Mason and Paris - Taking a Break

Posted Nov. 19, 2020, 11:01 p.m. by Lieutenant Commander Paris Carisi (Armorer/Physicist) (Kate O'Neill)


They walked for what seemed like forever but it only got worse once the trek stopped being flat hardpan and shifted to rocky outcroppings.  Every step had to be watched to avoid twisted ankles or worse.  Falling here with no communication systems would send them back to the dark ages of the twenty-first century.   Exploring places like this was still fun but there were safety precautions that were lacking at the moment making this trip anything but adventurous.  It was also strenuous.  Paris was in top physical shape but that did not mean she didn’t have to work twice as hard as Mason in some sections.  His legs were longer meaning things he could step up onto, Paris at times had to almost crawl up.  Luckily for her, her fiancee was always the gentlemen.  When the ledges were going to take him pulling up his own body weight, he boosted her lessening Paris’ exertion.  This allowed her to continue without needing more breaks than Black.   When the span was too far for her to step up, he offered a hand to lift her partway.    While this made things easier for her, it also increased Mason’s exertion more than if he was traveling by himself.  Once they got back to the colony, showered, and changed, Paris knew they both were going to curl up in the sheets and sleep for about eight hours.  Once rested, they would move to more pleasurable activities.  This was the thought that kept Paris going: not the heat or promise of a cold drink of water.  It was the promise that within a few hours she and Mason would be clean, in climate control, and hopefully engaging in the weekender they had wanted.

Climbing up and pulling himself over a ledge, Mason turned and reached back down to help Paris up. “This is it, I can see one of the towers from here.” He told her, but he hadn’t voiced his confusion that he could only see one tower, there were more in the colony of the same height.
“One tower,” she grunted taking his hand and moving to the ledge he was kneeling on to reach down to her.   “The whole place was towers.”    

Pulling her up beside him, he rolled to one side and pushed himself to his feet. “Oh no,” he said and reached out a hand to help Paris up, he wasn’t watching where his hand was going through as he looked down towards the colony. “Baby, we have a little problem.”

“Do not tell me that we went on the wrong side of the volcano or so help me God May,” Paris moaned getting to her feet.  The site before her stole the words from her lips.  She could do nothing but look out at the landscape that had irrevocably been altered.  
Stretched out below them was a scene of devastation that only a natural disaster could create. The colony had been built over a wide space but it had often been built upwards, Mason and Paris both knew now that the ground underneath the colony was hollow, an enormous cavern that was he home for a huge underground wildlife and geothermically active thanks to the volcano that had somehow been noted as dormant with no geological activity by the company that had colonized it.

That cavern had collapsed in many places with the result that many of the habitation towers had collapsed and sunken into the ground, the rocks being thrown from the volcano had landed amongst the buildings and many were on fire and the forms of people lying on the ground indicated that heat, gases or the rocks hadn’t been kind to the colony. Steam clouds burst from the ground in many places and Mason noted that desperately few people were trying to fight the fires or drag people away from the buildings.  “It’s gone,” Mason said looking at the scene below them. “They aren’t rebuilding that, my god how the hell can they let that happen?” He looked at Paris and checked the suits oxygen levels. “We have to help, then we have to find that bastard in a suit.”

