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Crack of Nyarlathotep

Posted on Wed Jul 8th, 2020 @ 3:07pm by Kodria Mizu & Baroness 3rd Class Sarika & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Lieutenant Commander Thex sh'Zoarhi & Lieutenant Commander Sonak & Lieutenant JG Tovanna Mah & Ensign Tanaak Sado & Ensign Fiona O'Dell
Edited on on Sun Jul 12th, 2020 @ 8:01pm

Mission: Heart and Soul
Location: Andoria Northern Wastes
Timeline: 2397
Tags: Andorian EVA modifications

The Away team landed the Runabout Selune on the eastern slope of the Ch'vhaaleth mountain range of the frozen world of Andoria. The resort at the landing site wasn’t overly busy, which enabled the officers of the Hera to disembark and casually leave the resort, to begin their ascent without any fanfare or attention.

Lead by Commander Rita Paris, the team was clad in specialized EVA suits that had all been customized by the ship’s R&D Department to withstand the ravages of the sub-zero temperatures of the frigid moon. Additional heaters as well as specific climbing gear had been added to the exploratory armored exoshells, which would enable the non-Andorians to weather the extreme temperatures of the frozen world's extremes of cold.

Their final destination in the northern regions was beyond the pass that they were scaling, which was officially off-limits from them, by order of the Andorian government. But a series of cryptic clues, the distressing discovery that she herself was a clone, and sudden, jarring and alarming psychic distress calls for help that the Hera’s Chief Engineer, Thex sh'Zoarhi had been receiving, had led the team here to investigate the growing list of concerns.

The seven-person team moved as quickly as they could in the densely packed snow, hiking single file up the steep mountain pass. Rita Paris, Lieutenant Commander’s sh'Zoarhi, Sonak and Mnhei’sahe Dox, Doctor Tovana Mah, Field Medic, Ensign Tanaak Sado, and Artan Baroness Sarika walked single file.

During the arduous, two and a half hour climb to the edge of the pass, the team pressed forward through blinding blasts of snow, 80 kph polar blasts of wind, and temperatures reaching negative 55 degrees celsius.

From the middle of the line, the hot-blooded Romulan pilot tapped the side of her customized helmet as she trudged onward and upward, using the suit’s trekking rods, which telescoped out of the gauntlets of the armor for extra stability. “I have to say, I’ve never been quite as happy for the strength enhancements in these suits since we had to fight Valkyries in them.”

As she spoke, on the inside of her helmets heads-up-display, a tiny image of a cartoonishly proportioned Fiona O’Dell popped up. The gregarious Ensign was the fearless test pilot of the Hera’s R&D Department and clearly put a piece of herself into the new suits she helped design and test as her the holographic helper piped up.

"Oi! Didja know, the strength enhancement capabilities of yuir armor can be cranked up to three times that of normal, and will even compensate for greater Vulcan strength! It's a meter over here on your right, and it can run at a surprisingly minimal power drain!" The little cartoon frowned, then tapped the screen. I" see yuir at high altitude and nae changin' yuir O2 mix to run rich, accordin' to the biosensors. Maaayyyyybe ye should change yuir O2 flow to the recommendations yuir bioscanners are pointin out?"

A small yellow button pulsed where the cartoon of the lively ensign pointed onscreen.

“I’m not getting frostbite and losing my mind, am I? Please tell me I’m not the only one of us getting these technical recordings from O’Dell in their helmet?” Dox joked, smirking as the minuscule Mariposian hologram vanished again, only after the Romulan pilot pressed the virtual button to change the O2 mix.

"You mean the leprechaun and the bird that's been popping up every time I use something in the suit? I thought I was just snowblind," replied the Baroness as she trudged along with the others. "If it's not that test pilot offering advice about something, there's a cartoony version of your wife drinking tea in the corner of my HUD pointing to my power levels."

"Well... the R&D Department is certainly through. Chipper, but through." Dox chuckled lightly as they continued, nearing the top of the ridge.

"It turns off, fortunately," Paris chuckled as she fired a piton and climbing cable into a rock face that her suit's sensors assured her were stable. Once it was secure, she began climbing, using the winch and her own muscles to haul her up the mountain, laying the climbing cable for the team behind her. "I think we'll crest the ridge in a few minutes, then we can plot the course and ski down. Is everyone checked out on the skis or the sled attachment?"

