Star Trek Hunter
Episode 12: Prisoner in the Ice Castle
Scene 1: Ice Hole
Tactical Specialist Belo Rys was on the far right cable. Tactical Specialist Jarrong was in the lead on the left. Ensign Tolon was up one level collecting samples near the anchor points for the lines. Four carbon fiber cables snaked down from the anchors above, running down a sheet of frozen sea water. The cavern was bitterly cold, but there was very little air movement and the ground operations team was prepared with insulated uniforms that were just short of being full EVA suits.
The tactical team was descending in a staggered line. Jarrong, on the left was the first to drop, then Belo Garr, then Belo Cantys, then Belo Rys on the right. This allowed Rys to keep an eye on the rest of the team to spot any trouble with their descent and take action or alert the team. To avoid detection, they were relying on their heat vision instead of lanterns – a gift of their cardassian heritage.
Chief Flight Specialist Dewayne Guth had brought them in the wagon as far down into the cavern as the wagon could safely descend, then flew up out of the cavern, where he was station keeping nearby. Strongly magnetized metal deposits in the ice prevented the use of the transporter. Belo Rys, Belo Garr and Belo Cantys were each carrying a pattern enhancer, but within another hundred meters, these would also become useless - the magnetic deposits too strong for even the enhancers to punch a transport signal through. They would leave these devices behind on the next ledge.
Nearly a thousand meters further down, Investigator Buttans Ngumbo was scouting the ledge system, helping to guide the tactical squad down. He was using a small flashlight, but relying primarily on his superior olfactory sense. So far, they had not encountered any resistance - which Rys did not find comforting. There was no doubt this facility had been used as a prison, but if no one was guarding the main entrance, it could be a sign that the facility had been abandoned.
After descending for well over three hours in near total darkness, the tactical team joined Buttans on the bottom level. This lowest level appeared to cover about 500 square meters, but with no evident doors or passageways.
"Dead end," Jarrong whispered.
"Something smells hot," Buttans observed. "Smell it?"
Jarrong had the best heat vision of the group - she was able to make out her cousins and Buttans as undulating wraiths of heat, but there was no other source of heat down here. "It isn't down here,"
"I think it's up one level," Investigator Buttans said.
Jarrong saw it - a faint heat source within one of the walls above. "It's a trap! GO UP GO UP GO UP GO UP!"
Each of the squad members was still connected to the fiber cables they had used for descent. They slammed their hands on controls located on the left breast of their uniforms. Jarrong wrapped one arm under Buttans' crotch and threw him over her shoulder before activating her emergency recoil. Pulleys far above jerked and whined, quickly pulling the tactical squad members up the sides of the shaft as melted seawater crashed through one of the frozen walls.
Buttans, still hoisted over Jarrong's shoulder, his face against her back, helped unhook her from one pulley system and attached her to the next. Her cousins recovered the pattern enhancers they had left on this level, detached themselves from this pulley system and attached and activated the next as insidious hissing and crashing noises became louder below.
Tolon was waiting at the next level. With the speed and precision of dancers, Belo Rys, Belo Garr and Belo Cantys detached their cable systems, deployed the pattern enhancers and ushered Jarrong (still carrying Buttans) and Tolon into the triangle with them before activating the pattern enhancers.
"NOW! Now NOW NOW!" screamed Tolon. He was still screaming when the cavern started to dissolve in an array of patterned lights, to be replaced by the rear staging area of the wagon. He only started to breathe properly once the transporter beam cycle was complete and he could see that his team was safely aboard the wagon.
A viewscreen against the interior wall displayed the same scene that Chief Guth and Midshipman Tammy Brazil were observing up in the flight cabin - the camera on one of the pattern enhancers capturing the other two falling off the dissolving ledge, before falling itself into the freezing, watery abyss.
"That was way too close," Belo Garr observed.
"Trap," said Tolon, breathing hard.
"Um, Jarrong?" said Buttans, "You can put me down now…"