Cmdr Black, XO

Paris did not have words.  She only nodded feeling numb inside.   The death and destruction before her was life-changing.  Learning about tragedy or participating in the sanitary conditions of a holodeck did not match was was about to occur around her.  People had spent years debating how the realism of a holodeck made one experience catastrophic events.  This was true.  Individuals could be made to smell the acrid air, hear the cries and moans of people dying, see the broken and charred bodies, feel the environmental impacts on their own skin forcing those experiencing it to take long showers to scrub the sensation away.  The difference was it was just a poof a smoke and mirrors.    Individuals purported mental issues ensuing after such exercises but it was just fake.  Deep inside it was just 1’s and 0’s that were hurt and injured.  Real-life was drastically different as Paris and Mason were experiencing now.  Ordering the computer to end the program was not possible.  The 1’s and 0’s were digitized images of men and women but real men and women with names like John, Jane, Mary, and Samuel.    These people would not spring back up in another program about skiing or pottery making but be forever dead appearing only in the memories of those that loved them. 
Never in her career had Paris faced such horrific conditions.   Moving amongst the rubble she tried to stay close to Mason’s side.   She was a Starfleet officer.  These were Federation citizens yet in this moment, Paris was only worried about her future with him.   The ground continued to shake at times beneath her feet.  The one geologist that appeared to have survived the accident assured those rescuing people they ground was solid.   That the shimmers and shakes were only aftershocks.   Paris had to believe him to save those that needed help but it did not mean she wasn’t ready to put her faith one hundred percent on this fact.   
Two hours later, she slumped down on a rock next to Mason who was directing the rescue efforts from the command center they established in the shell of a building that remained intact.   Opening the bottle of water that had been handed to her, Paris gulped it down looking at Mason.   She had long since ditched the cumbersome environmental suit.   Her uniform underneath was torn in places from being snagged on bits of jagged metal and glass.   A black smudge, probably from soot, covered the left side of her face in a pattern showing where she had wiped her brow at some point.   Sweat marks dotted her uniform from the heat of the destruction and the climate of the planet.  “How are you holding up,” she asked.   The condition of his uniform showed Mason had not just stood around giving orders but was in the thick of things to surveying the area, pulling people from the rubble, and doing God knows what else to make the situation better for those involved. 

“Im fine,” Mason answered, although his voice sounded tired and the undercurrent of anger that had been under his words when they found the colony in this state, was gone to be replaced by a sound of frustration. “The emergency first aid site is safe and stable, unless that volcano decides to go again and spray rocks everywhere. The shuttles the colony had are destroyed so we can’t evacuate to a safer place, and one is unaccounted for. So is the suit.” Mason’s voice was bitter, he clearly knew that the company man had taken the shuttle at the first sign of the disaster.

“Most of the colony is gone, there isn’t much we can do when one of these habitation towers collapses.” He turned to her and wiped a smudge of soot from her cheek, or he tried to at least. All he really was able to do was smudge it further but he tried to smile slightly, before the dust and heat made him break into a cough.

“You need to drink something,” she passed her bottle of water to him.   “Have you contacted the Azzy?   When are they due to arrive,” she asked brushing a lock of damp hair from her brow.

Paris Carisi

Taking the water, he didn’t answer for a few moments while he poured a measure into his mouth and handed the bottle back to her, then swallowed and wiped his lips with his sleeve. The sleeve was torn from wrist to elbow and a scratch was visible where the tear fell aside. The area around them was filled with rubble and dust, and both Mason and Paris had more than enough scratches between them they could compare later. “They are on their way, but still a day away. They are too small though to evacuate the survivors, the next ship is another 5 days away. It looks like we are going to be here for a while but, I’m going to use the Azzy’s transporters to move us all to a stable location. Enough about me, how about you. You look tired, teach us for skipping the function and doing an all nighter in the pipes and caves huh.” His humor was weak, he knew full well that likely that was the only thing that had saved their lives. The tower where they had been quartered, with the suits thugs tied up in their bathroom, had collapsed and little was left in the twisted metal from the flames and fumes that had consumed it.

Holding the bottle close to her lips she gave him a sly smile. “Okay a five hundred sheet count might have been more fun but we probably burned the same about of calories either way,” she winked at him before taking a sip. The situation they were in was far from humorous yet at times that was the only thing one could fall back upon. Mason’s assessment of the situation was bleak. Paris had to think about something positive or break down. Opening her mouth, Paris was about to shift the conversation to something more meaningful than flirty banter when another voice cracked the semi-silence of the camp.

“We found another survivor!” A man shouted from a building not far away, waving towards the command center. With all the damage, local communications were down and Mason had ordered focus be spent on getting the satellite links going so they could call for help, thus most ground communication was being done by runner. Coming to his feet, he looked back and noted the lack of people available for the call. “That’s us, at least we are still finding people, it’s been hours.”

Moving as fast as possible through the rubble, Paris alternated between grabbing Mason’s arm and rubble to keep her balance. Crossing the terrain it was easy to find who was yelling. There was only one man and he was staring at the pile of twisted metal and rock.

