Topic: Falklands: Episode One - Quarantine  (Read 12249 times)

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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
"Jayne?"

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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?
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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 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
"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 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 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.
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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 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.”
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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 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. "