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Geoffrey Teller

JP: MSNPCs Rick Armiger & Ellen Flynn: EC-31

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((OOC:  A fantastic JP establishing one of the MSNPC 'factions' the Thor is going to encounter during their current mission, The Lost Colony.  My sincerest compliments to @Ben Garcia & @Quen Deena))

 

(( Structural technician team delta completing authorised duties near Vel Maijan Subterra Development Zone  ))

Air hissed, and the aerosol splattered the wall with blue specks. The hiss expired, the can rattled and out shot a thick, crisp stream of blue. The circle was sprayed first. Imperfect, but functional. A stroke left and then a stroke right. That filled the circle with a cross. It had been marked for further measurements. She stood back a moment, checking her tag. The cross was tight and streak free. The circle disappointed her, like always.

Her supervisor called out. She glanced over, held up her free hand and stumbled on the workbag. That’s when the canister fell and rolled.

 She was always diligent. She always took it slow and followed the protocol. They’d done a good job though. They’d worked hard. It was break, and the sup’s joke had made them all laugh. Later, when she’d unravel the bandages and pull back the gauze, she’d guess the laugh had made them all careless.

 She lent down, like anyone might, and grabbed the canister.

 The pain wouldn’t hit her for a few seconds, for there was still her gloves to peel into. It was panic that made her scream. The panic of seeing the canister choke and smoulder as she held it in her hand. She threw it back down - there was not much else she could do now.

 The second scream was pain. She passed out before the third.

 

(( CD’s office, primary medical unit, Vel Maijan Subterra. ))

 Rick bit his stylus as he read the report back.

                         Attending: Rick Armiger, Chief Doctor.

                        Patient: Kassy McBill, Senior Structural Technician

 

                        Summary:

Patient came into contact with biological substance echo-charlie-thirty-one during authorised duties.

Rick tapped the end of his stylus on the desk as he gulped a mouthful of water. Signs of activity this close to Vel Maijan Subterra was worrying.

Rick continued to proof read his report:

Contact resulted in the destruction of the patient’s right thumb, index finger and middle finger. In line with current medical protocol the right hand was amputated to control substance echo-charlie-thirty-one and prevent contagion.

Samples have been collected from the contaminated appendage prior to its transport to the disposal site in line with protocols for managing contact with substance echo-charlie-thirty- .…

A knock at the door flicked Rick’s eyes up from the screen. Outside, Ellen pulled the door open just enough to poke her head in.

Flynn: Now a good time?

Rick pushed his chair back and smiled. It was good to see a friendly face.

Armiger: Grab a seat.

Ellen shifted a heavy box labelled ‘EC-31’ to the floor and sat herself in the newly-vacated chair.

Flynn: How’s Kass?

Armiger: Sedated. (Rick raised his eyebrows.) One conversation I’m happy to put off.

Ellen pressed her palms against her knees, breathing a gasp of equal tension and relief. Finally, a survivor..

Flynn: Alive… (beat) I don’t envy you. She won’t take it well.

Armiger: No. (Rick rolled the stylus along the table.) No she won’t. (Rick took a breath and looked at Ellen.) She’ll adapt. She’ll pull through. She has to.

Flynn: I’d like to talk to her when she wakes up. Maybe she saw something that can give us a clue...

Armiger: Of course. (Rick spoke with compassion.) Let’s give her another hour or two before … (Rick paused.) … before we turn her world upside down, eh?

Ellen tucked a lock of ginger hair behind her ear. She leaned forward in her chair until her elbows met her knees, forehead pressed against her palms as she stared at the floor. She was tired. Tired of fighting something they could not detect, could not see until it was too late - something that took life and limb faster than anything they’d ever seen before.

Flynn: Six fatalities in twelve weeks…  (She sat back up after a moment with a heavy breath.) I’m putting the project on hold.

Elbows on the table, Rick cupped his forehead between his hands. He squoze at the temples. There was no relief. It did not come. Pausing the project would stoke discontent and fan the flames of fear. The project had been a unifying force for the colony. It was something to be hopeful about. Rob them of that and …

Rick took a breath and rubbed his forehead. He sat back now, one hand over the armrest while the other ran through his choppy black hair. Rick rested the hand on the crown of his head as he looked at Ellen huddled on her chair, and then out past her at Kass through the observation window.

Pausing the project bought them time. Maybe Ellen could distract them by upping preparatory work and manufacturing. She’d pulled off such sleight of hand before; she was a shrewd leader and that might buy her enough leeway to weather out this storm - for all of them to get through it.

Armiger: There’ll be some resistance, Ellen. The project. (Rick paused.) It means a lot.