“It’s a young girl, she’s trapped under beams,” the man called, and Mason tapped the phaser at his belt. “Lucky we bought our multi tools.” When Paris was beside him he began to jog in the direction of the call, it took only moments to reach the man, who then led them through a maze of twisted beams, rubble and the occasional body that they hadn’t yet been able to move in the hunt for survivors. Coming to a pile of scrap metal and siding that looked like any and every other collapsed building around them, they came to a stop. A man and a woman were standing outside a small hole in the rubble that they had been able to clear by hand, but the lack of tools prevented them going further, that they had found her at all was only because one of the rare tricorders that were in working order was in their hands.

“She’s in here, about 15 meters in. There’s a gap in the rubble and she’s trapped between them,” a man told them, he looked in the same condition as Paris and Mason and just as tired.

“Good work,” Mason told him, and slapped him on the shoulder. “We can cut through to her, but you need to watch the beams in case something gives way.” He looked at Paris and drew his Phaser, pressing the buttons to select the power he wanted. His face was tense, if he cut a beam that was bearing weight, he might not end up rescuing the young girl at all. Blinking to clear his eyes and his thoughts from the tiredness he felt, he drew a deep breath and looked at Paris. He had been busy rescuing people, sure, but he had spent most of the time directing the rescues. Paris had been doing exactly this for hours and he could only imagine the toll it had taken on her, some of the people he had rescued hadn’t made it, but up until now it was just a numbness he had felt doing his job.

Cmdr Black, XO

Small whimpers and cries carried on the wind not loud enough to be heard as constant noise, but with sufficient volume to remind those nearby someone was trapped. Fortunately for the rescuers, it let them know the survivor was still alive. Unfortunately, it was hard to keep her calm as dust and debris fell over her like snow.

Leaning as far as he could into the debris, Mason called out to the girl. “Hey honey, listen to me, we are here to get you out. You’re going to hear some noises and there might be some loud bangs, but we are coming to you. You’re safe now, do you hear me?” Mason lied, but he did his best to sound positive and friendly despite how tired and unsure he was about how the building would handle being cut apart. Looking at Paris, he drew his Phaser and set it to one of the highest settings. “You’re going to have to be my eyes,” he told her and stepped back slightly. “Tell me if you see anything moving or bending that shouldn’t be.”

“Mason,” Paris said putting a hand on his arm. She had complete faith in his skills. Right now Paris was just losing faith in fate. She was exhausted and needed to eat, sleep, and check out from reality however until the Odin arrived this was impossible. Paris never second-guessed herself except in moments like this which was why Mason was the executive officer in charge of hundreds of lives and she wasn’t. “I love you,” she settled on the only response that helped her focus all her anxiety and stress.

He stopped and turned back to her, looking into her eyes in that moment and letting everything else around them disappear. It was just him and her. “I love you,” he said softly. “Everything is crazy, and nothing is how it is supposed to be but honey, I’m right here. I always have been and always will be, all you need to do is reach out to me, I’ll take your hand every time.” He was exhausted himself, nothing had gone how he thought it was going to and at every turn their plans and efforts had come up against blocks. Mason would fight however, he always would, some things were worth fighting for no matter how bad things got or how much was in their way. Leaning forward, he kissed her forehead.

Paris closed her eyes as she felt his lips brush then press into her forehead. Paris closed her eyes savoring the moment. There were moments when she and Mason were alone the sparked hot ripples to flow down her spine. These moments made Paris feel connected to Mason on a carnal level sharing and intimacy like no other person regardless of how many people were on the ship or a starbase.

Gently then stepped back again raising the Phaser and choosing a beam to start cutting away. Then he fired.

The multi-tool sliced through the metal with ease but each cut caused the surrounding rubble to creak and groan. “Mason stop,” Paris put a hand on his arm. “I don’t think this is going to hold and if you cut anymore the pocket she is sitting in is going to collapse. Bending down, Paris shone a light down into the inky depths. At this point the team was able to see the girl and come to the realization, she was too young to get out herself. Kicking the ground with her heel, the ledge of dirt and rubble held firm.