''Affirmative,'' answered Sonak. ''This shall prove an interesting experience.''

Skiing in any form was a totally unknown activity on a hot rocky desert planet like Vulcan. Skis in fact were never invented there. For his people as for himself, they were a most alien contraption; more so because it was more often than not associated with leisure activities, another thing rather rare on Vulcan for several millennia. Sonak had of course diligently if briefly prepared for this mission on the holodeck; but now, this was the real thing. No instant transport to sickbay for a quick fix if he fell and broke bones on rocks outcroppings, floundered in deep soft snow or failed to swerve from a ledge. Here, just knowing about all the intricacies of gravity and friction was not quite enough.

Interesting experience indeed.

"Aye, Commander." Dox replied to the First Officer's question.

"The what?" Sarika asked, the Fiona popup playing in the background of her comms, explaining them to her. "That's a bloody thing the suits do now? Turn off... off... off.... go away... no, not... Stahhhhhhhp...!" In the background of the Baroness's comms could be heard a cheerful explanation of yet another away mission protocol built into the suit.

Thex was doing her best to keep up with the rest of the group, but every slight twitch on her head was making her worry that she was about to have another vision. Worst was the eerie feeling like she'd been here before.

While Rita Paris was no mountain climber, she was wearing a powered exosuit built for exploration and customized for the mission in this case. As O'Dell's obnoxious Armor Assistant had cheerfully informed her. Putting her on mute meant that she poke in cartoon word balloons, but Rita could live with that much easier than the little leprechaun literally chattering in her ear while she was trying to concentrate. The suit's scanners had mountaineering programs loaded, which analyzed the sensor data and projected the best paths to take and what hazards to watch for. It had been a while since she'd climbed a mountain, and last time, there had been stairs.

Eyes flickering to the display on her left where she was keeping track of the away team with literally eyes in the back of her head, Paris tabbed her comm to private and contacted the combat medic who had chosen to bring up the rear, which placed him in front of Thex. Both were lagging more and more as he gave her ground, trying not to rush the somewhat fragile engineer. But they needed to stay on course and on time if they were to avoid sensor sweeps at the peak of the ridge. If they were spotted, the Imperial Guard would be en route in minutes, and the calm commander had no illusions about her people avoiding or besting the Andorian Imperial Guard on their own home planet.

Ice. Moon. Idly she realized that if she asked him, Sonak would be happy to inform both her and the landing party. She made a note to make that her second call.

"Mister Sado? Lieutenant Commander Thex is having some difficulty. I suspect her confidence is quite low and that she's rather vulnerable right now. But I need both of you up this mountain, and I need you to be with the landing party when we reach the top. Am I understood, Ensign? Gentle, but if you have to carry her, so be it. She's your patient."

The medic glanced back at the slight Andorian and his heart went out to her. Although he didn't know the whole story, he could tell she was bravely fighting a battle he couldn't see. "Understood, Commander."

Changing channels, Paris opened a channel to the Chief Science Officer. "Sonak, while this is demanding and dangerous, I think some science is called for to keep the crew engaged mentally in all of this.: Without missing a beat, Paris changed her comm channel to broadcast to all six other members of the landing party.

"Mister Sonak? While I understand that Andoria is a moon, I must admit I do not know if it has a core of molten iron-nickel alloy like Earth, one of stone or is it actually ice all the way through. Would you be kind enough to elucidate?"

The Vulcan scientist quickly explained.

''Andoria is a moon only by virtue of being a celestial body orbiting a planet. In size, mass and structure, it is much comparable to your Earth; twenty-one point nine percent bigger in fact, hence its thick atmosphere and relatively sparse amount of very high salinity surface water over large tectonic plates, with quite impressive seismic and volcanic activity providing telluric heat. The thick ice covering and low temperatures are due to its distance from its binary star, somewhat alleviated by it's proximity to Andor, a gas giant and therefore an additional source of light and heat due to its protostar nature.''

In the middle of the line, Dox smirked lightly in her helmet, appreciating just how good of a natural leader Rita truly was as Sonak gave the basic science lesson, which was infinitely preferable to the tiny Fiona that kept popping up.

