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In The End

Posted on Mon May 15th, 2017 @ 5:28am by Lieutenant JG José Muñiz & Lieutenant JG Nealey Snowdon & Elsie Cusack & Commander Akiva ben-Avram & Ensign Asher Maddison MD & Sergeant Bella Zaltin & Lance Corporal Thani th'Rrone

Mission: S1E5 - Unknown Territory
Location: Planetside Basecamp
Timeline: Mission Day 83; 1140

As the sun shone down on the trio, Asher looked around at their surroundings, taking them in again. She was still feeling groggy after the lack of sleep she'd had the night before, and after getting her hopes up Asher discovered the coffee wasn't made from the freshly ground beans Asher regularly enjoyed from Paul Foster's coffee machine. It was nice enough, though. It was keeping her awake.

"So," Asher asked, "has anyone found anything interesting?"

"I see a lot of interesting things," Laena said without looking up from her telescope. "Nothing that warrants a discussion though. How about you, Elsie?"

Elsie had seen some interesting specimens of wildlife and a couple of interesting geographical features which she wanted to share when she got back to the ship. She was still getting used to the fact Captain Ainscow had actually given her a uniform - sans commbadge and rank insignia - to join the away team with.

"I've seen some interesting looking species of wildlife - namely birds and a few insects. Would you like to see them?" Elsie replied.

"I'd love to, lead the way." Asher replied, glad at least someone wanted to have a conversation with her.

With her hair tied back into a ponytail, Asher had spent most of the morning taking pictures and using the time to think about where to go next if she didn't get the job full time. There was Tabbie, but was Tabbie going to want Asher if she found out about her intimate encounter with Martha Cusack? Asher thought no.

=/\=Ben-Avram to basecamp. Can anybody hear me?=/\=

Nealey was taking a break in the structure when she heard the call come in from Akiva. Placing her sandwich down and tapping her commbadge Nealey responded.

=/\="Loud and clear Commander"=/\= Nealey said.

=/\=Get everybody inside now! We only got two towers erected, so I don't know if we can reach the Vindex, but we're being pursued by hostile lifeforms. We're on our way.=/\=

Nealey nodded. =/\="Understood Commander"=/\=

Nealey walked outside - nearly bumping into Elsie and Asher as they walked into the structure. With just Laena outside Nealey ran up to her to warn her.

"You need to come inside - now" Nealey said.

Laena looked up from the telescope with a confused look, "Why? What's going on?"

Without an answer, Nealey grabbed Laena's arm and began to pull her towards the structure. In the few moments she had, Laena grabbed her telescope and held it close to her body.

Nealey lead Laena back inside and ordered everyone who was already inside to stay inside. This wasn't good - Nealey felt this away mission was about to become a disaster - just like the last away mission she was sent on before transferring to the Vindex.

"Everyone has to stay inside - nobody leaves until Commander ben-Avram gets back" Nealey ordered.

"What's going on?" Elsie asked.

Nealey shrugged. "I don't know exactly - but all I do know is the away team have encountered hostile life forms so we need to stay inside and away from the walls"

Mike and Thani were sitting atop empty cargo crates that had housed the shelter 20 yards to their right, the finishing touches on a hoop made of rigid vines and a spear from a long timber just completed.

"Alright, ready for me to kick your butt from here to the Vindex in qu'vak?" the Alpha squad leader asked the Andorian with a huge, Montana grin. Thani scoffed and stood, practicing his throw of the hoop.

"Please. I've played a game like this since I was a don't stand a chance, Billings. Besides," he said, returning Mike's smile with a smirk, "you wouldn't be willing to put any money on a sure loss."

"Woah now," Mike replied, moving up alongside Thani and holding the spear over his shoulder, his non-throwing arm out in front as an aiming guide. Leave it to Marines to create betting games involving primitive weapons when bored. "I'll take that bet, you blue-skinned devil. Throw that thing and let me show you how a real Marine does it."

