OOC: Hope you all had a good Xmas... or whatever holiday you might have celebrated today.
OOC: Hope you all had a good Xmas... or whatever holiday you might have celebrated today.
(Rico Montalvo, Talia Gruz, and others)
[Concurrent with everything after "Persiflage"]
Riggs, Davis and the XO became as worried as Pagliacci and Cao, elsewhere, when they tried to check in with the others, and found coms non-responsive.
But that was just the beginning of their worries. Already they had much. The thermolytic source in Nimmik's cargo hold was interfering with communications and transporters. That 'charonium': One big volatile question-mark.
It couldn't be that Valerians were uninterested in locking their doors. Whoever killed the crew of this ship, had not bothered to seal off the sections. That implied a reason--perhaps anticipating the need to move about afterwards. They had found the bridge, and more bodies, slumped in chairs and heaped on the floor between consoles... wherever they were when trillicyanozine pumped through the air-ducts, sending them to their deaths.
Starfleet learned long ago the value of cross-training. Personnel in one department were often called upon to serve in another. Security didn't just guard and police. Riggs and Davis recognized various consoles, as did the XO--what they were for and could do. Between the three of them, they quickly ascertained the ship's status.
Talia Gruz pulled on strands of dark hair with one hand, sight magnetized on the two young men--one blonde, of fair persuasion, the other dark, with thick, graceless features. Both in Starfleet wear, burgundy collars. Phasers lay just out of either's arm's reach. Blood matted the blonde's hair. The arrow protruded from his temple like some obscene flagpole, marking a macabre victory. His green eyes stared, dull marbles, at the ceiling. A blood tear trickled from the corner of one lifeless eye.
She felt sorry for him. He was cute. The corners of his mouth were frozen, curled, as if he smiled when death came. Was he grateful? She wished she knew his name. Starfleet didn't embroider uniforms with name-patches or ID pins or anything like that. Perhaps Starfleet didn't consider him important enough to have a name. Maybe they didn't give him the life he wanted, and stole it from him, like they stole Jésus. Maybe he felt like a prisoner, and death was his release. Why else would he be smiling, if not an autonomic reaction? He was glad when the arrow shot through his temple into his brain, in the blink of an eye, quick and painless, but he'd had a split second to realize what had been coming, after it came... and as his soul left his body, realized he'd received merciful freedom. He was grateful. Yes. Maybe. That made Talia feel better.
She returned to Rico Montalvo's side. Rico, all in-charge and calm authority, drew her to him. He made everything better. Rico had a gift. He was always busy, on the go, checking things, fixing things, making adjustments and offsets, running around with pockets full of tools, the only companions who stuck to him more than Talia. He moved like he had a purpose. And no matter what he did, you knew he was doing the right thing, because that was just what Rico always did. He inspired trust with natural ease, without trying. One could rely on Rico Montalvo: When it needed doing, he got it done. Simple confidence, that was Rico. He could fix anything--take one look at a heap of machinery Talia couldn't make heads or tails of, and know everything about it. Insightful, that Rico, and smart: Just when you thought you caught up to him, knew what he was doing, he was ten steps ahead. Everything Rico did made sense. He could make others think it was the right thing too, and had.
"I need your help, conejita."
Rico's hands flew over the console. Helm was not responding. Someone was on the bridge. Someone not supposed to be there. He knew, because they weren't dead yet. Someone on the bridge, blocking his commands. He had set the ship on autopilot. Whoever that someone was--Starfleet, definitely. One glance at the bodies on the floor told him that. But there was no telling how many were aboard. It was perhaps a miracle in itself that more hadn't come in here yet, into the cargo hold, to arrest them. So, he had to do what he could with the time available to them, and improvise. To that end, he had been working.
He resisted a desire to check the sensor feed he'd linked to the bridge. Time, as always, was precious... and the clock was racing. That other ship was out there; that was obvious by now... perhaps breathing down their necks. He didn't know how many they'd sent to the Nimmik, their locations or proximity, and there wasn't enough gas left to use intruder control again, to knock them out. Trillicyanozine came one part per million. He'd had to concentrate it to make the poison effective. Once Mitriannt and the others started wising up, realizing he had no intention of capturing one of those things, Rico used it to eliminate them.
He had left doors and decks unsealed as well. There were things he could anticipate. He hadn't anticipated Arcadia's innovative persistence, her ability to recover that quickly from getting rammed by another ship, and intercept that same ship a second time, right here by the Beehive. He thought he'd be able to move about freely, return to the bridge once the charonium was ready. It was ready now. But now he couldn't go back to the bridge, and fly Nimmik straight down their throats, into the Beehive. A collision, and consequent chain reaction powered by 'bees' would have worked miraculously. So he had intended.
