Chapter 28: Tensions Inside and Out
Nurse Kim was more than a little frazzled. Weapons fire didn’t help one focus, not when it’d missed her by inches a few times and forced everyone to take cover inside.
“Let’s see your wound,” she said to a Romulan male. Shrapnel wounds from the current fight were obvious. Previous wounds were also there. They didn’t look bad, but it was the smell that hit her nose that sent off warning bells in her head. She could see he was favoring a side and she pulled back the clothes. The smell hit her harder than she cared to admit.
Gangrene, the fungal infection on Earth, was the closest to what she saw. An open wound infected with a local bacteria. She knew other planets had different types. Vulcan was the more purple dry skin version. Pulling out her tricorder and scanning the area she confirmed what her instincts told her. This was more akin to the Klingon form that she was dealing with. In that case, a form of gagh grew in the dead tissue. It made for an interesting field treatment. Sighing, she made a note that all of them had to be checked and they’d be spending time undergoing dermal regeneration.
With her med kit, Briar moved towards the man she had stunned, earlier— the one who had tackled Mez out of what turned out to be defense. She was thankful he hadn’t been hit while he was down. Maybe the drones had no longer thought him a threat while he was prone… His fellows had brought him in safely. She took out her kit and started to treat the stun burn she’d left on his chest and stimulate him to come back around from the mild nerve signal disruption the stun setting was designed for. She bit her lip as she thought that her aim had certainly gotten better with her more regular phaser practice lately. Now that her aim was good on center of mass, she supposed all she had to train for was not shooting friendlies.
Having revived the romulan she had stunned in the earlier confusion when he had tackled Commander Mez, Briar smiled at him as he resolved his own disorientation and watched as one of his teammates caught him up on events. She looked a little sheepish as she was pointed out as having stunned him. But the Romulan seemed to understand how the complex situation had devolved as such.
Briar leveraged herself up using a nearby protruding desk corner. When she came to standing, she blinked in the sunlight coming from one of the long broken windows. The dusty beam seemed to draw a highlight across the console. It was in a low power mode, with a lock out screen, a slow, barely visible glow in the darkened glass pulsing ever so slightly, the contrast barely visible in the gleam masking it. It had a form with what looked like seven pillars on a set of steps but in place of a roof, it had something like a crescent containing them, and a series of stellar arrangements superimposed in the emblem.
She knew this emblem. It was as if she had seen it yesterday, and grown up with it her whole life, and yet it was new all at once. In her mind it went in the same category with the UFP’s laurel bound starfield, and the tri claw of the Klingon Empire. Reflexively she drew a finger around it in a counterclockwise circle and the display spun with her motion, coming to a login screen. The entry fields gently pulsed, a character set opening in the touch display along the sides. The characters weren’t like letters, she knew somehow. They were symbol-sounds. The left were base word forms, the right, prefixes, suffixes, negations, and inflections.
She could tell that much of the system was automated, and the controls permanently set. The rest of the world crumbled around it, but it seemed to have on some level a self maintenance protocol. She supposed if it ran the bots, then it also used them to maintain the system for the likely thousands of years while the world around aged and turned to dust.
She began building a command sentence. “Draw system record.” She said softly, between barely parting lips. Then to her own surprise, she traced a security code. It was as if she were entering something she had seen someone else entering, literally typing over the ghost image of the other fingers.
She set her tricorder on the desk and began to upload the text records. As she made the link, she felt like there was someone standing beside her, the thin fingers a familiar hand which she reached for… and right through. Her gaze followed the hand up the arm and recognized one of the children of the Elder, staring back at her.
“This place, it has been sealed. For the Desire to be rendered of no harm to any.”
“The Desire?” She questioned the vision.
“The Desire must not escape.”
Briar blinked, and the memory of the Child disappeared in the space of her eyelids. Instead, she found herself staring at the business end of a Romulan Disruptor.
Lannar was admittedly outside his comfort zone, yet he had to do something. Starfleet had claimed to not know what happened here, and to have no involvement, yet the disingenuous Commander Elin had just activated a console and interfaced with it. Over a day had been spent in futile attempts to access the systems in place, yet this woman had accomplished that and more in mere seconds. He had to stop whatever it was that she was doing, and somehow survive to report what had happened. Maybe the lloann’na would kill him for this, but they had to know that their insincere Commander Elin would die first; hopefully, they would have sufficient desire to keep that from happening. “Explain this deception,” he demanded, intentionally sounding more confident than he actually felt. If only his hands would resist their natural urge to shake a bit, he thought. Not that it mattered that much, for he would not miss at this range.
Reputations were sometimes wrongly earned, but oftentimes they were right too. He should’ve known better to let down his guard with Romulans around. Gavin didn’t move from the edge of the opening where he’d been watching the goings-on outside, but when the Romulan had quickly moved to Commander Elin’s rear, he saw what was going on. He raised his own phaser rifle and aimed his squarely at the Romulan’s back. His quickly checked to ensure his own back was against the wall, so no sneaky-sneakersons could catch him unawares either.
“Lower your weapon.” His voice echoed down the corridor, such as it was, but there was no mistaking from the Romulan’s slight flinch that he knew exactly the situation he was now in.
