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Reaching safety, Pt 1

Posted on 19 Oct 2022 @ 5:08pm by Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn & Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer

2,243 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: A New Frontier
Location: USS Odin

Sha'mer looked at her leg again, examining it closer this time. The tentacle had pierced her thigh, but she couldn't tell how deep it went. Just into the muscle, or all the way into the bone? It had held her firmly enough to be able to drag her.

She gave an experimental tug at the tentacle. It didn't come out. Oddly enough, pulling at it didn't hurt. Her leg didn't hurt at all. Which was strange, for when that thing was pulling her it felt like it was on fire. Now it just felt like cold, burned out remains. The blood on the tentacle was strangely reassuring.

"Let me help you up, Commander." Kolak's voice, just overhead. Sha'mer raised her head to look at him with an effort. He reached down and wrapped an arm around her waist, she clung to his shoulder and he helped her stand on the good leg. A moment of dizziness, then her surroundings came back into focus.

One thing about Vulcans, their minds were delightfully shielded. They were touch telepaths, but their mental discipline went beyond that sense of touch. They were used to keep their thoughts and emotions under control. Normally Sha'mer would avoid touching someone else when she was as tired and drained as she was now, it was too easy to pick up thoughts and images from others. She wouldn't have that problem with Kolak, though she hoped the reverse was also true.

By the time he helped her through the doors of the cargo bay and into the corridor, the other two were already gone. The corridor stretched out before them and seemed to go on forever. It seemed absurdly peaceful here, only the red strips of light winking on and off showed that there was still a red alert going on – that, and the distant flashes of mental howls which seared in her mind as some other hapless crewmember died.

Sha'mer tried to close her mind off for those flashes, concentrated instead on moving forward. The numb leg (there was another word for that, one which never occurred to her, not then) was useless, but the Vulcan kept her upright and moving forward.

Still it seemed that an eternity had passed before they reached the turbo lift doors. Sha'mer touched the plate next to it with the back of her free hand. Which meant that she was standing slightly to the side and Kolak stood right in front of the turbo lift doors as they opened. Which meant that when the tentacles came writhing through the opening, four seized him and pulled him up and out of sight. It happened in the blink of an eye, one moment he was there, the next he was gone.

Two things saved Sha'mer from the same fate. One was that with Kolak gone, she suddenly lost her balance and fell, which caused the two tentacles which were reaching for her to miss on their first pass. The second was that in all the consternation she somehow had been holding on to the rifle the whole time – a reflex more than anything else, she never thought about actually putting it down. So when she fell back her arm came up. The shot was purely automatic, years of training (many of those of pre-Starfleet) kicking in. A sudden spike of adrenaline/fear/energy added power to the energy bolt the weapon unleashed. Not a lot, but it was enough.

The creature which had snatched Kolak must have been damaged already. There was a discorded screech of metal and alien harmonics, abruptly cut off, and then the thing fell down the turbolift shaft. A crash in the distance, and then silence.

Stunned and shaken, Sha'mer pushed back until she reached the opposite wall. So turbolift shafts were large enough for those creatures to fit through. Corridors as well. She had been lucky twice now, but that would never hold. She had to leave here before more creatures would come through the hole in the hull of the cargo bay, or through the turbolift shaft, or wherever.

Jeffries tubes. There was no way they would fit through there, and it had the added benefit that she wouldn't have to walk there, she could crawl. Where was the nearest access hatch? Not too far from here, fortunately.

She dragged herself to it, still grimly holding on to the rifle, opened the access hatch with her free hand and crawled inside.

Alright. Safe for now. Where to?

The 'where to' didn't matter as much as the 'getting out of here'. Deeper into the ship. Sickbay was a preference, but she'd take anything by now as long as there were no tentacles reaching out towards her or others.

The Jeffries tubes were a maze, with codes which Sha'mer sometimes recognised, sometimes not. She was aware that she was drifting in and out of focus. There were moments when she thought she was on the Firehawk, the next moment she realised it was absurd, the skirmish which had taken out that ship had been short, from ships decloaking and doing a strafing run to the final end had taken less than seven minutes.

All in all, it was enough to throw her well and truly off course. She crawled on and on, dragging the useless leg behind her like a piece of ballast, leaving smears of dark green blood behind. Occasionally the tentacle scraped across the floor with a sickening sound. Sha'mer had made one more attempt to yank it out, gave up when it became clear it was well and truly stuck.

Eventually she reached another hatch. She felt faint presences nearby and those minds weren't screaming in mortal terror, so it was probably safe to assume there was no immediate danger there.

Sha'mer pushed the hatch open and peered out, rifle at the ready.

To be greeted by several phaser rifle muzzles, aimed directly at her. Some seemed a little bit twitchy, ready to fire, but they never did. Holding these rifles were several crewmen, of several shapes and sizes, one particularly larger than the others. Said large crewman held up a fist and bellowed "Hold fire!" as soon as he recognized Sha. "Hold fire," he repeated, quieter, as the crewmen all lowered their weapons.

"Commander, good to see you," he mused, offering her a powerful hand out. "What brings you here?"