“What have we got bub?” Mason asked softly, holstering the Phaser and squatting down beside her. He couldn’t see the girl, but Paris had this part in control. He tried to slide in beside her to look down the hole as well, meaning he had to put his hand around her waist to keep both of their balance.

“She looks to be about fifteen feet down. Get me a rope,” Paris stated turning to look up at Mason. “I think I can wiggle through the opening you made. I know I am not going to be able to get back up the way I went down.” Taking the rope that someone had just handed her, she began to tie it around her waist. “Lower me down. I will tie off the kid and then you pull her up. After we rinse and repeat,” she said exhaling as she spoke. Starfleet had trained her to sound confident and authoritative but Mason would see she was nervous as hell. The problem was the opening was not large enough for anyone but someone her size to fit into.

Paris Carisi armor

“Hey,” Mason said quietly and raised a hand to cup her cheek. “You got this, okay. And I got you, we’re a team and I’ll be right here. You just be careful and come back to me. I need you.”

“More like the dynamic duo,” she leaned forward and kissed his lips softly. The action was highly improper garnering numerous glances from the Starfleet personnel around the excavation area. Paris didn’t care. If this was the last mission they were going on, Paris didn’t want Mason to ever doubt how she felt about him. It might have seemed over dramatic but that was only said by those when things went according to plan. When it became a tragedy, a display like this would be remembered as touching. Giving him a nod, she moved to the edge of the hole letting out a deep calming breath.

Despite his gut doing somersaults at the thought of letting her go down there herself, Mason knew she was right. The hole simply wouldn’t fit him or any of the others and if he was right, their would hardly be enough room where the girl was for Mason to be able to fit down their beside her anyway. Taking the end of the rope, Mason began to tie it around his own waist so that it would not get dragged in behind her. “I’d prefer you to come back up with the kid though, I don’t want you down their longer than you need to be. I can pull you both up, we have enough hands on this end.”

Cmdr Black, XO

“You won’t let go,” Paris stated confidently for the first time. Locking eyes with Mason, her statement was rhetorical reaffirming that she trusted the man in front of her with her life. She had been focusing so much on her own nerves, Paris ignored the way Mason could be feeling. “Hey have a cup of coffee ready for when I get back,” she managed to wink at him. The flagrant display of affection eased the mood of everyone helping. Wrapping the rope around her forearm twice to help with her stability in the descent, Paris took her first step downward.

Descending into the pit felt like being buried alive. With each foot Paris was lowered, claustrophobia fought to gain a foothold on her psyche. It was hard not to succumb to it. The blackness enveloped her like a weighted blanket threatening to smother the air from her lungs. It was all in her mind but helped by the dust and debris being sucked into her lungs with each breath. This caused her to cough increasing the sense she was suffocating. The deeper she was lowered, the colder it also got. While the surface was an oppressive one hundred degree plus heat, the rocks and dirt insulated these layers from it underground causing goosebumps to cover her arms. “How are you doing honey,” Paris called out trying to focus on anything besides the crumbling walls of the small pocket her life was being held in. The light grew dim forcing Paris to activate the small handheld flashlight. “It is going to be okay. I am almost able to reach you. ”

“Oh ‘kay,” a small voice broke the silence allowing Paris to relax slightly.

A few long moments later, Carisi’s feet found the ground. “I’m down,” Paris called out to Mason who would already know feeling the slack in the rope. Fumbling with the harness clips at her waist, Paris removed the rope and knelt down next to the little girl. “Hey honey,” she ran her hands down the small body looking for injuries. “You okay huh,” she tried to sound friendly to ease the small child’s concerns.

“Yes,” she said meekly clutching a small doll to her chest. Rhythmically stroking the doll’s hair she looked up at Paris. “Are you going to help me find mommy?”

“Yes, we are,” Paris stood up staring through the debris at the pinprick of light showing the way out.

Paris Carisi

“How are we going down there?” Mason’s voice followed her down. He had heard Paris talking, it wasn’t exactly a long way down and his own tone was friendly. Paris knew him well enough to know when he was putting on a brave face though, the undercurrent to his voice keying her in to his worry and concern. “Did we find our hide and seek champion yet? Or do we need to bring out the chocolate and marshmallows in order to find her?”

