Posted on Wed May 1st, 2019 @ 2:28pm by Captain Charlotte Reynolds V1 & Lieutenant Commander Summer Gallagher & Lieutenant JG Ephraim Deveraux & Chief Warrant Officer Gerald Crocker & Petty Officer 2nd Class Jovani Carter V1
Episode 5: Better Angels
Location: Qo'nos Surface
Timeline: Immediately after "Orbital Showdown"
"According to our sensors, she is in a region known as the Hamar Mountains. Expect large cliff faces, deep valleys, and limited large foliage. There's a decent chance she'll see you coming, so deploy your chute as late as possible." Captain Reynolds' voice came over the comm to the inside of the airlock. The three who were about to jump had already suited up and had their weapons strapped to them. The warning indicators went on, indicating that depressurization was imminent.
Inside his helmet Jovani had a huge smile on his face. He'd always loved orbital diving. It was probably his favorite experience from his training, and he was quite happy he was going to get to use it so soon on an actual mission. Tapping the correct sequence of keys he prepared the suit for the coming jump and swung his arms and legs a bit to get them loosened up.
"Yes, ma'am, will do!", he replied, his excitement obvious in his voice.
"Yes, Captain" Ephraim agreed, barely shifting his focus from his suits console as he finished up the remainder of his pre-drop safety checks. He knew they'd be green, he'd ran through them twice already, this third was for reassurance. He'd dropped during his service on the Brit, but he'd been with officer's he known much longer. Not that he didn't trust the others, he just lacked routine.
Summer took a breath and sealed her helmet. She nodded at Charlotte. "When we come back, Javier will be nothing but a stain on the ground."
Chief Crocker braced himself as he prepared for the fight. This was not his first jump being the oldest of the group. He made a mental note to speak to Lieutenant Lindholm about his retirement plans, but quickly pushed that aside. “Amen to that Commander,” he said. He did a quick check of his gear and steadied his breathing. His experience taught him that the calmer he was, the smoother the jump would go.
"Prepare for decompression," the Captain said, from the far side of the airlock door. The flashing indicators went from yellow to red. "3...2...1..."
Her final command didn't come as the door opened and launched the quartet into the vacuum of space. The silence enveloped them immediately as they sped toward the upper atmosphere of the planet. Defiant had deployed them along an easy path to the Hamar Mountains, but the path was still an exhilarating ride.
The quiet darkness of orbit was suddenly interrupted as the four officers reached the tumultuous atmosphere, the intense rushing of air increasing as the air density did as well. An intense thunderstorm dominated the skies to the south, obscuring the view of the First City.
Summer brought up her comm. "Ok. Listen up. Javier is a fully trained Marine and even without the added benefit of being infected is dangerous. She beat up Commander Wolff without breaking a sweat and that Commander is no light weight. So I want you all to be on your guard. We may or may not out number her. She has tricks up her sleeve. IF you get hurt, pull back. No unnecessary heroics." She ignored the mocking voice in her own head, in Chris's voice telling her the exact same thing. Only one of them was walking out of this confrontation between herself and Javier, and it was not going to be Javier.
Jovani brought his own comms online, "Understood, ma'am.", he said, and then returned his focus to the task at hand, namely maintaining his position in their formation, and ensuring he was dropping at the appropriate rate. Even with a planet as potentially unattractive as Qo'Nos this was still a great view, and the huge storms that played across the surface were breathtaking. He was struggling not to get distracted, but knew that to do so could potentially be fatal.
Crocker kept his breathing slow and steady. He focused on his HUD inside his helmet as he watched the altimeter decrease. "Acknowledged," he said replying to the Commander's orders. He checked the altimeter again before reporting, "Approaching deployment zone."
Ephraim opted not to reply. This wasn't the first, nor would it be the last time that Ephraim had jumped form orbit. Sometimes the Spook had been deployed personally to get a hold of the data he would soon evaluate. He'd hoped being with the defiant would alleviate the need for field work, but the sense of routine was relaxing enough.
The officers dropped below the cloud cover, exposing the sharp rocky cliff bluffs below them. On their visor indicators, the last known location of Javier was displayed along with altitude, rapidly ticking down.
"In the green, deploy, deploy, deploy," Crocker said as he pulled the cord with his right hand. The spring loaded pack at his back opened and he felt himself being jerked up as the chute unfurled and caught the wind.
