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CLOSE TO ZETHANDER
September 12th 2371 – 0030 FST
The away team sparkled into existence amid pristine white corridors, their surfaces mirror bright and spotlessly clean, and the security contingent of five officers spread out in a defensive perimeter around Kat Gray and the combined engineering and medical team.
With the Angel
’s complement of runabouts already tied up in operations on Zethander the away team had managed to squeeze in a transport between incoming refugees and were now set to explore the mystery vessel.
Lieutenant Asath Ress looked across to LJ Xantharik who nodded briefly from his position at the corridor junction.
When he received clear reports from the other three officers at their locations he waved to Kat Gray.
Tapping her commbadge she said “Gray to Angel
, away team secure. Nobody seems to be home.”
Dan’s voice answered her. “Well just in case they’re in the bathroom, tread quietly ok?”
She chuckled and the tension eased around her.
“Will do Captain. We’ll keep a permanent tricorder link open. Gray out.”
Looking back over to Ress, she shrugged her shoulders. “Any signposts Mr Ress?”
The Ch’Tharian bared his teeth in a broad grin. “Sssorry ma’am, it would ssseem one direction isss asss good asss any other.”
“Then you’re our pathfinder Mr Ress, head towards the null node that sensors reported and we’ll take it from there.”
“Yesss Ma’am.” He flicked a taloned hand to LJ who moved forward to the next junction and squatted to peer round the corners. He waved his hand to signal that the team move forward and so they continued for a while, junction to junction.
Their first surprise came as they rounded a corner into what seemed to be the central thoroughfare of the ship. A side door, one of many such doors they had already passed, hissed open. LJ rolled to the side of the open door, phaser drawn as Ress took up position on the other side. The team froze with the rear guard closing in for protection.
Ress pointed to himself then at the ceiling; he then pointed at LJ and the floor. LJ nodded and at Ress’s signal dove down, his phaser sweeping the lower half of the room. Ress meanwhile had stepped forward to cover the upper half of the room with a wide sweep of his own phaser, but it was empty. Like many doors aboard Federation vessels, it had obviously been designed to detect nearby movement then open.
“Alright, time out team. Lieutenant, give me a security perimeter around the room and we’ll see if we can find any clues about Scorpion
had become the adopted name for the ship, primarily because that’s exactly what the Captain had said it looked like and the name had stuck. Further scans had proved no more enlightening than the earlier ones with the single mystery being the null node where so far absolutely nothing showed up at all.
As the security team took up their perimeter posts, Ress entered the room first with Kat and the rest of the away team following. The room itself was spacious enough to accommodate them all and appeared to be some form of living quarters. Decorated in sumptuous earth tones of brown and beige it had a wonderfully organic feel to it.
On one wall, small niches held knick knacks of uncertain use but by their appearance were of decorative purpose only.
The science team scanned and recorded each one and confirmed none of them showed any form of power source.
There was a door in the second bulkhead leading through into another room and the third wall had ports looking out into surrounding space.
The final wall held what appeared to be a view screen. At the moment it flashed glyphs in an unknown language, but their red colour seemed to indicate either a warning or a fault. Again holos and scans were taken before the team moved on into the adjoining room.
If function followed form, the comfortable pallet on the floor seemed to be a bed and there was familiar looking furniture around the room with enough differences to assure its alien provenance.
“Ma’am?” Kat looked over to where a Betazoid science ensign was pointing at a small screen which slowly rotated images.
Bingo! Thought Kat. The images ranged from landscapes showing rolling hills and mountains to cityscapes of unimaginable designs. The most interesting images portrayed aliens of a common race both singly and in groups.
They were generally humanoid in appearance showing radial symmetry with two arms and two legs and of graceful build. The face too was humanoid with the exception of its lack of a nose. Instead there appeared to be small gill like flaps in the sides of the neck. Finally, protruding from just inside the hairline were four segmented and bifurcated antennae.
“Nice looking people. Let’s hope we get chance to find out how nice.”
