It is a Significant Assignment
Anesticene gas was another one of those marvelous products of Federation technology that was constantly making life better for all. It was not quite on the level of the duotronic circuit, but it was above, say, the newly discovered medicine called Sricozone. That new product resulted from the discovery of a natural substance that made Tribbles into what Tribbles are, or rather, do what they do.
Anesticene gas is a potent, but not necessarily toxic gas, which made it perfect for crowd control in confined spaces. It was a product of Andor, surprisingly developed in a crash program by the Andorian military. It seemed that the “blueskins” of Andor could be a cranky lot, especially when it was closing time at the local watering hole and the consumers were not done consuming.
The Andorian military “brass” got tired of losing so many “man hours” to the resultant activity, so they invented a gas that was hard to resist, with few after effects, and did not sink into fabrics, walls, or parts of buildings. The local tavern owners loved it, since they could gas their rowdy customers, call the local police, and be open for business a few hours later with no after effects left for the next shift’s clientele.
Simply put, the gas was “idiot-proof”. Starfleet had one of its best engineering designers, O. K. Murphy, perfect the delivery system, then they put it on newer Starships. The gas had always worked perfectly...
Lt. John “Mack” King did not know it, but Anesticene gas was to work its magic seven seconds after first contact. So he took 30 seconds of breaths, then turned around and told Chief Herman Mauer, “You look just as bad as you did 30 seconds ago Chief. I must still be awake.”
“Thank you, sir. I was just hoping that you didn’t snore.” Mack thought it was good to know that chiefs would smile every so often, anyway.
“Take a moment and get your helmet off at least. You will need to save suit air in case we have problems later. We will get to the system in 10 minutes, then I will need you to help to find a parking spot.”
Chief Mauer took his helmet off, checked the sensors before taking his suit off, then he stopped.
“Sir, I got a funny energy reading from the system. It was there, and then it was gone.”
“What? I thought it was a dead system.”
“Yes sir, it is. 10 planets, a scrubber planet, with a nice asteroid field and a Class B Star. No planets that can host life, according to the sensors. While it has not been explored, it has been charted and there is little of interest.”
“Well it just got a lot more interesting, Chief. Did the energy reading just shut off, or did it fade?”
“Hard to say, sir. If we were not at alert status, with the shields not at full power, I doubt I would have seen it. Commander Spock might have detected it, I couldn’t.”
“Well, good catch chief. Both on the power source and shield strength. Raising shields to maximum.” Mack said that with a sheepish grin on his face. He forgot that shields have to be raised to 100% power, they just don’t go there automatically when an alert is sounded.
“Chief, can you plot the place where you picked up the energy reading? At least get it down to where we can see what planet or body that source is on? I’d rather not have any company until the crew wakes up.”
“I think so, as we get closer I can ask the computer to give us a fix.”
“Good, stay on it.” Keying the communicator at his station, Mack called Lt. John Kyle down in Engineering. “John, have any news. Are you still okay?”
“Mack, I can keep things stable until everyone wakes up. That’s about it. Once we park the ship and power down the shields I will feel much better about the situation. The alert power drain is running me ragged. The good news is that the gas has finished spreading. I accessed the computer records on the anti-intruder system, and my guess is we have about three more hours of the ship to ourselves. Then the crew will wake up with one collective massive headache. The gas is starting to dissipate but not enough to let us go without suits.”
“John, I need to know this. If we get into a scrape, how long can you keep shields and phaser power going with out compromising the ship?”
“Thought you might ask that. Without a phaser room crew, you get about two or three volleys before the circuitry shorts out. I think I can manage the power requirements for 3 to 5 minutes before it gets too complicated for one person to handle. If we take any damage, all bets are off. Mack, don’t get in a fight.”
“I won’t, John. I think we will be parked in a cozy little spot shortly, I’ll let you know when. King out.”
“Bekk, cut all power now!”
“What did the scans register that tripped the alert?”
“I am not sure sir, but it was big enough to be a Federation Battle Cruiser. He must have scanned the system but there is no way the swine could find us.”
“The PetaQ must have seen our energy output, or he got very lucky. We must hope they do not get lucky again and spot the installation.”
“Chief, has that power reading surfaced again?”
“No Lieutenant, it has not. I have a decent fix on where it was, but nothing exact. It came from the area of the fourth planet in the system.”
Running in the system at half impulse made the trip slow, but it gave Mack time to think. Something was eating at him about that power reading. Like the idea that this system was not as barren as it seemed.
“Chief, call up a tactical map of the area around this system. On screen when you get it.”
