Bringing Down the Baryon Field
Episode 4: Fires of Arcadia
Location: Command Tower, Lower Levels
Timeline: After "I have a Bad Plan"
A group of guards trudged down the corridor, absently checking the rooms. It had been hours now since they'd announced their presence. They'd quickly grasped control over the station's major systems. Now, they needed to sniff out the stragglers.
"Come on, why do we need to check down here again?" one of the officers asked. "We've swept these levels several times already. What do you need to sweep it again for?"
"I don't make the orders," one in charge said. "I just go where I'm told."
The group rounded the corner and continued on. The corridor descended into silence again.
Maralen did not move immediately when the guards disappeared. Instead, he stood perfectly still, ears perked and swiveled toward the direction the men had gone. They remained so until he could not hear them any longer. Then he swiveled his ears the other direction to be certain that the set of guards he had just finished listening to were the only ones down here. Once he was satisfied, he nodded silently to the other two and began to make his stealthy way down the hallway to the room that held the controls for the Baryon Emitters.
He did not bother to look at a map -- he did have one just in case -- since he remembered the layout precisely. Reaching the doorway, he paused again, listening to be certain that the room was not occupied. Well, more accurately, he expected it to be occupied, but wanted to be certain that its only occupant(s) was or were those controlling the sweep.
Caroline Isley wasn't a commando. Stealth wasn't simply a matter of moving elegantly and quietly. It required skills that needed to be practiced and honed, much like Lt. Seitha was showing in front of her. She was trying to keep up with him as part of the team to disable the baryon scan and fool the computer into thinking it was still going on. This was Maralen's plan, but the science chief and the chief engineer were accompanying him to see if they could be of any assistance.
She almost asked Maralen if anyone was inside when they reached the door, but she bit her lip to stifle the question. It was unlikely he wanted to have a committee meeting about it right outside the door, so she simply looked toward him to see what he wanted to do.
Michaela was having a hard time staying quiet and keeping up. She should've known something like this would happen. They'd even planned for it before leaving the Defiant. So why had she decided to wear her heeled boots to the hair salon? Because she was an idiot, that's why. Granted, she could move relatively quickly in them, and she could move relatively quietly, but she could not do both at the same time. She could just ditch the boots and make a go of it with bare stockinged feet. That would certainly be quicker and quieter, but if they encountered any hazards along the way she might end up having a real bad day. Creeping along, she couldn't help but wonder how fed up the others already were with her.
Sshrral! Maralen thought as he listened. The room had far more people in it than he would have liked. This meant that they were not going to be able to do this as stealthily as he had planned. Well, his two companions did not have his training at any rate, he reminded himself. Use their skills. his inner voice counseled. But other than their fields of expertise and what was in their dossiers, he really didn't know their skill sets. He made a note to get to know the crew better if they survived this.
As he listened, he counted the people inside the room. Turning, he held up eight fingers to indicate the number he had been able to distinguish. They didn't really have time to check the other location these sweeps could be controlled from, so they needed a way to get in there, disable at least eight guards and stop the Baryon sweep.
Caroline's blue eyes went wide at Maralen's signal. Eight!? They couldn't possibly fight their way through eight guards. They were either going to have to find some way to disable the guards indirectly or they were going to have to disable the baryon scanner from outside the control room. She looked toward Michaela, hoping the engineer might have some ideas.
"Uhh... I think there was a maintenance panel back that way. Cleverly hidden, so it's got to tie in somewhere important. Maybe here." Michaela began, trying not to think about the numbers they were up against. "It could shut off power, gravity, perhaps life support just long enough to get them to separate, or at least give us an edge until the backup power kicks in..." Michaela trailed off, her brow furrowing. There was one thing that made the plan not so great.
"We don't have any tools though. We'd need to sacrifice one of our phasers and set it to overload in order to disrupt the local power grid." Michaela was a good shot with a phaser, but she didn't have a good head for combat. Hitting targets was one thing. Having them firing back... well, she would need every advantage she could get.
Isley bit her lip and then made a decision. "We can sacrifice mine. I'm not a great shot anyway. It will probably do more good as a bomb." She smiled grimly.
