What It Takes - Part 14 "Moment of Truth"
Episode 3.5 - Welcome to Paradise
Location: SFMC Camp Prometheus, Beta Antares IV
Timeline: 2 Days Before MD 01
[Marine Training Facility Control Room]
Colonel Ardon Bolanus stood beside Admiral Sandel as he watched his Marines getting ready for the exercise on the large monitors that lined one wall of the control room. The Admiral was certain the exercise would result in a quick defeat for Lee and his team. While he himself had every confidence in his Marines - they were the best in the Fleet - his brief meeting with Lee a few days ago had convinced him that the human had a few surprises up his sleeves. But again, his men were trained for surprises.
I'lien once again found himself headed to a meeting with the Admiral, however this time he wore his dress uniform and was escorted to the special control room that the Marines used. He found the room to be unlike any other he had been in aboard a starfleet vessel. It was lit by a wall of monitors and there were a number of personnel inside, some manning consoles, others watching monitors. He could see Admiral Sandel standing next to a stout, older Marine. Without pause he walked up to the Admiral and saluted. "Lieutenant Commander Slvar reporting as ordered, Admiral."
Glancing over the Vulcan's white dress uniform, Sandel quipped, "Commander, it's nice to see you are dressed for the occasion. When this is over, your captain mostly likely won't be sitting in that big comfortable chair of his for much longer. We might as well save everyone the trouble and have the change of command ceremony right here right then."
Bolanus' brows tightened imperceptibly at the Admiral's snarky remarks. He found Sandel's personal vendetta against Lee rather petty, but as long as she didn't recklessly endanger his Marines and the base, it was not his place to challenge a superior officer's personal motive. He greeted the Arcadia's executive officer with a simple nod before turning his attention back to the monitors.
[Outside of Marine Training Facility Holodeck 2]
Major Zahn took one last look at the sixteen marines that made up sticks A and B of the Commandos. An outside observer might have made the mistake of classifying them as Bajorans, Humans, Klingons and so on. But Zahn saw only the finest Marines that served in Starfleet. She watched them interact with each other, carefully checking their gear and the gear of the Marines around them. They didn't speak often and when they did it was in low tones.
"Alpha two is clear."
"Bravo seven, your lower right side armor panel is loose. Tighten it up." And so on.
Each of them picked up their highly advanced assault rifles and checked them visually and diagnostically via their display panels. On some level, Zahn knew that the holodeck simulation wasn't real. She also knew that it was a silly exercise. But she had her orders and she would never let the Colonel down, not after all he had done for her.
"Tighten it up, Commandos. We are t-minus five mikes to insertion," she said into her headset. Besides their black body armor, which nullified sensors, the all wore close skull helmets with state of the art communications and detection gear. Zahn could pull up a group readout that overlayed her field of vision, allowing her to monitor every Marine under her command. She did so and saw that all of their gear checked out and their biometrics were well within standards. A small chime sounded in all the Marines' helmets.
"Line up," She said, taking her position at the head of Alpha stick. To her right she saw Lieutenant Daniels taking a similar spot at the head of Bravo. "We've trained for this forward and backward. We know the layout of this engineering room. Stick together. Follow procedure. We secure the warp core and the associated consoles. Once we have control, we sweep in a circular motion, leap-frogging one another. Call out targets. You get me?"
The Marines gave a low hoo-ah and the doors of the holodeck slid open, revealing the expected passageway. The Commandos didn't run or walk, they flowed into the corridor, weapons trained in all directions, moving as a team.
[Simulated Arcadia Main Engineering, Holodeck 2]
From a computer terminal next to the gently humming warp cores Oliver observed the Marines' movement. It wasn't long before he lost video feed as all internal sensors were disabled. By the Marines no doubt and just as expected.
"Do we still have them, Chief?" He asked the Bolian engineer a few feet away from him at another station.
"Yes, Captain." Answered Chief Petty Officer Zim Arlin. "The trackers on their weapons and armors are functioning properly. I'm rerouting the feed to your station."
"Thank you, Mr. Arlin." Said Oliver as the Marines' movement reappeared on his holographic display. He waited a few more moments before turning around to face his troop of scientists and engineers. With a confident grin he said, "Ladies and gentlemen, let's go win this."
