Lisa Neeley was sprawled face down on the ground when she felt a hand on her shoulder shaking her awake.
“Lieutenant,” she heard a masculine voice say while she was stirring. “Lieutenant Neeley?”
“Just a second,” she groaned, propping herself up with her arms. Her vision remained blurry as she blinked continuously. She felt her forehead and temples, nursing a massive headache, when her vision cleared and she saw Dexter Hall looking into her eyes.
“You okay?” he asked. “You look like you took a hard fall.”
“The rest of me is fine,” she replied. On the tip of her fingers, she felt drops of blood on her forehead. “I just have one hell of a headache. If you can find an analgesic in either of my sleeve pockets…”
While fumbling through a first aid kit to find a dermal regenerator, Dex unzipped the right sleeve pocket of Neeley’s uniform to find a small hypospray and three vials of painkillers. He loaded one of the vials into the hypo and injected the medicine into her carotid artery.
Neeley felt the throbbing pain in her head subside, and she began to lift herself into a standing position. As he was helping her up, Dex grabbed the first aid kit next to him. Once both his hands were free, he opened the case and took out a medical tricorder and dermal regenerator.
“Put that thing away,” she snapped, nudging the tricorder away and yanking the dermal regenerator out of his other hand. “I told you, I’m fine.”
Neeley applied the laser device to the cut on her forehead when she saw Sergeant Thompson, armed with a phaser rifle, approaching her. “Lieutenant, Ensign,” he said flatly while keeping his focus around the general vicinity. “Glad to see you two all right.”
“Did you find anyone else?” Neeley asked while stowing the dermal regenerator in her open sleeve pocket.
“Just the other two Marines,” Thompson replied, still trying to catch his breath. “Corporals M’Zak and ch’Ronchin are scouting an outcropping of foliage a hundred meters from here. No sign of the captain or anyone else.”
“Bring them back here, and gather up any other emergency provisions,” she instructed the portly human sergeant and the young ensign. “Walk, don’t run. I don’t want to get the attention of any leftover weapon systems.”
“Aye, sir,” both Thompson and Hall responded.
Once they both headed off, Neeley removed a tricorder from her holster and began pushing buttons, hoping to extend the scanner’s range in order to locate the rest of the wayward team. She also tapped her combadge hoping to raise them that way. “Neeley to Captain Limis. Commander Logan? LaForge? Anyone?”
“No sign of them, huh?” Dex rhetorically inquired as he returned with two knapsacks, a first aid kit, and three phaser rifles in his arms.
“Of course not,” Neeley blithely answered, looking up from her tricorder. “And we don’t even have a comm unit, so…” Her tricorder beeped, catching her attention. She took a quick look at it and pressed a few buttons to confirm what the device had revealed. “I don’t believe it,” she gasped.
Dex’s eyebrows perked up, sensing pleasant surprise in Neeley’s voice.
“I scanned for the yacht’s locational transponder figuring it was a long shot,” she explained. “But it might still be intact ten point six eight three kilometers from here. Assuming we have enough water packs and field rations, we’ll be heading there.”
“On foot?” Dex protested, brushing sweat from his brow. “Seriously?”
“It’s a big a planet, Dex,” Neeley shot back. “We can’t locate the rest of our team with tricorders. We have no way of knowing if our distress beacon actually worked. And with no emergency comm-unit, we are on our own. So you’re stop your whining. As the captain once reminded me, Starfleet officers are not always afforded the luxury of staying in their comfort zones.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Dex stuttered, “uh, sir.”
About fifty meters away, Neeley saw Thompson trudging through the moist trees and muddy ground, flanked by a Caitian female and an Andorian male, all armed with phaser rifles and emergency packs fastened on their backs. “What do you say, Thompson?” she called to him. “Is there enough food and water for the five of us to make a ten kilometer trek through the jungle?”
“I’d say so,” Thompson confidently replied with no protest.
“Then let’s go.”