Maralen frowned thoughtfully. The plan had merit, and he nodded. However, he had one alteration. "I think you might fare better, Lieutenant Isley, with the phaser than with hand-to-hand, yes?" he asked, not wanting to assume -- the woman might just surprise him and be some kind of martial arts expert, after all.
Caroline looked a bit taken aback by the question but nodded quickly. "Definitely. I only know the most basic self defense techniques."
Maralen nodded. Removing his phaser from its place, he handed it to Michaela. "Use mine. I have been trained in many forms of combat, both armed and unarmed." What he was not saying was what those who had commanded him before had used those skills for. They did not need that information for the performance of this particular duty.
Isley smiled grimly as Maralen handed the phaser to Michaela. Well, she had better be a good shot today, she thought to herself.
Michaela nodded, biting her lip to keep herself from talking too much. She felt like she did that when she was nervous, though it probably wasn't true. She hadn't been this nervous in a while. Taking the phaser, she crept off back the way they came, moving slowly and carefully so as not to make any noise.
Back out in the corridor, Michaela quickly located the hidden panel she'd suspected was hiding the utilities junction for the control room ahead. It really had been cleverly hidden, seamlessly hinged behind a recruitment poster for Starfleet, which had given it away. Who would put up a Starfleet recruitment poster in a place where only Starfleet personnel were allowed? She shook her head at the logic.
Michaela almost broke a fingernail prying off the phaser's outer casing so that she could access its power pack. She didn't even know why she still bothered trying to have nice fingernails, when her job seemed to have a personal mission of trashing them. Perhaps she feared that if she gave up on her fingernails, her hair would be next. Then again, her job had already done a pretty good job of trashing that.
Having set the power pack to overload, Michaela quickly stuffed the weapon into the utility junction, wedging it between a plasma conduit and the control interface. Looking around, she drew her own phaser and swung the poster-panel closed, locking it in place again with a bump from her hip. Good, no one had seen, but she could hear the whine from the overloading battery pack, even through the metal access panel. She crept back to the others, more quickly this time. Better to be heard, than late for the party.
"All set." Michaela whispered once she'd rejoined the others. "Fifteen seconds, maybe. Make sure the mag strips on your boots are active, unless you want to join the other floaty things when the show starts." The engineer winced. She sure had a way with words when she was nervous, alright. She bent down quickly, activating the mag strips on her heeled boots. Even they had them. She might be crazy enough to wear high heels to work, but no engineer would be caught anywhere on the job without a pair of mag strip boots. She raised her phaser, picked a target, and waited for the mayhem to begin.
Maralen bent and activated the mag strips on his boots as well. He knew she was right, but he hated the way these things hindered his movement. He had to apply a great deal more force to each movement to get the same result. This was going to be bad for hand-to-hand fighting, but there was nothing for it. He counted the seconds in his mind.
Maralen moved off to the side of the door opposite to the direction of the blast so that when the guards came out to check out the sound, they would not see him. He motioned for the other two to do likewise.
She was right; fifteen seconds later, there was a loud explosion, muffled just a hair by its being in another corridor. The junction that blew did indeed take out some of the environmental controls in this section, though not life support. Mostly the gravity and some of the lights. A few minor systems might have been affected as well, but he couldn't tell that from here.
From inside the control room, a variety of clangs and exclamations emanated. “What the -“
A gruff voice called out next. “It’s gotta be sabotage. That’s the only reason we’d be affected down here. Jensen, Clarke. On me. We’re gonna check this out. There was the sound off three bodies pushing off and grasping toward the door. Others were still dangling. Obviously, not all of these officers had warn mag strips.
As the others headed for the door, one of the science officers started typing away. “Come on. Help me lock down the sweep controls. If it’s sabotage, they could be after this.” A few began a complicated lockout system.
Once the three had passed them, Maralen motioned for their party to move. He could hear those remaining in the room trying to lock them out of the system, and he had no intention of giving them time to finish that. Once he had signaled, he leaped through the door, landing in a crouch on the top of the console -- he had taken a quick look inside when the three had left and had planned his movements accordingly. As he landed, he hissed, and his fur stood on end. This was merely intended to add to the shock value of the original movement. Then he moved again immediately, taking advantage of the shock that his first movement had created by launching himself at the pair trying to lock down the system. The point of that was simply to carry them away from the console with him and to keep himself in such close proximity to them that their friends may think twice before shooting at him.
