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Desperate Times And Measures

Posted on Mar 09, 2019 @ 10:40pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Mar 09, 2019 @ 10:41pm

Mission: The Uncertainty Principle

= Desperate Times And Measures =

(cont’d from “Take Out The Trolley”)

****************************

LOCATION: USS PHOENIX
SCENE: Battle Bridge
STARDATE: [2.19] 0305.2328


Kass Thytos re-entered the bridge in time to catch the Kane’s conversation with Eden and Malin-Argo already in progress.

[[--and how exactly am I supposed to decipher their message if you won’t let me near the probe?]] Eden said.

[[I already told you what I saw in my vision,]] came the voice of Eve Dalziel, also from Main Engineering. [[The probe is too dangerous, and with your condition--]]

[[And just what are you insinuating?]] Eden snarled in reply.

Kane shot an exasperated glance in Kass’s direction, then turned his eyes back up towards the upper deck, where an officer’s eyes always seemed to drift during a lengthy audio-only exchange.

“I’m not unsympathetic to your concerns, counselor,” said Kane, “but if we can’t pull that message out of that probe, the state of Dr. Eden’s health will be irrelevant.”

[[I’m not some wilting flower,]] Eden said. [[I’ve come this far through everything right alongside the rest of you. I can see this to the end.]]

[[And if you’re wrong?]] Eve countered. [[Captain, Dr. Eden is likely the only person who could understand and execute whatever instructions are contained inside that probe. If she kills herself in the attempt, where will that leave us?]]

Kane frowned. “The counselor has a point as well, doctor.”

[[And while we stand here arguing, this ship is tearing itself apart,]] Eden said.

“There’s another option,” Kane said. “Commander Malin-Argo?”

The Grazerite’s voice burred harshly over the audio connection. [[Here, captain.]]

“We need someone to get close enough to that probe to manually interface with it,” Kane said. “Whatever data it’s carrying needs to be downloaded to our own main computer, where Dr. Eden can safely examine it.”

Kass thought she could feel the chill all the way from Main Engineering. Though she wasn’t a technical expert, she understood enough of what was happening to know that Kane had very likely just ordered his Chief Engineer to his death. To Malin-Argo’s credit, there was only a moment’s hesitation before his reply.

[[Understood, sir. I will clear this section of Main Engineering and interface with the probe--]]

“No,” Kane said.

Now there was a pause. [[Sir?]]

“You’re our engineering expert, Commander,” Kane said, his voice low and, Kass thought, forcibly steady. “Dr. Eden may need your help implementing whatever plan this other PHOENIX has sent us. And if something does happen to her, you’re the only one with a chance of stepping into her shoes.”

[[But sir,]] Malin-Argo said. [[Are you asking me to--]]

“That’s exactly what I’m asking you,” Kane said. “Get it done, Commander. Inform me when it’s done. Battle Bridge out.”

=[/\]=

SCENE: Main Engineering


The audio connection with the bridge was cut off, leaving Malin-Argo, Dr. Eden, and Eve Dalziel staring at each other through the sudden, icy silence. Eve’s eyes met Malin-Argo’s, and she was surprised to find that, in spite of his gruff, stoic exterior, she could see hesitation in the Grazerite’s eyes. Hesitation, and the precursor to guilt; the kind of guilt that she knew would follow him to every new assignment for the rest of his career. Though his expression was as unreadable as ever, Eve could see the truth in Malin-Argo’s eyes… he was asking her what he should do.

Eve wanted to plead with him not to do it, to look for a better way. She wanted to take a moment to step out from underneath the horrible emotional toll of the last several hours, out from underneath everything they had lost. She wanted to shout and cry, to mourn and pound her fist into a bulkhead all at once, in protest against the unfairness of everything that had happened to them.

But she knew that Malin-Argo was feeling just as much pressure and pain as she was. And she knew that, as much as she wanted it to be otherwise, that it was too late. There was no other way.

So Eve Dalziel did not do any of those things she wanted to do. Instead, she did her duty. She gave him the barest of nods, and she saw the pained recognition creep into Malin-Argo’s eyes.