The ensign looked at Kat. “Do you really think there may be some of these people left aboard Ma’am?”
With a shrug, Kat said “Only one way to find out Mr Kallam and that’s to keep looking.” She looked around the room. “Everything scanned and recorded people?” With a full chorus of “yes Ma’am”s she indicated the exit. “Time to move on then. I suspect our Captain might get a little impatient if we sightsee for too long.”
Ress met them at the door and reported that nothing untoward had occurred in their absence.
“In that case Mr Ress, lead on once more. Let’s see what else we can find.”
September 12th 2371 – 0105 FST
As the tide slowly receded from the streets of Coral City, the full extent of the loss and damage began to become apparent. Those surviving parts of the city that had been built over the reef were now isolated islands, their connecting lattice of road and walkways washed away.
The once beautiful and delicate buildings were mere foundations having borne the full initial impact of the tsunami, twisted metal remains reaching upwards like skeletal hands.
The seafront was equally devastated, the majority of the single storey buildings no longer in evidence. Remains of one of the civilian rescue vessels lay like the carcass of a beached cetacean displaying its grid of structural members like a skeleton picked clean by scavengers. Of the refugees who had been aboard, there was no sign here. The power and fury of the tsunami had washed their fragile bodies away, first inland with the initial push before dragging some back out to sea as the water receded.
An overpowering smell of decay and destruction hung over the shattered city. Mercifully, the nature of the force that had destroyed it had ensured that fires were unlikely though it was of little consequence in the short term; there was really little left worth burning.
Miraculously however there were survivors amongst the ruins. What quirk of fate had spared their lives when others around them had perished they would probably never know. Mud covered, disorientated, in deep shock, they staggered from the wreckage seeking help.
But also stirring amongst the mud and debris was something else. Something that didn’t seek solace. Something single minded and implacable. Something whose very nature was as black as its appearance, making the night its ally.
SCORPION – NULL NODE AREA
CLOSE TO ZETHANDER
September 12th 2371 – 0110 FST
The away team had spent the last 40 minutes systematically working their way aft, searching, scanning and cataloguing each open room they had discovered along the way. There had been many accommodation rooms close together which gradually gave way to assorted storage rooms containing sealed cases.
Kat had decided to merely mark their positions for further follow up teams. In the event that they did discover survivors, she didn’t want to have to try and explain that they weren’t ransacking the place. Besides, without being able to decipher the labels, Kat knew they could just as easily be opening cases of poisonous chemicals rather than possible clues.
Workshops or possibly laboratories followed full of arcane equipment that the team pored over without touching. None of it appeared to have active power supplies but it was all as clean as the corridors outside.
“Do you sssuppose, Commander, that thisss isss evidenccce that the crew may ssstill be here?” Ress waved a taloned hand at the pristine room.
Kat conceded the possibility. “On the other hand it may be that they just have a very good maid service.”
Ress blinked his eyes slowly, the Ch’Tharian equivalent of rolling them. “If that isss the cassse I may asssk if they make houssse callsss.”
At last, the team finally reached the null node that still stubbornly resisted scans. It appeared as a spherical enclosure some twenty metres in diameter, its surface unmarked with no evidence of an entrance or indeed any other kind of seam that might be exploited to gain entry.
Vonny Dixon finished her circuit of the sphere and approached Kat Gray.
“Ma’am, whatever it is I honestly don’t see that it could be a safe haven for surviving crew. There are no access points at all. It looks as though however it was manufactured, it was created as a single piece.”
Kat had very much considered the same thing herself. “Any educated guesses?”
“If I was basing those guesses on Federation technology, possibly, but any theory would require at least some access.” Vonny shrugged disconsolately. “Besides, despite the relatively familiar appearance of the rest of the ship, or at least what we’ve seen of it so far, its alien Ma’am which means our guesses aren’t really worth very much without further evidence.”
Kat was about to reply when without warning she was hit from behind and carried to the deck.
