Canopus Station
Previous Next

Into The Chittering Night

Posted on Tue Apr 20th, 2021 @ 12:58am by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lieutenant Commander Mara Ricci & Lieutenant Commander Meilin Jiang & Lieutenant Murray Jacobs & Lu'kat

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: Docked with alien star ship, Calamity & Catastrophe, Outer Carpathia Star System
Timeline: MD1: 18.45

"And the probe got how far?" Ingram asked as he pulled the top of the heavy EVA suit on, allowing the techs to connected it to the waist connector ring.

"About fifty metres into the structure before packet loss became an issue. We've been able to instruct it to back up ten meters so we can use it as a transceiver," a science officer said. With his arms out through the sleeves of the suit, Ingram made a grasping gesture with the thick heavy gloves for the padd. He glowered at the report, hoping by some sheer force of will to have imparted data different to that which was provided.

"Magnetic flux and radiation killed it. Even with a hard line running back to the Resolute," Ingram muttered. "These suits come fitted with an EM field generator don't they"

"They do Sir, but the battery will only last an hour at the levels needed to counter the effects within the structure," the tech said. "Without them-"

"Visual and auditory hallucinations, mild to moderate paralysis or palsy in the extremities, not to mention the increasing likelihood of an intracranial bleed. I've played with magnets before," Ingram said and pushed the padd back into their hands. "Have a medic bring down a course of beta methorazon, as well as an iodine calcium mix. And before you say it yes, I know that beta methorazon is a powerful antipsychotic. Like I said, I've played with magnets before. The beta meth will smooth out brain function reducing the hallucination factor, allowing us to run the shields at a lower capacity thus extending their life span. The other one will provide protection against the extra Rem's we'll be absorbing. "

He settled onto a bench provided in the suiting room, and let two more techs begin to mount the battery and fuel back for the heavy EVA suit. Unlike the standard spacesuit, the extra padding, shielding, power supply and exoskeletal support, made it look more like armour than not. Stark brilliant titanium white, lined in neon orange to provide maximum visibility in low light conditions.

"Ah," Ingram said as the others began to filter in. "About time you showed up, thought I'd be going out there myself."

“And let you take all the credit?” retorted Mara with a smirk. “Besides, who else is gonna fix these suits if something goes wrong?”

"It is not too late for you to cross the threshold alone," Meilin offered. Her tone was neutral enough to be conciliatory or sarcastic. It was impossible to know which.

Lu'kat walked in with the usual observing glance at everything and everyone in the room that was so common to his character. Uncommon to his character, however, was his attire. Since the EVA suit would not fit over the bulkier standard Cardassian uniform that he always wore, and since he had neglected to pack a pair of spare outfits before boarding the Resolute, he wore a standard Starfleet outdoor training outfit. Without his usual uniform to hide his features, it was clear for all to see how fit and muscular he actually was. Without commenting he proceeded to put on his EVA suit.

And of course he did not pass Mara’s notice. She had often thought he was good looking before, but those muscles. Well, it never hurt to have eye candy along. Pity he had to put on an EVA suit like the rest of them. As she began donning her own suit, she replied to Meilin, “yes it is; I won’t let him.”

"Yes the Cardassian political officer is the one holding me back, not awaiting the medical supplements that will allow us to function in the environment of the ship," Ingram said with a thin smile aimed at both Lu'kat and Meilin.

Not making clear whether or not Lu'kat had picked up on what was sure to have been meant as a humorous jibe, he replied on all seriousness: "Cardassians are made of tougher skin than you are." Which was factually quite correct.

"Yes, and if you'd joined me at my families ski lodge on Andoria you'd be asleep in moments do the thermal difference," Ingram said. a Medical tech walked in, carrying a tray of hypos and patches. Without waiting for them to do it, Ingram picked the injector off of the tray and pressed it to his neck.

