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Pyramid Scheme 3 - Thex and Dox

Posted on Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 @ 10:36am by 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
Edited on on Thu Jul 23rd, 2020 @ 10:36am

Mission: Heart and Soul
Location: Beneath Andoria
Timeline: 2397
Tags: Pyramid Scheme 3

Slowly, Thex and Dox made their way down the narrow path. Each step was slow and deliberate in the inky darkness, illuminated only by the searchlights on their suits which seemed to barely reflect off of the smooth, black stone.

"Our external sensors may not be giving back much information, but my suits INTERNAL sensors are showing something interesting. The ambient temperature is rising considerably. The surface temperature of my armor is registering at 2.7 degrees celsius."

The sensors scans on their suits seemed to be scattered or absorbed by the surface, but the faint pressure Dox felt getting continually stronger in the back of her mind made her question if it was her suit sensors that weren't working, or her own senses. The further they delved into the heart of this pyramid walking down the slight decline in the level of the stone beneath their feet, the stronger the pressure Dox felt on her mental defenses.

If the ancient rune that had been put on her armor was doing anything to protect her mind from whatever was in here, she was unaware of it. As a general rule, Romulans did not possess the psionic abilities of their Vulcan cousins, but Dox's mind had been opened artificially a year and a half past, and while her abilities were extremely limited, she had studied and built her mental defenses under the tutelage of Sonak, and they were extremely sensitive and quite strong.

"Also... whatever is down here is trying to push into my head, I can feel it, Lieutenant Commander. It's stronger the closer we get to its source."

" I can feel it as well Dox." Thex replied trying not to show the fear in her voice. Every step she took made her want to run away as fast as she can as the eerie thought that she'd been here before. She paused as the two of them approached another fork in the passage. Looking at the ruins and images carved into the rock the andorian paused as she tried to think what they could mean. " Is it me or is this whole corridor going back on itself?" She asked her companion.

"It's not you, Thex." Dox said, looking down each possible direction they could go, weapon at low ready as she pondered their new dilemma. "The tunnel floor has been steadily declining by... according to my EVA internal gyroscope... 10 to 15 degrees. At the length we walked... 322 meters... it's possible we could be a level below where we came in by now, and have turned right back around in this labyrinth. Even without active sensors, I'm recording our movements as a map of our path recorded in the onboard systems."

"That said, the library in my suit's HUD has nothing on those symbols. Maybe if we still had access to the ship's library computer. Are any of these runes... familiar to you?"

The red-headed Romulan may have not been a telepath, but she didn't need to be to read the anxiety on her blue friends' face. And here, Dox could see Thex trying to process what she was seeing clearly in her face and body language.

Thex's blue eyes looked deeply at them the ruins on the wall seemingly staring back at her from across the veil of time. " I think so." She said pointing to the runs. " That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die. " She said slowly having no idea how she could understand them. Had her original self known this language?

If it was epigenetic memory or programmed knowledge that the azure engineer was consciously unaware of, Dox had no way of knowing. But that was a question for smarter people for when they returned to the ship, and the Romulan flight chief was concerned with keeping her troubled friend focused on problem-solving, rather than introspection. As such her thoughts were focused on what the phrase meant. "Well... Death isn't here, so I'm assuming that was meant metaphorically. We have intel that there's... some kind of ancient intelligence in here trying to get out that's been here a long time. Our 'eternal lie'. Something akin to the eldritch creatures you and the others encountered when the Hera was in the Undrheim."

"So... this could mean that if we can strengthen the locks keeping them in there, they can eventually die in that realm." Dox suggested as she pondered the information. "Which would be an end to their threat, in theory. But it doesn't really give us any clue as to which path to take. Any ideas?"

Thex looked backward and forwards upon the two passages trying to think of which could be the correct way. After what felt like an eternity she turned to the left-hand passage. " I think it's this way. My head hurts the more i think about this passage."

Stopping to concentrate, Dox considered what Thex was saying and closed her eyes and focused on her own mental defenses. When she turned down the other tunnel, the pressure did reduce slightly. It was a subtle difference, but indicative that Thex was right. "Agreed. My own mental defenses are feeling more pressure from that direction than the other."

"I can't help you like Sonak could, Thex." Dox said, putting her arm on her friends, talking as such now and not as a subordinate to her superior. "But no matter what happens, I am here. I will do whatever it takes to make sure we get out of here. I'm not going anywhere. I swear on my honor, you will NOT be alone here."

Thex gave Dox a reassuring look. " Thank you my friend. Now let's get this done get the clones out of the tubes than get back to the Hera. Then I'm giving my girls a hug."

"THAT sounds like an excellent plan all around." Dox replied as they continued their way down the tunnel, it inexplicably seemed to be getting darker and the walls appeared to be getting narrower as the two armor-clad officers occasionally scraped them with their suits. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as both women felt the pressure in their heads increase as they went.

