areas for both flora and fauna, and examination rooms. We find no equipment that could be used to create new organisms without extensive and ruinous reconfiguration and cannibalisation from multiple other sources. Certainly, the computer equipment could model new forms of life but it is not sophisticated enough to perform recombinant DNA and RNA work, for example.”

That statement sank into the room at large and the unfocussed anger enveloping the room from the survivors dissipated slightly as a result. Expressions eased and shoulders relaxed slightly.

“Secondly is the location of the facility. It is located deep within a mountain, below ground level in a lightless cavern with a very small natural air supply and no soil or ground water. Only mineral-rich, sediment-heavy water droplets creating stalagmites and stalactites exists. If the purpose was to create and grow these plants, animals, and insects, the builders could have chosen no more inhospitable location on the planet. Nothing lives in that cavern, not even bioluminescent lichens,” the Andorian zhen stated definitively. Manipulating the library terminal’s controls, she showed the assemblage the pitch-black cavern as discerned through low-light sensors and some echo-ranging – sonar, she remembered from Michael as she spoke. “There are no growing vats to mass produce any plants or creatures that may have been cooked up in a properly-outfitted genetics lab, nor any natural growing plots. Even if the quarantine in the lab spaces were to be breached there is no way for any plants to survive in that cavern, and any creatures from the surface that broke free, even insects, would only have encountered a more inimical environment to their life-forms on this planet’s moon.”

Lathena swept her gaze around the attendees, making eye contact with each of them to drive this point home. “No light, no natural air currents, no heat, no magnetic guidance due to the kelbonite-3, and massive chasms waiting to claim the unwitting. This entire facility within the mountain cavern is yet another form of extreme isolation. Another layer of quarantine, so that if the lab were breached the occupants could easily control, contain, and outlast the outbreak.

“Have any of you wondered exactly how this facility was built? I mean, how they got all that material down there in the first place, including components for an entire fusion reactor?” she asked suddenly, almost aggressively.

“The thought had occurred, Commander,” Sotok commented, to which Germain nodded along. They were in sharp contrast to the blank and uncaring faces surrounding them.

Tapping in another command, the wall screen showed the area behind the facility at the far end of the cavern from where her team had entered. The composite low-light/sonar image at the rear wall showed numerous cliff faces and fissures.

“What you are now seeing is not a broken and fissured rock face,” she told them all. “This is the bottom end of a large-bore natural tunnel which has caved in and built up debris over some thirty-two years,” the Andorian announced to a surprised audience. “It measures some ten metres across and from what we can tell through the kelbonite interference, it’s straight. Possibly it is a lava tube from the extinct volcano this mountain used to be, but whatever its origins, it is completely blocked now.”

“Did you find the other end?” Grace asked, interested despite herself.

By way of immediate answer, Lathena switched the video image to an orbital view of the mountain range. “Yes, Lieutenant, we did,” she stated. A flashing transporter icon appeared on the overhead view. “This is the location of Michael’s portable transport pad,” she commented, noting the startled look she got from the young security specialist at her unexpectedly familiar mode of address, and the exchanged glances from others at the same.

A second transporter icon appeared, to which she added, “This is the portable transporter pad set up by P.O. Hussayn’s engineering team. From these coordinates and the route logged in our tricorders, this is the location of the facility.” She added a bright yellow outline over the top of the mountain’s exterior. “This then is the location of the bottom end of the lava tube and here,” she added her forth and fifth overlays, “is the upper end.”

So saying, she then zoomed the orbital image in to an altitude of twenty metres over the rocky, grass-covered terrain and indeed there was a large, roughly circular cave entrance extending into the mountain. Zooming back out to a five-hundred metre altitude, another nearby item of interest was highlighted. “In this area we found very faint evidence of a landing site. This is where the builders landed their craft, offloaded their equipment, and conveyed it into the mountain’s depths.” She looked up to see fascinated looks on the faces of most present, all caught up in the gradual reveal she’d laid out for them. Nothing like having a mystery explained, the Andorian thought with distant amusement.

“No doubt the builders searched long and hard across the continent to find just such a location for the site of their lab. While the outer tunnel entrance is saturated with plant life, so little light makes it into the cavern that even though it is not blocked for the first hundred metres, only the first fifteen has even a trace of vegetation. At the edge of this distance, and in almost total darkness, only a few sparse clumps of scrawny moss cling to life.” She looked back to the attendees. “This is a very well-chosen site.”

After a few moments of appreciative and contemplative silence, Skora asked, “And what of the plants on the surface? What is their connection to the lab in the depths of the mountain? Why were the plants sluggish and docile for over three hours until you tripped the alarm in the facility and the surface became a rape-fest?”

