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Casualties

Posted on 12 Oct 2022 @ 2:43pm by Commander Kristiana Petrova & Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: USS Odin, Cargo Bay 2

Content warning: descriptions of violence within

-=-=-=-=-

Sha'mer was in the fighter bay where the artifact was stored when the excrements hit the ventilator. By now the alien object had been thoroughly examined, scanned with every type of scanners science had been able to find, and analysed. It had yielded a long list of 'unknowns' ('unknown origin, unknown age, unknown alloys'…) and one definite conclusion: the thing, whatever it was, was fully inert. They hadn't actually opened it up yet, that was scheduled for tomorrow. Word was that they expected an even longer list of 'unknowns'.

Still it made her uneasy. There was something… Not necessarily the artifact itself. Something else which just felt wrong. Nothing she could point at. Nothing concrete. Just a feeling.

Maybe it was nothing. It probably was nothing. The effect of a bad dream, perhaps. Or the sad sight of Kat's burned-out fighter shell behind her. Or maybe the effect of her ill-fated attempt to try to walk without the brace she had made the night before. After all, she had been doing all the prescribed exercises and had been doing additional training for weeks, and the doctors back at the medical facility had told her she could try it about nowish, so…
She had managed three steps before the knee twisted and buckled in a direction it wasn't meant to go. A sharp pain told her something must've given out or torn. She had crawled into bed with an ice pack wrapped around her knee, but this morning it had still looked red and swollen. Stubborn as she was, Sha'mer had taken a painkiller, wrapped the brace around it as usual, locked it to prevent any further mishaps and went about her business. But it sure as hell didn't improve her mood.

And now most of the day was gone, and instead of going to the mess hall or the observation lounge or her quarters she found herself here, staring at the inert object in front of her, and wondering what she was doing here. Sha'mer placed one hand above its smooth surface and focused her awareness on and into the artifact, lowered her mental shields and concentrated. She didn't probe, didn't actively try to connect to anything which might be still in there, just opened herself for any impressions. First she filtered out the awareness of the minds on the ship around her (and here it helped that the artifact was stored in the fighter bay, nearly all the minds were concentrated in one direction, easier to tune out). She didn't expect to find anything and that was precisely what was returned: nothing.

But at the same time-

Correlation does not equal causation, but it was very eery when Sha'mer realised much later that the rift in space opened moments after she touched it.
She felt it, though she didn't know what she felt. A ripping feeling, from outside the ship – she would never have noticed it if she hadn't dropped her telepathic shields. It triggered an old, old memory, Vo'Sh'un battlemoons and fighters ripping out into normal space. This wasn't it, not precisely – she would've recognised that touch anywhere – but it was close enough.

It was enough to make her freeze, something which was only broken when the yellow alert went off. That pulled her back into the here and now in a hurry. This hadn't been some weird dream of the past. There was something happening now, and it wasn't good.

"Petrova to fighterbay. What's the status on the artefact? Has invasive research begun?" Sha'mer heard the tension in the commander's voice. What the hell was going on there? And where were the people who were supposed to come here when yellow alert was called, so that she could go to where she needed to be, to the bridge? Then she realised that mere seconds had passed and they couldn't possibly have arrived yet.

"Negative commander, unit is still untouched," she replied automatically. It was true, nothing marred its shiny surface, no touch of probe, spanner or screwdriver, not even fingerprints.

"Good. Prepare to release back into space on my command," came the word from above.

Ah. That might also explain why nobody else had shown up here. Sha'mer limped over to the fighter bay doors and keyed in the override. A faint tingle as the doors opened and forcefields kept the air inside where it belonged, while other fields took hold of the artifact to manouver it outside.
"Release in three .. two .. one .. release."

And with a touch of a fingertip, the inert chrome device floated up and passed through the forcefield. "Artefact is floating out of the bay now, Commander," Sha'mer reported as the doors sealed behind it. Hopefully that would be it, hopefully now they could stand down from yellow alert and-
A soft, almost imperceptible 'clunk' sound told her that hope was short-lived. It sounded suspiciously like a breaching pod. Red alert alarms began to blare and Sha'mer ran as fast as she could manage to the door.

It wasn't very fast at all.

On the way though, she'd encounter a group of securitymen, led by Commander Petrova. They were armed to the teeth - as far as you can arm to the teeth on such a short notice, each carrying a Type III compression rifle and a Type II hand phaser holstered on their waist. Kris was the most armed, carrying a compression rifle, another one slung over her shoulder, and the type II side-arm.

"Commander Sha'mer, report," Petrova ordered, holding up a fist to tell her little posse of securitymen to pause for now.

Even before Sha'mer had reached the door of the fighter bay she had realised she'd never make it to the bridge in time. The USS Odin was on red alert and being boarded, side-to-side transport was disabled and she had heard at least another 'clunk', louder this time. Closer. And the weapons locker in this bay had been emptied, because of the artifacts' presence. There was a type one phaser hidden in her brace, but she had the feeling that it wouldn't be enough against whatever it was that was cutting its way through the hull.