"Hypos for an anti-radiation, the patches will help with the magnetic flux inside the structure," Ingram said as he unpeeled his patch, and put it on the back of his neck. "Expect auditory and visual hallucinations, flashes of light out of the corner of your eyes, odd smells. The brain isn't set up to interpret such a strong magnetic flux, and so it'll try to assign it meaning. The patches will help mellow out the brain chemistry, help you remain functional. If any of you have worked in high-pressure environments, then imagine it like pressure narcosis."

He then stood up and took the helmet offered to him. Its faceplate was a thick opaque layer of shielding. A spider-like arrangement of visual sensors rested where eyes would have been.

"If anyone would like to step back now, I would not be against them. This will be quite dangerous."

"I did not join Long Jump to step back," Meilin said stoically as she underwent the hypospray.

Without further comment, Lu'kat administered his own hypospray, which contained a somewhat watered-down version of what the others had in their cocktail. He might have tougher skin, but he was no fool. Additionally, the prospect of hallucination and intoxication did not very much appeal to the Cardassian. Having been unable to control the challenges of life, he took special care to always be in firm control of his own body and mind. To have that control taken away from him would be akin to the worst physical torture. Still, as the contents of the hypospray quickly made their way to his brain and he became aware of the first effects, he had to admit that he had never felt so aware of everything, as if every sense was hyper-activated.

“See? It’s too late,” replied Mara, pressing her hypo against her neck and taking a patch. “We’re already inoculated.” Following Ingram’s lead, she stuck the patch to the back of her neck as well. It pulled a bit annoyingly as she turned her head, but she could live with that.

"Doctor?" Ingram's voice buzzed from a vocoder built into the chin of suit's helmet. The eight sensor eyes flanking the matt white faceplate flickered slightly as they began to whir and focus. "How is Miss Deluna doing? I assume she is not physically able to join us on the away mission?"

From the med-bay, Murray's voice chimed in response. "Senior Chief Deluna's on required medical leave for 24hrs," he said matter-of-factly. "I'll reevaluate her return to duty after that time."

"If the comm network is stable enough, she can participate remotely," he said as he turned towards the airlock bay. "Come along everyone."

+++

Nestled up against the spire rising from the engine studded endplate of the ship, the Resolute looked small and ineffectual. Below it was a plain of engine bells, each one big enough to hide a Sovereign-class starship within. And above them was the cartwheeling storms of the twin ice giants of Calamity and Catastrophy.

With careful use of the heavy EVA suits thrusters Ingram made the leap from the hull of the Federation starship to the opening on the side of the spire. The material he found footing on was metallic, enough so that the mag boots gave him purchase. A dark mint green, like oxidised zinc or aged bronze.

He reached out, and placed a hand on the rim of the opening, and then looked through into a corkscrewing tunnel that led down into the bowels of the starship.

As much as she hated this part, Mara was not about to be outdone. And so, she told herself that she would not be nauseated this time, took a deep, steadying breath, and followed Ingram. She landed a few feet behind him and breathed a sigh of relief. "Mind over matter," she muttered to herself. "Whoa," she added, seeing the tunnel beyond Ingram and fighting back a wave of dizziness. She hadn't gotten sick on the way over and she did not intend to do so now. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and told her head to cut it out.

Ingram looked back across the ten-meter gap between the alien ship and the Resolute. Whilst the face plates of the heavy suits were opaque, the suit's computer helpfully tagged each suit with a name tag.

"Come on, science does not wait on the whims of mortals," Ingram said sounding unnaturally enthusiastic.

"Science is a mortal construct of divining the unknowable and distilling it into palatable, bite-sized forms," Meilin countered. "And mortals take as much time as circumstances warrant."

While she free-floated with the grace of an angel, Meilin had pity on those who did not. Namely, her friend. She flipped to a private channel that only Mara would hear. "Slow is precise, and precise is fast."

“Mm,” replied Mara, still taking deep steadying breaths and swallowing hard. “It’s just... dizzying. I’m okay.”

"Mortals have a poor grasp of the proper scientific method," Ingram said, still leaning down over the edge. "I think we'll start our descent and aim to get as far as the probe they sent ahead of us. From there, we can see what is of interest."

