USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Relieving Pressure

Posted on Thu Dec 15th, 2016 @ 10:20pm by Captain Claudia Ainscow & Lieutenant JG José Muñiz & Major Storr Garlake & Sergeant Bella Zaltin

Mission: S1E2 - Unity
Location: Polaris
Timeline: Mission Day 12; 22:45

After herself, Tolan and Will had returned from the away mission to retrieve the supplies Claudia felt that it would be worthwhile boarding the freighter to take as much of the cargo as they could to reduce the pressure on the Vindex's supplies. She decided to call Storr and see if he was up for taking a team over to the Polaris - which currently sat disabled off the Vindex's port bow.

=/\="Ainscow to Garlake and Muniz. Please meet me in the main shuttlebay - as soon as possible. Mr. Garlake please bring a squad with you"=/\= Claudia said.

José was on the bridge at the time and after hearing the call summoning him to the shuttlebay he nodded to a relief flight control officer to take over before he departed.

José replied. =/\="On my way Captain"=/\=




Bella looked over the two long tables at which Alpha and Bravo squads were standing, each just finishing placing their phaser rifles on the flat surface in front of them. Every rifle was unloaded and had an orange trigger guard inserted into the trigger well for additional safety. Nodding to herself, she walked towards the table with Alpha squad.

"Now, I'm sure you all remember the Rifleman's Creed from Boot. Let's recite it now." There were some muted grumblings at each table but she slammed a fist down in front of Lance Corporal Evan Muzika's table position, causing his rifle to clatter. "Lance Muzika, care to lead us?" A quick head bob, slightly wide eyes, and his body coming to attention confirmed her request.

"This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will...

My rifle and I know that what counts in war is not the rounds we fire, the noise of our burst, nor the ozone we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit...

My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will...

Before my fellow Marines, I swear this creed. My rifle and I are the defenders of myself, my unit, my ship, and my Federation. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of my life.

So be it, until victory is the Federation's and there is no enemy, but peace!"

Sergeant Zaltin nodded. There was some stuttering and a repeated word or two but Muzika did well. He better have, being one of the newest out of Boot.

"Thank you, Lance. Now, the first step for..." she began, though was interrupted by Captain Garlake entering the room. "Ten hunt!" she called, bringing herself (and causing everyone else to come) to attention.

"As you were," he said, locking eyes with Bella's purple gaze. As he made his way to the front of the small classroom, the marines of Alpha and Bravo squads came to parade rest. "Sergeant Zaltin, I need you to prep Bravo squad for an assist in unloading supplies from an abandoned freighter. Enemy status unknown. Oh, and I'm going to need you to come along and help assess."

Bella smiled at the request and her commanding officer returned the gesture. With all of the commotion with keeping the Two-Five at a constant yellow alert status for several weeks, she had been instrumental in the daily logistics but she was very glad to get a shot at moving back into tactical operation. "Of course, sir." Still looking Garlake in the eyes, her enthusiasm barely suppressed as she addressed Vinar Shorinal, the Orion Bravo squad leader.

"Corporal Shorinal, have your squad geared up and ready in five minutes to meet me and the Captain in the main shuttlebay." The flurry of activity behind Garlake indicated that Bravo understood and had already made their way out.

"Shall we?" Storr asked, stepping aside slightly and gesturing with his arms that Bella precede him out of the room. She smirked.

"That'll get you killed some day," Bella replied with a leer as she took the MCO's invitation and swung her hips as she walked. In their short time together, she thought that the two complemented each other's leadership styles and since it seemed that Captain Garlake fancied himself a ladies man, Bella took much pleasure in teasing him to no end.

"Alpha squad, dismissed," Garlake intoned as he and his First Sergeant left for the equipment storage lockers to gear up and prepare.




José arrived in the shuttlebay and walked over to Claudia. The woman looked tired but he guessed that it was the mission and all the late nights catching up with her. Nevertheless, he was always up for an away mission.

"Reporting as ordered Captain. Where would you like to go this evening?" José asked.

Claudia smiled. "That lovely freighter we're parked next to. We're going to go aboard and take what supplies we can - the Marines are joining us for the away mission - yourself and I will remain in the runabout and keep watch"

"Sounds good. Which one are we taking?" José asked.

Claudia pointed to the Sheaf. After the last mission, the Clyde was now grounded for checks and the Sheaf was the only craft so far not used for any of the away missions.

"Very well Captain. I'll get it ready while you wait for the Marines to arrive" José replied.

With a nod from the captain, José made his way aboard the Sheaf and began his pre-flight checks and ensured everything was in order before powering the craft up ready to depart.




Storr, Bella, and the members of Bravo squad all arrived together and approached Captain Ainscow who was standing outside the Sheaf.