"Mnheeeeeiii'saaaheeee" Came a voice from behind them that caused Dox to turn with a jerk, her weapon raised. Her already rapid Romulan heartbeat ramped up as she looked up the long path behind them and saw nothing.

"F... father?" Dox whispered under her breath, recognizing the voice of her dead father echoing in her mind. Shaking it off, she turned back to Thex. "Whatever this is down here, I think it's beginning to get past my mental defenses."

There was an evident strain on Dox's determined face as she reinforced her grip on her own mind, shutting it back out. "Unless you heard that, too."

"I heard my daughters screaming." Came Thex weak voice as the voice's echo slowly faded from her mind. She gulped before she swallowed and fixed her voice. " I guess what's down here is capable of manipulating multiple people at once. Which is expected."

Looking at Thex to make eye contact, Dox leaned in and all but whispered to her friend. "Your daughters are safe on the Hera, as are mine. Whatever is down here will never touch them. These creatures... they're trying to unnerve us. Get into our heads and manipulate our fears and our desires. Your children. My dead father."

"But that tells us something very, very important, Thex." Dox said, a slight grin that made the Romulan pilot look eerily like her mother in the moment. "They are on the defensive."

Thex gave her friend a reassuring nod as they kept going further into the pyramid. Every step felt worse for the Andorian as the screams of her daughter, quad and friends echoed inside her head. In her head, she kept on listing the ship's current spare part log desperately trying to keep her mind away from whatever was down in the bowl of this abomination.

Further, the pair went as the torments inside their heads seemed to increase. For Dox, she heard the pleas of her father being murdered again. The mirthless laugh of his killer, the renegade Romulan, Dalia Rendal. She heard Mona screaming for her family that was killed and eaten while the Miradonian woman was caged and forced to watch as a child. Those screams were then replaced by the screams of their triplets. Through it all, Dox concentrated with all her will on the image of Mount Selaya in her mind. The mental defenses that Sonak had trained her to develop.

But as strong as her defenses were, they weren't quite up to the challenge of whatever lurked in the depths below as sweat beaded on Dox's furrowed brow. Then, as the pressure on both women's' minds seemed to reach its peak, there was a sudden sensation, not unlike a wave cresting around them as the narrow tunnel opened up into a larger chamber.

Before them, a circular room with a domed ceiling. All formed of the same black stone that surrounded them the whole way down. In the center of the floor, the groove lines seemed to converge in a pattern of some kind that Dox didn't recognize. Leaking out from the grooves, speckles of an eerie, sickly yellow light that streamed out like a noxious vapor.

This was one of the three, described doors that kept the crawling terror contained, it was visibly leaking, and they were standing on it.

Thex's mind was a mix of horror, astonishment, and wonder all at once as she looked over the nightmare made flesh before her. How were they even supposed to begin on closing this thing? The door seemed almost the size of the Hera's saucer section. As if it could sense the presence the stone slab appeared to more as more of the sicky yellow light began to force its way through the cracks.

Before Thex could say a word her mind broke as the stabbing pain shot through her head, down her spine and into her very soul. Collapsing to the ground the blue girl from Andoria screamed as reality seemed to break. She could feel her parents boot on her neck as they'd pulled her back into the compound. A kick broke her ribs causing her to gasp for air as they dragged her towards the processing center. " You are nothing Thex, you were livestock created to be processed nothing more, your quad doesn't love you and you're daughters....."

" Don't you dare even mention them monster." She sputtered out through the pain as she focused on the two things in the world she cared more than anything. The one thing they could never make her lose hope in this world. Her mind began racing on that one fact. Get up Thex you're daughters need you.

On the other side of the circular chamber, Dox saw her friend crumple to the floor and flail against unseen apparitions. The trails of yellow mist from the grooves intensified and wrapped around the Andorian engineer as Dox started over towards her friend. Whatever Thex was seeing, Dox couldn’t see, but she could hear what the Andorian was saying.

“Thex? Whatever you’re seeing isn’t real! We’re alone in here! Your children are on the Hera! You can...” Dox began to reach for her friend, oblivious to most of what was being made manifest for the Andorian woman when her suit systems all seemed to go dead. The light creeping out of the floor cut off and suddenly, the entire chamber went dark.

Suddenly, in the darkness, Dox felt a blast of cold as she called out, feeling the heat sap out of her as her cheeks went flush, “Lieutenant Commander? Are you there? Can you hear me?”

Instinctively, Dox grabbed herself by the arms to warm up and immediately noticed her bare hands on her sleeves, not the advanced and heavily insulated EVA suit that she had been wearing a moment before. “Imirrhlhhse… this… this is impossible. Okay. F… follow your own advice, Mnhei’sahe. T… This isn’t real. This is just an illusion.”

