Posted on Wed Oct 9th, 2019 @ 1:19pm by Captain Charlotte Reynolds V1 & Ensign Claire Lafayette & Master Chief Petty Officer Amelia Redgrave & Lieutenant Commander Maralen Seitha & Lieutenant Commander Nathan Bishop & Lieutenant Dante Rawlins V1 & Lieutenant Ian Acainus & Lieutenant Caroline Isley & Lieutenant Commander Niamh O'Donoghue V1 & Lieutenant JG Morgan Lindsay V1 & Ensign Thyra Sh'shraaqir V1 & Ensign Colby Pierce & Lieutenant JG Alexander McConnell & Lieutenant JG Samuel Kincaid
Episode 1: A Lesson in Humility
Location: Train System, On the Way to Typhon's Tower
The train rattled along. It was an advanced device, but it wasn't in great shape. The ride was uneven and occasionally startling. After one particularly aggressive jolt, Charlotte found herself unable to sit still. Instead, she busied herself with checking on the crew. She knew this was actually putting her in an even less stable position, but honestly, that didn't affect her decision. She liked feeling a little more in control.
She was most of the way down the train when a particularly puzzled look on Lt. McConnell's face caught her eye. She wasn't certain why, but it seemed significant. Steadying herself with the handlebar above his bench, she came to a stop. "What's eating at you, Lieutenant?"
Alexander placed the Tricorder he’d been focussed on down. His hair was in a state of disarray, a telltale sign the scientist had been consumed with seeking solutions to the crew of the Defiants greater problem, “Since we’ve arrived, Ma’am, something has thrown me off about this planet; something far beyond the circumstances of our arrival, or the mishap with MCPO Redgrave,” the Brit explained once he was facing Charlotte. “At first, I assumed we’d stumbled across an unusual planet, perhaps one situated close enough to a black hole to suffer its physics bending properties, yet just beyond its event horizon so as not to pull it into its epicentre” Alexander continued, rising to his feet. His body ached almost as much as the phantom ache his mind was enduring. Their current situation was the first in which Alexander had been forced to push himself physically and it was adding to his difficulty with working their situation out.
“Deeper level scans didn't support that. At a quantum level, nothing is right, but I don't think we can blame naturally occurring phenomenon” the Lieutenant elaborated as he picked up a padd and handed it to Charlotte. “That’s what I’ve compiled so far,” he pointed to the tablet.
”That led me to consider what methods did most sentient species possess, around or beyond our level of technology, that could manipulate physics in a localised point of space on the scale we are seeing? My readings for chronitons came back acceptable, so nothing that was directly manipulating time” he explained as he walked towards and opened panel on the side of the relay, it's parts exposed, ”that led me to observe the behaviour of particles at the quantum level and I discovered something interesting” the Brit told the Captain, ”all matter on this planet seems to radiate from the same point. Almost as though something was completely manufacturing everything. I've not seen any technology like that being possessed by any species known to the Federation. But we do have something similar, albeit less advanced” He finished, giving Charlotte some time to process what he was seeing and hoping she would lead to the same conclusion he had.
Charlotte shook her head, hoping to make more sense of the words that had just been thrown her way. The effort didn’t accomplish much. “Lieutenant, what exactly are you suggesting?” she asked. “And try to say it a bit slower and in English.”
Alexander expression shifted to apologetic, “Apologies Captain, I’ve been working this since we landed. I got a bit carried away” he said, clearly abashed. He turned around, retrieved his tricorder and handed it to the Captain. “The data on that should go a long way towards supporting what I’m about to suggest, although I admit there’s a bit of supposition in my part”
“I don’t believe we’re on a planet at all, Ma’am. Not a single thing adds up. The amount of time it takes this planet to spin on its axis, the fact that none of us have been fatally harmed despite falling from the sky, nor the fact that we’ve all literally been able to traverse three separate climates and terrains despite moving on foot” he listed each point off with his fingers. Looking around the carriage he leaned a little closer to Charlotte, “Finally, it hit me. What technology does Startfleet possess that would allow users to reenact a number of dangerous scenarios without fear of danger due to safety subroutines?”