“Everybody! Down!” It was the rasping shout of Asath Ress and it had been his body tackle that had floored Kat Gray. He now knelt over her prone form with his phaser pointed upwards at a small white sphere that hovered silently above them.
“Where the hell did that come from?” Whispered Kat.
“It emerged from the sssphere Ma’am. An opening appeared roughly two thirdsss of the way up and it sssimply drifted out.”
And there it sat making no sound and no movement, the opening having sealed behind it without trace.
“Mr Ress, get your team to holster weapons.” Seeing that the Ch’Tharian was about to protest, she cut him short. “Lieutenant, if it had meant to harm us it could have done so without warning. That doesn’t mean I don’t want you ready but threatening it isn’t on the cards.”
Ress reluctantly agreed ordering the team to holster their phasers, but equally advising them to remain alert.
“Ma’am?” It was Vonny Dixon again who was playing her tricorder across an otherwise unremarkable section of deck.
Kat slowly rose, dividing her attention between Dixon and the small sphere. “What ya got Ensign?”
Following Kat’s lead, the rest of the team slowly rose and stood observing the sphere above their heads.
“It’s similar to a data feed trace, but very faint and it’s heading towards the large sphere.” Dixon slowly backtracked, her concentration fixed on the tricorder as it led her across the deck aft toward a bank of doors.
“Ma’am, it isss moving.” Ress pointed upwards and indeed the small sphere had moved, very slowly as if trying not to pose a threat, towards Dixon.
“A little caution Ms Dixon,” whispered Kat, “you’ve attracted somebody’s attention.”
Dixon looked up and saw the sphere tracking her but now remaining at a constant distance. She visibly gulped but nodded her acceptance of the warning before continuing towards the doors.
She eventually looked up as she reached the third door in line and pointed with the tricorder. “This is where it goes Ma’am.”
Kat weighed up the situation and made a decision. “Everybody is to remain in position other than Lieutenant Ress, you’re with me.”
Walking towards Dixon’s position by the door, the only sound was that of Ress’ talons tapping on the smooth floor behind her. “No automatic opening this time surprise surprise,” she commented almost to herself.
She began to feel along the edge of the door seeking some sort of indent or blemish that might mark a means of entry. Dixon copied her movements on the other side until Ress tensed and hissed “Ma’am!”
She looked back and saw the small sphere slowly descending towards them, still not presenting a threat but this time not slowing either. “Step clear of the door, let’s see if it reacts.” They all retreated two or three metres and the sphere eventually ceased its descent, placing itself between them and the door.
There were no obvious markings on the sphere but Kat had the unerring feeling that it was watching them. Without a sound it rotated 180 degrees, or at least appeared to, and moved over to hover by the door. For several seconds it remained motionless before, with a sound like the whisper of soft silk, the door rippled out of existence. The sphere then moved away from the exposed entrance and halted between Dixon and the other two officers.
Looking at Ress, Kat quietly suggested “An invitation?”
Ress looked far from happy as he replied “Or a trap.”
Deciding there was only one way to find out, Kat went to step towards the door, but halted as the sphere quickly blocked her path. Apparently happy that she wasn’t about to move, it returned to its previous position.
“Ensign Dixon, I do believe you may have been chosen as its favourite.” She indicated the door. “If you would?”
Dixon closed her eyes momentarily, took a deep breath, and then slowly walked towards the entrance. The sphere gently bobbed along behind her making no effort this time to stop her.
“Don’t take it persssonally Ma’am,” Ress snickered.
“I’ll try not to Lieutenant.” She leaned sideways to follow Dixon with her eyes. “Ok Ensign what do you see?”
“Whatever it is Ma’am it’s quite a mess. There are what look like term…”
Her voice was abruptly cut off as the door reformed with the same soft sound as before, then silence.
“Oh merde!” cursed Kat. She slapped at her commbadge.
“Gray to Dixon.” The negative connection chirp told her all she needed to know,
“Merde indeed,” rasped Ress.