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The killing fields of old

Posted on 24 Sep 2023 @ 3:12pm by Lieutenant Commander Cintia Sha'mer & Lieutenant Commander Harva Taliborn

2,274 words; about a 11 minute read

Mission: Miranda
Location: Somewhere, down below

His headache was killing him, proverbially. But this did not stop him. He had a mission, and on he went. Deep into enemy territory. Stalking, infiltrating, which was an impressive feat for someone as large as him. He had his mission, handed down to him from his anonymous handler, over simple, cold, uncaring text. The weapons facility had to be shut down. Thousands - possible tens of thousands - of lives depended on it. And when something like that had to be done and done right, your options were limited.

Crouching through the cramped corridors, progress was slow. Every inch of his body ached, sweat mingled with his fur. He hadn't slept well - at all, really, but that wasn't uncommon right before a mission. Hadn't eaten either, but he hadn't been hungry. He'd eat when the mission was done. For now though, that was all in the future. He wouldn't get the chance to eat if he failed here. So he couldn't fail. He wouldn't fail.

Every lumbering, labored step brought him closer to his goal. He hadn't encountered any resistance so far. This was good. No Romulan necks to snap. Though he figured that would come later, during exfiltration, when the base was on high alert. Because sabotage of this level surely wouldn't go unnoticed. As long as they couldn't track it back to Starfleet, it didn't matter much really. It didn't matter much if he got caught. Killed. Or worse. As long as the mission was successful, and as long as it wasn't traced back to Starfleet.

One more vent opened and crawled through. A silent wince, as be banged his knee against a bulkhead. But before him lay the heart of the weapons facility. He rose to his full height, breathing ragged - why did he have to come down with some kind of bug right before a mission? Sick and delirious as he was, he'd missed several well hidden, partially obscured,out-of-phase detectors, tripping them and sending a signal to whomever had placed them.

But he pushed the concern about his physical condition aside. No time to worry about a splitting headache, achy joints and muscles, exhaustion. He had a mission to complete. And his goal lay right ahead of him. High power conduits. Relay complexes. All just waiting for the right application of force, all ready to overload and cause significant damage. With a quiet chuckle he set to work.

Elsewhere on the ship, a console flashed a warning. All the ship's phasers had just gone offline.

Even before then, there had been warnings. Earlier – as soon as she could after arriving on the ship – Sha'mer had placed a few tiny devices deep in the bowels of the ship, close to the weapon systems. They weren't exactly Starfleet standard equipment, either.

It didn't do much, really, just send a warning to her if someone passed through those corridors or tubes. They had gone off a few times since she'd placed them. Once when those tentacle things had invaded the ship, once when an unlucky engineer had been sent in to repair the damage, and twice during scheduled maintenance. Call it superstition, call it old habits. She was glad those devices were there nonetheless.

Sha'mer had groaned when the first of those warnings reached her. She was awake, a slight but persistent headache had kept her up. Well, so much for hoping that her alien immune system would be enough not to get infected by the disease. Whenever things related to a body came down to the physical aspects, it seemed she got the short stick of the draw. Then again, usually her mental abilities were a good compensation.

She hadn't bothered to get down to sickbay. They had already been inundated by patients and there was little they could do. She'd get down at some point, just to let them do their tests and maybe add a little to the information which maybe would get the medics and scientists to find a cure or solution.

So when the first of those alerts hit, she had called up the information on a device which looked like a PADD but which was slightly modified. No scheduled maintenance. Hardly surprising at this hour, and with the lowered amount of active people. Maybe it was nothing – she had heard of the oddball man they'd taken on board awhile ago and who was also known to crawl into the furthest corners of the ship at all hours. But just on the off chance it wasn't… best to take a look, just in case.

A painkiller took care of the headache for the most part. The rush of adrenalin, or at least the Vo'Sh'un equivalent, would have to do for other symptoms, should they crop up. A quick check: throwing dagger and type 1 phaser attached to the brace around her leg, cane – not exactly handy if she had to crawl through the Jeffries' tubes, but more than welcome by the time she emerged from the damned things. And off she went.

She was in the turbolift on her way down when she got the second alert. On the verge of entering the tubes when she received the third. This didn't look like someone just wandering around, this had to be someone who deliberately was going for the weapon systems. She cursed softly under her breath as she climbed into the Jeffries' tubes. Of course there were faster ways to reach the weapons bay, but if someone really wanted to go to town there they'd need some time and the last thing she wanted to do was to walz in there through the doors while whoever was doing the tampering was still there. She would need some time to prepare herself, and the tubes were better places to do so.

She had nearly reached the weapons bay when the not-quite-PADD flashed another warning: Phaser banks offline.

As she drew near, Harva froze, ears pivoting to pick up the sounds of her approach. A silent snarl as he shuffled back, into a dark corner. His dark blue - almost black infiltration suit combined with black fur offered near perfect camouflage for the shadowy alcoves in the dimly lit maintenance tubes. Tubes that he barely fit in to begin with. His knees were going to kill him in the morning. For now though, a scent in the air. Familiar. Had to be a romulan. He heard the fiend approach through the same maintenance tubed. Clumsy, slow. And he readied himself.

An explosion of strength, the flash of teeth, fierce predatory eyes, as the Sirran launched forward out of the shadows, at the interloper, dagger like claws ready to rend.

