2:1 (Pursuit) Edit
It has been four months since the battle against the Terran ship in the nebula. They had already crossed deep within unknown space but Captain Malcolm was pleased to report that a sense of community had fallen over the crew as each of them continued to perform to the best of their ability. Report to who he had not yet figured out yet. He must admit however, being so far from home for so long has not helped morale.
In the holodeck, Lieutenant Commander Paul Miller and Ensign Katie Staan continued their fencing training. At this point Paul had practiced enough that now he was capable of holding his own, even winning several rounds.
"It's the new eye," Katie would excuse.
Approaching the end of their session, Lieutenant Charlie Marteez entered the holodeck.
"Charlie what are you doing here?" Katie asked pulling her helmet off and was visibly panting.
"I just got off duty," Charlie said. "Paul you ready?"
"Ready for what?" Katie asked.
"Me and Charlie have been doing movie nights." Paul explained.
"Oh? Why didn't you two tell me and Sam?"
"I'm sorry I didn't think you'd mind," Paul said. Katie turned and gave him a look of surprise just as the room gently vibrated and the lights dimmed for a brief moment.
"That's not good." Paul said as he made haste out of the room.
That disturbance was caused by the USS Odyssey dropping back into normal space. The shutters over the warp coil grills on the nacelles strudded to slowly slide open. The shutters over the port nacelle only opened a quarter of the way before jamming in place. Not allowing for the coils to link, the energy build up was forced to relieve itself through radiation, the least efficient form of heat transfer, especially in a vacuum. Being so inefficient, the energy build up resulted in the port nacelle grills overheating and this back fed through the system all the way to the quantum warp engine.
Steam and smoke poured out of the engineering lab as energy continued to feedback into the system.
"Cut the power, shut down the warp core," Paul ordered as he entered Main Engineering. The tall cylinder containing the blue and white plasma ceased to pulsate and slowly turned grey. The warp coils stopped increasing in engery but remained incredibly hot.
"Back up generators online, fire suppression systems are kicking in." Sam said monitoring the situation on a console.
"What is going on?" Captain Malcolm said as he strode into Main Engineering.
"Captain the warp coil connection was interrupted when the quantum engine shut down sequence failed." Paul reported.
"What caused it?" Malcolm asked.
"I don't know maybe it's because of you ignoring my warnings," Paul argued and Malcolm looked away. "Captain we are pushing my engine too far. We can only sustain a Underspace bubble for a maximum of 18 hours before it becomes too unstable. That does not mean 20 hours of sustained flight. 18 hours."
"Miller, we have five years to get to Sagittarius and find the source of that signal. Five years. That's the deadline I'm concerned with. If we stop every time you tell us we won't make it for another 6 years, and the sacrifice this crew made would be for nothing."
"All due respect captain, but if we carry on the way we are, we wouldn't reach it for another 60 years." Paul said.
"How long will this take to repair?" Malcolm asked, evidently frustrated at his chief engineer.
"A-about a day, but we will need to keep the warp core offline while we make repairs to the nacelles." Paul said. "But captain, in my opinion, this will keep happening until I don't think we could repair it any more. This is why we have safeguards."
"Write me up a report," Malcolm said. "Send it to me and I'll look it over."
Before Paul could respond, the captain disparted Engineering leaving the lieutenant and his officers quiet and concerned.
Paul and Charlie fitted themselves with spacesuits as they prepared for their space walk.
"Sorry about cancelling movie night," Paul said. "You didn't have to do this, I know you'd just gotten off duty."
"Nah it's okay," Charlie assured, putting his helmet on. "I had nothing to do anyway."
The two walked onto a platform in the middle of the room. Charlie pressed a button on the rails and platform rose. Just as it seemed like they were about to be crushed by the ceiling, a hatch opened placing them within an airlock tube. The hatch sealed itself below them and then a second hatch unlocked and opened. They rose up onto the surface of the Odyssey's hull surrounded by the starry blackness of space.
The two held onto the railings to prevent them from floating away. Paul engaged the magnetic pads on the heal of his boots and stepped onto the surface the hull while Charlie instead chose to pull himself over the railings before engaging the magnetic boots still a good 3ft off the ground. They marched across the hull towards the nacelles.
Just as they approached the pylons, Paul looked over his shoulder and saw a figure approaching one of the windows close by. The figure waved and then moved back to whatever they were doing.
"Workbee A to Miller, this is Staan." Katie's voice came over the comm as Paul and Charlie stood over the warp coils on the port nacelle. A small shuttlecraft exited the shuttlebay and flew over to the nacelle, forward lights and robotic arms engaged.
"We read you Workbee A, what can you tell us of the damage?" Paul said.
"Severe warping of the durainium screens, the entire system for retracting the screens has been blown off."
"Well if we can get that back online the screens should retract regardless," Charlie commented. "The system is basically replicator technology after all."
Paul nodded and knelt down to remove a bulkhead on the nacelle. Underneath was a series of conduits and circuits scorched black.
"Looks like the commad pr- the command processors has been damaged. That must be why the retraction system wouldn't respond." Paul said. "I'll need to reroute the back up processes to bypass the damaged systems."
"You know what won't matter if we don't repair the mechanism itself." Charlie pointed out. Paul nodded and Charlie stepped towards the edge surrounding the warp coil grills.
"Be careful, those screens are still radiating at about 500 degrees kelvin." Katie reported.
"Now ensign when am I not careful?" Charlie said. He disengaged the magnetic boots and stepped off the edge, floating for a moment. He fired the space suits manuvering thrusters downwards enough to give him enough momentum to fall, but before he touched the screens he activated the magnetic palms on his gloves and grabbed the edge. Out from his backpack, he pulled a plasma torch and got to work.
Hours past and captain Malcolm had began to become inpatient with the repairs on the port nacelle. He sat in the captains chair reading over yesterday's report. The chief medical officer and his wife, Ellie Malcolm, had put in a request for a days worth of medical supply gathering in a near by system.
Just as Malcolm stood from his seat to head for the newly fitted bridge replicator, the proximity alarm sounded.
"Captain, we are detecting a displacement in the quantum field," Reka reported.
"On screen." Malcolm ordered.
The viewscreen displaced a section of space 300 million kilometres off their dorsal hull. A streak of blue lightning shot through the cosmos as a large vessel was dropped into the space in a flash of light.
"Vessel identified as Federation, USS Rodney NX-208819." Riley reported.
"It's admiral Galeb." Malcolm said. "Red Alert. How long until they are in weapons range?"
"2 minutes, captain."
"Fellas, bridge is ordering us back inside." Katie said. She piloted the workbee craft and provided the two on the nacelle with flood lights and using the arms to shift the larger bulkheads.
Paul looked up in relative to the Odyssey, there in the distance was a federation ship inbound.
"Acknowledged," Paul said placing the bulkhead back where it belonged.
"Wait!" Charlie shouted, forgetting that there was no audible sound in space and he activated his comm. "Wait, I'm not done here."
"How long will it take to finish?"
"Another hour at least."
"Guys it doesn't look like we have that much time, I need to get the workbee back inside."
"Go both of you get back inside, I'll finish here."
The platform lowered back inside as Paul removed his helmet. He headed towards the comm and removed the space suit piece by piece.
"Captain, I'm inside but Marteez is still on the na- the nacelle." Paul stammered.
"What's he still doing out there?" Malcolm asked over the comm.
"He is still working on retracting the screens." Paul said.
"Miller we need to jump to warp."
"No, if you restart the warp coils you'll kill him."
On the bridge, Malcolm asked how long could they stay out of weapons range of they divert power to impulse engines.
"Forty minutes but without the warp core active, we'll be pushing the reactors." Reece said.
"Okay set a course in any direction, full impulse, keep then out of weapons range."
The Odyssey turned and engaged full impulse away from the inbound Rodney.
Paul and Katie entered Main Engineering. Officers continued to work overtime to repair the damaged systems. The two moved across engineering to a communications station and they linked to Charlie's helmet comm just as Sam moved over to them.
"What happened?" She said.
"Charlie is still on the nacelle, he still needs an hour to rebuild the retraction mechanism, but without the warp core active, we will be in weapons range with the Rodney in forty minutes and we can't raise shields while he's out there, and if we go to warp, we'll kill him." Paul explained.
"Thanks Paul, I'm glad you have faith in me," Charlie said over the comm.
"How are you hanging on out there?" Sam asked.
"Good, luckily there's no air resistance in space otherwise I would have been ripped apart already." Charlie said. "I am moving onto repairing the dematerialisation sequence for the screens."
Katie placed her two fingers to her ear as a comm signal came in for her. She excused herself from the group and answered the message.
"Ensign Staan, this is the captain," a voice confirmed.
"Yes I read you," she responded.
"The USS Rodney is increasing in speed faster that we expected, they are gaining on us and will be in weapons range in only 20 minutes if we don't change that." Malcolm said. "I believe you specialised in the backup reactors fitted on this ship?"
"Yes I did bu-"
"I need you to give it more juice."
"Captain, those are miniaturized fusion reactors, if we push them any further then we might damage the relays."
"I don't want to damage the relays, I just want more juice. Can you do it?"
