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Part of USS Mercy: Mission 1 – “Life as a House”

The Edge of Forever

Outside Command Center - Corridors
8.12.2400 @ 1330
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The station was fully powered now.  Carolyn could feel…something on the edge of her consciousness.  It wasn’t pressing onto or into her…but it was there.  Something strong but not strong enough to do damage to her or her mind.  It was just…there.  “Lieutenant O’Shea…do you feel…anything out of the normal?”

O’Shea looked around the command center uneasily before his eyes came to rest on Crawford. “Yeah, yeah…not sure how to describe it…a slight pressure…” he said with a shake of his head. “I think we may have made a mistake.” He turned and tapped one of the computers, and the systems readouts sprang into the screen. “Well, that’s something, at least. Let’s Try to find the others.”

Carolyn gave a nod and did her best to ignore the oddly timed pressure.  They stepped fully out of the command center and stepped down the corridor.  The doors to the room they had left shuddered shut, and there was the sound of several locks being engaged.

O’Shea glanced back and shook his head, “Well, it is safe to say I am really starting to dislike this place.” He looked down the hall and grumbled, “If only I still had those grenades….”

Crawford grumbled, “We’re going to fix this mistake, I promise you.”  They continued walking down the corridors and found there were sections closed off by either doors or very strong forcefields.  The engineer growled, “Now I feel like a mouse in a maze…and I am not enjoying myself.”

“You could say that again,” O’Shea said as he used his tricorder to examine the forcefields and tried to get a reading of the layout around them. “Good news is these forcefields aren’t lethal; that said best not to touch them for fun.” He paused for a moment as the tricorder scan showed some of the corridors around. “Looks like there are a few more open passages over this way, maybe a lift as well.”

They found a working turbolift and stood, staring at the opened doors and blinking lights inside.  Crawford wondered, “It hasn’t killed us outright…yet.  Maybe it’s just getting us where we need to go.  Maybe.”

“That is true, and I think you are right about that. Whatever this thing is appears to be using us to….well, I am not sure but can’t say we have many choices right now.” With that, he stepped into the lift, “In for a penny, in for a point, I guess.”

Carolyn grumbled for what felt the umpteenth time, “No-win scenarios are not fun in real life.”

As the lift doors closed, they began to descend further into the base for twenty seconds or so before the lift stopped, and its doors opened to reveal even more corridors. “Corridors. Exciting.” O’Shea muttered as he stepped out and looked around. On the bulkhead beside them was a sign pointing to various rooms, 

Deck 6 – Junction C4

> Messhall 1 – 25m

> Computer Core – 75m

˄ Deflector Control – 100m

< Communications – 75m

Not seeing any forcefields blocking their path at the moment O’Shea frowned and looked down each of the three corridors. “If this wasn’t a possessed station, I would say we should check out the computer core, but who knows what it wants? Could be the mess hall or any of the random rooms. Thoughts?”

Carolyn thought for a moment, “Let’s see.”  She took off walking down the corridor towards the Messhall.  The voice returned.

“YOU MUST MERGE WITH US”

Crawford’s eyes got wide and turned to O’Shea, “That doesn’t sound good.”  She slipped out her tricorder and swept it around, “You’re right.  No forcefields.  I wonder…”  She walked down the hall and found an open door, a console in the center of the room.  She stood at the doorway and motioned O’Shea over.  “I have a theory.  I need you to trust me…and come in this room with me.”

O’Shea looked around. “Merge with us is a bit to close to assimilate for my comfort,” he muttered as he thought back to training drills against the Borg. He looked over to Crawford and nodded, “I got your back.”

She sighed, “I don’t want to verbalize it until I know for certain.  And the only way is through that console.”

“I will follow your lead here. Let’s get this started,” He said.

She entered, followed by the security officer.  The door didn’t close behind them.  Carolyn smiled quietly and went to work on the console, clicking, switching, and toggling her way through the screens.  A moment later, she chuckled, “There are no forcefield generators on this deck.  There also is a jarring lack of central computer control here – the doors are open and not preventing us from getting in or getting out.”  She frowned as she clicked, “There’s something else here.  Something…or someone else.”

“i am the other”

The voice was that of a child, a young girl.  And it caused Crawford to jump.

The voice caused O’Shea to raise his arms and took a combat stance as he looked around before relaxing slightly, “And who is the other?”

Crawford gawked as the voice returned, “there isn’t much of me left.  i would not merge with them.  i stayed away.  outside.  death is real.  he wants to take more.  he needs more.  he must be stopped.”

“Death?” O’Shea said, “That is rather ominous. It is the entity in control of the station, then? What is it, and how do we stop it?”

The child’s voice spoke once more, “you ask the wrong question.”

Crawford muttered and found a chair to sit in the room.  She looked to O’Shea, “To get our answer, we’re going to have to think like a child.  See the world like a child.  Whoever this was originally…they’ve separated this deck from Death or whoever.  Somehow she tangled with it…and won.”

“Makes sense,” O’Shea said as he looked at the console silently thinking to himself how much he was disliking this situation.

Carolyn sat forward in the chair, “How did you stand alone?”

A pause as silence fell in the room.  Then, “i was brave.  mommy always told me to be brave.  i ran.  I ran and ran until i closed the door and made it disappear.”

