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Speak Friend And Enter

Posted on 28 Feb 2019 @ 10:00pm by Ensign Quinn Mackie & Commander Thiago Teixeira & Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale & Lieutenant Danyl Adan & Lieutenant JG Jazmin Parks & Senior Chief Petty Officer Alexander Rylan

Mission: The Kalisa Conundrum
Location: Kalisa
Timeline: MD1 || 1500 hours

i>Previously...

While the others prepared, Teixeira turned back to his console to key a simple alert program into the runabout. It would be triggered when someone approached or tried to enter the small craft, and would cause the Mississippi to send him a message while locking down the consoles onboard.

"Everyone ready?" he asked. "Lead the way Lieutenants."

"Yes, Sir." Camila gave a nod to the Executive Officer and headed towards the structure, the tricorder now in her left hand while her right hovered near her phaser.

Jazmin nodded to the Commander, hand resting on her phaser. She thought momentarily about drawing her weapon, but followed Camila's lead. She kept pace with the Security Chief, keeping an eye out for anything that might pose a threat. She felt confident, after all it had only been a short time since she had been Camila's Assistant Chief.

And Now...

She pointed to the west. "I saw several buildings that direction, Chief."

Quinn pulled out his tricorder and began to scan the area. "Tricorder range is limited to a couple thousand feet," he said aloud. "No energy signatures. No lifeforms."

Camila began to scan the ground leading towards the structures and advanced towards them, stopping to check out anything unusual along the way to make certain there were no physical traps. It was good to use her Search and Rescue skills again and she felt that she was back in her element. "So far, no sign of any activity."

Jazmin followed Camila's lead, making sure to keep her eyes pealed. The buildings struck her as strange, not so much for their architecture, which of course was alien, but to her they seemed so...utilitarian. She had expected something...more, she supposed.

Alex brought up the rear, field kit with him, ears listening and eyes scanning for anything that might be considered a threat. He might not be a Raider anymore, but his instincts and reflexes hadn't gone away.

Jazmin frowned, something about this place frightened her, she wasn't terrified, or panicked, but rather there was a sense of...foreboding...that seemed to have creeped into her bones. She wondered if anyone else felt it as well. Her frown deepened and she forced the feeling aside.

As they moved along, she spotted the first of the buildings. It was squat, square, and had the look of weathered concrete, although she doubted that was the material used here. "Over there." Her voice came out a harsh whisper, almost as if her vocal cords were fighting against her.

"Mackie, Adan, keep scanning. I want as much warning as possible about lifesigns or other potential dangers," Thiago instructed. He'd led numerous away teams in his career, many in dangerous situations. Every one was different, partly as a function of the crew makeup, partly due to the circumstances of the mission. His time on Black Hawk, so far, had made him appreciate how well trained the crew was, and how an effective away team could function. "When we get to the first building, we likely won't be able to determine if there is archive access without entering. I somehow feel like we won't luck out and find that door was left unlocked." He looked at Camila and Parks. "Lead on."

Getting closer, Camila stopped and pulled her tricorder and began a more intensive scan of the buildings. "Something isn't right," she said. "No area would be this secured from space and have no ground personnel or defenses."

"Respectfully, Lieutenant," Quinn pointed out, his eyes still glued to his tricorder screen, "perhaps what we went through was all of the security that this installation needed. Or certain doom awaits us whenever we arrive. At least, that's what this faint power signature I'm picking up from that first structure."

Jazmin scanned the area, Camila had a point and she didn't want to get caught off-guard. She did her best to focus, but a strange tingling sensation was coming from her pocket and she realized that she still had the bracelets on her. She reached in her pocket and pulled out the velvet back. The bracelets were warm to the touch, even through the thick cloth and she pulled them out. They immediately cooled, now only slightly warmer than body temperature.

She felt silly holding them so she slipped them on her wrists and put the pouch back into her pocket. The strange feeling dissipated and she was able to focus once more.