"Yes I can do it." Katie said giving it some thought.
"Good you have 20 minutes before they get in weapons range."
"But captain, Marteez is still out there."
"Ensign I understand you are friends with the lieutenant, but Admiral Galeb is not responding to our hails. They are following protocol in case of a dangerous rogue element. If they catch up to us, they will destroy this ship and take whoever survives prisoner. So please. Don't make me make it an order."
"Aye captain." Katie agreed.
The Odyssey pressed on through space. With the miniature fusion reactors that acted as the back up power generators fuelled the impulse engines but without the warp core active, the USS Rodney was quickly closing the gap.
Katie worked on increasing the reaction rate in each of the generators however any modifications threatened to compromise the relays ship wide. As a result she managed to reroute power from as many systems to the impulse and thrusters. Combining the two systems together increased the Odyssey to just below the Rodney's speed which bought them another half an hour which she hoped would be enough time for Charlie.
"Ensign Staan to bridge, that's the best I can do," she said.
"Good work ensign."
"I will have to stay here to monitor the power output, it's not a stable supply."
Charlie continued his work on the nacelle. He slid a tray out and started working at the crystallized structures and the bio-neural gel pack linked into the structure. He glanced up and saw the USS Rodney shining in the distance as the brightest star.
"Marteez, we need you to pay attention." Paul said over the comm in his helmet.
"Yeah understood." He responded and he started the last stretch of the work.
"The USS Rodney will be in weapons range in 2 minutes, captain." Riley reported.
Malcolm nodded and flicked a switch marked 'Main Engineering' on the console fitted to the captains arm rest.
"Malcolm to Miller, times up," Malcolm said. "I need that nacelle back online."
"Bare with us captain." Paul said over the comm.
On the nacelle, Charlie had just began to finish his work. He slid the tray back inside and the screen fitted to the side lit up. An orange light covered the surrounding bulkheads as Charlie looked up to see a phaser beam slam into the Odyssey's glowing impulse engines.
The force of the energy pushed Charlie sideways and he shouted in pain as his back scrapped against the still scorching screens.
"Charlie are you okay?" Sam's voice said in his ear. Charlie used the magnetic gloves to pull himself away from the screens.
"I'm fine," he said panting. "You should have control over the retraction sequence."
"Good now get yourself inside so we can raise shields." Sam said.
Another blast hit just below the port pylon, shaking the structure he so desperately clung on to.
Each section of the screens sequentially shone blue before disappearing one by one. At that moment, Charlie pulled himself up on to the hull just as another orange blasted it's way directly in front of where he ran. The bulkheads surrounding him detached from the hull leaving Charlie spinning helplessly as he watched the Odyssey shrink before him. There was nothing he could do, the magnetic locks or even the manuvering thrusters.
"Can we get a transporter lock?" Paul frantically asked as Charlie's signature slowly withdrew from the USS Odyssey. Sam ran across engineering to the transporter station. She fiddled about with the controls right before the room shook once more, the console she worked at exploded and she was knocked to the floor.
"Medical teams to main engineering." Paul said lifting up Sam from the floor. "Miller to bridge, we need a transporter lock on Marteez right away."
"Negative, commander," Malcolm's voice said over the comm. "We had to raise shields, we were taking too much damage."
Charlie used this thrusters to stabilise himself in the blackness of space. From inside his helmet, his calls for assistance where only met with static as he watched the orange beams being repelled from the ship by a blue hugging shield.
The Odyssey shrank from view before the nacelles shone bright and the ship zipped off to distant space at warp speed.
Charlie panicked, not thinking that captain Malcolm would ever leave one of his crew behind, he saw the looming mass known as the starship Rodney passed over him. He felt himself dematerialise as the structure of a transporter room formed around him. Two security officers in cold uniforms pointed their rifles directly where he now stood.
Sam sat in sickbay unconscious with burns from her face. Chief medical officer doctor Ellie Malcolm ran a dermal regenerator over her burns and reassured Paul and Katie that she will recover.
"I should have been there," Katie said. "If it wasn't for those reactors."
"It wouldn't have changed anything." Paul said.
The captain entered the room and Katie fell silent at the sight of him. She crossed her arms and turned to the bed as Malcolm asked for a engineering status report.
"How are we shaped up like?" Malcolm asked.
"Hull breaches on decks 5 through 8, internal sensors and transporters are down, wa- warp engines are functionally normally, thanks to lieutenant Marteez." Paul reported. Katie glanced over at him before returning her attention to Sam. "Permission to speak freely, sir."
Malcolm nodded and Paul stepped forward, speaking quietly to not draw too much attention to themselves.
"What the hell are you doing? Leaving Charlie behind? Is that the kind of captain you are now?" Paul asked and Malcolm looked away frustrated.
"Do not mistake my decision for pride in it," he responded. "I had to choose between 1 life and 384 lives. I made that decision and I need all of you to carry out my orders, but do not think that I am comfortable with that decision."
Charlie sat in the sickbay onboard the USS Rodney. He was being given a physical by the ships doctor, James Coal, while the ships commander Admiral Galeb and first officer Rown addressed him at phaser-point.
"Lieutenant Charles Marteez, Starfleet service number 984-592-115, you are under arrest in association to a traitor and for the murder of the crews of the USS Delaney." Galeb said.
"Can you do this later, please?" Doctor Coal said as he gave Charlie a oral scan.
"I told you already, we were not responsible for what happened to the Delaney." Charlie said when Coal lowered his instruments.
"Ah yes it was the incursion of an evil replica of the USS Odyssey from another universe." The admiral responded.
"The ISS Odyssey." Charlie corrected and he was met with the admirals fury.
"Do not answer me back, Lieutenant!" he shouted. "You think this wild story of evil clones and parallel universe's would justify the murder of hundreds. Your actions and attitude are a disgrace to that uniform. Once the doctor is finished with you, you will be sent to the brig until we intercept your ship."
Admiral Galeb and and Commander Rown walked down the corridor together. Dean Rown watched as more armed officers stood to one side to give way for their superior officers. Many of them looked uneasy and uncertain, any man could tell that they were not comfortable with firing on another Starfleet vessel, traitor or not, but the admiral did not seem to notice.
"You believe him don't you?" Galeb asked.
"Was it obvious?"
"This is why you were demoted commander," Galeb said. "You let your personal opinion and interpretation cloud your judgement."
"I arrested two friends for espionage under my command."
"And one of which turned out to be a murderous traitor who you let walk."
"That is my decision, it is my ship-" Rown said before Galeb interrupted.
"Was." He said. "Was your ship. And that is why it is not your decision now."
The admiral continued on his way as commander Rown resented those comments. He looked about the corridor, many of the crew still believed that his demotion was unjust at the start of the war. Marteez had told him his story of the ISS Odyssey and the Sagittarius signal and now, looking at the reaction of the admiral, was considering if it were true.
Doctor Coal completed his physical of Charlie and began to pack away his instruments. The captured lieutenant stood up and was being escorted out the medical bay by the security officer until the commander Rown intercepted them once reaching the door.
"Crewman, you're dismissed." Rown said.
"Sir, I'm under orders to escort the prisoner to the brig." He explained in confusion.
"I understand that but I'll take it from here." Rown said. The crewman reluctantly nodded and handed his rifle over to Rown as he departed the room. Rown glanced back into the medbay before and saw that Doctor Coal watching him just as he led the lieutenant out into the corridor. Did the doctor know what he was going to do? That was a question he would not concern himself with at the moment.
The two walked down the corridors together. They turned and cut across passages, soon Charlie estimated that he was taking them to the forward section of the secondary hull. Specifically if the Rodney is designed with the standard internal configuration of Starfleet, was to the forward torpedo launchers.
"It was Charles, wasn't it?" The commander asked quietly. Charlie nodded. "Good. I want you swear to me that you are telling the truth."
"It's all true, the Terrans, the signal, everything." Charlie answered. "We have evidence on the Odyssey."
"Very well but don't let me down." Rown said as he continued to lead Charlie through the ship. "Because if you are lying to me then I will have no choice but to follow Starfleet's orders."
The two entered the launch bays. Inside was stacks of photon, quantum and tricolbalt torpedoes, except for one. A photon torpedo casing was empty, split open and resting on a separate launch railings.
"Okay, there's a combat drill in ten minutes, when that happens I'll launch you in this torpedo casing. The Odyssey should pick up the transponder as it passes by." Rown explained.
"Wouldn't bridge detect it?" Charlie asked as he climbed into the casing.
"Don't worry, I still have much of the crew who still supports me." Rown said. Just as Charlie began to close the casing, Rown stopped him and handed him a padd. "This is an analysis of how we tracked you, the quantum warp engine produces a specific faint subspace signature."
"Got it," Charlie said, placing the padd in his uniform jacket. "And thank you."
"Don't mention it." Rown said as he closed the torpedo casing.
The Odyssey had kept within a lightyear of the Rodney. Keeping themselves outside the Rodney's sensor range but keeping them within their own. Miss Gillian called Malcolm to the bridge when they picked up a transponder signal not far from the Rodney's position.
Malcolm ordered the Odyssey to wait until the USS Rodney moved away.
