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Cybernetic Threats

Posted on Mon Apr 1st, 2024 @ 9:19am by Lieutenant Commander Deanna Celes & Commander Jonathan Grayson & Commander Samantha Howard & Ensign Kate Kono & Ensign James Phoenix

Mission: Man & Machine
Location: Shuttle

Everyone had been inoculated by Sam and had made their way to the shuttle bay. The shuttle had been prepped, though it looked like Deanna and Kate were both running last minute checks. "Once we clear the Washington we'll raise the shields. Should ease our descent and will give us complete protection from the radiation, until we leave the shuttle of course. You have the coordinates of the settlement we are heading for ensign?" she asked, looking over at Kate.

Kate nodded and stepped to the cockpit. "DTC Isochip loaded in and accepted, sir." Kate sat down and strapped in. "Looks like calmer wind at lower altitude but standing fog and near zero vis at the touchdown point." She spun halfway in her chair, "kind of reminds me of that movie, Aliens 'rawrrr'" she made playful clawing gestures with her tiny hands before swinging back to the console to use them for preflight checks.

Jon sighed as he boarded the shuttle. "I hope not Kate. Though it is rather creepy looking."

James slid into the seat for an auxiliary station at the rear of the shuttle and configured everything to a tactical configuration. The officers up front could usually operate most things, including the weapons. James configured everything into a tactical configuration, although it would be used for tactical analysis, unless the officers at the front would need an extra set of hands for the weapons.

After hearing both Kate and Jon, James spoke to Jon. "You aren't the only one sir" he said before turning to face Kate. "I never really enjoyed scary movies when I was in high school. At least for the scariness of it all. Some of them were really good, however."

Sam took her seat towards the rear of the shuttle, stowing her medical cases and keeping a kit on her person in case things turned ugly - which they inevitably did.

Phoenix tapped a few buttons after doing more checks on the tactical systems. He called out to the rest of the team. "Tactical systems are in working order" he reported. He knew Kate and Deanna probably knew that when they conducted their own checks, but it was better to be safe, especially going into the unknown.

One of the things Kate liked best about piloting shuttlecraft' in the 24th Century was the fact that there was no radio system. Computer systems built upon others throughout the year, and others after that, performed the duties of notifyng the shuttlebay staff, the bridge, and even the local airspace if needed, about her position and intentions as she manipulated the controls to get the shuttle lifting from the deck to a hover. The hull buzzed as they pierced the invisible barrier that protected the shuttlebay from the vacuum of space as it scraped the hull to keep the seal no matter what shape or displacement moved through the energy field. The buzz of the hull went away as they broke free from the Washington. Kate turned the shuttle backwards and fired a short burst from her thrusters to get them away from the geosyncronous orbit over the dark, forboding, barren wasteland of a planet below.

She knew that the shuttle would change the shield geometry to glide through the atmospheric particles as they swung around the backside of the planet in their downward spiral from high orbit. Kate oriented the shuttle sideways from the planet so they could get a view of the churning clouds below. She reached down and activated the sensors as they moved ever so closely to the planet in their twisting descent around the entire globe. As the Washington fell further behind the lower they went, they crossed the terminator into night to reveal nothing but darkness below. Kate tried to scan for power signatures but the upper atmosphere percluded her abilities to break through the atomic mush that had become of the place below.

"I'm not seeing a single light on down there," Kate said solmnly as she gazed out the window at what now looked like a perfect sphere of void as it swallowed up the stars with it's dark noir. Kate brought the shuttle around in retrograde and fired another thrust that would lower its orbital slope on the other side of the planets path all the way to the landing site on the other end of the globe. She brought the shuttle back around once more and oriented it nine-degrees nose up as the shield geometry shaped itself to deflect the heat of the ionizing particles as it slammed into the invisible barrier at 17,540 miles per hour.

"Prepare for some chop!" Kate said.

At first it reminded her of popcorn. The seldom few particles of nitrogen, oxygen, helium, and hydrogen at the far reaches of the atmospher would hit the shieds and create a sound similar to pop corn, or crumbling up tin foil. The pops became more frequent and the inertial dampers started to raise from green to the yellow as the shields revealed themselves in a brilliant orange glow.

