Trojan Horse #111, 112 - "In the presence of death"

-=On=-

[USS Lantree, Bridge]

Kathleen Black stood there just outside the bridge of this near-derelict vessel, coming out with a few choice nautical phrases that her grandfather would have been embarrassed to learn that she'd picked up from him. "It's too late..." she repeated. "The AI rerouted to the backup computer core in Main Engineering. We're going to have to face.. whatever it's got planned.. on our way there, and it's going to Know we have to go there... I know the part we need, it's relatively small. If it's still intact, I can just pick it up and take it with us."

"I still have security crews stationed near there. I could order then to clear and hold Engineering for us, if you so desire." She crouched down slightly to avoid any potential enemy fire as they moved, carrying O'Driscoll over her shoulder with one arm, and leveling a phaser down the darkened corridor with the other. "Though I believe out first priority should be stopping the sleds from reaching the Pegasus." The other members of the security crew fanned out around them, trying to cover any potential avenue of attack.

Kitty drew her own phaser, glancing around. "I think our first priority will be stopping those mobiles. In fact, send everything you can to stop those things. We've got enough people here to get to Engineering on our own, don't we?" She knew they were all in a dangerous situation, but she wasn't quite letting herself realize the enormity of their situation. Instead she turned around to continue on their way and came face-to-face with one of the floating corpses.

She batted at it frantically, an automatic reaction, shrieking in terror. She backed nearly into Sulan, still screaming like the proverbial eight-year-old, then forced herself to stop. Kitty started hyperventilating, each exhalation a slight whimper.. and then she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "Right," she said, her voice a little shaky. "Let's go."

"Are you able to continue, Lieutenant?" Sulan asked, disdain bleeding into her voice. "Also, you should be aware it is very dangerous to walk into my line of fire. If you should find yourself unable to overcome your emotions, I can have Miller relive you of your phaser." She said in a toneless voice.

Kitty stiffened a bit at the tone, straightening up, forcing herself to pull together. "It caught me by surprise," she said, her voice a little stronger now. "It won't happen again. Let's go." Sulan's tone of voice somehow struck a chord with her New Englander sea-captain heritage, and she felt stubbornly determined to prove that she wasn't a wimp.

"We do not have the time to be further hindered by these corpses. Vaporise them" With that, she raised her rifle and begins shooting corpses as thought they were clay pigeons. The corpse of the child drifted into their view once more. "Lieutenant, if you would please?" Sulan said, gesturing at the corpse with the barrel of her rifle.

Kitty set her phaser to maximum and aimed it.. she took a deep breath. "They're dead already..." she said, and fired, her jaw tight. Then she glanced back at Sulan before starting to walk again towards Engineering. "Was that another test?" she asked, eyes narrowed just slightly.

"Yes." Sulan said cryptically, as she readjusted O'Driscoll's weight, and moved further down the corridor.

"Did I pass?" Kitty asked curiously... and just then a small group of mobiles, six of them, came drifting around the corner. Gliding about five feet off the ground, makeshift automated weapons with one sensor-eye and one integrated phaser apiece.

"Not yet." Sulan said as she and her security crews flattened against the bulkheads on either side of the corridor, with but a simple gesture from her. She pulled a thermal grenade from her belt and removed the pin. "Grenade away." She said almost conversationally as she threw it and ducked back behind the corner to avoid the massive shockwave and gout of flame.

Kitty wasn't among those who flattened... she raised her phaser, aiming for the nearest mobile. Her aim was excellent... her sense of self-preservation left something to be desired. At the grenade call, though, she abandoned her aim and ducked back around the corner barely in time.

"Lieutenant, I had assumed that self preservation was an instinct that your species possessed. That being the case, I am at a loss to explain why you would stand within the blast zone of a live grenade without cover. It is a fact that Vulcans are stronger than humans, but I have no wish to carry your corpse back to the Pegasus."

"I can't aim and run at the same time," Kitty admitted sheepishly. "I'm not trained security, you know." She took a deep breath. "Is it safe to continue on?"

