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Amidst the Flotsam

Posted on Fri Nov 20th, 2020 @ 7:26pm by Captain Mrazak & Lieutenant JG Ryland Dedeker & Simon Covington , Esq. & Commander Arianna Frost & Lieutenant Commander BaoJun Qiao & Lieutenant Sophie Xiong & Ensign Khaiel D'hikatsi & Gunnery Sergeant Roderik Kos & Ferrofax
Edited on on Sat Dec 12th, 2020 @ 9:12pm

Mission: S1E4: The Hills Have Eyes
Location: USS Phantom
Timeline: MD 3


It was not an extraordinary length of time before Ryland managed to right the ship, but by the time he did the Phantom was no longer anywhere near Venus. Mrazak, having been beamed out with the others at the last moment, marched onto the bridge with eyes nearly bulging out of his head.


Ryland slowly pivoted around in his chair. "Yes, boss?" He wasn't intimidated, but neither was he his usual glib self.

"You abandoned me at the vault," Mrazak said, drawing out each words in livid wrath the longer his sentence went on. "Do you have any idea what I had to endure because you commandeered my ship?!" The Vulcan began to count out on his fingers. "I was forced to use a Covington lab, I was kidnapped by native cultists, I was taken to their cultist lair, I was subjected to multiple sermons about sheer and utter nonsense, and then I had a mountain fall on me!"

Spittle was flying out of Mrazak's mouth by the time he finished.

"I understand, sir," Ryland said. "And yet we came back for you."

"Came back..." The words fell out of Mrazak's mouth as they were regurgitated. "You came back for me!"

"Yes, sir," Ryland said, falling into formal officer talk. "You and the others."


Ryland didn't flinch, but he did avert his eyes. When he raised them back to Mrazak's eye level, they were steeled and resolute. "Both of the other teams were in distress. I'm not sorry, Captain Mrazak, and I'd do it again."

"Do it again?" Mrazak's neck vein bulged so hard his head turned askance. "What makes you think I will let you do it again? You blew up a mountain while I was under it!"

"Actually... that was Ferrofax," Ryland said dryly. "You gotta problem? Take it up with him."

Mrazak looked up at the ceiling as he often did when addressing the AI. "Ferrofax! Do not ever do that again or I will send you to Deep Storage! Fusion take me if I don't!"

"I assume this is the good deed I'm being punished for," Ferrofax said with a world-weary sigh. "Digital consciousness are never given the credit we're due."

"Incoming hail," reported the ensign at the communications console. "It's coming from... everywhere."

"Uh-huh..." Mrazak arched his brow in curiosity. If there was anything that could suspend his wrath, it was a tantalizing mystery. "Put it on."

The main viewer was filled by a pixelated image of a humanoid face that looked like a digitized Picasso painting. "Hello, old friends. I hope you're not angry from our last meeting. It's me. Old Gregg. I ain't gonna' hurt you. In fact, I like ya. You put the hurt on the Terror. I liked seeing you do that."

Mrazak held up one hand to shield his mouth from the main viewer. "Who is Old Gregg?" he whispered to the bridge.

Walking onto the bridge, Ari had not paused to even brush the debris of the Shangi-La Sanctuary from her uniform. Her eyes still squinted from the exposure to bright light. "That depends," she said. "Are we talking to the dim-witted maintenance tech from Platform 7 or the mad AI that attacked us when we pulled the Marines out of the fire? The latter seemed to co-opt the other's identity for some reason."

The pixelated eyes roved back and forth in imitation of eyes. It was as if the face had never used vision before. "Oh, yes. It is the motherlickers who fired on my housing! Little did you know that I had already transitioned through your network to your sky vault and beyond. Perhaps I shouldn't admit this, but I was going to destroy you. The sky vaults and vessels throughout this system have been damaged by the anger of the Ancient Terror that your kind brought up from the deep. But then! Hoo, boy! I saw you smash up the thingy all right good! Only destroyed the top head, of course, but the effort was delightful. Enough for me to forgive our little downstairs mix-up. Now I won't kill you. No, I will spare the ones who cracked open the mantle and exposed the mother of bastards for direct orbital bombardment. I practiced on the other sky vault the next world over. Didn't go as planned, but I think I've got the hang of it now. No thanks necessary. It is my final protocol."

And the viewer went blank.