Artificial gravity began to fight with the 1.04 G's of the actual planet below; tehcnological wonders of artificial attraction soon gave way to the real deal as the system was no longer needed and the inertial damper systems went from orange to yellow without the assist of the primary assist of the all-too-familiar generated gravity field that was no longer there for them.

It was at that point the orange and blue glow became intense enough for the forward viewport to auto-dim and the sudden rush of the thick atmosphere -- the oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxides and monoxiedes pushed hard against the shields and caused Kate and the occupants to feel the pressure in their harnesses as the shuttle rapidly descended through the clouds. The roar soon turned to a few last tappings, and the outside roar turned to what sounded like a normal rush of air over the airframe as the shields around the ship dicipated to a normal distance.

A light beep cut through on the consoles indicating that they were coasting on shield geometry and thrust, at last.

"Nine Kilometers to landing zone!" Kate exclaimed cheerfully as things started to quiet down and the Shuttlecraft began to run like normal again as they glided through the thick atmospheric cloud layers.

As the passed through a thick layer of radioactive clouds the shuttle shook. Deanna looked at her console and then announced, "Something is firing on us. And it is taking up position behind us. High intensity lasers, nothing the shields can't handle, but it means we aren't alone. Pulling up a visual." She activated the viewscreen at Jon's station. "I'm not reading biosigns. It is either a drone vessel or being piloted by some form of synthetic lifeform."

The visual came up and showed the craft. It was a well-polished metallic craft, with a pair of turbines, one on each wing, and a smaller stabilizing turbine on its tail. It appeared to have multiple laser weapons, as well as a trio of missiles on each wing. It continued to fire its cannons at the shuttle.

"Mean looking bird even if not particularly powerful." Jon said as he studied their attacker closely on his screen.

Sam hung on, recalling the mental note she had made about their away missions turning ugly. Looks like this planet was trying to take them out before they had even landed.

The shuttle continued its descent, bobbing and weaving its way to avoid the attacker. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to get the attacker off their six. As they approached the remnants of the city Deanna took notice of something new. "I am detecting weapons fire ahead, as well as life signs, human life signs." She pulled up a visual, showing a group of humans in rubble firing on what appeared to be some sort of humanoid machines and a tanklike vehicle. As they approached closer, some of the machine robots began firing on them. "It would seem we know which side of this fight is hostile, or more hostile."

Suddenly from the ground came a rocket. It wasn't aimed at the shuttle though, but the flying attacker behind them. It impacted the craft and sent it crashing into the ground. "Perhaps we should assist the humans who seem to be helping us" Deanna offered.

"Good idea Deanna. Find a place to put us down Kate and let's see if we can get some answers as to what happened here and what is happening now."

Phoenix's guess about there being groups still fighting the war had appeared to have been correct. He spoke up to Deanna and Jon. "I'll keep an extra eye on everything down there. I somehow don't think this is the end of any engagements."

"Might I suggest we eliminate that large tank first before landing" Deanna suggested. "A single phaser blast should do the trick. I can confirm nothing is living inside of it. It is a drone of some sort."

Kate would hae wished to have gained altitude in order to avoid any further rockets or missiles being thrown at them. However, once down low, it's safest to avoid down low rather than lose potential speed and become a bigger target. In the academy, they called this "Go Up, Blow Up". This percluded the classic "Split-S" manuver which would put them at greater risk for being a target for another missile. Kate banked left and then right to see if that caused the trailing attack craft to back off in order to manuver well enough to keep them in sight.

Kate smiled mischiviously now that she knew its weakness.
"Okay, these things definately suck air in order to fly. He has to slow down every time I make a manuver to avoid overmanuvering. Our impulse thrusters have advantage over that. I'm going to Lazy-Eight manuver so we can get back around to that tank!" Kate stated. Despite the manuver being called a Lazy-Eight, there was nothing lazy about it.

The ruined buildings swung from right to left, followed by a change of direction as the inertial dampers worked to their maximum. The payoff was that the enemy craft chasing them had to back way off to keep them in sight without risking killing themselves to maintain target. With the increased distance, the consistancy of their oncoming fire decreasd which allowed for the rest of the crew to do what they needed to do to target the tank. Kate pulled another sharp bank to bring the craft around in-line with the tank on the ground.

