Never Have I Ever... Part III
Echoes and Effigies
Location: Junior Crew Quarters - Deck 4
Timeline: Mission Day 3 at 2030
"STOP ARGUING!" The cadet's voice cracked. Noah was breathing hard and audible through his nose, his dark eyes fixed with frustration. "This is a crisis... not-not-not a cock-measuring contest." He said more gently, blinking. "We're Starfleet. We-we don't do this. We don't have time, either. We have to work together," he pointed a finger- by way of flinging his arm back at the door enough that his elbow hyperextended. "OK? Nobodys in charge. OK? We just do what we're-we're trained to do."
Irynya frowned. "Respectfully, Cadet," she said carefully, her tone still that deadly calm although her posture seemed to have relaxed somewhat. Calling Noah by his rank made her stomach twist uncomfortably, but they had to get to a point where they could all agree on next steps. "What we're trained to do in a first contact situation gone sideways is de-escalate and minimize damage. Avoid a violent conflict wherever possible to preserve the possibility of a peaceful first encounter." She held up a hand, plowing ahead when it looked like Dravor might interrupt. "And in a security situation we're trained to neutralize the threat first and ask questions later. They're not mutually exclusive, but they do require someone to make the final calls. Otherwise our training means nothing and we're going to be working against each other."
She looked to Kestrel then, inclining her head slightly. "You're the ranking security officer here," she said to the other woman. "What do you recommend?"
[MD 3: 2030 Hours]
Kestrel looked from Irynya to Dravor to Noah and then on to the two engineers and the biologist. Other than Sheila she barely knew these folks and, as if her brain wanted to complicate things, the thought that this sure was some way to get to know your crew mates quickly flew through her brain making her frown at the inappropriateness of the thought. "First contact protocols," she said finally, "but Dravor and I take lead on security-specific items."
Irynya nodded at that. "That works. Anyone else?" she turned to each of them in turn, waiting to see if there would be further disagreement.
"Uh," Sheldon held up a hand, "just wanted to say that I am really confused. Did something happen while I was puking my insides out?" he asked, looking exceptionally lost.
"Long story short," Sheila spoke up, "a holographic version of you appeared. Apparently he was an alien inhabiting a hologram, trying to learn about us by mimicking and interacting with us." The woman seemed to be coming out of her shaken state the more she spoke. "His people have taken over the ship and they're taking us God only knows where. We were about to hopefully get some answers from our mysterious alien when Rambo over there destroyed the holo-processor for this room, causing the hologram to vanish." At the Rambo comment, Sheila jutted her chin towards Dravor. "To be fair," she held up a staying hand, "the hologram did have me at holo-sword point, so he was being threatening. But there was a better way to handle it..."
"So what's the big deal?" Sheldon asked, hands going to his hips. "It was just a hologram. If these aliens are using the hologrid to interact with us, I'm sure they'll just whip up another one, easy peasy."
"If I'm understanding things correctly," and Sheila sounded like she wasn't entirely sure that was the case, "Noah isolated the hologram from the main grid, trapping it and the alien inside here in the room with us. Destroying the hologram may have just killed the alien...we don't know for sure. Iry and Noah were trying to de-escalate things and follow First Contact protocols but hey, who needs those," she threw up her hands with frustration. She knew she wasn't helping the situation but, despite being held at sword-point, part of her felt sympathy for the alien.
"Sheila, if it was threatening you," Sheldon said, "I probably would have shot it, too." He could sense that Dravor wasn't exactly Mr. Popular at the moment and tried to give the man an encouraging nod despite Iry's fiery assertion of control. "OK, we have a chain of command in place now and it sounds like Noah did something to deactivate holograms all over the ship. Nicely done on that," he smiled at the cadet. "We have a limited window to act so what should we do? Try to get to the Bridge and stop the ship?"
"We're closer to the computer core," Noah said. When Irynya had replied to him, he'd retreated in and folded his arms across his chest. His face was still burning with a blotchy flush. He truly did not believe they should be arguing. "We can reset the force fields and make it so people can move around the ship again. Security's not that far either." He slightly shrugged. "Fifty-six minutes. B-by the way."
"Noah is right. The Computer Core is closest and we don't have time to try to get the whole way up to the Bridge. If we can get there can you override the Bridge?" the Risian asked, directing her question to Noah as she shifted out of her deadly calm into a more brisk business-like tone. Her stomach knotted again at the look on her friend's face, but she shoved that to the back of her brain. There was no time to consider whether pulling rank had been the right choice or not. "Sheila, are the force fields still up in the corridor?"
