Chapter Fifteen (cont.)
“Good seal, Mister Roberts?” asked Chief Bronson as he latched the helmet in place. Chris nodded and then gave the older NCO a thumbs up, but then he saw the chief chuckling through the visor of his own EVA helmet.
Chris blushed. “All green, Chief,” he said over the built-in comm.
“That’s the spirit, Sir. Keep your sense of humor and you’ll go far in this Star Fleet. First time wearing this setup for real?”
“Well, we did practice in a depressurized cargo bay aboard the training ship Kongo
at the academy . . .” Chris’s voice trailed off.
“Take it slow and easy, Sir. White Cloud
has internal gravity and atmosphere—but we don’t know about the composition of that atmosphere. Your air flow good?”
“Give me a 360 rotation, Sir,” Bronson said as he backed away and set a wall monitor in Transporter Room 3 to display mode. As Chris slowly turned around in a circle, the camera built into the suit’s helmet showed the rest of the twelve-member away team making their own final preparations. “Good, good.”
“You are set, Mister Roberts. Got your tricorder and phaser?”
“Yes, Chief,” Chris answered in a slightly exasperated voice.
“You have loaded the schematics of the White Cloud
into your tricorder?”
“And your phaser is locked on stun?”
“Check it, please, Mister Roberts,” Bronson half-suggested and half-ordered.
Chris pulled the phaser from his belt holster, keeping it pointed away from the rest of the crew. Yes, it was set on stun, and yes he had it locked to prevent the setting from being changed. “Yes, Chief, phaser is set.”
“Is it armed, Sir? Or do you still have it on safe mode?”
Chris blushed; no, he hadn’t armed the weapon—which meant it wouldn’t fire if he pressed the stud. “Yes, Chief; it’s armed now,” the ensign whispered as he pressed the priming key and placed the weapon back into its holster.
“Don’t worry none, Sir. My first away mission I forget to arm my phaser and got the surprise of my life when it didn’t work against two Nausicaan smugglers on Deneb Kaitos III. Got four broken ribs, a shattered scapula, and fractured skull from those two before the rest of my team could react—but I’ve never forgot to arm my phaser since, Mister Roberts.”
Grace Biddle stepped up onto the transporter pad with the first beam-in section. “Energize,” she said, and six sparkling waterfalls of light appeared and they vanished.
“Our turn, Mister Roberts,” the NCO whispered over the comm as he mounted the platform.
Chris followed and he turned around to face the transporter chief. And then he heard Isaac Bronson’s quiet voice again as the chief cleared his throat. “Mister Roberts, you are the senior officer of this section.”
Chris blushed, and he quickly looked to make certain everyone was on their assigned pad. “Energize,” he ordered, and the transporter hummed and came to life, beaming him across to the bridge of the White Cloud
And then he materialized into a scene out of Hell. Chris gagged as he saw the bloody mass of twisted and distorted tissue and bone that oozed out of the captain’s chair. He quickly averted his eyes, but the helm, the navigation station, the tactical console, the engineering station—all of them were occupied by those . . . things
He retched, seeing the trails of blood and feces and urine that covered the deck and bulkheads, and then Chief Bronson stepped up directly in front of him and took hold of his EVA suit.
“Deep breath, Mister Roberts! Don’t you vomit into that helmet, Sir!” he said quietly, his voice stern, but gentle—and filled with unease. “I’m increasing your O2 flow by 5%, take a deep breath, relax . . . and be glad we can’t smell this, Sir.”
Chris felt the cool, crisp airflow into the helmet increase slightly, and he nodded slowly. “Sorry, Chief; I wasn’t expecting . . .” his voice trailed off.
“Easy, Sir. Easy.”
Grace tapped her comm badge. “Away Team Two to Republic
“Go ahead, Miss Biddle
,” Chris heard the Captain say.
“Sir. We’ve found part of the White Cloud
’s crew. Sir, they appear to have been caught in a transporter malfunction—their patterns . . . their patterns must have shifted and collapsed during materialization. It’s a mess over here, Sir.”
“Understood, Miss Biddle; we are receiving your video transmission
,” the Captain said in a tight clipped voice. “Do you need assistance
“Negative, Captain. We will begin sweeping the ship. Away Team Two, out.”
“Mister Zapata,” she said quietly. “It appears their main computer interface is on Deck 2; take Harrison and see what you can find there. We’ll divide into teams of two, people, and conduct a compartment by compartment search—including Jeffries tubes. Maintain communications with me and the ship. Leave the . . . bodies . . . alone for now—but get full tricorder scans for medical. She’s only got six decks, so this shouldn’t take long.”
As the away team divided up and began to move towards the turbolifts, she turned to the ensign. “Chris, you all right now?”
“Yes, ma’am. Sorry ma’am; it won’t happen again.”
“All right, then; get cracking Mister Roberts—Deck Three.”
“Aye, aye, ma’am,” Chris answered. “Chief, shall we?”