Those harsh and urgent questions so bluntly asked caused several indrawn breaths and gasps. Ensign Okeild’s tone bordered on that of outright insubordination, but no reprimand or rebuke was forthcoming.

“Ensign,” Sotok said simply, almost gently.

The heavily-breathing Daenaii scientist looked over to her captain, back to Lathena, around the room to meet the eyes of any who would, and then back to her captain. She took reassurance from his calm, steady, unflappable demeanour and subsided, calming down.

A weak smile flitted across her face and she nodded to Sotok. Blowing out a breath, she turned back to the X.O. “Sorry, Commander,” she said simply, the heat gone from her bearing and voice.

Lathena nodded to her understandingly. “Those are good questions, Ensign. I’ll answer them now.”

Skora nodded and sighed unhappily. “Thanks, X.O.”

“The connection between the lab and the surface is as stated: they were studying the plants and creatures on the surface. There is also a literal connection.” Bringing up yet another low-light/sonar composite video, Lathena showed the assemblage another section of the cavern in an alcove behind the reactor building, in an area her original fast recon had not reached. Hidden within the stygian depths of this alcove, some forty-seven metres beyond the farthest extent of the building complex, was another opening.

“This tunnel, as you can see, is far more regularly proportioned and with a smooth interior diameter. It is obviously not a natural formation from the way it extends straight in and alters course several times, and its angle of elevation along this route changes, making its way to the surface to emerge at a carefully hidden exit-way some three-point-seven kilometres south of the system of caves Lieutenant Kim discovered.”

She looked up at the assemblage again. “We could get no readings due to the ever-present kelbonite, but the passageway is easily large enough in all dimensions to allow the robots from the facility access to the forest above. What’s more, we did discover waveguides into fibre-optic cabling embedded into the tunnel’s wall at an approximate one-point-five metre height for the entire length of the passage. Following this past the waveguides at the surface opening, we scoured the vicinity and finally discovered these.”

During her narrative, a time-elapsed video of someone obviously walking up through the passageway had been playing until the tricorder and the person carrying it emerged into the bright but filtered daylight at the base of the mountains, very close to the edge of the forest, where the video switched from its composite low-light/sonar to standard full colour video. From a brief glance at the waveguides on this side – twins to those on the cavern side – the scene showed a small clump of circuitry embedded into the bough of a tree.

“We finally found these devices carefully placed on or secured in the outermost branch tips of the lowest tier of the forest canopy. Each one is a transceiver relay capable of performing its function and relaying the command activating it to all other transceiver relays in its range. Both components are omni-directional, and a third component consists of audio-visual recorders and primitive biological sensors. From within the carefully concealed and camouflaged sensor blisters, the instruments can record a 360° by 120° field of vision centred on the forest floor directly below it.

“It is through these sensors that the facility staff observed their regions of interest and directed their primitive robotic orderlies. It is also through these devices, positioned all over this area of forest, that the lab researches rendered the surface dwellers docile.”

As she expected, that last comment engendered an explosion of comments and startled exclamations. Lathena tuned them out until they all calmed down again. While originally buoyed by the investigation into the lab and what happened to them all, she had all the answers she was going to get and was now weary of it all. She just wanted the whole thing sealed in ice and consigned to her past. She had obtained her closure and wanted to move on, but the others still had to hear the whole story so that they too could begin to put these traumatising events behind them.

At last the hubbub abated and Lathena took up the briefing again. “As we are all aware, we detected a sub-harmonic resonance immediately upon beam-down. We also know from the testimony of those on the surface that the harmonic stopped almost simultaneously with my activation of the computer in the facility. Now, we still do not know why that connection exists due to the total data storage erasure upon the computer’s shutdown, but we do know there is a connection. Perhaps the monitor program thought it was under attack from adventurous arboreals. Perhaps it recognised us as sapient invaders. Whatever the case, perhaps again it ceased its broadcast in the forest allowing the plants and non-mammalian life-forms to ‘wake up’ as a further means of defence, to prevent others finding the way into the cavern. Again, we do not know right now.

“What we do know, from Lieutenant K’Nomi’s extensive analysis and the uploaded data from her equipment before it was destroyed, is that the harmonic, as broadcast from these numerous facility devices, interfered with the natural life processes of the plants and creatures in a very precise way. It did not harm them but rendered their hyperactive metabolisms inert, or almost so. They were sluggish, slow to react, seemingly ‘asleep’. The precise details of how are available in the computer, but suffice it to say that the researchers staffing this lab must have studied this effect extensively to allow them to refine it to this degree. Only the plants and creatures which attacked the surface party in this particular manner were affected. Other plants and mammalian life-forms were not affected,” Lathena repeated to hammer that point home.