The two that Maralen had lunged at where thrown backward, their heavily modified strength hampered by the lack of gravity. The jumble of body parts were hard to identify and the other guards hesitated, unsure of where to fire. It left an opportunity for the two Starfleet officers hidden outside the door.
Isley followed Maralen in, watching him work in almost amazement. She was distracted for a moment, but she didn't hesitate for long. She raised her phaser and fired at the nearest guard who still seemed capable of action. The stun blast shot out of her weapon and struck him. He seemed almost surprised by the effect, and Caroline hit him again, not sure if the first shot had any effect. She was pleased with herself for hitting on her first try, but now wasn't the time for self congratulation. She swept the room looking for another target.
Even though she thought she'd been prepared, Michaela was still the slowest to aim. She saw Caroline shoot twice, then pick a new target. She didn't blame her for setting her phaser to stun... the engineer didn't feel comfortable firing on Starfleet personnel either, infected or not.
Then, unbelievably, Michaela saw the one Caroline had stunned twice, float back into view, raising his phaser to return fire on the science officer.
Michaela yelled out, raw emotions taking over in the heat of the moment. She set her phaser to a very high setting, and aimed for the man's head. Unfortunately, she missed. Her shot went low, and hit the man's phaser instead. The weapon exploded, creating a fireball nearly three meters in diameter. When it cleared, both he and the other armed guard were nowhere in sight.
"Oops..." Michaela said, seeing the master control panel sparking from some damage it had taken from the blast. A moment later the backup power came back online. Lights flickered back on, and everything unsecured and floating crashed back down to the deck.
Isley was taken aback by Michaela's yell, and then raised her hands to shield herself from the panel's explosion. The targets she and Michaela were engaging seemed gone.
Fortunately for Maralen, during that bit, he and the other two were on the ground. But unfortunately for him, these guys recovered fast. One threw him off, and he went flying over the console and into the wall. He hit hard, but not hard enough to break anything. As he slid down the wall, he shifted to put his legs under him, landing in a crouch. He immediately sprang back over the console and used his momentum to slam a hard punch to the man's head.
That one didn't see it coming, but the other one did. The second one he had taken to the ground grabbed for him. Having delivered his blow, Maralen rolled aside, preventing himself from taking damage from his own tactic. This also, fortunately, had the added benefit of taking him out of reach of the second man. It also, though, put the first between them.
That one didn't take too kindly to being punched in the face and growled, rounding on Maralen with a roundhouse kick aimed at his midsection. He flipped over backwards to avoid that, but ran straight into the butt of the phaser rifle the second had decided to use like a bludgeoning weapon. That blow send him into the wall behind the console, and made his head spin for a moment.
Vigilant always. his mind chastised him for that lapse in attention. He hissed, then dropped toward the ground as the one with the phaser rifle fired it at his head. The blast hit the wall behind where he had been standing only a moment ago, but that had been too close. He rolled aside just as the other one, the one he had punched earlier, brought his foot down in an attempt to crush his skull.
The Cold Efficiency slammed into place, and Maralen's entire manner became ice. Eyes were like shards of brown ice, sharp and ready to cut out the heart of his opponent. His movements became precise and quick; analyze, move, re-evaluate. The foot struck near him, and he grabbed it, pulling hard toward the wall. The idea half worked. The man lost his footing, but he did not crash in an ungainly manner. Rather, he rolled away from Maralen as he fell. This was going to be more difficult than he had at first thought... unless one of the ladies got a good shot in.
It had taken Michaela a moment to recover her wits after the unexpected explosion. She hadn't been close enough to be injured, but the flash and shockwave had been somewhat disorienting. Maralen appeared to be quick and deadly, but she could see him struggling against two of the men possessed by the parasites. She couldn't imagine herself lasting more than a few seconds against either of them. She'd never been any good at hand-to-hand combat, even if she remembered the techniques she'd been taught.