Sha'mer crawled out and gripped the hand tightly to steady herself. She was quite the sight, though she had no idea of that herself. There were numerous small cuts from the shrapnel of the creature which had exploded above her, some on her face and hands, the rest had made tiny cuts in her uniform. A few of those were deeper and still oozed blood, and there were a few scorch marks from the explosion which had blown her away. Her short hair stuck up in different angles, matter with sweat and blood. And of course there was still that piece of metal sticking out of her leg.

"Commander," she replied with a nod which nearly made her topple. "I guess that depends on where 'here' is." She tried for a smile but the best she could manage under the circumstances was a tired grimace. "I kinda got lost along the way."

"You're near engineering. We're just on our way to reroute some secondary power," Harva mused, then noting Sha's leg. He gently set her down then knelt at her side, motioning for the other two engineers to go on with their task. "I'll take care of the commander, you two go ahead, get that power rerouted. If there's any sign of danger, come back here," he rumbled, before turning his attention back to Sha. "What happened to you? Do you know what's going on? I was just enjoying a nice meal when the red alert sounded and there was an intruder warning, so I armed myself and headed to engineering."

"Near Engineering. Figures." Sha'mer closed her eyes briefly. "Should've turned left at junction beta-three-fifteen instead of right. Ah well." She gave a wry shrug. "So. Remember that artefact that we picked up and wanted to examine? Apparently its buddies came to visit. We ejected the artifact, I guess in the hope they'd pick it up and leave us alone. Instead they came at us and we were, are, being boarded." Sha'mer ran a hand through her hair, grimaced and began to wipe it off. It was only then that she noticed the state of her uniform.

She sighed and continued. "Anyway. I ran into Commander Petrova and a security team after I armed myself. We were in a cargo bay when a bunch of those… things… entered. Managed to repel them, but before they ran off or were destroyed they killed two of her team and well, this happened." She gestured down. "The Commander continued on with what remained of her team, but I couldn't be of much assistance, obviously. So she sent one of her team with me to take me to sickbay. Crewman named Kolak." Her mouth twisted. "Turns out one of those things was hiding in a turbolift shaft. It… it took him. I decided that the best way to avoid more of them was going through the Jeffries tubes. Besides, couldn't use my leg anyway." It still felt numb. "That's all I know. Sorry I can't tell you more."

"I hate to sound callous, but I wish we could capture one alive, to study," he mused, examining the partial tentacle lodged in her leg. He gently nudged it and gauged her reaction. "One was in a turbolift shaft, you said? That suggests they come in different sizes; no way that thing we had on our flight deck would fit. I'm sorry to hear about Kolak and the others - I knew Kolak. Good man," he mused. "Can you feel this? And this?" the Sirran asked, gently pressing on her leg above the injury, then below it.

"No idea how it got here. I think it was already damaged, I shot it and it fell down. The ones we took out in the cargo bay exploded, I doubt you can get anything useful from the remains." Sha'mer looked down as Harva touched her leg. "No," she replied with almost clinical detachment. "The brace is still locked," and wouldn't come unlocked any time soon by the looks of it, "so if you can find me something I can use as a cane or other kind of support I can get around at least." The absolute last thing she wanted was for anyone else to get injured or killed while helping her.

Harva contemplated a moment, then reached for her Type III compression rifle. "May I?" he asked. When handed the rifle he examined it for a moment, then took the sling off his own one and wound it around the butt of hers, before testing it as a cane for a moment, and handing it back. "This should help. Makes it a bit less comfortable to shoot but should offer enough grip and strength to use as a cane in a pinch," he mused. "Though if you've got somewhere specific to go - well, I'd rather not see you go alone."

Sha'mer pressed the palm of her hand against the makeshift knob and nodded. "Works. If you could give me a hand up, that'd be helpful." Out of habit, she prepared to wince when she carefully transferred her weight onto the injured leg, but the stab of pain she expected didn't come. For the first time she began to feel slightly worried that this might not be something that would be easily resolved. However, since there was nothing she could do about it right now, it was easy enough to banish that thought back to the depths of her mind. "Since I'm not about to keep over, sickbay can wait. Going to the bridge is going to take too long and I don't want to risk anyone else to come with me. So if you can use me here, I can either hand you tools or keep an eye out for intruders, so that someone else doesn't have to do that."

"That sounds good, we could always use the eyes and the firepower," he gave a nod. A strong hand helped her up, seemingly without effort. "Just need to - " right as he said that the other two engineers came jogging back around the corner to rejoin them.

"Power rerouted, Commander," one of them intoned.

"Good lad. Let's go back to engineering, see what other fire needs putting out," the ship's largest officer nodded. "Parker, you help the Commander if she needs it. Fall in behind, it's not far," he added as he moved out.

Walking was a bit tricky, but Sha'mer got the hang of it soon enough. One hand to hold the rifle annex makeshift cane, with the other one she held onto the brace and moved the leg. It was a bit clumsy but not much slower than her normal speed.

She still found herself panting trying to keep up. By now she was more or less running on the remnants of adrenaline, battle mode and pure willpower and there were limits to those things. Still, she knew from experience that she would keep going until the situation was resolved or until something more drastic happened to take her down.

[To Be Continued]


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