“As for why this was done, the reason is obvious as the effects are readily apparent. Rendering these plants and creatures sluggish allowed unfettered access to the forest for sampling runs, scientific analyses, and whatever other activities may have been undertaken. It is a safety feature to protect the robots and perhaps the staff themselves while on the surface. It is an approach to hyper-metabolic life that will be of great interest to Federation scientists for like and other applications and situations.”

Lathena noticed several angry looks at that last comment. Personally, she thought that after what they’d experienced having something good come out of it helped to ease the emotions from the events; that having learned something that would benefit science and advance the cause of sapient life made what they’d gone through not for nothing, even if it was only a side or accidental benefit.

However, the others apparently wanted to completely forget and distance themselves from the whole affair, and anything that referenced it or came from it would ensure that the memory did not die, thus leaving a raw, unhealed wound, ever ready to flinch from a mere implication or unknowing reference to their own violations.

Lathena could see evidence of this in the body language of Cha’Doth, Skora, Thia, Grace Kim, and K’Nomi. Only time would tell if they could move past it.

“What of the lab where we were imprisoned, Sir?” Grace asked belligerently. “What purpose did it serve? What possible scientific reason exists for those machines and what they did to me?”

Another hushed, tense silence engulfed the room. Again, after being under intense stress and psychological distress, greater leeway was being granted to those suffering, but this one was a step too far for the X.O.

Voice instantly cold, quiet, and sharp, she skewered the young Human with a baleful glare. “To you, Kim? What those machines did to you?” Her voice rising with each word even as her body rose with it, the Andorian zhen lit into her erstwhile comrade in arms. “Of course, in that lab, in that facility, you were the only one there, weren’t you? There was no one else who was being held like a lab specimen, no one else helplessly restrained! No one else—”

“Commander, that is enough.”

Even though Sotok barely raised his voice, his no-nonsense tone ensured that it was heard.

An incensed Lathena, on her feet now and breathing heavily with a fury neither one knew she had in her, glared down at a Grace Kim shocked out of all her anger, shame, and self pity.

Trying to bring herself under control, Lathena couldn’t tear her eyes from the wilting geologist. “I suggest we take a short recess,” she said to her captain, her voice rough and harsh and still staring hard at Kim. “Emotions are obviously high and still raw over this, and there has been a lot covered in a short time.”

“Agreed, Commander,” he stated, then addressed the assemblage. “Please reconvene here in thirty minutes. Dismissed.”
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Chapter Eighteen
« Reply #53 on: April 06, 2013, 05:39:16 pm »
And Part Two of the conclusion, which I've just decided will make a new chapter.




Chapter Eighteen



Christine, Michael, and Germain immediately went to Lathena’s side, and Cha’Doth, Skora, and Na Tchuto stood with Grace, each group offering support to their charge. The others hesitated a moment before moving toward the door.

“Commander, are you okay?” Michael asked, genuine concern in his voice and – as she looked across into them – not very well hidden shame and self-blame in his eyes.

Lathena sighed. Grace just had to push that particular button, didn’t she? Now Greene thinks it’s all his fault again because of my outburst of pain and now I have to soothe him… she began remonstrating with herself, before just as quickly deciding, No. I’m not going to make light of this just to make him feel better. It’s not his fault and I’ve told him as much. If he chooses to beat himself up over it and doubt my veracity, then that’s his choice. But I’m not going to waste my own patience on him when this has clearly affected me more deeply than I thought.

The others began to look to each other as the seconds between Greene’s question and the answer grew. Lathena noticed this and snapped, “I’m fine!” which even as she uttered it she knew would just convince them further that she was far from “fine”.

“Look, I’m not okay, okay? I and the people under my command were raped or almost eaten. It’s going to take me time to come to terms with that,” she told them in a more reasonable tone. “To expect otherwise is unreasonable. I thought I’d dealt with it, but obviously I’ve got a bit more to work out.”

She spoke more to her captain, who was still seated in his chair at the head of the conference table, than to her friends and subordinates.

Grace approached her then, her face still twisted with her own pain and that of her blunder.

“Commander,” she stated, waiting to be acknowledged before continuing.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” the zhen replied, managing to remove most of the reflexive animosity from her tone.

“I… I apologise for implying that what you went through affected you any less than my experiences did me,” the Human began hesitantly, the regret and shame evident in her voice. Licking her lips, she added, “I… I don’t mean to blame you for what happened. I know it’s not your doing…”

She trailed off and Lathena picked it up for her.

