“The Gravity of the Situation”
Setting: Maintenance Cooridor, USS Charon
“What’s taking so long”, Lt. Athalla shouted down the tube behind him as he kept watch down the barrel of a Romulan rifle. He and Aev Keirianh maintained watchful guard in front of a narrow crawlway that led to the deck’s gravity generators.
A nervous crewman Winters pried loose the access panel to the gravity generation system after fumbling about with it for several minutes. “This isn’t my area of expertise lieutenant. I’m doing the best…that..I..I can.” Wedged between several tubes carrying low temperature coolant in a cramped space that allowed little movement, Winters fumbled with the controls and his tools trying to stay calm while his body shivered with both cold and fear.
“Well hurry it up crewman. I don’t want to end up on the wrong end of a Romulan shooting gallery.” Athalla shot an inquisitive glance at Keirianh. “Do they have shooting galleries on Romulus?”
The mercenary paid the lieutenant only a moment of fleeting attention offering no immediate reply.
Winters accessed the control panel and struggled with the interface of the large gravity generation system. His fingers were freezing in the chilled air of this section of the ship making his tasks that much more difficult. Adding to his difficulties was the fact he had no precise reference materials for this equipment. No documentation of operating norms, no manuals, and no calibration charts meant he had to guess as he scrolled through a dizzying list of commands and menus on the tiny maintenance display.
“So how did you end up here aboard the Charon”, Athalla asked Keirianh keeping a sharp eye on his half of the long maintenance corridor.
“I..I made a mistake”, the mercenary replied actually speaking for once.
“Must have been quite the mistake to land you upon a Federation starship. Mind if I ask what it was? I enjoy hearing interesting stories.”
“If you want to know why I was captured here it was not due to negligence on my part. Perhaps I wanted to be caught. Perhaps I just wanted this life to end as it began.” His voice quietly trailed off and the mercenary said no more.
“Uh..yeah, interesting story”, Athalla answered with a shrug. The sudden sound of metal upon metal interrupted any further conversations as the two men instantly tightened their grip on their weapons. Eyes dilated, heart rates increased, and even the air itself seemed to slow its movement in the cold, windy tunnel. Keirianh was the first to move ducking down into a defensive position. With silent handsignals he informed Athalla he had seen or heard three possibly four bodies quickly approaching down the corridor.
Athalla drew near to the access hatch but was unable to locate crewman Winters. He couldn’t risk verbal communications which might alert any nearby Romulans. He would just have to wait and hope the crewman sabotaged the gravity systems sooner rather than later. Sooner was certainly his preference which was dashed when a green disruptor bolt exploded only meters from his head in a cascading shower of green and yellow sparks.
Athalla and Keirianh wasted no time returning fire in the narrow corridor. Cover was nonexistent and the pair had only a few scattered coolant pipes and indentations within the bulkhead to press their bodies against to avoid or block the incoming fire.
“WINTERS”, Athalla yelled down the adjoining maintenance crawlspace. “I don’t mean to rush you, but HURRY UP!”
Winters turned bumping his head on the top of the tunnel as the sound of weapons fire and a yelling lieutenant filled his ears. He turned back to his task and scrolled through the seemingly endless options for configuring, tuning, calibrating, and managing the gravity generator. Which option simply shut the system down? He nervously ran through the options looking for anything related to shutdown, maintenance, or offline, but could not locate the commands. With the ship’s computer in flux and unreliable he had been unable to establish a voice interface and was forced to rely upon arcane manual commands to operate the equipment.
“Testing”, he nearly shouted reaching a suitable menu on the tiny access screen. “Yes of course.” If he could place the gravity generators in a diagnostic mode, that could achieve the desired effect. His eyes rapidly grazed the available options all of which lacked any meaningful description. Diagnostic Test 1, Diagnostic Test 2, Diagnostic Test 3… and so the list continued. He was a sensor technician not a general engineer. He had no references and lacking any additional resources held his breath as he nervously executed the command.
There was an audible whine as the equipment complied with the order and seemed to spin down before resuming its characteristic hum. Suddenly his stomach wretched and the room seemed to spin. Winters felt cold steel pressing against his face and realized he was no longer lying on his stomach, but was on his back staring up at what used to be the floor…? The blue glow of the tiny access screen confirmed his fears. He had inverted gravity on the deck.
Athalla fired off several shots at the Romulan soldiers inching their way up the dark tunnel. Between him and Keirianh they had injured or killed at least one or two of the invading Romulan troops however their numbers seemed to be growing and in the narrow confines of the tunnel it was unlikely they could hold their current position for much longer. Lining up for a shot, Athalla suddenly felt his stomach turn as if he had attempted to pull a high-G turn in a fighter. Before he could make sense of the sensation his body floated upwards and careened into the ceiling which had now become the floor.
Romulan curses filled the air several coming from Keirianh who was none too pleased by the sudden and unexpected upheaval. The two quickly righted themselves shrugging off the momentary pain of being hurled into the floor, ceiling, whatever it was they were now standing on. They quickly found their situation more perilous as the ceiling was a cluster of pipes and protruding junction boxes poorly suited for standing let alone close quarters combat.
“WINTERS”, Athalla shouted as green beams again resumed flooding the passageway, “OUR SITUATION HAS NOT IMPROVED!”
