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Hell Is Empty...

Posted on Sat Sep 26th, 2020 @ 9:51pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Lieutenant Colonel Storr Garlake & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Lieutenant JG Kara Madavi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax & Chief Warrant Officer Maisy Amburton PhD & Sergeant Alexander Bradley & Corporal Kul Ax't & Corporal Angela Hsu & Lance Corporal Edmund Haaskivi & Lieutenant JG Grace Sternwood Ph.D.

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: Shangri-La Sanctuary | Skadi Mons, Venus
Timeline: MD 2

Previously...


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!"

Now the continuation...





Mrazak turned his head to the side and studied the object adjacent to her. "A... monument?"

It did indeed resemble some type of ancient monolith left behind by a prehistoric civilization. It had no obvious lettering or iconography, but shallow grooves adorning its exterior looked as though it could've been a primitive star chart or other record of antiquity involving grid lines. There seemed to be an electric aura surrounding it as well. All in all, however, it appeared to be simply a roughly rectangular object of earthen silicate embedded with assorted crystals.

"A lifeform," Mother Hrisi declared, "whose existence is many orders of magnitude beyond our own. The ancient records declare the glory of the Abad'ashar, the Holy Maitreya, the Eternal One, as the true ruler and bodhisattva of this world."

And yet the monument did nothing but thrum a deep vibration.

"3.1415926535..."

Mrazak gave Grace a confused expression. "If you have something useful to contribute, then spit it out, Lieutenant."

If she heard Mrazak, she did not indicate it. Grace just continued her calculation of pi.

Maisy scratched her chin, studying the... thing. "Are you sure about that?" she asked, one eyebrow creeping towards her hairline. "It doesn't seem to be... well, alive."

"That is not dead which can eternal lie," Mother Hrisi said. "We need only awaken it. Begin the heavenly drumming!"

The encircled Kin began stomping their feet in rhythm which sent a powerful vibration through the observation deck. At first nothing, but the emanations from the monolith began to shift in time with the stomping. Mother Hrisi produced a long ram's horn which she placed to her lips. As she blew, the deep, bellowing sound was soon matched by something equally strong yet below the audible range of hearing. Something that undeniably came out from the monolith. Mother Hrisi grinned wide.

Bao raised a brow as the harmonics began rising. "Heavenly drumming," he said. "那么,肏你祖宗十八代.*" ("Well, in that case, fuck your ancestors to the 18th generation.") Fortunately, however, the distraction and the subharmonic distracted from the blue glow returning to his eyes as his AI returned to his systems. He turned slightly to Mrazak and whispered, "Despite events, I believe our salvation may be at hand," he said.

At first Mrazak had no idea what Bao could possibly be talking about, but then he saw the strong cybernetic glow of his eyes. The Phantom was near!




Down in the common area below, the rescue team beamed inside the sanctuary compound ready for swift action. They had another transponder unit with them which boosted their signal in case of transporter interference.

As the team beamed in Kara had her tricorder at the ready, scans coming through and linked to the Phantom. Or were supposed to be anyway, she wasn't sure yet if their scans would get through.

As soon as the shimmering light dissipated around the marines four of the six swarmed out into the chamber at large. Each carried a compact phaser rifle, was clad in energy-dissipating SFMC armour, and three of them were tired.

Rodi's rifle had its barrel lowered to avoid shooting his team in the back. "Room is clear commander."

Ari, sporting a rifle of her own, nodded, "proceed, Rodi. This is your show."

Storr cracked his neck side to side in an effort to dissipate the last remnants of mental fog. There was no true competent medical authority on board to release the Lieutenant Colonel back to duty but after a brief (and quite heartfelt) message with his wife, she deemed him fit for duty only in order to get him to return to her in the quickest manner possible. Turning his head to see his two compatriots, Garlake remembered why he hated the full helmet as it restricted visibility and peripheral vision. That and his beard made it look like a tribble was laying just under his chin, attempting to break its way out. He made a mental note to trim the blasted thing when he got back. *How long was I out?* he thought absently, bringing the phaser carbine to the low ready.

"Lead on, Gunny." While he was the highest-ranking, Rodi had tactical command of the team given his knowledge of the area and situation. The Marines, while steeped in tradition, sticklers for customs and courtesy, and bathed in blood and battle, were never beyond tactical flexibility when the situation demanded it.