"Captain, the object appears to match the dimensions of a photon torpedo casing but I am detecting a lifesign inside." Reka reported.
"What is it?" Malcolm asked.
"Lieutenant Marteez?" Malcolm said. He stood from his captains chair and moved over to the science station.
"It's possible." Reka said. The beaked alien looked over to his captain that stood next to him and Malcolm felt uncomfortable how close the beak came forward and the captain gently moved back to the walkway on the bridge.
"Transport that lifesign to medbay," Malcolm said pointing a finger to Gillian. "Warn Doctor Malcolm we have incoming."
Charlie was transported on board the Odyssey. Almost immediately Paul set up a engineering team to modify the quantum warp engine to mask the subspace signature and soon after made a jump to maximum Quantum Velocity out of the system leaving the USS Rodney in the dust.
Malcolm sat in his quarters and stared at his computer screen. If Starfleet was so determined to follow them that they would divert such an important carrier like the USS Rodney, Malcolm thought, then how many other ships would they send? Starfleet and the Federation have dozens of ships with experimental drives that are far beyond the maximum warp speed. The USS Wright, the USS Eros, and reportedly the new USS Enterprise 1701-F that was currently under construction were only three of the ships fitted with the Quantum Slip Stream drive. The USS Monash, the USS Tarla-Sul, and the USS Palatua fitted with Borg inspired Transwarp engines. And of course the USS Rodney with the Displacement-activated Spore Hub Drive. Not to mention at the launch of the USS Odyssey, at least three more Miller Classes had begun development: the USS Aquarius, the USS Star's Light, and the third unnamed vessel which one of the names that were being considered was the USS Richard Malcolm, but he would doubt that name would be approved after what happened.
Ellie stepped through the door into the quarters and greeted her husband sitting in the dark.
"Come on you need some light in here," she said turning on the lights to at least mid brightness. "Space is dim enough as it is." Malcolm squinted at the sight of the brightness, covering his eyes with his hands.
"How is the lieutenant?" Malcolm spoke dropping his hands onto the desk.
"You mean Marteez? Yes the minimal life support in the torpedo casing caused some minor oxygen deprivation and the stress of the g-forces fractured a couple of bones but I patched him up. He should be good for duty in a couple of days." Ellie rattled off and she moved over towards the computer. She placed her arms around him from behind and saw Malcolm put on the fakest brief smile he could. He also had a blue mug of strong coffee next to the computer. Both signs she knew something was weighing on his mind. "Rich, is something wrong?"
Malcolm let out a brief sigh. "El, did I make the right decision?"
"You mean how you left Marteez behind?" Ellie asked and Malcolm nodded. She took a deep breath, and knelt down next to the chair Malcolm sat on. "I don't know. I honestly don't. It wasn't Starfleet, but out here, if we have any hope to do this, then maybe we can't be all the time. But we still have to try."
Malcolm sat there for a moment and simply nodded.
"Four months and it's just hit me."
"What did?" Ellie asked.
"Nothing. I just have a feeling that the longer we are out here, the more I'll have to tell myself that."
2:2 (Slow Down, Fast Up) Edit
The USS Odyssey was designed for a long range mission and the comfort of the crew was in mind. The ship did have a fairly small crew compared to it's size, with a length of just over 500 metres but only with a crew of 385 officers and enlisted personnel. Learning from the Galaxy classes, the comforts of space flight were contained to decks 9-11, containing such commodities such as rec rooms, lounges, the galleys, a salon, holodecks, gym, screening room and of course a bowling alley. Decks 1-8 and 12-21 were kept strictly professional use for the maintain and function of the ship. Bridge, brig, medical bays, deflector control, air locks, science labs, engineering labs and many more including the brig. Unfortunately this was where the ships helmsman, Anderson Reece, was kept behind a containment field in the brig as Captain Malcolm scolded him.
"I cannot believe what I'm seeing," Malcolm said angrily.
"Captain I can explain." Reece attempted before Malcom interrupted.
"One of my senior officers accused of assault against the chef."
"Him and I got into a disagreement, Alice is doesn't like meat but he refused to use protein replacements in-"
"So you threw a punch?" Malcolm asked.
"It was more like a push. Over a table." Reece explained.
"You are damn lucky, Mr Reece," Malcolm said. "Chef is not pressing charges, he said he admires a man who knows what he wants. But the real question is, why not just replicate it if you were so determined?"
"Alice doesn't like replicated food."
"Ah well I can understand that." Malcolm said dropping his angry tone.
"Can I go now then?" Reece asked coy like.
"Of course," Malcolm said waving his hand before heading out of the brig, turning to face Reece still in the cell. "After you have been processed through the appropriate release investigation, that should take no less than 26 hours."
"No wait wait!" Reece shouted as Malcolm slid the brig doors behind him.
Malcolm passed through the corridors on deck 11 returning to the galley. Soon after stepping out the turbolift, he heard a voice call after him.
"Captain!" She said, it was Lavivia, a Cardassian woman who was partnered with the Ambassador Kaden. The two stayed on the USS Odyssey after being debriefed on the situation over the Sagitarrius signal. They believed that her skills in temporal physics and astronomy, and his negotiation skills as an ambassador would be helpful to their mission but the past four months have been nothing but quiet despite the encounter with the USS Rodney. In response they worked together to set up a salon and shop for those off duty on deck 11.
"Ah what can I do for you?" He said continuing on his way.
"Kaden and I wanted to invite you and the doctor over one night for dinner."
"It's the least we can do for allowing us to stay on board."
"No having you two on board is reward enough." Malcolm assured her, smiling and turning back to his path.
"Well thank you, you're too kind captain," Lavivia said. "But the truth is that being the only two Cardassian civilians on board, it's difficult to make friends."
"What about the salon?"
"I do get to interact with many people thanks to that but it's still difficult." She explained. "So how about it?"
"I'll talk to El but we should be able to arrange one night." Malcolm said. Lavivia smiled just as the comm beeped him Malcolm's ear. He tapped his ear twice and responded "Malcolm here."
"Captain we've just dropped out of quantum speed and we are picking up some highly unusual readings in a nearby star cluster." Reka said over the comm.
"Alright set a course, I'll be up in a couple of minutes." Malcolm said. He turned to Lavivia to say his farewell before continuing on his way to the galley.
The doors to the bridge slid open. Malcolm, now holding a mug of tea, stepped onto the bridge just as the Odyssey dropped out of warp 50 AU's from the border of star cluster. "Report." Malcolm said as he sat down in the central captains chair.
"The readings appear to be 37 Quark Stars in an unusual orbit of each other."
"Quark stars?" Malcolm asked.
"They are a highly unsual and rare hyperdense form of neutron stars. The federation had only ever came across one Quark star, never observed in such a cluster. I recommend we move closer for more detailed scans." Reka said.
"Ops how long until we can engage the quantum warp drive?" Malcolm asked.
"Should only take 12 hours for the field generators to re-align." Gillian said.
"You have 12 hours to take your scans commander," Malcolm said. "Helm, take us closer, one quarter impulse."
The USS Odyssey approached the cluster, taking care to keep far enough from the stars to avoid the gravity wells. Suddenly the entire crew felt the ship abruptly stop. The bridge officers lunged forward but many of the caught themselves on their stations and sets except the helmsman who slammed his head against the station.
"Medical teams to bridge. What the hell was that?" Malcolm said ad he ran across the bridge to the helm. "We are caught in a pocket gravity well." Reka reported and Malcolm sat himself in the helms station.
"It is pulling us in." Malcolm said. The Odyssey fell towards the cluster, traveling on a erratic path but one thing was clear, if they don't escape soon, they will impact one of the stars. "Firing ventral thrusters, increase power to structural integrity." Malcolm ordered.
"Structual integrity field not responding captain," Gillian reported as the Odyssey continued towards the Quark Star.
"Deploy armour." Malcolm ordered.
The bridge continued to shake as several bulkheads buckled under the stress. Formally black strips along the saucer now shone blue as large segments of armour stretched across the hull, hugging the windows and nacelles and encasing the entire ship. From bow to stern all ventral thrusters engaged, firing at full strength and the Odyssey rapidly decreased in speed. "Molecular armour at 90 percent. 80 percent. 70 percent. Armour holding at 65 percent." Gillian reported.
"We are stabilising near the edge of the cluster," Malcolm said. He tapped his ear twice and repeated his request for medical teams however he was met with silence. He repeated again and the comm remained silent.
There was a displacement in the mycelium network, with a crack of blue and white lightning that cut across space before the USS Rodney was dropped there where it was once not. They performed scans for any subspace disturbances that might indicate the Odyssey's quantum warp drive but they found nothing. Rown was quietly pleased that Charles Marteez was able to mask the signature, on the other hand, Galeb, unaware with what Rown had done, was nothing less than furious.
"It took us four months to trace their signature!" Galeb shouted, slamming his padd down onto the table and the glass cracked underneath. "But when we had them in our grasp, they escape! How did they figure out how we was tracing them?"
"Marteez must have downloaded our engineering files before he escaped." Rown said.
"I must say commander I do not believe that he could have overpowered someone like you."