Coughing Paris waved away the dust from the air. The action did little to remove it. If anything it spread it around more. Letting her eyes adjust to the dark for a second, she pulled the small light from her pocket shining it around the room. She had heard one voice but so many people were trapped and dying in the rubble. It was not unthinkable that there was more than one person in this small pocket. “Perfect. Just checking,” Paris left off for survivors. Scanning the pocket resulted in good and bad news. The good news was that no one had been down here dying as the small child stood by helpless. The bad news was that there was no other obvious survivor besides the little girl. The snapping and groaning of the tons of debris-about Paris’ head brought her back to the sole reason she had gone down the hole.

“My name is Paris,” she knelt down to the little girl’s level. “Up there is my friend named Mason,” she pointed up to the small hole in the ceiling. “Mason can you say hi,” she called out in a sing song voice.

Stroking the dolls hair with the palm of her hand, the little girl looked up nervously as if she was trying to star at the stars. The rhythmic stroking action was steady but increasing in rate and speed.

“Hi down there,” came Mason’s cheerful voice, as if he was calling out from storing something in an attic and would be down in just a moment.

“Hello,” the small soprano child’s voice carried and echoed in the room making is sound louder than it was.

Looking back out to the people further back, he spied a man who was visibly less dirty and sweaty than the others around him. He would do. “You,” Mason said, nodding at the man. “Run back to the control site and get me a ration bar of chocolate. And when I say run, I mean run like there is a Klingon riding a giant Targ on your ass and he’s closing on you.”

Mason wedged himself into the opening so he could see down, the rope’s slack caught around his arms and ready for him to haul back up at the first word from Paris. He was sure Paris and the girl could hear his heart, it was pounding with worry hard enough to match the hum of any warp core and looking down into the darkness of a scrap building collapsed from a Volcano, sitting over a cavern filled with giant bugs, wasn’t doing him any favours. “We are good, we are good, we are good,” he repeated to himself. It was Paris’ own phrase, but it didn’t help knowing that she generally only used it when everything was messed up.

Cmdr Black, XO

“What’s your name,” Paris asked the child as she began to take off the safety belt Mason had attached to her. The plan had been to strap the child to her and Mason hoist them both up but instead of being a typical hole in debris where the small entrance led to a large cavernous opening, this hole was more like a tunnel. Grabbing the rope, Paris yanked for more slack. There would not be time to undo her harness, attach it to the child, and then lower it back down to her. Right now time was of the essence and every second counted. From where she and Mason were the structure was far more stable than twenty feet below it all Swallowing hard, Paris tried to remain calm as she worked and talked

“Harper,” the child replied watching Paris flip the rope around trying knots and pulling the ends taunt.

“So you ready to get that chocolate my friend Mason has for you,” Paris asked in a perky tone. The tone was forced but going up was going to be infinitely harder than coming down which was scary as hell. Paris needed the little girl to stay calm on the way up. If she began to panic and flail, it could knock the debris loose trapping like so many others here.

The ruins around them creaked, and groaned with the weight and stress of the mass of metal. It was in no danger of immediate collapse, the earthquakes had subsided and the Volcano quieter now but the heat and wind made Mason drip with sweat from his brow. He kept his breathing calm and controlled, in part to steady his own nerves, and in part so that any worried tone he might carry in his voice when he spoke wouldn’t escape.

Cmdr Black, XO

“Okay so,” Paris began to help the little girl slid into the makeshift harness she created. Never had she thought this PD out of SFOSHA would come in handy. Silently she thanked the odd safety inspector that created the rescue holovideo with the odd name. Somewhere in her head she remembered it was titled something like Loving your partner enough to tie him up correctly or maybe that was just what was on her mind as she learned about how to tie knots for rappelling. “I am going to make you a swing and you,” she helped Harper lift one foot and then the other into the rope harness, “are gonna just sit back like it is a swing on the playground as Mason takes you up, up, up,” she touched Harper’s nose.

Feeling the weight grow on the rope, Mason adjusted to support it, ready to begin hauling upwards and guiding the line, while the team behind him provided the muscle and hands to make sure the rope wouldn’t slip back down again. “Are we ready to come up?” He asked Paris, steadying his breathing again. Now that his job was about to start again, he was all focus and his nerves were forgotten.

