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((Outside the Mansion)) ::Blackwood and tr’Khellian snuck down the stairs and out the front entrance of the Count’s big, creepy Mansion, being careful not to follow too quickly behind Derrick. They shut the door ever so gently behind them and snuck into the shadow of the closest home.:: ::Blackwood craned her neck trying to get a view of what was going on down in the town. There were still occasional shrieks and if Blackwood had thought it was spine chilling before it was ten times worse being so much closer to the source.:: :: They were crouched down, behind a decrepit house on damp cobblestones and Blackwood could feel herself shaking. She didn’t consider herself a coward by any means and in fact there was very little that frightened her. In fact her parents had often commented that she could use a healthy dose of it to curb some of her more outgoing, trouble attracting talents. She was feeling the flight instinct pretty strongly but she held her ground. The message they’d received on the ship had suggested something was going on down here and perhaps this was it. The same curiosity that drew her to the sciences drove her to find out more.:: ::tr’Khellian grew concerned. Very concerned. Blackwood seemed to be losing it. He put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.:: It’s all good. As long as we have each other’s backs. Clear? ::Looking her directly in the eyes.:: ::Blackwood nodded her head firmly and plucked up her courage once again.:: T’Lea: =/\= T’Lea to Blackwood, what is your location? =/\= Blackwood: =/\= We’re just outside the Mansion. =/\= ::Talking just loud enough to be heard.:: T’Lea: =/\= Any indication what caused the alarm? It was not *you*, I hope. =/\= :: Blackwood frowned, she was always on the receiving end of suspicion it seemed. No wonder she was getting along so well with the intelligence officer, they were like two peas in a pod.:: Blackwood: =/\= Not sure yet, that’s what we are going to find out. =/\= tr’Khellian: =/\= I think many Starfleet mice are lost in this maze. We have taken care and used countermeasures. What are your orders Commander?=/\= T’Lea: =/\= Since you are already outside, proceed to the shuttle craft, make certain it is secure, and report back.=/\= Blackwood: =/\= Aye, Aye ma’am. =/\= tr’Khellian: =/\= Roger that. Moving to the shuttle.=/\= ::Blackwood looked at tr’Khellian. She was the ranking officer but he was more experienced and better trained for these kind of scenarios. He seemed a lot more confident and comfortable than she did and it was with relief that she allowed him to take the lead.:: tr’Khellian: I’ll take point. Stay right behind me. We are gonna move faster. ::They moved quietly and at a good pace . Their journey punctuated by random sounds coming from their left or right at times. tr’Khelllan ignored them as he moved the pair to the shuttle.:: ::Something was not right. He turned. Blackwood was not there:: oO Frak Oo ::He began backtracking:: oO Double [...]ed steaming pile of FRAK-ity frak! Oo ::He could not risk actively searching for her combadge using his primary tricorder. That sort of ping would show up on even passive scans. oO FRAK. MY FAULT. Oo. ::He picked up the pace.:: ((Elsewhere)) ::Blackwood had paused for a second as something had caught her eye. She hadn’t even meant to stop for long. She ran her tricorder over a strange, putrid smelling goo that coated a railing, the device didn’t know what to make of it. She cast her eyes around the scene and notice what she thought looked like fresh scratches on the door. :: ::She looked back to where tr’Khellian had been only moments before and he was gone. A wave of nausea and panic washed over her and his words floated back to haunt her. oO*Never* leave the group. You hear a noise, you stay with the group.Oo She scurried in the direction she thought he went, paying less attention to her surroundings than she should have been. She didn’t have the same training that would be second nature to one of the security, marines or intelligence staff. She was just a curious science officer who had dropped the ball for a few short seconds and was now on the edge of a panic attack.:: tr’Khellian activated his earpiece:: =^=Evanna.=^= Blackwood: oO Oh thank goodness! Oo =^= Sorry! I stopped to look at something. It was just a second!=^= ::Feeling exceptionally guilty.:: tr’Khellian via earpiece: =^=It’s no big thing. Where are you? =^= Blackwood: =^=I’m outside. I can’t see the shuttle.=^= tr’Khellian: oO That was a bonehead question. You know better. Oo =^=What landmarks are in your eyeline? Anything to help me triangulate on your position.=^= Blackwood: =^= Erm let me see.