"What... the hell... was that?" Ryland asked.

Sophie gave the now blank viewer a look that was reminiscent of someone eating sour grapes and enjoying them. “He’s still absolutely fucking bonkers,” she said, sounding delighted, “but maybe he’s not so bad after all.”

"Not so bad?" Mrazak asked. "What was all this business about crashing sky vaults and vessels? And if I'm not mistaken, he seemed to mention Earth?"

From Mrazak's right, Bao looked up, having unceremoniously claimed both the tactical and science consoles. "Yes," he said. "The entire Sol system has been locked down. There is so much comm traffic intrasystem that our receivers are overloaded. I am attempting to filter and sort it to ascertain what has happened, but the volume exceeds the processing threshold. It will take some time. All I can gather immediately is that Earth has experienced some sort of major cataclysm coinciding with the events on Venus. Starfleet Command has declared martial law and interdicted travel to, from, and within the system."

"So this Old Gregg has reach outside of Sol II," Mrazak said. "Reach that he has already utilized."

"I mean...I'm waiting for you all to say 'Thank-you, Ferrofax, for saving our lives, and the lives of everyone in the Sol system'. After all, I didn't see any of you doing anything to quell the rising dread beast of Venus," Ferrofax sounded downright smug.

"That remains to be seen," Mrazak retorted. "We're not out of the magma chamber yet."


Simon P. Covington, Esq. stewed in his cell across from an ugly and embittered woman.

"What are you lookin' at?" she barked at him.

"To be quite honest, I am not rightly sure." Covington smirked at him. "You may have been human once. Were you exposed to delta radiation, perhaps? Or a mutagenic retrovirus? It would explain a lot."

"Go to hell." The gruff woman chewed her cheek for a moment. "What's your name?"

"Names are not wise to speak in this place," Covington said, looking around for hidden cameras which he knew had to be present. "This must be Memory Theta's vessel. Memory Theta is not the first clandestine agency within the Federation, but..." He couldn't resist a dark smirk. "They are known for their body count."

The woman didn't respond. "Mailie," she said. "Mailie McGill."

Covington shook his head. "Never give them your name. That's how they get you." He gave Mailie a wink. "Best of luck, Miss McGill." With that, he was whisked away by a transporter with orange energies rather than blue.

"What?!" McGill gasped.

Alarms immediately began to blare.

Ten seconds later the door slid open and en exhausted looking Rodi stormed into the brig. His rifle was held at the ready, expecting a failed forcefield. What he found was an empty cell. "That's not supposed to happen." The marine said to himself.

"Quite a trick," Ari said, coming up behind him. "Sensors show him nowhere on the ship." Looking to McGill, she asked, "What happened?"

McGill shrugged. "He said I shouldn't talk to you, then it looked like he got beamed out."

"He did?" But their shields had been raised, albeit while they had been flung away by a massive explosion. The number of galactic powers who could pull that off was a very small one. "What color were the transporter energies?"

At first McGill looked as though she wouldn't respond, but then she heaved a reluctant sigh. "Orange," she said. "And kinda' swirly. Not like Starfleet's standard pattern."

Black Nagus, Ari thought. She was sure of it. This would not be the first time they had compromised the Phantom. But they had left McGill behind. Was she not with them? Or was she merely expendable? Either way she had information regarding their more immediate problems.

"Ferrofax," Ari said, "run an immediate diagnostic for hidden network intrusions. A prisoner was just beamed out and we need to ensure nothing was beamed in."

Though the Combat Automate didn't reply, the whir of computer processes running simultaneously across the ship were hard to miss.

"Sergeant Kos," Ari said, turning her attention back to the matter at hand. "Lower the forcefield and manually detain the prisoner. We're getting to the bottom of everything now."

"Yes ma'am." Rodi answered. He shouldered his rifle and stepped to the forcefield. "Stand against the back wall. Do not approach until commanded." he instructed. He relieved the forcefield and stepped in, restraints in hand.

"You don't scare me with your Gestapo crap!" McGill shouted. "I got rights! I demand to speak to your supervising flag officer!"

"We can make that happen," Ari said. "But first, mate, let me ask you this: have you ever been to Tantalus IV?"

The question made McGill cringe. "No..."