"Ma'am, Captain Garlake, Sergeant Zaltin, and Corporal Shorinal and his Bravo squad reporting as ordered," he said with a snapped salute. "What's on the menu today?" he asked with a gregarious smile, seeing that his Captain was already showing the effects of long, stressful days with little sleep or respite.

Claudia was happy to see Storr bring some Marines along so quickly. She gestured to the open door of the runabout and led them aboard before informing them of the mission.

"There's a freighter we're parked next to. I want to go aboard and take what we can from the cargo holds - after that I think we'll leave it adrift. I don't think destroying it would be a wise idea - especially if The Consortium comes looking" Claudia said.

Ensuring everyone was aboard Claudia closed the door and carried on with the briefing. Signaling to José that the craft was ready the Spanish helmsman received approval to depart and took the craft out of the shuttlebay and towards the Polaris.

Claudia continued. "To transport the cargo you'll be given some tags to place aboard the cargo containers. Once they're placed on the container they will be beamed back to the Vindex after a few seconds so it'll be a case of tagging anything that looks useful and moving onto the next one. Any questions?"

Storr, Bella, and Bravo squad nodded as Captain Ainscow gave the briefing. He had a few questions and was sure that the others did too.

"I'll start," Garlake said, looking first to Shorinal and then over the rest of Bravo squad to impress that they should speak up if they had questions too. "Is the freighter abandoned? Does it still have life support? I assume that those first two questions are 'yes', otherwise, you wouldn't be here but that leads me to my second question...all due respect ma'am, but why are you leading this away mission, especially when it's just a simple box grab?" Left unsaid (he hoped) was that her time was more valuable than this and that she could also use the rest.

Bella nodded. She had those same questions but yet one more. "Captain, do we know what to expect in these containers or how many there are?"

"The freighter could have been abandoned since we attacked it - although if it isn't then we can expect minimal opposition. Life support was still active when we ran a scan a few minutes before departure" Claudia said.

Claudia didn't know what was in the containers but she had instructed the transporter operator to have them scanned mid-stream and abort the transport of any containers that were dangerous.

"We don't. Given where it was going I'd say it's more than likely going to be medical supplies and spare warp engine parts amongst other things. If there's any weaponry that isn't armed and is safe to transport then we'll take that as well - if time allows then try to examine the cargo before you transport it. If you're under fire just get it beamed out" Claudia replied.

Everyone nodded and, satisfied, waited with the occasional quiet banter as the shuttle made its short journey.

A few minutes later the shuttle had arrived over the freighter and Claudia conducted some scans first to check the status of the Polaris before turning to face the Marines.

"Alright. We've got people still aboard...I'm checking for a location for you to beam in away from them " Claudia said.

A few moments later she found a place for the Marines to beam in without being seen straight away.

Claudia continued. "When you're ready I've programmed the beam-in location to the transporter. I'll keep a lock on you just in case - if you want to beam out just let us know and I'll pull you right out of there. Before you get on the transporter pad the tags I mentioned earlier are in that tray to the left of the of the pad. Take as many as you can - if you need any more I'll bring some over"

Storr was glad when they finally arrived; the Sheaf wasn't the largest of craft and adding seven marines to her passenger list made things quite...comfortable in the rear cabin.

"You heard the Captain, Kargon," Bella said to the Klingon, the member of Bravo squad closest to the tray. He grumbled (*as his usual M.O...what was it with Klingons and acting like surly teenagers?* she thought) though still dutifully passed it to the other members of the team who took a handful and placed them in the dump pouch attached to the right side of their "war belt". A heavily modified design of Captain Garlake's, he had adapted an engineering toolbelt to allow for modular storage of various tactical items. Today's items were dump pouches and an emergency life-support hood.

After checking that everyone was on the transporter pad ready to beam over to the Polaris.

"Energising...now," Claudia said.




The blue-white sparkling light disappeared and was immediately replaced by the garish white/green light from flickering fixtures on the ceilings and a sickening smell emanating from hot steam erupting from a broken pipe 5 meters ahead. An alarm was blaring throughout the ship and rotating red lights added to the discord of sensory inputs. Shorinal, the green Orion squad lead, had to brace himself against the bulkhead to keep from throwing up.

"Frak!" Garlake yelled at no one in particular. Looking around, they were in the corridor leading into what seemed to be a cargo bay, while it intersected with another corridor beyond the white cloud. "Shorinal, take Blake and Sulvik and go with Zaltin. I'll take Kargon and McBroom."

"Roger sir. Let's go!" the Bravo squad lead yelled so that he could be heard above the din of the ship.




