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Cloning the Crawling Chaos

Posted on Sun Jul 12th, 2020 @ 7:58pm 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
Timeline: 2397

In the dark expanse of the dimly lit warehouse, the rows of dusty tubes filled with dark fluids lined the corridors. By the estimation of those in the away team, possibly hundreds of them in the expansive chamber. But there was one that had drawn their attention at the moment more than the others.

The Chief Engineer of the U.S.S. Hera knelt in front of one of those tubes. A tube that had been shattered and left empty. Around her knees were shards of broken glass and half-dried crusts of the black chemicals that had clearly once filled this tube as well. The lights on this tube, no longer occupied, were long dark- unlike the similar ones around them.

And kneeling there, surrounded by her crewmates and friends from the Hera, Thex sh'Zoarhi wept with the chilling realization that she had been born in this very tube.

Looking at the dust-covered glass at her knees, the armored Andorian would have wept if she had any tears left. Her whole life had been a lie. Someone had bred her in this and forced n all the abuse and pain of her growing up.

As Thex stared into her old cloning tube and the others stood by for support, there was the sudden sound of an old and rusty metal door slowly coming back to life. Standing near their friend, Commander Rita Paris made a quick but silent motion for the others to be ready and maintain the perimeter. Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox, Baroness Sarika, Doctor Tovanna Mah, Field Medic Tanaak Sado, and Lieutenant Commander Sonak all complied, forming something of a barrier around their suffering friend.

The door was at the end of the row of tubes they were on, and from the darkness came an eerie sound of a clomping foot followed by a sickly dragging sound of metal on the deck plates beneath them. Slowly, they watched with phasers at low ready as a heavily robed figure entered into their view.

Shuffling into the light stepped a hunched over Andorian that looked disturbingly similar to Thex from the side facing them, favoring her good leg and chuckling softly. Grinning as if her sensibilities had left her, or perhaps never were.

"Wel...come..." came a voice that sounded like the azure engineer, though cracked and hoarse as if it rarely spoke. The words came out slow and deliberately with disconcerting breaks in her speech patterns as her breath appeared in the frigid air around them. It was still extremely cold in the chamber, if not quite as intense as was outside.

"I see... some of... you... Some have... met something like the master... before." With that, she turned to reveal that her other side was not a completed or successful cloning process, but a grotesque and melted masque of horrific blue flesh that barely looked livable. "I am... the caretaker. I... maintain the... facility for the masters. Please excuse... the mess..." 

Turning more towards them, the light illuminated the rest of the caretaker's face. While the left side looked like a gaunt, malnourished version of a somewhat older Thex, the right side was a different story. Her right eye had drooped with a cheekbone easily three centimeters lower, the eye itself foggy and glazed over as it seemed to be focused on nothing. Her blue skin was mottled and covered in a series of raised welts that stretched the skin to a taunt, thin-looking sheen. The rest of the skin that wasn't pulled taut over the distended chin or protruding brow was wrinkled and hanging below the rest as a trickle of drool worked its way down her cheek.

A face that told of the horror Thex had apparently only barely escaped.

"Sonak, get some samples of that goo and an analysis, please. Mah, scan for variations between Thex and the Caretaker. Sado, you just became Thex's bodyguard. Not a scratch," Paris ordered, which was a sign of tension in and of itself. The courageous commander tended to ask for what she wanted, almost never ordering. Stepping in beside Thex, Paris kept her phaser down, but stood ready to support the lithe engineer. This was something Thex had to face- all they could do was support her in this exploration of the horrors of her past.

As Rita had been speaking, she had also been typing additional orders on the wrist-mounted controls of her EVA suit, and glanced at the red headed Romulan for a second. Across Dox's HUD read: 'That door the caretaker came through is still open. Full scans in what's in there.'

While the others got to work as ordered, Dox passed a glance to Sarika and silently, both women backed unseen between two of the tubes to go investigate.

The Vulcan used his toolkit especially tailored for scientific nanalysis and collected a sample of the substance with utmost care. Once it was safely stored into a container, he scanned it with his built-in tricorder. Through the visor of his helmet, everyone could see his right eyebrow go up.

