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Posted on 02 Jun 2023 @ 4:25pm by Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer & Commander Kristiana Petrova & Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn

2,131 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Deus ex Machina
Location: Alpharius station

They were closing in on the source of the interference, Korinn and his men led the team deeper into the facility. The journey was slow, with intermittent fighting, though the unarmed, brainwashed Oran'taku were seemingly no match for the Starfleet team and their phasers on stun. Though they didn't quite know how long these people would be stunned for, so leaving them behind was a risk. As was touching them, at least while the artefact's influence was still controlling them.

Now though they neared the center chamber, Korinn motioned for them to halt. "Alright, this is it. The central chamber. This artefact is the whole reason this facility was built. I don't know exactly how many of our people are in there, but right now, they're all enemies - " it pained him to say these words. Colleagues. Friends, even. Now enemies.

"I understand." Sha'mers voice was strained. Even with her mental shields fully raised now it was more than a little unpleasant to be this close to the artefact, and they hadn't even entered the central chamber yet. She could feel it even now, pressing against her shields, trying to find a crack to penetrate. There was no active sentience behind the artifact itself, at least not as far as she could determine, but it was like rising water pressing against a dam – if it even found the smallest weakness it would burst through. Talking took an effort. Walking was a challenge. Fighting would be an even harder one.

"Commander, how about a stun grenade?" she asked, looking at Kristiana.

"I didn't bring one," Kris mused, glancing around at the others, who shook their head. Harva seemed hesitant to, but then also shook his head. "I can rig an explosive, but it wouldn't be a stun one. It'd be lethal and quite potent," he rumbled.

"Well, we did want the artefact to end up buried again, but preferably not along with us," Sha'mer said and shook her head. "Though it might not be such a bad idea to rig one anyway and put a timer on it for when we leave. For now, though, best I can think of is set phasers to wide beam and just dive in at once, hoping to catch them off guard long enough to put them down."

"That matches what I had in mind," Kris agreed. "Commander, rig your explosive. Let us know when you're ready and we'll go in, try to give you cover," she added.

Harva set to work, ripping a panel from his compression rifle and rigging his communicator into the exposed wiring, setting it as a detonator on a countdown. "Alright, give me a moment. When I throw this, we'll have fifteen seconds before it blows," he explained, setting the timer to trigger an overload of the rifle's own power pack.

"Just give the word," Sha'mer said tiredly. She leaned against a wall but didn't close her eyes. Tired as she was, a moment of carelessness, inattention, could be enough for that outside influence to break through and overwhelm her. Instead, she idly ran a systems check on her suit and weapons. The remark about the ship hadn't escaped her notice. Even though there was little they would be able to do about that from here other than disabling the device down here, by any means necessary.

Suit battery was yellow, slowly edging towards orange. Still good for at least an hour if nothing bad happened. The battery power of her phaser was down considerably from what it ought to be, even taken into account the amount of shots she'd fired. Enough for a few more shots, but hopefully that was all they needed. Still, the tactical officer part of herself told her that hope was not a strategy, certainly not in a situation like this where conditions could change in seconds. With a quick glance at Harva, who was still working, she took a spare battery from her belt pocket. She checked it – it too suffered, but still was more than half-full – and replaced the phaser battery with the spare. She was finished at about the same time as Harva was with his improvised bomb.

"Ready," Harva rumbled after a few moments of fiddling. Kristiana signaled for the team to take up positions on either side of the doorway. A quick count and they were on.

The battle - if it could even be called that - was brief. Flashes of orange, wide beam stun, and what defenders there were fell over, makeshift weapons clattering to the ground. The artefact stoof in the middle of the space, hooked up to machinery. As described, it looked like a humanoid - though definitely not human or Oran'taku figure strapped to some sort of altar. It was made of black stone, once polished, though weathered with age and humming ominously.

Out from behind the artefact stepped one Oran'taku researcher, looking gaunt and sickly for not having eaten in a long time, wearing researcher's overalls. He had his hands up. "Don't shoot," he stammered, his words as well as his movements somewhat stilted, as if controlled by an outside force.

Sha'mer, finger on the trigger and keeping just enough pressure on it to fire at a moment's notice, raised her eyebrows. But she lifted one hand to warn the others to stop shooting as well. For now. Now it gets interesting. The thought flashed through her mind. Now it wants to talk. "Who or what are you?" she shot back.

"I'm - not sure," the man replied. "I was sleeping. Asleep. Then I woke up, and these - were poking at me, putting stuff on me," he motioned to the stunned Oran'taku scientists, then to the artefact. "So I reached out. Defended myself," he added. "There was - fighting. Resistance."

"You murdered our friends!" Korinn snapped, balling his fists.

"I - ... regret -" the controlled man replied.

"Why didn't you try to talk before?" Sha'mer demanded. She kept her voice even with a great effort. She was angry, unbelieveably angry, and bad things could happen if she released that anger, especially with the pressure she was under. "You've been at this for days. You could've reached out before, could have prevented all this-" she gestured at the stunned bodies lying on the ground.

