- II -
“I expect warp drive and impulse to be back online within the next two hours. Shields should be at full strength again in about three. We suffered structural damage to a number of areas on the main saucer. I can have a temporary fix in place within four hours. It won’t be much but enough to get us back to the nearest starbase,” said Louise Hopkins as she summed up their damage report in the observation lounge where the entire senior staff had assembled.
Owens gave her a nod and looked at Doctor Katanga next.
“We were lucky,” he said. “Very lucky. Sickbay is still filled with injured crewmen but I’ve got nobody left in critical condition and we had no fatalities. Ensign Srena is on the mend also and I think I should be able to release her tomorrow or the day after. She’ll be ready to return to duty early next week after some bed rest.”
“Very good,” the captain said. “The young woman did an outstanding job and commendations are in order.”
Tazla Star nodded to this. It was no secret that she had taken an interest in the Andorian’s career and had acted a little bit like a mentor to her. “I’ll ensure her record will reflect her efforts in identifying the alien life forms.”
“Speaking of which,” said Owens, “have we been able to reestablish communications with them?”
Commander Xylion took that one. “No. We have been unable to communicate or detect any of the nebula entities since the rogue planetoid was destroyed. We are also unable to reenter Aphrodite as the thermionic radiation has increased by one hundred twenty six percent likely as an unexpected consequence of the planet’s obliteration. It will prevent any kind of excursion into the nebula even with the use of transphasic shielding.”
“What about the life forms you’ve encountered on that planet?” said Katanga. “What did they call it? The Dark? Do we think they were destroyed?”
“It is possible,” said Deen, “but we have no way of knowing for sure at this point. We don’t even know if the Light survived.”
The doctor shook his head sadly. “What a complete waste. Two sentient life forms possibly annihilated and for what? Because they mistrusted each other? You know none of this would have happened if we had just stayed the hell away.”
The room fell silent for a moment.
“Sooner or later we would have come here anyway,” Owens concluded. “Yes, we came here for military reasons and to give us a better chance in fighting and winning a war. But let’s not forget that we are explorers first. We would have come here eventually to learn more about Aphrodite and the results would likely have been much the same. Maybe even worse. In the end it is the price we pay for our own curiosity.”
“Perhaps the cost is too high,” said Katanga.
“We cannot be held responsible for the actions of other races, Eli,” said Star and then quickly continued when he was beginning to object. “We didn’t come here with the intention of starting a war. That conflict between the Light and the Dark clearly had been ongoing for a long time before we ever got here. And it certainly wasn’t our idea to blow up an entire planet. If the Light had shown some more patience we may have been able to come up with an alternative and more peaceful solution.”
But Katanga wasn’t entirely satisfied with that response. “Maybe, maybe not. But my point still stands. Had it not bee for our interference, one or maybe even two sentient races may yet exist.”
“We don’t know for certain that they are truly gone,” said DeMara Deen, as usual being the most optimistic voice on the crew.
Owens nodded. “That’s right. And it looks like it’ll take a long time for us to find out.”
Xylion spoke up next. “Regardless of the level of influence our actions have had on the events taking place inside the nebula, we must address my personal decisions and the consequences they have had on this crew.”
Deen smirked at this. “You mean you deciding to stay on a planet with malicious alien life forms masquerading as Vulcans so they could sap your DNA when I had told you not to?”
He merely raised an eyebrow as a response.
“As far as I’m concerned, Commander,” said Owens, “you did what you had to in order to ensure the away team could safely return to the ship and a fatally injured crewmember would receive the care she desperately needed.”
“Sir, I was deceived by these creatures and my actions put this ship and crew into additional jeopardy when you attempted a rescue mission.”
“Dear God, man,” said Katanga, “be able to take a no-harm, no foul and move on.”
Xylion regarded the other man. “It is only logical, Doctor that I’d be reprimanded for-“
“Glutton for punishment, eh?” he said, cutting of the science officer. “I remember Bones warning me about Vulcan science officers. He wasn’t wrong.”
Owens inserted himself before the conversation could escalate any further. “There will be no need for punishment as far as I’m concerned,” he said and then continued when he realized that the science officer didn’t appear satisfied with that outcome. “However, I’ll make sure your file will contain a full breakdown of events which transpired on that planet including the decisions you made. Will that satisfy logic, Commander?”
“It will. Thank you, Captain.”
There were smiles and smirks all around the table.
“Bridge to the observation lounge.”
Owens looked up and towards the ceiling from which Lieutenant Stanmore’s voice had come over the speakers. “This is Owens, go ahead.”