“But I’m still responsible and it did happen because of me. Right?”

Grace cast about helplessly, wanting to refute that, before giving up and shrugging just as helplessly. “I can’t help the way I feel, Commander,” she told her superior almost plaintively. “What happened to me… to all of us,” she quickly amended, “is some of the worst that can happen to sapient beings. The loss of dignity, respect, self-respect, the integrity of our bodies… I’m sure I’d not be having such a problem if the plants tried to eat me like Ziaron, Nyima and Surek, or the robots tried to kill me like our rescue teams, or I’d been physically wounded. That’s… it’s not personal, as bizarre as that may sound to you, to everyone. But to be violated… and in such a cold, impersonal, way, by unthinking machines… it just doesn’t get any more personal than that.”

Kim’s passionate, impromptu speech ended there and the Human woman straightened her back and squared her shoulders. “I just wanted you to understand, Sir.” She broadened her gaze to include the others present as well. “All of you.”

Lathena’s animosity drained away in the face of Grace’s disarming honesty, to be replaced by a great weariness. “I share many but not all of your issues; foremost among them being that I caused this. I know I did. And I’ve not slept more than an hour at time since it happened,” she revealed, her voice low and soft. “Captain, could you bring everyone back in please?”

Sotok pressed on his wrist-com. “This is the Captain. Briefing attendees, return to the Briefing Room.” He watched Lathena, his dark eyes revealing nothing.

Lathena held her peace now, awaiting the arrival of the others. Her immediate companions, sensing something was on their X.O.’s agenda, didn’t press her or venture anything new.

Within two minutes the other attendees had returned, puzzled looks on their faces since less than a third of the allotted recess time had elapsed.

Lathena took a steadying breath. “Cha’Doth. Skora. Christine. K’Nomi. Thia. Joao. Nyima. Surek. Grace,” she said addressing all of them by name and making eye contact with every one of them in turn, then maintaining it with Grace Kim. “And to Ziaron, who cannot be here but whom I keep safe in my thoughts every minute of every hour since.

“I am so incredibly sorry for what happened to you on the planet below,” she said simply, her genuine emotion there for all to see.

Some nodded, in thanks or acknowledgement. Some stared about, embarrassed by the complete lack of formality and protocol to hide behind. Some gave tentative, sad, wistful smiles to her and each other.

Grace’s brown eyes filled with tears and Lathena also saw Thia likewise start weeping, having to sit down as her shoulders shook.

“Thank you, Lathena,” Grace managed to whisper back, before covering her face with her hand.

Everyone let their emotions run their course without regard for time or “the proper discipline”. Sotok, their emotionless, middle-aged, full Vulcan captain, gave no reaction to the rampant emotionalism. Lathena was heartily grateful to have him as their C.O. for this event. Despite giving no overt reaction, he nonetheless exuded understanding and compassion. Lathena had known Vulcans who would have reacted with distance, coldness, distaste, or even outright disgust at the scene before him now – never mind that as Vulcans these too were emotions they were supposed control and suppress.

Some unmeasured but still relatively short time later the group settled down again and Sotok brought the meeting back to order, making no reference to or comment on the preceding events.

“We have since determined or deduced the majority of the functions and purposes of the various elements of the base. There is one last area to cover, and then we must decide what will come after.” Addressing his X.O., he prompted, “Commander.”

“Thank you, Captain. Now, the last areas of the base not yet explained in sufficient detail are the rooms where my landing party were held,” she began, suddenly realising that it was likely a good thing that this group had experienced their emotional blow-out. This will be a lot easier to bear and accept now that we’ve already exhausted our emotions on it. “While the general function – that of a biology laboratory – is known, the reason for the equipment in those rooms remains… contentious. While we do not know for certain, the following represents our best deductions of their purpose.

“We believe that these rooms are set up to examine and monitor the indigenous mammalian life-forms – such as the arboreal primates we’ve observed in the forest – as they progress through the stages of impregnation or implantation.”

This information shocked only a few, the majority of those present having already come to certain conclusions with regards to the forest’s ecology and animal kingdom life-cycle.

“Based on the observed level of technology within the facility, we know that this species does not have even our least-advanced internal imaging scanners, which can tell us exactly what each part of our bodies is doing or what is affecting it, even down to scanning and isolating foreign substances at a molecular level. At best their medical technology can show low resolution images of skeletal structure and basic mapping of internal organs. To get any other kind of data they still have to perform exploratory surgery or use… other means.”

Lathena heard the small hesitation before her last two words and wondered if anyone else had. If so, no one gave any reaction.

