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Old August 24 2010, 09:17 PM   #71
kes7
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Location: Sector 001
Re: Star Trek: Tesseract -- Part II

CHAPTER FIVE

USS Sol – Cargo Bay

One hundred sixty-eight people. That was how many were supposed to be on the USS Sol – how many lives John Quigley now found himself responsible for. He kept a mental tally of the dead he had seen with his own eyes – Borux, Lang and Chelsea on the bridge, and five more in engineering, including Specialist Herk. Another one in the corridor on the way from engineering to the cargo bay. That made nine. One hundred fifty-nine people left to account for.

The cargo bay was impressively organized chaos. Ensign Par Renn, the ops officer-turned-acting-XO, had done an admirable job of controlling the situation as dazed, frightened and injured passengers – that was really what most of them were, John realized – made their way into the blessedly environmentally-controlled chamber.

It had taken only minutes for John and Anit to move from engineering to the cargo bay, now that the automatic doors were operational. Anit still had the medkit, so once they arrived, John sent him to check for injuries and try to treat what he could. I’m a pilot, not a medic, he had protested, looking anxious. You are now, John had replied, utterly unsympathetic. If John could play captain, Anit could play doctor, even if it was simply in the interest of keeping everyone calm.

John looked for Par Renn, and found the Bajoran standing at a console, wearing an EV-suit with no helmet on and staring intently at the display as he tapped away at the interface with still-gloved fingers. John walked up to him and took his own helmet off, then spoke quietly. “Do we have anything resembling a damage report yet?”

Renn looked up, startled. He quickly recovered. “I didn’t see you come in, sir,” he observed, then looked back at his screen and shook his head. “Other than, ‘it’s really bad,’ I couldn’t begin to tell you, sir,” he said. “Main computer’s still offline. I’ve got limited access to emergency systems thanks to whatever you two did down in engineering, but slaving everything to this auxiliary console has been a total pain in the ass. Excuse my language.”

If it hadn’t been for the gravity of the situation, John would have smiled at the absurdity of anyone apologizing to him for use of foul language. “Do your best,” he told Renn. “Any ideas about what’s going on with that tractor beam?”

“I’m 99% sure it’s the Luna,” Renn answered, looking slightly relieved. “External sensors are still offline, but we’ve got eight tricorders in here that detect no sign of active alien energy signatures, and I don’t think we’ve been boarded or anything. I’ve been trying to establish communications, but the whole transceiver array is gone.”

“Nice,” John said with a roll of his eyes, momentarily unable to contain his sarcasm. He thought for a moment. “Did you try the shuttles?” Provided they hadn’t been too badly damaged, each of the Sol’s two shuttles should have sensors and full communications capability -- not to the extent the Sol herself had once had, but certainly enough to contact the Luna and maybe get a better look at their surroundings.

Renn blushed. “No, sir. I hadn’t thought of it.” Renn was clearly embarrassed at the oversight, but John waved him off. The ensign had been occupied with the survivors. It was probably better that he stayed with them, anyway.

“It’s okay,” John replied. “I’ll go check it out in a minute. Do we have a head count in here?”

“Ninety-four, sir. I sent ten people back out to look for other survivors. There are another twenty-two in Sickbay, but Doctor Duggal needs help moving them, so I sent five men up there, as well.”

John forced himself not to react outwardly to Renn’s report.It’s a start, he told himself. Given the condition of engineering, it was a damned good start. But ninety-four accounted for in the cargo bay plus twenty-two in sickbay and nine dead left forty-three people whose fate was yet unknown. That number was too high for his comfort.

“All right,” he told Renn, “you’re doing a great job. Stay here and keep doing what you’re doing. I’m going to go see about contacting the Luna and maybe use the shuttle sensors to try and figure out where the hell we are.” And as soon as I’m done with that, I’m going to find those forty-three people, he vowed silently to himself. He was still reeling inside from everything he had witnessed in engineering, and trying hard not to think about it. All he knew was that he was determined not to see it happen again.

“Yes, sir,” Renn replied, but lost in thought, John didn’t reply. He put his helmet back on, sealed it, and left the cargo bay.

*****

USS Luna -- Bridge


“Status report.” Lieutenant T’Pring of Vulcan kept her expression carefully stoic as she questioned her command staff on the damaged bridge of the USS Luna.