Charlotte's eyes went a bit wider as she took in everything he was saying. All of the pieces of their situation that didn't add up. They were starting to come together into a startling image. One her mind wasn't quite ready to grasp. But she felt her mouth speak the words his question was searching for. "The new hologram simulators back at Starfleet Academy..."
"Exactly" Alexander exclaimed, perhaps a little too excitedly, "Now I imagine you're not going to like this, but I need you to bear with me" he carried on before removing his survival jacket and rolling up the left sleeve of his undershirt, "If I'm correct, then the safety subroutines should prevent anything fatal from happening to us. To test my theory I'm going to attempt to kill myself" he winced as he finished, he doubted the Captain would be as eager as he was.
Her eyes shot wide open at his last words. "Whoa whoa whoa. Lieutenant, that's an interesting theory. But...if you're wrong about this..."
Feline hearing was a great asset at times like this. Maralen had sat quietly listening to everying that Alexander had said. The pieces fit. He had thought that it was all wrong, unreal somehow. But he had not drawn that particular conclusion. Standing, he approached Charlotte and the overly-excited scientist.
"Mr. McConnell, I agree with your assessment in as much as I don't believe we are dealing with a real planet. However, before you try any such thing as you are now suggesting, tell me this. You suggest that this whole thing is a holographic projection. Did your scans detect any technology resembling the simulators?" He was asking for concrete evidence rather than a guess before he allowed one of his crew to test a theory by attempting suicide. He wouldn't be a very good First Officer if he didn't at least try to prevent one of his crew dying, after all.
Bishop listened as McConnell spoke of keeping suicide to test his theory. Not the smartest of moves under and circumstance. He heard Seitha voice his questions as had Charley. As it should be they were the ranking officers of the Defiant. Granted he was second officer but many of the crew were still not known to him. However neither could he stand by and not say anything. "So your saying we're in a holodeck? Could be. Typhoon needs us for a reason. So I can't see him having us get killed needlessly." He looked at McConnel, "Isn't there some way to test your theory short of trying to kill yourself? That's rather extreme and not practical thinking. "
Alexander resisted the urge to roll his eyes at his senior officer's reaction, insubordination was the last thing they needed right now, "Apologies on my part, perhaps if I reword it" the scientist said, "I'm going to carry an action which, under normal circumstance, would kill me. I have all the evidence I need from my observations. I've been trying since we arrived to utilise the tricorder but it's simply not up to the task"
"And just what have you got planned?" Bishop pressed the scientist.
"That's the easy part, this train is a death trap. Years of erosion have left lots of wiring exposed," The physicist explained, "Like this here," Alex gestured to an uncovered conduit, "I intend to grab one of these. The only way I could survive that is if my hypothesis is correct, which it is" he said.
Charlotte opened her mouth to protest, but the argument was dead before she even tried to say it. The rail system slowly rattled its way up towerd Typhon's tower. The wind was rushing by quietly. Not the slightest whistle entered the old, decrepit train. Captain Reynolds gave an annoyed snort at this. The simulation was good, she'd give Typhon that. But now that Lt. McConnell had highlighted the falsity, it was making itself known everywhere. No whistles in the entire train, no animals in the forest, no clouds in the sky. No nuance to the facade. This world was a fraud. Typhon was a fraud. And she'd had about enough.
She leveled her gaze at the science officer. A renewed determination in her gaze. "Lieutenant, are you certain this shock would be lethal? There's not room for mistakes. It needs to be all or nothing."
Alexander considered the question for the briefest moment, "I can't say I'm 100%, but nothing ever is" he replied, "I reckon there's around a 3% chance that I'm wrong. The limited data set I have says otherwise though."
She shook her head. "Can't just roll the dice once then." She stepped closer to the panel that was exposed, noting the wires. "Lieutenant, I'm not going to be able to ask you to do this. At least, not alone. So we're both going to. I think I along with everyone else on this train have had about enough of Typhon's bullshit. And I think this might surprise him a bit. He's played on our survival instincts. Now its time to turn the tables."