Back on the runabout Claudia scanned for anyone approaching the away team. So far so good - but she wasn't going to assume they'd be able to walk in and walk out again without being opposed. It was The Consortium and they didn't give up very easily - what Claudia thought was going to happen and what she hoped was going to happen were two totally different things.

=/\="Ainscow to away team. I will keep this commlink open and give you directions when you need them as we have found the interiors schematics in the runabout's database. So far all of the life signs seem to concentrated around the bridge and engineering - I'll inform you of any changes to that however. If you have any trouble please let me know and we'll see what we can do from here"=/\= Claudia said.

Meanwhile, José had placed the craft in a position over the cargo holds where he expected the away team would beam out once they'd completed their mission. He had to admit he was very surprised that the freighter hadn't attempted to escape.

"It makes you think Captain. Their engines are operational so why haven't they attempted to escape?" José said.

Claudia nodded. "That's a good point. Perhaps they see trying to escape as pointless as the Vindex could destroy that ship in seconds and they've got no way of calling for help anyway. I instructed the bridge crew to keep a target lock on the Polaris' engines and to disable it the moment they try to escape"




Bella joined Shorinal, Blake, and Sulvik as the group scoured the cargo bay, quickly running out of tags after finding a conveniently-dropped inventory PADD carelessly discarded near the entrance. It was a blessing in multiple ways, as their handlights seemed to barely pierce the darkness of the vast hold.

The Caliasian tapped her commbadge =/\=Sergeant Zaltin to Sheaf, the first load of tags are placed and ready for transport. Please send down more tags.=/\=

"What the h*ll was that?" Jessica Blake shouted, her light swinging wildly towards the far wall which seemed to catch just the last bit of movement behind a metal storage rack, a high-pitched rapid tapping accompanying the shadown...




Garlake, Kargon, and McBroom did their best to both travel quickly and stay concealed as they listened to turn-by-turn instructions from Captain Ainscow. Her directions were a godsend as visibility was horrible due to the dim lights cast against the dark green structural pieces seeming to cast shadows in every direction, the rotating red alert lights not helping matters in the least.

"We're here, take positions," the Marine Captain said, the small fireteam waiting just outside what they were told was the bridge. The shuttle's sensors weren't able to detect the number of lifesigns beyond the door due to erratic readings from the ship's damaged condition so Storr wanted them to be cautious. He held up three fingers, slowly removing one, then the final digit before the three marines sprang forward, the door buckling and giving way under their combined strength. What they saw was nothing like what they had expected.

"QI'yaH" the Klingon uttered in a drawn-out way that Storr was unaware that Klingons were able to perform. All Storr knew was that it was one of the strongest, most foul Klingon expressions that defied translation but he would have to agree; thirteen bodies were strewn across the bridge, each like a ragdoll carelessly tossed aside by some monstrous child, though each seemed to suffer from a massive chest wound. Blood was spattered wantonly over the walls and ceiling and as the three lifted their boots, the sickening sound of dried blood trying to hold them to the floor confirmed that it was there as well. Suddenly, the comm channel crackled to life.

=/\=...to Capt...{{static}}....Blake's...{{static}}...gotta {{static}}...Now!=/\= it was his First Sergeant, and the phaser firing in the background punctuated her message of distress.

"What in blue blazes..." Daniel "Danny" McBroom said in his Irish lilt, unconsciously copying the drawn-out expression Kargon took just moments ago.

=/\=Garlake to Zaltin, report!=/\=

=/\=Zaltin to...{{static}}...cow, we've...{{static}} {{phasers firing in rapid succession}}...Blake's down, we need evac..{{static}}..detely!=/\=

Claudia replied =/\="Alright we're trying to bring you out now. Stand by"=/\=

Claudia battled to bring the team out but interference was making things difficult. She kept trying but she was only getting partial locks or no locks at all. This was going to be a very long night.

"What?! Blake's dead?! How? Who?" McBroom demanded, his rifle back up at the ready and rapidly scanning the bridge with the weapon-mounted light. The beam cast a sickly circle into the black shadows that covered the bridge

"She didn't say 'dead', she said 'down'," Storr growled, tapping his commbadge again. =/\=Zaltin, report!=/\=

=/\=Shorinal, and Sulvik...{{static}}...are away, one to...{{static}} {{explosion}}=/\= the ship rocked and the plating under their feet rattled precariously.

"WHAT is going on?!" McBroom sounded, his light suddenly catching movement at its edge, the marine following it and sending a lance of phaser fire towards it. Suddenly, a small shape shrieked and seemed to jump from under one of the far panels directly towards the marines and particularly Storr. The MCO rapidly brought up his rifle and fired, striking true. Whatever it was exploded with a shriek as yellowish glop was sent in all directions, some landing on Danny's hapless arm. "FUUU...!" the Irishman howled as the smell and sound of burning flesh pierced the air. McBroom leveled his phaser rifle and began firing randomly, its bolts sending out showers of sparks as it impacted metal beams, LCARS displays, and viewscreens alike.