Taking a detour to the nearest weapons locker had taken her another few minutes and she heard another 'CLUNK' just as she opened the locker and grabbed a rifle and a sidearm for herself. Judging by the sound, it was not between her and the turbo lift, but if the invader or invaders moved faster than she did (and right now, just about everything did), they could still intercept her before she could reach it. Better to find a more strategic spot than a long, open corridor where she'd make a prime target, then.

It was precisely in such a location that Sha'mer encountered Commander Petrova and her team. "From the sound of it, one intruder has landed on or near the doors of the fighter bay. They've been reinforced and internal shields are active, but I have no idea if they're still there or not." She had tried to scan for a mental signature, a mind, an intelligence – that was, perhaps, the one advantage of not being able to move quickly -but she hadn't found anything. So either it was a very weird life form or it was completely mechanic. Either way, not good. She gestured behind her with the rifle. "If they are working their way inward, they'll have to pass through this point."

A nod from the Russian redhead. "One thing we've got going for us is that they're too big to fit through the corridors. So that limits where they can board. I'm on my way to the secondary cargo bay, we've got reports of a disturbance there," A moment's pause as she considered.

"You've armed yourself, good. I know you want to get to the bridge, but frankly, we could use the firepower you can bring. We've got Johnston on tactical, he can handle it, if you think you're up for it I'd rather have you with me, Commander. We need someone covering our back," she added, matter of factly. She knew Sha's limitations, and seemingly didn't see them as a big enough problem.

Sha'mer gave a brisk nod. Johnston was a good man, level-headed and quick to react. The fact that there had been at least three hull-to-hull contacts said more about the capabilities of their opponents than about his skills. "I'm up for it. What are we up against?" She still hadn't heard or seen any reports, things had been too tight-packed, too hectic for it. Oh, she could guess, but guessing wrong could be lethal.

"Live versions of the artefact," Kris offered, motioning for the group to follow her further down the corridor, as she took point. She was careful not to go too fast, though Sha would still likely feel like they were keeping a brisk pace. "They're fast, agile, can go through our shields like they're not even there, but our hull material slowed them down a bit - like they had to put effort into cutting through. Their size limits where they can go, which gives us an advantage. That's all I know," she added. "No idea about weapons capabilities or possible shields."

"They'll be able to manipulate the tentacles," Sha'mer said, thinking aloud as she followed the group at her best speed. "There are a lot of them, and they have tiny appendages at their ends, like tiny hands or fingers. I don't know if they can extend these tentacles or not. They won't fit through the door from the fighter bay into the corridor, though, so if they want to come in they'll have to take them apart, and part of the bulkhead around it too."

"Well, they can cut through our hull plating, they can cut through a bulkhead. But getting anywhere else is going to take a lot of cutting," Kris mused, leading the group through corridors, down passage ways, down a shaft or two, towards cargo bay two. "My hope is to give them enough hell that they'll focus on us instead of breaking deeper into the ship. The longer we can keep them occupied, the beter of a chance the rest have to figure out a way to get them off for real," she added, approaching the bay and taking up position next to the door.

Handmotions sent two other securitymen to the opposite side of the door, flanking it, another hand motion to have Sha move behind her, as she counted down on her fingers - three, two, one - and moving as one the securitymen and Kris opened the door and stepped inside the bay, dispersing as they did, drawing the attention of several of the intruders on the opposite end of the bay.

Duck and roll, come back up on one leg, quickly manouvre out of the way and behind cover, shooting all the way. It was, as the saying went, a target-rich environment. The weapons did some damage, but not nearly as much as she liked. She hoped Johnston on the bridge had better luck.

The world came into focus, as it always did in the middle of a battle. Whether she stood behind a tactical panel or was, like now, sort-of-crouched behind a bunch of crates didn't matter. Everything seemed brighter, starker, more *there*. Sha'mer felt herself enter the battle flow, feeling the minds of the team around her melt together into a unit as cohesive as a group of non-telepaths could ever manage. She felt herself join in, a group greater than the sum of their parts – which, ironically, was happening on a far more integrated scale at the other end of the cargo bay. Tentacles writhed and began to stretch out towards them.

As they moved, some patterns seemed to emerge. They seemed to be networked, moving as one rather than individually. There was also a lack of return fire, suggesting they did not have ranged weapons. Flashes of orange, as Kris and the securitymen ducked behind cover, then popped up to unleash compression fire.

"Focus fire! On my target!" Kristiana called out,as she lanced her fierce, destructive beam at the front-most, nearest creature. The lashing beams of her team slammed in to the creature's outer plating, scorching it, melting through it, and through combined firepower it fell, a smoking, sparking wreck, tentacles lashing its last, then .. still. "Next target!" Petrova called out, switching fire without even waiting for her previous target to go cold.