Bishop looked at Charlotte, "If you're insistent on doing this then do it all the way. Blow up the train or this car where we all are and see if Alexander's theory is correct. That should shake Typhon up a bit."
"I could, but that would kill all of us. If Alexander and I are wrong, at least we'd be the only idiots killing ourselves." Charlotte replied. "Maralen, Nathan. If we're wrong and I've just killed myself, I need you to go through with confronting Typhon. We need to try and expose him and get the ship back to Defiant. But...if we're right..."
She turned back to McConnell. "If we're right, then this whole house of cards could come down. You ready?"
"I imagine so, I doubt the system's prepared to deal with any form of attempted suicide" Alexander agreed as he began rolling the sleeve to his black undershirt up, "If we each grab a section of the exposed wiring we'll create a chain reaction that the would struggle to expect"
Were they actually having this insane conversation!? Maralen studied both of the participants and wanted to argue with the choices of subjects. After all, as the Exec., it was his job to protect the captain as much as it was his job to take care of the crew. Protect her, even from herself. Maybe especially from herself. "Charlotte, a word for a moment please?"
She felt herself tense a little. The whole idea of what she was about to do was a bit overwhelming and spending more time deliberating wasn’t going to help. But she couldn’t deny him the option. “Sure.”
He spoke quietly to minimize who could hear, hopefully to only her. "I agree in principle. However, I don't think you should be the second one to do this. As the captain, you are more needed by the crew, and as your XO, I must protest your participation in this." He paused for a second, then pressed forward. "I will take your place." He was not, by any means, suicidal; but he knew that this could go wrong in so many ways and kill them even if McConnell was right. And of the two of them, she was the one more necessary to the ship and crew. It was pure Starfleet (XO protecting his captain and crew) and purely reasonable.
“Maralen, I get what you’re saying. But in this instance, you are more valuable. Your natural talents are beyond mine. You were able to tell this was a sham from the beginning. And Typhon has been in my head. He never got into yours. I think, in this situation, you are more important.” She gave a somewhat forced smile. “Besides I’m not planning on actually dying. If we’re right, I intend to be very much alive.”
"I didn't know it was. It just felt... wrong," he clarified. "But I do see your point there." His natural talents? The training of those before Starfleet coupled with the senses of a feline, yes, but more valuable? He didn't agree -- yes, Typhon had gotten into her head, but she'd managed to resist him -- but what could he do. He had voiced his objection, and she had refused. And now was certainly no time to have an argument about it. He could see the strain in her and hated adding to it. But he'd needed to try. "I don't agree, but I accept," he said softly, his way of telling her that he would not fight her any further on it. Besides, the longer they stood here discussing it, the more chance Typhon had of figuring it out and doing something to stop them. He stepped back out of her way and pulled his Shield of Calm about him once more.
A single nod and slight smile answered her. Then he cleared his expression and waited. He didn't like this, watching her do this, watching any of them do it. But he didn't have a better idea, so he surrendered the point and watched, ready to act if needed.
“Thank you,” she said. She knew this wouldn’t be easy for him. Walking a few paces back toward the panels, she made eye contact with her potential suicide partner. “Ready?”
Alexander nodded before taking a deep breath, it was now or never he thought as he took hold of some loose wiring. Almost instantly he could feel his body vibrating as his body reacted to the current. After that he collapsed, the last thing he recalled was the world turning a bright and blinding white.
As Charlotte's hand wrapped around the power conduit she felt an immediate overpowering rush of pain as the electricity coursed through her body. It was so overwhelming her mind failed to fully even comprehend the sensation. Her vision went completely blindingly white. For a brief moment, she was certain they'd been wrong. She'd just killed herself.
But then things began to shift. The white was no longer a blanket over her vision. It took shape. Nothing concrete that she could discern, but it had substance. She heard voices calling out to her. Cecile maybe? Niamh? She only heard them for the briefest moment as her consciousness drifted into the void. But the voices came back. Louder now. More close.
Her vision swam yet again, this time flecks of red mixing into the white. The words of the voice took on a bit more shape. 2 words specifically. Over and over again. And music. A loud trumpet playing a series of notes. No...not music. A siren.