[Corridors outside of Main Engineering]
Major Zahn had told her marines over and over again never to underestimate an opponent. She'd almost died as a young marine by mistaking an alien creature for a child when it had, in fact been a mature adult with poisoned talons. So as her unit moved down the corridor, individual marines checked jeffries tubes and access panels for enemies or traps.
"Hallway is clear," Bravo three said.
"Check. We have reached the access door to main engineering. Senors are being jammed." She wasn't at all surprised to find the door refused to open. "Alpha four, get up here." Alpha four was Corporal F'lan, one of the best entry men she had ever known. The small marine stepped up to the access panel and had the outer casing off within seconds. Behind it the light of the power lines inside illuminated his face as he worked. A few seconds later and one of the power cables went dark and the door slid open.
"Breaching," Zahn said. The engine room on an Elysium class vessel was immense. She could see the warp core in the distance or one of the warp cores. Part of the challenge of this mission was taking the primary core before the enemy transferred control to one of the other two. Speed was the key. Using quick, short steps, the marines spread out into the interior space, taking care to stay withing covering range of each other but far enough away that if some kind of explosive went off, it wouldn't take out a whole stick."
Zahn held up a fist and the entire marine force stopped in place.
"Alpha eight, Bravo eight, scouting forward."
The last marine in each stick moved forward past their comrades. These two were the most silent and fastest of her team. If someone was trying to ambush them before they even got started, they would know in moments.
Before Zahn and her team could close in and accomplish their objective, a pair of heavy blast doors were engaged and sealed off the Marines' path to the warp cores. The blue oscillating sheen was a clear indication of active shielding over the doors. Then the Arcadia's commanding officer emerged from behind a set of force field, followed by a trio of officers, two in gold and one in teal, all with their phaser rifles drawn.
Instead of a weapon Oliver had in his right hand his favorite commemorative mug for the centennial of his favorite superhero team, the Justice Alliance. With a smug smile, he said, "Major Zahn, welcome to main engineering. I accept your surrender."
Major Zahn grunted and then ignored the Captain. She wasn't about to get involved in some kind of discussion during a firefight. And this wasn't the first force field she had a faced. She pointed to one of her marines who carried a bulky object on his back. The man nodded and entered a command string into a PADD attached to his chest. A high whining sound echoed through the chamber and then, with a whump, all the power went out. Her tactical net went dark, the advanced rifles transformed into simple slug throwers, the force field died and all electronics went silent, casting the area in an eerie silence.
"I hope you brought enough mugs for all of us, Captain," she waved her marines forward.
Oliver arched an eyebrow in amusement as emergency power kicked in. Disabling the Marines' weapons had been his Plan A, but Zahn had taken care of that for him and rather brilliantly so: in one fell swoop she had disabled the shields over the blast doors as well as all the weapons in the vicinity, and without their weapons his team was at a significant disadvantage to the highly trained Marines. The problem was, with the main powers offline, the blast doors were automatically locked down and it would take a tremendous amount of raw power as well as time to pry them open. Perhaps Zahn figured that once she neutralized him and his team, she would have all the time she needed to breach the doors. It was a sound tactic, even a brilliant one. Under normal circumstances.
Thanks to Chrys and Lieutenant Arlin, who had infiltrated the Marine base' network control center the night before, he now had complete control over the holodeck where the exercise was being staged. With a quick tap of his comm badge he could have Chief Arlin override holodeck program controls and restore main power as well as shields. Heck, he could have the Marines beamed directly to the brig if he wanted to. But that would be too easy. More important, that would make it too obvious that he had rigged the system, and Colonel Bolanus, being the honest disciplinarian that he was, would not take kindly to such shenanigans.
Oliver had accepted that he would never get on Admiral Sandel's good side again, but that didn't mean he would just go out and antagonize everyone he met. He wouldn't be a good people person he did, and he was a great people person. Besides, he respected Colonel Bolanus a great deal. In other words, winning the exercise was not enough; he need to win over Bolanus as well. That meant he need to make his victory look as convincing and as real as possible. He need to drag it out just a bit longer.