“Lieutenant”, Keirianh shouted. Leon looked back from the maintenance tunnel containing no sign of Winters to see a half dozen Romulans clamoring to overrun their position with two others flanking the group’s advance with covering fire. “Disruptor”, Keirianh shouted extending his hand. Leon drew the captured Romulan disruptor pistol from his suit and tossed it to the mercenary who instantly grabbed the weapon and took careful aim not at the advancing soldiers, but at the floor or rather what had been the ceiling. A lone green beam of high intensity left the weapon slamming into a pipe just in front of the charging troops. There was a small green flash, followed by a reddish glow as the metal quickly heated, became unstable, and finally disintegrated. Keirianh dropped to his knees and turned away prompting Athalla to do the same as the equivalent of a grenade exploded in the confines of the tunnel.
The pipe, carrying liters of pressurized coolant, ruptured and exploded into the corridor in a cloud of super-cooled gas with explosive potential. Athalla turned and looked behind him as a wall of white vapor engulfed the Romulans and the tunnel in an icy grip. Several screams could be heard, but were quickly silenced. The seconds dragged on as the coolant pressure fell as a result of loss or the activation of automatic safety systems. Moments later the gas clouds dissipated revealing a frozen, ice covered tunnel that shimmered in the dim maintenance lighting.
Grotesque, unmoving, statues were all that remained of the Romulan soldiers all of which were locked in gruesome, agonizing poses as they had been frozen alive by the vapors that had consumed them.
“Nice shot”, Athalla said slowing standing still somewhat reluctant to believe what he saw. Keirianh dropped the spent disruptor which had been fired at its maximum setting. “Efficient”, came the mercenary’s cold response.
Winters, meanwhile, struggled to pull himself back down or up to the controls of the gravity generator. Do to the unpredictable nature of the diagnostic he was now forced with working upside down at the near useless interface. Without any thought he quickly punched in the command to reverse his prior changes. The equipment slowed, stopped, and began again as his stomach turned. He again found himself back on the floor of the crawlspace rightside up facing the controls…but not before he heard more yelling….
Athalla took several steps toward the deep frozen soldiers and gingerly tapped them with his rifle. Beings that had just moments ago been at their throats now stood motionless as thin vapors of coolant and steam rose from their remains. “I wonder if the captain would want one of these as a …” Athalla never finished as his stomach once again foretold a change in gravity. Plummeting downward, Leon hit the floor as the frozen Romulans fell around him with enough mass and force to kill.
The pilot tensed waiting for the inevitable as frozen remains shattered around him littering his body with icy fragments. Silence. He ventured a look from beneath his arms only to glance up at the frozen contorted face of a Romulan soldier whose head was no longer attached to his body. Leon jumped up and scrambled backwards tripping over another body fragment hitting the deck.
Keirianh stood brushing icy remains from himself and wiping a nasty cut on his forehead which was beginning to ooze a thin stream of green. The mercenary barely paused moving over to help up the fallen pilot who had been startled by the shattered bodies which lay around them in pieces.
“You piece of junk”, Winters yelled shaking the small control panel unable to locate any shutdown commands. He couldn’t risk another diagnostic routine – he had no idea what it might do. He feared the situation was hopeless when he felt something painfully jabbing him in his chest. Pushing himself up onto his arms, Winters pulled his phaser from beneath him which had fallen loose in the gravity shifts.
He suddenly had an idea.
Athalla checked his weapons and dusted himself off after an interesting set of events. Assuming any of them survived this would make for some tall tales unlikely to be believed among pilots, friends, or the assistance of copious quantities of alcohol.
“We should check on your engineering recruit lieutenant. It would seem he is having some difficulties.”
Leon nodded turning toward the maintenance crawlspace only a few meters away. The sound of a phaser made both him and the mercenary jump and was preceded by yet another gut wrenching loss of equilibrium. Gravity failed and both Athalla and the mercenary found themselves floating in a menagerie of shattered, frozen soldiers.
“Holy shit I need a drink”, Athalla blurted pushing a frozen head and arm away from him. Reaching over to his arm he activated the magnetic boots that were supposed to have been a part of his grand, master plan. He again hit the floor, hopefully for the last time. The mercenary did the same as the two looked at each other and then quickly proceeded to locate crewman Winters their boots clicking against the metal flooring.
A head with a nervous smile suddenly emerged from the tiny opening followed by the body of crewman Winters which slid gracefully from the crawlspace into the zero-g openness of the tunnel. “Objective complete lieutenant. Sorry for the rough ride the systems were a little harder to figure out than I thought.” Winters looked down and quickly hid his phaser behind his back flashing a sheepish smile.
“Hey? What’s the deal with all the ice”, he asked looking over the men’s shoulders and the weightless chunks of icy debris floating about the corridor.
Athalla and Keirianh looked incredulously at one another then back at crewman Winters.
Leon took a deep breath and sighed.
“Lieutenant, perhaps a frozen drink would better suit you at this juncture?”
Athalla turned toward the mercenary whose face betrayed nothing. “Was that a joke”, he mused. While Keirianh’s face was illegible, Leon thought he saw a brief spark of mischief in the mercenary’s eyes. Perhaps there was something more beneath the façade of a cold, unfeeling assassin.
“I don’t think I will look at any beverage on the rocks quite the same again”, Leon confided.
“What are you two talking about”, Winters asked relieved they hadn’t bothered to check how he had managed to stop the gravity on the deck.
“Come on”, Athalla muttered grabbing the floating crewman. “We still have more trouble to cause.”
“Haven’t we caused enough”, Winters asked.
“Didn’t I tell you”, Athalla answered, “Trouble is my middle name. Come on.”
~ FIN ~
Lieutenant Leon Athalla
BIO: Coming Soon!
BIO: None, Generic NPC