“That was very brave of you,” O’Shea said. “Can you tell us how you closed the doors? Was your mother, mommy, on this station? We want to make sure it doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

Carolyn gave him a nod of approval.  He was figuring it out.  The voice didn’t speak right away, and Crawford worried something had happened.  She tapped at the console and was relieved when it returned, “i closed the blinking doors.  i locked the codes in the shiny boxes so he could never get to them. he’s blind to me.  he cannot hear me.”  A brief moment and then, “my mother is with him now.  he hurt a lot of people.  you need to hurt him back.”

The engineering officer thought for a second, “The computer core.  Part of it is on this deck.”  She took a moment longer, “There are routines, subroutines, and pathways in the older systems – lot more manual and prone to sabotage or even people playing pranks with how easy it was to manipulate the data.  I think what she’s saying is the shiny boxes are the blinking doors…she locked whatever this is out of this deck using the computer core that resides here.”

O’Shea frowned slightly as he worked through a couple ideas and nodded, “That makes sense.” 

A long sigh, “It means if we can…get to wherever this thing is plugged into the computer core…we might have a chance of removing it from having control over the station.  This thing…it’s smart, but it’s not smart like this little girl was…or is.”

The voice interrupted, sadness filling the room as it spoke, “i know i am dead.  it isn’t us.  it thinks it is us…but it is not.  you must go to it.  stand up to it.  and find a way to stop it from doing it again.”

“There has to be a way we can isolate her, get her out of the computer…” O’Shea said looking over at Crawford.

The girl’s voice sounded tired now, “you cannot save me.  i’ve been here long enough to know i don’t get to go home again.  when you hurt him…when you make this place go away…i can rest and go where i’m supposed to go. you cannot try to save me. my mother tried.  it drove her mad…and into his arms.”

Crawford shook her head in shock, followed by dismay, “We’ll hurt him alright.  You can be sure of that.  What is your name?  We can tell people what happened to you.”

The voice was silent, and she spoke as if trying to remember it herself, “ruby was my name.  ruby bellows.  you must go now.  he is waiting.”

Anger flashed across O’Shea’s face as the disembodied voice now had a name. “Ruby, we will do everything we can. Don’t you worry.” He turned and looked to Crawford. “I think we should check the core, and see if we can get any information from there. If this thing resides in it, even if not on this floor, we have been able to disrupt its control or communications.” He said, “Really wish we had our gear.” He muttered and shook his head. 

She agreed, “Let’s get to the core.”  They walked, less cautious now, given that this deck was a free place.  It took them a little time, but they entered the door and found themselves looking at the section of the archaic computer core that was stored on this deck.  Crawford pulled out her tricorder, and got closer.

O’Shea followed her in and looked around. “It is amazing to see how far the tech as come. This stuff is incredibly rudimentary.” He said as he scanned the room with his tricorder.

“There’s organic matter in here.” She growled, “I think the bad one tried to wire Ruby into this thing so she would control this deck for him.  She must have been a very smart little girl to do what she did.”

The voice returned, but quieter now.  “i was top of my classes.  mommy let me study things. i read so much.”  Another pause before she continued, “i cannot speak to you anymore.  it will take all my energy to remain where i am.  you must find your way forward.  justice is yours.”

“Take care of yourself. Save your energy Ruby.” O’Shea said as he looked at the wires and thought back to the improvised neural interface they had encountered on the Colombia and a shiver went down his spine. The thought of a little kid being connected to that thing disturbed him deeply and he felt a wave of rising anger towards the entity Ruby had named ‘Death’. He looked over at Crawford and exhaled deeply before looking into the core, suspecting what he was about to find. 

He stepped up and moved into the large computer core’s access room and was greeted with a ghastly sight. The remains of a child were wired into the core, a makeshift neural interface on her head. He reached down and removed the interface before taking off his jacket and laying it over Ruby. “Crawford. Let’s see what we can get out of the core. There are several control panels here. We should be able to get some information,” he said, the anger barely restrained in his voice.

Crawford silently said a old Earth prayer for the girl.  “Information will help.”  She was equally as unsettled about the entire thing.  She wasn’t sure evil was the right word anymore.

O’Shea moved to the nearest access panel and placed his tricorder down on the small desktop that folded down, setting it up so that the tricorder could connect to the system as needed. With a few quick commands on the computer, he was able to gain basic access to the system. “Looks like there is a large power drain a couple of decks up where the main part of the core is held.” He said, “If I am reading this right, their power systems are degrading, might not take much to push it over the edge. Shut down the system.”

Carolyn nodded, “That means wherever this thing is…we have a chance at maybe pushing it beyond – short-circuiting it maybe?”  She pulled out of the core and helped O’Shea do the same.  “We’ve done all we can do here…I think it’s time to get ourselves to engineering.”

O’Shea paused for a moment and looked back at the core and said a prayer softly under his breath, “Solas Mhic Dé ar a n-anam,” one he had learned as a child. He turned back to face Crawford and nodded. “Let’s end this.”

They walked back down the hall and found a turbolift and the doors opened when she tapped the console.  She stepped inside, followed by O’Shea.

He stood in the elevator and sighed. “The things that have happened in this place, to her, are going to give me nightmares for a long time…” O’Shea said. “Let us hope the others are in engineering. Makes sense they would head that way.”

The engineer put her hand around the calling unit, “Engineering.”  The turbolift doors slide shut as the entire car groaned, scraped, and then plunged into the depths of the moon station.