As Camila arrived at the building, a two story structure that seemed to stand alone with no windows, several small trees well back from it and scanned the entrance to it. "I think I may be able to get bypass the lock," she said as she began to enter Security codes into the tricorder and attempted to get it to link to the panel of the door.

Lieutenant Adan sidled up to Camila. He thought she was beautiful and thought about asking out for a drink in Talons sometimes. Aloud, he said, "If that doesn't work, maybe we can loosen one of the panels and activate the door from there. I'm detecting some panels nearby the door anyway." His gaze fell to the tricorder clutched in his right hand and scanned it closer.

Alex covered Camilla while she worked on the door so she could focus on the task at hand. He was mostly a fifth wheel unless someone got hurt, but he was also a highly trained combat veteran. He could at least provide security.

After several seconds of negotiation, the security chief's tricorder managed to gain access to the door's controls.

Camila took a deep breath. "It's unlocked, Commander," she told Teix in case he wanted to be the first one through or had advice to offer or the order to proceed.

The area around them remained just as quiet as when they arrived. By now, Quinn had thought automated defenses would have revealed themselves. Perhaps the minefield was the only real deterrent. His tricorder, however, revealed something potentially contrary. "Commander," he said softly, "I'm picking up a small power surge inside the structure. Nothing major, but its like something dormant becoming... well, not so dormant."

"Noted," Thiago said to Quinn. "Let's see what's inside, Lieutenant. Stand ready, everyone."

Camila activated th tricorder program and the door opened, a rush of dusty, stale air coming out which caused her to cough and turn her head slightly to avoid breathing it in, but the phaser in her right hand stayed pointed forward. She hooked the tricorder on her tactical belt and retrieved the mask to put over her nose and mouth before she looked into the dim lighting inside. "Well, let's go," she said, her voice muffled as she and the other Security man moved forward into the building.

Quinn covered his mouth, trying not to gag at the smell and taste of the air. It'd only been a month, but his memory was triggered enough to recall what the Black Hawk was like in the poorly named "Time Warp Nebula." Oh, please don't let this be people!

The operations ensign scanned what was ahead of them. "This corridor leads to an antechamber of sorts about fifty feet ahead. I don't read any sort of life or weapons signatures. And, yes, I am looking for phaser, laser, disruptor and polaron."

Jazmin did her own scan of the structure with her tricorder, the readings coming out the same as Quinn's. The air, while decidedly unpleasant was the least of her concerns. There was something...satisfying about being here, like the end of a treasure hunt.

"This place is hermetically sealed. Or at least it was." She looked around, examining the walls and ceilings. There were strange patterns inscribed on the walls and she ran her fingers along then, tracing their patterns. "I don't think we were the first ones to break the seal, however."

Quinn's tricorder couldn't confirm that hypothesis, but his gut definitely agreed with it. "Why do I feel like we're walking into a tomb?"

Camila activated her wrist lights and shined them ahead, then started down the corridor. "Violated or not, there's something here that someone didn't want us to find."

"So here we are, of course, trying to find it," Alex said. Then he grinned. "Great Bird of the Galaxy I love my job!"

Lieutenant Adan dropped that had been clutched in his right hand. He suddenly felt dizzy. "I'm sorry," he apologized to the Commander. "This place is so old you can almost feel death."

Without a word, he leaned over and picked up the tricorder.

"I think we can do more than feel it..." Quinn muttered, stopping to look in an alcove to his left. He activated a palm light to shine into the darkened corner to see a decaying form that once belonged to an Aketi, or so Quinn assumed by the familiar methane mask that rested on the face. His clothes were still intact, save for a burn mark in the center of his chest.

"You sure about those scans, Ensign? Something got him," Teixeira said, indicating the Aketi corpse. "Senior Chief, how long do you figure he's been here?"

Quinn fiddled with his tricorder, trying to boost both its range and effectiveness. "As sure as I can be, Commander," he replied. "I'm still picking up faint power signatures, likely from the lighting and whatever background systems are here, but whatever construction materials were used here... tricorder range is only good for about a hundred feet forward and back, and almost totally ineffective below our feet."

