Between a Door and an Hard Place.
Posted on Tue Apr 14th, 2020 @ 3:41pm by Lieutenant Commander Niamh O'Donoghue V1 & Lieutenant JG Alexander McConnell & Lieutenant JG Morgan Lindsay V1 & Ensign Claire Lafayette & Petty Officer 2nd Class Jovani Carter V1
Episode 2: Inevitable
Location: Abandoned Facility Orbiting Dwarf Dark Star
Timeline: Immediately after "Like Kicking An Ants Nest"
"Let me see that hand." Ethan had walked over to Jovani. "I'm no medical doctor, but I recognize severe burns when I see them. We need to get you to sickbay."
Morgan eyed the two, stepping closer and ran his tricorder over the wound. "Interesting. Now, hold still." Morgan quickly reached into his bag and pulled out a hypo, applying a pain blocker. Then he pulled out a medical laser, set it and began bathing the hand. "The secretion from the creature is a type of acid. The laser will neutralize it and we'll have to treat it when we get back aboard, but you'll be alright Crewman." After treatment with the laser, Morgan pulled a can of bandaging out of the bag and coated the wound with a dull red coating.
Turning to the door, he turned up the gain. "Unknown species. Fascinating physiological biomechanical," Morgan said, moving through different diagnostic settings.
Taking a deep breath as the pain blocker took effect, and he relaxed even more once the laser had removed all traces of the blood, and his hand was coated in the spray-on bandaging. "Thanks..." he replied and then started watching as the man began to scan outside the doors.
Silence hung for a moment before the words broke into the Doctor's train of thought and he glanced toward Jovani again, then at the bandaging he'd applied and he asked, "Sorry Crewman? Did you say...oh. Yeah. You're welcome, of course."
"Okay...so we know they are aggressive...they look like ants...and their blood is acid....and our phasers seem ineffectual." Ethan looked around. "What if we set our phasers to maximum and concentrate fire on one of them?"
"That didn't look like any ant I've ever seen. Did you see the tail on that thing? I'm lucky I didn't get stung..." Jovani replied, and then turned to Niamh, who had been quiet through most of this, with a look of concentration on her face. "Your thoughts, ma'am?"
"We seem to be secure for the moment" Niamh replied warily glancing towards the door that separated them from the predators. Why was it that whenever the Defiant involved itself in something the worst possible scenario was in play? She surveyed the room for a moment, looking for anything useful. The surfaces she spied each had a thick layer of undisturbed dust over them which proved to be less inspiring than she'd anticipated. Based on her limited inspection the only lifeforms with the base where her team and the ultra-aggressive beasts that pursued them. "given that the base is seemingly unoccupied beyond what pursued us it's fair to say they'll not give up the hunt easily. We need to figure out how to defend ourselves against them and make our way back to the shuttle. Ideally, we need methods with the range given what happened when you came into contact with the blood of the creature" Niamh said.
"What if we use our phasers and bring the roof down on them," Ethan asked.
"We could, but we don't know that we've encountered their full number yet. I will keep it in mind though if our situation grows more desperate" Niamh said to Ethan once she'd turned to face him. "For now, we need to find answers to questions about the previous occupants of this base. See what information you can find about them within this room that would be useful, catalogue as much as you can" she ordered, her breathing returning to a steady pace.
Jovani turned away and began inspecting the room around him, trying to shove the images of the entire away team being crushed under tons of rubble out of his mind.
Claire was still visibly shaking from the chase. The creatures themselves were horrifying to look at. But Jovani's hand being encased in acid like that...she'd been near losing all composure. But they seemed safe now. She'd been idly looking around the room when she found herself struck by a thought. "Wait...how do we think they got here?" She mused out loud before turning to make eye contact with the group. "Do you think they were brought to this installation? Or..." She paused. "Given what we've seen, the deeper into this facility we go, the more entrenched their presence is. I could be wrong, but I think they might be from here. In which case, bringing a cave down on their heads might expose us to even more of them."
