Beta Quadrant, near the border of the Delta Quadrant
USS Sol -- Bridge
The thing Lieutenant John Quigley knew he would never forget was the smell. The smoke-filled air on the bridge of the the Saber-class USS Sol
stung his eyes, obscured his vision, and impaired his breathing, but by far the worst thing was the smell. Burning plasma, burned plastic, superheated metal, and worst of all, burned flesh. With data communication down shipwide, he had no idea what the total casualty count was, but there were three dead bodies on the bridge alone – including his commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Borux, who hadn’t made it through the last explosion, leaving John definitively in command of a broken ship and one-hundred-sixty-eight people ... most of them civilians.
After everything had gone dark, he had spent precious minutes fumbling with the command interface trying to get it online and assess their situation before he had realized they literally had no power at all. Emergency backups had failed, and engineering had yet to bring them back online. Without communication, there was no way to know how bad the situation down there was. So he had decided to accompany the ship’s helmsman, Ensign Anit Gopal, to engineering, and Ensign Par Renn, the only other conscious officer on the bridge, had stayed behind to try to get something – anything – up and running again. John wasn’t optimistic. If engineering hadn’t brought emergency systems back online by now, things had to be even worse than they seemed.
“We need to get environmental suits on,” he choked out to Anit, as they completed the procedure to force the bridge doors open and looked both ways before entering the eerily empty corridor. John realized that with the Sol
dead in space, everyone was locked in like they had been. On a ship full of trained Starfleet officers, it wouldn’t have been a problem. On a ship full of civilian evacuees, it was most definitely a problem.
The smoke was much less thick outside the damaged bridge, but it still wafted through the narrow hallways, unfettered by filters or scrubbers. Environmental controls were clearly offline, and John knew life support probably wasn’t far behind, if it wasn’t gone already. With the ship at nearly maximum emergency capacity, the polluted air they were breathing would run out fast, and they would eventually lose artificial gravity as well, making it nearly impossible to get anything done. At this point, bringing weapons and engines back online seemed like a distant dream. Right now, he mostly just wished he knew whether the tractor beam now holding the ship in one place was the prelude to a rescue, or an invasion.
It’s a good thing the
Sol is tiny
, he thought to himself, as he and Anit made their way down the haze-filled corridor using wristlamps to illuminate their path. Back on the USS Tesseract
, the massive ship they had launched from earlier that day, the trip from the bridge to main engineering was over a kilometer. Turbolifts and site-to-site transports made the journey quick and effortless, but with main power off, he couldn’t help but wonder if it would even be possible there. At least here on the Sol
, he was reasonably sure they could make it.
As he pried open the doors to an emergency supply closet, he motioned Anit over to the adjoining weapons locker. “Just in case,” he said, gesturing toward the ceiling and beyond, to outside the ship, to where the ship he hoped to God was the USS Luna
– but really had no idea -- had taken hold of them several minutes earlier. Anit nodded and grabbed two rifles out of the locker while John got the EV-suits and a tricorder.
They had drilled for this weekly when John had served on the Titan
. He could get himself into an emergency EV-suit in less than sixty seconds, but Anit obviously wasn’t as practiced, and struggled with it. Finally, John helped the smaller man, who gave his superior officer a weak smile and a slightly embarrassed ‘thumbs up’ once he was properly dressed. After a moment, they both heard a faint static hiss as the suit comm. systems automatically activated.
“You good?” John asked over the comm.
“Yes, sir,” Anit replied. John picked up his tricorder off the deck, and both men picked up their rifles. John tried his best to keep a poker face as he stared briefly at the tricorder readings. Whatever had happened to their ship was not good. Radiation levels were so high they were interfering with the device’s sensors. He couldn’t get a clear reading on life signs or anything else. Not that there will be much life left if we don’t get everyone treated for radiation poisoning soon,
he thought to himself with a small sigh, then he shoved the nearly useless tricorder in an external pocket of his EV-suit, took one last look up and down the empty corridor, and led the way toward engineering.
“You think the Luna has us tractored?” Anit asked nervously as they walked.