"Of course, everyone gets a mug." He retorted with a small smirk before signaling his team to retreat toward the engineering chief's office. "We can do this, guys." He quietly, but confidently, reassured his men. "We still have plans B, C, and D in place."
"Bravo stick, on the door. Alpha with me," Zahn said.
Bravo swarmed to the door, setting up a perimeter while one of their number began pulling out small silver discs and slapping them onto the door. Zahn smiled to herself as her team rushed towards the engineering office. Under real combat conditions she would have had her troops firing slugs at the enemy but with the safety protocols in place, they wouldn't do anything. She slung her rifle over her shoulder as she ran and pulled out her combat knife. The other seven members of her team followed her example. When they reached the door to the office she gestured with one hand, dispersing the team in a semi-circle.
"Captain Lee, I suggest that you surrender now. Your staff is no match for us in close combat and we will have the blast doors open in a few minutes." She paused, waiting to hear his response.
"A few minutes can be an eternity, Major." Said Oliver, who had taken note of the small group of Marines working on the blast door.
His nonchalant tone notwithstanding, the Arcadia's commanding officer, in fact, had no idea what those silver discs were or exactly what the Marines were doing to the door with them. He certainly hadn't come across them during his research into Marine boarding tactics. But again, he had very little time to prepare for this exercise, and these were SF operators: some of their tactics and equipment were disclosed on a strictly need-to-know basis only. According Sandel, he did not need to know, and that was the end of his attempt at requesting security clearance for a briefing on classified spec ops tactics.
Tilting his head slightly in the blast door's direction, he asked with a smug smile, "You sure you want to open that? You never know what's on the other side. It could be a gigantic purple platypus-bear for all you know. Have you seen that documentary on the Wild Life Channel, Major? Their bites are quite atrocious though still not as appalling as their breath. Your men will be stuck with that dreadful smell for days."
There was, of course, no gigantic purple platypus-bear on the other side of the blast door, but if he could engender even just a tiny grain of annoyance in his opponents, it might buy him a few precious seconds when - and if - he needed them later.
Zahn ignored the Captain but underneath her icy calm she was angry. The man's lax attitude annoyed her. The members of Alpha stick swarmed through the door and up to the enemies. Their melee attacks should have brought them down quickly. Instead there was a shimmering and Zahn cursed. "Holograms!" The team reformed and ran back to Bravo.
The silver phase mines were already clipped into a circle. She watched as the metal beneath them buckled and fold in on itself, as if some giant hand had crumpled paper.
As the Marines rushed past the once impenetrable blast doors, they found the Arcadia's commanding officer waiting for them by the gently humming warp cores. He had instructed the rest of his team to retreat and join Chief Arlin in auxiliary engineering control. In case all his back up plans failed, not that he thought they would, but in the unlikely case they did, he didn't want his teammates to be at the receiving end of the Marines' close-quarter-combat training. But again, he would not fail. He was just being overly cautious.
"That was an expensive door you just kicked down, Major." Said Oliver as he drank from his mug, his smirk as smug as ever. "But if you surrender now, we'll call it even."
"Marines do not surrender," Zahn said in a growl. The rest of her marines rallied behind her and launched themselves forward. She motioned for them to move around the Captain at the remaining personnel. She flew towards Oliver, her fists blurring as she launched a quick combination of blows.
Korra had always insisted that he should put a little more effort into close-quarter combat training. He always obliged her and joined her on the holodeck for the extra practice she believed that he desperately needed - though mostly to keep his best friend happy. It seemed that she was right after all: he was barely able to parry the first two blows from the charging Marine before the third one made solid contact with his right cheek, sending him flying across the deck until his back hit the side panel of an engineering station.
As Oliver wiped the blood off one corner of his mouth, he saw Zahn dashing toward him, clearly intending to finish the exercise right there and right then. Hastily he tapped his combadge. "Chief, I need Shazam. I need Shazam right now!"
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, an invisible EM pulse radiated the room with a barely audible hum. Normally the micro shield generators embedded in the Marines' armor were designed to withstand such a pulse, but because of the virus Kevin had uploaded to the armor the night before, when the pulse hit, the shield generator failed to counter the interference. Neither did it simply shut down. With puffs of smoke and crackling electricity it overloaded itself instead, sending a very unpleasant surge of energy through its unfortunate wearer. It would cause neither serious nor lasting damage, but it was enough to incapacitate the Marines and hand him the victory.
