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The Tubes Of Terror

Posted on Sat Aug 5th, 2023 @ 7:20am by Ensign Rimal Iska & Ensign George Paxton

Mission: Wrath of the People
Location: Jefferies Tubes
Timeline: MD8 :: After 'Tactical Retreat'
1913 words - 3.8 OF Standard Post Measure

Now somewhat safe in the tubes, Iska led George to a junction before he paused, mostly to assess just how hurt they were but also to catch his breath. His side ached, and each breath in brought a knife-stabbing pain that sometimes nearly brought tears to his eyes. "Is there a... medkit nearby?" He asked, assuming the engineer would know more about those details, even though the Bajoran was the one who did trainings just like this with Zade, for this very reason. But his brain wasn't working right, he was still trying to process what just happened.

A bead of sweat dripped down George's forehead. It wasn't particularly hot, but it certainly felt like it. Or maybe it just felt hot because he was certain that the already cramped walls around them were getting increasingly smaller. He took a deep breath and whispered to himself. You can do this George. "Uhm yea, I think. I think there's a med kit. Probably," George paused to take another breath. "I think around the corner in the next junction." His forehead wrinkled in concentration just to get the words out. It took everything to focus on anything other than the suffocatingly limited space around them.

The Bajoran could hear George's breathing echo around in the narrow space, but knew that pointing it out would serve no benefit. "Ok... next junction." With a grunt, Iska got moving again, trying to keep a steady pace that wouldn't increase his breathing too much. To try and distract himself from the pain, he replayed Zade's message in his mind to try and make sense of what came through. The first part was easy, there were more pirates on deck four than they could handle. He also picked up that Malone was coming down from his post on the bridge, likely to help take out the pirates. The next part was increasingly harder to understand.

Reaching the next junction, Iska looked around the corner and spotted the med kit, right where George said it was. Wincing as he rotated, he grabbed the kit and opened it, rummaging for a hypospray. "You need... anything?" he asked, finding the correct insert he was looking for. His fingers trembled slightly, a combined result of the adrenaline and pain, as it took a couple attempts to load the hypospray with the painkiller. He'd be able to think more clearly if the act of breathing wasn't so painful.

"Oh, uh, no, I'm...I mean, I will be...alright," the panic in George's voice was clear but he was doing his best to stay focused. "Should we try..." He took a gulp of air and closed his eyes. "Engineering isn't too far...maybe we can gain some sort...of...some sort of control there to help out the bridge. Are you ok to keep going?" The engineer opened his eyes and looked to Iska who appeared to have no fared as well in the recent battles.

Pressing the hypo to his own neck, Iska breathed a sigh of relief when the pain started to subside. "I'm ok to keep going... just needed something for the pain," he answered. Now that his brain wasn't as occupied by the stabbing sensation in his side, he looked at the number on the junction wall and tried to recall where exactly they were. "Yes. Engineering is likely their next target," he agreed, putting the med kit back together and snapping it closed before adjusting to get moving again. He then looked to George to make sure he was actually ok, and then noticed that he looked and sounded like he was about to panic. "Slow breaths, Ensign. We'll be out in no time."

"Yea...yea, no problem," George followed behind Iska, slowly. Think happy thoughts, big spaces, wide open fields, he thought to himself as his sweaty palms kept him crawling forward. You'll die in here. The ship is being taken over, you've lost control. This tiny space will be your coffin, his inner voice started to shift gears as the claustrophobic conditions continued to set in. Was there an end to this tunnel?

There it was again. The echoed breathing. Iska wasn't convinced by George's words, and the shaking breaths coming from the engineer were proof that he wasn’t faring well. "You said you wrestled... gators, was it, on Earth?" He asked, after a moment. It was a somewhat obvious attempt to help distract the man from his current situation, but it was better than nothing. "Tell me about these creatures, and why you would fight such a thing."

"You've never heard of gators?" George's voice held a genuine hint of surprise and the distraction worked. The idea that someone had never heard of one was totally foreign to him. "They look just like that Gorn, but they crawl on the ground and they're much less strategically inclined. Less powerful too. Beautiful creatures though, they mostly leave you alone if you don't bother them. I didn't really wrestle them often, only on rare occasions out of necessity." He thought of the expansive swamps back home and how freeing it felt to take the boat around the bayou and just explore.

Iska shook his head. "No, we don't have those on Bajor, and they didn't mention them at the Academy." He nodded along to the engineer's description, the awareness of his own pain diminishing thanks to the distraction. "How did you learn to wrestle them? Is it like a tradition? A rite of passage?"