Alex went over and scanned the Aketi corpse and visually examined it.

"Two decades at least," he said. "A Human in these conditions would take about a dozen years to decompose this far. Most humanoids as well. Vulcanoids are about the same, same with Tellarites. Andorians last longer. Based on the tricorder's readings, the Aketi are a bit hardier than Humans. So, yeah, maybe two decades."

"Over here," Camila said as she shined her light on some kind of weapon turret which looked fused. "This is why we haven't had a warmer welcome. Someone was here before us and took out the automated defense systems."

Jazmin nodded in satisfaction that the defenses were down. "It's a good thing too. I don't know if we'd have made it without extreme losses. I get the feeling that this place is massive, she paused as she could feel a slight buzzing from her bracelets. "I'll work on trying to amplify the tricorder sensors as we go so we can get a better idea of what we're facing."

Quinn approached the Chief of Security and worked his tricorder to the best of his ability. "I'm detecting several of these automated turrets along this corridor and in the chamber ahead. There isn't one that's functional."

"Either they were deactivated by someone else, or the system that powered them is no longer active," Camila said. "Let's go on ahead and see if anyone's home, living or dead." With that, she headed towards the antechamber.

Ensign Mackie gulped, watching the Chief of Security move ahead. "Lieutenant," he said nervously. "Are you certain that moving ahead is the best thing to do? What if there's more of..." he looked back to the rotting corpse. "...those?"

"It's what we're here for, Ensign," the ombre haired woman said, but she wasn't taking chances. She had her phaser in her right hand and her tricorder in her left and was moving slowly while staying close to the left wall. "Warn me if your tricorder picks up something mine doesn't."

"Pretty sure we're fine if they're as dead that one, Ensign," Alex said, a serious expression on his face. "I've been around, and I've only ever encountered zombies once. Come to think of it, the circumstances were very similar to these..."

Then Alex looked at Mackie and laughed. "Oh...oh wow, I'm sorry, sir, but the expression on your face!"

Quinn indeed gave Rylan a horrified look. He was certain that if Kelly was here, she'd be leaping for joy, or otherwise willing to lead the way ahead. Oh, to be on a canoe paddling down a river right now... He was definitely reserving some holodeck time when he got back.

"Would you care to take the lead, Mister Rylan?" Camila asked as she looked back at the Chief Petty Officer upon hearing his laughter. Her nerves were wound tight and his joking yanked at them, but she decided to give him the option of going ahead of her and taking the risks that she was since he had time to make fun of others.

"Sure thing, Lieutenant," Alex said, disgustingly cheerful about the whole thing. "But please, Lieutenant, MISTER?!? Really? Mister is for Ensigns, JGs, and Lieutenants. You can't call me Mister! My parents were married when I was conceived. People might start to talk if you call me Mister!"

"I had no idea you were such a Petty Officer, Mister Rylan," Camila said, knowing what he implied. "Now, if you please, shut up if you don't have anything useful to add."

Unabashed, Alex chuckled. "Your wish, my command, Mister Di Pasquale!" He drew his phaser with one hand and pulled out a palm light with the other. "Everyone ready? Let's go."

Alex set off at an easy pace, making sure he didn't get too far ahead or let the rest of the group get to close. He wanted them near enough to provide back up if he got into trouble, but far enough back that if he stepped on or otherwise set off an area effect security measure, they had a chance of not getting killed along with him.

Well, now, that's a cheery thought, Rylan. Keep in mind, dumbass, if you die, Jayla will kill you!

With that in mind, Alex became more vigilant about where he stepped, and kept his light panning around and up and down looking for any evidence of a security measure or anything else that might injure him or the rest of the Away Team. Before long they came to a small room. The door on the team's side of the small room was open. The one on the opposite side was partially open. Through the partially open door on the far side of the room, Alex could see that the small room led to a larger room, one that might even be the main room of the complex.