''Fascinating; this at first analysis looks like protomatter; however, it is definitely organic in nature. This is reminescent of what has been speculated as the transitional compound between inorganic and organic matter at the source of the process of life. But the fact that it exists here and now clearly suggests that it is either manufactured... or originates from outside of this universe.''

Dr. Mah finished her third container and approached the Caretaker as close as she felt was safe and did a medical scan and well as a visual catalog of observations. "Observational notes of Caretaker, medial line developmetal differences. Subcutaneous structure reflected in epidermal molting and lack of turgidity. Skeletal structure reflects zygomatic arch sinking into buccal zone on right side...optic development is in question. Verify if this is a result of erroneous cloning or injury. Gait is compromised apparently from femoral, possibly lumbar region. Speech pattern is stuttered, most likely from underdevelopment of Broca's area within brain. Review scan for remaining findings." She sighed deeply as the scan finished up looking at the initial readouts understanding that what was done here was illegal in every Federation planet. This wasn't just directly cloning, to save a race that was facing the threat of extinction, this was was expermintation on beings that were no longer even completely humanoid in the failed cases.

"Rude..." The caretaker frowned, looking at Tova. "Am... right here "

Dr. Mah walked up to Thex ignoring the misshapen Caretaker, knowing full well she was accurate in her assesment, "Come on Thex, this is not who you are. We all have beginnings but we decide what our story becomes. Stand up, you are not meant to kneel, you are meant to stand proudly by the crew who loves you enough to be with you as you face this difficult time." She put her arms gently under the beautiful Andorain she had grown fond of and was determined to care for.

Thex nodded as she stood up. Turning away from the tube as she decided to find out the truth to this nightmare. She was Thex. The chief engineer of the Hera and she wasn't going to die until the master's pad for whatever they were doing here.

"Brave... Little... Sissssster." The voice of the caretaker hissed as she limped closer to Thex. Of the two antennae on her head, one was gnarled and curled up limply, but the other twitched and moved towards the azure engineer. "They all... protect but you are not theirs to... Protect. You are the MASters."

As she spoke, Dox and Sarika silently returned to the group, forwarding their findings through the suits network to Rita. Scans of the next chamber, containing a bank of ancient computers, and an additional, single tube like the others. Then the deformed woman turned towards the others. "You are... for the masters. All... but..."

Her good antennae twitched as a pout came across her face. "All but the red one. She has not been... prepared. But the rest... You are of the masters liking."

Sonak faced Rita.

''Commander; it might be relevant to inquire more about this... masters she is referring to. If someone is here and responsible for all of this, all our answers should be found there.''

Thex starred at the shriveled version of her that was staring back at her. How could anyone leave someone to suffer like this? " Who are the masters and why have they let you suffer like this." She said softly to this twisted mirror version of herself.

"Heh." The twisted caretaker chuckled, a mirthless thing that scratched out of its deformed throat, "I... do not suffer, little sister." Then, she held her arms out wide and bowed towards Thex. "I am... as the masters have made me... as are you."

"Yes. So pretty pretty... you are. Perfect little one. So... smart... so pretty." She continued, her voice dropping to a hiss in the cold as she narrowed her one, good eye and glared at Thex. Then, she reached a wrinkled, gnarly hand over to the nearest tube and dragged a slider across the console at the base of the glass. As she did, the black fluid began to bubble within the tube and the darker color began to swirl upon itself, becoming just light enough to allow the true contents within to be seen. 

In the tube, was a near-perfect duplicate of Thex, herself. It's platinum white hair longer and unkempt and its eyes closed, but seeming to move it's chest slightly. A thin black tube down its throat. "Pretty... useless things. ALL of you... made to give yourselves... to the masters. I live to serve the masters. I... am... strong. I am good. And I will... be... rewarded for my service... to the harvest."

