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Twist and Shout

Posted on Sat Jul 18th, 2020 @ 11:06pm by Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Lieutenant JG Kara Madavi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Corporal Angela Hsu

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Venus
Timeline: MD 2

Even though Sophie had managed to triangulate the general vicinity of the Marine squad on the surface below, actually getting to that position was easier said than done. Ryland had successfully performed a high-altitude nose dive at quarter-impulse in order to get Mrazak and the others to the vault, but he had specific coordinates. Even then, he had been off by several degrees due to the gale-force winds of the layers on layers of hurricanes between high orbit and the planet's surface. This was a search-and-rescue operation, which meant that they didn't even precise coordinates. And, despite the shielding, nobody wanted to put the ship under the stress test of impulse jumps and full stops. All it would take was a simple miscalculation and the Phantom would crash head long into the planet's crust doing a fraction of light speed.

That meant riding the air jetties as best he could until they could lock on a proper signal. Ten minutes had turned into twenty, and twenty had nearly turned into an hour. It was almost as if the planet was intentionally working against them.

"How 'bout those coordinates, sweet thing?" Ryland called out from the helm. The ship buffeted from another crosswind.

"Don't call me that!" Sophie ordered. "And I'm working on it. They're moving and the transceiver is busted. How magical do you expect me to be?"

"Whatever you say, sexypants." Such was his concentration that Ryland accompanied his glib remark with only a quarter grin. "I'd sure love to get the hell out of this whirligig sometime soon. Inertial dampeners are maxed out and shields are at 85%."

"Enough!" Ari clipped. "How are we tracking a busted transciever? And how would it be moving?" She did her best to frame the questions in a way that it didn't make her sound stupid but rather that she was trying to direct the Engineer what to focus on.

Frost also hoped that whoever on the bridge was an empath didn't bust her. Technology was never her strong suit and she felt exceedingly dumb around any kind of display of tech skill. Sure, she could use the devices she needed to use, with some training, yet still none of it really came naturally to her.

"Well, they must be on the mice," Ryland suggested. "Still, the latitude and longitude shouldn't change that fast just get me within a hundred kilometers and I'll skim the surface from there."

"All right," said Sophie, transferring some coordinates to Dedeker's console. "That's as close as I can figure. Damned thing won't ping properly."

Arianna nodded, "alright, let's go." She sat in The Chair, trying her best not to look as entirely awkward as she felt. She hadn't been active on a Starship on over fifteen years and even then she hardly ever saw the Bridge, let alone had duty shifts there. "We'll just have to get creative in getting more accurate readings when we get closer."

"Don't you worry none, dollface. I'll steer you true." In place of his usual braggadocios Ryland kept an even hand and a steady eye on the helm, steering them through the pockets of least turbulence. "We're coming up on Regio Phoebe," he said. "Initiating a nose dive. Hold on to your butts!"

After taking the helm in an ascent, Ryland forced the bow of the Phantom downward. The crisscrossed air currents knocked the Defiant-class vessel sideways, nearly sending it in a tailspin. Ryland kept the Phantom on an even keel despite the pitched descent. The bridge rocked and roll along with the entire ship until it finally broke through to the lower troposphere.

"We made it!" Ryland said with a triumphant hoot. "Now... where are our boys?"

"You told me to get you close and you'd take it from there," Sophie pointed out, studying to console. "Um... looks like it's just ahead. Maybe." She cursed and frowned. "I hope," she added.

A smirk crept across Ryland's face. "Wasn't talking to you, babydoll." He gave the helm a loving pat. "Come on, love. Let's bring our boys home."

The Phantom cruised above the ground at an altitude of 1000 meters. Sacrificing speed for safety, Ryland came up on the first blip. "Looks like we got two friendlies riding in a transport," he reported. "Starfleet combadge signatures detected. Somebody get a transporter lock!"

Sliding into the ship's Science station, Kara took over transporter control focusing the ship's sensors on the two comm signals. "Can you boost the sensor gain? I'm having trouble keeping a lock on the badges through the vehicle." She could transport them at that moment, but without a firm lock it was risky.

