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For We Are Many

Posted on Sat Aug 22nd, 2020 @ 9:32pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant JG Grace Sternwood Ph.D. & Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton PhD
Edited on on Mon Aug 24th, 2020 @ 2:52pm

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

Fortuna Tessera

Outside Covington's research module, the dozen or so Kinship blackguards dragged the field team members out to a waiting rover that looked to be converted from a cargo hauler into a personnel carrier. Four of the masked abductors entered first to secure the transport, then ushered the Starfleet officers inside. Mrazak was flopped into a bucket seat and restrained without physical resistance. There was plenty of protest, though.

"Unhand me! I will see you imprisoned for the rest of your miserable lives!"

One of the blackguards made a threatening gesture with his shock-blade, which silenced Mrazak long enough to give Adele a chance to speak.

"Please cooperate," she said almost pleading. "No harm will come to you so long as you do."

A few of the Kinship guards remained behind to secure the research module, but the rest prodded toward the rover's rear interior for the rest of the field team to enter.

Grace sat silently unable to speak or move frozen in terror. The only thing she knew was that she was done with Starfleet.

Bao walked towards the rover, touching Grace's arm as he moved past her. "Come along, mademoiselle," he said quietly. "The clay figure fears the rain that must surely come." He moved to sit as far away from Mrazak as the available space, though he did his best to give the Vulcan a subtle look as he made his eyes flash twice, hoping the Vulcan would get the idea. He looked at Adele and addressed her supplication, "Madame, do not aid King Jie in his acts or you shall surely add frost to the snow," he stated as he settled in to see where they were going. Internally, he was rather less calm, but he saw little choice but to trust Sunny to get them help and try to keep a major incident from occurring.

Maisy gave Bao a look that was somewhere between disgust and confusion. “Are you high or talking in code?” she asked.

"Neither, Chief," came the reply, as the Lagashi looked at the NCO. "Call it the whimsy of Sun Tzu," he said, strapping himself into the seat. The way the day was going, he did not trust their transport to fall off a cliff or something else suitably melodramatic.

Loud discharges rumbled through the thick walls of the transport rovers.

"What's going on out there?" Adele shouted to the driver.

The speaker blurted from the driver's cab. "Road's overrun. Some kind mechs."

Mrazak tried to jump to his feet, but his restraints held him tight. "They got out of the vault!"

"ONE TWO THREE FOUR SEVEN!" Grace shouted suddenly, but then returned to her previous catatonic state.

“Will you relax?” hissed Maisy to Mrazak. “You don’t know that it’s the mechs from the vault. It could anything! Don’t panic until we’re sure it’s important to panic.”

"I evidently must remind you that synths are illegal in the Federation," Mrazak said, "and for good reason!"

Buzzing began to fill the air. Then a knocking sound.

"What's going on out there?" Adele demanded to know.

"They're surrounding us!" The divider between the cab and the cargo-hold-turned-passenger-area dropped to reveal a swarm of locust-shaped mechanical constructs blocking the road.

"Get us out of here!" Adele shouted.

"Shut up!" the driver shouted back. "I don't answer--"

A wave of the mechs crashed against the side of the rover, sending it rolling end over end through a building. After flipping end over end, the propulsion systems of the rover managed to right the vehicle back onto its wheels. The engine roared to life as the rover sped toward an opening in the hab dome. More mechs kept trying to get in the way, but the high speed of the rover smashed them to pieces. There was a gate, but the rover didn't slow down, instead bursting through it like a cannonball. It soared through the air several meters before crashing down on the declining side of Fortuna Tessera, skittering in a barely controlled fishtail slide all the way own to the plain.

"We've cleared the colony," the driver reported.

"ONE TWO THREE FOUR SEVEN!" Grace shouted, again.

"Will you stop saying that?!" Mrazak hissed.

"I CAN'T HELP IT!" But at that final outburst, Grace fell into unintelligible muttering.

The rest of the drive to Shangri-La was not terribly long, but it was miserable. A noxious smell of sulphur dioxide from the hardened volcanic caldera penetrated the rover's life support filters.

"Are you driving us into a volcano?" Mrazak asked.

"No," Adele said. "Quite the opposite, in fact. You should count yourselves blessed. Few outsiders have trod upon the holy sanctuary of Shangri-La."

The tall Lagashi gave a bemused look. "Madame, I doubt there is any resemblance here, physical or spiritual, with Shambhala, and I am certain that none of us will be attaining the enlightenment of a sacred one. What do you expect to gain from bringing us to this place?"

"I'm only following orders," Adele replied. "For I am but a handmaiden of Mother Hrisi. She has promised to reveal to us the coming of the Abad'ashar, the Holy Maitreya of this world, he who shall set right the wrongs we have wrought and bring justice to the molestation we have inflicted. Perhaps you have something to do with that revelation. You should feel honored."