Or so one would hope. But hope without a backup plan was mere idle daydream. And Oliver Antoninus Lee was seldom caught without a backup plan, or in this case a backup plan for his original backup plan. So before the Marines could get a hold of their bearing, he sprang his next trap, this time a bit less hastily than before as his opponents posed a somewhat less imminent threat. "Time for the Mjolnir, Chief Arlin." Said the Arcadia's commanding officer as he struggled to get back on his feet. That punch from Zahn was ferocious, and it hurt like hell. It looked like Korra had been holding back during their training sessions after all.
Major Zahn gasped under the weight of her armor. It felt like she weighed four times as much as usual. She gritted her teeth and managed to raise her head enough to see Captain Lee struggling to his feet. How was he able to do that. She turned her head to the side and was able to see that all the marines were down. Clearly the exercise was over and the worst thing was, she didn't know what she should have done differently. Had disabling the suits before the breach caused this effect?
"Alright, Captain Lee. Your victory. End Exercise," she said.
Oliver rubbed his right cheek where it still hurt and tapped his combadge again, this time with a small smirk. "Chief Arlin, you heard the Major. It's over." At that, the artificial gravity under the deck plates where the Zahn and her men had stood dropped back to its original level, relieving the Marines of the extra weight and burden.
Walking over to Zahn, he extended his right arm to the Marine. "Major, that was impressive, what you and your men did there. I was down to my last trick." There was not a hint of mockery in his voice.
Major Zahn took his hand and shook it professionally. "Captain, the best lessons are those learned in defeat. Your tricks were inventive and I plan to use them to improve our training. The next enemy who tries those, will find us prepared. Commandos!" She shouted and the entire assault force formed up behind her. "Present arms!" She called and they saluted the victors as one. "Exfiltrate," she said and they began filing out.
[Marine Training Facility Control Room]
Bolanus frowned slightly when Zahn and her Marines were immobilized by what appeared to be a power surge in their armor right before they were pinned down to the deck. Lee seemed to have manipulated the artificial gravity, but with only emergency power on he should not have been able to target specific deck plates, in this case only those on which the Marines had been standing. And then there were those malfunctioning armor, which should have been able to withstand the EM pulse, but didn't. He didn't know how Lee had done it, but he had the gut feeling that the Arcadia's captain had somehow managed to change the parameters of the exercise. A thorough review of the exercise was in order, but at the moment he would have to give the human the credit for pulling off the win. It was impressive, if somewhat suspicious.
Sandel, however, did not share the colonel's equanimity. It was not supposed to end like this. It was supposed to be a moment of humiliation and embarrassment - not one of triumph - for Lee. And how had he done it anyway? The malfunctioning armor, the artificial gravity, none of it made any sense. None of it. There was only one logical conclusion.
Turning to the Vulcan lieutenant commander next to her, she intoned bitterly. "You sabotaged the exercise. How did you do it? How did he do it?"
I'lien raise an eyebrow. "Admiral, I have no idea what you are referring to. Captain Lee has not included me in any of his pre-exercise meetings. I have been focusing on the day-to-day- operations of the Arcadia. I am as much in the dark, as you are."
Sandel cursed under her breath. Lee must have cheated. There's no other way he could have won the exercise against a special ops team. That sly son of a bitch would pay. He must.
"Tell your captain," She said bitterly. "This is not over."
I'lien came to attention. "I will relay your message to the Captain, Admiral." He said and then turned and walked out of the observation room. If Captain Lee had hoped to resolve anything, he would be very dissappointed. The Admiral was going to make another move in this ongoing game. The best thing the Arcadia could do would be to depart as soon as possible.
Captain Oliver A. Lee
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
Lieutenant Commander I'lien Slvar
USS Arcadia NCC-89015
Vice Admiral Artex Sandel
(NPC - Oliver)
Colonel Ardon Bolanus
SFMC Camp Prometheus
(NPC - Oliver)
SFMC Camp Prometheus
(NPC - I'lien)