If weapons are to be drawn, then it will be parity. Tannock’s phaser was out, but he thumbed the setting to heavy stun. No need to escalate beyond the point of no return.
Merin’s attention had snapped onto the unfolding situation. It was, to say the least, an unexpected turn of events given the situation they were in. But, she could understand the Romulan’s train of thought. How had Briar done that? This left her at a loss on how to deal with it. Try to take over the situation and ask for an explanation? Try to talk them down? Seconds ticked by and Briar made the call.
Briar slowly raised her hands. “I don’t know how to explain briefly,” she said, tension in her voice. “I sometimes have sudden intuitions.” She knew that didn’t make for a clear explanation as it occurred to her what it must have looked like to Lannar when she accessed the terminal in her trance. She had said one thing and done another. Maybe it was best not to overcomplicate it. Her heart was pounding in her ears as she tried to focus on Lannar and not on the disruptor in her face. “I noticed a pattern and just tried something. I swear.”
Suspicion gave way to outright anger as Lannar shook his head in disbelief. “I find that,” he said, his finger sliding to the trigger, “highly unlikely. Again, explain this deception.” He regretted sending aid, and sheltering them here. Letting his past experience, and admittedly false hopes, guide him in this was a mistake – one he was keen to rectify.
Briar could see McWest and Tannock’s response from her peripheral vision. “Lower your phasers.” She told them. There was nothing to be gained by escalating. “Centurion,” Briar said, addressing Lannar once more. Momentarily she closed her eyes. She had to think like the man with the gun. He was a scientist. He didn’t want to shoot her. He just felt crossed. He needed to be given control of the situation. She opened her eyes again with one question for herself. What would a Romulan subcenturion, and a scientist, need in order to feel in control? “I have nothing to hide from you. We both want to have answers. Take my tricorder. I don’t know what is in the upload. You may have it. *You* may decide what to share with us.”
“Protocol says we should all lower our weapons together,” said Tannock grumpily but he was willing to lower his weapon, a little bit. Heavy stun hitting the legs would still take an opponent out of the fight.
Having to admit that she had a quality about her that made her approachable, Lannar wanted to trust the Trill, yet being outnumbered and outgunned ran contrary. He definitely didn’t feel confident that the Tellarite was a neutral party, and his action reinforced the feeling that he was being played. The seconds felt like minutes as his brain jumped between possible outcomes. “I am not bound by your loann’na protocols,” he stated, a bit coldly, as his mouth was dry.
Within moments, it appeared that everyone present had a weapon pointed at somebody else, which didn’t not help the situation at all. What had been calm and controlled now appeared balanced on the head of a pin. Having never fired a weapon in anger, Lannar was desperate for an ‘out’, but didn’t know the way. Especially with a shuttle of reinforcements arriving outside.
Briar could hear the shuttle’s whine and the sound of another team setting up dash and cover movement towards them. The sound had to be making Lannar ever more desperate, and sweat beaded along her hairline as Lannar looked to be doing more than resting his finger on the trigger.
“Tell your specialist,” With the faintest of motions of one of her raised hands Briar indicated T’Sae, the member of the team that Lannar seemed the most deferential towards. “To take the information. It’s yours. And come with us as our guests. This is just a misunderstanding.”
Lannar flinched at the sound of weapons fire from outside, but, thankfully, avoided an inadvertent discharge of his weapon. His brain was racing to catch up with a dynamic situation, yet it was clear that he had to do something. Choosing to believe that they wouldn’t simply shoot him and take the scanning device back from him, he holstered the weapon and took hold of the data recorder.
Closing her eyes with relief now, Briar took in a big breath and exhaled. She made it a point to tell herself not to lean on the computer display however, clasping a fist over her heart instead. “Cover the team outside!” She barked at Tannock and McWest. They should have been helping through the windows with cover from the drones the entire time, if it hadn’t been for the standoff inside.
Things had resolved themselves without Merin’s intervention. Probably for the best too. While Merin had the training to be an executive officer, the on the job part was still in the very early stages. Given her past history, any sort of diplomatic abilities besides the most formal and rudimentary were all new to her. Science ships just didn’t deal with many diplomatic situations. But now that diplomacy was done, it was time to dance again.
“McWest,” she called to the ensign. “You and me will join up with the security outside and form a corridor to the shuttle. Everyone else evacuate, wounded first. As they move past, we’ll collapse the corridor.”
Briar reshouldered her med kit and checked her phaser settings. When Izar looked like he was limping on a twisted right ankle, she offered an arm around him in support. “We’ll run together.” She said with a nod.
Izar gave her a smirk, happy to have the support. “It’s lucky I’m left handed.” He said as he prepared to fire as well.
“Then it’ll be a proper three legged race.” Briar got something of a sense of shared cadence as they lined up with the rest of the team. She did a quick head count, and as she turned to look around, noticed that Lannar was doing the same with his team. There was something grave in his countenance, and Briar got the sense his team wasn’t leaving with the same number of team members they had arrived with…
Lt Cmdr Merin Mez, First Officer, also as Nurse Kim
Tannock (NPCed by Cielj)
Lannar (NPCed by Hanmore)
Gavin McWest (NPCed by Darney)
Lt Cmdr Briar Elin, Chief of Operation, also as Izar