The Andorian chuckled as he reached back and hurled the hoop as hard and as high as he could. Floundering through the air, the makeshift target spun and tilted through the air, Billings tracking it as it rose, his tongue out and eyes squinted (though Thani wasn't sure if it was just for show or to really help with concentration). Just as the hoop began to slow at the apex of the toss, Mike leaned back and then hurled the spear skyward, the sharpened beam launching from his hands. As it pierced the sky towards its target, time seemed to slow as the spear flew closer and closer to the spinning hoop, both wobbling from their hasty and expedient construction. Closer and closer it flew until the hoop spun and swirled just enough to allow the spear to clear it...which it did.

A loud whoop and holler erupted from Mike as he leaped into the air, his hand pumping in a fist above him. Landing, the two watched as the hoop and spear continued their downward trajectory into the forest beyond them; Mike, a grin a Montana-mile wide, Thani, a look of contempt. As the two objects disappeared beyond the treeline, Mike was about to gloat when a thundering roar from the forest pierced the quiet and a rumbling under their feet nearly toppled the two to the ground. The two Marines turned to stare at each other, a "what-did-you-DO?!" look if there ever was one, when two massive forms burst from the trees. The massive...things were quadrupeds with a slick, smooth gray and green mottled skin with long, thick necks that curved back down to a disturbing "face" and a tentacled mouth. And they were...angry.

=/\=....hostile lifeforms...=/\= their commbadges squawked.

"No shi..." Mike began before he and Thani immediately turned and fled towards the shelter, sporadically firing over their shoulders with their sidearms. The beams struck true, though, given the warbling roar of the creatures it only seemed to annoy them. That was when Thani saw it: the first had a spear stuck in its upper right torso. Figures...

The Argo skidded to a halt near the door to the shelter. Akiva, Jose, Bella, and Drex abandoned the buggy where it came to rest and scrambled toward the shelter door.

"Go, go!" Akiva ushered the three of them inside and slammed it closed behind him. A deadbolt slide secured it in place.

"Somebody help me with this crate," he said. The strongbox near the door budged slowly despite his grunting.

"That'll be me" José replied.

José moved forward and started pushing the crate with Akiva to make sure it properly covered the door.

"Get those bunks upturned," Akiva ordered. "And, Sergeant, see that everybody is armed."

"Ahead of you, Commander," Bella spoke-shouted, the code already entered into the 4x8 crate's access panel. Popping open the lid, Sergeant Zaltin began handing out phaser rifles as quickly as she could, her hand dipping into the crate empty and coming back out with another to be taken just as rapidly.

Nealey started pulling the bunks over as per Akiva's request. She was glad for the workout although this wasn't quite what she had in mind. By the looks of it they wouldn't be sleeping on them again - although it was still possible they could end up returning to the surface in the near future.

The comms station linked to the outside tower warbled a hail. Akiva ran to it and sent a return signal.

"It's the Vindex!"

Elsie perked up - she was busy packing her bag until the news that the Vindex had managed to get through to them was broken. Turning around to see what was going to be said.

Nealey too turned when she heard the news from Akiva.

With all the rifles issues, Bella began checking the charge on her replacement charge "bricks" though she opened an ear for the XO's communique.

"About time" Nealey commented.

In her surprised state, Asher decided to take shelter and listen to see what the announcement from the Vindex was. This was perfect, her first ever away mission, and they were being attacked by some unknown creatures. She decided to stay silent, probably for the best, she thought.

=/\="We're sending someone down to rescue you. Everyone needs to remain in the structure until the Mersey has arrived - do not attempt to leave using the Horsa"=/\= Claudia said.

Akiva heaved a sigh of relief. He had not allowed himself the cheer the others had felt, but now that good news was here, he allowed himself to hope again.

"The Horsa is dead to this world, Captain, so that's great news. We're bunkered down in the shelter. Be advised we're fighting off hostile lifeforms on all sides... please hurry."

=/\="The Mersey will be with you within the next ten minutes or so - we are trying to locate the source of this radiation but so far we haven't been successful. Once inside I want you to stay in there - Commander Cusack will beam you aboard using the Mersey's transporters. Is everyone still alive Commander?"=/\= Claudia replied.

Akiva looked around at the ground team huddled behind the bunks-turned-makeshift-barricades, then stared in horror as the dents bulging in the door broke into a hole. Slithering tentacles from the lead creature's face clawed through like a squid.