With a distinctive bleep Jovani's HUD grabbed his attention and advised he was at an optimal altitude for the deployment of his chute. Slapping a hand to his chest he activated the deployment sequence and was suddenly jerked violently upwards as the fabric was ejected from the pack at his back and billowed open, nearly halting his descent completely. A few moments later he was gently falling again, gliding on the cushion of air trapped beneath his chute.
Ephraim deployed his suit and guided himself closer to Jovani. "First drop?" The Liaison asked casually as the slower part of their descent began. They needed to stay as close to one another as possible. Too much deviation and they could land separated by kilometers.
"First real drop, yes. First drop, not so much. We get some pretty good training at the STSA, I've done this about a hundred times as training practice.", Jovani replied. "What about yourself?", he asked.
"It doesn't show" Ephraim commented, politely, "this mark's my sixth, I'm more accustomed to being unexpected though" he added with a frown. Espionage implied something a little more covert than their current circumstance.
Jovani looked over and smiled through the faceplate of his helmet. "I'll bet you are, in your line of work.", He jokingly jabbed.
The team had not been gliding for more than a few seconds when a hail of red phaser fire erupted from one of the upper bluffs, nearly hitting a few of them. A bolt punctured Commander Gallagher's chute, while another grazed Chief Crocker's line. The team had thankfully avoided a catastrophic hit, but they were dangling in the air, exposed to the next round of fire. Javier, meanwhile, had situated herself along a rocky edge, able to dart between cover easily. Her voice crackled over their comms. "Come to finish me off, did you? You'll get front row seats to the show then."
Jovani actually jerked a bit in fright when the shots started coming in. He watched as they actually made contact with a few of his fellow officers, and hoped they were alright. He knew the HUD would alert him if anything too bad happened to any of them, but still, he worried. He knew it would be foolish to respond to the woman on the comms, and so kept his mouth shut, the effort of doing so making him grind his teeth.
Summer gritted her teeth and deployed her reserve chute just in case as her primary began to collapse. "We'll see who has a front row seat for what." She grumbled.
Crocker checked his lines after the phaser bolts flew past him. He felt a slight impact and could see a slight graze on one of his chute lines. However, there was no obvious signs of damage, and he focused on the rest of his descent.
When Summer was within meters she hit the auto release and both her chutes detached. She hit the deck, tucking as she did so and came to her feet meters away from her prey. She ducked behind a boulder and pulled her own phaser from its holster.
Ephraim landed seconds later with his phaser already unholstered. He scrambled for the boulder, taking up position besides Summer, "awaiting your orders, ma'am"
Within moments Jovani landed, not far from where Ephraim had touched down and dove for cover as well. "Ditto on my end, ma'am.", he said as he crouched in a combat-ready position, phaser drawn and at the ready.
Crocker braced his feet and hit the ground. As he did so he slapped the retract button on his pack straps and felt the parachute start to fold up into his pack. Within a few seconds, the parachute was in his pack and he was firmly on the ground. He checked the phaser rifle he had slung to his chest and made sure it was active and set to kill. He then knelt and checked behind them. He looked toward the Lieutenant Commander and nodded that it was clear
Summer nodded and gave the go signal.
General Javier was uphill of them, giving her a slight high ground advantage. A few stray phaser bolts rained down around them as her voice crackled through the comm channel again. "I've put in far too much effort to pull this off. I'm not about to let a few stray officers stop me. You couldn't even begin to know how much work I've put into this."
One of her phaser strikes crumbled the corner of the rock near Ephraim's head. Javier continued. "Tracking down the parasites. Modifying them. Implanting myself and the station crew. It's all led to this. You might have crippled my ship, but I still have what I need. And in 3 minutes, this warhead is going to detonate raining the pathogen over the First City itself. We won't live to see it, but the war after? It will be glorious."
The proximity of Javier’s shot to his head sent adrenaline coursing through his body. He took three sharp breaths before exposing himself enough to take aim. "You can't even see the defeat before you, General," the spook quipped before returning his own barrage of phaser fire. The enhanced parasite made hitting the general difficult, but Ephraim felt smug to see at least one of the bolts had hit its mark landing a glancing shot on the General's dominant arm.
"Nice shot, bro!", Jovani called out after seeing the other man land a hit. He peeked out from behind cover, using the few seconds of available time that said shot would give, and lined up one of his own. He aimed well, and was happy to see the woman stagger and nearly double over when his phaser blast slammed into her center of mass. Taking a few moments to look around he found a good way to approach her while she was battling the effects of the blast and made his way to cover a lot closer. Unfortunately it made it impossible to keep an eye on her and keep himself safe at the same time, and just as he came around the boulder he was planning to use, he felt the shock of an impact slam into him and send him tumbling.