Noah hesitantly shook his head. "Not completely. Uh, but we can at least get control of the computer. We can re-establish shipwide, uh, communications and make it easier to coordinate with the whole ship. If I can get enough time I can hack the authorization codes and lock out the aliens without having to put every system we need on standby."
"Can I do anything to help?" It seemed like another situation in which Andrew's skills weren't much use, but they were only a small group and time was short.
Sheila, meanwhile, had grabbed the tricorder once again and furiously tapped at its controls while half-looking at Andrew. "You're pretty burly...any chance you can force the door open? Maybe you could replicate one of those manual agitators with suction cups?" Since the manual levers weren't working, it was all the engineer could think of. With a few active scans, the woman then nodded to herself before flipping the device closed. "Yep, force fields are still in place, sealing off most corridors and their intersections. What are we going to do about those?" she asked of the group at large. "Can't get to the computer core with those in the way. If I was in Engineering, I might be able to short out the system but..." With a shrug, she looked at the security officers, hoping they'd have ideas.
Kestrel looked from Sheila to Dravor and back again. "How many force fields between us and the computer core?" To Dravor she said, "Do you think we could short the force fields the same way you did the holo grid in this room?"
"A lot," Sheila replied without thought. "There weren't dumb when they set up this lockdown. There's a force field at every junction point between here and the computer core, not to mention periodic force fields set up along the corridors themselves. We could hit them with phasers," her eyes drifted to Dravor and then back to Irynya, "but it would take too long to blast each field until it overloads. Our phasers would be drained of power before we even got halfway there."
"What about the jeffries tubes?" Sheldon asked, peering over Sheila's shoulder at her tricorder screen. "Are they gummed up, too?"
"I thought of that. The closest junction is down the hall a bit but there's a force field in the entrance," Sheila noted with a nod. She'd been about to close the tricorder when a thought struck her. With a few key strokes, she initiated another scan and almost laughed out loud. "I don't think they activated any fields inside the jeffries tubes, just the entrances. While we don't have enough phaser power to overload all the fields between here and the core," Sheila mulled, "do you think we could overload the fields at our door and the the tube entrance?" she asked, looking at Dravor and Kestrel.
Kestrel shared a look with the Trill who had so handily taken out the holo grid earlier. "There's only three forcefields we would need to take out. One on each end of the jeffries tubes and the one at our door. There's none between us and the entrance? Is that correct? If so then yes, I think that's doable. Are there any weapons lockers between us and the jeffries tubes? We could grab extra phasers if so. I'm not wild about the possibility of not being fully armed once we reach the Core. Do you agree Tamblem?"
The Trill bobbed his head as he checked the power level on his phaser, "I do agree. Unfortunately, there are too many forcefields between here and the nearest locker. We should have just enough capacity to reach the core."
Irynya turned from the engineers and security officers back to Noah. "If we can get to the core do you think you can bring one the aliens back online? Isolated... without re-establishing the whole holo grid? If so, Andrew, maybe you can help us establish what kind of life forms we're dealing with?"
Noah nodded his head slowly, cautiously. "I-I think I can isolate their presence and give them a 'white light' to follow. I can release the holo-lab's grid. It's just off the computer core's main room. We-we'd have full control of the grid." He glanced at Andrew. "And... they are alive. They've got to have needs. What they're made of doesn't matter?" He asked. His eyes briefly rounded and he raised a hand, "I-I mean past... scientific curiosity. I mean they are life. They have needs. Is all."
"Of course," Andrew agreed, already distracted by thoughts of how he'd achieve that. "So full control of the grid means we could stop them from interacting with physical objects ... like me?"
The lanky engineer bobbed his head in the affirmative. "Normally when we create holograms, we make them solid enough to interact with. But since we just need to talk... I can set the safeties to the highest setting." He explained. "They'd pass through us. Then," he explained. "I can lock down the lab's systems and-and make a direct conduit from where they are, to where we are and back. They won't be able to use any resources we don't give them." He flashed a quick, nervous smile. "In the old days, they called it air-gapping a-a system. The lab's for um ,eh-experiments so it's already air-gapped."
