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Hell to Pay

Posted on Mon Aug 31st, 2020 @ 11:36am by Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Lieutenant JG Kara Madavi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Simon Covington , Esq.

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

Through some rather stellar maneuvering, Ryland managed to guide the Phantom around the worst of the storms between the crashed platform and Concordia. The low pressure system just south of the Terra Ishtar continent let him punch the thrusters at near full speed on final approach.

"Oh, hell..." Ryland groaned. "Nav sensors...they're saying the vault is gone. Someone wanna do a proper sweep? I swear it was right fuckin' here!"

"It's- it's not gone!" insisted Sophie, initiating the sweep. "It can't be gone. That makes no sense." There was a brief pause as she watched the sensor readout carefully. "There!" she announced. "It's buried. But it's still there."

Ryland cringed at the news. "What, uh, about life-signs?"

"Comms, Tactical, help Ops out, one of your bandwiths should pick up something." Ari said, listening to the chatter of the specialists intently. At least she really really hoped they would. It would reflect really badly on Theta and herself if her first command ever, and first Bridge duty in seventeen years ended up in major loss of life and, well, a planet.

After a moment of broad spectrum scanning, a chief at the Ops console reported her findings. "We're picking up an encrypted subspace transmission on a restricted bandwidth. It's originating from a civilian research module adjacent to the hab dome."

Kara took a deep breath as the ship was hit by a sudden cross current. Unlike shuttlecraft that were better suited for atmospheric flight, the Defiant-class vessel... well it was rocking harder than a fishing trawler in a typhoon. Frankly, it was unsettling her stomach, but she had a job to do. Kara didn't feel she could very well take up a station on the bridge and just sit there. Taking a big swallow, she focused on the sensor readings before her, mirroring both the Ops and Tactical station's sensor results. "I think I can boost the gain on our transceiver to get a clear message."

In a moment, an audio signal began to play on repeat. "Covington Prime, Covington Prime. Alert, alert. Covington Prime, Covington Prime. Alert, alert..."

"Covington Prime," Arianna muttered, "Covington..."

The Civillian Research Module was run by Simon Covington of the Covington Foundation.

"Sophie, Kara, can we send a signal back? See if we can communicate with anyone down there?" Arianna looked over at the two women.

"Captain." Rodi said right after Arianna's orders were issued. "It's faint, but my sensors are registering small scale weapons fire inside the dome. Can't make out what particular type of weapon, but someone is definitely shooting inside."

"Alright, everyone, we need options and we need them quick." Arianna stepped out of her chair and walked over to the Tactical station.

Suddenly the SOS signal changed frequencies and overwhelmed the full local bandwidth.

"Attention unidentified vessel! This is Simon P. Covington, Esquire of the Covington Foundation! I am locked inside my research module and in immediate distress! Please help! I will make it worth your while!

"Sophie, adjust our frequency to match!" Arianna instructed.

Of course Sophie was already in the middle of doing just that, but she didn't bother pointing that out. After all, not all engineers were as intelligent as she was and she realized that some of them might need to be told to do it. But, since she was already in the middle of the task, it was a mere two seconds later that she said, "got it!"

"Mister Covington this is Commander Arianna Frost of the USS Phantom. What's the status of you and the facility and who's firing down there?" Arianna rattled off quickly, feeling anxious at the possibility of losing contact or worse, not getting through to the team. Outwardly though she showed none of it, just her same old cool countenance.

"The mechs!" Covington screamed through the comm. "The ancient mechs have come to the surface and started attacking everything! They're trying to get through the walls! I don't have any weapons like the damnable colonists, so just hurry up and do your job, Starfleet!"

"Mister Covington, where's Captain Mrazak and the rest of my team?" She asked, before she reached and muted the outgoing line, "see if we can link with his computer so we can get his readouts. I'm not sending anyone else down there blind." She issued to Sophie and Rodi.

"I heard that!" shouted the voice from the other end. "Nobody gets my data, including the fate of Captain Mrazak, for free! If you want it, come and get it. Those are my terms." A loud clanging came through the comm. "But hurry!"

"I don't have to do anything, Mister Covington. We're up here, you're down there. Answer my questions, so I can actually formulate a rescue plan." Arianna countered, a frown in her features at the fact that the mute command didn't work, even though it was quite clearly pressed.

"Kara, Sophie, status of our systems?"

"We're doing all right," replied Sophie. "Shields holding, all major systems functional, same as last time. I'm attempting to bypass his security to link the computers, but it's going to take some time unless he sees fit to let us in."

"Keep at it." Ari nodded at Sophie, " the sooner the better." Then she turned her attention to the errant Esquire. "Mister Covington, I need access to your security system. The sooner you let my people in the sooner we can come help you and get everyone out. You will be pulled out first, I promise, and Starfleet Intelligence will owe you a favor. How's that?"

"I have something of a better offer," Ferrofax spoke up. "After merging a number of my subprocesses back into a single instantiation of myself, certain data points began to stand out to me. Such as a correlation in subspace message traffic with known comm relay paths used by the Black Nagus. We could instead offer Mister Convington the chance to aid us, and not divulge his employment to SFI or highlight our knowledge to his covert employer. I mean, it's just a suggestion on my behalf."

Arianna's eyes darkened at the mention of the name. No matter what went on, it still rounded back to the Nagus, it seemed. "Glad to have you back with us." "Fuckin' finally!" came a silent afterthought. "Do it. Quickly."

