Following Death and Life
-=Underground, Power Allocation Center, Stra II=-
The small smiles were quick to fade from the faces of Sera's now combined Away Team, as they heard even through the reinforced walls surrounding them the cacophony of ever approaching pandemonium.
"What the hell is going ON up there?" Kellyn demanded.
"Troops from Stra Major are attempting to move in upon the locals who have overrun the Medical Complex," Salvek explained quickly. "The Medical Complex is connected to this one by a series of tunnels. In short, we must return to the Serendipity." There would be no argument from those under his command. They were all happy to comply with his order, there was just one simple problem; actually going home. "What is the status of the Weather Modification Net?"
"Loose cannon, fuse lit." Reece responded, anxiety growing in him to the point where he had stopped using connective words in his sentences and instead said as little as possible to get his point across.
"So transporting is still out of the question," Lair thought aloud. "I haven't figured out a way to work around the risks, myself. Chief?" She looked at Rada, hoping maybe he'd come up with something in the past few moments, but Rada shook his head. He had been analyzing the readouts and equipment in the room around them since the doors had closed, yet he saw nothing that could help them.
"We need to take the net offline entirely. In fact," He approached Salvek. "Commander, this might sound," Rada hesitated momentarily as he sought the appropriate word. *Silly? Ridiculous? As if I've finally entirely lost the rest of my mind?* There were many options but all meant the same thing. Crazy.
"Any idea is, at this point, within consideration Lt. Dengar." Salvek prompted. "What is it?"
"If there are troops from both Strasa contingencies up there, fighting it out, trying to get control of. . .this," he gestured to the equipment around them,"if this is of no use to us, then why don't we level the playing field and make it as useless to them?"
O'Sullivan instantly understood what Dengar was proposing- and agreed with it entirely. "Yeah!" Keiran half shouted. "Take the bloody thing out entirely, leave them all completely in the dark. Then the 'net is down- we can call for remote transport and we get the hell out of here."
"We're so far beneath ground, with so much that is unknown between us and the ships," Lair warned, "I don't know if I'd rely on a site to site to be entirely safe."
"It won't be," Rada concurred sadly. "But it may be the best chance we've got."
"All right. So, what prevents us from shutting the grid down entirely?" Salvek inquired.
"The safety protocols are the problem," Lair reached back and tied her disheveled hair into a knot, getting ready to roll up her sleeves once again. "I don't even think taking a phaser to these panels would do anything serious. So many crazy, cross wired redundant systems. I don't know what the people who designed this set-up are on but. . .wait." She stopped, remembering exactly what they were 'on'.
"I think we'd have to drop a photon torpedo from space," Rada replied, and then he and Kellyn began speaking in half-sentences, in the way that only people very accustomed to working closely together, could.
Salvek, also understanding the short-hand version of engineering technobabble that was beginning to fly around him, focused on tossing out options to the others as well. Breaux listened, considering each idea and brainstorming along with them.
The children were quickly growing anxious; frightened by the noises above, lonely for their parents. Several began to cry. Salvek gestured for Grace and Cristiane to do what they could to calm them down.
"Before that guy died," Reece volunteered to Salvek, jerking a thumb toward Orad's still form in the corner, "he said that his father created Mim to run things," he regarded the little mechanical and frowned. "Do you s'pose he meant the grid itself?"
"Oh that thing ran the grid, all right. Straight into the ground!" The remaining conscious Strasa guard, standing next to O'Sullivan, complained. "Its damn malfunctions are at fault and its the reason we're all going to die!"
"Officer O'Sullivan," Salvek didn't look back at the man- he didn't have to. O'Sullivan reacted instantly.
Salvek merely meant for O'Sullivan to quiet the man, but Keiran's last nerve was shot, and he took the more direct approach-shooting him. Salvek turned as he heard the man hit the floor, and pursed his lips.
"You wanted him to be quiet, didn't ya?" Keiran shrugged, not understanding what the big deal was. "It was set for stun."
Mim, meanwhile, had been quietly rolling around the room.
Taking in the words and actions of those around him, he was mesmerized by all of the activity. Never had he seen organic beings so interested in each other- talking face to face, instead of being exclusively focused on the transmissions being sent directly into their consciousness through their Wires.
He liked these people.
"Excuse me," Mim approached Salvek, but Salvek dismissed him. If what the Strasa man had said was true, then Mim was a random factor he did not want to risk introducing into an already volatile situation.
"Please, go wait with the other children," he blurted, and Mim's eyes rotated downward.
"Mim is not a child," his servos whirred softly in a sort of protest, but he did as he was told and rolled on, toward February Grace.
Dane Cristiane frowned, concerned by the fact that he had two small female children clinging to each of his legs. He was trying so hard to be patient with them. He remembered what it felt like to be small, alone, and scared. But the sound of their crying echoing off the walls was beginning to give him a headache. Finally, he managed to pry them loose and dropped to one knee.
"Stop crying." He directed firmly. "That's an order from your superior officer." He tried extending Avery's idea of making the kids feel like part of the crew, but instead, a round-faced boy stepped forward to challenge him.