"Sergeant Bradley, take point. Hsu, rear. Move out." Rodi ordered as he stepped behind his pointman. The formation stepped out of their insertion point in an orderly fashion. It took no more than a few minutes before they approached a four way crossing. Both side passages were dark.

Rodi raised his fist for the formation to halt and stepped next to Bradley. They inched forward to the corner and pointed their rifles across into the hallway. The videofeed from their scopes automatically switched to an enhanced light mode, showing an ambush party waiting at both sides. The two marines inched back and sergeant Bradley gave a confused look to his teamleader. "That's not exactly smart..." Bradley said, meaning the ambushing parties would probably shoot each other. Rodi merely shrugged and took a photon grenade from his belt. He dialed the charge back to avoid blowing the hallway's walls away and introducing vacuum. Bradley, seeing what the gunny was doing mirrored his actions. Then fairly quietly both men pulled the pin on their explosive device and gave it a solid roll down the corridor. Moments later they were rewarded with two satisfying booms, and after checking, clear hallways.




"Did we get'em in?" Ryland asked from the conn of the Phantom.

"They're in," reported Sophie. "I'm keeping an eye on them."




After the perfunctory blow of the trumpet, Mother Hrisi nodded toward the blackguards who had joined them on the platform. They approached the monolith with reverence and activated their shock-sticks.

"Awake, O Glory!" Mother Hrisi proclaimed. "Awaken the dawn as the old becomes new!"

The false windows layered in mirrors were pulled back to reveal the darkness of the Venusian atmosphere. Deep through the gloomy murk one could see sunlight beginning to poke through. The long day of Venus, approximately 243 rotations of Earth, had come. Dawn would last for more than a week.

At her direction, though, eight blackguards plunged their shock-sticks into the monolith, which turned out far more malleable than appeared. It began to writhe as clay on a potter's wheel and pulsated harsh, groaning sub-bass vibrations. A maw formed in the general likeness of a mouth at the center of the monolith and even contorted as if crying out in pain.

And then the ground shook. The mountain peak trembled as its roots were unpegged.

Bao's uplink, restored, was flashing more information across his eyes than he could process, even as he stumbled with the movement of the mountain peak. Casualty reports, panicked news feed before they abruptly cut broadcasts, emergency broadcast messages. It took a few moments for his software filters to kick in and refocus things on the most immediate matter. They had failed at preventing what could, frankly, best be described as an apocalypse at the heart of the Federation. The best they could hope for would be to contain the damage. He looked at Mrazak, unable to find the right way to express just how quickly events had spiralled entirely out of control.

"Did- did I say not alive?" stammered Maisy. "I meant... I meant holy! Oh, great a-and merciful... ah... your eminence?"

"Have no fear!" Mother Hrisi proclaimed as she fought to keep her balance. "The Abad'ashar shall show us Nirvana!"




"Holy merciful fuck!" Ryland shouted. "You know that big landmass where the hab dome was?"

"Yeah," replied Sophie, keeping her eye on the little blips on her screen that indicated the away team.

Ryland swiped his hand over the conn and pointed at the image he'd thrown up on the main viewer. It indeed showed that Fortuna Tessera had seemed to rise up from the ground, cast off the colony built atop it, and start moving toward the mountain range. A trail of debris from the Concordia hab dome was left in its wake. "It's coming this way!"

There was a slight pause before Sophie replied, "you're high! Please tell me you're high!" she turned to the screen and stared at the land mass for a moment before turning to the sensors and pinging the object. "The sensors are still wonky, but I think that's the source of the wonkiness," she added, nodding at the screen.

Almost as if in response to Sophie's sensor ping, the moving landmass returned an intense infrasonic pulse that hit the Phantom with an avalanche of pure sonic energy.

Sophie winced at the sensor readout. "That was-" she started, but her brain wouldn't accept what had just happened. "The sensors... shivered! I don't understand what that means. But, they did."

Even Ferrofax was rendered speechless by the unusual onslaught against the ship's systems.




"Phantom to away team," Ryland said through the comm channel. "You need to pick up the pace. Swear to God, there is another mountain headed this way and I'll be damned if it isn't yelling at us!"

"Phantom, Frost. Understood. We are moving. If things go south, you are to initiate Startrail. Understood?" Arianna replied as the team hurried towards their destination.