"I would feel more than honored if you took us back to the excavation site," Mrazak groused. "In fact, I would feel nearly forgiving." His voice cut deep and guttural at the end of his statement. The tone promised nothing remotely close to forgiveness.

Adele was quiet for a moment. Clearly she was unsure of how to respond. "You'll need to speak to Mother Hrisi about that."

Bao managed to keep his face impassive at Adele's explanation, though his brain began processing while the Vulcan blathered. "Pardon, Madam, but Abad'ashar? It seems the automatons that have so recently been assaulting us have this concept as well," he said, ignoring the sheer unlikelihood of there being a true Maitreya on Venus. That was an old Buddhist superstition. "What is the purpose of this entity?" He carefully left off the bit about the automatons seeming to think Mrazak was said entity. He had enough of an ego without a cult of fanatics worshipping him, thank you very much.

"The Abad'ashar is the Almighty Expected One." Wonder filled Adele's eyes and voice as she spoke. "Long has it slumbered, but Mother Hrisi has found it. For far too long have our intrusions on Venus been overlooked. The Abad'ashar, the Final Avatar, the Holy One, the Font of Enlightenment and Deliverance is slated to appear at the End of Days. Can that be any other time but now? The dark epoch of our hubris reveals that humanity, nay, the Federation is lost, cut off from Wisdom, Truth and Nature itself!" Her passion spent, Adele lowered her eyes as she wondered how she must sound. "Or so Mother Hrisi has proclaimed..."

The Lagashi looked at Mrazak, "No," he said, trusting the Vulcan to fill in the blanks. "Absolutely not. We already have tame Borg, whatever the curator is, and an entire vault of existential horrors. Unless you want the arachnid robot things as well to set up a holy war." He spared a glance for Amburton, "And trust me, Chief, you do not want to know what I am talking about."

"I'll take your word for it," Maisy replied. After all, happiness is bliss.

"Survive first," Mrazak said. "Catalog second. But catalog we will!" He thrust a confident finger in the air to punctuate his point.

Adele fell quiet at Mrazak's mention of survival. After an unspecified period of time, the bumping of the transport came to an end as it pitched forward several degrees.

"We're going downhill," Mrazak observed. "Not a hill. A tunnel. We're riding much smoother now. Just where are you taking us?"

At first it seemed Adele would not answer, but eventually she sighed. "The holy mountain of Shangri-La. As Mother Hrisi has said, if you wish to ascend, then you must first descend."

Looking to Amburton, Mrazak asked, "Are there any prominent mountains near Concordia?"

“Only the tallest mountain range on Venus, Maxwell Montes,” answered Maisy. “It even forms part of Ishtar Terra, an upland the size of a continent and is just east of Lakshmi Planum, Ishtar’s highest plateau. There’s a lot going on in-“ but she was rudely interrupted.

"Speak not the heathen names of Earth here!" Adele hissed, though her ire soon faded. "Mother Hrisi will not abide it..."

Mrazak arched his prominent Vulcan brow. "Just who is this Hrisi woman and how is it her brand of lunacy has become so deeply entrenched within the Venereal population?"

"... it is not my place." Adele looked to the floor. "When you meet her, you shall understand."

As the transport came to a sudden stop and the rear doors opened, it appeared that time was close at hand. More Kinship blackguards arrived, also armed with shock-blades, crowding the view of the dark interior of the subterranean compound. The field team was herded along the spartan cavern to a pair of turbolifts.

"This is where we part," Adele said from behind a wall of masked, armored blackguards. "Revelation awaits you. Prepare yourselves."

Mrazak felt his curiosity pique. "Revelation, you say?" Casting a wary eye on the others, he was the first to step into the turbolift. "Onward, then."

Shangri-La Sanctuary

When the turbolift doors parted, an overwhelming burst of natural light filled the turbolift. Mrazak was forced to cover his eyes with his hand before stepping forward. Once his vision adjusted, he could see a number of tall and myriad windows identical to the transparent aluminum alloy used in starship production, except that these glowed nearly white with artificial daylight. Mrazak knew the daylight had to be artificial because true sunlight was a commodity on this world. Still, they had done well, as his Vulcan complexion could not help but confirm.

"Well, I'm not sure what I was expecting," Mrazak said to the others as he rubbed his face from the harsh light. "Maybe more... hoods and torches? Such seems to be the universal accouterments for crazed cultists."

Bao glanced at the Vulcan sideways. "Stop reading 20th century Earth histories," he said mildly, "Or do the V'tosh Ka'tur have pointy hats and pitchforks at their meetings as well? It might also be wise to avoid terms like crazed cultists when they are armed and we are not."

"Perhaps on some of the remoter colonies..." Mrazak conceded.

"Many religious iconography portrays cultists performing rituals in the nude," Grace said, coming out of her stupor and mathematical ramblings long enough to contribute something helpful. "Maybe we should be grateful."