“Not to belabour the point,” she continued, “the probes we were subjected to were designed to provoke the same responses in the test subject as they would evoke on being assaulted by the plants and animals on the surface.”

A collective air of outrage and resigned dismay permeated the briefing room at these words.

“And the purpose of provoking these reactions were?” Kim asked quietly, her body language now subdued.

“It is difficult to say with any certainty without any of the data in hand,” Lathena told them all, her tone vaguely apologetic, “but we deduce from the scanty clues that its purpose was to determine the physiological and psychological reactions of the arboreal primates – the highest form of mammalian life on the planet – to being ‘taken’.”

“What possible use could that have been?” Cha’Doth demanded hotly before Grace could.

“We can only speculate that it was to determine if the planet’s other plants and creatures accepted this, either as part of their planet’s natural life cycle or even as some sort of primitive tribal rite.”

Despite the cloud of gloom and depression that hung over the planetary sciences females, this piece of speculation obviously caught the attention of Christine and Skora, and even Cha’Doth looked thoughtful, losing her own air of hopeless helplessness to ponder this from the anthropological standpoint of the native arboreals.

“The other instrumentation was to examine already-impregnated or implanted mammals to track the volume, quantity, pervasiveness, and… flow of the alien substances in the host’s body.” This time everyone heard her hesitation, but while people shifted slightly in their seats or exchanged quick glances, again no one said anything as Lathena continued.

“We have our own samples of all these substances and our analyses have determined that in the case of the animal life forms, the fluids consist of already fertilised eggs. The obvious correlation is that they are implanted into a host body and begin to feed off it, eventually consuming that host from within and spawning thousands of infant creatures.”

The imagery this evoked led to many shudders and expressions of disgust, revulsion, and fear at the very idea, and at becoming the victim of the final stage of this “natural process”. Lathena herself had a hard time suppressing a shudder, even now.

“In the case of the plant life forms, the fluids consist of seeds, again within an egg-like structure which is evolved to bond with the target animal’s digestive system. Since these target animals are non-sapient, modern waste disposal systems are obviously not considered and the animal would pass these seeds in the normal manner, some distance from the original plant – whether it be metres or kilometres – and of course supply it with an immediate source of fertiliser for its initial growth. Thus in this manner do these particular types of plant spread across an area.”

Everyone pondered that process in silence, but Lathena found it unnerving. This was a room of scientists and explorers, and yes engineers and soldiers, but Starfleet nonetheless. That this was not igniting some kind of debate about those bizarre origins and volunteers for staffing a new mission to explore them was indicative of a deep trauma not easily overcome. She could see that those not directly involved wanted to discuss it, but felt inhibited by the obvious discomfort and outright loathing of those actually caught up in these processes on the planet’s surface.

Sotok pondered the silence as he closely observed his crew. He could tell that several of them would require a lot of time to put this heinous event behind them, and that perhaps two in particular would require a leave of absence. I will ensure that the options are made available to quickly grant these requests when they come, he resolved, and that everyone knows those options are available to them.

However, with no one picking up the discussion ball, he had to prod the briefing onwards to its conclusion. “Please continue, Commander.”

“Yes, Captain. Finally, we come to the goo room,” Lathena continued, shaking off her own haunted thoughts. “This is fairly simple, though ingenious. It is a holding room where subjects under observation or awaiting their turn in the analysis machines were imprisoned. What is ingenious about this is that, where we would use either physical manacles and cells with either bars or forcefields, these people have advanced multi-state plastics. When a specific frequency of electrical current is run through them, what was a formless puddle of goo becomes a rigid, pre-programmed shape possessing a high tensile strength.”

Appreciative looks from Germain, Anne-Grete, and the security personnel greeted these words.

“This would be very useful in many situations,” Germain noted, careful not to let his interest in this substance overwhelm the still-fragile emotional state of the assemblage. “Temporary bracings, programmable shelters like camping tents or more permanent structures—”

“And prisoner containment without need of forcefield emitters or huge power sources, or building materials,” Anne-Grete added from her own perspective.

“Federation member science, even pre-Federation, did not fully start up in this area,” Sotok commented. “More emphasis was placed on developing energy-based forcefields. Most members who had low-key research into these materials discontinued them upon practical forcefields being developed first. This would be of significant scientific and practical benefit to the Federation,” he concluded, echoing the earlier comment on the sonic somnolent technology.

“So now we have two technologies of interest to the Federation,” Cha’Doth stated savagely. “Lots more inquisitive scientists and put-upon security personnel coming to this planet, this forest, to examine the technology, put themselves at risk – and knowing exactly what happened to us here.”