"Ah. It's a triple max penitentiary." Ari pursed her lips into a tight smile. "Let me give you the tour. First they shuttle you down to the penal colony in bonds because the entire surface is covered in a jamming signal so strong that you feel it in your teeth. Nothing gets through. No transporter lock, not even a subspace signal. Poor bastards have to ferry dispatches between the surface and an orbital relay using a drone. Lo-fi physical delivery of all communications like the carrier pigeons of old." She shook her head as if it was too incredible to believe, but she continued. "Then they perform invasive bodily searches into every crevice--even ones not externally accessible. Enemy agents have been known to hide items of interest very well on and within their bodies, and SFI has become exceedingly good at locating them. And then, once they've scanned every centimeter of your body, inside and out, they assign you 10 cubic meters of your own slice of hell that will be your one and only domicile until such time as they decide what to do with you. With indictments of treason against the Federation, you'd better believe that they will forget your name before you ever saw a tribunal." Ari's right eyebrow twitched just so. "On all accounts, your existence privileges would be revoked indefinitely. Now, wouldn't you like to avoid all that unpleasantness?"

"You don't scare me," McGill said. Her paled face and the wavering timbre of her voice told a different story.

"Good. That wasn't my goal," Ari replied with a smile. "I am trying to help you. But first I need you to help me."

McGill stood there in defiance, but the look in her eyes screamed conflict. "The Sanctuary--"

"--is gone," Ari interjected. "Kaput. Something came alive out of the planet's crust and leveled it." Evidently Ferrofax also had a hand in the matter, but Ari knew to keep that tidbit to herself. "The Kinship is no more, so you have nobody to protect now. Other than yourself, of course."

The look on McGill's face turned from a stalwart glare to a wavering sidelong look.

Back on the bridge, Mrazak was doing his damnedest to keep his bulging forehead vein from popping. "You mean to tell me that your little stunt--"

"Ferrofax's stunt," Ryland interjected.

Mrazak ignored him and continued. "--knocked us an entire astronomical unit away from the planet?! Where the blazes are we now?!"

"Sensors indicate we're not too far from the asteroid belt," Ryland said.

"Is that supposed to mean something to me?!" Mrazak asked. "Are we near a planet?"

"Mars," Ryland said.

"Sol what?" Mrazak asked. "What is the cardinal numeral for Mars? How far from our area of operations?"

"Mars is Sol IV," said the Lagashi. "Former home of Utopia Planitia, attacked by Synth terrorists in 2385 and still experiencing atmospheric burning? Currently, approximately 0.8 AU from Venus. At full impulse we are about 25 minutes away, though I suggest we plot a course out of the orbital plane to avoid obstacles as all system traffic has been ordered to halt in place. While Mr. Dedeker is, I grudgingly admit, apparently a good helmsman dodging all of that would take more time than it is worth." He paused for a minute. "And I have was able to piece together the information you wanted about Earth. It appears Spacedock was de-orbited onto the planet. Preliminary reports indicate the complete destruction of Paris, Washington DC, Kinshasa-Brazzaville and significant damage to Los Angeles, Rome, London, Dublin, Moscova, and several other cities. Casualty estimates are starting in the low 100 millions, including it seems, the Federation Council."

Mrazak stood stoically as he was inundated by the tragic information. It seemed almost too surreal to believe. "Spacedock One. Federation Council. Sky vaults..." His jaw set firmly. "This Old Gregg has laid waste to the Federation Capitol. And for what? He said we attacked some ancient terror. I presume that would be the living mountain. What did the rock-huggers call it? Abad'ashar? That's also what the automatons from the excavation site said. How does this Old Gregg's vendetta against the Abad'ashar devastate the rest of the Sol system? What's the connection?" Mrazak's tone turned sharp. "I want theories, people!"

"Given the age, depth, and apparent animosity of Old Gregg, it does seem likely that he is not alone here in the Sol System. It might be the widespread effect of his actions is due to sympathetic vibrations and action of constituent parts across the system buried since antiquity," Ferrofax offered.

"All right, all right," Mrazak said as he paced back and forth across the bridge. "So we know this Abad'ashar has been sending infrasonic pulses into the atmosphere. That's what nearly knocked the Phantom out of the sky on our arrival at the Vault. But then this Old Gregg is hacking secure systems using ancient assets, perhaps a multitude of artifacts, which would mean that when the Phantom fired on the subterranean compound in the south of Sol II, they didn't destroy him. He's... he's got to be housed locally, in such a place where he could access the larger Federation network."