A hush fell over the crowd in tangible expectation. After a pregnant pause, introductions finally began.


The voice which called out was distinctively matronly -- rich, vibrant, and authoritative with a touch of comforting warmth.

"I say again -- welcome!"

Looking around, all Mrazak could see was a small multitude in humble shifts. One by one, they ceased their labors -- laundering their tattered garments, adorning vases and other assorted pottery with beautiful art, singing and drumming with children in small huddles -- and encircled the newcomers emerging from the turbolift.

Well, that was uncomfortable. Unsure of what else to do, the tall Lagashi brought his hands together before his chest, fingertips touching. "Emeitoufu," he said, settling on the Buddha of eternal light to match the blazing artificial lights. He looked around surreptitiously, trying to take in what he could see. He needed more to try to build a catalogue of what these people believed, and quickly if they were to bandy words with the cult leader.

"While this is indeed a Pure Land, we insist on the forsaking of heathen names and titles of our former world." A woman stepped forward, her hood resting over her shoulders like a tattered queen cape. On her head, though, rested a diadem of pure diamond from which dangled a gem that rested over her forehead. Any wrinkles or crow's feet on her face were entirely obscured by the endless and flickering glimmer. "You may keep your given names if you wish. Some of us do. Others find new meaning in the newness of life in Shangri-La and the miraculous realm of miracles they find herein. Blessed be your coming, for we are at the threshold."

As she spoke, the cadence of the woman's voice ebbed and flow with the rhythmic familiarity of someone accustomed to controlling large crowds through words alone. Just so, her energy was both kind and harsh, gentle and severe. It also seemed she did not expect the science team to leave this place.

Bao looked at Mrazak, but decided to be the speaker for the moment. "It strikes me, madame, as odd that you forsake the name of the Wisdom of Eternal Light but name your refuge after a fictional representation of Shambhala, and that your follower, gave you the title of maitreya, as you are plainly not a bodhisattva much less THE one," he said, a faint note of condescension in his voice, as if he was pointing out the hypocrisy of a child.

"Shambhala is a fictional paradise," Mother Hrisi corrected as though speaking to an eager but ignorant child. Her matronly smile held no ire. "It is a fitting name for our home of recent years which is the threshold to the dawn of a new era. However, I am not the Holy Maitreya, so I am afraid whoever told you this was mistaken." She paused a moment to allow the mild snickering from her followers to abate before they resumed their reverent silence. "Do you wish to see it? Its time is come. I would be pleased to share the moksha of final enlightenment with a follower of the Eternal Way. I bid you, come, one and all." Without further ado, Mother Hrisi turned around and led them to a flagstone stairwell that wrapped around a central pillar to some sort of observatory overhead.

Turning to Bao, Mrazak said, "What the blazes was that all about? Have you antagonized the natives like you did the automatons from the vault?"

The Lagashi turned a withering look at Mrazak, though he thought it impolitic under the circumstances to state that he was engaging in theological debate with an insane woman who had not the slightest clue of the historical socio-cultural meanings of the words she was throwing about. Instead, he made a gentle "tick-tock" sound to the Vulcan and tapped his wrist where someone in an earlier era might have worn a watch. Returning his attention to Hrisi he bowed slightly, not letting his bemusement over her words slip. Moksha, or release from the cycle of death and rebirth. Quaint mysticism, and logically not a tangible object. Still, the more the crazy woman talked, the less death they were being subjected to, and call him curious for wanting to figure it out. still, a little stalling. "Biqiuni Hrisi," he said mildly. "Perhaps one of your followers could see to Ms. Sternwood? Her mental state has not taken well to events, and perhaps we should avoid more strain to her?"

As if to underline the point, Grace began mumbling under her breath again, "Prime factorization of 1024 is... The hypotenuse is equal to the square root of the sum of the square of the two sides."

"And deprive one of my own children the glory of the revealing of the Abad'ashar?" By her tone, Mother Hrisi's question was a rhetorical one. "Assuredly not. By your own will or another's, it matters not. Come you shall all the same."

Mrazak looked at Maisy. "Watch the lieutenant, Chief Hambutt. We have no way of knowing who or what this Abad'ashar might be." He did not want to admit that he had absolutely no idea what Bao and Mother Hrisi had been talking about, which meant that there was nothing to it but to continuing following along until he could figure out a way out of this mess.

Forced upward on the spiraling staircase, the field team clung together in the press of bodies toward the unknown. Sub-bass vibrations began to emanate stronger the farther up they went. As they crossed over the final step, the vibration was unmistakable and unavoidable, more of a feeling than a sound. The Kinship, from the hooded blackguards and their shock-sticks to the humbly robed dwellers, encircled the perimeter of the observation platform to which they'd ascended.

"Behold!" cried Mother Hrisi from the center of the holy circle, arms spread high and wide in fervent proclamation. "The Abad'ashar is come!"



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