The second officer’s snarling delivery and the words themselves gave everyone pause. Germain and Anne-Grete exchanged a guilty, chastised look, both thinking that perhaps showing any interest or enthusiasm for anything from this planet was inappropriate and insensitive.

The chief of security was the first one bold enough to speak aloud what most of the others had already started thinking. “We do not have to report everything that happened here,” the Norwegian stated evenly.

“You mean we falsify records to Starfleet Command?” Germain asked before Michael and Joao could, unable to keep a note of stridency from his tone.

“That is not what I am saying or meaning, Commander,” Anne-Grete replied without heat. “We will report the exact truth.”

“But not the whole truth,” Lathena stated, again without heat or accusation. They were all discussing a course of action, not pointing fingers.

“Correct,” Anne-Grete confirmed. “We would report our discoveries in the cavern facility. We would report our analyses of the flora and fauna on the surface. We would report that the plants, creatures, and robots attacked our personnel, and that the danger still exists on the surface. We can report what measures and treatments were necessary to flush the alien substances from our crew members’ bodies.

“But we need not report how our crew was attacked, or how those substances got into their systems.” Lathena looked to their captain, as did all the others. “Sir, is that legal or proper?” she asked, struggling to appear objective and unaffected.

“An omission is not a lie,” their Vulcan commanding officer stated blandly. “As long as the danger to personnel is adequately cited so that any future landing parties arriving for whatever reason are sufficiently forewarned, we have not failed in our moral duty to safeguard our fellow servicebeings.”

“Captain, with respect, I disagree,” Solok stated evenly, earning him the harsh glares of most of the landing party. “It has been my observation that many non-Vulcans consistently under-estimate a danger, or over-estimate their ability to guard against or deal with it. Any subsequent landing parties or non-Starfleet expeditions to this planet will in all probability be less careful if they believe they will be ‘attacked’ as opposed to ‘sexually violated’,” the Vulcan security officer explained himself. “Having established this I believe it will put any subsequent landing parties in personal jeopardy to report anything less than the full truth.”

Put like that, most of the angry glares dissipated, replaced by thoughtful, troubled looks as the attendees considered that.

“Perhaps instead use a poisoned blade approach?” Doctor th’Merrin advanced tentatively. Ignoring the blank looks from the others who did not know that particular Andorian expression, he continued. “We file our reports as Commander Strøm-Erichsen suggests, and also file some highly classified reports, only to be viewed by landing parties about to proceed planetside, which detail exactly what happened to our crewmates.”

Thoughtful, receptive looks encouraged the Andorian thaan to elaborate further. “This way the general danger is known, but also any specific personnel and their commanding officer about to place them in this specific danger also will know exactly what they could be getting themselves into, and decide accordingly.”

“I like this idea,” Christine MacAllen stated immediately and forthrightly. “It has the virtue of protecting our privacy and dignity, and our future careers in Starfleet from over-protective superiors and crewmates, but not at the expense of endangering others with our selfishness.”

“And we could specify that anyone viewing this classified personal data is sworn to silence over it so that after learning these details they cannot discuss it amongst themselves or their crewmates or families!” Thia jumped in, showing more life than she had done since being rescued three days ago.

“Captain, would the Admiralty really go for that specific level and type of classification?” Grace Kim asked, almost plaintively. “Can we trust them not to look at the files themselves? To classify it above their own clearance?”

That brought the discussion to a halt as once again everyone focussed on their C.O. to hear his answer.

Sotok pondered it for a moment before nodding. “I believe I can persuade our sector commander to accede to this request. I do not believe it to be unreasonable, and will make a sworn statement to the effect that this data has no possible bearing on the security of the Federation, and solely relates to personal privacy.”

“Then I see no reason not to implement Doctor th’Merrin’s suggestion,” Christine announced decisively.

“I too agree to this suggestion,” Lathena stated.

“I view it as an acceptable compromise, and can support it such an approach with a clear conscience,” Solok gave his long-winded approval.

“I’m for it,” Thia stated simply, seeming immensely relieved.

“I could live with this arrangement,” Grace Kim stated quietly, hesitantly.

“I still want to raze the whole damned forest to ashes,” Skora growled, “but barring that I’ll go along with this.”

A slightly uncomfortable silence followed that before Cha’Doth spoke up. “I agree with Skora. On both counts,” the science officer stated quietly.

K’Nomi was nodding along with them. “I’m with Skora and Cha’Doth,” she said quietly, but her voice was laced with anger and her tail wouldn’t stop lashing about.

Michael looked around at his fellow males and stated, “I think I speak for the rest of us when I say we’ll go along with whatever is best for out crewmates.”