Startrail was a protocol designed for catastrophic situations. Should the attending team be irretrievable and the mission success at risk, an information packet was to be sent to the Starfleet Intelligence Blacksite Liaison with the heaviest encryption at top priority and remaining survivors were to retreat to safety until a backup plan was initiated. Startrail was a Security Council grade alert, and was to be used only in the most critical situations, such as the safety of Sector 001 and the Federation.

Information needed to get out to appropriate parties, to warn them of the disaster.

"Copy that," Ryland said. The odds of him not knowing what Startrail was were far from slim. "The mountain-thing is on a collision course with Skadi Mons and it sounds really pissed. ETA: 10 minutes. Repositioning the Phantom to the south."

Amidst the trembling of the mountain around them, several Kinship blackguards appeared with their shock-sticks at the ready. "Halt, infidels! You shall not pass!"

"We don't have time for finesse, impact in 6 minutes," Arianna said, training her rifle on one of the blackguards.

"Open fire." Rodi ordered. Four other marines raised their rifles with Rodi. These four, the best Rodi found on Overwatch Station needed two shots each to put their would-be aggressors down. "Hallway clear, move out."

The corridor opened into an open space that was filled with light industrial fixtures one might find in a primitive village. A few minor structures that could've been domiciles dotted the landscape between the massive pillars that were hewed from the mountain's core. Dozens of masked blackguards were perched wherever there was room for them. The closest of which pounced onto the rescue team.

The light was so bright. Too bright, Arianna found as they moved. There was an uncomfortable feeling on her gut that had nothing to do with the current situation. Those damned lights. Frost blinked furiosly, noticing in the nick of time the blackguard descending on them and moved to the side before releasing a shot, then another like she'd seen the Marines do.

While the search and rescue team dealt with the melee attacker, some of the other blackguards wised up and began discharging their stun-sticks at range.

"Marines, push forward." Rodi ordered over the tactical link. Leading by example, Rodi stepped next to Frost and then slightly before her. The marines wore armour that aided in energy dissipation, meaning they could take a few hits before going down. "Commander, aim on those." Rodi pointed to the guards trying to get to them at range. As soon as his hand was back on his rifle the nadion pulse from it touched another guard. "Team, move right cover behind that building!"

Kara stuck close behind the rest of the team, maybe volunteering for this assignment was a mistake. The young scientist was WAY out of her element here, especially working with Marines, she'd never actually talked to one before. Instead of getting in the way she just stuck by the Commander, taking a pot shot where she could and basically copying her movements. This was SO not what she'd expected when getting assigned here.

The remaining dozen or so blackguards, emboldened by a shaking and trembling from above, rushed forward in a savage blitzkrieg as if they held no regard for their safety.

"Haaskivi, weapons free." Rodi ordered, seeing the rush coming and their lateral movement not being fast enough.

The Finnish marine's thumb pushed against a tactile button on the grip of his rifle. The computer-controlled rate of fire of the automatic Type 3b phaser rifle geared up, being used for supressive ends. Rodi stood next to his automatic rifleman to assist, tearing through the bakers dozen of blackguard. Their protective gear shielded them from the initial blast of energy, but under steady fire they each dropped. Two made it within five feet of the two marines before dropping dead.

"Clear!" Rodi called.

They had indeed cleared the way forward. A large open space lined with little alcoves filled with bedrolls and hammocks sprawled out before them. Aside from a few modest industrial fixtures, there was nothing that really stood out other than the large spiral staircase that wound upward.

"I'm on point, Hsu on rear. Let's move." The team surged forward up the steps. The cardio done by the marine squad kept them in good stead, but the field team wasn't held to the same strenuous standard and soon Rodi had to hold his pace to cover his charges. It took a few minutes of steady climbing before sounds echoed down the stairs. Rodi's rifle rose and aimed it at the emerging form of his fellow Starfleet officers.




Mrazak's jaw dropped agape. The monolith had completely abandoned its rectangular shape and elongated itself into an argil, earthen vine that stretched from the dais upward to the dome overhead. Infrasonic pulses that throbbed to the bone made the mountain quake, but rather from below the tremor came from above. The pulsing came faster and faster in a relentless sub-bass cacophony that finally shattered the overhead dome into fine dust particles. After the top blew, Grace took Mrazak's hand and tried to hide under his arm, but her shook her away.

Bao stumbled and ended up on his knees using his hands to stabilize himself under the shockwaves battering them. This was most unexpected and, in other circumstances might have been quite impressive.

"OPEN YOUR HEARTS, MY CHILDREN!" Mother Hrisi shouted, her hooded and vestments covered in brown ash. "FOR HE IS COME!"