“Sir, we have a contact emerging from the nebula.”
“Red alert, raise shields,” Star said immediately which was followed not a moment later by the flashing crimson lights and hailing klaxons.
“I don’t believe that will be necessary,” said Nora and pointed out of the windows which were facing the now much murkier and less marvelous Aphrodite nebula. Something had just come tumbling out of the thick fog and it became quickly apparent to everyone in the room that it posed little threat to the ship.
“Cancel red alert,” said Star when she realized what it was.
What remained of the sensor array was spinning end over end into open space. Most of its scanning platforms had been ripped off, most likely on impact with the shockwave, leaving it almost like an empty skeleton. The entire thing looked rather sad as it shed components with each rotation.
“The professor will not be happy,” said Owens.
“I’m actually more concerned with Colcord. She doesn’t take bad news very well,” said the chief engineer still watching the demolished sensor array tumbling away as the only proof of the hard work she and her team had been involved in over the better part of the week.
“I supposed we have to go and catch it,” said Leva.
“That’s not our priority right now,” said the captain and then looked towards Star. “There are still a few other loose ends to tie up regarding murder investigations and sabotage.”
Nora, who had said little to this point, spoke up. “There wasn’t a murder. We now know that it was an accident caused by that life form taking over Lieutenant Kolrami’s body.”
He nodded, acceding that point. “What about Crewman Decaux and her taking engineering hostage?”
“She was an eyewitness to the event. She actually saw Kolrami shove Gedar down the warp core pit. To her credit, she even speculated at one point that alien beings may have been responsible long before we had any inkling.”
“And she didn’t come forward?” Owens said and frowned.
“Miss Decaux is unfortunately suffering from a rather severe personality disorder which they must have missed during routines psychological evaluations,” said Doctor Katanga. “Since the war they’ve clearly been cutting left, right and center on the work ups they do on new recruits in favor of expediency and increasing troop numbers. It’s unconscionable.”
“You’re saying she shouldn’t be wearing the uniform?” asked Star.
He quickly shook his head. “Not at all. There is absolutely no reason she couldn’t be an effective member of the crew. There are treatment methods and medication available which I would like to discuss with her and her counselor at the earliest convenience.”
“She still needs to be held responsible for the actions she took,” said Owens. “She could have killed Kolrami in engineering, not to mention that she put this ship and crew at great risk.”
But Star clearly didn’t agree. “I think that she was driven to that point because we failed her. I don’t mean to say us in particular but Starfleet in general. I don’t think she should be punished for that.”
There room fell dead silent and all eyes turned to the most unlikely person to have uttered those words.
“What?” Nora Laas said. “The commander is right. Decaux needs our help and our empathy, not our scorn. She’s a young woman who wasn’t ready for the pain she experienced and considering her condition, she wasn’t mentally prepared for what she went through.”
“Okay,” said Leva with a smirk after looking first at Nora and then at Star and the rest of the senior staff. “I clearly missed a lot more happening on this ship than I thought.”
But the Bajoran security chief simply crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair, seemingly not interested on discussing this matter further after she had made her views known.
Eventually Owens nodded in agreement. “Very well, I’ll consider leniency given the circumstances. That leaves us with just one other issue. Do I still have to worry about a spy on Eagle
There was no immediate response to this and Owens didn’t miss that Star seemed suddenly reluctant to talk. The same was true for Nora Laas, Lif Culsten and surprisingly even Louise Hopkins, all trying to avoid eye contact with the captain.
“I understand that the odd behavior of some of the crew was solely due to the possessions by the nebula entities,” he continued when nobody else appeared willing to speak up. “I have no intention of holding anyone accountable for those events but there was other evidence which seemed to hint at a possible spy,” he said and then looked straight at the first officer. “Commander?”
She nodded slowly. “My investigation is ongoing but at this point I don’t think we have enough evidence. My preliminary report shows that there is nobody on this ship currently involved in any form of espionage.”
Owens looked towards his security chief.
“That is my conclusions as well.”
Leva and Deen exchanged a look, wordlessly wondering since when Star and Nora agreed on anything. Not to mention twice in the same meeting.
The captain nodded. “I still expect a full report. But if there is no further or credible evidence to support this theory I’m happy to put this matter to bed. I don’t believe in witch hunts.”
“You’ll have my full report within the next couple of days,” Star said.
“Alright folks, that’s it, I guess. Let’s get those repairs completed. We still have to go catch a sensor array running wild before it can crash into a planet,” he said and stood, signaling the end of the meeting and causing his officers to leave their chairs and head for the exits.