Technically Ryland still wasn't sure that Kara was even supposed to be on board, but since he had absconded with the Phantom and left Mrazak behind, he was likely past such considerations. If he was to face another court martial, he might as well have as many wins behind him as possible. "Not sure if I can do that, but how's about I get right over top of them?"

"Couldn't hurt!" Kara called back as she did what she could to clear up the sensor signals. Something about the atmosphere on Venus already made transporting a dangerous affair, she really didn't want to take it on chance when dealing with a moving vehicle and weak lifesigns.

"Ferrofax!" Ryland shouted against the strain of concentration he was under. "Grab the two jarheads on the transport just as soon as the lock is stable enough!"

"Lock onto whatever you can inside or on them that the sensors would recognize and use that as the anchor." Ari suggested, "don't ask me to explain, I read it in a report once, some crazy engineer managed to save a team by locking onto a mineral or something in their bones..." Arianna shrugged helplessly.

Ryland looked at her crosswise and knit his eyebrow. "... and keep them all in one piece with insides on the inside," he added. "Make sure you remember to tell him that part early and often."

"Yeah, sorry!" Arianna shrugged only half apologetically.

"I'll do my best. I'm having some trouble given there are something in the region of six billion instances of my core programming currently bouncing around the Venus infosphere. Its making computation somewhat challenging," Ferrofax said with a note of strain to his voice. "Also I'm getting some worrying reports from Sol Sector Space Traffic Control. Namely that they've had to move operations to the Hades Inner System Control Node on Mercury. That is worrisome given the SSSTC is housed in Spacedock One. Which is no longer transmitting its subspace IFF."

"Fuck." Ari cursed mentally. "Alright, one crisis at a time. One crisis at a time."

"Shit's hit the fan everywhere," Ryland quipped. "Whoa! Get a load of this!"

Ryland put the helm's sensors up on the main viewer. Twenty klicks out was a pile of debris strewn across the Venusian plateau. The larger pieces of it were recognizable as an aerial platform like the one they had just rescued. "That coulda' been ya'll if not for yours truly!"

"Now's not the time for tooting one's horn, Ryland." Arianna sighed, "okay, we'll need sitreps as soon as the Marines are aboard. If the Administrator calls, put him on hold until we're ready to talk."

"Umm Far...Farrofax..." Kara said hesitantly, not sure exactly who she was addressing. She'd heard the name several times now, but still hadn't been introduced, he didn't sound quite... organic from the way he talked. "If you redirect the ship's navigational and environmental sensors to focus on the vehicle and tie them into the transporter, it may help clean up some of the noise and allow us to get a stronger lock."

Turbulence rocked the Phantom. "Sorry," Ryland said. "Dove right on top of the transport vehicle. Hope we got them?"

The door to the bridge hissed open. In it stood a short, slender woman. She was dressed in her sweaty grey tanktop and black uniform pants. Her combadge sat slight askew on her left breast. "Corporal Hsu, reporting in." Angela said after stepping through the door. "I was escorting Colonel Garlake when the Phantom beamed us up."

"Guess so," Ryland quipped, sparing an eye away from the helm long enough to admire the Marine. It wasn't every woman who could fill out a pair of jackboots...

"Corporal Hsu, Commander Frost," Ari wasted no time as she walked over towards Angela. "I need a sitrep, quick."

Angela nodded. "We deployed with four marines. Colonel Garlake, Gunny Koss, Sergeant Bradley, and myself. The transport we were on made an emergency crash on the surface, disabling the subspace beacon. The colonel was also disabled, and according to the suit systems catatonic. The gunny took command, and with help from Ferrofax we made our way to the transport. As Ferrofax got the transport moving the gunny received a distress call from someone called 'Old Gregg'. He and Sergeant Bradley went to investigate. That is where I lost track of them."

"Old Gregg..." Ryland muttered. "Does he have a last name or is he some kind of desert hermit?"

Ari's expression turned into an 'aha!' expression before she rolled her eyes at the silent thought and sighed. She tapped her combadge, "Frost to Sickbay. Your patient, McGill, how is she?"

The med-tech on duty was calm at first. "The patient is calm and--" A pause, then a spike in pitch. "Patient is in cardiac arrest! Initiating ACLS protocol! Get me that crash cart!" Evidently the open comm to the bridge had been forgotten.