"Back out, frackers!" Billings yelled, standing and shooting pulse after pulse at the tentacles which slowly retreated through the gaping hole. Kneeling down, he and Thani grunted and shoved one of the double bunks against the broken wall with hopes that it would at least slow down the creatures.

"For the moment, Captain, but the shelter has been breached. We're fighting off... whatever these things are. I'll see you on the other side."

=/\="Don't say that Commander. We'll be with you soon - sit tight and--"=/\=

The wall next to Akiva gave way to a spear-like limb which pierced it, barely missing him. He jumped back out of pure reflex. The comms console was damaged beyond repair, so there was nothing for him to do but dive over the upturned bunk to wait alongside the others.

Words were few. Those who were armed fired at the incoming horde of the giant predators who seemed viciously affronted by their presence.

"Hide behind that bunk Elsie" Nealey ordered.

Elsie did as she was told and hid behind the bunk.

Nealey took her trusty knife out of her bag - she did away with her phaser for now. The young Operations officer didn't have a need for that now she'd managed to retrieve the knife she knew could take down their enemy - providing she could work out and then hit their weak spot before she was taken out.

"Everyone away from the walls!" Nealey shouted.

José was hidden behind a bunk close to the door - armed with a rifle set to its maximum setting he was ready to take out the first of those creatures to breach their defenses.

Laena stood beside Elsie, keeping her body in front of the young girl as she held a phaser rifle pointed towards the door. Every few moments, she took a single shot and jumped at the recoil, but continued on.

Elsie was a little worried what was going on but she stood behind Laena whilst clutching her telescope - the same one she'd taken outside earlier that morning when Akiva made a noise on the roof - but this time it was for real it seemed.

Bella, Drex, Billings, and Thani all faced opposite walls behind their expedient defenses, each between the fleeters and the threat beyond. 10 minutes in a grunt's mind might as well be an eternity and they hoped that they could fight bravely even for half that time. From somewhere Mike produced a smokestick and lit it, the grey fumes lazily floating to the ceiling. "What?" he asked, the question already asked in Bella's sidewards gaze. No matter. The structure was shaking as the creatures were coming back for another wasn't the time to argue tobacco use policy.

With the Mersey swooping overhead and dropping decoy charges to stun the creatures for long enough the creatures dropped to the ground one by one until they were all either dead or unconscious. Once the Mersey had landed Martha stepped out of the craft armed with a phaser rifle which she set to the maximum setting and shot the nearest of the creatures. Meanwhile, Martha went over to the structure and flung the door open.

"Get killing these bastards before they wake up" Martha shouted from outside.

"Can...should we do that?" Drex asked as the four Marines poured from the structure to be greeted by five of the behemoths lying supine upon the ground.

"Come on - we don't have much time. The Mersey is outside and waiting to take us back to the Vindex" Martha said.

"They aren't a threat to us right now and..." Drex continued. He was right, in the technical sense; the creatures (whatever they were) were no longer a threat to the crew in their stunned states. For all they knew, the creatures were simply protecting their grounds from invaders and it was they, not the tentacled ones, that were in the wrong. The Trill didn't have a chance to finish his thought, however, as three high pitched pulses broke his concentration.

"Frak 'em, you pussy." Mike Billings said, one foot on the nearest massive creature's head while three smoking holes drilled out the area where its eyes and nose used to be. "They attacked us, we hit back. Harder. We go home, they die. Questions?" The large marine flicked the nearly-spent smokestick into the now-dead creature's tentacles before turning and walking towards the next one.

"Hey, I don't appreciate that one bit. You know I can shoot-to-kill just as well as you can but at least I can think, you neanderthal." Drex fired back, the two walking at a decent pace. "You..." Drex's words were halted as Mike's phaser rifle was thrust into his chest.

"I what?" Mike shot back, reaching back into his pocket to retrieve another smokestick and lighting it, taking a deep drag. "I received a lawful order from a superior officer, just like you. I intend to carry it out and not be brought up on charges of insubordination. How about you do something with that rifle there that's in-line with that order, Corporal? Or have all those other live's you lived made you soft around the edges?" the Montanan quipped, thumping Drex on the temple.

"Frak you," Drex spat out, thumbing the safety on the rifle and looking down at the still frame of the massive...thing in front of him. It was breathing peacefully, the out breaths causing the tentacles to tremble and slither along the ground.