It was only then that she realized that the pressure on her mind that she had been feeling had vanished with the darkness. And since she was relatively certain her not feeling her armor was some form of hallucination, it could only mean that whatever was down here had completely penetrated her mental defenses. “Okay… concentrate. Focus. Find your center, Mnh…”

“Mnhei’sahe?” Came a voice from the darkness right in front of her as a blinding light snapped on in the darkness that stabbed into her eyes. Covering her face, she squinted as the source held the arm-mounted light up to the ceiling.

“Commander?” Dox said, noticing that the new arrival was Rita Paris. “How did you get…”

Before she could finish, Rita stepped over, looking around. “Sonak cut through the interference. Got us limited scanning back, but I’m guessing our hosts used that same attack they used to disintegrate our weapons on your armor to get rid of that protection glyph. But it’s okay, I’ve got you.”

“Where’s Thex, Miss Dox?” Rita asked, turning back to Dox with a stern expression. Looking around the otherwise empty chamber but for the two of them, Dox replied with mounting anxiety in her voice.

“I don’t know. When my lights went out, it’s like she vanished, Comman…” Dox said, before Rita again cut her off, mid-sentence.

“So, you lost her?” Rita said with a judgmental tone, tilting her head and looking down at the shorter woman. “The entire reason we’re here... to help our friend… and you LOST her?”

“I didn’t…” Dox began to reply in protest, but Rita kept talking.

“Thex was compromised. Under mental duress. You should have taken command as soon as the two of you were separated together, but what did you do? You let her go first instead of taking the lead and now she’s gone!” Rita snapped, stepping up and beginning to loom over Dox, shaking her head. “I knew Enalia promoted you too soon. I knew you weren’t ready. This is Castillo de Muerte all over again, isn’t it?”

“What?! NO!!! Thex was in control of her faculties. She was...” Dox protested, her face contorting as her emotions began to well up. Then, as she considered Rita’s words, she stepped back, still freezing, but beginning to realize what was happening. “No. Rita was already separated before Thex took the lead. And with no comms, she would have no way of knowing what has been happening with us.”

“Thex is stronger than that, and so am I.” Dox said, confusion replaced with anger, her eyes squeezed shut trying to push out the invasion in vain. “You’re not Rita. This isn’t real.”

“Oh, you truly want to believe that, don’t you Granddaugher? That you are so special that you can overcome any challenge.” Came the familiar, cold, calculating voice of Verelan t’Rul. Looking up, instead of Rita Paris, Dox saw her family matriarch standing in front of her, dressed in the finest of green and gold robes, looking as regal as ever.

“N… no. That wasn't Rita. You’re not my grandmother.” Dox protested as she struggled to her feet.

“No? What am I, then, Granddaughter? Perhaps a voice in your head showing you what you really think of yourself, Mnhei’sahe?” the image of her silver-haired grandmother said. “Because you are too smart to be fooled thusly. Too clever. Clever like a good Romulan.”

“I know… I know what you’re trying to do. It wo… won’t work! This is an illusion in my mind.” Dox said, closing her eyes and reinforcing the image she had been trained to see, but as she struggled to visualize the familiar, arid landscape and precipitous mountain steps, instead, she saw the steps of the senate on Romulus. Saw that teal sky and felt the spring air warming her cheeks.

“Just come home with me, Mnhei’sahe. Stop fighting your destiny and stand at my side. Take my hand and the pain can end. Take my hand and come home with me.” Verelan said, pleading in her voice. “I NEED you. I’m too old. I cannot sway the senate. I cannot help our people. But you, your youth and strength. You can SAVE our world from itself.”

Standing on shaky legs, Dox looked at the image of her Grandmother and shouted back, angry now. “NO!!! I’m NOT going back! I’m FREE!!! And you can’t… NOO! You’re another illusion. Those… things giving my fears a voice. You’re just trying to control me, and it won’t work!”

“Why not, Mnhei’sahe.” Came a chilling voice from behind her. Turning with a jerk, Dox looked into the eyes of a small, slight, pale Japanese woman with hollow black eyes and raven-black hair dressed all in black. “You let us all control you. Paris, Telvan, Charybdis, your grandmother, ME.”

“You cannot pretend with me, Dōshi.” The image of Masato Rei said stepping just a bit forward and calling Dox a ‘kindred spirit’ in the woman’s own original tongue from millennia ago, before she assumed the mantle of Death itself. “I know you as well as I do myself.”

“As a child, your mother controlled you and you were a good little officer. Then it was your adopted grandparents and you became an attentive prisoner. A dutiful student. A good cadet. A loyal officer. Everything you could be to replace the one thing you wanted to be: a child.” Rei said, rounding Dox, who hadn’t even noticed that Verelan had vanished. “Poor little Romulan girl, always wanting to have what you could not. Always wanting someone… anyone... telling her what to do.”

