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WIDEMEADOW GARRISON LANDING FIELD
September 12th 2371 – 0856 FST
As the shuttle boosted for orbit, Rousseau watched it dwindle in the clear blue sky. The rain that had swept through after the previous night’s calamity had cleared to leave the garrison compound smelling fresh, but he knew that was only because they were upwind of the shattered suburbs of Widemeadow.
As they’d flown over on the way in, he’d seen the deep, smoking scar across almost two kilometres of scattered housing that had been the final unintentional strike by part of the Borg cube. A large segment of it still sat at the head of the charred trail it had carved through the small town; dark, ominous and according to the onsite team, lifeless.
“Captain Rousseau?” He turned to see one of the combat engineers waving from atop the dark green Rhino
, an eight wheeled APC that was the work horse of the ground troops here. Jogging over, he entered through the open front ramp and climbed up into the command seat, donning the comms headset as he did so.
Trying once again to raise Tango all he received by way of reply was scratchy static that may have contained a voice, but it was totally unreadable. He’d have to try again as they got closer to Tango, but in the meantime he had a job to do.
“Alright sergeant, let’s go see what it’s like down there.”
As the big machine hummed into motion, Rousseau couldn’t help think how ironic it was that just 24 hours earlier he’d been considering requesting a posting to somewhere with a little more action.
TANGO CONTROL – SERVICE DUCTS
September 12th 2371 – 0900 FST
Lieutenant Magda Petrov stank, and she didn’t care because right now it was all that stood in the way of an untimely and terrifying alternative. Death.
Crawling along on hands and knees wearing only her underwear, she prayed that there was actually an exit in this direction. Although the conduit she crawled through was relatively intact here, she knew that following the impact of several small asteroids in the general area many of the underground passages had fractured and in some cases collapsed altogether.
As she rounded the turn in the passage, she cursed vehemently as she saw the pool of stagnant filth that had accumulated below the shattered roof. It really didn’t matter how deep the pool was, she wasn’t about to risk poisoning herself by trying to swim in it until she’d exhausted all her other alternatives, and so turned around in the narrow confines to try a different route. She only hoped she had the time.
WIDEMEADOW – IMPACT ZONE
September 12th 2371 – 0906 FST
Up close, the fragment of cube was even more imposing than it had been on their approach. Rising some 20 metres above the lip of the impact trail, it cast a shadow over the surrounding remains of destroyed housing. Rousseau could see remnants of Borg regeneration chambers within the tangle of smashed pipes, cables and bulkheads. Here and there, shattered drones lay at odd angles, their menace perhaps even more enhanced by their lack of limbs or heads.
Stepping from the Rhino, he approached the lieutenant in charge of the security detail, a man he recognised from Tango Control.
“Lieutenant Stebbings, any updates?”
“Nothing Sir. The wreckage and the drones are all inert and damage is restricted to this site. We’ve done a full rescue and recovery sweep, but it was mainly bodies Sir.” He looked up at the wreckage and shivered. “Damn thing gives me the creeps.”
Rousseau could only nod in agreement. “Seconded.” He checked the chrono on his PADD and realised that the situation here was well in hand. “I’ll be taking the Rhino
out to Tango. Any luck contacting them?”
Stebbings shook his head, “Nothing yet Sir. Last we heard the impacts had caused some local collapses. Could be they’ve lost some of the conduits out to comms.”
“Alright, for now route it all via Rainbow Mountain. They’re forwarding it all on to General Mendark. I’ll check with Tango when I get there.” Taking one last look at the brooding monolith, he stepped back into the Rhino
and considered himself lucky to be leaving the Borg behind him.
USS ANGEL – CAPTAIN’S READY ROOM
ZETHANDER – GEOSTATIONARY ORBIT
September 12th 2371 – 0920 FST
“I don’t know how you could let them butcher her like that. It’s a travesty!”
Dan Fishlock smiled having expected some such comment.
“That’s my ship you’re insulting Bill! Besides, you’re only jealous because you’re still hauling spare parts you pirate!”
Captain William Johnson shook his head in mock exasperation. “Dan, if you can spend the rest of your tour in a mobile hospital then I’m proud of you. Hope Megan doesn’t get jealous about all those pretty nurses though!”