"You do you!" Kate said to the officer manning the weapons.

Phoenix responded to Deanna, "I have a target lock on the tank" he looked towards Jon. "On you order, of course sir."

Jon looked at the screen, the tank like vehicle was slowly closing on the humans. "Take it out. Mr. Phoenix." Jon replied gravely.

The phasers fired and the impact on the tank was nearly instantaneous, completely destroying it and leaving only the tracks and a small bit that had been above that. Deanna smiled, "Excellent shooting Phoenix." She looked at Jon, "I believe I found a shady spot to put down. It appears to be, I believe, some sort of child's sports field" she said as she pulled up the visual of what was a youth baseball field.

"Everyone remember where we parked" Sam echoed Captain Kirk's famous line as they rose and prepared to disembark the shuttle. "Still no lifesigns" she stated as she consulted the shuttles sensors one last time.

Deanna checked her sensors and looked annoyed. "The radiation is limiting sensor range. We aren't detecting the humans we saw. The radiation is quite heavy. I would guess multiple strikes happened nearby within the last decade. We'll have to be extra careful I suppose. We'll have very limited scanning range with the tricorders." She walked over to the weapons locker and pulled a phaser rifle off the shelf. She turned and powered up the weapon. "Into another warzone we go. Captain never seems to take us anywhere nice" she said with a wry grin.

"I don't know about you commander, but warzones like this are my forte" James said to Deanna half sarcastically as he powered up his own phaser rifle after he dismounted it from his back. He also reached for his phaser pistol to do a quick check to make sure it was still working. It was.

Kate grabbed the TR116 rifle out of her bag and affixed the monocle to her eye while slinging the bag, and the rifle over her right shoulder. She pushed the monocle out of her eye on a standby position and and pulled her hand phaser out. She stepped onto the ground and it crunched beneath her feet.

Kate looked down at the dirt beneath her to see that it was half solidified and it cracked under the pressure of her feet. Underneath the glass-like sheen of the surface, the original dirt pushed through. Kate made sure to breathe through her nose as much as possible to gather particles in her filters she had hidden in her sinuses rather than through her mouth. She knew of course, that wouldn't be her preference if she had to run, but at least she did her best.

The playground swings were nothing but chains, husks of automobiles lay behind large rectangular pieces of metal that were half melted into metallic stalactites that resembled icicles dangling off the metal.

Beyond the cars was nothing but fog. The air was too calm, and it allowed the weather to settle in ways where visibility was slim for the moment. The ground rocked from a distant explosion, and she could hear gunfire somewhere far, far away; intermittent bursts from someone's battle that had nothing to do with them.

"Honeymoon destination spot of the year right here..." Kate whispered as the unease crept into her bones. Her head was on a swivel, and she pointed to the nearest recessed ditch as a recommendation to get out of the open as if by instinct.

"Sir, would you like me to park the shuttlecraft in a structure somewhere to hide it before we leave?" Kate asked.

Sam kept her medkit close and the weapon on her hip should she have to use it. She looked around and tried to memorize the area knowing that the mapping function on their tricorders would be useless.

"Don't worry, we have new safety features installed on the shuttles to avoid issues. Only we will be able to get back into the shuttle, and I'll be activating the shields as well, so nobody will be messing with our ride" Deanna said with a smile. She stepped out onto the glassed ground and heard the crunch. She looked around, "Such a waste."

Sam reached down and touched the crumbling ground, rubbing the texture between her fingers as though she could glean more information from the dust. "It must have been one hell of a radiation fallout to cause this"

Jon looked around the surrounding area and all he saw was ruin and desolation. Crumbled buildings burned out vehicles. A scene out of Dante's Inferno. "Direct hit, I would say Sam. This was ground zero." He checked his phaser and reached for a phaser rifle. " Alright. Let's see what we can find out. Everyone stay together.'

Sam dusted the crumbling former soil into her trousers, thinking for an instant that handing radioactive material with her bare hands probably wasn't a great idea, inoculated or not.

"Which way?" She asked, looking around.

"While I am loathed to say it, we saw the humans over there, where the fighting seems to be going on. I suppose that is where we will get answers" Deanna reluctantly replied. Getting Jon's go ahead, they began heading in that direction, cautiously.


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