He raised his eyebrows and Joao, Na-Foreteii, and Nyima all nodded seriously.

“Don’t do that.”

Michael looked around in surprise to stare at who had spoken. “Commander?” he asked, befuddled. “I don’t understand—”

“Don’t treat us like we’re broken, or unable to look after ourselves,” she told him, though not unkindly. She looked at him wearily, but not without compassion. “Michael…” she began, but corrected herself to address his little group. “Gentlemen. I… we… appreciate your motives, where your emotions are on this matter. But it is not your fault, any of it. You do not need to feel guilty about it, should not feel guilty about it. By trying to shelter us like you are now starting to do, you diminish us. You may even begin to insult us, implying we can no longer take care of ourselves. You may be suffering from survivors’ guilt – you especially, Michael – but you have to get over it. Just because you weren’t attacked, or believe you suffered a lesser attack or loss of dignity – stop it. Right here and right now. Because I for one will not stand for it. Your emotions are in the right place, trying to show that you care and are sorry for what happened to us. But you are going about it the wrong way.

“Speaking for myself, I do not want any pity, special deference, or consideration. All it will do is constantly remind me of what I went through and how it has changed my relationships with others around me. I want to put this incident behind me, not have it constantly vibrate my antennae.”

Michael looked back at her in some kind of mild shock; perhaps he thought she was being harsh. Maybe she was, but the best thing to do here was nip this behaviour in the bud and, judging from the reactions of most of her female compatriots, they agreed with her as well.

“This has all been a very informal session, with ranks forgotten and standard protocol thrown in the freezer. But once we leave this room I expect normal shipboard routine to be re-established – while on duty, of course,” their X.O. told them all.

A chorus of assenting and agreeing murmurs greeted these words, but Cha’Doth spoke up, her voice laced with bitterness.

“Back to normal, eh? As if nothing happened? That may work for you Lathena but it’s not that easy for me!” She got up and stormed out of the briefing room, visibly distressed.

Several people got up to go after her but Lathena stayed them. “Let her go; I think she needs to be alone right now. We are almost done here anyway.”

Skora, Thia, Nyima, and Germain all looked at each other before slowly retaking their seats.

“What else remains, Commander?” Christine asked, sounding puzzled.

The Andorian zhen was impressed by this young Human’s resilience after her experience. It looked as if she truly had taken this incident in her stride, but Lathena knew that bottling things up and fooling everyone that you were fine when you were most definitely not was a recipe for disaster. She’d have to keep a special eye on all her people after this, to offer support and let them know support was there for them and there was no shame in admitting that they needed it. If I’m remaining in the Fleet at all, she reminded herself. I think I require a private meeting with the captain after all this.

“We’ve yet to officially decide on a complete course of action,” she replied to Christine, then addressed Sotok. “Captain, we’ve agreed to Anne-Grete and Jar’s suggestions for reporting back to Command, but what of the final disposition of the planet itself, and the facility on it?”

Taking control of final moments of the meeting, Sotok stated to the room at large, “While there are technologies, science and medical data, and procedures to report on, we have also examined at length all of these issues and will supply the entirety of the data as is appropriate.

“However, such is the danger to mammalian humanoids at least, and perhaps even any life-form which could be used by the indigenous flora and fauna to further their own life cycles, that I am recommending this planet be placed under strict and heavy quarantine.”

This pronouncement was met at first with surprise at such a wide-ranging step, but this quickly melted into satisfaction.

“A very gratifying decision, Captain,” Lathena told him, using a Vulcan compliment to express just how gratifying it was. She further asked, “What particular grade of quarantine are you electing to declare?”

“Class-Three Biohazard, Commander,” Sotok informed her, and by extension, the rest of the room. “Since the nature of the hazard is not an instantly contagious airborne virus or mutagenic substance, it does not qualify as a Class One or Two. Class Three is the most dangerous level of classification that can be logically justified.”

Skora and Christine looked at each other. “Class Three should be quite sufficient, Sir,” the blonde Scot stated in pleased tones.

The Daenaii nodded her agreement. “If that does not scare off whomever approaches, very little will.”

“Just so, Ensign. Just so,” Sotok agreed. “Commander, when you return to the bridge, assume geostationary orbit over our landing party’s base camp. Lieutenant K’Nomi, you will program and deploy a warning buoy set to broadcast Federation code 7-10. Ensure that it has a Class Three Biohazard warning encoded also.”

“Aye, Captain,” the communications chief responded crisply as Lathena nodded.

Tapping his wrist-comm, Sotok contacted the bridge.