By this point Sarika was well past the point of officially freaked out and ready to write the whole mission off as a bad idea. She had one of the Starfleet phasers in one hand and her sword in the other and while she was keeping an eye on this 'Caretaker' person, she was keeping an eye on her 'fleet companions to see how they were going to handle the situation. After all, she'd never been in any situation like this and her senses were popping up death flags left and right and dying was not on her list of things to do today.
" The masters are the man with the face made of stars?" Thex asked though the thought felt wrong as t had left her throat. As if she had said something that she couldn't.

"Yoooooou... have seen their truth. The... MASters are... evvvvreything." The caretaker said, stepping a bit closer to Thex again, her voice rising as she did. "The masters are the thoughts in your mind as you drift away. The eyes... in the dark. They sculpted you and gave you your... mind and set you out into their universe to do... what you were made for."

On those words, the single, good eye crept down to look at the anxious engineer's middle. "And you... did well... We can... feel it. You will... spread their majesty. As will... your brood."

Without even thinking Thex wrist-mounted phaser was raised and aimed straight at the clone with enough power n it to vaporize her and a few walls behind her. " Don't you dare even...."

"Enough." Boomed a voice that appeared to be echoing from the darkness surrounding them as everyone's wrist-mounted phaser and personal weapons suddenly crumbled into a thousand pieces. "Cease this nonsense, and bring them to us."

Meanwhile, the caretaker began to chuckle, as her cracked voice lowered to a dry rasp. "Heh heh heh. You're in... trouble. In trouble, little sister. Naughty, naughty."

Then, the caretaker stepped back, grunting as she did, as she began moving towards the door she came in through, dragging one of her feet behind her, hunched over. "Walk... this way."

"Dematerialization of specific objects, which demonstrates intent, fear of the weaponry and a pretty clear desire to dominate. Mr. Sonak, what are the odds what we're seeing and experiencing may be illusory?" Paris asked the analytical scientist who happened to be a formidable telepath. "Deep scans as we follow Igor here, people."

''There is currently no evidence to reject anything of what we are experiencing, '' Sonak answered, hard at work with his tricorder, using the hand-held unit to verify the readings he was getting in the heads-up display inside his spacesuit. ''Until we have such evidence, we should treat everything as real until there is evidence to the contrary and a way to deal with the falsehood. You and I know how, without it, even pure illusions can be as significant, even as deadly, as reality.''

"Fair enough," Rita Paris replied, remembering the buttheaded illusionists whose mental projections could literally reshape reality. "Well, let's see what's in the mad scientist who's creating life's laboratory, shall we?"

"Commander, I advise caution as we proceed especially for Thex. Her system is compromised and highly open to influence. We need to keep her within our ranks as much as possible." Advised Dr. Mah as they began to proceed.

Dropping the hilt of the sword she had drawn and the remains of her phaser, Sarika sighed heavily. Yet another death flag. On top of that, the katana that Enalia had given her when she had set out to find her own freedom away from Arenara was now little more than scrap. At this point she'd just be happy to survive this.

Passing through the rusted door that the caretaker emerged from, the team stepped carefully as strips of antiquated fluorescent lights flickered on overhead in the slightly smaller inner chamber. 

With the Caretaker walking at the head, she turned slightly to gesture with her more deformed, gnarled hand. "Come. Come. The masters... they.. call. They speak... through their chosen. Through our great sister."

Along the outer walls of the room that appeared to be approximately 12 to 15 meters across, with a taller, domed metal ceiling, were banks of old computers. Most still seemed to be active and working as the outdated, rounded off screens pulsed with lines of data streaming across them. Workstations with chairs caked in dust that looked undisturbed for years as they curved towards the center of the chamber. And in the center, another tube.

Like the other tubes, this was filled with the same thick black liquid with the same eerie symbol upon it. But this tube was larger than the others. Twice as large, easily, with bundles of twisted cables and tubes running along the deck from it's rear to the computers. Above it, another series of massive tubes and cables that stretched up to the center of the dome, then down along the sides and back to the computers. 

As the caretaker reached the tube, she opened up a panel and pressed her hand to the panel, causing the red diodes on the panel to turn blue. Turning to Thex, she chuckled, drool leaking forth from her distorted lips. "You are... for her... little sister. She called and... you... came. She is the first among us. The voice of the Masters... flows through her greatness."