The Cardassian leaped across last. Years of physical and mental training keeping the roller coaster of emotions under a tight leash, and the purpose firm at hand. One might think that having spend the last decade exiled on 'soft' Starfleet space stations, it would have made him soft in turn. On the contrary, it hardened his resolve to stay sharp and he had even increased his daily workouts and meditations since, denying those that had orchestrated his exile the satisfaction of watching him grow feebly and meek. If they even care....

Nonetheless, Lu'kat pushed off with confidence. He'd been in an EVA suit once before almost 20 years ago as part of his basic Obsidian Order training, the sensations and required actions buried deep within his memory coming back quickly. Though it certainly had helped that he had skimmed through just about any manual on space walks in the database before getting into that EVA suit, that included brushing up his knowledge on the art of Zero-G combat. After all, one could never be too prepared.

In addition, the narcotics within his system ensured that his vision was a psychedelic palette of wonder and fantasy. Grasping the edge of the alien structure, he peered down into a near infinite spiral of revolving colours giving him the sensation of being in freefall. He waited upon Captain Ingram's signal, who, interestingly, seemed to be completely within his element (as opposed to the one called Mara, who was less so, but coping. Meilin was just...well, being Meilin, operating within the parametres required of her in the moment and enouraging others to do the same, something he did very much respect in her). He waited for the others to start their descent, and then followed suit.

"Then here we go," Ingram said.

With careful use of his suit's attitude adjustment jets, he drifted into the centre of the spiralling tunnel and began to slowly descend. The augmented vision provided by the helmet's visor helped to parse out some of the backwashes from the suits lighting system. The material of the tunnel had a marble-like look to it, smooth to the touch according to the haptic sensors on his glove, with veins of manufactured composites interlaced within it.

"This is why I came out here, discovery, exploration, science at its purest form unhindered by the maddening crowds," Ingram breathed happily. He almost sounded delighted to be inside of the unknown construct.

“Really?” said Mara, more to get her kind off the swirling passageway than because she actually cared about the conversation. “I came out here because you told me you needed the best engineer in Starfleet.”

"You know, every Captain says that about their engineer of choice. Kirk, Sisko, Pliskin, all the so-called 'great' captains." Ingram said, still descending. "But that is why we're part of Starfleet. To step on the surface of a new world, and look beyond it to the next one. Except for this time, the new world came to us."

"This is a matter of perspective," Lu'kat commented while descending along with the others. "While I do remember reading a singular line in the notes of a sub-section of one of the lesser articles that make up the lengthy Agreement signed between the Cardassian Union and Starfleet regarding the discovery of new worlds and civilisations, we are in fact the newcomers to this part of the universe, and these 'new worlds' may only seem 'new' to us. To the Concordance or the Myriad they could be well-known passers-by. Who's to say? This, among other things, is what we are here to find out."

“Humans have a concept called ‘implied words’,” Mara explained. “In this case, the ‘to us’ portion is implied. “New (to us) life and new (to us) civilizations. Obviously Klingons weren’t new when we met them, but they were new to us.”

Lu'kat raised an eyebrow, for all the good it did, the gesture was hidden by his mask. "I trust you weren't implying I was ignorant of this concept?". Was he joking? It was impossible to tell.

Mara was torn between a cordial “not at all” and a joking “yes, obviously.” She decided on neither, though, instead saying, “just trying to keep my mind off this blasted spinning tunnel.”

"It just seems to be spinning due to the magnetic flux playing with the neurons of your auditory centre. An EM field this strong will push a lot of buttons in a lot of random ways. Optical illusions are but one of many. Meilin..." Ingram said with a rising note of question to his voice. "Check your sensors. Mine is telling me we have a partial atmosphere in here with us now, nothing you'd want to breathe but 2.3 bar's and rising."

"Confirmed," Meilin said, "but the atmosphere could be artifacts from residual dissolution of the greater object."