Looking up suddenly Harper appeared apprehensive. Holding the rope, she looked up at the shadow filling the hole of daylight. “Are you strong like Superman or the Hulk,” she asked.

“Stronger,” Mason called down. “Like Hercules. Hercules is way cooler than Hulk or Superman too.”

“He is the strongest,” Paris whispered in her ear backing Mason’s words. “He lowered me down and is going to raise me back up just like he will you.”

As with children, once they decided on a course of action, they tended to commit to it without all the silly fears and phobias adults have. “Ready,” Harper yelled up barely giving Mason time to tighten his grip on the rope. Lucky for all of them, Harper only weighted about thirty pounds.

Not wasting time, he began to pull her up. He was surprised at how light it was. He wasn’t sure what he had expected but it was a body heavier than what he was pulling up. That meant Paris wasn’t on the other end.

“Mason,” Paris said as Harper slowly began to rise up, “the uh walls are um…try not to swing her a lot.” As if to punctuate her sentence, a large chunk of debris broke loose as Harper’s foot kicked it on her ascent up. The heavy piece of flooring or wall shattering at her feet.

At the sound Mason paused, while he looked back down to see what was going on. The weight hadn’t changed so the girl was still there. “Paris?” Mason called out with a clearly worried tone in his voice. He looked back at the people on the rope behind him. “Keep pulling, lets get her out of there. Paris is still at the bottom.”

He started to pull on the rope again, faster this time as he felt panic starting to rise in him.

Instinctively Paris ducked and placed her hands over her head to shield herself from whatever else might reign down upon her. If the child had been next to her, she would have swooped her into a turtled position however Harper was not next to her. She was dangling ten feet in the air and beginning to panic.

“I don’t like this swing. I wanna git down,” she belted out before starting to sob frozen like a statue. Mason only had precious moments to snap her out of the looming hysterics bound to follow from her outburst. “I want my mommy.” The sobs, amplified and echoed in the small space making the appear far louder than they were.

“Mason,” Paris’ voice was also beginning to change in its volume and cadence. “Sir we really need to get her out.” Taking a deep breath, Paris began to feel her heart pound so loud the rush of her pulse could be heard in her ears. Closing her eyes, she squinted hard as if trying not to think about where she was or what was happening. The situation however was just too close to events in her past, for Paris not to struggle.

“Hey there you are,” Mason called out to the girl. “Look up at me, I can see you. See? You’re almost at the top to me. Just a few more feet and you can reach my hand. I told you I was strong, right?”

A few pulls on the rope later and Mason reached down towards the girl. “I got you, take my hand princess, let’s get you out.”

Ares City, Mars Colony

Tubes, domes, and underground caverns was a way of life for those growing up on Mars. Terraforming efforts had been going on for decades yet even with the might of science behind one’s vision, it would still take a century to do what nature needed millennia for. That did not stop Starfleets Corp of Engineers from doing it’s best to speed up the ecological process of turning Mars from red to green.

On Monday, June 12, 2381, ten year old Paris was not concerned about tunnels or domes. She was headed to the botanical gardens on a fourth grade feildtrip. Her father had been voluntold by her mother the school needed chaperones and he was it. It wasn’t that Denver didn’t like kids. He was a typical man however and tended to just like his own kids. Lucky for the school however, he was there when they needed him to be.

Present day Colony

Paris closed her eyes trying to block the rest of the memory from her mind. “Mason I really need you to hurry babe.” Paris took a deep breath fighting back the urge to begin climbing the precarious walls instead of waiting to be brought up by Mason.

Lt. Commander Paris Carisi

Lifting the girl towards him Mason heard the call from Paris below. On one hand relief flooded through him hearing her voice, on the other Mason knew she wouldn’t be calling out like that if it wasn’t urgent. Biting back the urge to swear, he instead smiled as the girls face came into view as his other hand gripped under her arm and he lifted her out of the shaft and off the rope.

“Hey you, we got you see. I’m Mason.” Wrapping his arms around her as he twisted his body out of the opening, Mason stepped back and knelt down with the girl. “We got you. What’s your name?” He asked as he put her down beside him, and looked up for one of the nearby Medics to come over and look her over. “You were there all by yourself?”