"Didja know?" the cartoon icon of the test pilot popped up as if on cue inside Dox's HUD, her brogue immediate and hurried. "There's an increase in seismic activity that might joost be the signal for an-"

"AVALANCHE!!! Everybody anchor, NOW!" Paris called out as her sensors gave her the warning, even as she was ascending up another winched distance- exposed, but at least tethered. Behind her, all of the away team were tethered to a line as well, but the cascading wall of ice and snow picking up speed, mass, and momentum as it roared down the mountain would test their technology as only nature could.

Dr. Mah was used to having to respond quickly after years of working in hospitals. She immediately anchored into the rockface by her wrist and pulled herself as closely to the face of mountain as possible as she activated the forcefields in hopes of not falling.

Sonak was barely finishing speaking when he felt the tremors in the ultrasonic range. Immediately he clasped Rita with one hand, Dox with the other, and moved his body to catch Doctor Mah on his back as the mass of snow fell under, around and over them. The worst thing that could happen would be for them to lose one another. He calculated that his Vulcan Strength added with that of the Romulan and the Andorian would be enough to keep at least the four of them together, and that they would both react fast enough to also catch someone else until the avalanche would settle.

They would see soon enough if he calculated right.

"What thaaaaa..." Mah's anchor was not as well placed as she thought, she came sliding down and grabbed onto Sonak before tumbling further down the mountain. Her arms and legs were wrapped around the poor Vulcan like a koala as she tried to get her bearings.

"Imirrhlhhse!" Dox cursed in her native Romulan, holding tight to Sonak's hand and reaching for the next in line with her other, as the suit's emergency force fields strained against the force of the avalanche. Her feet were ripped out from under her as the snow beneath her joined in the descent down the cliffside. In an instant, she fired off the emergency piton and repelling line that was built into the rear of her belt that punched through the snow under her to connect with the rockface.

With a hard jerk, the powerful emergency winch added another level of stability to the ground while the wall of snow continued to slam past them. Still connected by Rita's line to the rest of the team, she squeezed each hand hard and prayed to Al'thindor that she would help anchor them until it passed.

Thex had been trudging along in an almost daze like state as the stabbing pain in her head throbbed and subsiding. Her soul was telling her to run far far away that she should just forget all of this and go home to her girls....

"Avalanche!" Alarm blared through her head, seemingly breaking Thex from the trance and back into reality. Without even needing to think her emergency piton line fired anchoring her into the ground as she activated the magnetic lock on her suit as she grabbed Sado and held on with all of her strength.

If not for Rita's instruction to keep an eye on her, Thex might have missed Tanaak altogether. His reflexes to fire his anchoring line had triggered second to his instinct to take two large steps back towards her and stretch out his hand. "Got you!" he breathed into his helmet as he pulled the Andorian under one arm, preparing to shield her as best he could from the rolling snow that threatened to overtake them.

Sarika, for her part, tried to activate the emergency features built into her arms, only for them to be blocked by the EVA suit itself and just in time, she was able to activate several random features in it, those being the webbing launcher, which secured her to Dox, fired off a piton into a nearby outcropping, extended her wrist poles, and deployed the 'bubble' saving her just as she was buried in snow.

The sensors in Rita's suit warned her- seismic, atmospheric, air pressure all added together to give her time to react. Not enough time to winch to the top of the climb she was currently ascending, but not close enough to the face to secure herself. Sonak grabbed her hand, in a grip like a vise. He'd been meters away a few seconds ago- clearly, he saw the danger as well and was in motion. Reaching up to grasp the climbing cable. Rita locked the winch as the climbers below secured themselves to the face. Activating the gravity magnets in the palms of her exploration armor, she looked up to face whatever the universe was throwing at her.

In this case, a chunk of a mountain.

In the case of an avalanche caused by a slab, formed by the wind. On the mountains, the wind compresses snow crystals one against the other, destroying the structure of the crystals to form fine granules. The granules accumulate, forming very unstable slabs that do not stick to the lower layer; but remain separate, as if there were a mattress of air. These slabs often form in windy areas, under cornices, in crags on the slope and in the bowls overloaded with snowdrifts. This snow crashes very easily and the whole slope is affected by the impact of the broken slab.