The deep red flash of someone's mind nearby, too close, ready to attack was the only warning she got, and even that was nearly too late. Fucker's in the tubes! flashed through her own mind. Whoever this was, and the mind did feel familiar but there was no time to analyse it, none at all, was absurdly fast.

She dove back into an adjacent tube, as quickly as she could. Not quickly enough. Claws shot out, slicing her leg – the bad one, the one which already wore a brace. A brace which was now partially cut loose as the sharp claws parted the bands which secured it in place and the flesh underneath. There was pain, but for now it felt dull and distant.

She pulled her good leg back to prevent the attacker from injuring that one too, reached down with her free hand to pluck the small phaser from the brace before it would be torn off altogether. Fighting in the tubes was bad. This was a nasty place to be in. She wasn't without options, but she needed a few moments for that – to focus her own mind and reach out to the angry snarling dark red-lightning-flashing one nearby. Moments she didn't have.

But the claws were still in her leg, cutting deeper, and pulling. Pulling her back towards her attacker. She raised herself on one elbow, steadying the weapon in her hand. She'd have one shot at this, she'd better make it count.

As she saw her assailant she didn't hesitate, and fired.

Everything in his mind screamed at him to dodge, a dull roar, but there was no space in the tight surroundings. It was as if in slow motion, as the fiery orange beam leapt from the muzzle of the Type I sidearm and slammed in to his chest. Everything went red, as a searing pain tore through him, then his consciousness wavered. Instinctively he tore at what he'd felt his hand grab, flesh and steel alike, as the light in his mind dulled. A grunt, a snarl, he shook his head to clear his mind, but it still faded. It was all he could to keep from going under, as he concentrated on staying awake, lips curled up, a vicious snarl, he managed to fight it off. Now recovering, his gaze shot back up to the two forms before him - no, not two. Just one. As his mind came back into focus and he reached for the Romulan again.

Romulan? What - ...

Sha'mer used those few seconds to scramble back into the tube from which she came. She could only hope that she had slowed her attacker down, for she knew she sure as hell hadn't stopped him. He seemed terribly familiar and alien at the same time, but she didn't have the time to analyse the situation and identify who it was. The phaser wasn't going to stop him, not unless she was prepared to set it to kill and get incredibly lucky with her next shot. And the 'terribly familiar' part told her that she didn't want to kill this attacker.

Concentrate, she needed to concentrate, get a grip on herself and then on the mind of her attacker, shut him down from there. Two, three deep breaths, trying to shut out the pain she felt, pain in her head (the headache had returned with a vengeance) and the now much sharper pain in her leg. The breaths triggered her old reflexes, and she was in the mindscape. Her body felt far away, distant, not important, and she saw the mind of her attacker, coming closer, lightning flashed through it again as he prepared to attack. She'd have to take this hit, yes, so be it, she needed those extra few seconds to slice through its feeble shields and dive into the dark red tangle of memories and emotions.

Said mind was a red mist, foggy with whatever plague was spreading through the ship's crew, old memories flashing - sabotage, and worse. Text on a screen. Orders. Cold, unfeeling, anonymous. From a handler. Old thoughts, experiences from a lifetime ago. Confusion. New memories. Not sleeping. Throwing up the previous night's meal. Flashes of quarters - officer's quarters - modified, larger, sturdier furniture. That fog again. Thoughts, memories, experiences, mingling. Flowing into one another.

All that in a flash of a second, a fleeting moment, as he lunged forward again, but there was a hesitation.

Sha'mer didn't move, she was a prone target now, all her attention was fixed on her mind and the mind she had delved into. She absorbed the memories, but even these weren't important, what she needed was deeper, deeper still.

It had been a long time ago since she had done this, but – as Harva could've testified – old habits died hard, and she slid through his mind and down with cold, ruthless efficiency, found the trigger point and *pushed*.

It was the mental equivalent of a Vulcan neck pinch and the results were immediate and satisfying. She withdrew instantly, avoiding the rookie mistake of getting trapped inside the darkness and passing out herself, but remained alert. She recognised her assailent now, though the being she saw in these memories was a far cry from the quiet, calm engineer she knew. And she was aware that he might shake off the effects of this mental stun. It could go either way, he could go down if the sickness and her stun had overwhelmed him enough, but if not…

And he was between her and the nearest exit, that was the worst part of the situation.

She saw him fall back, looking dazed, his eyes glazed over. He sat there for an eternity - or just a second, the proper passage of time was beyond either of them now. Slowly he hefted his hands, looking at them. Ears lay back, as he saw the ichor on his his claw. A greenish, sickly tint to it. A quietly rumbled "by the migrator, what have I done" - before noticing the mess he'd made of Sha's leg. In an instant he reached over towards her body, to tap her comm badge. "Harva to sickbay, two to emergency beam over, we have wounded!"

She saw the colour of his mind shift as he shook off the effect of her mental stun, resume a semblance of clarity. Not much more than that, for as she withdrew from his mind awareness of her surroundings returned, and of herself. The fabric of her pant leg felt drenched. If that wetness was blood instead of someone's vomit (either Harva's or her own) that meant she was pretty screwed.

It didn't really seem important. Nothing really seemed important. "We need to have a long talk, you and I," she muttered to Harva, just before the cool transporter beam surrounded them and carried them off. Her voice seemed to come from far away.


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