Trouble, Pt3

From the Story Arc: The Essence of Life

Previous Story in the Arc: Trouble, Pt 2 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

Next Story in the Arc: Trouble, Pt4 by Krasnaya Zvezda (Sunday, March 21, 2010)

(posted Sunday, March 21, 2010)

The clattering sound of the overturned desk echoed around the room and then faded away, leaving only the rustling of the papers as they settled on the floor and the deep breathing of a Ruktur - Sister Joanna - to fill the silence.

Zakat had only been gone for a minute but already Red Star grew impatient for his return; she could feel the Crystal, shut away within the safe at her feet, growing more unstable as each moment passed.

"What is taking him so long?" Star snapped, "You don't think that that scientist is refusing to assist, do you?"

{More likely he was in another part of the laboratory and it has taken Zakat this long to find him.} said Sister Joanna, adding, {It has not been very long in any event and-- well, here they come.}

Following Joanna’s gaze; Star could see Zakat and the scientist through the glass walls of the laboratory, they were talking and the scientist was gesticulating wildly with a sheaf of papers. As they approached the door, something made them stop and turn, with the scientist taking a half-step back down the corridor, uncertainty showing on his face. This uncertainty was replaced by shock then pain as a burst of gunfire rang out and the scientist was knocked backwards and into Zakat, sending them both stumbling to the floor.

Energy coalescing around her, Star began to move toward the door as Zakat, still lying prone, extended an arm and a burst of light sprang from his fist and flew down the corridor.

However, as close as Star was to the door, Joanna was closer. Slamming open the glass doors, Joanna moved into the corridor and reached out, grabbing hold of both Zakat and the scientist and pulling them back into the laboratory as more gunfire rang out. There did not appear to be any sign of injury on Zakat but the same could not be said of the scientist, blood covered the front of his once white labcoat and his face looked pale and wane.

Star stepped up to the door and glanced down the corridor. She could see some distinctive figures running along the corridor. There was a sizable number of them but her eyes were drawn to the weapons that they were unslinging...

“They come.” Star said, turning back to the room.

“Council.” said Zakat. He was kneeling next to the scientist whose breathing was sounding very strained.

Joanna, now back in her human form, looked at the scientist then shook her head slowly, {He’s not going to make it.} she projected to Star.

Star nodded, there were more important things to concentrate on in any event. “Barricades. They must be coming for the crystal and in its current state we can’t leave it here. Comrade Zakat, see if he can tell us another way out of here before he dies.”

Oblivious to the look Zakat threw at her, Star began overturning the nearby workstations in an attempt to provide some cover for the safe - which Joanna was tentatively moving towards them - and its dangerous contents. At least it seemed the workstations would provide some cover, the worktops seemed to be some sort of stone material, although Star was not sure what, but either way they gave a nice, solid sound as they were flipped over and hit the floor. The same could not be said for most of the items that previously lay upon the worktop. These hit the ground with a variety of smashing sounds and bit of glass and electronics now lay littered upon the ground. Star shook her head; considering the importance that they ascribed to them, not to mention the cost, it always amazed her that scientists didn’t made their laboratory equipment more robust.

Zakat left the side of the scientist and moved towards Star, shaking his head at her look. “No, he was too badly injured. Did you want a hand with that, Sister?” he asked Joanna and began to move towards her as Star surveyed the makeshift barricades and began shifting one into a better position.

Joanna, still manoeuvring the safe, was almost back with them when the first of the Council appeared the other side of the laboratory’s glass wall and levelled his weapon into the room.

“Down!” Star shouted and dropped to the floor as the trooper opened fire.

Joanna threw herself forward, the glass wall imploded inwards as a bolt of Quantum energy slammed through it, showering the room with glass and just missing Joanna as she landed heavily near Zakat and behind the relative safety of the overturned desks.

Zakat and Star both raised themselves from behind their desks and unleashed contrasting bolts of energy at the trooper. The bolts, one light, one dark, both hit home sending the trooper crashing to the floor. For a second there was silence, then more troopers appeared and the air was filled with the whine of Quantum weapons.

The blasts began to slam against the overturned table and began to eat away at its structure. Star started to surround herself with Nictus energy, a prelude to taking the fight to the Council, but as the energy formed around her, she could feel a surge from the crystal – the close proximity of her energy field was starting to activate it.

Quickly, she reabsorbed the energy and felt the crystal settle back down again. This did not bode well for their situation though and Star exchanged a concerned glance with Joanna.