In this particular case, a few rocks were breaking loose along with the snow and ice and crystals, and at the lead of the climb, Rita caught a few. Which in turn caused the brake on the winch to slip 8 cm against the onslaught. Which would not have been a problem save that while the winch slipped, her grip on the cable did not, and with a pop, Rita Paris had dislocated her shoulder. Easing off the magnetic grip slowly, the arm slid down the cable and eased the tension on it, but it was still dislocated. Cutting her audio to anyone else in the landing party, Rita wailed in pain before she calmed herself.

"It appears ye've dislocated yuir right sho-" the Virtual O'Dell managed to get out before Rita shut it down, blowing her sweaty bangs out of her face.

"I've dislocated my shoulder. My winch might be able to make the climb- should we assess at our ascent?" Mission commander she was, but Paris knew when to defer to the professionals.

''It would be more logical to see to our injuries and reassemble before continuing, Commander, '' Sonak proposed after a long look at her to make sure nothing more serious had happened to her.

He activated the tricorder built into his EVA suit and made a few adjustments.

''Sensors do not indicate any other sign of tremor; and most of the snow mass is now past us, so we should be secure from any such mishap in the foreseeable future. However...''

He frowned in concentration a moment over his readouts.

''Something peculiar is registering; barely but enough to suggest there is... something our data banks can't seem to recognize and scanners can not precisely pinpoint. It is also either very small or very faint, very far, or very thickly covered. At this moment, I can not even confirm if it is matter or energy. Most interesting.''

One by one, the team dug its way out of the covering of snow and debris from the avalanche while Sonak scanned.

As soon as Dr. Mah was free she put out a call to the others, "Mah here, Injury report, sound off", she was doing a field-level triage of the injured to determine who needed help and in what order. Her first hope was Sado in case she needed assistance. Normally she would defer to those of higher rank but she knew when it came to the health and safety of the crew her call was final and she took that role as seriously as the other senior staff.

From just under the drift, Dox's voice came over the comm as she finally breached the surface. "Dox here. I'm fine, Doctor Mah. No injuries."

The Baroness Sarika slowly dug herself out. "I'm fine! I'm still here. Remind me to train on these suits more next time though?"

The deep, monotone voice of Sonak then was heard over the channel.

''One injury to report, Doctor; Commander Paris has a dislocated shoulder.''

"On it" Mah nodded to Sonak since it was his quick thinking that kept her from falling down the rockface itself, "I need your help Sonak." Already kneeling down to Paris, hating that this was going to hurt the Commander she'd come to respect. She accessed the med suite within the suit, did a quick scan to verify the diagnosis ensuring none of the rotator cuff was torn. She looked to Sonak and limited communication between Paris, herself, and Sonak.

"This is a case where I need you as her husband to assist in a way no other can offer help, sirs." She gave a dose of analgesic to Paris, yet not so much she wouldn't be able to function and then released the restrictive bracing within the suit holding the shoulder that would allow her to rotate the arm back in. "I'm sorry Paris, I won't tell you this won't hurt, cause that would be a lie. I'm going to need you to completely relax while I rotate your arm in place. Your husband is your emotional and physical support, now is not the time to be a badass. The more relaxed you are the easier this will be especially given this cold weather. This needs to be a fast one-shot deal or it could cause damage for the rest of the mission we don't have the luxury for am I clear?"

"I've suffered both dislocations and relocations before, Doctor. I'm a big girl- let's do this," Paris explained as she breathed evenly, legs solidly placed and a relatively serene expression on her face. When she spoke, she sounded reasonably emotionless. "You may proceed, Doctor."

The young doctor fresh to the final frontier looked at both of them, insuring they understood the seriousness of what was at stake. "On the count of three I will move your arm- don't fight it or try to control it at all, ready Paris? One, deep breath," Mah looked at her O2 sats to ensure they reached at least 98% and picked up Rita's injured arm, "let it out, two and..." Mah pulled the arm up to a 90-degree angle and continued the rotation until the arm fell into place around 120 degrees with a loud POP within Rita's suit, "three. Humerus bone reset, I will set your suit to be supportive of the joint during the rest of the mission. Let me know if the pain returns, communications returning to normal."