The creatures dashed and lashed forward, tentacles knocking in to the crates half Kris' team were taking cover behind. They scattered, falling back to nearby crates, firing their phasers as they did - Kris' team offering covering fire, damaging a second creature which stuttered and staggered in the air, wavering.

There was time for one fleeting thought, If they do that with these crates, there's no way I can move out in time. Not without cheating. But was it cheating or was it 'appropriate use of skills'? Sha'mer had been practicing the last few weeks, with Indi and on her own. She remembered more than one exploded punching bag. Maybe her own trick would be more effective than the weapons they were using. At the same time, it would drain her and make her an easier target. Not her first choice, then.

But if the things kept coming at them, it could make the difference between the team making it out of here or ending up as organic confetti.
Sha'mer kept firing, still focusing their coordinated attack on the second creature before moving on to its neighbour. But at the same time she began to concentrate and to focus, to power up. Soon she needed to bleed off some of that energy.

And now she discovered something interesting, something she had never noticed before – if only because she never actually fired a life weapon during training. When she added her own power to each shot, they became stronger, more effective. It didn't cost as much energy as an unaided telekinetic blast, either, which was an added bonus. She could keep this up for awhile, at least as long as she didn't need to-

A bunch of tentacles suddenly whipped towards them, breaking up the delicate rhythm of their team's coordinated shots.

It was the wounded one and a comrade - Kris picked up on the sudden shift in tactics and responded immediately. "Kolak, with me!" she called out to the securityman next to her as she jumped to her feet and let loose a burst of firepower on the wounded one, bringing it down. She and Kolak switched fire to the other as they withdrew, a fighting retreat, leading the creature away from Sha - and giving her an opening for a flanking shot.

Meanwhile the other group of three securitymen found themselves in a melee. There was screaming as one of them was ripped asunder, flesh torn from his bones, even as he went down firing his compression rifle. The two others concentrated fire, a bringing down the creature that had taken apart Petty Officer Brian Ashley, starting a fighting retreat as well. They were thinning out - but fortunately, so were the creatures.

Sha'mer rose, stumbling back, trying to get out of the way of the grasping tentacles. She almost made it, but not quite. One of them managed to lash out and lock onto what must for them have been a prime target. Sha'mer felt it make contact to either the brace or the leg itself, there was no time to analyse which. It yanked off her feet and drew her closer, within reach of the other tentacles.

Time seemed to slow down even further. She shifted the barrel of her weapon towards the point where the tentacles came together, hoping with all her hope that this would be the weakest spot in the armour of the creatures, and fired. Whatever power she still had retained after the shock of being pulled in went with that shot, and it glowed brightly as it impacted dead center.

The creature exploded, shrapnel flung left and right, pieces of tentacles fell limply to the ground. Sha'mer rolled away with the blast, there would be time enough to inventarise possible damage later. First she needed get out of reach of the other creatures, to find cover again, and her team.

That was four felled alien creatures, their remains littering the bay - three of them mostly intact, one of them exploded. At this, the remaining three ceased their attack, turned and fled, making a bee-line straight for the hull breech. Some lashes of orange phaser fire flashed after them as they made their way back into space, leaving the battered and bruised Starfleet force behind.

"Oof, re - ... Report!" Kristiana called out, clutching her side where a gash was bleeding, leaking red into her uniform. A similar gash on her thigh, looked like one of the aggressors had gotten to her and had started their attack right before they turned and fled.

"Ashley and Bailey are dead, Commander. I'm unhurt," came a voice from the other group, one of whom was still standing, now towering over the fallen bodies of his comrades in a slowly expanding pool of carmine.

"I'm unhurt," Kolak called out.

Thoroughly shaken now that the immediate danger was past, Sha'mer tried to stand up, but found that she couldn't. She looked at her leg and found that part of one tentacle was still stuck in it. Bloody stains on it – not human-red blood but dark green - told her it wasn't stuck in the brace, as she had hoped. She didn't want to check if there were other injuries, though there were bound to be a few more here and there with how close to that blast she'd been. Nothing immediately life-threathening though, or so she gathered. "Still alive," she called back. Her voice was fainter than she liked. The adrenalin, or rather, the Vo'Sh'un equivalent of it, was gone and it left her tired and light headed. "Though kicking will have to wait awhile."

"Fuck," Kris opined with a tired enthusiasm. She knelt down at Sha's side with a wince, looking over the injury. "Kolak, you bring the commander to sickbay," she told the strong Vulcan. "Wessels, with me. There's more fighting to be done,"

"What about your own injuries, Commander?" Kolak inquired.

"I'll get a quick bandage. Don't have the luxury to wait around and get fixed up." Kris dismissed.

"But - ... Bailey and Ashley~" Wessels' shaky tone sounded.

"Leave them. We'll take care of their bodies when the ship is secure." Petrova said.

"But - "

"That's an order, petty officer. Now help me to a first aid station."

" ... Yes Ma'am."

 

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