They couldn't pilot the ship from the cargo hold. Couldn't raise shields; that would dilute the 'scent', and though enough to lure the bees after dropping his fake 'friendly' signature which masked Nimmik to this point, they would merely have destroyed the Nimmik. Raising shields was unnecessary to prevent unwanted beam-ins; once the thermolytic reaction passed static levels, the generated interference acted as a shipwide dampening field. Whoever they were, they must have gotten on just before the spike. Every possible erg of energy had to be spared, now, from outer shields to internal forcefields, to avoid setting off the payload, after its containment field dropped, and to accent its output--an open signal, inviting the bees to dinner.
Destroying the ship was easy. All he had to do was drop the fake pseudo-signature and ramp power levels. The bees would incinerate Nimmik instantly. But it wasn't enough to just destroy a few hundred or a few thousand, or even a few million. There would still be more. He needed a chain reaction leading to the Beehive itself. To wipe the bees out once and for all, the Beehive... their source, the structure they protected and lived on, at the center of the Occlua Sector... had to be destroyed.
He couldn't control the bridge from there... but he had created the false signature matching the bees' output, based on data Jésus himself provided. Rico had only to deactivate it, and only Rico could. That he could do, through consoles. But he also had to paint the prize--the would-be target for the bees: The charonium. Tubes and conduits lined the cargo hold, leading to the huge container, normally used for simpler loads--substances which required refrigeration or regulated convection. He had to light it up--start a thermolytic reaction which wouldn't blow the charonium before the bees got in and amplified the detonation to their Beehive. That was their source, after all. Why did they never spread beyond the Occlua Sector? Because they were held to the Beehive. Take out the hive, wipe out the bees.
The dampening field dropped, amplifying the charonium's 'scent'. By now it generated a field that disrupted communications and transporters, and showed on sensors. Soon it would light the ship up like neon.
Then it was doomsday.
"Vea esto." Rico pointed at a monitor on the cargo bay console. Rather than stock inventory, it showed an intricate maze of intertwining loops and lines in various colors. Something Rico magically conjured. "When that red line flashes," he told her, "it's a Z-axis alignment. Look over here. When these dígitos show a symbol like a cross, that's a Talavian Z. Touch this button, then that button, and watch this indicator..." His finger tapped a tiny black slot. "...until it lights. Then press that button over there and hold until the cross disappears. Don't forget. All we've worked for depends on what we do these next few minutes."
"I killed them, Rico." Talia hefted the pistol-grip crossbow in her other hand, stared at it. It was sleek, black, with a polished handle resembling dark wood. Her lips thinned in a crescent grin. "I like this weapon. Not like a phaser." She aimed the deadly instrument, peering down its crosshairs with new appreciation--obtained from Orions. Starfleet didn't design something so violent. "It's... I don't know... somehow... more real."
"Talia... focus, chica." Rico touched her, ignorant of the crossbow. It emitted a high-pitched whine when fired, not unlike that of a phaser beam. The difference was its lack of charged plasma. In close proximity of the payload sharing the cargo hold behind them, energy weapons could be disastrous. Fortunately she got the drop on the two Starfleeters, before they noticed her. Had they fired phasers, even on stun, it might have been adios muchachos. He would have welcomed that... but it was too soon. They weren't ready to die... yet. "We've little time," he urged. He knew Starfleet. He was in Starfleet once. They would not send two low-rankers alone--security, he guessed, by uniform collars and sidearms. They had a superior around somewhere aboard the Nimmik, one officer, maybe more. Maybe that was who was on the bridge. More would come in here, could come, any moment. When crusading to stop criminals or terrorists or any who didn't fit with their 'enlightened' ways, Starfleet moved heaven and hell to stop them. If only they had been as concerned for Jésus. Dios maldígalos, anyway. They didn't know Rico was doing them, and the galaxy, a favor. They would never know, if it worked. But that didn't matter to him. They would not think him a hero for what he planned to do. That was all right. He wasn't doing it to be a hero, nor for them.
Talia straightened and set the crossbow on the flat, empty edge of the console, keeping an eye on the door. "Rico, I don't know as much as you, but... can't we just let them come in and ignite the charonium that way?"
"That would only destroy those attacking us. It might damage their 'Beehive'... but there'd be more."
Talia's bloodthirst bothered him. It wasn't like what he did. Jésus' death numbed him. With Talia it was different. She took interest in her victims. She acquired a lust for it--to her, it was personable, intimate, sexy. It nearly gave her orgasm. Often they made love with the tip of a disruptor pressed to his head. Unbelievable: That scared, innocent girl he & Jésus rescued from the icy dumps on Yggdrasil had developed such a dark streak. And yet that inner core remained. To look at her, so sweet and innocent... one wouldn't know by looks. She still had insecurities.