=^= ::Blackwood looked around at the place she’d ended up. She was crouched behind a low wall and could see through the darkness the outlines of some trees and what was maybe a bench. Perhaps she’d ended up at a small communal garden, though given the air quality Blackwood was amazed anything could grow outside at all. The air quality seemed to have become particularly rancid but she wasn’t sure if it was her imagination playing tricks.:: ::She felt a few drops hit her shoulder but paid it no mind.:: Blackwood: =^=There isn’t much to see. Just a indistinct wall and maybe some trees. Maybe. Sorry.=^= ::Glumly.:: tr’Khellian: =^= Can you climb up on on that wall to get some elevation? =^= oO(Evanna) I can do climbing, I’m great at climbing.Oo Blackwood: =^=Hold on.=^= ::More confidently.:: ::Blackwood looked up slowly, assessing the wall. It wasn’t too high, but then it wouldn’t give her much of a better view either. It was then, as some more drips splattered her that she realised she was not alone and she wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d heard her shriek from the shuttle, wherever it was.:: *SHRIEK* tr’Khellian: oO That was to my left and *close*. Oo =^=Evanna. Do you read me? Evanna, please reply.=^= ::The comm remained silent.:: tr’Khellian =/\= tr’Khellian to all crew. Lt. Blackwood is missing in the streets of the old shanty town. She is not responding to hails. =/\= Anyone: ? ::There was no response because whoever had found her had their cold hands tightly clasped around her mouth and was pulling her back through the garden, or wherever it was. Evanna reached for her knife and nearly fumbled it. Unfortunately the mishap had alerted her attacker and another hand wrestled for control of it. Evanna tried to remember her self defence classes and tried to get her attacker off balance but ended up being the one heaped on the floor.:: :: tr’Khellian had the tricoder in hand and pushed the power level to max and began to actively scan for Blackwood’s lifesigns and combadge.:: ::During the struggle that followed the blade was dropped and lost in the dark. She also lost a sleeve and there were several chunks of fabric ripped away from her uniform. Blackwood found herself again being dragged into what appeared to be a small bunker. She instinctively went to hit her combadge, wishing she’d thought to do it sooner and found it to be missing. :: ::*Beedeepbeeep* tr’Khellian’s tricorder blurted:: oO (tr’Khellian) oO *THERE* Oo. He had her for a second. His tricorder was showing her lifesign to be about 100 meters to his left then a second later it disappeared off his scan. oO (tr’Khellian) What the frak? Oo :: Her lifesign disappeared but her combadge was still registering at that same location.::: ::tr’Khellian broke into an all out run.:: ((Underground)) ::A heavy stone covering was closed over their heads and Blackwood finally got a look at the attacker. It was one of the colonists and she recognised him from the dinner party.:: Blackwood: What the frak do you think you’re doing? Senile Simon: Saving your skin. Blackwood: By jumping me? Senile Simon: I didn’t have time to warn your people properly before, at the dinner party. The Count has eyes everywhere. Blackwood: Get me out of here right now! Senile Simon: Can’t do that. ::Blackwood activated her earpiece and tried to get hold of someone.:: Blackwood: =^= Blackwood to tr’Khellian.=^= ::She waited for a reply but there was none.:: Blackwood: =^= Blackwood to the away team, respond.=^= ::Still there was no answer.:: Senile Simon: It won’t work you know. ::He rapped the surface of the “stone roof” with his fist. Now come with me, I need your help. Unless you’d rather face what’s out there on your own? Blackwood: What is out there? What’s the big emergency? I need to get back to the shuttle my people are getting the frak outta here. Senile Simon: The Count’s experiments got loose. He won’t like that but I had to show you. Blackwood: What? Are you saying *you* let them in? Senile Simon: Had to. Didn’t figure you’d come outside to see ‘em though. Miscalculation. I’m getting old you know, brains not what it once was. Had to expose the horror. Blackwood: What horror? I didn’t see any horror. ::She looked at her PADD and the strange readings, and thought about that shrieking. There certainly was *something* out there. Senile Simon: There was a vessel in this system in distress, but it’s not now. There have been several over the decades. They all end up the same. Blackwood: Go on... Senile Simon: He has a puppet in the stars that attacks any vessel stupid enough to wander by. They disable the ship and the crew are turned into mindless abominations. This is a mining colony alright but it’s not the ore the Count cares about harvesting. ::Blackwood stared