"You only have one of those," He pointed to Dane's pip.
"Yeah. They all have more of those. So that means that almost everybody here outranks you," The boy continued.
Dane didn't like where this was going. "Your point, little man?"
"You can't give us orders. That tall Vulcan man is in charge."
"Well, you're crewman! I'm an officer." Dane protested. "That means I still outrank you and can so give you orders!"
"That man said we were all officers! I want to be an officer!" One of the small girls who had been hanging off of Dane shrieked, pointing toward Avery before melting into a new wave of tears.
February, having calmed the older of the panicking children with a few words of encouragement, moved in to rescue poor Cristiane. "Ensign, just gather the ones that are keeping it together into the corner over there, away from the door. Tell them a story or something."
"Grace, do I look like a man who is up on my Mother Goose?"
"Use your imagination, genius! Get!" February shooed him away, as she sat down onto the floor, crossed her legs and gathered four crying children to her, two in each arm.
"See," the boy who had challenged Dane remarked to one of his friends. "Even the spotted female has higher rank than that guy!"
"There, now. It's going to be okay." February reassured the younger children. "As soon as we get out of here we're going to do all we can to get you back home to your families."
Even as she spoke the words, Bru was conscious of the danger posed to them all by the battle raging above them.
"Are we going to get out of here?" One of the older girls asked nervously.
"Of course we are." February did her best to sound convincing. "Do you like music? Want to hear a song?" A couple of the children sniffled deeply, and Bru patted their heads. "Have you ever been on a starship before? We're going to take you for a ride on ours."
"I'm afraid of starships!" A girl cried, twisting a strand of her hair anxiously.
"Mama says going away from Stra II is bad," warned a tiny girl, taking her thumb out of her mouth momentarily to speak, then popping it back in to try to comfort herself with it once again.
"But the stars are so pretty from up there," February insisted. "You have to see them. There is a song I like about the stars. It's from a wonderful story about a boy who could fly without a starship," Bru tried to distract them as the rest of the team continued any and all attempts to gain access to the computer controls, without luck.
Mim, entranced by the tone of February's voice and also buy her appearance, was too busy to notice Salvek's team as they worked.
*The female's hair looks like the blossom of a solarflower," Mim thought, "Dark interior, below bright petals the color of the suns.*
"The second star to the right, shines with a light that's rare," Bru began to sing softly. She knew from experience that she could work wonders with her voice; on the right audience.
*This was definitely the type of crowd she played best to,* she thought. *Young, captive, and desperate.*
"Oooooh," Mim said, finally unable to resist any longer. He rolled forward and reached out, taking a handful of Grace's hair between his pincers. He tugged, intending to do so gently, but Bru shrieked in pain.
"Hey!" She freed the hank of hair and touched the sore spot at the crown of her head. "That hurts!"
Mim was horrified. "Mim did not mean to hurt. Mim just wanted to see." He rolled backwards, shoulders slumping, embarrassed. "What is this? Mim has never seen these colors on a female's head before."
"Ow. Yeah, well, that's my hair, and I'd like it to stay on my head please." Bru was grateful that the children were so distracted by the robot that they had not started crying again. Yet.
"What are you?"
"I'm. . ." Grace looked nervously over at the others' struggling, wishing she could do more to help. Reece's mind was a flurry of thoughts and activity and she knew that no good would come of it if they couldn't get access to the computer controls soon.
"Yes? You are?" Mim asked, blinking blue lights at her, waiting patiently.
"What's a Bru?"
"You were just tugging on one." February sighed. "It's my. . .name," Bru paused as she noticed that Mim had rolled forward again, and much more gently reached out toward her with pincers open. He brushed them across her hair and touched her shoulder.
"Bru." He said, then he pointed to himself. "Mim."
"Mim, I'd love to talk all night, but my friends over there really need my help."
"Help?" Mim tilted his head curiously. "With what, help?"
"Access to the Central Power Allocation Grid," Bru said softly, distractedly as one of the children also began to twirl a strand of her hair between his fingers. "Control of the computer."
"Help control computers?" Mim blinked excitedly. "Mim can do that! Mim is Mechanical Interface Maintenance bot!"
"What did you say?" Bru's large eyes grew larger.
"Mim controls the Central Power Allocation Grid."
"But..." Bru said slowly, "Mim hasn't been controlling the grid, though. Something went wrong."
"What do you mean, stopped?" Bru set the child on her knee down onto the floor beside her and turned full attention to the mechanical. "Quit?"
Mim had never really thought about it that way, but that was a pretty accurate assessment. Yes, some of his higher functions had become a bit erratic in the last few years. Well, what he could remember of the last few years, given the memory wipes. But at the very end of it all, he had quit working. Whether a matter of stress or malfunction, he had quit.
Mim's head tilted up and down in affirmation.
"You. Little bot. Cm'ere." Bru gestured and Mim followed her across the room to Salvek.
