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Escape Pod 5 [PLOT]

Posted on Fri Sep 14th, 2018 @ 3:51pm by Captain Malcom Llwyedd & Lieutenant Commander Rhiana t'Aegis & Chief Petty Officer Charles Stephens JR & Warrant Officer Arlan Harlan

Mission: Mission 4: Riding A Pale Horse
Location: Planet ZP0442
Timeline: 10 July, 2394 - 1400 Hours


[ON]

=^=All hands, this is the captain. Abandon ship. I say again, abandon ship. Proceed to the nearest escape pods immediately. Senior officers take charge of your sections and group up. There’s an unknown habitable planet below us. Find someplace safe and wait for help. I’ll see you on the surface. Llwyedd out=^=

Harlan was busy working on some system adjustments in the Tubes when suddenly the emergency running lights kicked on and the captain's message began playing through the priority override channel. Harlan scowled. There were very few reasons that would trigger an abandon ship but none of them were good. In all his years he'd only heard of such things happening; Harlan had never had to abandon one himself. He started to make his way to the Tube exit.




More than one minute after the order to abandon ship, Lieutenant t'Aegis emerged from the turbolift and broke into a run. She had decided against joining the nearest escape pod on deck one and was instead heading for her quarters on deck two. It was risky, almost stupid, to temporarily ignore the captain's orders, but with the outlook of the Firebird's imminent destruction, she could not leave the vessel without taking her most precious belonging with her.

She hurtled into the small quarters she called her own, but was stopped when she collided with the only partially opening door. Her right shoulder slammed into the door and she gasped when the sharp pain shot through her. But she squeezed herself through the narrow opening, only to realise that the room was full with smoke and her workstation was spewing forth sparks.

"Stupid," Rhiana thought to herself as she brought her left arm up to shield her face with her sleeve and quickly walked through the smoke to a small cabinet, thankful that she could find the way in the almost dark and with watering eyes. Coughing, the stubborn Romulan placed her right thumb on the small sensor field - grimacing from the pain from her shoulder and praying for a miracle. Apparently, it worked, for the door clicked open and Rhiana quickly retrieved a battered datapad of Romulan design. Still coughing and barely able to see anything anymore, she somehow managed to get out of her quarters and, wiping her eyes with a sleeve that now smelled of acrid smoke, she began to run again.

And she ran with increasing panic as escape pod hatch after escape pod hatch was closed, signalling that said pod had already launched.




Stephens sat dumbfounded in his office for a moment. He'd been reviewing some of the new personnel files on the Marines. He thought it was always good to know what kind of trouble was coming before it arrived and he knew that despite all the good intentions, Marines were experts at causing trouble. The captain's abandon ship order was completely unexpected. He'd felt the beginning of the battle but the scope of the situation had eluded him.

He heaved himself out of his desk, grabbed his go-bag, a remnant of his earlier days, and hurried out the door to the nearest escape pod.




Harlan continued to make his way down the halls as he hunted for the nearest unlaunched pod. This was getting very annoying and Harlan's thoughts clouded with fury at this ambush. "Where the heck do these ships get off attacking us? I've been around the galaxy longer than most of their ships have probably existed and can count on two hands the number of time I've been in a firefight like this. Then these Maquis ships have to get all squirly and hit us while we're warping. Outrageous."

After several more minutes he finally came to a pod whose door was wide open. He waited by the entrance since entering would make it far too tempting to launch solo. There was no way he'd leave some of his fellow crew behind.




Rhiana ran long distances for fun and exercise but now found that running through deserted, partially smoke-filled, barely or not illuminated corridors was not the same. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached another turbolift and hesitated. She had passed by a number of closed escape pod hatches. Would her chances be higher to find an available one if she continued on this deck? Or would it be better to switch to another deck. A second later, she tapped the button to call the turbolift. Nothing happened. She punched it again. And again. Still not even an acknowledgement. There was no time to wait in case it might still come.

The Romulan swallowed a curse and broked into another run, along the other side of deck two to return back to the main turbolift. Again, only closed hatches. At least, that turbolift still ran and she quickly announced, "Deck three." Moments later, the doors opened again and she began to run, slowed down by bouts of coughing from the smoke she had inhaled until now.

There. Crewmembers. Next to an open door. Rhiana let out a sigh of relief. Coming close, she realised that one of them was dragging someone else, trying to get him into the escape pod. Without hesitation, she stuffed the Romulan datapad inside her uniform tunic and helped the crewman carry the injured petty officer inside the escape pod. To her dismay, the pod was now full. She exited the cramped space and resumed her tour of the deck.

Precious time passed as Rhiana continued to search for a way to get off the vessel. She had never been afraid to die, she had expected to on too many occasions, but she found herself strangely eager to live for a while longer this time.

