“How bad is it, Doc?”
Despite her vocal objections, Bobby DeSoto hadn’t ventured more than five feet from Tess Allenby’s side since he had followed her into sickbay after the accident at the main deflector.
“The lieutenant has non life-threatening second-degree plasma burns to her left hand and lower forearm which extend to her dermis layer,” said Rass as she stood glancing at a padd and looking up from time to time to watch her nurse, Xolani Nyembe, efficiently treat the wound with a dermal regenerator while Allenby sat on a biobed and tried hard not wince at the discomfort.
“Human skin is such a delicate organ and very susceptive to damage, you must be more careful around sources of extreme temperatures,” she continued.
Nyembe almost stumble over DeSoto as he tried to reach for another instrument. “Alright Ensign,” the South African said sharply. “For the last time, either stand to one side or leave this sickbay at once.”
“He has no business being here,” Allenby quickly chimed in. “This is all his fault anyway.”
The ensign took a step back and placed a hand innocently on his chest. “My fault? I was trying to tell you about the energy surge but you were too distracted laying into me,” he said and then looked at the doctor. “She’s going to be alright, isn’t she?”
The Selay awkwardly nodded her cobra-like head. It was clearly not a natural movement as she tried to mimic the common gesture. “The lieutenant will fully recover and no scare tissue should remain after the procedure. There remains a 2% chance for the skin to develop cellulitis but this too is easily treatable.”
DeSoto looked back at the still furious Allenby. “See, you’ll be good as new.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “That’s not the point. None of this would have happened if you hadn’t been there,” she barked.
The outburst momentarily stunned sickbay into silence.
Allenby blushed slightly and returned Nyembe puzzled expression as he had paused treating her wound. “He is very distracting,” she said quietly.
The nurse nodded understandingly and then continued.
Commander Chen had stood nearby and watched the spectacle unfold with his arms crossed in front of his narrow, insectoid torso. His two feelers stood up straight in the air, showing that he had been paying close attention to the conversation around him. “What exactly happened?” he asked in his distinct clicking-sound voice.
Both Allenby and DeSoto immediately started speaking over each other, trying to shift the blame for the accident.
The Xindi cut them off by raising both his skinny arms. “Not helpful.”
Sessar-Rass looked back and forth between the lieutenant and the ensign and then at the chief engineer. “Are humans always this confusing?”
Chen shot her a seemingly sympathetic look. “Only most of the time.”
“Hey, don’t lump us all into the same pot,” said Nyembe just as he finished with Allenby.
Chen lowered his head slightly. “Apologies, no offense intended.”
The dark-skinned man offered a wide smile before he glanced back at the operations manager. “There. As promised, all better now.”
She fisted her hand a few times for practice and then gave the man an appreciative nod.
“Now, can we try again? I need to make a full report about this incident to first officer,” Chen said.
Allenby quickly jumped off the bed and stepped closer to the chief engineer. “When you do, make sure you remind him of what I have previously reported, on the record, that Ensign DeSoto is a danger to himself and those around him. I think this quite proves my point. Furthermore -”
“Now wait a minute,” the helmsman started to protests.
Allenby raised her pointer finger in his direction and shot him a frosty look over his shoulder. “Ensign, the grown-ups are talking.”
Sessar looked on in bewilderment and even Chen didn’t appear to understand exactly what was happening here.
The lieutenant faced the chief engineer again. “The captain is already aware of my concerns regarding DeSoto’s behavior and I think she should be informed of this incident as well.”
Chen considered her for a moment, looked at the young helmsman who appeared less than worried by Allenby’s open accusations and then back at her. “You will both provide me with a report regarding this matter so that I can review it and forward it to Commander Texx.”
Allenby nodded eagerly. “You have it within the hour, sir,” she said and stormed off.
Bobby shot Chen a wide smirk. “Is she completely smitten with me, or what?”
The Xindi engineer didn’t seem to understand, judging by the movements of his lower mandibles. He exchanged another look with the CMO before he decided that he had done everything he could here. “We shall have another session on humanoid social behaviorism at 1600 hours if this suits you.”
She looked positively eager. “That would suit me perfectly fine,” she said quickly.
Chen turned and left sickbay.
After a moment the Selay crossed over to DeSoto. “What does ‘smitten-with’ mean exactly?”
His grin widened. “It means she’s into me, Doc. Couldn’t you tell?”
The stone-faced expression on her reptile face gave proof that she probably couldn’t.
“Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t understand that,” he said with a boyish grin. “Not after those looks you exchange with our chief engineer.”
She tilted her head slightly, indicating further puzzlement. “Commander Chen and I share a productive and professional relationship. He is assisting me in acclimating to the diverse social climate of a Starfleet vessel.”
“Right,” he said. “Listen, Doc, I may not be an expert on exo-sociology but I can interpret a look between two folks as well as the next man,” he said, still with that grin plastered on his face and then leisurely strolled out of the room, leaving behind an even more befuddled Ssesar-Rass.
* * *
Amaya Donners found that Agamemnon
’s bridge design was both efficient and practical. Her chair stood almost in the dead center, giving her a great view on the workstations all around her and on the large holographic view screen mounted into the front bulkhead.
She was flanked by a chair for the first officer to her right and a mission specialist to her left, usually occupied by Arden Texx and Vej respectively.
A forward facing and dedicated science station stood at the far right and a nearly identical console, this one for engineering was positioned at the opposite side of the bridge.