Together, Malin-Argo and Eve turned their heads. A few paces away, Lynette Ryan was standing, still at her post. Her expression was not on the readout on her console screen, though; she was staring right back at them, her expression pale.

“Ensign Ryan,” Malin-Argo said quietly.

Lynette Ryan swallowed, but then she nodded. “What do I have to do?”

=[/\]=

SCENE: Battle Bridge


The threat of imminent destruction was taking a psychological toll on everyone aboard the USS PHOENIX. Everyone, that was, except for one crewman.

Thanks to his artificial body’s inability to produce and release adrenaline or cortisol, Lt. Byte had taken every new catastrophe that had befallen the PHOENIX in stride. While he had a complete grasp of the situation, and a built-in incentive to find a resolution that maximized the number of lives saved thanks to certain elements of his core programming, Byte was incapable of grief, and incapable of dread… and as a byproduct of these facts of his existence, he was also incapable of ignoring his duties as Chief Operations Officer.

He was fully capable of prioritizing, of course; indeed, since this crisis had begun, Byte had devoted almost all of his (or to be fully accurate, “its”... though most of Byte’s crewmates seemed to perceive the android as male) attention to working through it. But Byte’s mind did not function in the same way that organic minds did - and even a small percentage of his processing power left him with more than enough room to comfortably multitask.

This was way, since the ship had first impacted with the “alien” vessel that had been revealed to be an alternate USS PHOENIX, Byte had devoted a small portion of his awareness to his usual duties. As Chief Operations Officer, most of Byte’s job dealt with the allocation of ship resources across various projects, processes, and demands. From small things like monitoring power output across all decks or assigning transporter room or shuttlecraft usage as required, to larger issues like how the ship’s telemetry and
positioning might impact simultaneous scans of local spatial phenomena and long-range sweeps of the surrounding sector, Byte’s unshakable attention kept the PHOENIX running like clockwork.

Part of his duties included the management of physical resources aboard the ship. This had become more difficult due to the number of mechanical and computer problems they’d suffered in conjunction with their crash into the duplicate USS PHOENIX, but the steadfast android had developed and executed various workarounds, all without wasting Captain Kane’s time asking for guidance or permission. It was Byte’s duty, after all, to keep track of such things… and besides, the captain and the other senior staff had quite a lot to deal with already.

So when Gunnery Sergeant Horatio Bellecotte accessed the ship’s armory, Byte was notified through his terminal. When Bellecotte pulled a large portion of tricobalt explosives and antideuterium pods, as well as no small number of marine rifles, from the ship’s stores, Byte was notified of that, too.

In seconds, Byte’s computerized mind developed, tested, and dismissed more than three dozen hypotheses to explain why Bellecotte might have call to access such material. Each hypothesis failed to pass Byte’s theoretical modeling, save one: Harry Bellecotte intended to destroy the other PHOENIX. To this end, he was preparing to stage a mutiny.

Any other officer would have been shocked at this realization, but Byte simply added the new information to his processing of their current situation. The captain would have to be informed, of course, but rash action would do them no favors. Byte could not, for example, eliminate the possibility that Bellecotte was not acting alone; indeed, the fact that he had taken more than one marine rifle from the armory suggested co-conspirators.

Byte turned, his cornflower blue eyes resting for only a moment on Kass Thytos. The marine commander did not seem to notice the android’s regard; she was too intent on Kane’s conversation with Main Engineering, and the fact that Kane had just ordered Malin-Argo to send one of his crewmen to their death. Byte had followed that whole exchange too, of course, and were he an organic being, he supposed he would have felt sad at the need to sacrifice another member of the crew, when so many had already died. But Byte was a machine, for good or ill, and the PHOENIX had other problems right now.

{{Captain,}} Byte said, turning to Kane. {{May I speak with you privately?}}

Kane turned to look at the android. “We don’t have time for--”

{{It is important, sir,}} Byte said.

Kane looked at Byte, realized he wasn’t going to read anything in the android’s smooth, expressionless face, and sighed. “Make it fast, Mr. Byte.”