Eventually, she saw an apparently waiting figure in another corridor that was basked in emergency-red lighting. "Is this pod complete?"

"No, not even close." Harlan replied. "Get in, we'll wait five, ten more minutes and then we're probably best firing off with everyone else. Looks like we've got three quarters of our pods already off the boat."

***

Charles was huffing a little by the time he finally found an open escape pod. The others had either been full or gone and he was starting to get nervous. He didn't pause when he saw the open hatch. He lunged inside, hardly noticing the people inside until he was buckled in. He looked up, surprised to see Harlan and Lieutenant t'Aegis. "Oh. Hi. Sorry. I was starting to think I was going to get left behind."

Rhiana adjusted the position of the datapad inside her tunic so it sat flat between her tunic and her undershirt and would not unduly hurt her should she be thrust against the straps of the security harness. "We are leaving now," she decided and hit the button that closed the hatch. They had waited long enough. Too long for her taste. The captain seemed to have performed several miracles already by avoiding destruction up to this point, but there still had been a few impacts that further damaged the Firebird. If they wanted a chance to survive, they could not wait for anyone else.

The press of the button had not only closed and sealed the hatch, but engaged the ejection sequence. It happened quickly, but the inertial dampening field had already set in and the three inside the escape pod did not feel the ejection itself that gave them an initial speed of 40 metres per second, nor felt the thrust of the impulse engines that allowed them to quickly clear what was left of the Firebird's shields.

The battle was still raging on as the viewscreen and viewports of the tiny escape pod showed. A certain number of the other escape pods were also still visible on the pod's sensors, but many must already have entered the planet's atmosphere.

Rhiana had a fleeting thought for Captain Llwyedd aboard the Firebird. Maybe she should have stayed as well, try to fire whatever was left of the phasers and torpedoes. But the one thing they should have done, as soon as the New Maquis appeared, that was to raise their own cloaking device. What was its purpose if it was never used at all? It might have made evacuation unnecessary. Of course, one was always smarter after the fact. She herself had not even thought about suggesting that manoeuvre. Everything had happened so fast. Someone had known where the Firebird was headed and had informed the New Maquis. Once they were back on Empok Nor, an investigation was in order.

Charles watched the viewscreens, his experienced eyes taking in all the details of their decent while also noticing the firefight continuing. "The Firebird is still fighting. Looks like they are trying to lead the enemies away from the escape pods," he said in a calm voice. This wasn't the first time he'd ridden and escape pod.

Harlan watched as the Firebird vainly tried to fire back despite having major holes everywhere. It was venting atmosphere in a couple places and the propulsion nacelles were blown to smithereens. He hadn't been forced to abandon a ship before, and the sight of one being destroyed filled him with immeasurable sadness. After a minute he could look at the ship's destruction no further and instead peered out a different window, where a dusty-looking planet loomed in the distance. Looked like another adventure to the old ironside.

Instead of watching the massacre outside, Rhiana busied herself with the pod's basic navigational console. She was not a pilot, never had been, but she had flown enough shuttles to feel fairly confident that landing this pod would not be too difficult. After all, that was what they were designed for, landing. She adjusted their course slightly, but it was impossible to miss the planet.

Their approach was indeed faultless and noone tried to fire at them. Maybe the New Maquis did not want to try target practice on such a tiny object as an escape pod. "Entering atmosphere now," Rhiana announced to her two crewmates. "I cannot detect any radio signals from the surface. Nothing that would indicate a developed civilisation. But there appear to be settlements. I am setting a course to..." she interrupted herself when the console suddenly went black. So did the viewscreen. And the light went out as well. "You are the engineer, Chief Harlan," Rhiana spoke calmly into the darkness. No need to worry yet, was there? "Any idea what may be going on?"

Harlan was a bit puzzled when he noticed everything die. "Huh, that's no good. I would have thought the lack of radio would indicate a pre-industrial place, but now that our electronics have been hit I'm thinking it's some sort of super-Faraday Cage situation. You know, the sorts of fields that prevent electrical signal from being transmitted, but turned up to 11 based on the fact it cut our internal stuff. Are the engines still functioning? We're pretty high up for the field to reach us here."

Before Rhiana could answer, the escape pod began to vibrate and shake and it was immediately obvious that the internal dampening field was not functioning either, for the three occupants felt every movement of the small spacecraft. It continued on its preset course, but that did not mean much in their current condition. "This is likely a pointless question, Chief Harlan," Rhiana spoke against the sudden noise of engine parts vibrating against other engine parts in a way they were not designed for, "But is there anything you can do? Or do we simply wait that we fly out of this field again?" She did not add 'or crash', because that would have been too negative. But she was thankful that neither of the two chief petty officers could see in the darkness that she was tightly gripping her armrests.