"More like an occasional...necessity," George replied. "How much..." he took another deep breath as his chest tightened. The alligator topic had only provided a very temporary reprieve. "How much...longer..until we're..."

"We're close," Iska responded, stepping out into an intersection and approaching the ladder that went up. The room was larger than the tubes, enough for about three people to stand in. In four directions there were hatches to more tubes, and between two of the hatches was a ladder that led both up and down to the adjacent decks. Now that he had a better view of George, he could see the sweat beading on his forehead. The engineer was serious about not liking the confined space of the tubes. "There's an exit at the top of this ladder."

"Nope," George shook his head and then sat on his heels. "There has to be a different way. We won't...we won't fit that way. It's too small. We need...we need to get out. Right now. We need to get out," he started to turn around and head back the way they came.

The Bajoran's surprise was quickly replaced by action when he saw George try to turn around. Moving back to him, Iska grabbed the man's uniform at the shoulder to stop him. "Did that Gorn hit you on the head?? There are over twenty pirates on this deck, and we barely managed against five!" Feeling some resistance, Iska used both hands to physically pull the engineer into the intersection with him, trying to ignore his protesting injuries. Maybe the slightly larger space that allowed Iska to stand would help ease this man's nerves, if even slightly. "Dammit, get back here! We need to get off deck four, and this is the safest way to do it!"

"We'll die in here if we don't get out!" George yelled. The intersection was at least larger than the main tunnel space. Large enough he felt he could breathe a little. He put his hands up and tried to calm himself down. "Ok...ok," George said been heavy and frequent breaths. "You're right, I just...maybe you can just go."

Iska held on until he felt the man start to calm down slightly, then changed his grip to hold his shoulders instead of the fabric and positioned himself directly in front of him. "Ensign... George, is it?" He asked in a softer tone. "Take a deep breath with me." He gave a little nod to encourage the breath, emphasizing his own chest moving up, then moving down, while maintaining eye contact. "Focus on me, on my voice. We won't die in here, but we will die if we go back the way we came. It's my duty to keep my crewmates safe. I can get you out of here, but I need you to hold on for just a little longer. This will not last forever, I promise. Please, trust me."

The man's eyes were sincere. George took another deep breath and nodded. "Ok, yes. You're right. Let's just...let's make it quick " His arms were still shaking slightly and he felt his heart had relocated to his throat but he could hold on for just a minute longer.

Nodding, Iska finally let go of George and turned back to the ladder. "I'll open the hatches as fast as I can," he assured, grabbing the rungs. He then climbed up to the top and released the first hatch. Reaching up, he pulled himself through and moved to the side. He peered through the hole long enough to make sure the engineer would follow before crawling on all fours to the exit hatch. Staying true to his word, the Bajoran reached the hatch and popped it open, then checked the corridor before he crawled out, leaving George a clear path.

George looked up and hesitated. Surely he would be crushed on the way up. The walls were already so small at the top of the ladder. "Go ahead, I'm...I'm right behind you," he hesitantly grabbed a rung from the ladder but found his hands too slick with sweat to climb safely. He wiped the sweat on his uniform and then started the climb, going rung by rung and occasionally reaching out to ensure that the wall stayed put and didn't come any closer.

For a moment, Iska wondered if George had changed his mind and stayed in the intersection, but eventually he saw his head start to poke out at thw top of the ladder. "This way," he called out, making sure not only he was visible, but the spacious corridor behind him was, too.

George finally pulled himself out and just laid on the floor for a moment breathing a sigh of relief. "That was horrible. I certainly hope we aren't forced into any more of those today. I'm not sure I could take it."

"You did well." Iska had his rifle ready, and he was keeping watch down the corridor as the engineer recovered, his back to the corridor wall. His father taught him that whenever a team had to do a tactical retreat, never stay in one place for long. The old man had a couple of war stories where resistance cells would meet their demise because they stayed in one place for too long and enemies swarmed them. Suddenly aware that he was only taking short breaths, enough to stay alert, Iska tightened the grip on his rifle and took the moment to actually catch his breath.

After about a minute, the Bajoran said, "Alpha Section's engineering is on this level. We'll have more protection there, and it's an essential system that we can't lose." Plus, if Iska heard Zade's orders correctly, Mason should be headed in the same direction, and the security chief did say to meet up with him. He only hoped that he didn't miss the other security officer.


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