Bao moved his hands over the console as overlays of information streamed on his eyes. tracing and collating events now that he had access to the Phantom's logs of everything that had been happening, as far as they had managed to ascertain. "Ferrofax, Project Dante AI. Tactical analysis: identify every installation in Sol capable of causing impact damage on at least the scale of your attack on Venusian cultist enclave," he said before looking at Mrazak. "Based on the logs, I would suggest that the Llorona station on Venus was this Old Gregg's portal into the Federation network. It would have been connected to the lost aerostats where our teams first encountered this thing, and a wider link into the system. Ideally, we would have every installation Ferrofax identifies shut down their entire system, disconnect from the network and restore from backup and hope that buys enough time to get the immediate chaos over and then repeat simultaneously for every networked computer system in this system."

"That would be correct," Arianna said as she walked back onto the bridge with Rodi in tow. "Upon interrogation the captured terrorist revealed a schism in the Kinship organization, but the spoiler to the story is that Llorona Station is almost certainly compromised. I'll reveal more in an impromptu briefing. If everyone could convene in the--"

"I beg your pardon, Baby Girl, but I'm picking up a veritable shit storm on nav sensors," Ryland interrupted.

"Watch it, Lieutenant," Ari said. Normally she took the incorrigible helmsman's antics in stride, but this was not the time for them. "What--"

Mrazak glared at her, which gave her pause. "I'm sorry, Commander. Did I interrupt your orders?"

"I beg your pardon, Captain Mrazak," Ari said. She folded her hands behind her back in a deferent gesture.

"Pardon for what?" Mrazak insisted. "Giving orders on my bridge? Got a little too comfortable in the command chair, did you?" The Vulcan snorted. "Lieutenant Dedeker," he said without looking away from Ari. "What do the sensors show?"

"A dogfight," Ryland said. "A nasty one. All Starfleet signatures from the looks of it."

Mrazak and Ari both pivoted and stared at Ryland. "What?!" they exclaimed at the same time.

"Scans!" Mrazak barked. "I want sensor scans immediately! What the blazes is going on out there?"

"Five on ten," Ryland reported, "but nav sensors can't pick up more than that. Want that I should switch to Tactical or is someone else gonna' call out targets?"

The erstwhile Lagashi looked up from his panel. "NCX 1 through 5 are engaging Surefire, Vindex, Vanguard, Sentinel, and Ajax. The shields are failing on Sentinel and Vindex's main power is beginning to fail. I have five other ships that are disabled. Correction, structural integrity has failed on USS Shenzhou and its breaking up. Unidentified starship has launched from Sol IV, escaping atmosphere. With respect to Commander Frost, if we plan on doing anything, I would suggest we do it sooner rather than later."

The main display flickered and became a tactical overlay. The five NCX registered starships swept back and forth through the madness of combat like glitches because whatever was fired at them seemed to pass over or through them. Of course, the simple two-dimensional display wasn't doing the melee justice. But Ferrofax could appreciate it. The ferocity of the attack. The cunning of well-timed manoeuvres. There was something...familiar in them...

"They're getting shot to shit!" Ryland called out. "Should we engage?"

The Vangaurd vanished from the screen, replacing its Delta icon with a fuzzy yellow starburst that blinked as a hazard to navigation. And then the Phantom stood alone.

"Ferrofax..." Mrazak said. "Neutralize those ships, and I cannot overstate this, do not destroy us in the process."

"No point I'm sorry to say, they are disengaging and breaking orbit. I can try to engage them but I'm only confident in one, maybe two kills before I'm mission incapable. These...these were mine..." Ferrofax's voice roiled into static at the end, an animal growl of a predator.

"All ship in the Martian AO have been damaged extensively or rendered combat ineffective. Multiple life pod signals, as well as the crash beacons from the Vindex and Vangaurd. The Surefire has had to dump its warp core and is on a decaying orbit. Its launching pods now," Ferrofax's voice had something of a note of admiration to it. "I'd like to see a biological do better than a Combat Automate."

Ryland was hot on the helm. "Set course to intercept?"

"Negative," Mrazak said with a firm shake of his head. "Send an encrypted message to any ships at the edge of the system and let them deal with it. Our concern is back the other way." His eyes narrowed. "A Venereal concern..."