She stood up away from the two to allow Sonak to help Paris up with her limited movement for the moment as she logged the incident and made notes to follow up after the mission.

"Thank you, Doctor, much obliged," Rita directed the medkit in her suit to run a deep regeneration on the cartilage around the joint as she rose, checking her scanner details. "It looks like we're close tot he top, folks. At the pace we'll make our coverage window and be over the peak of the ridge on time. Let's take another minute, then press on."

In due time and on schedule, the team reached the summit. Once there, heading down the other side was quicker, but no less dangerous or difficult. The modifications to the EVA suits included curved, weather-resistant panels attached to each leg that connected to the boots and acted as skis, complete with retractable poles on each team member's gauntlets.

Using Sonak's sensor readings as a guide, the team rapidly descended the snowy expanse and did their best to be as quick as they could possibly be. To their credit, the mostly inexperienced skiers made good time, with Dox only falling over a couple of times during the trip down. Keeping pace with her on the boogie board both skis could be connected to create, the water sport enthusiast adapted her skills to try to ensure the least of their skiers were kept on course, and no serious injuries were incurred.

After a considerably shorter decent than the two and a half-hour ascent, they had arrived at the edge of the glacier. From there, the team proceeded to hike on foot across the frozen, windswept ice. The march across the frozen landscape was far from easy, however, the difficulty was lessened by the customized EVA suits that the team was wearing.

That was, until they reached their destination.

Expecting a building or a ravine, or something that looked Andorian-built or natural would have been one thing... Instead, they were faced with a crack in the ice-filled in with what looked like black steel with a red mark etched into it in several locations.

And no obvious way in.

"Well at least we know I'm not crazy." Thex's voice said, as she stared down at the pile. How had anyone gotten this much steel up here was beyond even her guessing abilities. She tried looking at the red marking etched into the location but every time she did a splitting pain shot through her head.

"Thex, I am seeing increased cortisol and stress responses, are you in pain again?" Mah was concerned for her patient given the proximity of where they were heading to the stress readouts she was seeing.

" Just when I look at the symbol. It's like my whole body wants to throw up." Thex said blinking a few times as her body seemed to recover while looking at the white snow.

As Dr. Mah addressed the Hera's Chief Engineer, Dox watched quizzically. She had noticed the azure engineer wincing when she tried looking at the unusual site and couldn't help but recognize the symptoms.

"That... sounds like a programmed pain response linked to the visual. Like someone wanted you to walk away if you ever saw this. I've... seen this kind of thing before. The Tal'Shiar did it to my father." Dox said with concern in her voice and a smile for her friend.

Even before their arrival, Sonak has been hard at work with his tricorder. Now standing right in front of what he had been scanning, his left eyebrow rose.

''Interesting; this... barrier do not register as matter, nor energy, not even as plasma in between. There is no fluctuation in its readings and scans can not penetrate it or beyond it. yet, it is there like some form of... solid void, as illogical as this notion is. but I can not find any more suitable definition of what I am gathering.''

His gaze rose to the barrier.

''These markings however are readily identifiable. They and similar ones were first recorded during our sojourn into this... alternate reality we recently escaped from with the Romulans. ''

"Well THAT'S an unsettling coincidence," Rita Paris muttered as she looked around. "Options? Drill in from the side with the phasers? Analyze the null material here to unlock its secrets? Let's hear some ideas, crew."

As the chief science officer of the Hera, it was Sonak,s duty to provide options to the commanding officer. He thought for a moment before doing so.

''Based on our previous experience with this other reality, I hypothesize it could be possible to penetrate beyond this barrier using the same basic principles that were used to send us into that other realm. We could use the reaction of a single atom and anti-atom to create a micro singularity through which we could send in a transporter beam, and us.''

He looked at Both Thex and Rita as he offered caveats to his own suggestion.

''However, unless we can regulate the reaction as in a warp core, that would require us to be out of range of the ensuing antimatter explosion; meaning at least four-point seven kilometers... and time the transport with the exact moment of the detonation. And unless we can replicate the same conditions once inside, or find some way to bring that barrier down, or find another way out, this would be a one-way trip.''