Harlan smirked a bit in the darkness before replying. "Not at this point. Had I known such a thing existed on this planet, I maybe could have rigged something up, but Faraday field projectors are basically unheard of. I'm not even sure where I would have started; nobody in Starfleet uses them outside of maybe some rumored black ops fellows. It's not a particularly efficient technology since it's kind of a blanket effect."

"And to answer your other question" he continued "There certainly isn't anything I can do now. We might as well hit the ground and see what happens. It doesn't do us any good to fly above the field if everyone else disappears from our screen once they hit atmo. I'd say strap in and hope we don't hit a mountain."

So much for reassurances. Rhiana nodded once, fully aware that noone could see it, and tried to mentally prepare for the crash landing.

It did not come quickly. Or maybe it did, but sitting in the not quite complete dark - the viewports allowed for a bit of light to enter the small cabin and by now, the eyes of the three occupants had accustomed to that source of illumination - and being absolutely unable to change anything about the flight path and velocity, time seemed to slow down. With increasing air friction and turbulences due to the wind that the small crew could not compensate for, their descent was... irregular, to say the least.

The knuckles on Rhiana's hands were white from her gripping the armrests so tightly. She tried to think of something pleasant, to keep her thoughts away from the impending crash, but failed. On the other hand, she could quite easily picture half a dozen different ways to die within the next few minutes.

Charles grabbed ahold of his restraints, settling himself as low as he could in his seat and, in his head, began praying.

The view out of the viewports was one of a large area of quickly approaching brown-green vegetation. Then, without warning, there was a noise as if something was breaking away from the escape pod and the three passengers were pressed into their seats and unable to breathe for a moment or two.

The parachutes had just deployed.

They slowed their fall, possibly enough for them to survive the crash.

The brown-green became darker, more intense in colour.

A tree suddenly appeared in front of them.

If it slowed them down, it was not apparent, but the noise from the impact was deafening for a second.

More trees appeared now. Some alone, some in groups. They felled some, but did not come close to others.

By now, they were below the tree tops of the tallest trees in the vicinity.

They uprooted some smaller trees. There was more brown than green on the ground now.

Suddenly, a group of large, thick trees appeared at the horizon on the viewport right in front of them. For long moments before it happened, all three passengers had ample opportunity to stare helplessly at the quickly growing vegetation.

Then, the pod hit them with full front and this time, the trees were not uprooted but resisted, mostly. It slowed the pod considerably. The first few trees were bent from the impact, but eventually, the pod crashed against a particularly large trunk and more or less wrapped itself around it.

The lack of sound was disturbing. Charles swiped at his head, trying to wash away the chocolate sauce. He spat a bad taste out of his mouth, trying to figure out why his chest was hurting so much. His eyes fluttered but they were gummed up, as if he'd been asleep for weeks. Had he? He made another effort to clear the gunk out of his eyes, wincing as light shone in them. Memories began flooding in as his brain geared back up. Chief Charles Stephens let out a stream of curse words that would have made any enlisted person cringe.

He was still sitting in his seat but somehow he was now hanging from a tall tree, with green moss everywhere. He looked around, wincing at the pain in his neck, and saw the escape pod. It was battered and broken open, which was how he'd been ejected. He could still see t'Aegis and Harlan but he didn't know if they were alive. Hell, he was lucky to be alive. The chocolate sauce, which was in reality blood, continued to seep down his face, requiring that he wipe it frequently.

"Hey! You two alive?" He yelled. Or at least he tried. It sounded like yelling through a dampening field to him.

Lieutenant t'Aegis was still strapped into her chair which was inclined to a certain degree towards the apparently intact sidewall of the escape pod. The forward wall, however, had been pushed towards her and was now mere inches away from her face.

"Ie...," Rhiana muttered, winded and exhausted. It sounded a little but not quite entirely like "aye". She began to stir and slowly brought her right arm up towards her throbbing nose. She could taste blood on her lips. Touching her nose made her gasp out in pain. That made her involuntarily move her head and she groaned at the splitting headache that made the throbbing in her nose seem almost minor in comparison. Breathing through her mouth, she tried to focus, but her vision was a little blurry. Nevertheless, the green smears on the forward wall right in front of her eyes were definitely blood. Her blood. She slowly, carefully, reached a little higher and found a burning and bleeding wound on her forehead.

Little by little, she noticed more. The beginnings of nausea. A painful pressure in her abdomen that made her fear the worst. She could not move her legs and her lower legs also throbbed with pain. She could move her toes within her boots which reassured her a little. Overall, she could have been in a worse state. Dead, for example. Gently wiping away some of the blood trickling down from her forehead, she announced in a little stronger voice, "Arhem thiich."