"That's a relief." Andrew didn't doubt Noah's ability to protect him, given that he'd just witnessed the young engineer's expertise and quick thinking first hand. Still, hearing the details instilled some confidence. Sensing impatience amongst the others, he glanced towards them and saw that he was being handed a handle shaped bar with suction cups on either end. "Oh, the door. Right."
The device attached to the door much more firmly that he expected, but he couldn't get it to budge with either a constant pull or a jerking motion. Bracing his foot against the door frame, Andrew tried adding force from his leg muscles. Light from the corridor spilled in through the small gap as the door started to move. It may have been psychological, but it seemed easier to move the door once it had begun to open and so he did his utmost to keep it in motion, grunting with the effort. He eased off as soon as the gap was wide enough for a person to sidestep through, but the room spun and his stomach lurched, sending a burning sensation rising up his throat. He attempted to move out of the way but staggered into the wall which provided some support whilst he worked to retain the contents of his stomach.
"Iry. I-I mean Lieutenant?" Noah spoke up after seeing Andrew's bracing at the wall, looking ill. That, and Sheldon vomiting.. "I think, um, no more Tellarite alcohol." He wavered a hand gesture, "Just... just as a general rule. It feels like one of their ancestral cudgels straight to the, um, the um... the guts." He didn't want to admit it, but he wasn't feeling spectacular with the foreign substance in him either.
Irynya looked over at Noah with an almost apologetic smile. Unlike those who weren't getting on well with the beverage, she felt fine--perhaps a touch dehydrated, but nothing that couldn't be easily remedied.
"Noah, I'd say I'd drink to that buuuut," Sheldon held his tummy, looking green, "I think I'll pass. Great idea all the same, though. And also wow," the young engineer looked at Andrew admiringly. "Whatever workout program you're on, I want in. Have you seen these arms?" he asked, holding up said arms. They were, of course, skinny and far too soft. "Anyway, thanks for getting that open, Andrew. We owe you," he smiled before moving over to the door. A quick placement of his hand in the threshold triggered the sparkling blue force field he knew would be there. "Now we just need to get past this," he said, looking towards the two security officers and their phasers.
"Right. Next time the two of you can pick the alcohol and I'll do the sourcing," she said, fixing both of her roommates with an affectionate smirk before moving to put a hand on Andrew's shoulder. "Thank you," she said quietly to the other man, appreciation in her expression. "That was impressive."
Standing next to Dravor now, facing the door and its offending forcefield, Kestrel dialed the phaser in her hand up to its maximum power. She held the phaser in two hands, one clasped over the other with her arms outstretched and pointed at the ground, ready to fire, but in a safety position just in case. "If everyone could move back from the door," she said, waiting for everyone to comply before turning to Dravor. "Ready?"
"I think you've got great arms, Shelly," Dravor smirked as he squared up beside Kestrel, phaser ready, "Ready, Lieutenant. He pointed his phaser to the top right corner, knowing Kestrel would take the opposite bottom corner automatically. Exchanging a nod, crimson light splashed against the forcefield. Half a minute in, the forcefield finally began to flicker, unable to absorb the phaser energy, it failed. Dravor released the firing stud, and the sound of trilling phasers was replaced by the smell of burning circuits and smoke.
Noah watched, his arms were folded around himself, watching with a chewed lip as the two security officers worked to take on the field. He was counting the seconds they were burning through until the computer would re-initiate the holo-grid. He looked at Sheila and Sheldon. "I'm-I'm worried about time..."
Sheldon flushed as Dravor complimented his arms. "Oh, well I, um..." But then the security officer and his compatriot were firing their phasers and whatever he would have said would have just been droned out by the phaser fire anyway. The young engineer made a note to thank Dravor later...once they had breathing room. Looking to Noah, Sheldon nodded his own concern. "Hopefully we'll have enough time to get to the core and do what we need to do. Then -- ah," he smiled, noting the field had vanished. "Progress!"
With the way out now clear, the junior officers' real work was just beginning. Just a couple more force fields and some crawling in the jeffries tubes would get them to the computer core. From there, it would be up to Noah to work his magic with the holo-grid. The group of officers simply had to hope that they'd have enough time to accomplish their goals before the clock ran out.
=/\= A joint post by... =/\=
Lieutenant JG Kestrel
Lieutenant JG Irynya
Assistant Chief Flight Controller
Ensign Sheila Mulhern
Ensign Sheldon Parsons
Ensign Tamblem Dravor
Midshipman Noah Balsam