Immediately, Dox's mind locked on the words 'transporter beam', knowing full well the unresolved and scientifically inexplicable issues that Rita Paris had with that specific technology.

"As a general rule, transporting should be accounted for as a last, possible scenario, I would imagine. Particularly with so many variables." Dox interjected, not mentioning Rita's unique 'allergy' specifically, but alluding to it well enough to convey her thoughts, she hoped.

"I was pretty much the only one here that WASN'T with the rest of you in the Undrheim. But I know that neither Hera nor Death herself could see into it while you were there, so if Thex is receiving telepathic messages from inside, this has to at least be different enough from that." Dox said, working out her thoughts allowed. "And if there's someone in there, it stands to reason there's a way in and out that isn't as risky. Some kind of door or... resonance frequency that might allow us to pass through safely or drop a section of the field."

"So I'm not sure what the rest of you are seeing, but with my cybernetic eyes, there seems to be something different about that section over in that general area." As Sarika spoke, she continued scanning with her eyes and motioned towards an outcropping of ice not far from them. "As if the... Let's call it void-space... Is less dense or has something under it."

Sonak nodded.

''I adjusted my tricorder to the em spectrum of your oculars and I confirm what you report. Assuming the logic of Lieutenant Commander Dox, which is sound, and the fact that Lieutenant Commander Thex has experienced telepathic contact, I would hypothesize that there is a biometric component to this... aperture. If there is indeed a resonance key to it of such a nature, it would logically be one that is attuned to Andorians in general, if not our chief engineer in particular.''

"So someone managed to pull a part of void space into our reality to use as a keep out sign. This keeps getting...." Thex said before freezing in place before with a yell of pain fell to her knee's despite the pain she could see clearly through eyes not her own eyes looking straight at her and her friends. Despite the stabbing pain in the center of her skull she managed to yell out. " They know we're here."


if the unexpected hesitation in Sonak's voice was not enough, the fact that he staggered before his mental shields compensated for the sudden psionic onslaught left no doubt in anyone's mind.

He came quickly to the Andorian's side and touched her temples through his gloves and her helmet to better share his defenses with her. What he was now experiencing was only the echo of what she felt, received through his barely reawakening telepathy; yet it had almost overwhelmed him. He didn't have to guess the pain she must be going through.

But pain was a thing of the mind. And so, he shared his with hers, and his lifetime of training that had been even tested successfully against the Talosians.

Even then, based on their previous experience with thee outerwordly entities the sign suggested, and if they were truly involved here, he calculated only fifty-three point forty-seven percent probability even this could be enough.

Hopefully, it would be enough.

Without knowing she done so Thex grabbed the Vulcans arm with her own desperate for anything that could anchor her amongst the countess memories and thoughts that were not hers. Flashes of lovers she never knew, heartbreaks she had never felt, and mountains upon mountains of her own deaths fell upon the blue girl, but among it all she saw one thing that stood out clearly.

"There." she yelled pointing to the part of the sea of ice and metal. "There's a passage there," she staid staggering up and lurching towards the spot. Despite the pain stabbing in her head, her legs found strength as they made there was to the none specific spot in the landscape. Which with an eerie black glow appeared to fold outwards revealing a slit growing deep into the planet.

The human laid her hand on Sonak's shoulder, lending what strength she could to the Vulcan as he attempted to bolster the Andorian as they investigated her mysterious past. Which seemed to be getting more sinister by the minute. "So, 'they' know we're here. Given that psionic assault and cloning and lots of keep away signs are the hallmarks of these people, no chances, phasers out, heavy stun, people. We're going in, but we're taking no chances."

As she unclipped the outdated-appearing phaser from her hip and adjusted the settings, Rita Paris stepped forward to enter the unknown. Taking the lead, because someone had to, and she was mission commander, so it was her responsibility.

Now if only the growing pit of dread in her stomach would shut up about it.

"Single file except for Thex and Sonak. Sado, you're the rearguard, so get your rifle out and be prepared. The rest of you stay close, stay together and sing out if you hear... or feel... anything unusual." Eyeing the landing party, Paris nodded with a confidence she didn't feel. "Let's move."