"Let... her know... it is you." the caretaker said, her voice a sickly thing, as the black fluid began to swirl in the tube. Swirling and roiling, to lighten to a metallic, silvery blue color that was just transparent enough to reveal yet another horror.

In the tube was another distorted reflection of the Hera's Chief Engineer. Its head was massive and distorted, easily three times the size of Thex's own. It had no eyes to speak of, as if such things never grew upon it, instead having what appeared to be three long, prehensile antennae upon its head that slowly pressed themselves against the glass. Its body looked like that of a shriveled child, dangling beneath its oversized cranium in the swirling fluids.

Sonak stepped closer to Thex as he addressed Rita.

''Commander; this one is the source of the telepathic contact. However... I sense that this telepathic field extends beyond her. And if I understand our host correctly, she might in fact not be the actual source but... a relay.''

A few words came out of Thex mouth that didn't translate well as she looked at the thing that was in the center of the room. Who was this..... well her and what had they done to her.

"Who...?" Thex began as the sound of another door opened into the room. Someone Andorian-shaped was standing in the door slowly clapping to itself as it said hidden in the gloom from the other room. "Oh, Thex have you not worked it out yet. I thought we trained you better than that." Said a voice that froze Thex blood.

Into the room stepped Relaoss sh'Zoarhi an evil grin on his... His face didn't look right. None of him did. It was as if something was attempting to imitate an Andorian was standing there. It's limbs moving jerkily as if it was glitching in place as it floated towards her.

Sonak was scanning the apparition and his eyebrow went slightly up.

''Biometric readings do not fully correlate with Andorian physiology. There is... interference, and some readings I cannot correlate with what we define as organic life; at least, not in this universe.''

He paused in his cryptic delivery to glance only for a moment towards Rita.

''There are however correlations with data we recorded... in another one.''

"I see. So- hypothesis, given all the data at hand?" the gold-clad commander asked, trying to formulate her own theories.

''I can see only one at present; someone or... something... is working on either adapting itself to our form of life; or trying to mold life to itself.''

"Commander, base DNA sequence scan confirms this is one of biological compatibility to Chief Engineer sh'Zoarhi, mentioned Dr. Mah. It was the most gentle way she knew to confirm that they were dealing with one of Thex's parents for better or worse. In another situation, at another time she would have broken it down with much more delicacy but that was not an opportunity given at the moment.

A laugh that seemed to freeze the condensation from his breath came from the Andorian as to listened to everyone talk. " I'm right here you know. I am one of the commandeers of this imperial guard facility. That all of you are trespassing in may i add. "

In other circumstances, Sonak would not have spoken; that was the prerogative of the team leader. But this time, he perceived that the authenticity of first-hand testimony was required. And so he spoke:

''Incorrect; we were asked to come here.''

"Mr. Sonak, you keep up on Federation law. What are the regulations on cloning, I'm curious?" Paris asked, her eyes never leaving the Andorian crypt keeper. "As to us trespassers.... we are here because we were summoned by a distress call, so that would be our primary defense. After all, we would never have found this place were we not guided here. But a cloning facility being run by the Imperial Guard? I am quite behind the times in my education, but does that violate the Federation charter, Mr. Sonak, I am curious?"

''Cloning, especially cloning of organs and other replacement parts for afflicted individuals, is part of the regenerative medicine the Federation highly favors over crude methods like cybernetics. That being said, there are clear regulations about that method; first and foremost that the subject has to be fully and properly informed and give free consent to any such procedure regarding oneself.''

He looked at Thex while saying this, giving her a lever she could use in the present situation. Then he added:

''Also, cloning is a medical procedure and therefore falls under all the relevant laws about medical practice; one being that it is allowed only under officially recognized medical authority, by a certified physician for example. Although I am not fully cognizant of the Imperial Guard's jurisdiction, I doubt it covers medical practices in general or cloning in particular.''

