Chapter 19 - Not the Ambush You're Looking For
It hadn’t taken the research team long to remove their equipment. There hadn’t been much of it on site in the first instance – exposure had to be kept to a minimum – but the alacrity with which it had been secreted was noteworthy. And all the more welcome. The Starfleet officers were approaching, their guard raised and handheld scanning devices outstretched.
Their coming was watched by more than just organic eyes. Advanced devices, lethally armed, had been located nearby, their low-level energy signatures only readable to the forewarned.
They had come to a larger street and found the trail that the ship had made. Rather than try to wade onto the rocky and unstable trail and take the straight route to the ship, they had opted to move around buildings and used side streets. The damage to the ship was plain to see even far away and the closer they got, the more the details spoke of the harsh landing it had.
They must’ve been about a block away when the scream and a loud explosion happened. Merin was thrown to the right against the building. She didn’t know how long it took for the ringing in her ears and the disorientation held her, but like it had started, she snapped out after an indeterminate time. Looking up, it was chaos. “Look out” a voice called through the ringing and Merin looked to see a larger man in tattered clothes rushing her. It wasn’t graceful but she pushed her body into a roll towards the man as he started to swing down on her. She slammed hard into his legs and used her arms to push while her legs entwined. He was off balance enough that the movement in the wrong direction caught him unaware and he went down.
Briar was still picking herself up from the concussive force before she realized the team was being rushed. With her ears ringing and her vision blurred, she drew her phaser on stun and started trying to let her vision clear as she extended her arm. Merin had someone on the ground, who was the most obvious target. Unsteady on her feet, Briar braced herself with her other arm on a wall, then fired at the downed attacker.
Or what had seemed like the attacker… She realized too late that the weapons fire was coming from up and away. The figures rushing towards them were instead waving their arms and… trying to interfere with the attacking fire.
Briar knew then she had got it wrong. The regret set in, but she didn’t have time to process it. Instead she ducked behind a sheared off old pillar and regrouped in order to turn her attention towards the source of the lancing energy. She peeked over her cover and fired in that direction. One of the men in ragged clothes dove behind her cover. It was then she took him for what he was. A Romulan who had clearly been through some bad scrape.
He motioned for Briar to wait, pointed outward as if to their attacker and began to count down on his fingers. Briar got the message. They were going to time their fire together. When he got down to a fist they parted ways, left and right and triangulated their phaser and disruptor on the same mark.
The coordinated fire was enough to overcome the shielding of the floating device. It flickered before it was overwhelmed then fell out of the air, hit the ground and disintegrated…. it came apart physically in a matter of moments, but as Briar witnessed it, it seemed like an inevitable form deconstructing, the momentary charge creating a little bloom before the materials combusted and became indecipherable ashen whisps, forming on the little air currents and spinning into tendrils.
Briar stepped out of her cover and staggered. She hadn’t been hit, but it looked as if she had for a moment. Something about the pattern of the attack drone’s self-destruct lit up a memory pathway through an old dream, and she shook her head multiple times like someone trying to keep awake.
She pointed at the man she had shot in the confusion and said faintly, “Medic… Somebody…” before she realized that she had the gear and the knowledge herself. Hands on her kit, she stepped forward, but her Romulan counterpart was shouting for her to stop while firing at more of the drones, and pulling her back behind the pillar.
The ringing in her ears would not stop. It drowned out all sound. It was the lights of the blasts that warned her that things weren’t as they first appeared. The sickly orange was not one she knew. Looking around she saw the drone flash past. This was not good. Instinctively she grabbed the other man and in what she thought was mumbled but was probably loud, said, “Thank you.”
Then once he was up, she looked around and shouted in her loudest voice, “Find cover quickly.”
They weren’t far from a building that had partially collapsed. Grabbing the other person she pulled/dragged him towards the building as fast as she could. The door was off the hinges and it was easy to get inside. It wasn’t, however, a nice place to be. For whatever reason, the stench was harsh and made her want to vomit. She bit down on her stomach and sat down. There was some sound finally getting through. She could now hear the man firing his weapon out the door rather than just see it happen. But it was still faint. Still it was enough.
Positioning herself at the broken window, she looked out. By the fighting there were two or three drones, she guessed. The addition of green to the red and orange told her there were Romulans too. My what a strange mess, she thought to herself. She tapped her combadge, “Mez to all away members. Move cautiously to the cover around the faded green building and form a circle to take down the drones,” she said…
…Huddled in the presumed control room, erei’arrain Lannar i-Baratan t’Vora and his team had precious little to go on. At a minimum, there were automated defense drones on this planet, which had attacked them with weapons that left no remains. Why they were here, and who had put them here, remained a mystery. It was possible that the Starfleet contingent from the wrecked ship had been attacked by them; it was also possible that Starfleet had put the drones here to protect the stricken vessel. Regardless, their time to recover was interrupted when the drones reappeared outside, starting the firefight anew.
Decisions of a tactical nature were generally beyond Lannar’s purview. However, the distinctive sound of Starfleet weapons gave him the strong impression that the drones were indiscriminate in their choice of targets, and that there was a rising probability that the drones’ purpose was neither a Rihannsu nor a Federation design. If that were true, he’d have more to gain by aligning with the lloann’na, at least until he could determine what was happening.
Admittedly limited in number (there were merely four survivors) and capability (none were combatants), he nevertheless ordered the team, “Render assistance and bring the lloann’na here.” He then withdrew his weapon and raced out of the building and toward the weapons fire…