Ethan looked at Claire. "The logical conclusion is that the "ants" are native to this world, and if they behave like most ants found on Earth and other worlds, they spend most of their time underground. Maybe something happened and drove them closer to the surface, where they found this installation." Ethan looked at the others as he gave his opinion.
"Amazing how much of an echo there is in these tunnels," the redhead joked. "But yes, that's what I was getting at. Though I'd caution against us treating them like ants. They seem to behave very differently and that acid..."
"So, we're dealing with a hyper-aggressive, apex predator that's seeming immune to thermal weaponry and can burn our hands off if we attempt close-range offensive methods" Alexander concluded from the other side of the room, still catching his breath, his tricorder and padd laying on the surface he'd perched on. "Also, they must have incredibly slow metabolisms, I wonder if they had been resting before we disturbed them. I can see that they've had many opportunities to eat given the amount of dust in this place. No-one's been here for years" he suggested pushing off and heading toward a dusty display unit, scanning it with his tricorder and reviewing the data on his padd. "Anyone fancy parting with their tricorder? I might be able to get this up and running".
Morgan continued to run analysis as he moved about the chamber. "Well if they're hungry and we're food, they're going to be highly motivated to dine and we should be just as motivated to get back to the ship, post-haste." Meeting Alexander's eyes, Morgan considered the medical tricorder and then pulled data crystals from the side panel before handing it over. "The hand sensor might come in handy for other parts as well. You all will just have to trust me to get treatment's right."
"It might be possible, at least a millennia ago," Ethan started talking, "that these ants may have been the dominant species on the surface. Maybe a disaster drove them underground.....a volcano...a meteor....a war. And they became these creatures we see now."
Claire looked up, ready to emphasize even more emphatically that these were, in fact, not ants. But the distant way he was speaking gave her pause. The scientist gave a concerned look across the room. "Ethan are you ok? You're starting to freak me out."
Ethan looked at her. "Oh..I'm fine. Sometimes when I'm...worried...I tend to ramble on with useless facts. If I disturbed anyone, please let me apologize."
She shook her head. "Don't apologize. Just got worried one of those creatures got you and we missed the injury," Claire said as she looked around the room. "Your theory seems pretty plausible though. I just wish we had more time to study those...things. They behave with more intelligence than a mindless animal might. There's the intention behind their movements."
"They could have a hive mentality guiding them. On Earth, colonies of ants were led by the queen...she gave the orders and the soldier ants followed orders," said Ethan.
Claire shook her head. "I need to stress that these are not ants and its dangerous to think about them that way." She looked around the room. "Alex, anything you need help with to get that back online?"
"Could you review the data?" Alexander said from the ground where he lay flat on his back looking up at the internal wiring that powered the device. His fix wasn't perfect and he was internally chewing himself out for not thinking to bring a few battery packs, but it would do. In the place of a battery, he had secured the crystal from Morgans tricorder. Once he was certain it was all set up he brought himself up to his knees. "I'm going to fire low power pulses towards the crystal every 60 seconds. It'd be much more efficient if you went over the data on the screen" he explained, "Also, they're more like Vespid's if we're using Insecta analogues, but there's no real way of knowing anything about them without further observation"
"Preferably from a distance," Morgan said dryly as he began looking about the chamber. "Following a hypothesis that they're fairly intelligent, we should keep an eye to how they might get in here and what we do if that happens..."
Edwards walked over to Morgan. "All insects, terrestrial or extraterrestrial, have an inbred fear of fire. If we can find flammable liquids, some containers and fuses, we can make firebombs. They may drive the creatures away."
Looking towards the two men with a sceptical look on his face Jovani spoke. "I just shot one of them with a phaser rifle. If highly energetic phased particles didn't do much more than piss it off I'm less likely to believe fire will be a deterrent, but I will assist in any way I can if you can find the materials."
"Please remember that these creatures are probably very intelligent." Edwards looked at the others. "They now know, that our weapons really can't hurt them, but the instinct of being afraid of fire inbuilt into every species, so that when they see or feel the fire, they should retreat. So, if we can find the liquids and some containers, we can position our firebombs along the cave walls, and if they attack, someone fires at the containers, they explode, spreading the liquid, which is now lit, and maybe even getting some of the liquid on the ants, and it catches fire as well." Edwards tried to remember something. "Didn't someone say that the creatures have a coating of something? What was that?"