"Settle DOWN!" the Klingon roared, power-slapping the shorter marine across the face with a *thwack*. Storr inwardly winced at the power of the blow but McBroom was barely phased and eyed Kargon wildly. After a few moments, however, Danny backed down.

"Thanks...I, I needed that. FRACK that hurt," McBroom said, cradling his arm and then shaking it off as the ship lurched again.

=/\=Ainscow to Garlake, you need to proceed to Engineering for transport as there's too much interference on the bridge=/\=

Storr nodded to the two other men and they double-timed it down the corridor, as even more vents had opened and lights died out, making what should have been a short walk something of a grueling obstacle course. One particular junction was blocked by fallen support girders but having a Klingon around proved useful yet again as Kargon was able to lift them just enough to allow them all to pass. As if the natural obstacles weren't enough, skittering shapes followed them just beyond the light and seemed to crawl on the floor, walls and even the ceiling. The sound alone made the hair on the back of the Afrikaner's neck crawl.

Engineering was in sight but the massive blast doors were closed. Regardless, the three marines ran all the way to it and kicked. Hard. They all knew that 8-inch thick deuterium doors wouldn't give way, even to a motivated Marine's boot, but they had to try. Storr looked over his shoulder as the skittering shapes began to close in, the lights in this section even more sparse than before.

=/\=Captain, a transport anytime now would be appreciated...=/\= Captain Garlake said as the three brought their rifles up and began firing at the nearest of the shapes, many falling from their elevated positions and curling up on the bulkhead below. Suddenly, the doors behind them opened and Storr, McBroom, and Kargon took the fortuitous invitation and spilled through it into the completely black room beyond.

"Take us with you!!" the fearful yet lilting cry came as two figures leaped towards the closest marine. Storr, his hands on his rifle, was not even able to turn and defend himself before two pairs of arms wrapped around his waist and thigh. *Children?!* he thought, the words barely able to pass his mind before they were all enveloped in the welcome glow of the transporter.




Claudia looked as the Marines beamed aboard the Sheaf and once they'd fully materialized she looked at the team and then the two children that had come with them. They weren't two people Claudia expected to be returning to the Sheaf after the mission.

"Who are these two Captain?" Claudia asked.

José looked around and said nothing. It was a surprise for him too but he assumed the team were ready to go back to the Vindex and set a course back to their mother ship. It wasn't so bad for José as his shift was due to end at midnight - but Claudia looked like she was ready to fall asleep.

"I...I don't know," the MCO said, peeling the boy and girl from him and immediately rushing to the others that had already beamed aboard.

Bella was sitting on the floor of the runabout, holding Jessica's head in her lap with the young marine's eyes closed and looking almost serene despite the massive scorch marks on her lower torso and abdomen. Sergeant Zaltin looked up at her commander with tears in her eyes and anger in her glare.

Storr dropped to his knees beside her and reached out hesitantly before tenderly running the back of his fingers over her cheek. "What happened?" he asked in a near whisper.

"I'm not really sure," Zaltin replied, shaking her head and allowing stray tears to fall onto Jessica Blake's body. "One moment we had finished tagging the cargo, the next we were under attack from some creatures that were hiding in the shadows. Shorinal and Sulvik fragged a few and Jessica did the same but she was the farthest in the bay and...d*mn it! She shot one too close and it exploded, acid spraying all over her...it had eaten nearly through her by the time she had hit the ground." Bella was strong, she had seen death and had it happen around her but this was the first time it had happened when she had a leadership role and the effects now were far more intense.

Storr shook his head and raised himself to a knee, a hand now resting on his First Sergeant's shoulder for comfort as much as support. The other four marines were looking between Blake's still form and their MCO. He sighed and looked each of them in the eyes. "Lance Blake was a good Marine and she died doing her duty to the Corp. I want all of you to remember that, especially when you tell others what happened. We're still trying to figure out the details but one thing we know is true: She was a Marine, just like us, and we honor, not mourn our dead." there was silence as Garlake finished, everyone else taking a seat amongst the containers where they could find the space. What was there to say? Even the two children huddled together in the corner, not saying a word.

The children.

Storr looked over to the two Ktarian kids, no more than 9 and 6, probably brother and sister. They looked like they had seen (let alone gone through) blerrie and seemed shell shocked. *Lose one, gain two* the Captain Garlake thought, the shuttle returning to the Vindex with her spoils and sadness.

 

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