"Proximity Alert. Proximity Alert."
Charlotte was no longer collapsing on the base of the train. She couldn't tell where she was but she was leaned against something. Hard in some places, soft in others.
"Proximity Alert. Proximity Alert."
Her vision was slowly taking shape again. The white was now forming the vaguest hints of shapes. Walls, seats, panels.
"Proximity Alert. Proximity Alert."
Her focus was swimming, but she forced herself to analyze. The seat next to her was incredibly familiar. She'd sat in it every day for months now. She was on the bridge of the Defiant.
The alert klaxons kept sounding off, an automated attempt to gain the crews attention. Not that it was working. Collapsed on the ground, or slumped in their chairs were the various officers of Defiant's bridge crew. And outside...
The form outside startled her briefly. A large device of some sort was there, emitting a bright overwhelming white light. A device which looked oddly similar to the tower Typhon had constructed for them. Off to one side, a small trading ship hung, apparently caught in the same lure.
Charlotte felt herself sinking back into unconsciousness. No. She couldn't let herself pass out. She'd broken free once. She doubted Typhon would give her the same opportunity again. She needed to block this device's connection to them.
Fumbling toward her chair, she found the command button. "Computer, raise shields! Scramble all hailing frequencies."
A moment later an audible thwump filled the room. As Defiant's deflector grid came up and the noise she hadn't realized was filling the room ceased. Her mind cleared in almost an instant as the influence the device was suddenly blocked. The bodies on the bridge began to stir. Shaking her head to keep it clear, she finally started to piece everything together. 'Typhon' was somehow asserting influence over them through the device outside. So that device needed to go.
She flipped the intercomm button, setting it to maximum audible levels. She needed to get her crew awake. "All hands, this is the Captain. Battle stations!"
White. His whole universe was blinding white. There was no sound at first, though, no sounds, smells or anything else. Just the white. He remembered the captain's decision to join McConnell in that insane attempt to prove it was all a hologram, and he had expected a lot of responses to it. This, however, had not been on his list.
Sound started to filter through the Null Sound, a voice? Two? Slowly, the white began to give way to something else, only shapes at first, like a blind man who could only see light and shadows. But that state too faded, bringing into focus familiar surroundings. And the voices. One was the computer telling them they were approaching something and the other was the captain. What had she said?
Too slow, Seitha. Flawed. Efficiency! his mind chastised in the voice of the Executive. He shook his head to clear the rest of the cobwebs as he dragged himself back up to his chair before the Operations console. Wait, hadn't he approached the captain just before they had been removed from the bridge? No, they had never been removed; it had all been a fakery. His mind was clearing now, and he took stock of the bridge around him before examining his console.
Operations was coming back online, reporting temporary outages in several sections that were now once more responding to computer control. Whatever had affected them had now been cut off, but how? "Operations coming back online, Captain," he said, sounding not quite as calm and efficient as he normally did but getting there.
"Yeah, me too," Charlotte managed to joke, as she shook herself to stay alert. "I guess we were wrong though. Clearly not a hologram!"
He chuckled softly at her joke. "Well, there goes my perfect record," he joked back lightly. She seemed to be having trouble staying alert, the head-shake gave him that notion. There must still be a slight effect from that thing out there. he mused to himself.
With an audible groan, Dante slowly woke, his eyelids fluttering open as if he'd been asleep for days. His back ached from where he'd been slumped over, and he felt a throbbing in his forehead and figured he'd probably hit it when he'd passed out on the console. Sitting back in his chair, his muscles screaming in protest he hissed in pain and then slowly tried to work the kinks out as he spun around to check the rest of the bridge.
"I feel like I've been drugged...", he managed before having to bring a hand up to his forehead as a wave of dizziness washed over him. "Ah, now that makes sense.", he said, recognizing the signs of a slight concussion. Turning back to the helm after the captain's order finally pierced his addled consciousness he checked the status. "Helm at the ready, ma'am.", he said in response to her call to battle stations.
