Canopus Station
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Execute Escape Plan; Run Like Hell

Posted on Tue Jun 22nd, 2021 @ 9:18pm by The Narrator & Major Tatiana Skobelova & Lieutenant Commander Amie Cerys & Staff Warrant Officer Blaise Birch

Mission: S2:3: Snow Drift
Location: 'Coney Island', Planet Tripwire, Concordance Space
Timeline: MD-2 19.30

The moment the transporter beam unloaded the landing party in the Javelin's troop bay, the deck pitched slightly as the flight crew put the ship into a steep climb. Subtlety was out of the window, as travelling at this speed was going to be doing interesting things to the atmosphere.

The hatch into flight deck opened and the Crew Chief walked out, lugging a heavy duty medical kit slung over one shoulder. The fact he was wearing a bio hazard suit spoke of the dangers the Concordance posed apart from their martial zeal.

"Everyone get's a test patch," the crew chief said, stopping short of the landing party and dropping the medical kit. He then slid it across the decking towards them. "Transporter decon'd the hardshell's so your surface clean, but SOP is we test. Patches stay blue you're good. Red means you get a sedative."

The chiefs hand stayed on his holstered side arm as he stood by the hatch to the flight deck. No doubt images of having to step back through and lock the hatch against heavily armed and armoured soldiers did not bring joy to his heart.

Amie let out a heavy sigh and set down the phaser she'd not fired the whole time they were down there. Her eyes turned to the crew chief as she put her hand out for the patch. "Just get this over with."

Tatiana was trying to count heads. While she trusted that the Javelin crew picked every one up, she had to double check. "Yes, Chief. Please carry on." She replied to the crew chief.

One by one the troopers stepped forward, unsealing the armoured gauntlet of their hard shell battle rattle, and placed the blue sticky back patch onto the back of their hands. Designed by the Xilosian's to detect infection by reacting to the hormone shift and waste byproducts of the fungal infection, they were 100% effective in highlighting infected individuals.

And every single one of them remained blue for the Marines, leaving only the officers, the scientist and Kle. The Xilosian took a patch, applying it to her ungloved hand. She hadn't said anything after instigating the firefight, and nodding with functionary movement as the patch remained blue.

Watching all of the other patches remain blue, she was glad for the Marines. Though, somewhere in the back of her head, Amie was still worried about herself. She had same exposure as the rest of them, but it was just the way her mind worked.

Birch slapped the patch onto his arm and held it up for all to see. Blue. "Can we get out of here now?!"

"We're already ascending," the crew chief said as the last of the patches went out and remained blue. "Should be hitting the upper atmosphere on a few minutes and then we'll be on track for the star side intercept with the Necromancer. Pilots have the ECM suite throwing out noise to throw off the surface-launched ordinance, mostly hypersonic missiles. Comparably low tech compared to the shit the Dominion threw at us."

Once the patch turned blue, Amie pulled it off. "I seriously didn't sign up for this mission. Command isn't going to like this intel report, and that is an understatement."

After Tatiana's patch turned blue she let her stay on for now. She had done a quick head count and everyone was accounted for. There were, however, casualties. The wounded marines needed to be brought back for a comprehensive medical exam. "That could have been worse." Tatiana told herself out loud.

"A sterling title for your mission report," Birch said. "You might reserve it for your epitaph though."

"You might reserve it for your epitaph though." Tatiana repeated Birch in a tone mocking his voice.

"That's enough!" Amie finally snapped and threw the phaser she had during the mission to the deck. "This bickering on top of the mission that went the hell?!"

"You know what the number one cause for mission failure is?" Birch asked Amie. "Bad Intel. Maybe you should rectify that."

Going over to Birch, Amie stood her ground, anger growing. "I gave ALL of the intel I had! No where in anything I had was it mentioned this would turn into marines fighting and me caught in the middle of the damned thing!"

"Maybe try listening to the smart people at your next mission briefing," Birch said back, his volume slowing rise to match hers, "because we should have left as soon as I said we should have!"

"And did I not agree with you? We should have gotten out of there the moment there was trouble, but we didn't, did we?! Instead, you all decided to have a fire fight!"

Birch snorted at Amie, refusing to dignify her ignorant accusation with a response.

"Technically I started the firefight," Kle added from where she was sitting, having folded out one of the jump seats from the side of the cargo bay. "Good return fire by the way, very tight. Good spacing. Full colours as they say."

As she listened to Kle's words, Tatiana's face turned red. "You didn't technically start the firefight, you did start the firefight! You intentionally left a concealed position to complete your personal quest for vengeance! We wouldn't of had to fire at all if you would have obeyed orders! You bottled our mission and we were lucky no one was killed! Because of your behavior, you will never be on another away team again! And that is if Ingram decides not to bring charges against you!" Tatiana screamed from across the cargo bay of the shuttle.

A slow clap of applause filled the hold. "Well, well, Major Ballbuster, so nice to meet you," Birch said with heavy sarcasm. "Pity you couldn't have shown up several hours ago when we needed to get the hell out of harm's way!"

Not even wanting to keep going with this conversation anymore, Amie just walked away. She needed to cool her head, and listening to this wasn't helping. Where was a quiet corner when she needed one?

"I had to close the door."

Kle said the words, but didn't look at Tatiana.