"Children children children." Came another voice as another door opened. A female Andorian stepped through another door. She bore a distinct resemblance of Thex though her appearance was somehow even more unnerving than her male counterpart.

"If you only knew what she is, truly. Of what she's going to do. Why do you think he created her in the first place? " She said her hand jabbing to the deformed Andorian in the tank, which started reeling as if in a great deal of pain.

Thex drooped to her knees as she felt the pain reaching fro her head which felt like it was being split open. A course of screams echoed from elsewhere in the base as what sounded like thousands of Thex's screamed in unison.

Feeling the pain, Sonak mastered it within his own psyche, then went to Thex and touched her to induce a mind meld so that his own defenses and pain control disciplines could be shared with her. It took a lot of his own mental strength even coupled with hers. The telepathic onslaught was only short of that of a Talosian, as he perceived that more than their two minds were thus interconnected through the link.

For her part, even Dox could feel the intense force of the telepathic assault that wasn't even aimed at her. For a moment, she stumbled back herself and did her level best to keep her mental defenses up as she winced through what was, to her, little more than an echo of what Thex and Sonak were enduring.

Meanwhile, Sonak concentrated on diffusing the pain by closing up the assaulted nerve centers in both their brains. But he did not try to sever the connection. For one, there was logically critical data to get from it. And furthermore, this was Thex's choice to dictate. Unless both their lives or sanity would be in danger, he would simply support her. Thex would have to make the decisions.

"Tora, please, make it stop!" Thex screamed to the thing she had thought was her mother.

The female Andorian didn't seem to notice the screaming, but with a single gesture, the screaming died though the deformed Thex in the tank seemed to still be in pain as she continued twitching. Turning for a brief second Tora's lower body seemed to warp into a mass of tentacles, before morphing back into its just as disturbing form.

"Tell me, do any of you believe in god? Not the mere ashes of him like the ones you've met, but the real creator?" Tora said the words seemingly oozing from her mouth.

Feeling Thex was out of immediate danger of harm, he turned towards the deformed Andorian.

''Belief by definition is accepting something as true without evidence. Therefore, Vulcans do not 'believe' anything. Logic would indeed support the argument that there is a prime cause to everything; but logic alone is not evidence of anything.''

"I believe I've had enough of both of you," Rita Paris declared, then fired a phaser beam on heavy stun at Tora, then at the 'Master'. As they had been casually torturing Thex and her clone sister, Rita had experimented behind her back, flicking her wrist to summon another phaser from the inventory she kept within the extradimensional space of the bracers she wore. She'd let this tableau play out to see where it was going, but the torture and pointless scenery-chewing had gotten on her nerves, and she'd decided it was time to take action.

If the phaser blast had done anything it didn't show as the light seemed to vanish as the phaser beam seemed to vanish into the darkness. " Would you look at that. It thinks its toy can hurt us." Came another voice as another female Andorian stepped into the room. She snapped her fingers and the phaser splintered into a thousand pieces n Rita's hand.

" And that makes three Evylao. " Thex said bitterly at the sight of her Shreya as Sonak helped her up.

" Thirteen thousand four hundred and seventy-three so good to see you again. I'm glad Akal didn't damage you when he went mad and ripped you from your tank before running. He put up quite a fight trying to "save you" as he called it. We'll have to ask him about that when he comes to his senses." Evylao said a chair materializing out of thin as she sat down in the same strange manner as he colleagues walked. Her knees didn't seem to move.

" Now to business. " She said in the same cold term as with a tide of dust and rust a massive shutter that clearly hadn't been opened in decades crawled open behind her. Illuminated by a strange black glow was the massive black pyramid from the picture that Thex had shown everyone. Whatever it was made from seemed to pulse and squirm as it sat miles beneath the ice.

" I'm sure all of you have a lot of questions to ask. So where would you like me to begin." The Andorian said in the same cold tone from her chair.

Earlier, Rita had asked Sonak about the reality of what they were seeing, and now as she watched, Dox began to question it as well. Particularly regarding the creatures that were appearing as Thex's parents. The observant Romulan, even as she pushed back against their mental force, had been watching. Seeing the flickers where the image of Andorians vanished for moments where instead, nightmarish coils of tentacles seemed to instead exist.