Thyra woke up and rubbed her eyes and immediately reached for her antennae. Both were intact. She sighed in relief and then pulled herself up on her chair and turned on her console. She noticed the scrambler on the frequencies and she closed them all. "I have closed all frequencies captain." She said as she thought that might be the right thing to do. She had deduced that from the scrambled frequencies. She still rubbed her head at what happened.
Morgan opened his eyes and rolled to a sitting position, trying to clear his head and wipe away the gound from his eyes and get his body moving again after the stress it had been under in Typhon's game. The Doctor pushed himself to his feet and half staggered to one of the stations at the back of the bridge and pulled up various readings, before saying "Computer. Increase oxygen parts per million in all populated areas of Defiant by 25% for the next four minutes." Slipping into the seat, he turned and said randomly, "That should help clear the crew's head and chase away the worst of things short term."
A deep breath was the first thing Isley could remember. Then she realized she was back on the bridge, and her head began to clear. What had happened? She had no idea, but she quickly oriented herself at the science station and looked around at the rest of the bridge crew. Were they back on the ship?
Pierce laid on the floor of the security office. Part of his mind was trying to tell him to wake up and get moving...but another part just wanted to sleep. The part that wanted to sleep won.
Ian had been meditating and had been sitting with his hands on his knees tuning almost everything else out when sleep had overcome him His eyes flickered open and he knew time had passed since he'd been awake. How much he wasn't sure. He knew whatever had happened to him had been from without not from within and he slowly stood to his feet looking around.
Niamh's gaze scanned the surrounding area of her office as she was returned. Her thought's scattered, nothing was processed. After a beat, she sank into her chair with a huff. She was glad they'd been returned to their original positions aboard the ship. She'd need a couple to process what had transpired before she'd be ready to assemble the mask and tend to the crew.
Lieutenant McConnel returned the astrometrics lab feeling incredibly relieved. He'd made the right call and hadn't killed himself or the Captain in the process. He imagined his eagerness to sacrifice himself would lead to a follow up with the Counselor, but all things said and done they where home. He sank to the floor, his back against the central terminal, and let out a relieved sigh.
Captain Reynolds stayed standing. She wasn't sure she'd continue to resist the device if she sat down. Her mind was still reeling, but its influence appeared to have passed for the most part. Now they just needed to find out what it was.
She put on the most assertive air she had. "Science, Operations. I need to know what the hell that thing is. And more importantly, how to disable it. Whatever you do, don't open those comm channels."
Maralen glanced toward the Science Station then back at his board, his expression thoughtful. He began to pull up what readings he could, though the better ones were going to come from the Science Station, he knew. His were rudimentary as Operations was meant to be a more internal department than an external one.
"What little I can tell, it looks like someone patched several breeds of technology together," he noted. "The technology used is very advanced, though, far beyond known technology." He glanced over at Isley. "What can you detect, Lieutenant Isley?"
"It's definitely more advanced that anything we've seen before," the blonde science officer said. Her sensors were feeding information into the panel quickly and although she wasn't yet 100 percent it didn't take her long to process enough of it. "It does look like a mix of different designs, and possibly even technological levels. But it's not very well defended. Any weapon fire would probably disable it, if not destroy it."
Charlotte nodded. It was what she expected. The device was some sort of probe, and it had essentially hijacked their minds for a bit. "Well, I might be going out on a limb here, but I certainly feel like its actions are hostile. Mr. Bishop, lock phasers on the emitter array. Shoot to disable. I want to study this thing further if possible."
Nathan was still shaking the cobwebs out of his head after finding himself back on the Defiant's bridge. So when Charlotte's order came to him he had to concentrate and process the order. "Aye Captain, locking phasers on the array, disable only." He replied as his finger stabbed the fire control button and twin lances of blue/white energy leapt out and struck the array solidly.
The impact had the desired effect. With a few secondary minor explosions, the bright white emitters went dark and the device was left drifting, its primary means of control disabled. The device didn't seem to have any other armaments. The assault on their minds was its primary offensive tactic. Charlotte turned to the Comms station to where a disoriented Thyra was seated. "Ensign, open up a channel. One way outgoing connection. I want to speak directly to this device."