Ingram reached out and pressed a gloved hand to the smooth surface of the tunnel, the gecko-flex tips of the gloves gripping to the surface after a moments of contact.

"We didn't pass an airlock door on the way down, and given we still have a link back to the Resolute that means the hardline connection hasn't been cut yet," Ingram mused. "Some sort of atmospheric baffle?"

"Perhaps. More likely we are proceeding down either the exhaust or register of a greater concentration of particulate matter." Meilin frowned at her readings. "I truly wish our tricorders were of more use. We truly have little idea of what we are walking into."

"Kittens," joked Mara. "Please let it be kittens. Or puppies. Really any baby animals will do. I'll even take newly hatched snakes."

Mara's remark triggered Lu'kat's memory of his pet Regnar that had accompanied him on his exile to Starbase 42. The drugs must have affected him because he experienced a sudden feeling of tremendous loss, the animal had not survived the journey to Messier 4, and it was then that the Cardassian had felt truly alone. Within the psychedelic play of colours plaguing his vision, he was almost sure he saw the shape of his pet jumping up and down. Hammering down his emotions and increasing his focus, Lu'kat continued his descent with concentrated effort.
Distracting his mind from the images flashing in front of him, he commented: "Whatever it is, atmospheric readings are stronger the farther we go down. Something must be alive down there, or must have been."

"Or we're falling into the preignition chamber, I'm detecting a lot of argon in here with us: noble gas, ideal for keeping electrical arcs from forming. For all we know, this thing could be a massive Von Neumann Machine, and it's only stopped here to refuel and replicate. Assumptions are the real danger here," Ingram said.

Suddenly the wall to his side opened, a hatch as large as a man snapping open and leaving a dark forbidding void there for five long seconds, before closing with an invisible seam.

"Watch the walls."

Mara's eyes darted to the nearest wall, which bucked and swirled at her. "Oh, no," she groaned, squeezing her eyes shut as a wave of nausea rolled through her gut. "No, I really don't think I will."

“Keep your eyes centred on the rim of your helmet and keep your breathing-“

What Ingram was going to say about Mara’s breathing was cut off abruptly as another of the opens snapped open. But unlike last time where it shut, there was a tremendous suction pulling on the tenuous argon filled atmosphere. In an instant, leading the party, Ingram's legs were bound the rim with his arms scrabbling for purchase on the smooth wall.

"Resolute!" Meilin shouted into the open comm as she too was pulled along the interior walls. "Emergency beam out! Now!"

Lu'kat's reaction was near instantaneous. Unzipping a side pocket in his EVA-suit he quickly grabbed a mini-pulley gun (of which he had read about in the EVA-suits inventory list). He aimed and fired. A small hook and wire quickly wrapped around one of Ingram's arms. But now they were both being sucked in... Activating his suit's thrusters to counter the pull, he told Ingram to do the same. But would it be enough?

Nearby, Mara was frozen in place. Perhaps it was a silent panic that left her with no idea of what to do. She stood helplessly watching as the other three were drawn towards and into the opening, no idea what to do. And then, something occurred to her.

She was not being pulled with them.

"What the actual fuck?" she muttered, shifting her position closer to the opening. Still, nothing happened. So, she lept towards Meilin and began pulling her friend to safety.

Ingram let out a garbled cry as the grappler wrapped around his arm. And then he was gone, vanished into the dark. The sudden jerk of weight on the end of the tether overcame the thrusters output, and Lu'kat followed down into the hole.

And then rose up out of it, followed by Ingram, the two bulky EVA suits easily being carried in silvery metal coils that wrapped around them.

Another hatch opened, and this time something came out of it. Spherical in shape, with six long silver segmented legs spaced on all of the cardinal points, it partly crawled and partly rolled out of the hatch. Its flexible legs gripped the smooth walls with ease, and did so even more easily to the ankles and waist of the two Starfleet Officers.

Another came out, grappling them even more easily as the two spherical beings began to move them down the corkscrewing path away from the surface and into the base of the alien starship.

 

Previous Next

labels_subscribe