Byte nodded. {{Yes sir.}}

The android stood and moved towards the door, with Kane a few paces behind. Thytos did not look in Byte’s direction as he passed her by, though Byte knew enough about the functioning of the marine’s sensor nets to know that she didn’t need to be looking at him to see what he was doing.

=[/\]=

SCENE: Main Engineering

The isolation forcefield shimmered in front of Lynette Ryan. Behind it sat the probe, their visitor from that parallel PHOENIX, the thing very thing that might be the key to their salvation… and Lynette’s destruction.

She clutched the engineering tricorder more tightly in her fist.

Behind her, safely behind a secondary forcefield that cut Ryan off from the rest of Main Engineering, stood Malin-Argo, Eve Dalziel, and Dr. Eden.

“Are you ready, Ensign?” Malin-Argo asked, his voice sounding slightly distorted from behind the high-energy protective field.

Lynette swallowed again. She felt like she might be sick, felt her knees wanting to go weak, but she fought these urges down and forced herself to look back at the others.

“Ready, sir,” she said.

Malin-Argo hesitated a moment, then he activated the control at his station.

The force-field in front of Lynette disappeared, and Lynette gasped. She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting; a sudden flash of pain, maybe the searing agony of Jonathan Maynell’s final moments, perhaps? But she felt none of these things. All she felt was a slight warmth, which seemed to radiate outward from the probe hovering slightly above the bulkhead less than two meters in front of her.

**That’s not going to last,** Lynette thought. **Better get on with it.**

She stepped towards the probe. It looked harmless - every bit the standard Starfleet probe that she’d worked with repeatedly since being assigned to the PHOENIX. Strange to think such a familiar thing might be the instrument of her death. It seemed too absurd to be real, and for a moment, Lynette thought she didn’t *want* to die this way, didn’t want to be killed by a malfunction probe pouring lethal amounts of radiation through her skin and into her body, cooking her internal organs from the inside out. She thought about retreating, shouting at Malin-Argo to reactivate the protective field. It probably wasn’t too late yet, Sickbay could probably treat whatever rads she had already absorbed…

But of course, she couldn’t do that. If this job didn’t get done, there would be no future for any of them… and too many had already laid down their lives just to get them this far. For the PHOENIX to be destroyed, for everything they’d gone through and sacrificed to wind up meaning nothing… that was something Lynette Ryan found she could not abide.

So, she reached out and opened the panel on the top of the probe’s chassis.

“Beginning manual interface now,” she said.

She was starting to feel a little dizzy, and the nausea was getting worse. She recognized these as the early signs of severe radiation poisoning. Soon would come tremors, skin damage, maybe uncontrollable bleeding…

She pushed these thoughts aside and forced herself to focus. She punched in a few commands on the probe’s internal control panel, then hooked her tricorder to the probe’s internal mechanics. The tricorder had already been set to transmit whatever information it download directly to the PHOENIX’s main computer, where hopefully Dr. Eden and Malin-Argo could begin to make sense of it. Of course, Lynette didn’t expect to be around for that.

She glanced down at the readout on her tricorder screen - 20% complete - and wondered how much time she had left. Already, her hands had started to shake, and the warmth from the probe, which had been almost pleasant at first, had started to become unbearable.

40%. The tremors had become so bad that Lynette had to steady the hand which held the tricorder with her other hand in order to see the screen clearly.

80%. Lynette blinked what she thought were tears out of her eyes, but when they didn’t stop, she reached up with her free hand to wipe them away, and was surprised to find that her fingers came away bloody. Her legs had grown so weak she could no longer support herself on them; she was leaning against the probe, against the very thing that was killing her, so that she could finish this one last job.

By the time the tricorder screen display changed to “DOWNLOAD COMPLETE”, Lynette Ryan had lost consciousness.

=[/\]=

SCENE: Corridor outside Battle Bridge


“What is it, lieutenant?” Kane asked as soon as the doors to the Battle Bridge had swished shut behind him.