“Bridge, Ensign Hawke.”

“Ensign, contact Commodore Solit’Na on Starbase 27 and request a secure personal real-time comm link for me. Inform me when you have it and route it through to the Briefing Room.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Tapping the com channel off, he addressed the attendees again. “Prepare your reports for final approval by the Executive Officer and myself.”

The assembled crew nodded or gave their species specific acknowledgement of their orders.

“On a final, personal note, I wish to commend you all on your comportment and the continued performance of your duties in the face of these exceptional circumstances,” he told them, to their considerable surprise. “Your dedication to duty and your support of your colleagues despite your own traumas bring you great personal honour and make you a credit to the uniform you wear.

“I am highly gratified to be serving with all of you.”

The attending crew of the Falklands were shocked to the core; for a Vulcan, Sotok was practically gushing. In his own distinct style he was telling them that he was proud of them. Implicit in this praise, however, was the exhortation to continue doing so, and to resist falling to the demons obviously still preying on their absent science officer.

Sotok’s cool, unflappable gaze swept over all of them and watched their reactions. Some blushed at the praise. Some broke into tentative smiles. Some looked like they were barely holding on to their public comportment.

Sotok nodded again, acknowledging their reactions.

“Thank you everyone. Dismissed.”


The End
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Scottish Andy

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Falklands: Quarantine - Afterword
« Reply #54 on: April 06, 2013, 06:02:17 pm »
"Well, that's all," he wrote.

I'm back, and I have to admit that it was your reactions to this story which was the reason for my departure in the first place. I felt embarrassed at judging its content so wrong, and despite my saying I'd publish it and brave the reactions, I was also embarrassed at what you might now think of the mind that created this tale in the first place.

So, I decided that before I could return, I must edit it and refine it, keep what I wanted and thought was essential to the heart of the tale but while removing the exploitative aspects of it. But it was hard; I was very proud of this story and it took a long time to complete, and having to go through it again and hack and trim and integrate and smooth an already-completed story did kinda sour me. I didn't want to.

But you guys and gals are my peers. It is your honest opinions that I seek, for the purposes of obtaining pats on the back when I get it right, and suggestions or improving my craft for when I don't.

Apart from the very graphic scenes of a sexual nature, I believe this to be a very strong entry in my canon in terms of conveyance of emotional resonance and personal writing skill. It seems I went far overboard in setting up the events from which emotions were to resonate, but I think that was partially due to my not knowing how to write an event which would have such deep and lasting psychological consequences without literally detailing it. Giving it passing reference or lip service, or even only describing one victim's scene without telling what happened to all... well, I just don't believe that would have the impact I seek. These are horrific events, and to just have someone dragged off into the bushes and the events implied did not cut it for me. That's a PG version of these events. Kids version, watered down to not offend sensibilities. Humans are too adaptable; we get used to things quite quickly, and in terms of bad things happening, jaded and less reachable.

I wanted to reach everyone. I wanted to get you out of your comfort zone, make you feel deeply for these characters, to get you angry at what happened to them. The Infamous Chapter Eight certainly seemed to do that for you, but also felt too exploitative. I edited that a while back and hopefully it is a stronger chapter for having absorbed your commentary and suggestions. Likewise the rest of the story since.

So, if you've managed to make it all the way through to the end here, please please let me know what you think of my rather brutal tale. I would really like to know.

"Scottish" Andy
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #55 on: April 14, 2013, 09:08:49 pm »
Can't say my comments were complaints, per se. Just thought you were going the sick comedy route, which actually impressed me. No need to be embarrassed, certainly.

Still reading the mountain you've heaped all in one sitting. Real comments to follow soon.

--guv
"Jayne?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "

Offline Scottish Andy

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #56 on: August 14, 2013, 01:48:56 pm »
*Bump*

No other comments? Or is everyone avoiding this like the plague?
Come visit me at:  www.Starbase23.net

The Senior Service rocks! Rule, Britannia!

The Doctor: "Must be a spatio-temporal hyperlink."
Mickey: "Wot's that?"
The Doctor: "No idea. Just made it up. Didn't want to say 'Magic Door'."
- Doctor Who: The Woman in the Fireplace (S02E04)

2288

Offline Captain Sharp

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Re: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine
« Reply #57 on: August 21, 2013, 09:37:14 pm »
Naw, tis a bit weird for you, which you then make an about-face from. But certainly not bad.

Still, though...got a hellova laugh out of it till I realized you were serious with the tentacle porn...

--guv
"Jayne?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna tell me why there's a statue of you here lookin' like I owe him something?"

"Wishin' I could, Captain. "