"Sir, you need to know something," She didn't really have time to explain, and so her words began to topple out of her mouth on top of each other, forming a stream of noise that was to the Vulcan's ears, nonsense. "Mim, the grid, you know, see, he quit, and, controlled it before, but if you just," She blushed, angry at herself as she stuttered the words out clumsily.
Across the room, Reece suddenly stopped moving.
Bru's words couldn't keep up with her thoughts- but Dabin's brain could.
He laughed triumphantly, eliciting a look of annoyance from Kellyn and confusion from Rada and Avery, and ran up to the bot.
"Commander Reece," Salvek warned, but Reece persisted.
"Trust me, Pointy, Grace knows what I'm doin'."
Salvek raised a finger as he pondered the incomprehensibly incorrect grammar of Reece's statement, not to mention his disrespectful insistence on calling the Vulcan 'Pointy'. . .
"Mim, will you help us take the weather modification net offline?" Reece asked the bot directly.
"Permanently incapacitate or temporarily lock down?" Mim asked softly, grasping his pincers in front of him in anticipation, and hydraulically lifting himself up on his treads, closer to Reece. He was anxious to help these people who had promised to help him.
"Lockdown would be great," Reece said, and Mim turned to Bru.
"Does Bru want Mim to lock down the weather net?"
"Yes! Absolutely Bru wants that. Please!" Grace nodded enthusiastically.
"Please, excuse me," Mim said politely, trying to get past Dengar. Rada stepped aside, and watched as Mim began to punch in access codes at an unbelievable speed.
"I'll be goddamed," Keiran muttered, forgetting for the moment that women and children surrounded him. Salvek cleared his throat audibly and gave O'Sullivan the eye, and the burly Security chief closed his gaping mouth.
"Can anyone help me out over here?" Cristiane pleaded from across the room."I'm running out of material."
"Hold the line, Ensign," Salvek responded, deciding it was logical to allow himself to feel hopeful at this latest turn of events. "We'll be moving out soon."
"The weather modification net is now locked down and in stand-by mode," Mim said, turning to the group and seeking their approval.
"Well done, thank you Mim." Salvek offered. He knelt down beside the Bot to look into its inquisitive eyes.
"Can Mim help again? Please? Mim likes to help."
Since the mechanical seemed to be functioning well enough at the moment, Salvek decided to go for broke. "Is it possible for you to completely shut down all remaining active power on the planet from this location?"
"Too much system degradation," Mim answered, shaking his head sadly. "Power allocation failure. Error in sector 5131415. Unable to reboot. System unresponsive in continual cycle between shut down and reinitialization. Inferior bypass systems, unknown origin."
"Apparently those who have been trying to run the grid without Mim have made some recent alterations," Dengar surmised.
"We may have to settle for the net being secured and try transporting now, Salvek," Lair tugged at his sleeve discreetly, "I know you wanted to try to give the locals a fighting chance, but maybe the best thing we can do is get out of the way and let what has to happen, happen."
Salvek knew she was indicating the Prime Directive, and he certainly agreed that they had already interfered in the affairs of these people, unknowingly, more than anyone had intended at the outset.
"I am still not certain how safe it is to transport, given all the random factors in play," Dengar warned. "Especially the children." He thought for the first time in his life, with the concern of a parent. He viewed these children as if each one of them could be Tam. He wanted nothing more than to save their parents the grief of having to mourn them, if he possibly could.
"Maybe we're going about this the wrong way," Rada spoke up again, and Salvek turned toward him.
"Mim," Rada turned to the bot and looked down toward Mim's upturned eyes. "We need to get to the nearest Federation ship to this location. There are people trying to stop us. Can you help us do that?"
"You will take Mim with you?" the robot asked. This man had promised him asylum, but Mim had heard promises too many times in the past to proceed without additional information.
"Absolutely." Rada promised.
"Mim can help. Scanning." Mim interfaced with the computer again. "The USS Stella Polaris is secured in a bay that is closer to our current location than the shuttle craft Fortune. These are the only two remaining Starfleet ships on Stra II," the bot announced. "Mim is securing a route of travel between your current location and the USS Stella Polaris."
"I don't get it, what happened?" Bru was puzzled as Mim began disabling the lights and power in all the surrounding areas except for that of the hallways, moving staircases, lifts and doors that stood between them and the Polaris. Then Mim pointed out the path on a map he was displaying for Salvek and O'Sullivan. "I thought he couldn't shut down the power from here."
"Not to the whole center," Breaux observed, shaking his head. "He didn't have the answer we needed before because we weren't asking the right question. Now he's just doing what needs to be done to get us to the Polaris. Once we asked for exactly the kind of help we needed, Mim was able to formulate a plan."
"Smart little robot," Grace marveled.
"Indeed," Salvek commented, looking on. "Very smart."
"Follow Mim," Mim announced, and he moved, eyes blinking brightly, toward the door. The team raised their weapons and assembled to enclose the group of children on all sides. "Follow Mim this way!"
LT. (sg) February Grace
Senior Flight Controller
USS Serendipity NCC-2012