Thyra turned to the console and looked over to the console and blinked a few times as if she tried to shake the disorientation of. She looked a moment to the buttons and then hit one. She turned around, "Go ahead, captain."
"Unidentified probe, this is the USS Defiant. Your attempt to force our crew into your simulation is an act of aggression against this vessel and the United Federation of Planets. I am giving you one chance to explain your actions. Failure to do so will result in this probe's destruction," Captain Reynolds said. She was tired of holding her punches.
The Communications console started to blink. Thyra looked at it for a few seconds and then said, "Captain, I we have an incoming hail. It's coming from that..." She took a deep breath. "..that thing."
Charlotte nodded. "Patch it through to the view screen, but have the computer scrub it for extreme outliers. I don't want to give it trying to pull us back into that simulation."
Thyra nodded and started to push and turn some buttons on her console before patching the message through to the view screen.
The view screen lit up with a strange adjusting image. There didn't appear to be an actual video feed at first. But after a brief moment, a form appeared, draped in what appeared to be living shadow. It was the form Typhon had originally appeared to them on the bridge...no, in the simulation of the bridge. Now, it was only an image on screen.
His voice was unmistakable. "Captain Reynolds, I must applaud you and your crew. Your solution was most...unexpected. Given our interactions inside my simulation, I think we have established a good rapport. You may continue to refer to me as Typhon."
"And are you real?" The captain asked, flatly.
Typhon's shadowed head appeared to nod, though that may have just been the image. "I am indeed. My appearance in the simulation was to test you, but I assure you I am very real."
Dante looked up, a look of mingled confusion and annoyance on his face, "And this was what? A test?", he asked.
"Of a sort," Typhon replied. Charlotte wasn't sure why but she got the impression he was smiling. "For now, you've passed."
Tests. Everything was tests. The Realm had been like that, tests when one least expected it and in ways that were unexpected and unpredictable. That had been part of the test in some cases, to determine that it was a test. But at least they let you pass or fail and move on to the next test. This creature seemed to want to make them wonder, to keep them guessing. Was that how it got it's rocks off as the Humans said? Or was it that the creature was not as powerful as it wanted them to think it was and this vaguery was one of the tools in its tool chest for keeping its 'mystique'?
"Of a sort?" Maralen stared at the creature, his Shield of Calm firmly held in place now. "What exactly were you testing?" He paused for a moment, then added. "And what is it you hope to gain from these tests?"
“You’ll see soon enough. Farewell, Defiant,” Typhon replied. With that, the message cut off.
Captain Reynolds found herself staring at the screen. A power source inside the probe seemed to be glowing brighter. “Mr. Seitha, I could be wrong but I think we’re building toward an overload over there. That other ship, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess there’s a human aboard?”
Maralen glanced up at the screen then down to his console. She was right; the device or station or whatever it truly was was on a road to self-destruction. And she was right again, he reflected as he looked at the readings on the other ship caught in the thing's snare. "According to what I can tell, yes." he answered. He further scanned the ship, trying to find out if it could escape on its own or whether they needed to rescue its inhabitant.
"Lock a tractor beam on the smaller ship. We're getting them out of here too," the Captain said, as she walked up behind the helm station. "Mr. Rawlins, I'm going to need warp speed as soon as we're able. We don't want to be around when that thing blows."
With a brief nod Dante set to work, his hands moving swiftly as he entered commands into the helm controls. Seconds later he looked up at his captain, "Ready on your mark, ma'am.", he said, his hand resting in the silver warp throttle.
She paused a moment, waiting until she heard the satisfying hum of the tractor beam engaging. It took only a moment. "Get us out of here. Warp 5."
With a steady hand Dante quickly engaged the engines, ramping up the speed to warp five. "Warp five, aye.", he said, watching the ships readouts closely. "No sign of stress on the tractor beam, or the other ship, engines holding steady.", he reported.
As the ship jumped away, a brief flash of light indicated the detonation of the probe. Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief. They'd broken free of whatever this device was. But Typhon's final comment worried her. What would they see soon enough? She supposed only time would tell.