"Commander," Alex said. "Lieutenant, you might want to see this."

Camila had kept close behind Rylan the entire time in case something did happen, but she was thankful that nothing had. When they researched the doorway, she began scans with her tricorder and shined her wrist light inside. "I'm not detecting any lifesigns, Commander."

She paused to look at the Petty Officer. "And you, Chief Rylan, can consider yourself on report."

Alex grinned. "Sure thing! Anything I can do to help improve your day!" There wasn't even the slightest hint of insolence in his voice, just cheerfulness. If he was brought in front of the Captain about calling Lieutenant Di Pasquale 'Mister', he had the perfect defense. Under Starfleet regulations, Ensigns, JGs, and Lieutenants could be referred to either by their rank or the title 'Mister', so, technically, he didn't do anything wrong. "So, about this...what do they call it? Oh yeah! What about this antechamber? You want me to go through and check the larger room out. I'm happy to do it!"

"Stand down, Rylan," Thiago ordered. He wasn't thrilled that the medic had taken point, but he liked to give his senior staff some latitude. Camila had allowed the Senior Chief to lead and he would stand by her decision. The corpsman's cavalier attitude was a bit grating. "Lieutenant Di Pasquale, Ensign Mackie, and I will investigate the antechamber. The rest of you wait here."

"Copy that, Commander," Alex said, still grinning like this was a trip to the coolest amusement park ever. "Sing out if you need help, or if you find anymore dead people, or maybe even a live one, that you want me to examine. I'll come running, Hell bent for leather."

He looked at Camila and Mackie. "Shall we, Lieutenant? Ensign?"

"Yes, Sir," Camila said.

Quinn nodded nervously, looking down at his tricorder to focus on it rather than the spooky surroundings.

Jazmin frowned at the whole exchange. The last thing they needed while exploring a possibly deadly alien building was this nonsense about who gets called what. But, the last thing she was about to do was to get in the middle of this kind of interchange when Camila was on one side. She remembered the dressing down Camila had given the two crewmembers back on the Hawk. It was an easy choice.

"Watch yourselves in there, I'm reading a low-level power buildup from beyond that chamber. It doesn't look like it's enough to power any defensive weapons, but it does seem like enough to power doors or consoles."

Camila entered the room cautiously, scanning with her tricorder and leading the way with her phaser as she stepped into the room. A few dusty consoles were there that seemed to slowly be coming to life, but there was no sign of sentient life or weapons systems trying to kill them.

Quinn looked up from his tricorder to study the consoles. “Seems the guard or receptionist isn’t here to great us,” he said, moving to a standing console in the middle of the room. It reminded him somewhat of a directory stand in a large complex, despite whatever writing was flickering on the screen. “Multiple languages,” he stated. “Aketi is one of them. Authorized Personnel only it says. Visitors must submit to inspection and clearances must be verified.”

Jazmin watched from the corridor, waiting with the others. A sense of anticipation welled up inside her and she thought about the discoveries just waiting to be made. "This could be incredibly historic," she whispered to no one in particular.

Camila made an adjustment on her tricorder and programmed it to have the Universal Translator translate Standard to Aketi. "I am Lieutenant Camila Di Pasquale of the USS Black Hawk," she said formally. "We come seeking knowledge."

The standing console flashed its screen and generated a directional arrow, which pointed them in the direction of the main chamber. In the dim lighting, Quinn could barely make out what appeared to be some sort of security checkpoint. Two more bodies laid on the floor. "No active weapon signatures," Quinn said after consulting his tricorder. "There are a set of elevators one hundred feet in that direction. They go underground."

"Thank you, Ensign," the Security Chief said before she put her phaser in its holster and motioned for the veteran Security guy in the rear to do the same. "I advise everyone to holster their phasers," she said. "We don't want to appear hostile if there's no active weapon signatures or not." She took a breath and walked through the security checkpoint, hoping that her use of Aketi gave her a pass instead of a death sentence.