“Just let go, Dōshi. Let go of the responsibility. All the hands reaching for you. Telling you what to be." Stepping back, Rei’s face vanished again, almost devoured by shadow as her cold voice echoed across the black, shiny stone walls. “Let go. It's so much easier. Come with me. Be nothing.

DHAT!!!!” She screamed, ‘no’ in Romulan as she shut her eyes tight and dropped to her knees, grabbing the sides of her head with her hands. “No!!! This… This is just FEAR! My fear. You’re just reaching into my head and pulling out every ugly thought… every base fear…”

“Trying to make me…” Dox cried in the darkness as her eyes opened, their normal brown color returned. “Trying to make me give up control. Give up... everything. So you can feed off of it.”

There was silence as the yellow mists tried to wrap themselves around her as she let go of her head and sat quietly on the stone floor. Crossing her legs, she let out a long breath and closed her eyes again. “No more. No. I know where I’ve failed. I know where I’ve given in and given too much.”

An edge returned to her voice as she concentrated. “I will not be afraid of my own fears. I will NOT be afraid of my own decisions.” As she shouted, that image of Mount Selaya began to fade back into being in her mind's eyes, her mental defenses strengthening. “I choose to be here! I choose to help my friend! I CHOOSE to be better than my fear!”

The swirling mists began to dissipate as Dox felt the familiar warmth of her EVA armor surrounding her as she snapped her eyes open in the chamber, back in reality and out of the prison of her own mind. Below her, the yellow lights began to dim slightly. But next to Thex, they were still leaking out.

In that moment, the pressure upon her mind began to fade. Out of the illusion, she could feel it again, like the memory of a headache, dull and throbbing within her mind. But decidedly outside of it, once again.

Feeling as if her limbs weighed a metric ton, the exhausted Romulan woman dragged herself across the room. “I don’t know if you can hear me Thex, but I’m HERE. You are NOT alone. You are NOT nothing. It doesn’t matter what you came from, only what you’ve MADE for yourself! For your family!!!

If Dox's words had reached Thex only the deepest part of her subconscious could tell. The engineer was internal screaming as nightmares flashed before her eyes. Lifetimes after lifetimes flashed before her eyes each one ending horribly as her body and mind were broken and scattered to the solar winds.

" You are nothing Thex. An accidental anomaly from a genome created to be consumed. You're no better than livestock. " the nightmares said in the haunting voice of her quad, friends, "family" and many others.

The pain coursed through her body as she tried finding something to block the pain. Her broken figures pulled on the stone slab until they came to something. The familiar feeling of her bracelets. Even though her blooded figures she recognized them. She knew they wouldn't work, but the feeling brought new strength to her mind.

She wasn't nothing. She was Thex. Starfleet engineer, fixer of tech and friend of the god, sh'za of her quad and shreya to her girls and she wasn't going to let this thing that had mocked her and threatened them beat her. It may be pointless but to creatures like this defiance was the one thing they understood.

Staggering to her feet she used all of her strength to try and utter ut the words pro.....

For a fraction of a microsecond, an image of vash the image the fake thavan shot before her eyes doing nothing, but giving her a look of utter concern.

And it all became clear. Like a shadow lifting from her mind the darkness was gone and the stone she was lying upon buckled and then fell with an unimaginable shreak.

Immediately, both women began to fall as Dox flumped around the azure engineer, clutching her with both arms and held on as tightly as she could. In that same instant, the tiny hologram of Ensign Fiona O'Dell popped up into the red-headed Romulan's heads up display.

=^="It appears that yuir fallin'. Activatin' rear piton and emergency cable now."=^= And as it spoke, from the rear of Dox's suit's belt, a tiny retractable piton fired straight up, lodging itself hard into the domed roof above them as they jerked to a stop on the incredibly strong cable. =^="External sensors are offline, but INternal sensors detect surface contact with another EVA suit. Would ye like to...=^=

"Activate armor to armor mag locking and KRELDANNI SHUT UP, Fiona!!!" Dox shouted, cutting the hologram off. With a hum, the metal plates of the armor magnetically locked on to Thex's own suit, allowing the exhausted pilot to relax her grip while they hung there.

"Thex... are you okay? Can you hear me?" Dox asked as they dangled over the open darkness, the cable slowly retracting to pull them back up to the chamber level. Hanging there, it took Dox a second to realize that the mental pressure she had been fighting against was gone. Whatever had been down there, leaking out, seemed to vanish from her mind along with the now-gone yellow mists.

"I'm okay." Thex said firing her own grapple to aid Dox's in pulling them up. " I think it's over. " she said a weak smile coming to her face. " I really shouldn't have said that." she said quickly the universe had a very bad sense of humor.

To Be Continued…


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