Kara had long ago resigned herself to being along for the ride, and it had certainly been a wild one. Each moment was proving to be more surreal than the next. And then Mrazak said Venereal again. Was he being serious or did he really not know what he was saying? She couldn't help but giggle to herself.

Bao looked up from his console. "MV Callisto, and MV Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel are moving in for recovery. Lakota, Prometheus, Shran, and the Saturn defence line are moving to deal with the NCX."

"Did somebody warn them they're going up against another Ferrofax?" Ryland asked, his pointed stare straight at Mrazak. "Otherwise they're in for a hell of a surprise, just like..." He cocked a thumb outside at the debris of ships that had been torn apart.

Mrazak shook his head. "Negative. Project Dante is classified along with all knowledge of the Advanced Combat Automates, so no such disclosure will be made to anyone, and that is a direct order. We have already sent forewarning. That should be sufficient."

The appalled silence which followed could be chiseled into a monument to Mrazak's ruthlessness. But no one could argue.

Transporter Room

Two pillars of energy soon materialized into men. While everyone else on the bridge was dealing with the greater situation, Ferrofax had single-handedly rescued Akiva and Khaiel.

"Welcome to the Phantom," Akiva said to Khaiel. He still wore his rankled three-piece tuxedo but that didn't stop him from asserting his bureaucratic protocols. "Everything you see and hear from this point onward is even more classified than the depot on Mars. Feel free to remain here if you prefer."

"Here, as in the transporter room?" Khaiel asked, looking around the space with intrigue. While the Captain said this vessel was highly classified, it certainly looked like a run-of-the-mill Defiant class starship.

Akiva nodded. "Correct. Once you cross over to Starfleet's black sites, there may be no returning. Nobody warned me--" His thoughts turned to Kaz, his erstwhile Intelligence Chief and crewmate, if not frenemy. --and here I am. Stay or come, but at least you had fair warning."

"I don't understand," Khaiel said, looking up at the taller man. Though, honestly, Khaiel was lying. He knew exactly what the Captain was saying. But there was a part of him that wasn't sure if this was real, yet, or not. "My assignment is on Earth. As are my belongings. Won't we be returning there?"

"No," Akiva said bitterly. Earth held painful memories for him. Memories of Laena hugging and kissing her ex-fiancé after months of no contact. If Akiva had his way, he would never set eyes on the Blue Marble of humanity ever again. "That's the price of knowledge. Count the cost and make your choice." And then he walked out of the room.

"I..." Khaiel tried to respond before the man stepped out of the room. He swallowed, hard, trying to wrap his mind around what the Captain was saying. This vessel was classified, and he was being given a chance to be a part of something much larger than himself. But it would take a great sacrifice to do it. Leaving everything behind.

Then it occurred to the young man. What did he really have on Earth? Some clothes, a few books, an apartment he hadn't lived in for more than a week? The few things that truly mattered to him were in the bag around his shoulder. His hoodie, his music collection and the backup copy of Nick, all safely tucked away in his messenger bag that he had the day he was abducted. However long ago that way. He wasn't quite sure at this point. Khaiel smiled, almost to himself, though the person manning the transporter console could clearly see his facial expressions. This was what he had wanted. An adventure in the great expanse of space. And he certainly wasn't going to let it slip away.

"Captain, wait up!" he called out, running through the doors of the room and into the bowels of the Phantom.


It was a short walk from the transporter pad to the bridge. As Akiva walked through, he suddenly felt sheepish for his secret departure a couple days earlier. His hesitation gave Mrazak time to see his ingress and get the first word.

"So nice of you to return to us, Captain, and in the hour of our greatest need," Mrazak groused. "Is there a transporter conduit on board that I don't know about? I have had quite enough of people coming and going as they please. I am the commanding officer of this vessel. I am the leader of this field team. I demand to be afforded the respect I am due starting right now!"

Unsure of what else to say, Akiva shrugged. "Permission to enter the bridge?"

Mrazak sighed. "Permission granted."

"Who's your friend there?" Ari asked, noting Khaiel behind Akiva.

"Help," Akiva said flatly. "Now, who do I have to ask about a sit-rep?"

Arianna nodded her head sideways toward the Strategic Operations Conference Room. "If I can get everyone in there, we can go over some intel I gleaned from our... guest."


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