"Aye, Commander." Dox replied flatly, as she usually did in a potentially dangerous situation, quelching her innate nerves as she unclipped her phaser to the ready.

"This whole thing reeks of bad tuna..." Sarika muttered as she cycled her eyes through the various bandwidths, making sure everything was logged and recorded for later study. "There are sayings about venturing where angels fear to tread, right? Something about fools rushing in? Sorry, I'm still studying a lot of human classical literature but I'm trying to say that this feels like something not of this universe to me."

"We're not angels, but we're also not fools, 'Rika." Dox said to her nervous, silver-haired friend, lightening her tone as she spoke and calling up the tactical scanning settings on her heads up display. Immediately, wire-frames of the team and their environment overlaid her point of view allowing her a clearer view of what they were about to walk into. "We stay observant and focused. We stick close as ordered and remember that we're here to help. We remember that these phasers aren't our weapons. Our best weapons are our heads and our words. Even against things not of this universe."

In truth, the little speech was as much for Dox's own benefit as it was for Sarika, as the group began to slowly step down through the dark slit that had opened ahead of them that seemed to cut into the harsh planet before them.

Mah followed the team in watching the read outs from Thex and Sonak as they proceeded in. She wasn't ready to increase the interuption to the signal to Thex from whatever outside source was targetting her yet given the proximity of where they were heading. She was hedging her bet with her patient that there may yet still need to be further intervention and if her body could hold out with Sonak's help she would let the situation continue as it was. Sonak seemed to be none the worse for wear, Thex though reaching the range of her limits was yet to be at them and her only other patient thus far, Rita was still doing fine. That didn't help her sense of dread about what they were heading into however. Possible cloning, hidden facilities, extreme conditioning to keep the area hidden from the woman who was a possible victim of the situation, all of it went against what she held dear as a doctor. She steeled herself for what they were going to potentially find, knowing that she would understand better than most the horror of what was really being done.

Thex could barely even see straight, as the group descended down the narrow corridor that seemed to stretch down forever. The noise of the wind had long been replaced by the dripping of ice that fell down the passage. Everyone had the feeling that they were being watched now, as if eyes were watching them from behind the ice sheet.

When the Hera's team must have thought it would never end, sensors showed it leveling off, and just as soon as it had begun it leveled out in a landing ending in a big metal spiral orifice portal. A faint blue light burst flickered into life, illuminating wider entrance area.

"Well, big metal door looks reasonably certain to be our way in. Now if only we could scan through it, that would be keen," Paris muttered, brow knitting in consternation. "Alright people, look around, the control mechanism must be here somewhere. There's a way in, even if it's our little light over there."

Looking around, their suits built-in scanners weren't revealing much in the way of mechanisms on their side of the metal partition. "Well... that light came on when we got here, and my sensors are reading something that resembles a sensor lens generating it. That field out there parted for Lieutenant Commander sh'Zoarhi. Perhaps that light is a scanner that might recognize her as well?"

"Do you feel anything specific, Thex?" Dox asked, stepping a little closer to examine the light source.

The short Baroness had been looking the light source over as well with her cybernetic eyes, her brows furrowed. Eventually, she got fed up with the suit's own HUD getting in the way of her own and, taking a deep breath, popped the helmet open, the cold air blasting her in the face and freezing her eyebrows almost instantly.

What she saw without the filters of the helmet helped out quite a bit, it seemed. Rather than a simple light source and a big metal door, she now saw that there was indeed an old bioscanner hidden in the wall just under the light that somehow the suit's slightly tinted face shields were filtering enough to make virtually invisible. It was also such old tech that tricorders and sensors would have a hard time picking it up.

Locking her face shield back in place, Sarika let her breath out as the suit's midget Mariposian berated her and she warmed back up. "Aye, that was brisk! There's an old tech bioscanner under the light. Looks to be from before Andorians had warp. I'm guessing it's keyed to one genetic code and Thex... My latinum says it's yours."

The chief engineer nodded as she used all of her strength to walk over and wave her hand over the blue light. The pain in her head was unbearable, and she collapsed against the wall as the spiral door began to slowly slide open. From the sound of it, the device was ancient, as chips of rust peeled off, and yhe metal squealed a bit in protest as it moved and slithered back into its holes.