Harlan regained alertness slowly. A lot of things hurt, but not more than usual for some reason. Maybe a severe crash was some sort of terrible aging metaphor. "Grargh..." he uttered. "I take it that I'm alive and we've landed? That was some ride, but let's never do that again." He began to slowly disentangle himself from his harness without opening his eyes...the light hurt far too much.

The blood kept trickling down her forehead and instead of merely wiping it away with her hand, Rhiana finally pressed her sleeve against it. It soaked the blood up quite efficiently, but was not the best solution either. She needed a medical kit. And for that, she needed to get out of this chair. Thankfully, the harness was designed to be opened one-handedly. But when she tried to stand, she immediately sank back in her chair, overtaken by a wave of nausea even before she realised that her lower legs were blocked by part of the escape pod's front wall. Rhiana had just barely the time to turn her head to the side, away from her crewmates, and began to throw up.

Charles spent a few minutes assessing his situation. He was hanging about four meters from the surface and it looked like the rest of the escape pod was dangling a little higher. The tree he was hanging from had a number of long vines that reached to the ground. They were about as thick as his wrist and he figured they should be able to hold his weight and if not... well most of his body was hurt anyway. He hit the quick release on his harness. Throwing the straps off of his shoulders, he took a deep breath and leaned out and grabbed one of the vines. It felt rough against his skin but when he pulled on it, it held firm.

"Here we go," he said to himself and slid down. His boots squelched as they hit the ground. It was a mixture of mud and moss. Not quite liquid but not quite solid either. His head hurt but he ignored in and walked over to the pod, leaving deep boot shaped divots in his wake.

"You need me to climb up there?" He yelled.

"Ie." Again that word that sounded a little like "aye". Rhiana had finished throwing up and had wiped her mouth with her sleeve. Now, she was sitting motionlessly in her chair, eyes closed, head against the headrest, arms on the armrests. And forcing herself to take deep breaths. "Arhem aerhii solaere," she muttered after a brief pause during which she tried to concentrate on the right words. They did not sound like the ones the others used, but trying to remember the other words just hurt too much right now.

Harlan finally marshaled the energy to get out of his chair entirely and stood up, at which point he immediately sunk to his knees in mental agony. He kept his eyes shut and walked on his knees over to where Rhiana was struggling and he felt around for the medkit. It sounded like everyone needed it except Charles. While Harlan kept verbal communication to a minimum, he opened the kit and began identifying any anti-nausea med when there was suddenly a sound off to one side. To Harlan's ears it sounded like a cross between a growl and a squawk.

"Uhh, that isn't you playing a joke, is it Stephens?"

[OFF]

Lieutenant Rhiana t'Aegis
Chief Security/Tactical Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298



Chief Petty Officer Charles Stephens JR
Chief of the Boat/Assistant Chief Intelligence Officer
USS Firebird NCC-88298



Chief Petty Officer Arlan Harlan
Assistant Chief Engineer
USS Firebird NCC-88298


 

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Comments (2)

By Lieutenant JG Murril Na on Fri Sep 14th, 2018 @ 11:33pm

Dang... I liked the edgeofseat excitement in various stretches of this story.

Nice touch seeing rows of hatches already closing! The audience's inability to see anyone inside those escape pods does raise the scenario's tension without putting blame on anyone's character from the other escape pod stories. (Also, it's one thing to be in an emergency. It's worse to be behind the curve while watching the emergency get ahead of you. There's that dread of being a step behind, a bit late, as the isolation and fear creeps in. Great job!)

One pleasant surprise was the audience's gradual realization that our Romulan officer might have a brain injury. THAT was well written and well drawn out, and the story didn't spoonfeed it to us.

I really appreciated the great example of that writing rule where if you want to explore what makes a character tick, show the character doing something which seems completely unlike themselves.

i.e. A humorless, professional officer deliberately goes the wrong way to retrieve a personal item. I know nothing about that item, but it's glowing with importance. With a more reckless character who is known to bend rules, this action might not have caught the audience's notice, but she's already established herself in previous stories as a rigid taskmaster who obeys orders without emotion. Well done!

Also regarding character traits, I liked the line: "He waited by the entrance since entering would make it far too tempting to launch solo." Now that's a good indicator of a worldly, experienced, aging character!

By Cadet Freshman Grade Gianna Djokovic on Mon Sep 17th, 2018 @ 5:57am

This was so nicely written. I love reading all the little character details that were incorporated like Stephens praying, Rhiana valuing some mysterious keepsake that she's now (apparently) lost, Harlan grumbling about the Maquis. -Liam