Byte got right to the point. {{Sir, I have reason to believe Gunnery Sergeant Bellecotte may be planning to seize control of Main Engineering.}}

Kane had been through quite a lot today, but this caught even him off guard. “What?”

{{I have been monitoring shipboard resources,}} Byte said. {{Sergeant Bellecotte has pulled a large quantity of armament and explosives from the armory. Given our current situation, as well as our knowledge of the other ship, I believe it is likely he intended to use the ordinance to destroy the other PHOENIX as a means of freeing us from the spatial anomaly.}}

Kane absorbed this without saying anything. He took a few steps away from Byte, rubbing at his eyes with the heel of one hand. Finally, he looked back in Byte’s direction.

“Would that work?”

Byte didn’t miss a beat. {{Theoretically, any damage to the other PHOENIX would be contained to its own dimension, just as the damage to our ship has been contained to this one. However, given the unprecedented nature of this situation, I am not able to rule out the possibility that our ship could be affected as well.}}

Kane considered this for a moment, then nodded. “And why are we having this conversation in the corridor?”

{{I believe it is possible Sergeant Bellecotte is acting on Major Thytos’ orders,}} Byte said. {{Bellecotte was not in Main Engineering or the Battle Bridge when the other PHOENIX was discovered. The most likely hypothesis to explain his awareness of it now is that someone who was in one of those places informed him of it. Given their operational relationship, the most likely suspect is Major Thytos.}}

Before Kane could respond, the door to the Battle Bridge slid open again. Kass Thytos stood in the doorway, almost a silhouette against the low lights and red alert warnings flashing behind her, but Kane could see her well enough to see that she was holding a phaser - and well enough to see that it wasn’t pointed at them.

Not yet, anyway.

Byte could see these things, too. In an instant, he had stepped in front of Kane, placing himself between Thytos and the captain.

“Feel like I oughta’ do a slow clap,” Kass said as she took a few steps forward. “But my hands are kinda’ full at the moment.”

{{Major Thytos,}} Byte said. {{May I remind you that carrying an unholstered weapon in the absence of immediate danger is a violation of Starfleet regulation--}}

“Thank you, Mr. Byte,” Kane said. He turned his attention to Kass. “Why, Major?”

“You really hafta’ ask?” Kass said, frowning. “That other ship - whatever they might look like - they ain’t us.”

“Yu said their ship doesn’t seem to be in any danger,” said Kane.

“Exactly,” said Kass. “They ain’t been through th’ ringer, an’ I fer one find that damn suspicious. They’re tryin’ to save their own skins, an’ it seems like they haven’t cared too much about what their survival is gonna’ cost us. An’ now we’re s’posed ta’ take ‘em at their word that they got some plan to get us all outta this? Sorry, sir, but I know bullshit when I smell it.”

“This won’t work,” Kane said. “Byte here is more than capable of taking you into custody. Even if you stopped him, Lieutenant Yu is right behind that door. She’ll hear the shot. Are you really willing to shoot all three of us over this?”

“Is it going to come to that?” Kass asked. “Think about it, captain, I know you musta’ been thinkin’ about it already.”

Kane didn’t reply to this, so Kass continued.

“We’ve lost people - *good* people - and all ‘cuz that other ship’s been dictatin’ every step of this so-called rescue operation. I don’t know about you, but I’m done lettin’ them make all the calls and havin’ us absorb all the losses. If only one ship is gonna’ make it out of this, I know damn well which one’s getting my vote.”

A moment of silence drew out between them, and finally Kane sighed.

“Mr. Byte,” he said. “Please take Major Thytos into custody.”

Kass tensed - she didn’t think she stood a chance against the android, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t going to go down swinging - but even as Byte began to step towards her, Kane was already moving. His hand snaked out, pressing the hidden switch built into the android’s lower spinal column. Byte’s limbs stiffened for an instant, and then all simultaneously went limp. He fell soundlessly to the floor, leaving Kane and Kass staring at each other from less than a meter apart.

“Okay,” Kane said, his voice pitched low. “Tell me what you have in mind.”

=[/\]=


Shawn Putnam
A.k.a.
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer
USS PHOENIX

 

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