"This just proved to me that I need to hit the gym more." Rown said, attempted to crack a smile but Galeb did not appreciate the attempt. Rown looked down before preparing himself to leave the admirals presence. "I'll increase security around our weapons systems and brig so this won't happen again, we should also rework our software access codes." Galeb sat there and simply stared at him. Rown met his eyes, uncertain on if he was suspicious of his first officer and secret relief struck him when Galeb nodded.
Rown exited the turbolift into the corridor deep within the ship itself. He put on a strong face for the crew, unsure about the prospect of hunting another federation starship so far from home. But this calm face was torn down when a voice came over the intercom. "Medical teams to the mess hall, Doctor Coal has collapsed." It said.
Reece was awoken from unconsciousness to the slight pricking sensation upon his cheek. One by one the hot shards of a melting bulkhead dropped in the tiniest pieces onto his face. He was quick to dart out from under the bulkhead and looked about the brig, putting his fingers to check the damage on his cheek. The lights struggled and flickered, the tables and chairs thrown across the room much like how Reece had been thrown against the bulkhead. The forcefield containing him was now inactive. Reece called down the corridor for anyone he could find as he stepped out of the brig. He tapped his ear twice to call for anyone to report in but what he was met with was a burning high pitched screech that felt as if it were to damage his ear drums. Luckily for him before his ears began to bleed he ripped the comm out of his ear and took a moment to think of what to do next. He was currently on deck 9, the same deck as the primary sickbay. It's a start.
"Is there anyway to pull away?" Malcolm asked Reka, his science officer. The two stood on other sides of the science station.
"Negative captain," Reka explained. He pointed towards his screen that displayed an analysis of the Quark Star. "An objects gravity is directly proportional to its mass. It is often considered that a neutron star is one of the densest form of matter as all that mass compressed into such a tight space that the neutrons are stacked together. It's been theorized that if a neutron star was massive enough then those neutrons would be compressed so much that even the quarks themselves are pressed together. Those levels of density and mass would exert a gravity that even full impulse couldn't break free."
"Can we jump to warp?" Malcolm enquired.
"Warp core is not responding."
"Well none of our systems seem to be responding for three hours now, even the turbolift. Nothing seems to be wrong on our end, everything below deck one seems to just not responding. Are you okay, commander?" Malcolm asked. He pointed towards a small stream of yellow blood coming out of his nostril above the beak like structure on Reka's face. Reka glanced his away from his captain and took a moment to wipe away the blood.
"Yes I'm fine captain." Reka reassured.
Reece looked about the sprawling corridors of the USS Odyssey. He kept having to turn around and find new and different paths to the sickbay as several sections had become impassable, bulkheads had collapsed and coolant was leaking. He approached the large glass doors of the sickbay. Crewmen and officers were rushed inside by the nurses to tend to their injuries.
"Lieutenant! There you are!" Doctor Ellie Malcolm called out as she saw him.
"Do you know what's happened to the ship?" Reece asked.
"The inertial dampeners must have failed, my staff have got their hands full dealing with concussions and broken bones from being thrown into bulkheads over the past three hours," Ellie explained. "Now come in and I'll deal with that head bruise." Ellie led Reece inside. She sat him down on one of the smaller secondary beds and from this corner Reece could see the many officers suffering from various head injuries, broken limbs and bones, or simply unnconcious.
"Any fatalities?" Reece asked solumely.
"Luckily not yet," Ellie said. "But there will be if that happens again." She ran a neural scanner over and around the bruise on his head. Reece soon swiped away her instruments as soon as the numbing subsided.
"I need to get to the bridge." Reece said, halted by the doctor.
"Good luck with that," Ellie said. "But we haven't had contact with bridge since this happened, and the turbolifts are stuck on the lower decks."
"Then I'll use the the Jefferies Tubes and climb my way up."
"You want to climb nine decks? Not with that injury." Ellie insisted.
"Okay then you come with me then." Reece said and Ellie looked about the sickbay.
"If you insist to go, I should go with you to monitor you." Ellie turned around and called over a nurse from the middle of the sickbay. "Nurse Cruford, you are in charge until I get back."
"Yes doctor." He responded.
"Computer, disable security protocol 13-J." Malcolm said aloud. He and another officer had pulled the turbolift doors open but found a solid armour blade behind it blocking their way out.
"Negative." The computer responded. "Disabling that security protocol will compromise structual integrity around the command bridge. External stress beyond safety limits to disable-"
"Alright I've got it." Malcolm said in frustration. Reka suddenly collapsed over his station and caught himself before falling to the floor. Malcolm picked up a medical tricorter, performing a scan of Reka's fallen head. "If I'm reading this right, your system is flooded with gamma rays." Malcolm said.
"It's to be expected being this close to the star." Reka explained exhausted. "It must be leaking though the shields."
"Qucese physiology is more susceptible to radiation damage." Malcolm told him solumely.
"I'm not sure, but it won't be long more of the crew begin to show signs."
Reece and Ellie moved through the corridors towards the main Jefferies Tube access. Ellie of course did not approve of Reece's insistence to return to the bridge. Simply reckless in his condition. Regardless it was worth humouring him for now for her own state of mind. But it was not her state of mind that she should have worried for. They worked together to remove the bulkhead cover, which was removed safely to the side. A long two person wide ladder rose in the centre of the tube before eventually branching off into horizontal paths in the guts of the ship. However seconds after placing a hand on the ladder Anderson Reece felt the weight and weakness of a dazed state, only prevented from falling by the grasp of Ellie from behind.
"I knew this was a bad idea." Ellie commented as she dragged him to lay upright away from the tube.
"No." Reece sighed. "I need to get up there doc, they could need our help." He brushed away Ellie's instruments forcing her to concede. In a typical situation, Ellie would not allow her patient who just almost collapsed to the floor climb nine decks worth but then she heard a noise emanating from the tube. The sound of hands grasping, shoes clanging against the metal ladder, and a distinctive voice. It was Lavivia, her grey hands was the first to appear then her scaled face as she pulled herself up.
"El!" She exclaimed in happiness. "I'm so glad you're okay." The two shared an embrace at the sight of each other and Ellie described the situation in sickbay not far from where they sat.
"... my staff have had their hands full for the past few hours." Ellie explained but was soon interrupted.
"Hours?" Lavivia asked. "It has only been thirty minutes at most."
Ellie looked puzzled. She reached into her uniform to her personal tricorter and slid it open simply to point out Lavivia's error. "The incident happened 1558, it's 1849 right now so that would make it three hours." She explained but Lavivia simply shook her head.
"I was worried this might happen." She said, revealing the time displayed on her own tricorter. Ellie compared the two, Lavivia's clearly showing 1624 hours. Each tricorter was linked to the ships on board atomic clock so there should be no differences between the two in this respect. But there were.
"What do you mean you thought this might happen?" Ellie asked curiously. "What is going on?"
"It's a long story." She responded.
Reka drifted in and out of consciousness as Gillian and Malcolm attempted to provide him with any such thing he would need. Water. Food. Comfort. Anything. But Reka's deteriorating health had a massive effect on the bridge officers. Riley had gone as far to break open the weapons locker, projecting a stream of hot red energy at the armour blade. Shouting in frustration before Malcolm ordered him to reel it back.
"A whole day! A whole damn day!" Riley shouted, throwing the phaser at the armour. Riley of course had not anticipated his own strength and sparks flew out of the phaser. "What about now?"
"No change." An officer sat at the operations station. It was unbelievable for the head of security. How much could that armour take? And who designed it to encase the bridge?
"He has a point." Jennifer said quietly as they attended to Reka.
"The lower decks have been silent for a day, if anyone is left then Paul and El must be." Malcolm assured her. "They will help us."
"You seem to be certain of that." Jennifer said.
"You have any reason not to be?" Malcolm asked her raising one eyebrow. The trust the captain placed in his people was unwavering even in the trials he currently faced, trapped inside a near impenetrable armour and hid science officer struggling more and more to hold on. "Jen?" A drop of blood had emerged from Jennifer's nostril almost as quickly as she did.
It was not a safe nor smart idea for Ellie and Lavivia to drag Reece up the jefferies tube. Each of them took turns to hold onto him as they pulled him up another deck. As they climbed, Lavivia explained the situation to the two. The external sensors form the observation lounge had told her that the ship was struggling to break free of the gravitational pull of a Quark star. She had theorized that the gravitational strength would cause time dilation on an extreme scale. She calculated that time would be perceived to be passing slower the lower decks you went. Lavivia demonstrated this when she pulled out her tricorder and dropped it. Reece and Ellie watched it fall, slowing as it dropped several decks before reaching a complete stop, suspended in the air.
"There's the same effect between us, you do sound lightly slower," said Lavivia.
"I thought you were just a stylist," said Ellie. "I feel like I've been underusing your skills."
"I studied temerporal mechanics in the Detapa Insitute of Technology on Cardassia." She responded. "I headed my own team before we came here but there is no room for civilian scientists on board."
"Why did you leave that then?"
"Whatever is out in Sagitarrius has to be more interesting then just sitting in boardrooms," said Lavivia.