At the front and a few steps below her chair was the combined, t-shaped helm and operations console which slightly invoked the venerable design of a previous century.
To her right and slightly behind her was the tactical console usually manned by the imposing figure of Lieutenant Mer’iab and an auxiliary tactical and science station stood to her left.
Most of the back bulkhead was made up of a large master control station which was currently configured to show a cutaway diagram of the Agamemnon
and her eighteen decks. The port and starboard bulkheads were lined with various stations for science, environmental controls and mission ops. Some of these stations were only manned depending on the ship’s current mission priority.
Crimson-colored doors in the front led to her ready room and a turbolift and in the back to the observation lounge and another lift. The entire bridge was covered in a pleasing, light-blue carpet and was lit by comfortable and glare-free white light.
“Sir, sensors are detecting severe gravimetric distortions ahead,” said Wayne Daystrom from the science station at Maya’s right. “It will severely affect our ability to maintain high warp.”
She nodded, having expected this. “Bobby, reduce our speed to warp three point two.”
“Three point two,” he said and entered the appropriate commands.
Maya could barely even feel the vibrations of the deceleration through the deck plates. She recalled her previous starship assignment on the Columbia
were the deck had had a tendency to rattle noticeably when accelerating or slowing down by just one warp factor.
“Smooth, isn’t she?” Texx said with a smirk, reading his new captain perfectly.
“Remind me to congratulate Chen on a well configured warp drive,” she responded with a nod.
“You may be interested to know that we are now within visual range of GRS 2127-341,” said Daystrom. “The largest black hole entity in the quadrant.”
“Let’s have a peek,” said the captain.
The screen quickly shifted to show a perfectly spherical pitch black mass which was perhaps most extraordinary by its absence of everything. Gasses and spatial matter swirled around it in a circular pattern making the entire thing look like a huge, galactic drain.
The bridge crew considered it with quiet fascination.
“Ever wonder where all this stuff goes once it is swallowed up?” said DeSoto.
“In simple terms, matter undergoes spaghettification, is reformed and becomes part of the black hole itself,” said the science officer.
DeSoto swiveled his chair around to look at the science officer. “Spaghettification? You just made that up.”
“Jesus, Ensign, did you not pay any attention at the Academy at all? That’s astrophysics 101,” said Tess Allenby with a clearly annoyed tone in her voice. “How exactly did you ever make it to the helm of a starship?”
DeSoto shrugged. “I was told, whatever you do, don’t fly the thing into a black hole.”
The operations officer shot him another dark look but DeSoto had become quite adapt at ignoring those by now.
Texx wasn’t quite able to wipe that grin of his face. “Alright, folks, let’s focus on getting us through this sector in one piece, alright.”
The two officers at the forward station quickly turned their full attention back onto their respective stations.
Vej however was still observing the fascinating site of the black hole on the screen. “So is this thing the source of all the gravimetric disturbance in this sector?” he asked nobody in particular.
“That’s the theory,” said the Bolian first officer. “And good thing to. We’re not far off the Romulan Neutral Zone and thanks to the black hole we have our own all-natural, anti-invasion defense system right in our backyard.”
The captain exchanged a quick look with Daystrom. They both knew better why a Romulan invasion through the Gamma Hydra sector would be unlikely. It was indeed because of the severe distortions in subspace which made high warp impossible but those had nothing to do with the black hole.
Vej noticed the look but a glance at Donners made it clear that she was not willing to elaborate on her thoughts.
“Captain, we are being hailed,” said Mer’iab from the tactical station.
Maya swiveled her chair to face him, not having expected this after Admiral Glover had made it clear that Agamemnon
would be operating under radio silence for the duration of this mission. And yet she felt a sudden surge of hope that perhaps somebody had made a mistake. Perhaps the entire Omega Molecule thing had been a false alarm. And if it wasn’t, Maya was not ashamed to admit that she would have been relieved if Glover was calling to let her know that he had found somebody else to deal with this mess. “Starfleet?” she asked.
Lure Mer’iab shook his head. “No, sir. It is originating from a small vessel at the edge of the Iota Crucis system. I am unable to identify the signature.”
Donners nodded, trying hard to mask her disappointment. “Put it on screen.”
“It’s audio only,” the avian said.
“… Starfleet vessel, do you read me?”
The seemingly feminine voice coming over the speakers was heavily distorted, no doubt due to the damaged subspace that lay between the two ships.
Texx and Donners shared a quick, surprised look, before Donners leaned forward in her chair. “This is Amaya Donners of the Federation starship Agamemnon.
We are receiving your signal. Please identify yourself and advise how we can be of assistance.”
“I knew it. I knew you would come. Thank the All-Mother,”
the woman responded over the comm. Donners thought she could hear a distinct clicking noise in her speech not unlike the way Chen sounded.
But the response had answered little to nothing. “Whom am I addressing?” she said.
There was a momentary pause. “I apologize. It is just that I am very excited to finally be able to make contact with your Federation. It is something I have been waiting for a very long time. After the latest incident I was sure you would come and I have been waiting out here for many
lirkiks, eagerly awaiting your arrival,
” she said, her words practically flying across the bridge. “My name is Ket. Queen Ket if you wish to be formal. And it is of extreme urgency that I meet with you as soon as possible. I worry that we are all in a great deal of danger.”