These were from the Undrheim. The nightmare realm that the rest of the team had been trapped in. The things that Masato Rei... the being known as Death incarnate... described as creatures that existed in a realm that the gods deposited their discarded in to be devoured. 

But, more importantly, they were beings that might very well not really be here. Not in the way they wanted it to appear, at least. So, as they postured and seemed to undo Rita's phaser blast, Dox had her arms behind her back, typing to the golden commander on their secure comm systems. =^=Cmmr. caretaker said the masters voice flowed thru the 1 in the tube. Sonak called her a relay=^=

With her fingers behind her back that she couldn't see, the typos kept coming as Dox continued, =^=they might be projections. if they come from Undrheim, then they might be trapped there. using Thex's sister's power to manifest here. but they are talking and making shows odf force. they need us for sometihng.=^=

Keep your eyes open and wait for your moment, Paris sent to the entire team in response.

"Sure, I've got nothing better to do than waste my time with you," Paris sighed, launching into what she'd ask a reasonable person. "Why would you do all of this? Why make alllll these Andorian clones, then just keep them locked in tanks in a secure facility far from prying eyes, maintaining it for however many years this has been here. To what possible end? Also, if you are going to explain to me that my feeble mind can't comprehend it, then don't invite questions."

Clearly this was not Rita Paris' first encounter with seemingly omnipotent beings, nor was she particularly impressed.

" The same reason you wear your uniform Mrs Paris. To protect Andorians from the crawling chaos that hides in the darkness. We are all that's left of a group in the imperial guard known as the black group who's job is to make sure agents of the great enemy don't manage to bring him through. " Evylao replied her tone unchanged.

" Have you looked in a mirror recently. Your barley Andorian at this point." Thex managed to spit out. If her words had even been heard the three Andorians didn't notice as they continued as if nothing had been said.

" As for the clones they have their uses. Has she told you about the patch she has in her DNA? The one that stops her fertility falling?"

While all this was going on, Sonak kept both his returning telepathic ability and his tricorder active, collecting data and staying alert about their hosts and surroundings; most of all about anything ''out of this world'' he was expecting to manifest at any moment. he had recorded and perceived enough to logically deduce that this was what was bound to happen in the next minutes.

he had to be ready; and he knew that his readiness would register on Rita, not only because of their mating bond but through her long time experience with him and situations like this.

It was not the first time they faced either illusion or madness.

Dr. Mah for her part stayed very quiet all of the proceedings. She was scanning the clones, Thex's parents, the tubes, all of it for data about the experiments on a medical level. Cloning on this level was not only unethical but, illegal according to Federation law and Mah was collecting the evidence they needed to make their case from a medical standpoint. Even if they didn't have permission originally, there was overwhelming evidence to allow for the mission now. Her quiet fury was high as the evidence of what they had done kept coming in. She understood the open DNA sequencing that allowed for the melding of the Underhelm creatures they were leaving. It also led to massive deformities, abnormalities, and enhancements. She would review Thex's DNA sequence and could repair it later, for now however she was looking at a possible commonality within the sequencing that could work in their favor.

Is it just me, or are they stalling? Rita asked Sonak through their telepathic link. And lying, but overall very little of this makes any sense. What are they hiding here, what's their true purpose and why this silly charade? If they wanted to manipulate us, hostility was their worst plan. Now they want to appear reasonable and play 'mysterious Q&A where a minute ago they wanted to seem all-powerful? This is highly illogical- do you suspect insanity? Your thoughts?

Sonak, after a small but definite pause, answered the same way.

Your logic is valid based on what we are observing. The notion of insanity might be coming from their apparent illogical behavior in light of our ignorance. We still don't know who they are and what they want. But it is obvious they want something... of us or... at least one of us.

He paused again before adding:

We still know little as of yet; but if they are in some form of contact with entities suggested by the clues gathered so far, and with their demonstrated abilities, my own mental shields extended to you might not be enough; they are possibly trying to listen on us right now.

he looked at her.