"You sound like Richard." Ellie commented. "How do you feel?" Reece had halted in his climb grasping at the rungs. With a click, Ellie locked her tether in place and scanned Reece's bruise before shaking her head. "You think you can make it to the bridge?" Ellie asked and Reece simply responded with a certain 'no.' Ellie looked around the tube and saw the huge white number '7.' "Engineering is on deck 7, we can check on them in there," said Ellie.
Ellie and Lavivia had put their arms around Reece as they entered engineering and called out for help. Paul appeared from underneath the pulsating blue warp core and at first his face lit up but that was soon diminished when he saw the state Reece was in.
"How long had it been up here?" Said Lavivia.
"Nearly 26 hours." Stated Paul. "What is going on? We've had nearly no contact from the rest of the ship."
"We are currently trapped in the gravitational pull of a Quark star." Said Lavivia.
"Hang on that would cause extreme time dil-time dilation." Said Paul.
"Exactly," she said in response. "I have only experienced about forty minutes, and Ellie has three hours."
"That would explain why so many systems aren't responding." Said Paul before he drew his attention towards Ellie, who had lent Reece against the bulkhead. "Is he going to be alright?"
"With rest his head isn't that bad, but he can't make it to the bridge." Ellie explained. Paul then asked if Ellie could leave Reece's side for a moment and she told him it would be safe. Ellie was gestured to the other side of engineering where Ensign Staan lay against the bulkhead, pale and nose bleeding. Charlie moved aside to allow for the doctor to sit down and scanned her head.
"We were repairing the internal sensors when she just collapsed, we've been trying to make her comfortable since." Paul said. Ellie continued to scan with a look of confusion on her face.
"This wasn't caused by any injury like Lieutenant Reece was, her system is flooded with gamma radiation." Said Ellie.
"What could be causing that?" Charlie asked. "Lavivia said that we are near a Quark Star, those things project alot of gamma radiation out into space." Said Paul.
Ellie stood up and began to perform a scan on Paul now. "Have you been feeling headaches? Nausea? Fatigue?" Listed Ellie.
"Headaches and fatigue, yes. Nausea, no." Answered Paul.
"Your system is flooded as well." Ellie said closing her medical tricorder. "My guess is all of us have been exposed to enough radiation to kill us within a week if left untreated."
"You can treat us, right?" Sam said emerging form the corner. She had been helping Charlie look after Katie since she collapsed and was now confident in letting her rest.
"Of course, we've had treatments for radiation sickness and radiation poisoning for decades." Said Ellie. "In medbay I should be able to purge all our systems of gamma radiation and undo any DNA damage, but it would not matter the more we get exposed and could take too long to treat everyone on the upper decks without the turbolifts."
"Well those won't respond until we shut down the molecular armour..." Paul started to say before Charlie finished it for him.
"... And doing that would rip the ship apart under these stresses." Both Paul and Charlie shared a look with each other. It was good, Paul thought at least, that his team had made it their priority to learn the ins and outs of the Odyssey even in such unusual circumstances.
"What I'm most interested in however," said Ellie. "Is why me and Lavivia aren't showing any symptoms yet. Lieutenant Reece's were caused my head trauma, not radiation, but we are not showing any symptoms."
"The 'upper decks'." Lavivia said quietly. This did not stop everyone else to turn to her however. "Well you said you could not get to the upper decks in time, but even with the turbolifts offline you will be able to get to the lower decks in time." Everyone looked at her in confusion. "See you and I are not showing any symptoms because we have not been exposed to the radiation for as long."
"The time dilation." Said Paul. "That means that the bridge..."
"It means that the bridge will be almost untreatable levels." Said Ellie.
"We need to pull away from that star." Charlie stood up and moved across the engine room. "We can reroute helm control down here and drive us out ourselves."
"The thrusters are already at full power, if those aren't strong enough to escape then none of us could do it." Said Paul shaking his head.
"I could.." Reece now struggled to come to his feet, holding an ice bag to his forehead. "I could do it."
"To anyone still conscious, this is the captain." Malcolm had begun to transmit a message ship-wide. Not that he thought anyone would respond, but he thought it best now that the last of the his bridge officers had fallen unconscious and he himself struggled to stay awake. The bridge appeared to spin around him, there was a screeching ring in his ears, and even his skin had begun to hurt. If all those times listening to Ellie blather on about her patients during their early dates didn't go to waste, he knew it must be late stage radiation sickness. "I don't know if anyone is left." Malcolm said. "Of the bridge crew I am the only one left. Miss Gillian, Lieutenant Riley, Ensign Davies have all fallen unconscious, and Commander Reka is now in critical condition. Luckily no one has died yet but I have no doubt people will start dying. There is nothing more I can do. So i have sent out a priority one distress call on all known frequencies. Our only hope now is that the Rodney picks up the distress call and tractors us out. I suppose I'm leaving this message so they might find it and realise that we are on a mission to save the federation, not betray it. With that spore drive they could complete our mission in a matter of hours. "In truth, as I look back now, 5 months we've been out here, and the first anomaly we encounter has already ended it? I've allowed myself to become obsessed with getting to the source, so much that I would abandon one of our own. But now I realise that I would rather have been anywhere else then in command of this mission. I just want to go home. Before the Terrans. Before the war. Before everything, back home." Malcolm sat there looking at the arm of his chair, blood spilling out of his nose. A LCARs screen built into the arm, highlighted with silver in the chairs leather and wool. It's screen displayed the request to save the recording. Malcolm took a moment struggling to think. Cough and Malcolm stored the message in his personal files.
Reece stood behind a console in engineering as holograms rose out from the floor all around him. From there he could see the ship and the star surrounded by two concentric rings, one following the Odyssey, the other was lined with red and hugged the star. That was the kill zone, the point where the stars gravity will rip the ship apart despite the armour. Charlie had reported in that they now had warp and impulse power just as Sam finished setting up the holographic generators.
Ellie's voice came over the comm informing them that she was ready to treat the bridge officers as soon as they were away. "Remember if you feel nauseous take that hypospray immediately." Said Ellie.
"Yes I remember." Reece said securing the hypospray on the console. Reece placed his palms on the screen and after 5 seconds interactive control holograms rose out to chest and eye height.
"Armour holding at 60 percent." Said Paul.
"Okay I can work with that." Said Reece as he slid his hands onto the controls like a weightless translucent glove. "We've got one shot at this, drop ventral thrusters on my mark, standby on impulse and warp drive." All the engineers at all of their stations nodded. "Eject plasma out aft thermal vents." The map displayed the Odyssey's rear section, blue plasma vented out from the two large struts and just below the shuttlebay before being caught into the stars gravity. Like a stream the plasma fell into the star at an angle, circling half the equator before causing a giant eruption of white surface plasma. One by one, Reece gave the mark for the thrusters to be disengaged and the Odyssey was flipped bow first towards the star. The blue core behind them pulsated faster and faster, green specks swam inside the core and the red highlights shone brighter.
"Armour dropping to 50 percent." Reported Paul over the increasing wurl of the engine.
"Full power to the impulse drive, open the ram scoops." Said Reece. The Odyssey fell further and further towards the star, through the plasma trail. The plasma they had ejected had now had caused spurattic eruptions form the star, flares of hot, dense material, and the Odyssey flew right through them. And the Odyssey was picking up more and more speed. The nacelles scooped the material that fused with the dilithium and supercharged the warp coils that Paul hoped would give them enough power to escape. Reece held the controls in the position that'll gain them the most speed. The Odyssey now was rapidly approaching the kill zone, and at the very last moment and a flash of blue, the Odyssey had jumped to warp.
Rown entered the medical bay. On the far end bed lay sprawled under the sheets was Doctor Coal. Looking no less sickly than normal, but Rown immediately saw Coal was weak and tired.
"A visit is not necessary, captain." Coal said calmly.
"Why didn't you tell me the spore drive was having side effects?" Rown asked, ignoring that Coal just referred to him as 'captain.'
"You all read the report, extensive navigation of the mycelium network causes severe white matter build up in the human brain." Said Coal sharply. "How is it my fault that you ignored that."
"How long have you been having these side effects?" Rown asked straining the importance of the answer.
"Nearly four months." Said Coal.
"Four months?" Rown said in shock. He lent in and placed one hand on the bed sheets. "If you told us about this sooner we could have sorted out another officer to share the load, or even a full time replacement for you to monitor."
"No this is something I must do." Coal insisted.
"Because I know that the Odyssey are not the traitors we think." Said Coal quietly. "Whether that be these duplicates from another universe or what, I know that Ellie Malcolm, her captain, and all of that crew are not capable of slaughtering a ship full of people. And chasing them across the universe is meaningless."
"You have been changing the coordinates mid-jump, haven't you?" Rown had finally put two and two together. "Everytime we think we were on them you changed the coordinates to protect your friend."
Rown placed his weight back into his feet and turned away from Coal. "Doctor I think I would have done the same."
"You did do the same." Coal emphasised. "You gave Marteez a way to modify their engines to avoid our detection." Rown paused, unsure on how to act. He had spent the last few weeks ensuring no one was suspicious of him for giving away his we was tracing the Odyssey to Marteez. "So what now?" He asked. "You could tell the admiral. You could get some poor sod to get in that glass chamber and jump you to every system in the known universe to find the Odyssey." Coal suggested, it was not something Rown was considering. "But I know you won't. I trust and respect you enough to know that. And there aren't many people I can say that about. But you know why I know I can? Because you did not even flinch when I called you 'Captain'."