“Okay Chief, think with me about this. This system is 2 light hours from the Neutral Zone.” Chief Mauer nodded. “Look at its location. It is close to no marker or Federation listening post. There is no habitable planet near it. Now, post the normal shipping route from Anneex to Serisutis on the board. What do you see?”
“Lieutenant, I see lots of space, and a leaky border.”
“Yes, but there is something else to see. Let’s assume you want to know the trading traffic close to your border, and get a look at your opponent’s dispositions and border patrol routes. The trade routes are too far off the border to see, so how do you get the intel? You find a spot between the patrol routes and the transportation network off the beaten path, and start collecting data. If you run passive scans, or are careful with your power usage, nobody knows you are there. Unless someone comes looking.
“It could also be a cloaked ship, sir. Or just a sensor ghost.”
“Yes it could, and let’s hope it is just a strange reading. It’s not a ship, why waste a ship and crew sitting here? No chief, I’ll bet you a beer the Klingons have a listening post in the system. And if we had knowledge of the Captain’s orders, I’d say they include information about trouble with “pirates” or missing merchant traffic. So they tried to route Enterprise
into a patrol region where it would not be spotted to try and give somebody a surprise. We did it, got lucky and saw them, which shut them down.
“What are we going to do?”
“Chief, we are going to hide, and then we shut down. If there is nothing here, we are fine. If not, well, Klingons being Klingons, if they are here, will shortly power on, and then we have to go hunting. I am going to put us above the South Magnetic pole of the fourth planet. We will be well hidden there from the in-system sensors if they have any here, and we will be close to them if your location is right.”
“If they are there, you want to attack them?”
“No Chief, I don’t. But put yourself in their shoes. When they start scanning, and don’t see a warp trail from us they will suspect that we are still here hiding in system.”
“And think we are either damaged or looking for them? So they will attack, or call their friends in.”
“Right you are, Chief.” And muttering to himself: “I also hope I am totally wrong.”
Pushing the call button again, Mack called Engineering: “John, secure from Battle Stations. Is there…”
“Bekk, where is the Earther ship?”
“No sign of them, sir. They never made it into the system.”
“What about our in-system sensors?”
“Then power up the station, and resume scanning. Look for a warp trail of the Earther ship.”
“We have active scanning, from multiple points in the system. The activity all leads to these co-ordinates. On the board, sir.”
“You’re kidding? Red Alert! Coordinates fed into firing system, firing photon torpedo.”
“Mack!” called Kyle, “what is going on?”
“We’ve been seen, John. I need full power for phasers and shields. Plotting course to transfer orbit, execute.”
“But you just used a photon torpedo. Mack!”
“Yes John, I did.” Let’s see what happened.”
“Sir, sensor network finds no warp trail.”
“What! Shut down the external system. Raise the shield!”
Darkness filled the small installation. Only after some moments did the small team recover enough to discuss their situation.
“All systems are dead, sir. We are blind.”
“We head for sto-vo-kor, Bekk. Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam.To’ba!”
Looking around, the two suddenly found themselves in a most unlikely place, the cargo transporter pad of a Federation battle crusier. And a very close race began between two hands reaching for their disuptors, a suited human being reaching for a phaser, and a colorless, odorless gas. The gas won….
“Mack, you didn’t tell me they would be alive! I almost got shot you jackass
“Uhmm, sorry John, we thought they were unconscious from the concussion. You will be happy to know that we are secured form Battle Stations, and Engineering is still in one piece. Is everything under control there?”
“Well, they are under restraint, and out cold from the gas, at least for a while. What’s next?”
“John, we find a new hiding place, and then get lucky. Thanks John, great work. Mack out.”
“Lieutenant, how did you know a photon torpedo would destroy their base?”
“Chief, I didn’t. Once we found out where they were, and that they were looking in-system for us, I just hoped to have the torpedo explosion interfere with their systems long enough to get to phaser range. Being such a small base, I guess they didn’t have enough power to automatically raise shields on contacts. And the torpedo got there before the shields got raised. We were just plain lucky. Who knew we were right on top of them in the first place.”
“Sir, doesn’t luck happen when hard work meets opportunity?”
“It had better. We have to a lot of work to do to keep alive for at least two more hours if Mr. Kyle is correct. Chief, you drew the short straw. I will look for a hiding place. Mr. Kyle will try to recover control of Engineering, and you get to check sensor logs. Please look through the logs of the attack, and see if any signal got out from that base. If nothing got out, then we are in the clear.”
“Lieutenant, if a signal did get out, what happens next?”
“We get company, Chief.”
“A D7 would be my first guess.”