“Harper,” she replied looking at Mason with large chestnut colored eyes. She had a smear of dirt across her forehead. The light from sky showed her dress was covered in small rips and a film of dust muting the once bright yellow fabric. “No my mommy is down there.” Looking up at Mason, Harper’s eyes searched his for an answer about how he was going to get everyone out.

“Harper,” Mason echoed her. “That is an awesome name. We are going to do everything we can to find your mommy ok Harper,” Mason told her. “Let our man here look you over quickly, he’s like a Doctor. He’s just going to see if you are hurt anywhere ok.” Smiling, Mason wiped the smear of dirt off of her forehead with his thumb, or he tried to, he mainly just smeared it more.

“I need to help my friend Paris, okay.” Mason told her, then stepped back to the opening and kicked the rope into the hole unceremoniously as he took hold of the rope part way through. Kneeling down again he stuck his head into the shaft and squinted, trying to make out Paris down below. “Rope coming down,” he called out, focusing on getting a line down to Paris first.

Cmdr Black, XO

“Understood,” Paris’ voice was strained as she caught the rope and began to twist and clip it securely around her waist. Her hands shook some while completing the task; however it was good to have a task. It kept her mind busy instead of wandering into the dark corners of what ifs. Letting out a deep breath she gripped the rope with both hands preparing to be lifted out.

“Are you going to get my mommy out too?” Harper moved up next to Mason peering down the hole. Her foot kicked loose debris into the gaping maw peppering Paris below.

“We are going to try honey,” Mason said to her, but at the same time put his hand on her shoulder and steered her away from the hole. “Best to keep back from the edge, it’s not safe for you to be too close to it. We will try, okay.”

Paris’s stomach fell as if she were on a roller coaster about to plummet down a hill. “Mason, copy that she just said there was someone else down here?” Moving her eyes around the room, Paris hastily scanned the area. She had been so focused on getting the little girl out, Paris had not even considered the possibility someone else was buried among the rubble. No sounds or cries for help meant one of two things: the person Harper was talking about was either dead or unconscious.

Lt. Commander Paris Carisi Armorer

“She says that she was with her mother,” he told her, but already he didn’t hold out much hope. The girl clearly hadn’t been with anyone when she was sitting alone when they found her. “Paris this structure isn’t exactly safe, can you see anybody else down there?” Reaching to his belt, he took out the tricorder that he was carrying. In the excitement of bringing the girl up he hadn’t used it at all. Maybe it could help now, but there was a lot of rubble and electrical interference from the colonies ruins.

Cmdr Black, XO

“Shoooot,” Paris gritted her teeth looking around the space for anything that resembled a person. Grabbing the small light on her utility belt, she scanned the area quickly. There were no sounds or indications anyone was down here with her but that didn’t mean someone wasn’t unconscious. The ground was a mess of piles of rubble obscuring any entrances or exits of the once large living area. As the towers fell many people must have been trapped and died in such a space. It wasn’t until this exact second Paris began to wonder how Harper had survived the collapse. Moving away from the hole, Paris bent down peering into the cracks and crevices of the debris pile holding up the small cave like section of twisted metal she was standing in. “Mason I don’t see anyone,” she called up. “Are the tricorders picking up anything?”

The Tricorder in his hands showed nothing, no life signs left in the ruins beneath their feet. Biting his lip slightly, Mason turned up the sensitivity in the hopes he might find a life sign deeper down but at the same time, guilt filled his stomach as he knew he hoped it wouldn’t. Paris was down there, and while he knew that the both of them would do everything they could to find Harper’s mother he also knew they were running out of time to get Paris out safely.

Harper looked at Mason as she took his hand in hers. “My mommy and I were in the hallway but she pushed me in the room. I didn’t see what happened after we fell and the room went dark.” Harper’s eyes were wide as she spoke.