Most found Talia's orbit around Rico off-putting, after a while. It was impossible to miss, on first impression. It was like two people had been raised in crowded turbolifts, afraid to be far apart. It got on Rico's nerves, occasionally; he'd find things to work on that required them to be separated, just to get a break. While not exactly clingy--she had too much in the way of testicles, for a chica, despite her dainty sort of carefree prettiness, to be clingy--she never strayed far from his side. What she displayed since they escaped Yggdrasil's icy hell, especially in recent months since Rico went to the Orion Syndicate--the only ones capable and willing to fund his operation--had flowered, grown a life of its own. It protected them from the unstable footing of that treacherous world, and those who underestimated them--his seeming naïveté, her simple innocence. The contrast made her sharper, more beautiful. He still loved her, and loved her more for willing to go with him to the very end. Infierno or agua alta. For him. For Jésus.
Jésus. Did he forgive them for what they were doing? Would he forgive them for what they had done? Rico didn't like it--what he did, to get this far... turning the Talavian ship's intruder control systems on its own crew, sending them to their deaths, as he sent that errant Starfleet transport-trickster to hers... and unleashing Talia on the Starfleet intruders. Talia's quiet insistence in that regard grounded him, kept him going. The Nimmik worked for the Syndicate, whom Rico didn't mind deceiving--using their greed, hoping to profit from others' bloodlust, against them. But none of that mattered either. He had a goal, and only a choice decided whether or not to reach it. They had come this far... to the last act, the final stage. Rico's plan had worked. They stood on the threshold of success. Soon nothing would matter, anymore.
The Nimmik came because Rico convinced the Syndicate that he could capture one or more of Occlua's deadly residents. Rico never intended to capture one. He would only be as compassionate towards them as they were to Jésus.
He stepped before the giant, unmarked container dominating the cargo hold, gazing up at it with subdued awe. His ace in the hole, his trump card. His holy grail. Charonium. So sensitive. So deadly. Aptly named. Charon was a mythical ferryman who delivered souls over the River Styx, into lands of death. Once unleashed, the creatures who killed his brother would attack it with ferocious frenzy, as something alien and hostile, emitting energy patterns they couldn't resist. 'Honey', to the bees. The explosion would wipe them out, once and for all.
The Beehive, Occlua... all of it, truly a forbidden zone. The situation echoed the irony of poetic justice, on so many levels. Just as Rico manipulated the crew's disregard for life against them... just as Starfleet crucified Jésus Montalvo, science officer on the USS Turin, using his ingenious method of mapping Occlua's erratic paths, to send him to death at the hands, or 'feelers', of these so-called 'bees'... Rico would use the bees' own deadly potential against them. Rico was smart--but Jésus was smarter: Before he died, he had sent a transmission--an information package detailing what he learned. Propagated by Occlua's temporal shifts, it reached Rico before the ship's destruction. Rico tried to warn Starfleet. They didn't listen. Just like they didn't listen to Jésus, when he warned them of the risk in sending Turin to Occlua. They wanted to know the Beehive. What treasures might exist within. The creatures protecting it surprised and destroyed them... down to every last crew-member, every escape pod. Rico studied his brother's findings, learned how to navigate Occlua well enough to reach the Beehive. But he wouldn't give that gift to Starfleet, considering. He ended up with the Orion Syndicate, and now thanks to greed, folly and arrogance, he was here. All very poetic. The goal which all others sought would be delivered... just not as they wanted.
Jésus had shown the way: What proved irresistibly tempting to the bees, coupled with what drove the Syndicate, was the perfect plan for avenging Jésus. Occlua's instability would ripple the subspace shockwave to its very ends--and maybe, just maybe, rewrite time... erasing the creatures from existence. Jésus might live, again. Theoretically, anyway. Yet even if that did not happen, he would have been avenged. As a brother should be.
A teeth-rattling shudder passed through them. Explosive decompression, in some part of the hull. Not far off – the Talavian freighter was not a big ship.
It worked. The creatures had landed, and started their burn. Seconds later, another followed, harder than before, then another, and another... a domino effect, jarring the entire vessel repeatedly, as they devoured the Nimmik from all sides. The container of charonium quivered teasingly. Talia caught the crossbow as it slid off the console; she and Rico leaned on each other for support.
"I love you, Rico."
"Te amo, conejita."
It was too late to back out now... too late to stop them. Rico's agenda, or the bees.
Rico took a deep breath. "Por fin... venganza."