"Ensign, until we know more about the lifeforms I suggest we nip this round of speculation in the bud" Niamh replied, closing the gap between herself and Edwards, "Whilst Lieutenant McConnel and Ensign Lafayette are exceptional scientists, they are not archaeologically trained, nor do they possess the same Anthropological knowledge that you do. If you could assist them with analysing the data they obtain from the computer we might be able to determine a more concrete plan of action" she finished, before turning to face Thyra.
"Sh'shraaqir, could you attempt to contact Defiant? Notify the captain that we may need an armed extraction team, send whatever data the doctor has collected too, they may be able to sufficiently prepare" the XO ordered.
Jovani had been standing, warily watching the doors they'd come through, and hastily attempted to blockade so that the creatures couldn't get through. Beside him was a bank of strange computer terminals that he hadn't really given much thought. As the others worked to establish some sort of power to the terminals however he heard a slight blip and turned his attention to the closest terminal. A small amber lit button had activated, and without thinking about it he reached over and tapped it.
"This system has been analyzing your speech patterns throughout the time you have been inside this base. Please do not be alarmed," a disembodied voice said filling the room. Seconds later an entire wall of the room lit up, revealing itself to be a gigantic display. On the screen stood a creature that was humanoid, but most definitely not human. Their skin was a deep, glossy black, and seemed as if it was hard, like the chitinous shell of an insect, or those creatures outside, and it had no visible eyes. When it spoke it's mouth opened, exposing a cavernous maw with no teeth, and a lipless, beaklike oral anatomy.
"If you are seeing this you have discovered the remains of an abandoned research facility. My people, the Asotrin, are an advanced space-faring civilization from a star system nearly two hundred thousand light-years from this one," the creature said, definitely not in the voice of the initial speaker, but also in a voice that was very obviously falsely generated. There was no way the creature had the ability to create human speech.
"We came to this place, drawn to the special properties of the star you are currently orbiting, as I assume you also did. It quickly became apparent to us that there was life here, against all odds. That is what led us to the creation of this facility. We, however, made a grave mistake. We had scarcely completed the building of this facility before the first creatures were detected in the maintenance tunnels. We did everything in our power to contain them, and ensure the safety of our research teams, but our efforts were in vain.
"We remained as long as we were able, studying them as much as we could, before abandoning this facility to them. Please, I beg of you, do not linger. If you are able to do so, leave. No weapons we tried against them had a discernable effect aside from blunt physical force, and that proved to be an unwise choice. This system will remain active, working on its own power supply now that you have tripped the systems failsafe. All of our information is contained inside, and will be available for your own vessel to upload and make use of it. We offer this freely, but I must warn you, it is not available while inside the facility to ensure you do not remain here to try to make use of it. Under no circumstances should you attempt to remove one of the creatures, as the data I have told you of will make clear. I wish you all the luck it will take to ensure all of your number is able to leave, and I wish the gods to be with you."
Jovani looked around the room, eyes wide, and mouth slightly agape. "Um, what the hell?" he asked.
"Our cue to place any further investigations on hold," Niamh replied, her voice thick with concern. From what they'd seen of the base so far the technology of the species they now knew as the Astorin was inline with the current Federation standard, their knowledge had given them a greater advantage than the team could ever hope of grasping. She mulled over their options for a moment, their weapons were useless and close-quarters combat put them in further danger. They could opt to wait until the creature got bored, but she expected they'd break through the door before they reach that point.
"Crewman Carter, what are our tactical options? I think we should heed the advice of the previous occupants and get back to the shuttle" the XO asked.
Jovani looked at the woman standing in front of him with a pained look on his face. He honestly had very few ideas, and most of them were probably bad. With a sigh, he spoke. "Honestly, ma'am, our best bet would be to try to find some sort of schematic, maybe they left at least that much open to us. We need to find a different way out. There's absolutely no way to be sure those things aren't just waiting for us, and the only weapons we have aren't going to help against them. Even if it's a bunch of air ducts we can crawl through it would be better than nothing."