at the dishevelled man. Under any other circumstances she would have written him off as a blundering, stinking drunk old man. Under these conditions she felt much more inclined to listen.:: Blackwood: Spit it out then. ::She was anxious to regroup with her team and hated being out of communication.:: Senile Simon: It’s blood. The blood of the transformed beings has properties that are prized in the potions he creates and sells. It’s this trade in rare and exotic potions that supports the colony and keeps it rich. Anyone who steps out of line disappears... transformed into a horror. Blackwood: So what can we do? ::She noticed he kept itching the same spot and wondered if it was a nervous habit.:: Senile Simon: I captured one of the horrors. You have fancy technology. Use it, find a cure. They were people once and if they cannot be cured then find a way to destroy them so they might find peace. ::Blackwood nodded, this practice did indeed have to stop.:: Blackwood: I need to contact my team, they will be looking for me. If they have to come outside to do it they will be at risk. ::He pulled her over to a corner of the room and as they approached she could hear the sound of scratching and shuffling.:: Senile Simon: Here it is. Find out what you can, I will inform your team. ::Rubbing the underside of his forearm again.:: Blackwood: No can do. I’d rather see to it personally. ((Aboveground)) ::tr’Khellian finally arrived at the location of Evanna’s combadge. It felt like forever. Using his tricorder he made another full scan. Looking down he used his foot to uncover Blackwood’s combadge. Moments later the combadge dematerialised.:: tr’Khellian: =/\= tr’Khellian to Away Team . I found Lt Blackwood’s combadge but no sign of her. Scans are negative. Beginning a house to house search. =/\= Anyone: ? ((Underground)) ::Senile Simon turned nasty at this point and a row broke out. Evanna noticed the smell was getting increasingly stale and unpleasant. She thought she might vomit or suffocate from it. The man’s skin, particularly around the face and eyes appeared to be blotchy, loose and very pale. It was hard to tell in the lighting which was poor and probably responsible for the illusion. oOWas that drool?Oo Blackwood shuddered as she pulled out her tricorder and started to scan the horror to see what had happened to this lifeform. :: ::Blackwood yawned and wondered how long she had been here as another scan completed. She had a lot of data to gather and she didn’t even know what species this poor creature used to be so it was hard to measure the changes. Hot breath was on the back of her neck suddenly.:: Blackwood: Look i’m going as fast as I can and I really do need to report to my team! This is kidnapping you know. A very serious offence. I understand your problem but I really shouldn’t be helping you out... ::There were a few more drips on her shoulder and Blackwood turned to see a big set of rotten teeth inches from her face. Somehow his appearance seemed to have deteriorated, but how was that possible? It must have been the lighting. All the same she glanced from the horror, to him, and then back again. oOHow long does it take to become a horror? How is it spread?Oo She thought it could be airborne, or by a bite like rabies perhaps. There were a lot of possibilities but what seemed clear was that something was very wrong with Senile Simon.:: ::Blackwood swung her tricorder round to analyse Senile Simon and try to determine if he was infected. While she did that she backed away and looked around, hoping to see some way out of the bunker, or whatever the place was. Senile Simon responded by leaping at her but she side-jumped out of the way just in time. A snarl erupted from Senile simon and Blackwood continued to back off. She momentarily forgot about the bound zombie and jumped in fright when it let out one of those ear piercing sounds.:: ::Blackwood dashed to the only exit - the way she’d come in, and scrabbled at it, trying to get it to open. She saw the big padlock but didn’t remember it being locked at first. Then it hit her, when she’d been released and pushed forward slightly, she’d heard a faint click as she’d gotten to her feet again.:: oO(Evanna) Why did he really lure me down here?Oo ::She darted away, trying to avoid the man-horror that was clearly eyeing her up as an appealing appetizer. She needed something to unlock the big padlock and had seen nothing that could break such a lock. She needed the key and unless he’d dropped it on the dusty floor then it had to be in his pocket, or around his neck. She was going to have to incapacitate him/it and get the key.:: ::During the fight that followed Blackwood traded blows with the horror whose long sharp fingernails dug into