Quinn watched his tricorder as Lieutenant Di Pasquale passed through the checkpoint. "Nothing," he said. "Just some residual radiation from the emitters." He approached the checkpoint and began to scan it closely. "Commander, now that I'm able to get some close look at this technology, it seems that fistrium and kelbonite are both used throughout this installation, especially below us."

Behind the checkpoint, he saw a computer terminal, which seemed to be active. He used his tricorder to translate the text on the screen into something a bit more manageable. "According to this, there are at least a dozen floors underneath this facility."

"Is there a directory?" Camila asked as she moved to the terminal beside of him. "Com.." She hesitated and switched back to Aketi. "Please display location of information access terminals for archive."

The screen flashed before depositing several blinking indicators on levels eight and nine. "This looks to be a large area," Quinn remarked, pointing to the largest concentration. "It's almost like it's a data farm mixed with physical storage. Might be the best place to go."

The ombre haired Chief switched back to Standard. "Then that's where we'll go," she decided as she turned to head for the elevator.

"Hold on a second," Thiago said. Then he tapped his comm badge and instructed rest of the team to join them. "We'll all go together."

Jazmin, holdsered her phaser, scanning with her tricorder and entering the room. "This is amazing! Imagine what we'll find." She turned to the Commander, ready to proceed, sir."

Quinn, meanwhile, remained focused on the console. He was trying to download a schematic for them to use while down below, and he was still trying to glean as much information as he could. "Commander, I'm not entirely certain... I'm definitely detecting enough power down below to the archive, but I'm picking up signals that are... biological."

"Any indication of what kind of 'biological'? I'm less concerned about some sort of biological based data storage," Teixeira replied. "Things that can attack us, on the other hand....."

"Me and Balderos can handle that," Camila said. "However, it's your show, Commander."

"Here," Quinn said after a few moments of working the controls. "Two lifesigns, holed up in the center of the data archive. Power up here is too low to get anything more specific. Whatever power is left... it's all being directed to there."

Two isn't that bad, he thought. "That we can manage. I'll leave them to you both," Teixeira said looking to the Security Chief and her partner. "How far can we get before they'll become an issue, Ensign?"

The Ensign shrugged. “It’s possible they already know we’re here,” he theorized. “Either that or they’re waiting to see what we do, if we do anything. They are already holed up in the archive.”

"Is there a comm system here that we can use to let them know we only come in peace?" Camila asked after a nod to the Executive Officer.

Quinn shook his head. “There doesn’t seem to be one. It seems like this place was designed to promote face-to-face discourse and interaction. Given the minefield we had to go through to get here, it’s like there’s a severe lack of trust in this zone.”

Jazmin thought for a moment. "My first thought is that they might be intruders into the complex, you know, teammates of the corpses we found. I mean, if they had enough supplies, I suppose they could have survived, somehow. But," she paused a moment and nodded towards Quinn, "if all the power is directed towards where the life signs are, they could quite possibly be attendants, librarians, or custodians. Maybe the system is keeping them alive. Perhaps they are the culmination of what the Ensign suggests of face-to-face discourse and interaction."

When she finished, she waited, absentmindedly rubbing her wrists behind her back where the bracelets seemed to vibrate just enough to cause a bit of itching.

Lieutenant Adan sighed impatiently, which was not like him. "Let's go down there and see what awaits us," he suggested. God! His head was pounding and the foul odor was enough to knock one out. Glancing in Di Pasquale's direction, he waited for her to start moving forward.

"Commander," Alex said. "Small unit tactics was the lion's share of my job for quite a long time. I'm happy to go out ahead and take point. I'm pretty damned good at noticing booby traps and unsafe ground before I blow myself up, as evidenced by the fact that I'm still alive and have all of my original body parts."

"How about you stick to Medical and let me handle Security, Chief?" Camila told the Petty Officer before she gave Balderos orders to bring up the rear, then headed towards the elevator that would take then down to to the eighth level, her tricorder in her left hand and her phaser once again in her right.