After a moment of commingling between their communication relays, Covington came back with an entirely different tune. "All right, all right. The shitheel locals took them to their compound at Skadi Mons which is only a few kilometers east of the Planum. Now get me out of here!"

"Sophie, get him up." Arianna nodded to the Engineer, "Roderik, make sure he has a guard with him at all times and is on restricted movement. Also prepare an extraction team. Ryland, set a course and engage the moment Covington is up. Ferrofax, I'll need a report from you asap."

"Understood." Kos simply nodded.

Sophie abandoned her original track and instead worked on getting a lock on Covington. "Got him," she announced a few seconds later after having beamed him onto the ship.

Once Covington materialized, he looked around and fell to his knees. "No! My lab! My precious, precious lab!" He pounded the deck before propping himself back up and pointing at the command chair. "You'll pay for this! Or my name isn't Simon P. Covington!"

"Kos..." Arianna nodded over at Rodi, to indicate Covington needs to be removed from the Bridge.

The Defiant-class bridge is rather compact, so it only took two steps. From behind, Rodi's hand clamped down on Covington's wrist and wrenched it behind his back. "Please come with me." The marine instructed as he shifted his hips to pull him towards the exit. "We'll have a safe place for you to stay, sir."

"Starfleet..." Covington muttered along with a few other choices phrases. He knew better than to resist.

The helm beeped. "Course laid in to Skadi Mons," Ryland reported. "I gotta' say, though, they'll see us coming. Our approach has to stay below 2,000 meters 'cause the upper atmosphere is over 60 times faster than the lower atmosphere. An approach from a high altitude runs the risk of overshooting, even crashing, when we jump pressure systems. But that means we probably don't have to worry about any aerial defenses."

"I thought you were an ace pilot, Ryland." Ari flashed him a smirk. "If you think you can do the high approach, do it. If not, make sure your evasive maneuvres are on point. Either way, let's go."

Rodi handed Covington over to one of the marines standing guard at the turbo lift. "Deck 2, guest quarters. Disable everything but the replicator." The young private nodded and took Covington's arm, guiding him into the turbo lift.

"Sickbay to Bridge."

Ari sighed, tapping her commbadge, "this is Frost, on the Bridge."

"Sir, we have resuscitated both patients." Colonel Garlake and McGill.

Arianna let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you. Doctor. Let me know when they are able to answer some questions."

"They present as stable and coherent," the medtech said.

Before Ari could reply, a transmission patched through from Overwatch Station:
"Memory Theta, my abiding rival in the Game of Acquisition. How the mighty have been brought low! You had thought yourselves free from my grasp, first in your lucky victory snatched from my grasp on Bynaus and then by uprooting my mole in your computer network. So unprepared, were you not, for my retaliation? Between the redaction of Jumik's arrival in your daily manifest and the lock-down initiated by your own admiralty, you no doubt found yourself defenseless. Your intruder alert confirmed to me that my hidden dagger was successful. As you must surely now admit, nobody is beyond my grasp.
If Mrazak survived the internal one-man assault on the station, then you may blame his past insolence for what has transpired. If he perished by the hand of the Lethean-controlled Mr. Carsdel, then let his demise be a warning to his successor: Do not cross the Black Nagus!

The transmission cut off as abruptly as it had begun.

Sophie rolled her eyes. First Old Greg and now the Black Nagus? All they needed was a weepy Klingon and a suicidal robot and the day would be complete.

Ari's blood went cold at the mention of the name. The thought of their home base being compromised made things all the worse.

"Ferrofax, I need a full workup on that message. I need to know everything, every single little detail we can glean from it." Frost said.

Then she turned on the internal communication's frequency to shipwide. "All hands, this is Commander Frost. I understand that this message comes as a shock to everyone, I'm shocked myself. However, I will ask everyone not to dwell on it right now. We are in no position to assist Overwatch station at the moment. Our task is to retrieve our team on the planet, that is to be our focus. We will deal with the rest later. Frost out."

As the communications cut, she looked over at Rodi, "have you picked your team?"

"No need. Alpha Team is ready to deploy in the next fifteen minutes." Rodi replied promptly, paging his handpicked team to prep for deployment.

"We're coming up on this Skadi Mons now," Ryland reported from the conn. "Any idea where to set you down? This is one big mountain..."

"Do we have any positional readings on lifesigns?" Ari asked.

"Lifesigns near the summit of the mountain ma'am." Kara replied, bringing up the sensor scans on the view screen. She'd largely just been trying to keep up with all this new information. Who BlackNagus was, what he had to do with all the crazy goings-on she couldn't say. At least she could focus on the away team

"Sensors indicate a cylindrical structure inside the mountain, spanning from the base to the summit," Sophie reported. "That's over ten kilometers. The life signs are all near the top."

Arianna nodded, "then we get as near as possible. I'm going with the Away Team. Ryland, Sophie, you're our eyes, ears and getaway drivers."

"Aye, sir," Ryland said. "Gettin' in position now. The raging atmosphere might make transporters spotty, so I'll get as close as we can to compensate, but there's no way I can hold position up near the top. Once we drop ya'll off, I'll have to pull back, so maybe take something along to help us track ya."

The doors to the bridge parted and in walked Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake.

"Colonel on the bridge!" shouted one of the Marines.

He had bags under his fiery eyes, but his gait was even if a little measured. The tactical armor around his barrel chest and the phaser rifle held to his shoulder left little to speculation as to his intentions. The rescue team would have one more, and there would be hell to pay.

"Well, look at you, Storr Van Winkle!" Ryland hooted. "Now it's a party!"


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