“After you, Mister Roberts.”
Chan materialized in the center square of the New Columbia colony, the early morning mist from the nearby lake covering the ground in a haze of fog. He waited until the other two beam-down sections arrived. “Divide into teams of two and conduct a search of the city,” he ordered. “Tricorders out; I want constant communication with all search teams. Take it slow and easy, gentlemen; let’s see if we can find where they have all gone off to.”
“Mister Park,” he said to the young engineering ensign. “You are with me.”
Chan opened his own tricorder and took a reading of the area, comparing it with the maps of the city stored in its databanks. Finally, he nodded and began to move off to the east—towards the tall hills that bordered the city on that side. “Their emergency shelters are in this direction, Mister Park; I think we will start our search there.”
“There’s no signs of combat, sir—and no bodies,” Jin Park commented as they walked, his tricorder humming.
“No. Just this mist. Atmospheric composition?”
“I’m not detecting any contaminants, Sir. And background radiation is exactly as the archive computers indicated; no trace of weapons fire, either. But, that’s odd.”
“What’s odd, Ensign?”
Jin stopped and he frowned at the tricorder. “I’ve got a power source up ahead, sir—a big
one. And according to the schematic, there shouldn’t be anything putting out this kind of power in that location—it’s a park, Sir.”
“A park, Mister Park?” Chan said with a grim chuckle. “No need to answer that, Ensign.”
Chan took a look at his own tricorder, and adjusted the controls frowning. He tapped his comm badge. “This is Shrak. I want Lieutenant Bowen to report to my location immediately.”
“Come, Mister Park. Let’s see what is producing all of that power.”
The two officers continued walking through the streets of the city, and then they entered an expansive area of green trees, manicured grass still wet with the dew of the morning mist. And in the middle of the park, there was a massive device.
“Life signs, Mister Park?”
“None within two kilometers, sir. And only native lifeforms outside of that radius.”
Chan slowly approached the bulky object, his tricorder humming. “Ensign, does this design look familiar to you?”
“It’s generating a sub-space signal, but on a frequency I haven’t seen used before . . . Commander?” He suddenly paused. “Could it be a transporter beacon? I’m showing a stabilization of the sub-space field in the area around it.”
“Exactly what I was thinking, Ensign,” Chan said. From out of the mist, the shapes of Lieutenant Bowen and a Marine appeared, and Bowen whistled.
“That doesn’t look like it belongs here, Commander.”
“No, Lieutenant, thank you for stating the obvious. I want a full analysis of this device—Mister Park, assist Mister Bowen. Corporal Thiesman—you’re with me.”
As the two engineers began to inspect and study the object, Chan and the Marine moved out towards the emergency shelters. After a short walk, they reached the entrance, which was not sealed. Chan descended the steps, his tricorder humming as they went, and the Marine followed, his phaser rifle at the ready.
Seventy-five meters down, they reached the turbo-lift shafts that connected to the secure bunker one kilometer deep. Built in the aftermath of the Dominion attacks, emergency shelters such as this one were designed to house the population of the colony during even the worst planetary assaults—and they were shielded against sensors to prevent any attacker from detecting the people within. But the shelter was empty, with no sign that any of the colonists had attempted to reach it.
After searching the desolate, spartan rooms buried beneath the surface, Chan and Thiesman once again emerged on the surface, and Chan’s communicator beeped.
“This is Shrak.”
“Bowen, Sir. Ensign Park is right—it’s a transporter beacon, but one a massive scale. I’ve never even seen plans for one this large
“Why would someone need such a device, Lieutenant,” Chan asked.
“Sir . . . the only reason I can think of is that some is attempting interstellar transport. Given enough power, we know it is possible—but very difficult in theory. But with a transporter beacon of this magnitude, it might, might be accomplished, if the entity using the transporters has enough power
“Thank you, Mister Bowen. Shrak to Republic
“Go ahead, Chan
,” Matt answered.
“Sir, I think we’ve found something. There is a sub-space transporter beacon—a massive one—down here in the colony. It’s operating on a kappa-band sub-space frequency; retuning the lateral sensor arrays to that frequency might detect a transporter ionization trail.”
“You think the colony was beamed away?
“Sir, I don’t know. But this beacon has to be here for a reason.”
“Mister Roshenko is adjusting the sensors now, Chan . . . yes. There is a transporter trace on the colony and extending into deep space
“Captain,” Chan slowly said. “Mister Bowen believes that with a beacon this powerful, interstellar transport might be possible.”
“Understood. Anything else?
“Negative, sir. No bodies, no colonists, and no signs of weapons fire in the colony itself. I don’t think the colonists are here anymore.”
“Neither do I, Chan. Neither do I,
” Matt paused. “And given what Grace found on the White Cloud . . . let’s get your search parties back aboard ship, Commander. I’ll put the science labs and Miss Tsien on tracking down that trace.
“Aye, aye, Sir.”