Flynn: I know. There’s no right answer here, Doc. We’ve managed so far, we’ll be fine without the expansion for a while. Have to tighten up the rationing - break up more fights… 

Ellen stared at a chunk of quartz embedded in the rock wall behind Rick. What had been a population of eighty when their grandfathers first went underground now numbered nearly two hundred. Just enough to start outgrowing the cavern they’d originally settled in. Over the past year, teams had been heading deeper in - scouting the best possible route for expansion. It had been going well, until they’d encountered the substance.

Three died on the day they first discovered the foamy, gelatinous, rock-like substance lining the walls of one of the caverns being surveyed: their bodies burned and disintegrated nearly beyond DNA recognition. Subsequent encounters had not yielded better results. Amputation could spare a life, when contact with the substance was limited. Although, with fewer victims living than dead, the longer-term effects remained to be seen...

Flynn: But we can’t keep losing people. There aren’t enough of us to keep fighting this … (gesturing toward the box) thing. And I know you’ll agree with me there. (Beat.) Any closer to figuring out what it is?

Rick followed Ellen’s glance towards the containment box and shook his head. 

Armiger: Beyond the last report? (Rick shook his head sharply.) No. We know it’s highly acidic and contains two distinct bacteria. Jury’s out on the bacteria. (Rick made a humming noise.) The team is of the opinion that whatever the substance is,  it’s not excreted by the rock - it’s being deposited by something. 

Flynn: Keep at it. Sam’s got the transmitter working - still can’t change the message.

Armiger: The team is analysing samples from Kass. We’re pushing hard on this Ellen. We’re trying the experimental procedures on these samples. (Rick shifted in his seat.) We’re going to unpick this. 

Rick paused at the thought of Sam; the last time he saw Sam, that transmitter was getting a kicking. Rick laughed. Security had stepped in at one point citing charges of vandalism. 

Armiger: (Laughing.) Sam finally kicked that thing into submission then? 

Flynn: Kicked, slapped, threatened to sell it for scrap… No idea who he was planning on selling it to - (laughing) he’d have to get it working first!

It was good to see Ellen smile, if only fleetingly. Rick smiled and nodded.

Armiger: Someone might hear it. Let’s hold onto that hope for now. 

Ellen raised her eyebrows.

Flynn: And let’s hold onto the hope that whoever hears it is friendly...

Rick exhaled audibly at the thought of them attracting more hostile attention.  It was a scenario that had been chewed over by the department heads at the colony steering meetings for months. Their repeated cautions had delayed the activation of the transmitter. In that delay, lives had been lost until finally the argument for sending the distress called outweighed the concerns. 

Rick changed the subject.

Armiger: What time is the debrief?

Flynn: Eight.  Sam’ll patch you in if you can’t make it.

Rick looked out at Kass. The sedation kept her unawares of the horror she had yet to wake up to. Eight, Rick repeated it to himself. That only gave Rick the best part of two hours. An hour to check in on the team’s experimental analysis of the EC-31 samples, and then an hour to speak to Kass. That assumed there would be no more inbound incidents to the primary medical unit (PMU) between then and now.

Armiger: I’ll try Ellen, you know that. (Rick noded in the direction of Kass.) I might miss the start.

Ellen pushed herself up out of the chair with a long look out at Kass.

Flynn: Let me know, Doc. I’ll be over at Sam’s.

Armiger: (Rick mustered a smile.) Tell Sam congrats. (Rick paused and clarified.) The transmitter. (Rick’s smile dropped.) Ellen - they’ll understand the pause. They’ll have to.

Rick watched as Ellen left the office. In several paces, she was gone from sight, eclipsed by the ward partition. Rick sat and took a minute. Tonight’s debrief would be tough. The department heads would need some shepherding; it’d be a strenuous meeting. Rick decided to make sure he had as much data available to help Ellen as he could. That meant getting down to the containment lab and checking the team’s progress.

Out in the corridor, Ellen leaned against the wall. Two hours. Two hours to come up with a solid way to break the news about the expansion delay, while simultaneously trying to get the transmitter to broadcast something, anything, other than a seventy-year old distress call. The call was already coming from a man who was long dead - and for all they knew, it was going to a government that no longer existed. 

End.

 

==========================================

Ellen Flynn

Colony Leader 

&

Rick Armiger

Chief Doctor 

 

Simmed by:

Lieutenant Quen Deena (Ellen Flynn)

Medical Officer

USS Thor NCC-82607

E239602QD0

&

Lieutenant Ben Garcia (Rick Armiger)

Second Officer/HCO

USS Thor NCC-82607

Author ID number: G239102MR0

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