Star Trek: Pathfinder
Phobos Orbital Yards
The Siren's Call - Part Four
in orbit around Mars, Sol System
May 6, 2163
Commander Isobel Beaumont darted though the crowded halls of the Pathfinder, weaving her way between the crew as she tried to keep up with Lt. Cmdr. T'Vril. By the time Beaumont caught up to her escort, the Vulcan had already summoned the turbolift and was waiting inside, one finger pressed to the hold switch next to the lift door. As soon as Beaumont entered, T'Vril released the switch and the door slid closed, sending the lift toward the bridge.
Beaumont leaned back against the wall, recalling the details of T'Vril's personnel file almost by reflex, something she had been doing more and more since receiving her cortical implant. Born in 2123 in the Lyr-T'aya province of Vulcan, T'Vril was the Pathfinder
's tactical officer - an unusual posting for a Vulcan, given their aversion to violence. She had joined Starfleet following the close of the Earth-Romulan War, part of the initial wave of integration among the founding worlds of the Federation. From all indications she was quite skilled as a tactician. It was no mean feat for anyone to rise to her current rank in the space of just two years, regardless of species or ability.
T'Vril clasped her hands behind her back as the lift got up to speed. "Captain Teague regrets being unable to greet you in person," she said, jarring Beaumont back to the present. "Our advance in departure time made that impossible."
"Understandable. Busy comes with the job," Beaumont replied.
T'Vril nodded almost imperceptibly. "Indeed, though we may be busier than you think."
T'Vril looked back over her left shoulder at Beaumont. "Several other vessels are preparing for immediate departure, primarily short- and medium-range craft with minimal scientific capabilities. Emergency crews have been dispatched to reactivate the Defense Fleet. The Panther
have already departed the Sol system."
A cold lump settled in Beaumont's stomach. The last time the Defense Fleet had been active was over two years before, during the closing weeks of the Earth-Romulan War. Since then those ships had been mothballed out in Jupiter's orbit. If Starfleet was bringing its defensive reserves on-line, it could only mean one thing.
"How many ships are they reactivating?" Beaumont said.
"Over thirty at last count," T'Vril said. "But that number is based on outdated information. It is likely much higher now."
Beaumont swallowed, her throat suddenly dry, then stared up at the dome of light in the center of the lift, waiting for them to reach their destination... and dreading what she would find when they arrived.
* * * * *
Moments later the door slid aside to reveal the bridge of the Pathfinder. Immediately both women were enveloped in the sound of a dozen conversations as the crew rushed to put the bridge in working order ahead of schedule. A harried Andorian ensign worked the communications station, her antennae lying flat, as she tried to route comm traffic to where it needed to go within the ship. Several panels were open, their optronic guts exposed as technicians installed and adjusted components to make them functional.
T'Vril crossed to a blue hatch set into the bulkhead opposite the turbolift and tapped the comm switch mounted on the wall. "T'Vril here, sir, with Commander Beaumont, as ordered."
"Send her in," came the terse reply.
The door slid aside and Beaumont stepped through, into the captain's ready room. The first thing that struck her was the ample headroom; both the NX-class and Daedalus-class refits that had been rushed into service during the War had tiny ready rooms with all sorts of protrusions that tended to leave at least a few bruises on the captain's head in the first week.
"I'll send you a message every night," the man at the desk was saying, looking at this screen. "And once a week, we'll even get to talk in real time. Captain's privilege."
"I wish you didn't have to go, Dad," the young girl on the screen said, her auburn hair falling across her face.
"Me too, sweetie," the captain said. "But I do. Be good for me, okay?"
"Love you too, Daddy."
Lorcan Teague touched the screen at the same time his daughter mirrored the gesture, pressing their fingers to the screen as though it were just a window instead of millions of kilometers separating them. A moment later the screen went black, the new Starfleet logo hovering in the center.
Beaumont stood there silently, waiting until Teague turned to face her a moment later. "Commander Beaumont, I'm sorry we had to meet under such circumstances." He gestured toward the chair across the desk from his. "Please. I'll just hit the high points for now - the senior staff will be fully briefed enroute."
Beaumont sat and looked at her new commanding officer. She knew Teague's record - everyone did, after the Battle of Hell's Gate. It was estimated that over ninety-five percent of the human population was familiar with the name Lorcan Teague, and were at least passably familiar with his exploits during the War. His short brown hair framed a round face that looked more like it belonged to a farmer or a priest than a war hero. Shallow pock marks scarred his cheeks and chin, remnants of injuries that dermal regeneration had been unable to completely remove.
"What's going on, sir?" Beaumont asked. "Has there been an incident?"
"Not like you might think," Teague replied. "Not one single event, but a series of them." Teague turned his screen for Beaumont to see and brought up a list. "Seventeen starships, mostly deep space transports. All have gone missing in the past five months. No sign of their crews, no escape pods, not even a stray radio transmission indicating any kind of trouble. Over three hundred people, just gone."
"I've heard about some of these. Starships disappear all the time, sir," Beaumont replied. "It's a hazard of the job, especially with anyone willing to pay for a quick warp refit taking whatever heap they can into interstellar space."
"True enough, Commander. But thirty hours ago, Starfleet received a garbled distress call from the Roosevelt
through one of its deep space relays. The Vulcans sent one of their cruisers to investigate, but by the time they arrived there was nothing. The Roosevelt
had vanished, just like the others." Teague pressed a switch and a man's static-distorted voice filled the ready room. "... stay away from the call...
"it said. "Whatever you do, stay away from the siren's call..."
He cut the voice off. "That's all we could unscramble. Maybe it's all they had the chance to send. But if someone can take on a Daedalus
-class cruiser and make it vanish into thin air..."
"What's going to stop them from going after something more powerful?" Beaumont said, finishing the thought.
"Exactly what Starfleet was thinking. And since the Pathfinder
is the most advanced starship humanity has ever built, we ought to make a nice, shiny lure to bring them out." He looked over at the chrono and said, "Departure is in thirty minutes. Better make the most of it - I doubt we'll have much time to spare once we're underway."
To Be Continued...