The Odyssey now sat comfortably three light years into empty space. With the time dilation no longer taking effect, and the armour disabled, the medical staff was able to treat the entire crew of radiation poisoning. Paul had insisted that they took a three day delay to their departure at Quantum Velocity until he had taken time to purge the warp coils of the exotic materials.
"Oh how has Ensign Staan been?" Lavivia asked. Malcolm and Ellie had taken Lavivia and Karen's offer of coming round for a night. Typically the two Cardassians would have the darkest and warmest quarters on the ship, but this night they put the temperature and lighting controls at the medium between Cardassian and human comfort.
"Yes she's recovered after I cleared her system." Said Ellie. "I told her what happened and all she could say was now long it would take to perform a full system clean out of any exotic elements."
"It's hard to imagine all that happened." Said Kaden. "Down in the lower decks only a good thirty seconds past after I climbed down."
"Thirty seconds, try four days." Said Malcolm. He dipped a piece of bread into the stew and took a bite, stopping at the slightly metallic taste. "Is this bread replicated?"
"Yes sorry captain, I know you don't like replicated food but it's all I could do in time." Lavivia assured him.
"No, no it's quite alright." Said Malcolm warmly.
"But yeah what was it like stuck on the bridge for that long?" Ellie asked her husband.
"It was... terrifying." Malcolm said, for a moment dropping the typically jokey attitude before changing the subject. "Does this mean I get my birthday a week earlier?" They laughed but Ellie saw what he was trying. Looking back on those days she could tell made him uncomfortable, in response gave a gesture for Malcolm to give the two the good news. Malcolm cleared his throat and placed a small box on the shared table. Kaden reached over and picked it up, unhooking the lock and lifted the lid so he and Lavivia could see. Inside was two small metal diamonds with flat faces and silver finishes. The Starfleet badge. "We've been talking and I've come to the conclusion that we've been ignoring you and the contribution you could bring to our mission." Malcolm explained. "Welcome to the crew." Kaden and Lavivia thanked him and they returned to their meal and conversation.
2:3 (Infobesity) Edit
In light of recent events that these uncharted regions will be far more exotic than expected, the USS Odyssey now has been sending a scout ahead and mark safe coordinates. Over the last the jump, the Miller One had reported in that there was a system with an unusual energy signature only two light years out from the rendezvous. Paul was aware of their approach to the system, he even had been instructed to form an away team to go down to the fourth planet, an M-class. But he had put this to the back of his mind, far too preoccupied with his work to focus on that. He lay on his back, facing up with instruments scattered all around him with three translucent blue packs above him. Step by step he heard shoes walk across the metal floors approaching where he lay. The feet stopped right beside where Paul lay and down knelt Charlie.
"Sir, you realise we are about to enter the system right?" Said Charlie.
"We still have twenty minutes." Said Paul not removing his attention from the gel packs. "Remember that Quark Star radiation last week? Well the bio-neural packs were hit just as hard as us it turns out, deck 4 replicators are just not working."
"So the gel has the flu..." Charlie joked that just went over Paul's head.
"More like cancer." Said Paul. Charlie sighed, placing his hand on the top of the open bulkhead.
"Sir have you set up that away team?" Paul did not answer for a moment, just staring up at the gel packs, fiddling with the base wiring.
"I've been.... busy." Paul eventually said.
"Oh well luckily I took the liberty to set it up for you." Said Charlie. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a padd of a list of names. Paul pulled himself out from under the packs and took a look at the list. A science officer, two security officers, and three engineers including himself.
"Are you sure you wouldn't want to go yourself instead of me?" Said Paul, getting to his feet.
"Come on, its our first M-class we've found, you should go." Said Charlie. "I can watch things here." Paul smiled and moved away from the bulkhead. He took several steps before spinning on his heel. He tossed his scanner across the hall which was caught by Charlie, and turned back to the door.
"The away team has beamed down to the planet." Miss Gillian said to the captain.
"Very good, Commander have you located the origin of that energy signature?" Malcolm asked.
"Negative captain." Said Reka. "There is a great deal of interference from the inner system."
"Cause?" Asked Malcolm, spinning in his chair central to the bridge. Reka did not answer for a few moments, focusing on the screens surrounding him then shook his head.
"Unknown. Something is there but our sensors are unable to identify structure, composition, energy signature."
"You have an hour to identify otherwise we will send a shuttle to investigate." Said Malcolm and Reka nodded. "Miss Gillian, prepare an away team in the shuttle bay."
"Captain, I would like to suggest that this away team consists of Starforge crew." Gillian said.
"Surely we can use both Starfleet and Starforge together." Said Malcolm.
"Many of my people do not feel that way, and it will not help that the away team to the first M-class planet is all Starfleet won't help." Gillian said. Malcolm considered what she said for a moment then nodded.
The experience of a transporter beam is am unusual one. You cannot really compare it to anything else. Feeling your molecules dematerialise from one place to another. Some say they could feel the wind before the process even began. Some say that they can see two pictures merge together mid-transport. And some say that they never quite feel like they are all there. But Paul always felt like his stomach jolted upwards and back into place, sometimes this had caused some issues but fortunately he was able to hold it together this time.
"Oxygen-nitrogen based atmosphere. No airborne viruses or bacteria." Said Ensign Janvi, the away team science officer. "Its safe to breathe." Paul nodded and each member of the away team removed their environmental helmets.
Paul climbed the rockpile that covered the furthest wall that blocked their view of the structure the ship detected. The bright sun glazed against his synthetic eye as it adjusted to the light. Paul had seen destroyed cities before, the ancient ruins of Pompeii and the war memorial sight on Cardassia Prime, and at a glance this appeared to be the same. Any structure above two hundred feet had long since crumbled and wildlife had reclaimed this land. But the way the buildings had fallen, the scattered remains of civilisation and build up of mold and dirt suggested that the city was abandoned thousands of years ago at least, and this became more and more evident as they walked through the streets.
"They have left everything it seems." Janvi noted.
"Everything except any sort of computer system." Called out Crewman Francis from the doorway of one of the most stable looking buildings. He was accompanied by Crewman Willis, an over-excited young woman that Charlie Marteez knew would be interested in this mission. The two approached Paul and Janvi, Francis carried a small greyed metal shell infused with an organic compound.
"Basically it's these people's equivalent to a personal computer, but I cannot find any RAM or processors where they should be. This is the same for every other device I've checked. Almost like when they left they took as much memory and processing power as they they could carry."
"Why would they want to do that?" Paul asked. Suddenly Willis raised her hand before realising there was no need to.
"Yes well its most likely that they wanted that much processing power to invest it to... process information."
"Thank you Willis." Said Francis, putting her down.
"Finch to Miller." Paul heard over the comm. He tapped his ear twice and responded. "We are at the south arch of the capital building, you better come down to see this."
The Dragonfly shuttle had the most advanced shield generators of the six specialised shuttles the Odyssey was fitted with. And since Jennifer Gillian had taken her team into the inner world's of the system, close to the star, the shield technology it had would provide the best protection. "Firing probe." Said Jennifer, launching a short range probe from a ventral tube. The probe glided through space. Quickly shooting ahead of the Dragonfly, scanning as it flew.
"Ma'am, the probe has detected a large structure." Said Enfil, a srawny little man and the oldest member of the Starforge crew. His thin face almost stretched against the jaw and the whispy hair hung down below his chin.
"What planet is it on?" Jennifer asked.
"Not a planet," said Enfil. "The structure is surrounding the star."
Long silver tubes each hundreds of kilometres in diameter across encased the star. The rings slowly rotated around a central port. The huge structure was truly impressive.
"There." Jennifer said, pointing towards a stabilised docking ring. "We can dock there. Contact Odyssey that we are making our approach, inform them what is out here."
Paul arrived at the southern arch of the central spiral building. A shocking structure that pierced the blue clouds, three winding stone and metal tubes separated one third of the way down and arched across the cityscape. There stood Ensign Finch and Malenche gesturing for Paul's approach. "Over here!" They called.
"What is it, ensign?" Said Paul as he climbed the rockpile surrounding the base of the arch. Malenche pointed down a other side of a small wooden hut that acted as the edge to an encampment. Stones surrounded a central pile of charcoal that once must have shone brightly inblaze. Tracks in the dry dirt clearly indicated a creature or being of some kind on two legs must have left two hours ago. This was apparent to the analysis Paul's eye provided him, he had gotten so used to it in the months since the Terrans damaged his original eye so much that it had to be replaced and so it surprised him when he had to point these details to the away team. Finch took point as they followed the route the tracks lay down for them but they were halted at the sound of falling rocks and feet scrambling down the slopes. There on the west ridge not far from the away team was a tall red scaled creature, it's four crystaline eyes bulged at the sight of the Starfleet officers. Cautiously, the creature cocked it's head, staring at Paul as he slowly walked forward. The creature hopped down from it's ledge and raised itself to its full height, almost mirroring Paul's actions. "What do we do?" Willis whispered.