Zakat began ducking around barricade, returning fire as best as he could but the Council were too well trained, focusing their fire on his location as soon as he poked his head around the barricade.

“Come on!” he said to Star and Joanna after a barrage of fire passed through the space formerly occupied by his head. “I could use some help, you know.”

“We can’t.” said Star, distractedly looking toward the safe containing the crystal. The door had swung open slightly and she could see tendrils of energy beginning to crawl over the surface of the crystal, tendrils that heralded the imminent arrival of the Nictus trapped within it.

“What!? Why not?” said Zakat staring at them in amazement for a second before resuming firing wildly at the Council.

“What Star means is that the crystal is too volatile, it is reacting to the energy that we produce and even the slightest increase of our energy could activate it.” clarified Joanna. “In fact, I’d say that it was going to activate soon anyway, what with the amount of energy flying around here.”

“So we teleport out?”

“I think it may have gone beyond that, this crystal is too unstable now - could release its contents even in their possession. We have to destroy it.”

Zakat looked at the crystal which lay near them. “... I’ve seen these things before. Destroying them releases all the energy within them, right? Not something we really want to be sitting on top of when it goes off.”

Star stirred, “We may not have choice, comrade. If it isn’t destroyed and the Nictus within got free, then the energy the crystal emits will be enough for them to survive off until they find hosts - hosts which are plentiful in the streets outside.”

“Well I don’t think that our friends over there are just going to let us get clear before we destroy it, maybe--” The rest of Zakat’s sentence was lost as another barrage of fire slammed into the barricade and finally breached it. Energy poured through the hole between Joanna and Zakat, causing them both to flinch away.

Zakat, now able to get a good look at the Council, poured a torrent of energy through the breach, which slammed into a couple of them, sending them crashing back into the wall and causing the others to take cover behind the wall.

“Stuff this - we have to get out of here now. I can teleport us all back to the JTF headquarters and then we can just get back to Steel Canyon and intercept them on the way out.” Zakat said, keeping the Council pinned back behind the wall.

“No,” said Star, “teleport the crystal instead, comrade.”

“What?!” Zakat stopped firing and stared incredulously at Star, “You must be crazy if you think I am going to send that to the JTF Base!” He then swore and took cover behind what remained of the barricade as the Council, taking advantage of his distraction, returned to the offensive.

“Not to your headquarters, send it them.” Star said, indicating towards the Council as Quantum blasts poured into the laboratory once more.

“Star... “ Joanna began, “teleporting it will definitely activate it. We can’t--”

“We will have to destroy it as soon as it’s in place. Anything that survives the explosion will have to be dealt with before it finds a host.” said Star, adding with some finality “We don’t time to argue; I have decided, comrade Joanna.”

“You’ve said some strange stuff before but this is... I can’t believe I’m going to do it.” Zakat said as he pulled out his PDA from his ever-present lab coat. Another hole was punched in the desk and, slouching further down, Zakat went to work on the PDA.

“This’ll take a few minutes so you’ll have to hold them off,” Zakat began distractedly, “try not to get me killed or you’ll never hear the end of it from Sofia.”

“Hold them off... you expect me to glare at them, comrade?” Star would have glared at Zakat but for the desk between them.

“You could always throw a microscope at them.” Zakat murmured.

As Star began another retort, Joanna reached out in front of her and began to pull herself upright saying, “I’ve a better idea.” As Joanna stood upright she began to spin to face the Council, transforming into a Ruktur as she did so.

Star felt the spike of energy from the Nictus crystal that coincided with Joanna’s transformation and then she began to fall backward as the table she’d been resting against was whipped away, to follow the arc of Joanna’s spin before being hurled towards the Council. Catching herself before she hit the floor, Star turned, facing towards Joanna and the Council beyond her. The Council had begun to spread out, with most of them providing a constant barrage of covering fire for a smaller group of some five individuals that were moving towards the door of the laboratory. The table arced towards the larger group, acting as a makeshift shield and absorbing some of the Quantum blasts that were directed into the room, before slamming through what remained of the window, destroying the window frame and sending the Council soldiers flying backward.

As Joanna gave a roar of triumph, Star could see the other group of Council aim at the exposed Ruktur. Reacting instinctively, she gathered some of her energy and sent it towards the Council before they could fire. The bolt of energy shot into the group, sending them flying as it exploded in their midst but, although they had not managed to fire a shot, Star could feel the damage that had been done. Unstable to begin with, the Nictus trapped within the crystal for so long had reacted to Star’s burst of energy and were starting to fight to break free from their containment.

The crystal was beginning to activate.