She wasn’t asking for a status report for their own ship. That much was already known -- they had sustained heavy damage when the cloaked ship had attacked, and they were barely hanging on to life support. Of course, that was partly because they were using precious power to hold on to the USS Sol with a tractor beam, trying to keep it from drifting uncontrollably, propelled by the plasma and gases it was venting.

The Sol’s condition was much worse than theirs. From the limited information the Luna’s sensors were giving, their sister ship had no life support except for in the cargo bay, and plasma radiation had leaked throughout the ship, threatening any survivors with a most unpleasant death if they weren’t treated in time. T’Pring had noted with alarm that of the life signs left on the Sol, none were Denobulan, which meant it was likely John Quigley, the young tactical Lieutenant she had been coordinating with during the attack, was now in command. That worried her somewhat. She didn’t know much about the young officer, but she knew he was on probationary status for making a rash decision based in human emotion on the away mission to Aris 4 -- and their present situation was obviously far worse than that one.

Ensign Julia Han, the officer assigned to ops, looked intently at her display. “They’ve got limited power back up, probably from emergency power cells. Warp, QSD, impulse and thrusters are all offline. Sir, we need to get them out of there,” she said. “Radiation levels are still critical, life support is severely compromised, and they have multiple hull breaches. The ship is incapable of sustaining life for more than a few hours at best.”

T’Pring nodded slowly. She reached up to brush a lock of black hair away from her forehead, then looked bemusedly at her hand, sticky with green blood. The Luna had its own problems. Other than thrusters, propulsion was offline. Two had been killed, seventy injured – and nineteen of those injuries were life-threatening. Everyone on the bridge was bleeding and bruised. Sickbay was too busy to bring up a dermal regenerator. But at the very least, they weren’t in immediate danger of losing life support or other critical systems, and repairs were already underway.

“Can we communicate with them?” T’Pring asked.

“Negative,” was the reply. “Their transceivers were destroyed in the attack.”

T’Pring tapped her combadge just to see if it would work. Normal range for a personal communicator was several thousand kilometers, but that was when everything was properly calibrated and being boosted by the ship’s communications array. Unless someone on the Sol had thought to calibrate their combadges to use the Luna’s signal instead of the Sol’s, it was unlikely they would get two-way communication through all the radiation and residual interference from the explosion that had destroyed their attackers’ vessel.

“T’Pring to Quigley,” she said, but there was no response. She turned back to Julia. “Do we have enough power to transport a team over to the Sol?”

“Maybe one person,” was Julia’s halfhearted reply. “It’s taking everything we have just to keep them in one place.”

One person. T’Pring’s first thought was that it should be her. With repairs already underway on the Luna, there was nothing for her to do here but give orders – which she could easily do from the Sol, if she could manage to get communications working. The Sol needed her experience and expertise more than the Luna did. The logical choice was for her to go.

Unfortunately, she was in command here. She hesitated. Her internal debate was interrupted by the ensign.

“Lieutenant? We’re being hailed.”

T’Pring looked down at her command interface to look at the data the ensign was seeing. Her single concession to the surprise she felt was to arch an eyebrow slightly. “On screen.”

Lieutenant John Quigley’s young face filled the main display, which was flickering oddly and slightly distorted. T’Pring was unsure of whether it was due to radiation interference or lack of sufficient power flow, but it was irrelevant -- she could hear the lieutenant fine, and see him well enough to conclude that he was in one of the Sol’s two small shuttles. He’s well-trained, she noted. She had seen much more senior officers than John forget about the shuttles during an emergency. She recalled him saying that he had served on the Titan, where Commander Tuvok was chief of security. Surely it was Tuvok’s influence, she thought.

“Lieutenant Quigley,” she greeted him, carefully maintaining a perfectly serene demeanor.

“Good to see your face, T’Pring,” John replied. T’Pring chose not to chastise him for his omission of rank title. “This is probably a stupid question, but are you holding us in a tractor beam?”

“Yes,” T’Pring acknowledged. “You were venting plasma and it was causing you to drift. We are holding you in place for now.”

“Thanks,” John replied with a tired almost-smile. T’Pring thought he looked very fatigued. “We’re in rough shape over here,” he told her. “Nine dead that I know of, including all of our engineers. Dozens injured, forty-three unaccounted for. We’re still waiting on Doctor Duggal to get down here with radiation meds. We’re going to have a lot of sick people on our hands.”