“You, Captain Johnson, are a middle aged letch.” Dan leered unconvincingly at the pickup. “And you’re jealous!”
“I refuse to dignify that with a reply.”
Johnson turned as his first officer passed him a PADD, and reading it he smiled. “Looks like we’ve shaved a few hours off the journey Dan. We’re estimating in system at 1625 hours, about 54 hours?”
“Nice work Bill.” Dan knew that every hour counted in getting the emergency supplies in and appreciated even the smallest saving in time. “I’ll get ops to relay the latest on the asteroid shift. It’s really messed up approach patterns.”
“Appreciate that Dan. Any change in ETA and we’ll relay it. Oh and don’t scratch the nice new ship!”
Johnson’s brief guffaw rang out as he terminated the connection and Dan couldn’t resist a smile. He’d known Bill since Command training and had spent his last leave with Bill’s family in the small town of Ashland, Nebraska enjoying one of his legendary barbecues.
His reverie was cut short as the door chimed.
“Come in if it’s good news.”
The door slid aside to reveal Commander Anthony Winston looking tired but at least smiling.
“Anthony, take a seat before you fall down.”
Stifling a yawn, Winston shook his head. “No that’s fine thank you. It’s only a brief visit but I wanted to update you in person.”
Dan knew the surgery teams had been in constant operation since the start of this crisis. Add to that the hundreds of minor injuries that had been treated and he could well understand Winston’s fatigued look.
“The O.R.s are just finishing up now and if you’re basing it on statistics we did well.” He wiped his face with his hands. “Of the casualties we treated, 76% are back on their feet, 16% are still on wards but fine and 4% are in Critical Care but stable.”
Dan did the mental maths and realised that still left 4% and he felt fairly certain that Winston was agonising over that figure. In an attempt to divert the torment, he asked “How are the teams holding up?”
“Considering we weren’t expecting this so soon out of dock, they’ve reacted splendidly. It’s certainly proved the concept.”
Dan smiled to himself at the big man’s cultured English accent and his use of the word “splendidly”.
“I’d appreciate it if you could pass on my thanks to them Anthony.” Winston nodded. “And dare I advise the CMO to get some sleep?”
“Oh I always listen to advice Sir.” He grinned as he left the ready room. “If I get the time, I may even take it.”
TANGO CONTROL – SERVICE DUCTS
September 12th 2371 – 0922 FST
After another collapsed conduit and then a dead end with a sealed metal plate, Petrov was starting to become desperate. She realised that as of right now, she was living on borrowed time. Having been trapped in the underground labyrinth without her commbadge for almost eight hours, and with no safe exit in sight, her outlook was bleak and becoming more so by the second.
She sat with her arms wrapped around her legs, her shivering at odds with the close, humid atmosphere. Keep moving
she reprimanded herself, though the dark spectre of what lay around her added to the chill in her bones. Keep moving!
TANGO CONTROL – SECURITY CHECKPOINT
September 12th 2371 – 0925 FST
Rousseau watched from the command position in the Rhino as the force field protecting the entrance to Tango Control dissolved and the vehicle rumbled forward. It seemed as though the base certainly still had power but even now he couldn’t raise anybody on his communicator.
As the transport pulled up beside the command post, he told the Sergeant to round up the first available HazTeam and meet him back here in 30 minutes. In the meantime, Rousseau wanted to try and contact the General to see if there was a shuttle not already tied up in rescue service that he could commandeer for his site inspection. The thought of being cooped up in the Rhino
for hours didn’t appeal at all.
As the outer blast doors swung closed behind him, the security monitor inside passed over and around to scan him. Standing patiently through the familiar operation, he allowed it to take a retinal and palm scan before the inner doors slid aside to allow him entry.
The darkness inside came as a surprise as did the humid air that greeted him. Seems like not everything’s working the way it should be he thought.
“Down here Captain,” he heard the tired voice of one of the command post non-comms call to him. In the dimly lit and humid surroundings it sounded hollow and carried an odd echo.
Walking through into the ops centre, his first shock was to see that most of the equipment was dark and the rest patched together in a bizarre and unorthodox tangle of cables and conduits. As he suddenly realised what he was seeing, his second and ultimately final shock came as something dark and overpowering wrapped around his neck. Unable to make a sound, he slipped into darkness with the scream stillborn in his throat.