Lt. Commander Paris Carisis armorer

“You’re mommy was very brave,” Mason said to the little girl, “and so were you. Listen honey, we are going to do everything we can to find your mommy but I need to make sure you are safe and not hurt, and it’s still dangerous here. I’m going to ask you to go with our man here, he’s kind of like a doctor, okay. He’s going to take you over there,” Mason pointed to a makeshift tent in the distance, “and give you a proper check up. Alright? I’m going to work with Paris here and try and find your mommy.”

The girl paused for a moment, just looking at him with her wide eyes and finally she nodded wordlessley. Taking the little girls hand the medic led her away towards the emergency first aid site, and Mason watched as she looked back, watching him as she walked until eventually she turned and followed the man. “Crap,” Mason muttered, turning back to the hole and sticking his head down to call out to Paris.

“Sir,” Paris called up feeling the stress and tension building in her. The tone was formal only to hide her anxiety. Staying in rank was preventing her from turning into a hysterically crying girlfriend. She had worked through the stress of being trapped in a closed space with limited air because she lived on Mars. Mars was only bubble domes and small spaces fed by canned air however this was more organic. There wasn’t safety foam to seal in air or create a space for one to hold up in until help arrived. It felt like a tomb. While it was known hundreds of people were dead from being buried under the rubble, knowing one of the bodies was this close and that this was a tomb for so many was starting to play on Paris’ mind.

“The tricorder is showing nothing,” he called out to her. “I’ve scanned as much as I can, but there is nothing down there Paris. She’s gone. This place isn’t going to last much longer, I need to get you out of there.”

Cmdr Black, XO

“One step a head of you.” Moving to the harness Mason had already sent down, Paris’ fingers began yanking and tugging at the knot. The moaning and dull screeching of the metal crumbling around her did not help nor slow down her increasingly frantic attempts to adjust the harness to fit her instead of Harper. “Mason....Mason the clasp is stuck.” Her voice was beginning to crack. For the first time in a long time, Paris was glad not to be in charge. Maybe it would have helped to maintain her focus if she had to worry about someone other than herself. The harness was not faulty, however. It was just Paris not thinking clearly as her tugging became more aggressive and forceful.

“Mason you need to send down another harness,” Paris yanked hard on the rope slightly burning Mason’s hands as it slid through his grip a few inches. “It won’t come…undone.” Panic had started to seep into the edges of her voice. Like a sunset, it was slowly ebbing away the light of rational thought.

Hearing his voice, Paris stopped pulling at the clips. Shaking her hands out, she took a deep breath listening to Mason spoke. His voice was soft and reassuring even if the words and tone had a sharp edge to them. They were officers. He could not whisper sweet words and placate her right now. He had to present that he was fully in command to keep the faith of the others topside that were just as scared as she was for all sorts of reasons. The words he barked out Paris interpreted differently in her head. The commands he was issuing were heard as You can do this baby. I love you, honey. We got this. Taking the harness in her hands, Paris began to work the clasps and buckles to increase thier size and fit her body. As dust and small bits of debris trickled down the walls, Paris did not hear the small alcove closing around her. She only heard Mason’s voice concentrating on that.

As if in a dream, Paris suddenly had the harness fitted to her body. Mason’s voice had been enough to focus her panic and let her rational side proceed with getting her ready for extraction. “Okay,” she tugged on the rope sitting back in the harness.

Paris did not need to repeat herself. Before the words left her lips, she as already being hauled towards the small crack of light signaling the exit. There was nothing she could do to help. Passing the long seconds it took to reach the top, Paris just started at the sliver of light which was growing brighter by the moment until her head cleared the hole.

Blinking rapidly her eyes stung and began to tear. She had been down in the hole long enough for the blazing sun above to blind her. “Sir,” an enlisted officer touched her arm. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Paris batted the hand away already extricating herself from the harness. “We need to block off this area. Everyone move back. The entrance looks small but if this goes, it is like a sinkhole down there.”

Moving twenty feet from the small dark aperture in the ground, Paris signaled for Mason to follow her. Not waiting for him, she moved into a tent to get herself together.

Hearing his voice in the private space eliminated any pretense of her officer status. Half stumbling, half running, Paris fell into his arms burning her face into his shirt. She wasn’t worried about him seeing her cry. She didn’t care if Mason thought her behavior was unbecoming an officer. All she needed was for him to hold her.

Paris Carisi

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