"Just offering, Lieutenant," Alex said. "No need to get upset."

"Shouldn't we all go down?" Quinn asked, looking to Commander Teixeira. "Dark complex, low power. Perfect recipe from a horror movie is what we have going on here."

How it happened was beyond anyone's guess, but a body that had been hidden in the ceiling chose that moment to fall right in front of the young Ensign, it's hand snagging on his uniform as it fell to the floor.

"HOLY SHIT!" Quinn shouted, leaping backwards, almost into the arms of Lieutenant Parks. "What the hell? AAHHHH!!!" For a trained Starfleet officer who had seen the greatest of hells that the Gamma Quadrant had to offer, nothing had been so terrifying like a corpse falling on top of him. He did not, however, leap far enough backwards as the corpse tackled him harder than the time Kelly had grabbed him and forced him into the Black Hawk's pool. "Help! AHHH!"

The falling corpse startled Alex for a moment, but jumped into action and helped separate the decaying corpse from the clearly shocked ensign. "I gotcha, sir, there ya go," Alex said. He lowered the corpse to the ground gently so he could get a look at it in a second, but first... "Let me look at you, Ensign. Okay, I don't see any scratches..." Alex said. "Here, hold still." Alex pulled a bottle of sterile solution from his pack and used it as a dropper to get the 'dead person dust' out of Quinn's eyes. "How's that, sir? Mind if I go ahead and take a closer look at our dead friend here?"

Free of the corpse, Quinn shuffled backwards. His heart was still racing a million miles an hour, and it wasn't until he calmed down enough that he realized his phaser, tricorder, and palm light had clattered to the ground when he'd been tackled. Quinn sheepishly started to collect his gear.

Thiago looked at the body. It was clearly a corpse, not exhibiting any noticeable signs of life. "Make it quick. I don't want to be here any longer than we have to be," he said to the medic. "Two minutes."

"Yessir," Alex said. He quickly scanned the corpse and did a brief visual investigation, then scanned it again. He frowned. "Commander, I think this guy starved to death. In fact, I'm sure of it. I don't know what he was doing up there, though. Maybe he was hiding from something?"

While the corpse was being studied, Thiago approached the other two senior officers. "Once he's done," Teixeira began quietly, motioning towards Rylan, "we're going to head down to the archive. I want you to keep running point, Lieutenant. Parks, can you keep our medically minded friend out of the way? He seems intent on getting under foot."

Jazmin nodded soberly. It was easy sometimes to forget the dangers the universe contained, and while this might not stack up to some of their more exciting encounters, it was still enough to keep her sober serious.

"Aye, Commander." She looked over at Alex. "Stick with me, Senior and keep your heart meds and burn kit ready," she smiled just then, "in case we suffer heart attacks or plasma burns."

"Any more corpses like that and there will certainly be heart attacks," Quinn muttered, gathering his gear from the ground.

Camila, who had gone ahead, quickly came running back at the Ensign's scream and looked at the corpse. "Are you okay, Ensign?" she asked before she looked up. A piece of the ceiling looked like it had collapsed inwards, but how the body had gotten up there to begin with was yet another mystery.

"I'm fine," Quinn stammered with a wobbly tone. He checked his equipment carefully. The phaser was fine, the palm light still worked, but the tricorder screen had a crack in the corner. "Damn," he muttered, running a quick diagnostic on the unit. "I'm ready to be done with this..."

"Aren't we all?" the Security Chief said as she looked at Quinn's tricorder. "You can use mine once we get there," she offered.

"Thanks," the ensign said sheepishly. His first away mission in a month and already he looked like a scared child. He just hoped Kelly never found out about this.

Jazmin smiled slightly at Quinn. "Ensign, you've got this. Stay focused on the task at hand and you'll make it through."

Quinn sighed, unable to nod his acknowledgement to his department head. Staying focused was easier said than done. If only they could just get what they needed and get the hell out of here...


~To Be Continued~

 

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