- II -
Owens looked down at this desk and the glass of tonic water on top of it, the clear liquid making small waves from the vibrations caused by the ongoing and still unidentified attacks against his ship.
The frequency and more importantly the intensity had significantly reduced since Eagle
had set course for the periphery of the nebula, giving further credence to the theory that whoever was behind the attack, wanted them to head into that direction.
The implications of being herded to a specific location concerned him, but not as much as staying in one place and slowly being picked to death by an unknown enemy.
He looked up at the other two people in his ready room. Commander Star and Doctor Katanga.
The latter didn’t look particularly comfortable at the intermittent rumbles which were shaking the ship, evidence that the veteran physician hadn’t been assigned to starship duty in quite some time.
“So, Doctor, what have you learned?”
He didn’t respond right away, instead he steadied himself against the bulkhead he was standing close to while the ship trembled once more. “Uh … well … the good news is that I was able to determine that whatever has affected Lieutenant Culsten, Katherine Smith and Louise Hopkins has also affected you.”
“Not sure how any of that is good news,” said Owens. “Something or someone is controlling our crew. And you are saying I was affected as well. However, if you remember I didn’t try to blow up the ship.”
“Not as far as we know, no.”
The captain didn’t see the humor.
Star stood forward before he could focus his ire on Katanga. “My theory is that whatever took hold of you and the others, started with you first. You were the first reported incident of this phenomenon.”
“That makes sense,” he said. “But we still don’t know who, what or why.”
“I’d be willing to go on a limb here and guess it is somehow related to these blasted…” Katanga stopped himself when the deck plates under his feet moved again, “with these … attacks. Whatever the hell they are.”
Michael stood and walked towards the viewport as if he could somehow gleam the enemy, which had eluded their sensors, with the naked eye. He gave up after just a few seconds and turned back to the others. “What do we know so far? I was affected somehow but we don’t know to what end. Culsten tried to move the ship. Smith nearly caused the shields to fail and Hopkins came fairly close to destroying the entire ship.”
“And now we’re seemingly headed towards a certain point in the nebula.”
“A certain point or out of it entirely?” asked the doctor.
Star and Owens glanced his way.
“You said it yourself. Culsten tried to move the ship against our will. Was he trying to get us out of it? Because isn’t that where we are headed now?”
Star considered that for a moment. “And if the shields had failed, we would have been forced to leave. Not to mention that Hopkins’ actions would have caused us to disappear quite permanently.”
“Something wants us out of the nebula.” Owens said what his officers were already thinking. “But why?”
The Trill looked towards her old friend. “Eli, have you been able to gleam anything else from your scans. Anything at all that could give us an idea who may have been behind taking over and controlling crewmembers?”
“Well, I did detected lower than normal serotonin levels in all cases. Nothing serious but it was what made me make the connection initially. That led me to find other brain wave irregularities which were so subtle, they did not show up on normal scans. But they could indicate some sort of intelligence, suppressing the victim’s brain wave activity temporarily.”
“An intelligence?” said Star. “Perhaps we’re not dealing with a conventional enemy at all.”
“Or an enemy for that matter,” said Katanga.
“Whatever it is,” said the captain, “it has already attempted to destroy us once before and I’d rather not give it another chance. We’ll have to treat it as a hostile force for now.”
“That’s so very typically militaristic of you, Captain,” said Katanga who still refused to wear his uniform jacket over his blue medical shirt.
Star shot Katanga a dark look.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, Doctor,” Owens said frostily, “we’ve been fighting a war over the last fourteen months. So you’ll forgive me if I prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to attacks on my ship.”
The doctor raised a hand. “The safety of this ship and crew is paramount, I’m well aware of that. I’m just saying that we should keep an open mind here.”
Before Owens could respond, Lieutenant Stanmore’s voice sounded over the intercom. “Bridge to Captain Owens.”
Michael looked towards the doors leading to the bridge. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“Sir, we’re picking up some sort of signal.”
“We’ll be right there,” Owens said and already headed for the doors, his two senior officers close behind.
Stanmore turned to them as soon as they emerged from the ready room. “It may be nothing at all, sir,” he said a little contritely. “It doesn’t seem to contain any kind of message and could be nothing more than background interference but it only showed up a minute ago.”
“Put it on speakers,” said Owens as he walked over to his chair and took a seat.
What they heard next was nothing more than static. It lasted perhaps five seconds before it cut out again.
“That wasn’t much at all,” said Katanga.
“It’s too random to be background radiation, too precise in length,” said the first officer and looked at the doctor. “Could it be that intelligence you were talking about? Could they be trying to communicate?”
But Katanga shrugged, clearly out of his element.
“Play it again,” said Owens. “And run it through the computer. Get sciences on it, see if they can detect a pattern.”
Star, who had taken a seat next to Owens, leaned over to him. “That could take awhile. Especially without Xylion on board,” she whispered.
He nodded before he listened to the static-laden signal again.
“Captain, I believe I can detect a certain mathematical logic within the signal.”
Both Owens and Star stood to turn and look at the Vulcan tactical officer Lieutenant Trinik who stood at Leva’s usual post. He wasn’t looking at his instruments but instead was concentrating on the nonsensical sounds coming over the speakers.
“Thank God for Vulcan ears,” said Katanga.
Trinik played the signal one more time and then looked at his captain with a slight nod. “I am certain of it, sir.”
“Good work,” he said and turned to operations. “Mister Stanmore, see if you can highlight those qualities and suppress the static.”
He went to work immediately. After he played it again, the sound had changed significantly. The static was much less prevalent and Owens could detect something else. A tone of some kind and it seemed almost melodious.
“Is that … music?” said Katanga.
Star nodded. “Yes. And I’ve heard it before. Keep playing it.”
The signal repeated in a loop and the more Owens heard the clearer it seemed to become in his mind.
“Come unto these yellow sands, and then take hands,” Star said after a moment and then whipped around to look at the captain.
He smirked as he continued. “Curtsied when you have and kissed the wild waves whist.”
“Is that Shakespeare?” Katanga said, clearly confused at hearing this within a nebula.
“It’s Deen,” said Star.
Owens took a couple of steps towards Stanmore’s station. “Can you get a fix on the source of the signal, Lieutenant?”
“Not with complete accuracy, no. But I have a general direction,” he said and then turned towards the captain. “It is coming from deeper within the nebula.”
“They’re in trouble,” said Star.
Owens nodded. “If they’re being attacked in a similar manner, the runabout’s shields may not protect them as long as ours have.”
“But if we turn around now, we may not be able to make it ourselves.”
Katanga glared at Star. “We have to try. We’re not going to leave our people behind.”
Michael Owens took his seat and tugged down on his uniform jacket. “Agreed. Helm, set course towards the source of the signal. Best speed. Tactical, I need maximum power to shields. Get it from wherever you need to but keep them up. We need to make it to the runabout with enough time to spare to allow for our own escape.”