"I don't - ... understand - .... you - " the man motioned at the people around, Oran'taku and Federation alike, standing or stunned on the ground. "Learning. Trying to understand. I regret - ... Want to live, learn."

"You're doing a damned fine job of communicating right now, now that you're down to the last man," Sha'mer growled. "Of course you want to live. So did the people you have taken over. Whose minds you have destroyed. So did the people you killed." She sent the words out telepathically as she spoke, that much she could safely do without lowering her shields. The artefact might talk prettily about 'regret', but she didn't trust it one bit.

"I - ... regret. I'll let them go. If that - " he didn't get a chance to finish his sentence.

"Commander Taliborn, throw your device," Kristiana's dark voice spat. "That's an order," she added, before the big Sirran could ask if she was sure.

"Understood," he rumbled, and with an arc his device went sailing through the air, clattering down next to the artefact.

"No~" the controlled Oran'taku scientist recoiled. "No! I want to live!" he added, scrambling towards the artefact in a mad dash, to try and recover the thrown device, to try and get it away from the artefact.

"Everybody run!" roared Harva, completely drowning out anything the Oran'taku scientists was saying, as the two securitymen ran towards the door, Korinn and his entourage following, though Harva's massive, powerful arm made sure to grab Sha'mer and carry her as fast as he could lumber out the door as well.

It was a good thing he did. Sha'mer had kept her weapon trained on the scientist and fired when he made his mad scramble for the bomb. The remote-controlled man dropped like a stone before he could reach it. She began to turn to run, stumbled and would've fallen if it hadn't been for Harva's strong grip.

On the way out she fired again, changing the setting of her phaser with a practiced flick of her thumb, shooting at the control plate next to the door to the central chamber. She was acting purely on instinct, but it appeared to be the right one since the door slammed shut faster than it ought to.

The door shut behind them - then a moment of hesitation, had the timer activated? Had the jury-rigged device actually worked? Would they have to go back in and fi -


A blinding flash, windows blowing out, the door buckling as the device went off. A three-quarters charged compression rifle power pack packed quite a punch when rupturing and releasing all its energy in one single instant. Dust everywhere, Harva using his massive bulk to try and shield Sha'mer and some of the others from the worst of it, tempered glass shards everywhere, as bits of debris came down, various alarms going off, fire extinguishers firing.

One of the alarms, predictably, was the suit alarm. 'Suit breached'. Well, that wasn't very surprising after a blast like that. It shouldn't be a disaster as long as they stayed indoors, from what she'd read the atmosphere in the Oran'taku base should be breatheable for them. Going outside would be a different story, but-


Sha'mer slapped the override on her suit, killing the alarm which was wailing in her ears. There, she could think better without it. Then she tested her shields. The pressure was gone.

Carefully, layer by layer, she lowered them. Still nothing. The only minds she felt nearby were those of her collegues and the fainter ones of the remaining Oran'taku. She sighed. "It worked. Commander, it's gone."

"Good to hear - everyone else, sound off! Suit status, any injuries," Kris barked, making sure of herself first as well.

"Taliborn, suit torn, light injuries, I'll be alright," rumbled the Sirran. Both securitymen checked in as well - one with his suit compromised and light injuries, the other battered but suit intact.

"I'm alright," Korinn replied, his companions seemingly escaping with light injuries at most.

"Alright. That leaves me and Carver with our suits intact. We'll go back to the shuttle, see about Odin's status, organize an exfil. Commander Sha'mer, you're in command. Establish a perimeter, make sure that thing is dead - " Kris spat. She'd done the whole mind control thing, not that long ago. It had left a very bad taste and zero tolerance for similar shenanigans in her mind " - and hold on for our return. Hopefully we won't be long."

"Yes sir," Sha'mer said automatically. "Be careful going back, the people we stunned first might be waking up when you get there and I have no idea how they'll behaving now." Her methodical mind kicked into gear again. No rest for the, what was it again? Wicked? Weary? Both?

She turned to the scientists. "Korinn, where do you keep your supplies? Food, water, medicine?" Then she looked at Harva and the security officer. "Use your field kit to tend your wounds, strip the suit if you need to. It's no good to us in this condition anyway. I don't feel anyone else around but us, and the ones we've stunned nearby should still be good for at least an hour, but stay alert just in case."

Harva nodded. "Sure thing," his voice resonated, as he tore his suit open with a claw. No sense taking it off neatly, anyways. Especially after the back had basically been shredded by light debris and glass shards. Fortunately they hadn't done too much damage to his physique. Thick fur helped here. The remaining securityman helped him, then stripped of his own suit, using the fabric to clean their minor injuries.

"I'll show you. Come," Korinn mused, pointing the way. "We don't have any food, ran out a while ago, but there's water and there should be some basic medicine. Bandages, desinfectant, that sort of thing. Malos, Gortin, stay here, check the room for any survivors. Make sure that - thing is dead. Be careful, don't touch anyone in there, we don't know what'll happen." And with that he led Sha'mer to a nearby supply room in the facility.

It didn't take them long to return with their meagre supplies, securing the area didn't take much longer. Sha'mer settled into a corner and leaned back. Resting her body while her mind remained alert. Now all they had to do was wait for the others to return.


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