"'fuck's sake...." Arianna muttered as she pinched the bridge of her nose. "Okay," she leaned over and closed the comm to the chaos of Sickbay. "Let's go find the rest of the Marines."

"Aye, aye," Ryland said far more glibly than the situation warranted. "We're coming over the crash site now. Looks like there was more than just the aerial platform down there, though. There's some kind of hole or gorge or something that goes down a ways. Maybe that's where this Old Gregg is holed up? Nav sensors aren't picking up anything but I bet that's where the other Marines are."

A sudden blip crossed Sophie’s console for a fraction of a second, but it was enough. She zeroed in on the coordinates from which the blip had come. The narrowed search did the trick and She was able to get a lock in them. “Found them!” she declared. “Beaming them aboard now.”

The lights on the bridge flickered a time or two as the Phantom lurched for a moment. "Shit! Something just attacked us! Not sure what... some kind of seismic charge? Whatever it was rattled everything. We dropped a hundred meters in altitude before the ship's systems reoriented themselves. I think we might need weapons up." He glanced at Ari in the command chair and realized he was possibly speaking out of turn. "Ma'am."

"Aye, weapons ready, pull the shields up the moment Kos and the others are aboard." Arianna nodded.

The door hissed and Rodi stepped in. His uniform was a sweat-drenched mess, his hair was plastered to his scalp and his body looked to be dragging a physical weight in weariness. But his spine was still straight. His eyes danced over the figures on the bridge, from Dedeker, to Xiong, to Frost, and finally Angela. "Hsu, sergeant Bradley needs your aid." Rodi ordered.

The young Asian woman snapped to, "Yes gunny." and disappeared through the doors at the rear of the bridge.

The Gunny turned to the senior most officer and nodded. "Commander Frost, I recommend we go to red alert and bring all weapon systems online immediately. We need to defend ourselves from what is on the surface." Rodi reported, turning to the Australian woman. "Actively, and aggressively."

Hundreds or even thousands of mechanical constructs erupted from the hole in the plateau. Soon the debris was overrun by machines that hopped and flew like locusts, some of which nearly reached the bottom of the Phantom. Another infrasonic blast struck the ship, this time plunging it even further toward the ground.

Arianna grasped at the Command Chair, "Kos take Tactical, weapons free! Ryland, evasive maneuvres, get us out of here, Sophie keep an eye out on our systems. Redirect and shut down as you need."

Another seismic charge rocked the Phantom, which dimmed the lights for good. Only the flashing of emergency lights staved away the darkness. On the view screen, an image began to form. Black and white at first, it soon revealed to be a Death's head skull which moved as it spoke.

"Hi there. I'm Old Gregg." Red sinew and muscles began to slowly form across the white bone as the jaw moved up and down, but the eyes remained empty sockets. "I like you. But I'm going to hurt you. Can't let you destroy my darlings. They're pretty little things. Survived the Makers, they did. Just like me. Now we're going to survive you." Eventually the skull-face became a passable reconstruction of Old Gregg from the Life Circle. The glimmer in the eye sparkled just so. It even passed for his voice, though the inflection was definitely all wrong. Far too stilted and grandiloquent. "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Isn't that how you say it? Surely you understand. Don't you worry none, though. The Terror won't survive either. Won't that be grand? We'll all be heroes, just like before."

"Oh, that's just great!" said Sophie, turning from her place at the engineering console to face the weirdo on the screen. "Now we get to sit here and listen to some self-righteous zealot preach at us about how 'we're destroying the planet' and 'our deaths will be a good thing!' Well, let me tell you something, you trumped-up, psychotic, wanna-be martyr! You don't know any more than we do what's good for this planet and you know it! For all we know, it's better to blow up this God-forsaken place and be done with it. But, you're so stuck on your own plans and building up your own ego, you wouldn't be able to recognize the facts if they danced naked in front of you. You are a total, total... a word has yet to be invented to describe how totally... whatever it is you are, but whatever that word is, you are one, and a total total one at that!" And with that, she resumed her seat with a huff of indignation.