"I believe that the old earth phrase of walking and chewing gum applies here." Sulan peeked around the corner at the blasted and blacken corridor. the sleds all lay in smoldering ruins. "Clear. Let us move on to the next sec-" But she was cut off by a transmission over the comm badges: =/\= Rodriguez to security teams! We're pinned down just outside the transporter room, and it doesn't look like we're be able to secure it. So, I'm going to Thermite it, and hold position till the shields go down! Sorry folks, but your on your own!" =/\=

Kitty frowned at this news... and nodded slightly. "Once we're at Engineering and we've got the module we need, I can take down the secondary computer core and power couplings. That should take the shields down."

"Understood." Sulan said as she moved to the next section in the semi darkness. She suddenly dove hard to the right as a phaser blast arced just over her head. She started to move back to the group, but suddenly slowed, as her knees buckled. It was as though an invisible hand was suddenly pressing down on her. She managed to shove the unconscious O'Driscoll clear before slowly crumbling to the deck. "The... grav plating... it's a trap..." She said in a ragged gasp as she fought to breathe while nearly being flatted by the sabotaged plating.

Kitty blinked. "Oh crap." She stepped to the nearby panel, pulling it off the wall, and started working inside the circuitry feverishly... not even bothering to pull out her tools, she inspected the conduits and yanked one of them out of its socket. "Did it work?" she asked, still poking around inside the circuitry, ready to pull the backup if necessary.

"Negative! It looks like the source is near the plate itself. Get down on your stomach and crawl to them. Well cover you sir" He aimed his shots well over the prone forms of Sula and O'Driscoll. "Covering Fire!" He ordered.

"Got it." Kitty flattened and started crawling over towards Sulan, keeping an eye out for any devices or unusual wiring, hoping she'd see it before she fell into the same trap. She trusted the security officers entirely to keep her safe.

The phaser beams flashed just over her head as she works. "Take... O'Driscoll and...withdraw... The needs of the many...." Sulan said weakly as she lay pinned to the deck.

"The situation isn't that desperate yet," Kitty said firmly, still looking for some way to disable the trap. "Besides, I need you to cover me in Engineering, I'd have to be an idiot to give up now."

Sulan weakly tried to grab at the thermite grenades strapped to her sash. "Go.... as I am now....putting you... in danger."

"Not a chance," Kitty said stubbornly. "C'mon, where is it!?" she cried in exasperation, pounding her fist against the floor once as she continued to search.

An enemy phaser blast struck very near the prone form of Sulan. "Sir, if you have any trick up your sleeves, I'd recommend using them now!" Miller shouted to her.

"Yeah," Kitty said. "I'm going to reverse the polarity of the plating. Everyone get off the center of the deck, or you'll get a foot-tingle you won't soon forget." Now she was ripping up the carpet, pulling up a small section of floor and reaching inside. "Hold tight... Now! Aagh!" There was a momentary crackle of blue electricity along the floor.

Sulan gasped as her ability to breathe and move normally was restored. She moved in a blur as she scooped up O'Driscoll and half=stumbled, and ran with her in a crouch. "That was a most illogical stunt you pulled, Lieutenant Black. If you are to die, then our mission fails." she said as she regained her breath. "Miller, use a thermite grenade to clear our path." Miller immediately obeyed, shouting "grenade away!" as she threw it down the corridor.

"Illogical, that's me.." Kitty gasped, pushing herself to her feet and stumbling back well out of range of the blast. "Besides, Engineering's just up ahead, that must've been whatever's guarding it. You ready to finish this?"

"Quite." she said, as she checked the power on her rifle. " Squad, prepare for an Omega class breech." She said as she sprayed the black explosive gel down the center of the closed door to engineering and stabbed the timer into it. "Clear." she said as she ran a few meters back from it

"Woah, that'll work." Kitty was still a bit winded, but she managed a good turn of speed as she followed Sulan, pausing several feet behind the Vulcan and bracing herself.

A low muffled boom was heard in the low oxygen environment. but rather than the doors falling gently inward as they were supposed to, they were ripped violently from the frame, and flew inward toward engineering as a massive gravity trap crushed them as they flew. "Fascinating... The hostile entity could have slain the other security team when they arrived here, but instead waited till we arrived to spring the trap. It is fortunate that I chose to destroy the door rather than simply enter it." Sulan said with no trace of emotion, as she holds on to the bulkheads to keep from being pulled in.