"When the word came down that the Concordance were closing in, the Cradle Facility wasn't even at full capacity. We had room for another five, six thousand. But the Concordance had just overtaken the capitol, raiding the Military Cadre headquarters before dropping a megaton range warhead on it all. They knew where we were. We had minutes, maybe...and that was minutes where we'd not be able to screen people. We'd just rush them in. And it would only take one infected," Kle said. Undoing the neck seal of her suit and pulling the helmet free, she reached into the neck liner and pulled something out from around her head. It was a curled up test patch, cut into a strip and sealed in hard plastic hanging from a chain.

It was red.

"I was in command, so I did it. At the main door I began the closing cycle. I watched as people, civilians, saw what was happening and just panicked. They rushed the screening stations outside. We opened fire. Had to, logically I know that we had to. Only one of them got in, a young man with this kid in his arms. He was dead, not only from the bullet through the ribs but from chemical burns. Must have walked all the way from the Fire Coast, the Concord had been bathing that area in chemical washes from their airships. But the kid, this infant just starts wailing."

She curled her fingers around the chain.

"We just stand there, we're in shock at what we had to do. At what we'd done. I didn't even see the medic go to the kid and pick'em up, started singing this...melody. I can't remember it," Kle lot out a breath. "Kid tested positive, and it was like the moment that test patch went red-"

She held up the chain.

"-you could hear them banging on the door. Meter thick titanium blocks on pistons, but you could hear them. How many were scared out of their minds wanting to get in to be safe? How many wanted to get in infect us, or kill us? It only takes one."

She looked at Tatianna and Amie, and then to Birch with a smile.

"For all of you this was an intel-gathering operation. For me, it was to ensure your Federation got in the fight. The Concordance knows you are here now, sensor records, that fire fight. I had to force your hand, because...sometimes you don't get a choice," Kle let out a sigh. "I think I'm done."

Birch wasn't having any of it. "Let me get this straight: you led all of us directly into harm's way out of a crazy vendetta and we're all supposed to be alright with that because you killed a baby once upon a time? That's not how it works." The fringes of his now unkempt raven black hair tussled as he shook his head. Black within black eyes shone with righteous fury despite the deceptively calm timbre of his voice. "Infanticide doesn't justify your foolish actions today. You can't excuse present stupidity by past atrocities, especially if the atrocity was your own doing." His pitch raised to a crescendo, putting the lie to his peaceful inflections. "If this is how Xilosians manage crises, mindlessly adding fuel to the fire, then maybe the Concordance did the rest of us a favor on Xilos."

"You put yourself into harm's way to figure out if the Concordance was a threat or not. I just made sure I was along for the ride, to make sure the Concordance saw your shiny tech and got bloodied in the process. That was my mission, that was the goal. Xilos is dead, and we know the Xilosian people are just circling the drain. We'll either die out or change, become like you. This at least ensures a level of overt commitment to vengeance on your part," she tilted her head back, pressing the coloured fronds there against the headrest. "At least now, we can keep fighting."

"Kle, I am genuinely sorry that your people have suffered so terribly." Tatiana told Kle. "However, let me be blunt. The Xilosian people need the Federation. The Federation does not need the Xilosion people. It was a miracle we all made it out of there. There was a very good chance that the whole expedition could have been wiped out. Had that happened, the leaders back at Starfleet headquarters might have very well decided that the Federation presence at Messier 4 was too high. The fungal infection has already cost Starfleet a lot of good people. To the Admirals back on Earth, it may be easier to retreat from the are rather than keep taking losses and risk bringing the infection back to the Federation. As undiplomatic as Mr. Birch's words are, they are correct."

Eyes turning back to the conversation, though feet not taking her back, Amie listened. Kle was explaining the why but that didn't help. "Kle, you might be trying to make things better, but listen. Putting others in harms way? That is not going to make things change! We all could have either died from the bloody infection or died through the gunfight. What would that show to the kid? Keeping others OUT of danger, especially in a place like this? THAT is what you do." She looked around to the others, "Can we just get back home? Please?"

"Actually, I wouldn't mind getting a few more core samples," Birch said, "at least from locations not swarming with hostiles. Can we launch some remote drones that can return samples to us? It would help this mission from being an utter failure."

"That's a no go Sir," the crew chief said, turning back towards the closed cockpit hatch. "Necromancer's not going into orbit to retrieve us. We're pushing the engines hard to match course and bearing with them to allow us to dock. If we don't make the docking collar this go around, the Necromancer will have to slow and engage with more of the hostiles."

"Then have the Necro deploy some class 4 probes," Birch said. "Warp capable ones we can recall from Canopus, or even retrieve data remotely in the event their shields are compromised." He glared at pretty much every other soul on the transport. "I don't want this survey mission to have been for nothing."

"Home," Amie said bluntly, "We're going home."

"No shit..." Birch said, then he walked away with his hands jittering behind his head. "Never mind. I can't even take this."

"I'll go tell the pilot you 'can't even', see if we can get docked sooner and pass along your request to the Necromancer's captain," the crew chief said and stepped into the cockpit.

Kle had closed her eyes, head resting against the fabric of the jumpsuits ineffectual padding. She was asleep, the old soldier's maxim giving her the ability to sleep anywhere at any time. She at least looked content, if not happy.


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