This is a good time for a Q&A of our own... and disrupt their timetable.

Ask away... I'm still formulating questions, Rita replied, watching the unfolding tableau. Want to try some logic puzzles on them?

Sonak nodded and turned towards Evylao.

" You claim to protect Andorians from what you define as the crawling chaos that hides in the darkness. How do you manage to accomplish this?''

" By doing what must be done. When children play with nuclear weapons do you let them go ahead and play with them? When the emissary finds people he can use to try and bring the crawling chaos through he does so without hesitation. It's why our ancient ancestors built the pyramid. The Andorian fertility problem has happened before. In their desperation, they prayed to the gods to save them. He heard them and had them do the ritual to bring the crawling chaos through. Something happened and all that popped out was the original. An Andorian with a DNA patch from Azathoth himself. Luckily the primitives didn't damage her that much when they clubbed her to death. " Evylao said slowly and coldly.

Thex was trying to listen, but every word they were saying felt wrong. Her body was telling her to run go far away from her. Her blue eyes fell on the deformed copy in the tank who was looking straight to her. For a brief moment, she heard a faint whisper in her ears.

" No not..... please....pain.....stop them." She heard in her own voice.

" If I'm an abomination why are you..." Thex began before her foot crunched on something on the floor. Looking down she looked at the shattered remains of a syringe. Unlike the rest of the room it looked new as if it had....

The blue liquid leaking out of it and onto her boot. She couldn't even attempt to stop it as she lost her lunch, breakfast, and dinner as her throat gagged at the realization of what they were doing with the clones.

" Ah, she's finally figured it out. Took her long enough." Tora hissed out.

"What is that?" Dox asked, concerned for her friend and looking down at the broken syringe.

" It's me...." Thex said softly as she tried to pick up the broken syringe and fluid hold it to her like it was a child. " it's what they're doing to me,"

Dr. Mah quietly scanned the liquid, not saying anything but still comparing the readings for sequencing. The liquid was the key to what the Masters sought, an age-old 'elixir of life' with a catch of course. They found a way to harvest the eukaryotic nuclear pore complex along with healthy mitochondria to ensure cellular regulation within the mRNA. This was ensuring proper regulation of nuclear lamins, essential for the maintenance of tissues and essentially setting their cellular aging process back to the zero point. The problem was of course with each infusion and rewrite of their DNA sequencing the introduction of a control sequence of new chromosomes was also being introduced giving eldritch entities a deeper grip and the efficacy was becoming less. Mah now understood exactly what was going on and the horrific consequences for not just the subjects being harvested but those who participated in the infusions. The implications were catastrophic if this was a world wide practice. It could be traced and stopped but the damage was done. Now the question was how deep the damage went.

Cmmdr scan result confirm clones used for DNA harvest reverse to aging, resulting in DNA tie to masters

"I think we've seen enough. Any reason we can't just walk out of here, inform the Federation of what's going on down here and let them handle it?" Paris asked. Whatever weird science was going on here, she was more than past trying to figure it out. It was immoral, illegal, and whatever motivations may have existed for it, she really didn't care. This operation was coming to a close, one way or another.

''That is the logical approach, '' Sonak acknowledged. ''The Andorian Government, Starfleet and the Federation Council must be informed of this and act appropriately to stop the crimes committed here... and prevent anything worse.''

He was reminding them of their duty but also of the implicit peril in what they could now understand of the situation. This was much more, much worse, than merely finding a ring of the Orion Syndicate.

"I hate to say this but..." Sarika spoke up, shaking her head as she looked between her Starfleet counterparts and the semi-Andorian semi-Eldritch beings on the other side of the room. "As an Artan Baroness, this is usually where I'd retreat, come in with a few dozen small ships, bombard the area from high orbit, and be done with it. This sort of genetic work tends to be frowned upon and then you add in all this nightmare fuel for good measure? You'll have to excuse me, but no, our policy for that sort of thing is kill it with weapons fire."

Sonak frowned a bit.