"Lower your weapons." Paul said softly, gesturing towards Finch and Malenche as he continued his slow approach to the creature. "Malenche, lower your rifle now." The creature stepped over the rocks but suddenly halted afraid of what was strapped to Paul's leg, his hand-phaser, almost like it recognised what it was. Slowly, Paul reached for the handle and unholstered his weapon, passing it over to Francis and presented his hands to show he was unarmed. The creature appeared to calm. It approached Paul, mirroring his arm stretched out until their hands were almost touching.
"Hello." Said Paul softly to the squinting alien. "My name is Paul Miller... Can you communicate with me?" In one swift move, the creatures hand grabbed Paul's arm. The scales glowed brightly along their cracks as an electric tension shot into Paul's body. The lieutenant commander found himself below the southern arch of the main spiral building that loomed over the city, but the city was not the abandoned relic that he had beamed down to, rather a thriving metropolis. Skyscrapers were woven into the landscape, like an enormous statue intersected with streets and roads and markets. A shock shook the archway, a sonic boom. Paul glanced up to the sky to the sound where he saw five large vessels rose into the sky, glowing a bright orange as they pushed out of the planet's atmosphere. The streets were completely deserted, this was the day the inhabitants evacuated. A soft wimper came from behind Paul, he spun around only to be greeted with the sight of two red scaled creatures huddled in embrace. They were a juvenile and adult, looking right through Paul as if he was not even there. Paul looked closely, and before the world around him folded away, he recognised the juvenile as the same one that stood in front of him in the encampment. Paul suddenly found himself with his back to the floor, Finch and Malenche had their rifles pointed straight out in a defensive stance as the alien was in panic.
"No drop your weapons now!" Paul ordered. "He means us no harm."
"With all due respect sir, it looks like it does." Malenche said as Paul shrugged to regain his footing. The creature was agitated. Standing it's ground against the phasers, arms outstretched and ready to strike. Malenche did not lower his weapon despite Paul's orders. He stared down at the creature, hovering on his heel ready to move at a moments notice. It all happened in seconds. The creature lashed out, ejecting some kind of toxin straight at Malenche. Malenche backed off quickly to avoid the spray. Before the creature could even think to respond, a blue stream leaped from the end of Malenche's rifle and the creature fell to the ground paralysed.
"No!" Paul called out. In frustration he grabbed Malenche's rifle off him and handed it over to Francis.
"It attacked me." Malenche defended himself.
"He was just trying to show me what happened." Paul said. "He was afraid."
They were not met with any alien crew when Jennifer's team bordered the star structure. Enfil reported that the technology on board appeared to be fully operational but it's purpose was unknown. Through the dark corridors they walked towards a strong energy signature ahead. The walls were lined with organic matter, pulsating along the lining past them to the signature a bright green. They put away their torches as the corridor opened up to a large atrium. The atrium walls were built up of pods surrounding a central pillar pulsating in light.
"All of the pods have lifeforms in them." Enfil reported. Jennifer moved towards the nearest pod and took a glance inside through the glass window. There was a red skinned scaled alien lent up against the interior wall with wires hooked up to their veins.
"Why do you think they are here?" Asked one of the Starforge away team. Jennifer removed her tricorder and scanned the nearest three pods.
"They are all neurally linked in some kind of central matrix." Said Enfil. One of their company called for attention, a small orb had emerged from seclusion and sweaped their stance with a blue light. The orb hummed and zipped past them to be concealed inside the central pillar. A hatch slid open, no taller than Jennifer herself, and the silver skeleton of a synthetic humanoid stepped out. Uncertain of the beings intentions, Jennifer allowed it to approach, gears wirled in its knee joints and its feet clanked against the metal floors.
Suddenly it halted unnaturally so, the glass points of light glanced about the group, and the metal jaw dropped and an unusually human voice echoed out. "Welcome visitors to the Cobaford Virtual Care Station." It said aloud. "However this station is authorised personnel only."
"We did not intend to trespass." Jennifer said cautiously.
"Sensors indicate a medium sized star-voyager vessel in high orbit of Cobafirise. ID unknown." It said.
"Yes the USS Odyssey." Jennifer said.
"Are you the leader of the USS Odyssey?"
"No but I do have the authority to speak on behalf."
"Irrelevant. My unit is only authorised to speak to the leader of undocumented groups. You and your accomplances are limited to this area and your own ship." The being no longer responded to any of the away team attempts of communication, going as far to not even acknowledge their existence as it strode to corners of the hall performing maintenance and analysis where needed.
Since its aggressive behaviour on the planet's surface, the creature was remained sedated in sickbay as they performed scans to identify the alien.
"Malenche and Willis said that the alien attacked him." Ellie said looking over the data in her office as Malcolm stood looking out the window into sickbay. Nurse Cruford monitored the sleeping alien, retrained and under a scanner, in the other room as Paul stood over the bio-bed.
"I kind of hoped our first contact with a new species would have gone differently." Said Malcolm solumely. "Scans told us that there was no lifeforms on the surface. We were just going to move in, look about for a bit, take a few pictures, and moved out. Not shooting the first intelligent lifeform we find."
"Malenche said it was self defence." Argued Ellie, looking up from her computer.
"He was reckless." Malcolm said, trying to lower the frustration in his voice. "He should have seen that the alien was responding to Paul's tactics and followed orders."
Ellie softy told him to calm down as she broke away from her work and moved across to the window. "This is something you couldn't have anticipated, Rich. It's not your fault. It was a bad situation that got out of hand, that's all."
Malcolm gave a slight nod and the two embraced for a moment. "Gillian's team has reported that they have discovered a giant structure surrounding this systems star with some kind of scrambler tech we can't detect, and now this happens." Malcolm said. "You know, a part of me just wanted this to be a simple class-m planetary survey we could load on Reka so you and I could spend the next few nights together, and not have to worry about engineering faults in the drive, the Federation hunting us down, or even the signal."
"That would have been nice." Said Ellie.
"But you're going to be fangirling about those medical reports from the scans of the alien for the next few weeks, aren't you?" Malcolm asked and Ellie gave a knowing smile and nod. "Oh I just can't wait to hear how the aliens dendritic cells vary from humans." He joked. The office buzzed for a moment and a voice came over the intercomm. "Bridge to Malcolm." It said and Malcolm tapped his left ear twice. "I'm here."
"Miss Gillians team wishes to speak to you, they say it's important."
"Patch them through." Malcolm said and now it was Jennifer's voice in this ear.
"Captain, we have made very brief contact with some kind of synthetic lifeform. It appears to be caring for countless of these pods with people inside them." She reported.
"Who are inside the pods?" Malcolm asked. "They have identified themselves as the Cobaford. They are the inhabitants of the M-class in this system." Gillian said.
"You mentioned a synthetic lifeform?" Said Malcolm.
"If you would even call it that, sir." Said Gillian. "An android or robot of some kind. It's caring for the Cobaford inside the pods but, captain, it's aware of Odyssey and it will only speak to its leader from now on."
"Alright give me a few moments to prepare." Malcolm said, holding his finger to his ear and then tapping it again to shut it off. "I have to go El, you can tell me all about the macrophages over lunch." He said to Ellie as he backed out of the door. The eyes of the restrained Cobaford flickered open. Panicked it attempted to move.
"It's okay, you're safe." Paul attempted to reassure. The crystalline eyes glanced about the room before resting on Paul.
"M-ul-la." It said, making it's own attempts to say Paul's name.
"Release the restraints." Said Paul.
"I can't do that." Said Nurse Cruford.
"Do it now." Paul now ordered. Nurse Cruford glanced over to Ellie who stood watching through her office window. She nodded and the nurse obeyed Paul's order. The Cobaford darted up to the head of the bed. Glancing about the room but once again rested on Paul.
"Mul-La." It said, pointing towards Paul.
"Miller." Paul softly corrected.
"Mul-La." It said. Slowly it pressed it's scaled hands against its own chest. "Ko-la."
The synthetic being moved from pod to pod in complete silence. Ignoring the team and only reacting when they moved out of bounds, guiding them back. Jennifer appeared back from the ship alone now, stepping to the edge of the synth's limit. It's large silver orbs containing it's pinprick eyes widened and it stepped to meet Jennifer. Jennifer tapped her left ear three times and held for a fourth. A light shone out from beneath her lobe and found a place directly in front of her and a fully three dimensional projection of captain Malcolm rose to form.
"Attention Cobaford guardian." Said Malcolm. "My name is Richard Malcolm, commander of the USS Odyssey and its crew, and I speak on behalf of the United Federation of Planets."
"Authorisation accepted." The guardian said. "Please identify your intentions in this system and station."
"I find it unfortunate that you are opposed to our presence." Malcolm explained. "You see, one of our organisations primary goals is scientific exploration, and our scouting shuttle detected unusual energy signatures coming from this system."
"These readings were coming from our sensor scramblers." It responded.
"Yes we are aware of that now." Said Malcolm attempting to remain polite.
"Your explanation for your presence in this system has therefore expired." It said bluntly. "Please make your departure immediately."
"Of course." Said Malcolm. "What do you want us to do with the Cobaford on board?"