T’Pring nodded. “Acknowledged. We are aware of the radiation problem. It is imperative you evacuate immediately. Your ship is no longer capable of sustaining life. I don’t anticipate you will be able to repair the systems on the vessel before your backup power is exhausted. According to the Luna’s sensors, you have lost twenty two people already. More will die if we don’t act quickly.”

John sucked his breath in sharply. Twenty-two people. He quickly did the math. If she was right, that meant there were still thirty people alive and unaccounted for. “What’s our tactical status?” he asked. “Our attackers?”

“A single ship,” T’Pring informed him. “Destroyed by a transphasic torpedo.”

“That was one ship?” John asked in disbelief. “Evading them was like evading five ships!”

“Their weaponry is formidable,” T’Pring agreed. “As is their cloaking technology. Their destruction was a fortunate act of chance.”

“A lucky shot?” John asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Indeed,” T’Pring acknowledged him with a short nod.

“How’s the Luna?”

“Better, but not much,” T’Pring replied. “We have life support, limited sensor capability and enough power and attitude control to hold you in a tractor beam, but little else.”

“Understood,” John nodded.

“You must begin evacuation,” T’Pring reiterated. “Time is short.”

On screen, John sighed heavily. “Normally, I’d agree, but to where?” he asked. “We don’t even know where the hell we are; this is uncharted space. Have you got a star chart for this region I don’t know about? And are your long-range sensors working? Because the ones on this shuttle aren’t.”

T’Pring shook her head. “No. We also lack long-range sensors. I believe the explosion caused by the destruction of the hostile vessel damaged subspace.”

“I have thirty missing people to track down before I can even think about evacuating,” John said. “I’m not leaving anyone here. Can you use your sensors to find them? Beam them out?”

T’Pring frowned slightly and tapped at her interface. “I may be able to assist you in finding them if we re-route additional power to the sensor array. But we cannot beam them out. We lack the necessary power for transport.”

John looked displeased, but answered simply, “Acknowledged.”

T’Pring had an idea. “We can guide you by voice.” She turned to Julia. “Ensign Han, reroute any available power to the sensors. Apportion some from environmental control, if necessary. See if we can get the exact locations of the life signs aboard the Sol.”

“Yes, sir,” Julia replied, and set about carrying out T’Pring’s orders.

“Our comms. aren’t working,” John reminded T’Pring. “The only way I can talk to you is in this shuttle, and I can’t exactly fly it through the corridors.”

“Nor do I expect you to,” T’Pring said coolly. “I want you to reset your personal combadge to use that shuttle’s comm. system as its primary signal booster and keep the system active. Are you familiar with the procedures?”

John made a face. “It’s been a while,” he admitted. “I think I can do it, though.”

T’Pring nodded. “Good.” She waited as he tapped at his own interface for a few moments, and politely ignored the single Terran curse word she heard him mutter as he fumbled with the unfamiliar comm. controls. She was a moment away from offering assistance when she heard him give the computer his codes.

“Done,” he finally said, cheeks tinged red with what T’Pring assumed was a combination of frustration and embarrassment. “Now what?” He looked up at her on the screen for direction, and she again noted how young he appeared to be. She herself looked not far from him in age, but she was Vulcan, and fifty-one standard years old. Young for her species, very young – but probably nearly double John’s age, she guessed.

“Now return to the cargo bay,” she told him. “We can coordinate both the evacuation and the search effort. You may want to have other officers link their badges to the shuttle, as well, to facilitate communication.”

“Acknowledged,” he replied tersely. “I’m going to test it. I’ll end this transmission and go to combadge only.”

“Understood.” T’Pring waited as the screen went blank, then a moment later, her combadge chirped.

“Quigley to T’Pring.”

She tapped her badge. “I can hear you,” she said. “Good work.” She glanced down at her command interface and forced herself to remain perfectly calm as she noted how much time had passed. “Proceed quickly. Radiation levels are still critical,” she reminded him. “At this rate, any survivors may not be survivors for long.” She delivered the warning with a calculated edge to her voice. She found that when working with officers from less controlled cultures, it was sometimes necessary to purposefully emote when speaking to them over audio channels, lest they not catch one’s full meaning.

“Understood,” came John’s equally terse reply. “Then let’s do this.”
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Last edited by kes7; August 25 2010 at 01:52 AM.
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