''There would be some logic in this, but, aside of immediate emergency or threat to life, it would be somewhat wasteful, possibly damaging... and highly illegal.''

"Not my call, but this mission is," Paris added, then switched to internal comms. "Alright people, we've seen enough here and we're leaving. Let's go- Sado, take point. Doctor Mah, support Thex. Sonak and Dox on sensors, Sarika, you're free safety. If it moves and it isn't us, put steel through it."

''Acknowledged,'' the Vulcan chief of science answered, his eyes still on his tricorder.

As the team began to follow their commander’s direction, something happened. In the large, central tube where the eyeless, deformed Andorean with the three antennae floated, those antennae began to twitch and move again. In their seats, the eldritch, modified Andorians seemed to freeze in place along with the deformed caretaker, who had been standing silently since their entrance. Then, as the telepathic clone in the tube’s antennae pressed again up against her tube, an almost ghostly Andorian wearing garb from nearly two thousand years ago shimmered into view.

"Please, do not be alarmed.” echoed the voice that, like the woman’s face, was near identical to the Hera’s Chief Engineer. “I am the progenitor. My name is Talla P’Trell. I am she whose DNA my sisters are all based upon”

With a raised arm, the ethereal Andorian gestured to the deformed being in the tube. “My sister’s power is great. It is her mind that gives the dark ones access to this realm, but she has a strength of her own will and allowed me to speak through her now, and in my cries for help, but there is little time."

The look on her face as she began her plea was one of concern and care for her fellows in the facility as she looked over the shoulders of the away team towards the door to the previous chamber they were in. To those still in the tubes. "The beings that you see here… their true minds are buried deep between the veneer of the masters. But they are still there... I can feel it. However, the seals deep within this facility that we fought so hard to protect are slipping and with what they have done here, Nyarlathotep has been able to crawl into their minds. Please forgive them their discretions."

"You who have been touched by the nether realms are the only ones that may safely approach the temple without the ancient ones weakening your minds. The one who has not felt the touch of the crawling ones upon her mind, I can aid with an ancient rune. This is why those of us here in pain have called out to you. Why I have sought to save my sisters the only way I could think of… through our greatest sister's friends." This time she looked at first Thex, then to Sonak in turn. "The choice is yours. If you help us, we will use the last of our power to send you to the temple to do what you must and we shall face your justice. If you choose not to... Then we will aid you in your escape so that you may tell the worlds of the horrors you have found here."

The ghostly visage then fell silent and awaited their reply.

Sonak looked at the spectral face then at Rita.

''This is a distress call."

"It is. I don't know how qualified we are to reset seals in a temple that holds back ancient eldritch beings... but then, when has that ever stopped us?" Paris grinned at that thought, as it was quite accurate, given their exploits. "Alright... send us in, and we'll see what we can do to reinforce those seals and keep your crawling chaos at bay for another millennia or so."

"I thank thee. If I had the power, I would restore your arms, but I am afraid we only have the power to clear your way and distract the others." The image of the ancient Andorian closed her eyes and concentrated and as she did, the one in the tube began twitching in the swirling fluid as Talla P’Trell's will flowed through the other one's mental power. As it did, the Caretaker and the Masters all flinched slightly, the hold on them tightening for the moment.

While the image of Talla P’Trell's feet didn't quite touch the ground, she stepped slightly closer to Dox. "The symbol you see on the tubes. The eye within the star. It is an ancient rune that gives protection to those clones within. It is a limited form, but cast it upon your suit and it will aid in protecting you from the influence of the masters."

"Be wary. Things may not be what they seem." With that, the ghostly visage motioned towards a nearby brick column as part of the brickwork moved out fo the way to form a doorway. "This pathway will transport you down into the temple and pyramid of Nyarlathotep. Please use care but move quickly - we do not know how long we will be able to forestall interference from the others. My sister's gifts are great, but it is a great strain for her to enable me to speak and hold them."

And with that, she vanished.

"I have a bad feeling about this..." Sarika muttered as she glanced over towards the red and gold glow coming up from the new doorway.


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