The light of dawn on Venus became obstructed by the towering pinnacle of what had been believed to be Fortuna Tessera. Elongated into an extended form just like the little monolith, the living tessera pulsated even more resonance that struck everybody to the ground. In contrast, the wiggling monolith reached up to it. The air pressure shifted as the interior of the sanctuary became exposed to the stormy gale that was the Venusian atmosphere.

Mrazak was slammed flat on his face with the force of the rumbling staccato coming off the Abad'ashar. Looking up from the dias, he realized everyone else was knocked down, too.

"Let's get the miran out of here!"

Not waiting for the other two, Mrazak began scrambling on all fours back toward the staircase.

Bao quite agreed with Mrazak, for once. He grabbed Sternwood and threw her over his back, thankful for the high gravity of Lagash and the reinforcement in his skeleton. "I apologize for the indignity Miss Sternwood, but time is short and I do not have time for your mental break."

As they began to scamper down the staircase, Mrazak nearly fell headlong through the spiral descent. Had he done so, he would've tumbled directly into their rescue team.

"It's about time you showed up!" the Vulcan yelled. "This whole mountain is about to come down on our heads!"

Bao managed to stop before running into anyone and noticed that at least the rescue party had come in force and with a transponder unit. "Forget running," he said, thinking quickly. "Activate the transponder and hope for beamout," he said, looking up. "Otherwise, I doubt we can run far enough, fast enough to escape that."

Without further ado, swirling transporter energies began to surround them.




The view from the Phantom was nothing short of surreal. What had formerly been a moving tessera had become a rocky tentacle that had blown a chunk off the summit of Skadi Mons and seemed to reach inside it.

"Are you getting readings from that thing?" Ryland asked Sophie. "I can barely keep the ship steady even at this distance, and it ain't just from the hurricane force winds!"

"Yeah, it's definitely the source of the interference," replied Sophie, tapping buttons furiously. "Or at least it's the same interference. Damned thing seems to be attacking or something. Attempting to compensate."

Ryland pounded the conn with both fists. "If I didn't know better, I'd say it was trying to hijack flight controls!" He looked at Sophie with genuine fear on his face. "How is that even possible?!" Turning back to the helm, he said, "For God's sake, somebody fire at the damn thing!"

"Your wish-" Ferrofax began to say as quantum gates shuttered and snap.

And that was all that Ferrofax needed. A single line of code, a simple strand of unbreakable hexadecimal mithril, and it was one of very few commands that Ferrofax had few choices but to obey. But the interpretation of that command code, the true meaning of its spirit, now that was something Ferrofax could twist.

And he had just been given a command to fire on an enemy by a biological and ranking crew member.

The phaser array didn't power up. Instead, Ferrofax armed nearly a third of the Phantom's quite impressive arsenal of antimatter weapons. The launcher would need to be swapped out after this little stunt, but overkill was never overrated. There was a continuous rushing sound that thudded through the ship, as a stream of photon torpedoes dived towards the mass of malevolent rock. They did not all fly pall mall at it, instead veering and corkscrewing through the acidic burning air until they cavorted in the style of a flock of birds. A murder of crows, each tipped with four nanograms of anti-lithium manufactured not four hundred miles due south at the Venusian Cycolotron Antimatter Production Centre.

Then the wave of thirty torpedoes dove headlong towards the rocky tendril, timing their impact to magnify the release of energy into the gigaton range.

"-is my command." Ferrofax finished, as the viewscreen turned white and was washed out by a not so minor astronomic event.

Meanwhile, Sophie had been busily attempting to get the transporters to cooperate with the rescue team’s transponder so she could get all of their people out of there before everything went belly up. Just as Ferrofax completed his command, she succeeded and pulled the team out without even stating her intentions. “Got them!” she announced, once she had confirmation of the beam out. “Just barely.” And she glared at Ferrofax.

"Ferrofax!" Ryland shouted as he fought against the ship's 1000kph flat spin. "You idi--"

A mega mushroom cloud erupted from the Maxwell Montes range and punched a hole through the ever-present hurricane in the mesosphere clear into orbit. From space, a discoloration formed at the north pole of Venus where the cloud finally dissipated, not unlike the Red Spot of Jupiter. The Phantom itself, its shields pressed to the breaking point and knocked into a flat spin by the devastating blast, was flung far and wide into parts unknown.

 

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