The three other Marine soldiers deferently followed the lieutenant. Dex was still straggling behind all four of them. He kneeled down to remove a water pack from his knapsack and gulped down half of it before jogging after the others.
A fist slammed into Chaz Logan’s face. A Sindareen guard then shoved him to the ground and kicked his ribs and stomach in succession.
A second Sindareen guard threw down LaForge to the deck. He landed hard on his back, but the guard kept going. He stomped the boot on his right foot onto the Geordi’s abdomen and kicked him in the head with his left foot.
Limis had tried several times to look away while she was shackled to a chair. The guard on her right clasped her forehead and slammed her head against the back of the chair while the guard on her left forced her eyes open with the both hands. Tor Vot leaned in front of her and injected her with truth serum. Afterwards, he stepped aside to allow her to see her colleagues being beaten.
“Again,” Tor Vot snarled while fiddling with the hypospray to increase the dosage. “What are you doing here on Minos?”
“I told you,” Limis spat in his direction. “Simple scientific research.”
Tor Vot nodded at the two guards who pummeling Logan and LaForge. Logan’s guards punched him in the right cheek while LaForge’s grabbed him by the collar and slammed the back of his head to the deck. Using a device attached to his wrist, the Sindareen guard shined a bright light in Geordi’s eyes. He let out a piercing scream that elicited Limis to jerk her head away in spite of the hands holding her down.
“You expect me to believe three high-ranking Starfleet officers from a ship shot down by the planet’s automatic defenses are conducting ‘scientific research’
?” Tor Vot sarcastically replied. He administered another dose of truth serum and gestured the two guards holding Limis down to move aside.
“As a Starfleet captain and undercover agent, you are trained to resist even this truth serum,” Tor Vot added while he watched the two guards exit and promptly return with a third guard to bring a chair into the room. “You can endure almost any level of pain. But can you stand to watch your own subordinates suffer indefinitely?”
Two of the guards, including the one who had beaten LaForge several times coaxed Geordi up and onto the chair. The guard who helped bring in the chair was now standing to his right. The Sindareen injected two nanoscopic probing devices into both his temples, which caused him searing pain.
“His ocular implants are sensitive to certain EM waves,” Tor Vot explained. “But that’s the least of what we can do. Using sub-dermal probes, we can make him see any traumatic imagery we choose.”
Limis tried futilely to loosen the shackles on her wrists and ankles. Tor Vot grinned fiendishly, knowing that she could not escape. All Limis could do was helplessly watch as LaForge was subjected to graphic imagery only he could see.
Neeley and her team arrived at the crashed yacht after a three-hour hike to find the craft largely intact. They immediately found their way into the cockpit through the port egress. Thompson, M’Zak and ch’Ronchin conducted a more thorough search of the cockpit while Neeley and Dex conducted an assessment from the piloting stations. Most of the consoles were either blinking on and off or offline entirely. Fallen girders and shrapnel filled cockpit, which the rest of the Marines had to duck around to secure the compartment from any intruders.
“Forward compartment is secure, Lieutenant” Thompson reported.
“Check the rest of the craft,” Neeley instructed, while keeping an eye on Dex. “What about your engineering credentials, Thompson?”
“I was an engineering petty officer on the Nautilus
before transferring to the Marines,” Thompson replied. “Ch’Ronchin and M’Zak have a basic understanding of defensive systems.”
“Then as soon as you’ve secured the rest of the yacht,” Neeley added, “get to work on repairs. Make weapons, engines, and transporters a priority.”
Thompson then headed for the aft compartments, leaving Neeley and Hall to a more general assessment of the damages. “What about you, Dex?” Neeley asked the young ensign. “As a pilot, you surely have some basic understanding of the related technical specifications.”
“Yes, sir,” Dex answered. “I have engineering certification in thruster control, impulse engine maintenance…”
“Then get to it,” Neeley snapped with a tap on his shoulder. “And I’ll lend a hand where I can.”
“Of course, sir,” Dex stuttered. He saw Neeley head for the aft compartments and then crouched underneath the console to begin a full damage assessment.