Niamh grimaced for a moment. Ducts probably were their best bet all things considered, but she found herself anxious at the prospect of the team navigating such a claustrophobic space. They'd be sitting ducks if one or more of the creatures decided to follow them. Taking a deep breath she pushed her concerns aside and turned to face the three science officers, "Found anything useful on that computer? Schematics such as the ones Crewman Carter suggested?" Niamh asked.
Claire nodded, without looking away from the screen. "There's a serious of tunnels branching out deeper. From our location, it looks like there are 2 paths that lead toward the surface. One is a bit longer and more narrow than the others, with a few side rooms. The other looks more open, but...hmm...there may have been a slight cave-in that way."
"If the narrow one is clear," Ethan added, "then we should take that one. Now..some of you may experience claustrophobia being in a narrow place, but, you can survive it. Keep your mind clear, and your breathing regular." He looked from face to face, probably many of them think he's crazy. "We can do this!"
Morgan moved to the panel and looked over the unfamiliar controls, then worked the interface with the tricorder. "If we could find something...like a scent or pheromone that attracts them and something else that could mask our own scents, it might help throw them off and give us a head start on getting away from this chokepoint," the Doctor suggested as he read through some of what had been transcribed.
Ethan thought. "The only way to mask our scent would be to cover ourselves with something that would confuse the creatures. Oil.....grease...animal dung. It wouldn't be pleasant, but it would work. Unless someone has another suggestion?"
Claire wrinkled her nose at that comment. "Gross...Thought I suppose its a lot easier to clean up than it is to rise from the dead. Do we have anything like that around here?"
Ethan started searching for some cabinets. There was a mixture of dirt and oil on the floor under them.
Having overheard the other two talking Jovani had been looking around, and by pure chance happened to see something tucked away at the back of the room that just might do. Moving towards it he gave it a better look, "I think this might be just the ticket..." he said, raising his voice slightly to get their attention, and pointing to the two large tubs. "It looks like an industrial lubricant, and I can smell it from here. It's a fully non-biological scent, so it should mask us well. Doesn't smell too bad, as long as you don't mind the scent of old-style petroleum-based products."
Ethan nodded. "That should do. May I make another suggestion? Since our clothes have our scent, we can, at least the men can, pull off our tunics and toss them in the tunnel we're not using. The creatures will focus on them, giving us more time to escape."
"Very funny. You're welcome to strip down if you want to, but I'm going to keep my uniform on, thank you very much," Claire replied snarkily. "Besides, we're the ones making the scent. I think our uniforms might actually help absorb more of the masking scent." She looked around the room, becoming aware she was not a ranking officer. She was slipping into bad habits again. "I mean...at least, that's my opinion."
"I wasn't trying to be funny, ensign. It makes sense to try to lure the creature's elsewhere while we make our escape. I'm sorry if I offended you in some way." Ethan responded. He was embarrassed, thinking he insulted her, and probably overstepped his place.
"I appreciate the effort but let's keep our uniforms on shall we? Our undershirts are moisture-resistant, the tunics are much superior for holding the liquid" Niamh cleared up with little room for further discussion as she made her way to the lubricant and started to slather herself in it, grimacing at the scent.
"Yes, commander." Ethan started applying the gook on himself. He kept quiet, lest they think he's overstepping. It didn't take him long to finish. "Should I open the hatch to the tunnel?"
"Yes, Ensign," The first Officer agreed before turning to face the Jovani crewman, I want you at the head of the chain, I'll take the rear, everybody else goes where you please" she ordered, her gaze drifting between the others. She watched as they all climbed into the tunnel, her anxiety peaking with each thump from the creatures hitting the other door. Once in, she hastily entered the tunnels herself, closing the door rapidly before quietly crawling after the others. Hopefully, the creatures would take a couple more minutes to enter the room, but she doubted it. In either case, she hoped they moved fast enough.
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