and tore at her exposed flesh. She cursed and hoped not to be infected but had no choice but to carry on. She clung to a last tiny hope for survival as she fought in the way only a cornered animal can. At one point she felt sharp teeth sinking into her and she howled in pain, but carried on fighting until she finally emerged the victor.:: ::She was sore and shaken from the fight but made her way quickly to the lock and started to open it. The stone covering was incredibly heavy and she struggled to move it, but eventually managed to slide it and give herself enough room to squeeze out.:: ::She felt dizzy as she stumbled back through the gardens but had enough sense left to activate her earpiece.:: Blackwood: =^= Blackwood to tr’Khellian, can you hear me?=^= tr’Khellian: ::Activating his earpiece:: =^= Whew, Evanna.... ::sounding relieved::: Where did you go? I was...concerned. =^= Blackwood: ::She felt weak and out of breath:: =^= Kidnapped. Got free. Where are you?=^= tr’Khellian: ::Activating his tricorder he started to actively scan for her lifesigns:: =^= Evanna, I am on the edge of a garden near a large two story white and red timbered house. Maybe an inn? =^= ::*Breepep* exclaimed tr’Khellian’s tricorder. :: tr’Khellian: =^= I have you. I am 40 meters out. Wait there. It’ll be ok. I’m coming. =^= Blackwood: =^= Wait wait... I’m injured and need to be quarantined. I’m infected. It’s a disease. A rotting disease.=^= ::Something came at her from the right, knocking her down and tearing into her and she struggled to regain the upper hand.:: ::Over his earpiece tr’Khellian’s hears a wet ripping sound accompanied by a gasp of pain followed by sounds of scuffling.:: ::tr’Khellian activated both comlinks:: =^= =/\= Blackwood may be injured and under attack. All converge at my coordinates. Warning...she says she may be infected. Keeping my combadge open so you can track me. =/\= =^= Anyone: ? ::The sounds coming through his earpiece from his open line to Evanna cut off abruptly after 30 seconds right as tr’Khellian rounded the corner and headed at a full sprint into the small town’s square. The square was poorly light with few distinguishing features, only a simple fountain in its center.:: oO (tr’Khellian ) OH GODS...no! Oo ::Blackwood lay still on the ground, slumped against the fountain... blood mixing into the spray of the fountain’s water. It was pouring out of several arteries and a pale skinned, reeking monster perched atop her, it held something in its hand. :: :: Still 3 meters away tr’Khellian who had been moving at a full sprint launched himself, transforming into a 200lb hate-filled projectile. His flying tackle connected at full speed sending both he and the female attacker off of Blackwood and clear past into the other side of the fountain. Both hit the far edge of the fountain. *POP* tr’Khellian felt his left shoulder dislocate. This was followed almost simultaneously by a *kerack* as the female attacker’s head hit the stone wall surrounding the fountain’s pool. :: ::tr’Khellian was about to plunge his knife upward into the attacker's neck when he noticed her head was bent at a 90 degree angle from where it should have been.:: oO Doom on you. Oo ::tr’Khellian got up, turned and begun to move to where Evanna lay bleeding when he heard something rising from the fountain’s pool behind him. He pivoted 180 barely fending off a lunging attack. It’s arms reaching for his throat. Teeth chomping in a hideously hungering manner. Head lolling impossibly at 90 degrees.:: oO No FRAKIN WAY! Oo. ::tr’Khellian flips the knife in the air, catches the knife in a reverse grip, this time blade facing downwards and drove the blade directly into the forehead of the creature. Stepping back into a ready position, hands extended and ready, stance almost 50/50 weight distribution front to back, he prepares to meet the next attack. :: ::Which never comes...the woman’s now inert body slides like a rag doll into the fountains pink waters. :: ::Out of his periphery he notices the away team members have begun to appear from each direction leading to the small town’s square. :: ANY? :: Turning his full attention to Evanna, the full horror of the situation hit him. Blood is no longer flowing from the huge tear in the side of her neck. He checked her vitals and...:: oO Dead Oo. ::tr’Khellian gently lifted Lieutenant Evanna Blackwood’s lifeless body into his arms. The fountain’s spray washing her body, cleansing it of all her transgressions, failures and successes; preparing it for her final journey. The spray obscuring one final item of note, the tears streaming down tr’Khellian’s muted saffron colored cheeks.:: ANY? -Fin- Lt Blackwood CSO USS Avandar and Lt (jg) tr’Khellian Intel Officer USS Avandar