"I think it's because she knows I know how to shut down the computer core," Kitty said grimly, clinging to a nearby bulkhead. "I could do the polarization trick large-scale with the nearby panel, if I wasn't using both hands to hang on."

Sulan was silent as she considered for a moment. "What are your orders?"

"I have to get that module from Engineering," Kitty replied, bracing her feet. "We need it to get the engines online. That's the whole reason we came over here." She frowned slightly. "If I could just brace myself against something stable..."

"Understood." Sulan gently passed O'Driscoll to Miller and grabbed Kitty none too gently around the waist, to hold her steady. "I would recommend haste." Sulan said calmly as if she weren't holding them both back from a bone-crushing death.

"Oof. That'll do." Kitty removed the panel cover, letting it fly past them into the gravity trap, then pulled out a tool and started fiddling with the conduits inside. "Ok, this is going to be a big one.." She switched a couple of wires, then pulled another one, triggering the polarization... shown by a momentary but even more brilliant display of blue lightning. It was strong enough this time that she could feel a faint tingle through her feet, even at that distance. "Ok, I'm going to get my blood pressure checked after this..." was her strangely calm remark.

Sulan didn't' bother to reply as she let go of the girl, and raced into engineering. to confront the holographic monstrosity.

Kitty nodded and raced after her, skidding to a stop just inside Engineering and taking down a larger (and more important-looking) panel. "I'm going to draw attention doing this, just hold it off until I'm done!" she gasped.

Sulan and the others crouched around kitty, covering as she worked. No matter how well they aimed their shots, they passed harmlessly through the hologram. "Again, I must recommend haste, Ms. Black."

"Haste, got it. Let me borrow one of those grenades." Kitty straightened up.

Sulan handed her the grenade without comment as she continued to fire at the slowly advancing hologram, looking in vain for a weak point.

"Look for the mobile emitter!" Kitty advised as she bent down among the circuitry. "If you hit it, you won't kill her, but she'll have to respawn in Sickbay or a holodeck!" She activated the grenade and dropped it down a small shaft. "Scratch that, find cover!" Now she was the first one diving for a safe place.

Sulan again moved without question, diving behind a nearby control panel as the rest of the team found cover.

This explosion was a bit larger than the last one... apparently, she'd hit something very important... like the secondary core. Terminals shorted out across the entire room, lightning flickering around the hologram as it screamed in fury even as it was flickering and dissipating. Then everything went black...

And then Kitty flicked on her flashlight. "Everybody ok? I'm going for the module... get everybody together, tell the Pegasus to start getting us out of here." After all this, somehow she had no hesitation whatsoever giving orders.

Sulan obeyed without protest, hitting her combadge. =/\= "Attention squads: Form up, and prepare for transport. Pegasus, prepare to receive us." =/\= She closed the channel. "Apparently, congratulations are in order Ms. Black. Well done." Sulan would have smile had it been permitted. "this mission was a success due to your efforts."

"I couldn't have done it alone," Kitty said in satisfaction, as she scurried into the depths of the dead warp core... and came out pulling a rather small but very heavy object. "The main regulator. This is coming back with us. Oof... Hey. We did good." She straightened up, holding the regulator in her arms. "All I'll have to do is put this in and reconfigure it to work with a Centaur Class, and we'll be on our way."

"Excellent. Shall we return to the Pegasus then? Sulan asked, sounding somewhat weary all of the sudden.

"Yeah, let's go. You might want to go straight to sickbay with Hannah." Kitty activated her comm. =/\=Lt. Black to Pegasus transporter room, you'd better bring me right into Engineering, this thing is heavy. =/\= A moment later her small form shimmered as it.. and the regulator.. vanished into the transporter beam.

Sulan took one last look around the deserted engineering section before taking Hannah in her arms and requesting transport. Finally the vessel was empty, a dark floating charnel house among the stars.

-=Off=-

Posting forever and ever...

Lt. (j.g) Telek Sulan Chief of Security USS Pegasus "In the presence of so much death, life burns all the more brightly, does it not?"

Lt. Kathleen Black Chief Engineer USS Pegasus