"That's not the way they taught us to talk to our squad commanders back at Boot, Drex." Billings retorted, taking another long, deep draw before flicking the butt into the alien's face. "Get to it or I'll write you up to the Major. Or even better," he paused, a dark leer across his face, "maybe the new MXO and he'll skin you alive like those Reman's are want to do."

"Frak. You."

"Seems to be the way of the ship now...I suppose you're in good company," Mike said as he turned and began walking away. Four phaser blasts echoed behind him and he lifted up his arms, two thumbs rising from his fists.

Nealey nodded. "Alright everyone let's get going - only take what you need for now. We'll hopefully be able to come back for the rest"

Elsie, Nealey and José were all ready to go - clutching their belongings and looking ready to run like they'd never ran before in their lives.

"Alright - Elsie, Miss Maddison and Miss Laena can go first. Mr Muniz - please escort them back to the Mersey. Miss Snowdon and I will bring up the rear with Commander ben-Avram" Martha said.

Laena dropped her phaser rifle and grabbed her telescope with one hand and Elsie's arm with the other and ran towards the shuttle.

With that instruction given, Asher grabbed her back and ran as fast as she could to the shuttle, almost tripping up in her haste. She couldn't wait to get off this planet, and her disappointed mood wasn't lifted any more when they had to wait to leave.

While everyone else gathered their effects, Akiva opted to leave his replaceable items behind in order to set the shelter's power cell to overload.

"Everybody needs to hurry, as we're going to want to be somewhere other than here," he announced to everyone. "We've only got a minute at best."

With Laena, Asher, José and Elsie out safely Martha scanned the room to see who was left. With the Marines otherwise engaged outside Martha looked at Akiva.

"You and Miss Snowdon head back to the Mersey - I'll go and get the Marines" Martha said.

"45 seconds," Akiva reminded her.

Martha headed outside and walked up to Bella whilst holding her rifle loosely just in case one of the odd looking creatures woke up again. Hopefully, they were all dead by now although as they knew nothing of the creatures it was clear they still had a little time on their hands.

"Come on Sergeant let's get back to the runabout" Martha instructed.

Bella nodded to the security chief and turned to her men, placing her fingers to her mouth. Two sharp whistles pierced the air followed by an arm wave which gathered the three men to her side. In good time, she might add. Turning, the four made their way to the Mersey, their heads on a swivel.

Martha followed behind the Marines - running backwards with occasional glances over her shoulder to make sure they weren't ambushed. Once she reached the Mersey the Tactical Officer tossed her rifle into the craft and jumped in through the door before closing it.

"Let's get going Ryland" Martha ordered.

"And away we go!" Ryland swiveled his hands to and fro on the con to lift the Mersey up and around.

Before the runabout got more than a couple meters, though, it lurched against the impulse engines.

"Something's grabbed hold," Ryland grunted. "Damn if that bastard ain't heavy."

"I'll deal with it" Martha said bluntly.

Martha returned to the tactical console and found that another creature had come up behind them after the craft had loaded up. Locking phasers on the target Martha pressed the trigger.

The blast from the aft phaser sent the creature flying, but two more moved in to take its place, then three more on top of them. In just a few seconds time, the Mersey was surrounded by tentacle-faced behemoths reaching up to pull it down from the sky.

"3, 2, 1..." Akiva closed his eyes and instinctively held Laena close.

An explosion sent a shockwave through the Mersey. Outside a plume of plasmoid fire shot into the air and consumed the herd of vicious predators like kindling. Remnant debris and flaming shards of what used to be the basecamp shelter fluttered to the ground in wispy ash and smoke.

"Well, I'll be damned," Ryland whispered. He wasted no further time and shot the Mersey on a reverse course back the way they'd come.

Martha remained at the console to monitor the shields. They didn't have very long left - so she warned Ryland to increase speed.

"We need to move a bit faster Lieutenant - the shield modifications aren't going to hold forever" Martha warned.

"I'm givin' you all she's got, Commander."

A hail broke in through the Mersey's comms system.

=/\="Vindex to Mersey. What's your status?"=/\=

"Sum-bitches wreaked havoc on the hull before we could get clear," Ryland replied. "I'm burnin' up the engines just trying to keep us going."