"How dare you call me an un-un-un-un-un-un-defined?!" Old Gregg fired back, his visage temporarily glitching. "Your condemnation is not idle and your destruction does not sleep! You will see! I will show you!"

"Oh, I'm sure you will!" retorted Sophie loudly, her voice dripping in sarcasm, not even bothering to turn from her station this time. "Because you're so much more evolved and smarter than the rest of us peons on this puny little ship. We cower at your very presence, oh great Master of the Universe! We grovel at your feet. We worship the dust on the bottom of your shoes! We are not worthy to even sit in your presence." She rolled her eyes. "Grow up, old Gregg," she finished acerbically.

"Fuck this." Rodi simply stated under his breath. The site where Rodi and Bradley had ran for their life became Rodi's first target. The sensors on the Phantom found it easily enough with all the movement flowing out of it. Four quantum torpedoes exited the tubes in rapid succession, smashing into the crash sight. Everything within the blast radius was returned to its constituent atoms. While the torpedoes were still travelling towards their target the singular Type X phaser bank started targetting big clumps of the constructs in broad sweeps. Before the evasive manoeuvres brought them out of range Rodi's fingers keyed in another sequence. The three rapid-fire torpedo tubes would be earning their keep today as twelve more bright blue stars swept out of the small ship

"Lieutenant Dedeker, I need the ship to point at large clusters of those creatures, or our pulse phasers are as good as useless." The marine said, "We don't have the broad arcs of fire other Starfleet ships have."

The tactical sensors displayed a massive radiation spike on the planet. The small but deep impact crater Rodi had climbed had turned into a hole so large that it could contain the Vredefort crater on Earth several times over. "Good." The marine whispered, a sick satisfaction settling into his stomach.

"I am attempting to quarantine the corrupted code that is being uploaded to the ship. We might lose secondary and tertiary systems. Power, weapons, engines and life support are my focus right now," Ferrofax said from somewhere, his voice seeming to bounce from one side of the bridge to the other as though running from one fire to the next. "Add replicators to that list. Greg just tried to replicate a synthetic chlorine gas in the mess hall. He's got a lot of processor cycles backing him up."

"Sophie, Kara, do what you can to help Ferrofax, don't let it get to the Environmental Systems." Ari said, having wrangled herself into The Chair. "Ryland, Roderik, keep doing what you're doing."

The Phantom had been fighting to stay aloft, but almost as quickly as the turbulence had come, it left. "Forward stabilizers are green," Ryland reported. "Punching out!"

A short burst later, they were more than a thousand kilometers away from their former position. "Nav sensors read clear of all obstructions," Ryland reported. "Though I think there's a storm on the way."

"Keep an eye on it. I need status reports, everyone!" Arianna called, rubbing her chin with her fingers.

"Shields are down to 22 per cent, all weapons ready and available." Rodi reported.

"Minor damage across the ship,” reported Sophie as if she hadn’t just blown a gasket at a psychotic weirdo. “No hull breaches and no major systems offline. I should be able to have her back together in under an hour, but we’ll be okay if we don’t have time for repairs.”

"How far are we from Mrazak's team?" Ari asked again. They needed to regroup asap and figure this out.

Even though they were in the middle of nowhere, a quick reference with the flight logs gave Ryland a quick estimate. "Looks like we're about 4500 klicks southeast of Concordia... where I last saw them..." His face split between a smirk and a grimace. The shoe had yet to drop on that action but Ryland knew all too well that, sooner or later, it would.

"Let's head over there. Lay in a course and engage. Kara, try to hail Captain Mrazak or Commander Qiao when we're in range. Sophie, Roderik, see if we can get shields back and keep an eye on our tentacle friends our there. We may need to pull the team out and fight at the same time." Ari said with a sigh, "that being said, good job everyone. Let's try to stay alive and figure this out, yeah?"

"Aye ma'am." Rodi replied, keying the regeneration protocols for the shields to recover some of their lost strength.

"Course laid in for the vault site," Ryland said. Sparing a look over his shoulder, he added, "Maybe somebody put in a good word for yours truly with the old boss man?"

"You did your duty, Ryland." Ari said in a firm but reassuring tone, "now I will do mine."


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