John shrugged inside his suit. “Your guess is as good as mine. We won’t know until we get some power back on. One thing at a time,” he said in a deceptively calm, almost casual tone. He was keenly aware of the fact that it was up to him to set the example right now. He tried to remember the worst thing that had ever happened on the Titan,
and how Captain Riker had handled it. One thing was for certain -- Riker hadn’t ever shown fear in front of his crew. John wondered if he could prevent himself from showing his fear, too.
As they reached the access hatch for the nearest Jefferies tube that led to engineering, John went first. He pried open the panel, then slowly climbed down the ladder, one deck, two decks, three decks down. Anit followed closely behind. When they reached the access hatch on the engineering level, John checked his tricorder again and warned Anit bluntly, “There’s a ton of plasma radiation down here.” Almost under his breath, he added, “Hope sickbay is prepared for this.” A moment later, he clumsily released the access panel with his gloved fingers and shoved it open. He wasn’t at all ready for what he saw next.
,” he breathed in horror, as all thoughts of bravery and setting an example were blown away by the scene in front of him.
He had expected to see injured engineers busy working to bring systems back online. Possibly a dead body or two, even though he hoped not. Damage, yes -- but something fixable. This was not that. The carnage was incredible, and for a full second, all John could think about was how thankful he was that he had not tried to convince Maren to come along.
There didn’t appear to be a soul alive in engineering. The entire chamber was wrecked, littered with the severely burned and broken bodies of what had once been the Sol
’s engineering crew. Screens were blown out, plastic console housings were melted and charred, and broken paneling hung from the ceiling, letting wires hang like vines from the openings.
As John took in the sight, he didn’t know whether to be thankful for the EV-suit that protected him from the smell, or worried about what would happen if he threw up inside of it. His eyes stung with hot tears for an instant before Anit’s voice on the comm. snapped him out of it. He took a deep breath and pulled himself together.
“What is it?” the ensign asked, stuck on the ladder above John’s head, still unaware of the horror below.
John swallowed hard. “Everyone’s dead,” he told Anit flatly. “It’s pretty horrible down here, try to keep your head together when you see it.”
Being careful to avoid the remains of the engineers, he stepped over to the controls for the EPS grid, set down his weapon, and opened up the access panel beneath the console.
,” he heard Anit gasp over the comm. from behind him, as the young pilot got his own first view of the destruction. To his credit, the ensign didn’t lose his composure.
“Forget environmental control for now,” John told him. “We need to get the safeties back online in here and get whatever’s leaking under control or we’re all going to die of radiation poisoning way before we run out of air. Find me a power cell or ten, will you?”
“Acknowledged,” Anit murmured weakly, obviously subdued by the situation and the grisly destruction around them. Still clutching his rifle, he headed off in the direction of the emergency supply stores.
Under the EPS control console, John was greeted by a thousand wires and conduits, all dark, and only half of which he had any clue about their function. “What I wouldn’t give for your help right now, Maren,” he muttered under his breath.
“What’s that?” asked Anit, having heard him over the comm.
“Nothing. Talking to myself. Just get the power cells.”
“Right,” Anit replied.
Within a few minutes, Anit had returned with three of the small metal cylinders. “This is all I could find in the supply closet,” he said.
John grabbed one. “It’ll have to do,” he said. “Let’s hope this doesn’t blow us up,” he added wryly, almost to himself. His engineering rating was a level 2. He could fix easy things. Blown relays, shorted out displays, off-kilter sensors. There was nothing easy about this. The entire EPS system was heavily damaged, and he was well aware of the risks involved in trying to repair it. All you have to do is turn the power back on,
he tried to reassure himself. And get environmental systems back online. And get the doors unlocked. It’s one thing at a time. And if you fuck up, well, at least we’ll probably all die instantly.
That last thought was somewhat less comforting than he had hoped.
With a heavy sigh, he activated the small spotlight on his helmet and located the emergency port for the power cell. “Here goes nothing,” he whispered, and shoved it in. He waited for the console to come to life, or blow up in his face, or something – anything. Instead, nothing happened. “Fuck,
” he swore under his breath. He reached up and tapped at the controls. Nothing. He pulled the power cell back out.
Before he could make another attempt, he was startled by Anit’s sudden shrill cry. The younger man’s screaming was automatically dampened by the comm. output in the EV-suit, making him sound strangely far away. John instinctively dropped the power cell, grabbed his rifle and whipped around to see what was happening to his colleague.