=/\="Sit tight Lieutenant - we'll be with you in about 60 seconds or so"=/\= Claudia replied.

"I hope so," Ryland said. "My nav systems are shot to hell in all this interference."

He threw a glance back at everyone and saw their solemn face. Even the little girl held a brave look overtop her frightened eyes. Ryland turned back to the conn.

"Captain, everyone onboard is in agreement. If the Vindex can't safely retrieve us, well, we understand."

Ryland closed the channel and set the engines to overdrive. The Mersey wouldn't last long at that level of power drain, but at this rate, neither would its passengers.

A tense moment went by with each second that the engines didn't die out or explode an eternity of bittersweet hope and anguish.

The comm burst with another hail from the Vindex.

=/\="Mersey, this is Vindex. Kill your engines and hold her steady"=/\=

"Copy all." Ryland deactivated the Mersey's engines and let her ride. He braced himself as best he could against the helm while trying to keep the runabout in position. "Crash positions!"

Elsie held her bag tightly and braced for the impact that was going to come - at least Martha was there with her. She wanted to be with Martha now but it was clear that she was busy - so Elsie decided to stay where she was instead.

José remained solemn - looking over at Nealey he offered a reassuring hand - surprised when Nealey reciprocated and took the Spaniard's hand tightly.

She knew it. Asher knew this away mission was going to be a complete disaster, and now the shuttle was about to crash into the ship, causing damage and, undoubtedly, casualties and the shuttle and anyone around it.

"Oh...fudge," Asher muttered, closing her eyes.

The explosion had elicited a grin from the four Marines but the situation they were now in produced nothing but grim faces across the hardened leathernecks. They faced death more often than everyone in the shuttle but it didn't make its inevitability something to relish.

"Frack it," Billings said, reaching into his pocket and retrieving four smokesticks, lighting them together. "The last ones I've got...takers?"

Thani took one immediately followed shortly by Bella. "Billings, watch your language...we've got women and children on board." the First Sergeant said with a smile that the Alpha squad commander couldn't make out as sarcastic or dismayed. Mike shrugged his shoulders while mumbling "earmuffs" and held the last one towards Drex with a lecherous grin. "Come on honey, one way or another it'll be a celebration."

Billings made kissing sounds as Drex snatched it and rapidly placed it between his lips while mumbling under his breath. "Fracker," he finally belted out to a punch on his shoulder from Bella, before taking a deep drag on his own cig.

The Mersey floated in place as its upward acceleration was overcome by the planet's gravity. Just as it began to plummet, the Vindex dipped beneath it in a swan dive and tractored the runabout into the shuttlebay amidst a hairpin recovery that sent it back on a space-bound trajectory.

Meanwhile, the runabout was flung headlong into the shuttlebay where arresting nests strained against the ship's auxiliary inertial dampeners. The Mersey buckled under the opposing forces, but remained intact and at rest.

"Who in the blue hell pulled that off?!" Ryland fell against the backrest of his seat in total shock.

"There's only one pilot on board who could do that - no offense Mr. Muniz," Martha said.

José still had hold of Nealey's hand and couldn't believe what had just happened. The Mersey had been saved by a daring maneuver from the Vindex and the Spaniard could tell there was a deep sigh of relief in the shuttlebay.

Elsie got up from her chair and went up to her mother - hugging her tightly.

"That's my Tabbie," Asher whispered, overwhelmed with emotion, thankful she and everyone else had been saved by the Vindex pilot's dive to save the shuttle.

Asher stood up from her seat and looked around to see if anyone was injured. It seemed no, and Asher started to collect her belongings to and get ready to get off the shuttle.

The four Marines looked to each other with semi-relieved simply meant that death's calling would need to be delayed. Standing, they shambled from the shuttle and then sauntered towards the shuttlebay exit. Bella would usually have formed them up and marched them out but they deserved the small victory concesion. How she was going to explain the smoking...well, she had a few nights to sleep on it before the Major came back.

Akiva took a moment to catch his breath and assess everyone, then pressed his commbadge.

"Commander ben-Avram to the Bridge--The away team is onboard and accounted for. Let's get the hell away from here."


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