USS VINDEX - NCC-2474-A
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Thicker Than Water

Posted on Sat Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 2:07am by 1st Lieutenant Skryt Mrazak

Mission: S2E1 - Secrets
Location: Nova Mercia frontier
Timeline: MD 86

Warm water. It tasted slightly of salt, though perhaps a little sweeter. Shadi slithered down through the hot, watery caves like an eel, her legs wrapped together and her arms pressed tightly against her body. She had dove deep into the hot springs after a tool she had dropped. And had entered a strange, new world.

All about her, the caves expanded and contracted like silvery arteries of half-boiling water. New scents and sounds bombarded her senses, filling her with awe.

As she swam ever deeper, she considered the assignment up above. The geothermal power plant that gave light to the colony kept having problems. Colonial workers had suggested the Dulcite Mineral Entity, or DME (which they pronounced Dame) was irradiating the territory again, which is why Shadi had been sent.

Radiation bothered her about as much as high temperatures, which was null. The maintenance crew above had mentioned something about their skin boiling off, but for Shadi, this was a cleansing dip into the unknown.

Truly, the high pressure and dim lighting began to stir her warrior's instinct, awakening a subtle but growing desire for combat. In many ways, she felt free. Not stumbling around a broken space station or finding her place aboard a starship--though she did love those things. In this moment, she just felt... alive.

The Vindex was the tastiest ship she had ever known. But, to have her claws on firm ground, delving into the unknown after a lost artifact... admittedly just a decoupler, but it was her decoupler... what was she thinking again?

The upswell from the hydrothermal vent down below made the continued dive more difficult with every descending meter. That decoupler had to be around here somewhere.

A glint of something shiny caught Shadi's eye, a sharp glimmer through the sea of bubbles. Another observer may have found it beautiful. Her warrior's instinct was sharp, though, and her senses tasted an adversary.

Barbed tentacles shot through the bubbles, seeking her slithering form. Shadi was instantly in another area. Having dodged the first two tentacles, Shadi found herself besieged by two more, then five. She bent, twisted, swam, and dove through crisscrossing arms that matched her every move.

Before she could evade it, one of the tentacles found purchase on her ankle, then another found her arm, and two more snaked around her rib cage.

A wide maw of glistening fangs opened in front of her. The tentacles recoiled, dragging her ever closer to the mouth of the... thing.

The enemy.

Shadi's eyes turned into slits. Her free hand extended razor claws which slashed through the tentacle holding her arm. Thick, hot blood mingled with the bubbles, obstructing her view. But Shadi didn't need her eyes.

Her nose slits guided her talons, first freeing her torso and then her leg. More tentacles grabbed at her, tearing her uniform with their barbs, but her scaly skin survived the worst of the barrage intact.

A deafening roar came from the fanged maw, its shockwaves creating ripples through the water. Shadi continued shredding the onslaught of tentacles, her a fight a furious one--survival first, then victory.

When the maw closed, Shadi saw an enormous eye half the size of her own body. There was no thought, only reflex. She curled herself into a ball, then shot forward straight into it.

Outstretched claws pierced the cornea like tissue paper. Shadi fought against the viscous, putrid eye jelly as she dug her way to its core. Chitinous membranes and lymphatic barriers gave way to her vengeful bore.

When the grainy, wrinkly brain was exposed, Shadi pulled her head back long enough to unhinge her jaw, then buried her face deep into the exposed neural flesh. Her claws rent the brain matter into hunks of meat small enough for her retracted jaws to tear away clean.

Death throes rocked the beast embedded deep into the planet's crust. Shadi pushed away, bubbles fleeing from her mouth on the tail of ancient war cries. Her warrior instinct told her to get out of there.

After all the exertion, she was nearing the end of her air supply, but the upsurge from the hydrothermal vents propelled her to the surface exponentially faster than when she had swam downward. In but a moment, daylight appeared through the murky, bubbly water, growing ever brighter.

When she broke the surface of the hot springs, she was rocketed a couple of meters into the air and came down in a splash. When she pulled herself onto dry ground, she looked up to see four phaser rifles pointed in her direction.

"Stand down!"

The lead rifleman shouldered his rifle and knelt down closer to Shadi, while the three others took defensive positions.

"Lieutenant Mrazak of the Two-Five detachment aboard the Vindex." The Reman quickly identified himself by rote before continuing. "What the hell happened down there?"

Shadi gagged before responding and expelled a hunk of brain matter on the ground next to her. The sympathetic gagging from the maintenance crew behind the Marines could have been from either the sight or smell, depending on whose complaint you heeded.

"I was victorious." Shadi's words slurred their way through her widened mouth.

The Reman Lieutenant grinned wide, exposing his sharp teeth, and offered a helping hand.

"That I can see," he said with a reserved admiration.

When Shadi's clawed hand took his, she felt a burst of hot and cold perforate her outer scales clear to her proximal nether-ridges. When she got to her feet, she assessed herself for damage. A few scales were missing along her arms and legs, but nothing deep. Her uniform was in a shambles, hanging on purely by force of habit.

"We got a Security alert while we were on patrol to the south," Mrazak continued, visibly avoiding Shadi's indecency. "Your maintenance team detected an enormous life sign down below, and when you didn't come back up for air, they feared the worst and called for backup."

Shadi rearranged her jaw back into his retracted position. "Something big was down there. Hungry, too."

Though Mrazak wouldn't have understood the Saurian nuance of honoring a fallen savage adversary as "hungry," the gist of it was clear. Had Shadi been able to see through his shaded visor, she might have seen his dark eyes shine all the brighter.

"Sir," said one of the Marines. "Comms say we need to vacate the vicinity. Something to do with the loss of large scale bio-signs down below and an uptick in geothermal activity. They're saying this spring might turn into a new geyser."

Mrazak nodded to his Marine. "Good for the nearby power plant, bad for us." He held his taloned fingers to his lips and whistled through them. "Move out!"

"So, did you manage to find your decoupler after all that?" asked the maintenance lead.

Shadi stopped in her tracks. "My decoupler! Oh, famine..."

Before anyone could protest, she turned on her heels and dove back into the hot springs.

Mrazak tensed at the sudden, impulsive action. It was foolish, and reckless, and...

"You men escort the others to safety," Mrazak ordered. "I'll stay and wait for the Saurian."

"Sir?"

"You heard me," Mrazak insisted, then cleared his throat for a louder volume. "We'll beam out if necessary. Now, I said move out!"

 

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