Looking up, he saw that he'd badly miscalculated his timing and the woman had found her way to the place he was planning to use for cover and was now standing looking down at him with her phaser leveled at his face.
Realizing the mortal danger Javier had handed himself to, Ephraim made short work in abandoning his cover to aid his crewmate. Somehow, he managed to cross the distance and disarm Javier before she could react. He understood the odds were not in his favour, but he tried in earnest to hold the woman back to give Jovani time to gather himself.
The spook held his own to start with, his expertise in Aikido helping keep the General's hands to herself. Unfortunately, Javier's attack was more aggressive and with enhanced stamina thanks to her parasitic companion. His fatigue was growing quickly and the ache's from the bruises forming as he attempted to block her blows.
She was too much for Ephraim alone though and faster than he could process he was on the ground with the wind knocked out of him. Ephraim could only clutch his chest as he struggled to swallow air, Javier looming over him ready to hand out more punishment
At that moment several red phaser bolts struck the General in her chest and forced her back away from Ephraim. Chief Crocker took a few more shots as he advanced from his cover to protect his fallen shipmates. He paused and lowered his phaser rifle a bit and looked at Ephraim, "Get to cover dammit!" He then checked for Jovani and saw he had made it to safety. He then sensed movement to his front and looked back towards his front when he felt the phaser rifle being thrown from his grip.
Javier had advanced with amazing quickness and effortlessly disarmed the Chief. Crocker blocked the fast jabs that came towards him and began to try and put some distance between him and Javier. He threw a few quick punches that connected but didn't seem to phase his opponent. He started to throw a right haymaker, but Javier expertly dodged it and caught his arm. She then forced his arm up sharply at the shoulder.
The pain that came next was agonizing. Crocker let out a yell as he felt the tendons in his shoulder snap and pop. His right arm instantly became numb and he lost feeling in it. He then felt himself being lifted and he was tossed like a rag doll towards one of the adjacent boulders. He landed hard and began to see a few spots while he stared at his now useless right arm.
From cover Jovani managed to grab the phaser he'd dropped, and motioned to get Ephraim attention. Holding up his phaser and nodding to the General he let him know he wanted them both to fire at her together, he then turned it to show that the phaser was set to the highest setting. Holding his own phaser at the ready he held his right hand up and ticked off a three count. On one he depressed the trigger and watched as a stream of phased energy leapt from the end of his pistol, heading directly towards Javier.
Javier was pelted by a number of the blasts. Having them come from two separate directions was overwhelming the woman's ability to react. Even with the parasite there were a few too many for her, and she'd taken a few too many hits. She was slowing down. Bleeding. And the parasite could only deal with so much damage at once.
She wasn't done yet, though. Tripping from a hit to her upper thigh, she actually managed to fall out of the burst of fire. It gave her the time she needed. Her hand wrapped around her phaser rifle and she brought it up in an arching pattern, releasing a rapid fire stream of bolts at the two assailants.
Summer had been silently edging around the fight, and was now behind the evil woman. She made no sound, and leapt forward, her dagger plunging into Javier's back, just below the left shoulder blade.
Javier had been poised to launch a counter attack when the blade suddenly entered her back. She let out an inhuman scream, staggering away from the hit and wheeling on her assailant. "Of course. You." She wheezed the disdainful sentence between coughs. The dagger had hit something vital, though what exactly, she couldn't be sure.
"Yes me. Time to die. Long overdue in fact." Summer drew her other knife. And swiftly, she closed and thrust the knife into Javier's chest. "For those you killed... bitch." And she twisted the knife and stepped back to watch her enemy die.
The General let out another sputtering cough. That last blade hat hit something a bit too vital: the parasite itself. With one last, groaning noise, the woman lurched forward and collapsed. He body was laying motionless for only a moment though, before an all too familiar gurgle emitted from the corpse. However, unlike all the other infected they'd encountered, her mouth stayed shut. There was no unhinged jaw. No small scurrying creature. Instead, her entire back suddenly warped in shape as a huge form began to take shape. A moment later, the back of her marine uniform burst open to reveal a truly shockingly large entity. It lead out a shrieking cry, turning to face the woman who had slain its host.
"Well aren't you just a vile pile of ugly." She drew her phaser. "Shoot to kill!" She called out and opened fire on the parasite.