"Looks like you win the latnium, Sarika," Thex mumbled weakly as she looked out past the door, then instantly wished she hadn't. As Rita came to brace her shoulders and help support her, the sight before Thex made her collapse and begin to sob. On the other side of the door was a massive room that seemed to stretch on for eternity into the darkness. A room full of tubes, full of a viscous black liquid that seemed to glow, even against the darkness. Each of the tubes bore a symbol of a five-pointed star that had been distorted along its lines, and contained within it an eye-flame symbol in the center that seemed to stare at the Starfleet away team.

Mah saw Thex's readout levels spike past the point of pain tolerance for even hardened soldiers, which earned an increase in her neural interference to act as a pain blocker directly to the brain's receptors. It was a risky move- Thex would barely feel any physical pain whatsoever so if she took damage it was now readout information that would report actual damage not Thex. She could easily sustain serious injury if Mah wasn't careful, thus every alarm possible was set to sound off if Thex got hurt on Mah's medical monitors. "How are you feeling Thex? Any better?"

The andorian nodded as Sonak and Rita helped her to her feet.

Dr. Mah wanted to make sure her patient was stable before looking at the containment units. Black fluid surrounding a cloned unit was never good, the ideal was a fluid identical to that of the host mother's amniotic fluid. The sludge surrounding whatever these units had within was nothing close to the healthy consistency of humanoid lifeforms currently known within any medical journal the doctor previously studied in her decades of medicine. Even the smell was off which did not bode well.

She looked at Dox, "Can you please assure containment is secure on this unit as I examine the contents visually? Even if we can't get good scans notes can be taken otherwise."

With Sonak busy helping Thex, Dox stepped forwards and nodded. "Aye, Doctor." In all matters medical, Tova was in charge and the red-headed Romulan immediately followed her instructions.

"I'm picking up… 3 units with minor temperature regulation leaks. 1 with power failure at the end of the row. But no leaks on any of this chemical mixture, which is reading as… some kind of biological fluid with… Andorian DNA traces in it. But there are no detectable fields or mechanical trips. I'm not getting any booby traps, Doctor."

Dr. Mah began a scan on the first container as soon as Dox gave the all-clear. She wanted comparative scans on a few of the containers for comparison.

"I am… however… feeling a presence trying to push past my mental defenses. It's faint, but as soon as that door opened, even with my limited psionic sensitivity, I could feel it. I think we're close to whatever's contacting Thex." Dox said, following up on Rita's prior order. "I'm fine, though. It's barely noticeable, and not getting in."

''You should be able to maintain your defenses properly, '' Sonak confirmed. ''I have strengthened them as best as I can and I can provide telepathic support if we stay within visual distance of one another.''

He turned towards Rita.

''Commander, there is definitely an... echo of what we experienced in the, let's call it nightmare reality we went through recently. Whether this is indicative of actual connection with that reality, or just a remnant of some previous contact, it is difficult to say at this time. But it is there. We should be very aware of any sudden change of behavior among us, that could indicate possible alien influence. If things happen again as it did during our last encounter, each one of us might find oneself isolated and alone without a starship to pull one through.''

"Great. Paranoia protocols, people, on top of everything else. This can't be a coincidence... first Odin dumped the station there, then we get sucked in with the Romulans, now this? The universe doesn't make coincidences this big. Someone's definitely manipulating us here... but to what end?" Paris put it out there, because the entire landing party needed to know, and to be considering the greater mystery at hand.

Without anyone in the group noticing, Thex had begun pointing at something deep in the warehouse. One of the tubes was calling to her in a strange humming lullaby. Her feet didn't seem to be moving, yet she found herself moving towards it hearing the faint cries of her friends when they'd realized she had left the group. Her boots began to crush on broken glass as she approached one of the tubes. Dust and the black slimy goo littered the floor as if it hadn't been touched for many years.

Tears flooded down her face as she realized that this was her tube. This was where she'd been born, grown and... had someone forcefully removed her from this? Yanked her into the cold dark of this place of nightmares?

Feeling very small she fell to her knees before the tube sobbing as the horrific nightmare of her birth crashed upon her.

To be continued...


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