Who should Michaela fire at? The guy with the phaser rifle? Or the one on the ground? The latter was the easier target, but the man with the rifle was the definite threat. She had to try and take him down before any of them got hurt.
Michaela was careful to aim a bit higher than she had for her last shot. If she accidentally hit that rifle, Maralen could be killed if it exploded. She felt like seconds were passing by while she aimed, but the engineer couldn't afford to rush the shot. She took it, and her aim was true. She hit the armed officer, winging him right in the side of the neck. She was pretty sure she hit the parasite, as he went down immediately.
Maralen heard the shot and saw the man he was facing at ground level look away for a second as his partner fell. Maralen took advantage of that moment and leaped forward, swinging his arm around and catching the man in the throat. Normally, that would have ended the fight, but it only seemed to anger his current opponent. Now he understood something about these parasites. It was not merely strength they augmented but everything physical. Noted.
The Cold Precision still in place, he moved quickly, avoiding the man's retaliatory strike. The man's arm crashed into the wall, and Maralen reached out with his tail, coiling it around the other's legs and dragging them toward himself. This dropped the other man to the ground, but he knew that wouldn't last long if he couldn't put the man out. So as his tail drew the man toward him, he moved forward and slammed both knees into the man's chest, then slammed his fists -- he held them together to use as a single bludgeoning weapon -- into the man's head... and he didn't stop until the man stopped moving, didn't let up, didn't pause. Blow after blow rained down until the man beneath him lay unmoving.
At that point, he stopped and disentangled himself from the now unmoving guard. He did not pause to think about what he had just done either. Later, there would be time for self-recrimination; now was the time for action. He cast his gaze over the room quickly, assessing the situation. Only his team remained. He moved to the console and looked at the programming for the Baryon Sweep. "They did not finish the lockout, but it will take me a few moments to write the new algorithms." His fingers flew over the console, and then he frowned. "Lieutenant Holland, if you wouldn't mind reprogramming the security feeds to show nothing out of the ordinary in here, I would appreciate that. Lieutenant Isley, watch the hallway, and alert us if anyone approaches." Then he went back to programming the Sweep so that it would stop but register to anyone reading the status boards as though it was still being performed.
As the fighting stopped Michaela just stood there for a moment, looking around and seeming ready to shoot at anything that moved. It wasn't until Maralen spoke to her that she seemed to shake out of her fidgety daze.
Isley blinked and then nodded. "Yes, of course." She turned back to the hallway and then raised her phaser, looking ready. The truth was that the fight had shaken her up a bit and she was hoping that she wouldn't have to shoot anyone else -- particularly people in Starfleet uniforms.
"Uh... sure. I'll see what I can do." The engineer said, moving over to the security panel on the master control console. Unfortunately, it was the part that had gotten blown up in the blast. Well, not blown up, but it was sparking... and smoking. She had a feeling she'd get electrocuted just by touching it. If she had tools she might be able to do something, but even then... Maralen would likely still finish well before her. There was really only one thing to do. She raised her phaser and started shooting out all the security sensors she could see.
"Well, I figured static's better than a room full of bodies." Michaela said with a shrug. "We should probably hurry."
Several long minutes later, he stood back and smiled the kind of smile one might imagine a tiger giving its meal just before he eats it. "Program complete. Activating it now." A few more keystrokes, and he smiled again. But in the next moment, that smile had vanished in favor of his normal calm. He tapped his comm. =/\= Seitha to Reynolds. The sky is clear. =/\= he told her, coded wording for the Baryon Sweep is down, and it is safe to board.
The captain's voice came through amid phaser fire. =^=Understood! Good work. Get to safety. I'll be beaming you aboard as soon as possible.=^=
"So..." Michaela said nervously as she overheard the conversation "...where's safety?"
Maralen frowned. That was a very good question. Considering the situation, he doubted very much that anywhere was truly safe except for the Artemis or the Defiant, but he had to think of something. In his mind, he recalled the schematics of the station, going over them carefully. This room would become very unsafe very soon, so he chose a semi-secluded spot on the layout, informed his companions, and headed off to get them where they could await transport with as little trouble as was possible currently.