Ephraim obliged once he'd made his way to his feet, discharging several phaser bolts in tandem with summer. Pain radiated from his ribs, he surmised they had been broken during his engagement with Javier. He stopped before the others, he knew they were likely past the point of overkill. "We may still have time to defuse her bomb if we make haste" Ephraim commented between wheezy breaths.
Putting his phaser away, seeing as it didn't particularly seem to be of much usefulness now, Jovani nodded. "Agreed. Anyone here know anything about doing that...?", he asked a bit uncertainly, his face displaying a bit of anxious confusion no matter how hard he tried to hide his feelings.
"Chief Crocker?" Gallagher called to him. "Lets fix this please!"
Crocker joined the group by the body of the former Marine. He had his phaser rifle slung, and his right arm hung limp by his side. He clenched his teeth as he spoke, "Agreed ma'am. But we may have a problem. My right arm is no good, and you cant diffuse a bomb with one hand." He looked at the small group and raised an eyebrow as he posed his question, "Who has the steadiest hands here?"
"I'm pretty steady... But your gonna have to be real ear on what you need. I've never gone through any sort of training for this kind of thing...", Jovani replied, crouching next to the other man
"Do it. The rest of us will keep watch" And with disdain she kicked Javier's body off the ledge and watched it bounce down the cliff.
Crocker approached the bomb and pulled out his tactical tricorder with his left hand. He activated it and slowly walked around the device while taking non-invasive scans. He looked at his readings and stopped at an access panel. He motioned for the young crewman to come and join him as he knelt next to the bomb. He set the tricorder down while he pulled his EOD pack from his chest rig. "Here," he said as he handed the pack to Jovani, "Open that and grab that screwdriver so we can undo this access panel."
Jovani flipped open the kit and grabbed the screwdriver the other man had indicated. Lining it up he unscrewed the small screws and popped the panel off. "Alright, what's next?", He asked, eyeing the intricate innards of the device.
Crocker held up his tricorder and read the readouts. He smiled a bit and relaxed when he saw the inner workings of the device. For all her talk, it appeared the general had never designed an explosive before. "Alright, well we have some good news. I'm not reading any secondary arming mechanisms. The downside is that the primary detonator needs constant power or it will detonate. We can rig an alternate power source to keep the detonator on while we cut the connections," he said. He then looked pointed to the small power pack in his case, "Crewman, pull out that power pack and attach the two wires with it. Once that's ready I'll walk you through the next step."
Seemingly taunting them, the bomb let out a small notification as they settled down to disarm it. “60 seconds to detonation.”
Falling back on his training for dealing with stressful situations Jovani chose to ignore the warning from the device. He pulled the power pack out and attached it, and then turned his attention back to the other man. "Alright, ready.", he said.
Crocker looked at the bomb as it announced its taunt. "Ok, activate the power pack. Now take that laser cutter, adjust the blade length to 3.75 centimeters. Once the pack is active go ahead and start severing all the transmit connections. There are four sets of two. But do not touch any other part of the casing. If you do, the laser cutter will detonate the device."
"So, no pressure then...", Jovani quipped, trying to defuse any nervous tension. Reaching down he activated the power pack and then retrieved the small laser cutter, making the adjustments as ordered. "Beginning cuts now.", he said, and began using the tiny blade of energy to do just that. It took only a microsecond for each of them, but having to be so careful he wasn't able to move as fast as he'd have liked. Twenty seconds later he retracted the small cutting device and deactivated the blade.
"Done.", he said, "What's next?", he added, still not taking his eyes off the bomb.
The device replied as well, changing all of its indicator lights from green to yellow. The mechanized voice came out again. "30 seconds to detonation."
Crocker checked his scanner, "Alright grab those microcalipers and pull the whole housing out, but don't touch the sides. Quickly now!"
Working as quickly, and steadily as he could Jovani used the tool to reach in and grasp the housing. Taking a deep breath he carefully, but rapidly extracted the entire thing. With a bleep the entire device seemed to deactivate, all lights and sounds going dead all at once. With a deep sigh he leaned back on his heels, "That was entirely too close...", he said, more to himself than to anyone else.
Summer nodded and pulled her Comm out. "Commander Gallagher to the Defiant. Away team to beam up. Mission accomplished."
After a brief pause, the communicator let out a crisp reply. "Understood, Commander. Standby for transport." A few seconds and a whirring and a flash of light later, the rocky outcropping was one again empty of people. The only sound was the rumbling thunder in the distance.