A click came from the synthetic guardian's lower neck as it inquired for more information. "Explain."
"Our away team encountered a single alien on the capital city on the fourth planet, Cobafirise was it?" Malcolm said. "We identified the alien as Cobaford." The guardian cocked it's head once again in concern. When you would expect it to speak, the guardian instead turned and strode towards a control panel at the foot of one of the pods.
"What are you doing?" Jennifer called through her captain. The guardian did not respond as it interfaced with the console. One final jolt from the guardians arm into the console and with a hiss a single pod slid open and a Cobaford dressed in silver and red robes stumbled out. Before it could even open its crystalline eyes, the guardian grabbed the Cobafords arm and the slits between it's scaled glowed bright.
"I see." The Cobaford said certainly before turning to the group and the projection of the captain. His chipped lips appeared to attempt a smile "Greetings captain. My name is Rar, L-1 informs me that you have a Cobaford in your captive."
"Now I wouldn't say 'captive'." Malcolm promised. "But it attacked one of our officers and we unfortunately had to sedate it."
"In any case, I am grateful that you have located my son, now please return him to me." Rar said.
"Amazing." Nurse Cruford said astonished that the Cobaford had opened up so much to Paul.
"Kola?" Paul asked. "Is that your name?"
"Ko-la." It repeated, continuing to point at its own chest. "Ko-la safe?"
"Is Kola safe? Yes you are safe." Paul assured him.
"Kola huh-ome." Said Kola unsure of himself it seemed.
"You want to go home?" Paul asked. "I'm sure you will be able to go home soon."
"Yes you are right, Lieutenant." A voice called from the door, it was Malcolm entering the sickbay. "I just spoke to the leader of the Cobaford. Get him ready for departure, we are returning him to his people on the solar station."
"When?" Asked Paul.
"Our people are transporting Chancellor Rar now, they will arrive within the hour."
The Dragonfly slowed for its approach, the bay doors opened and the flight computer took over as the landing legs stretched. Paul, Malcolm and Nurse Cruford escorted the alien, who walked close to Paul, moving from behind and beside as the crossed the halls and corridors. The group entered the long shuttlebay and there sat at the foot of the Dragonfly was Chancellor Rar and Jennifer. The Cobaford leader perked up at the sight of Kola, raising to his feet.
"Son." He said softly. Kola hid behind Paul even with the sight of his father. "Kola please come to me." Kola stayed behind Paul who had began to notice his distress.
With a smile and a comforting arm, Paul attempted to guide him forward. "Go on, it's okay." Kola edged forward with Paul close behind. Rar left his arm outstretched as Kola approached who he claimed was his father. It was looking good. They had closed the gap slowly and with care, but as they were no more than an arms length away, Kola darted back behind Paul.
"Kola home." He repeated frantically. "Kola home, Kola home."
"No we are going home, son." Rar said. "I'm here to take you home."
To the surprise of Malcolm, Paul intervened more than just guiding Kola forward. "He doesn't mean with you. He wants to go back to the planet."
"This is outrageous." Rar shouted inside the captains ready room, Malcolm sitting at his desk recieving the chancellor's frustration. "Captain I am shocked that you would allow for one of your interiors to keep my son from me."
"Mister Miller neurally linked with your son on the planet's surface, he is under the impression that he is frightened of you, or even that you aren't his father." Malcolm explained, attempting to maintain some sort of calm. "And I would appreciate you not referring to my crew as 'inferiors,' I am just the captain, not an overlord. They simply need to follow my orders, but they are allowed to have opinions of their own."
"Regardless." Rar said. "You cannot allow him to prevent myself from being rejoined with my son."
"I'm afraid we cannot just hand over Kola to you without solid evidence now that he is refusing to meet you." Said Malcolm. "Now unless you are willing for a DNA test."
Rar sighed and pulled his right hand out of his long crimson coat. "It will be easier to show you." Malcolm looked hesitant, he doubted that he would even understand a neural link to communicate information and doubted even more if the chancellor would not attempt to compromise his ability to be captain. "It's quite safe, captain, I assure you." Rar said. Malcolm had not hidden the concern on his face very well. "It is a communication of ideas and memories. It can only influence someone as much as the spoken word."
Malcolm thought for a moment before eventually took the chancellor's arm and the slits between the scales glowed bright. The edges of his ready room began to fall out of focus until all but his own body dissolved into blackness. The room reconstructed itself around him, but it was not his ready room. The room had doubled in size, and his desk off to the corner had been replaced with a large wall-to-wall transparent display case. Inside the case was a two diamensional holographic landscape, red spots dotted the map and lines spiralling across the length. Malcolm recognised this as a battlemap.
"By targeting the Talous bases at coordinates 2-18, 2-21 and 2-29, we will effectively neutralise their ability to support their troops in a possible ground invasion." A Cobaford explained pointing to the map and Malcolm had suddenly become aware of the the other people in the room. The Cobaford that was the centre of attention stood in front of the display case. Yellow skinned but whose scales were much darker than the Chancellors had been, and wore a grey overjacket embroidered with sygils that suggested a life of military service. There were several more Cobaford viewing his presentation, some wore jackets similar to him though much less impressive, they were all nodding approvingly. Others were layered in bleached white uniforms and a crimson red sash across their chests, a patch on their arm red 'Cofal Research and Enginneering Division.' They all were shades of yellows and oranges and, Malcolm noticed, the only red skinned one was none other than Chancellor Rar himself.
"The strikes will have to be simultaneous." The chancellor said. "Talous will retaliate of course."
"Projections indicate that if they are allowed to build up forces along our border then casualties will escalate to up to 16 million lives on both sides." The general explained. "This way the casualties will be less than a quarter of that."
"We can't strike them unprovoked." Said one of the scientists, he was the palest and by far the shortest, almost human in complexion.
"Reports show that there is a large ground force being built up at coordinates 1-39, if we launch a preemptrive strike they will not have an air force to support their army, they will have no choice but to fall back." The general insisted.
"We are not at war with Talous yet and we are already planning for their destruction." A scientist said in disgust.
"We have been at war with Talous on and off for almost three hundred years." The general said. "Now I don't know what to do anymore, I've seen good men die over and over in vain. Our only option now if to cripple them at last."
"Gentlemen," the chancellor stepped in. "If no one else is going to suggest any alternatives then we would better move quickly before the invasion begins." "
Actually I think I do." Said the palest Cobaford scientist, stepping forth to the attention to the chancellor. He faced the display case as the general closed the map, and speaking the computer. "Open file Cobafrise VC 1-1-3." Suddenly the case lit up, first a solid blue then as the colours dissipated all remained was the schematics of the large structure around the Cobaford star.
The room began to dissolve once more, Malcolm fell into darkness, wondering if he would now be returned to his ready room, but instead found himself standing on a platform next to the chancellor overseeing a large crowd of Cobaford. There must of been hundreds in attendance, listening to Rar's speech. "For the first time in centuries, our two people's in the nation's of Talous and Colaf, now shall live in peace together." The chancellor said. "Together, as a species, inside the Virtual Care Facility we shall share thoughts and feelings, ideals and memories. We will be united, not by our nation's, but as one people, the Cobaford people." Then it happened...
In a blaze of heat and panic, the chancellor was thrown across the stage towards the crowd. The air filled with a thick grey smoke yet Malcolm stood unaffected by the blast. The smoke covered his eyes into blackness once again before a medical ward flickered into view.
"Rar I'm so happy you're okay." A female Cobaford said to the chancellor, she was as red as Rar himself. The chancellor lay blinking the lights. It was unusual. Each time Rar closed his eyes, the environment vanished and reappeared. Malcolm then suddenly remembered that this was Rar's memories; cannot recall memories you did not see.
"What's going to happen to the terrorists?" Rar asked quietly, he placed a large amount of contempt on the word 'terrorist.'
"The Talous forces have captured suspects for questioning." She responded. "Rar you must do something. Convince them to give them a fair trial."
"They tried to kill me, Jarvia." Said Rar. "They killed the Talous leader."
"These people are against the station, what it will do to them, what it will do to them as individuals?"
"Their personalities will be intact, we are merely allowing ourselves to express and share ideas in a safe environment." Said Rar. "It will be a neural link for our entire species. No more war. No more suffering at the hands of our differences."
"That's not the way they see it." Said the female Cobaford. "Twenty percent of our people voted against this, if you allowed them to live out their lives here as they wish to-"
"No, too many Cobaford have died due to us being apart. We do this together, or not at all." Rar lifted his right arm, fingers open and waiting for Jarvia to take it and join him. But she did not take it. She turned away from Rar and exited the room as the chancellor was left to close his palm. Frustrated and alone.
The room vanished into a black cloud and the darkness formed into dozens of Cobaford passing by him. He once again stood next to chancellor Rar. "This is the last group." Said the pale skinned Cobaford.
"Jarvia, get Kola inside." Malcolm heard Rar say, gesturing towards the ramp that led into a dropship. Large crowds past them by as the chancellor's partner held their child. She stood their uncertain and anxious, glancing from the large door to the dropship, to the chancellor, and back again. Just when it appeared like she was about to say something, to warn him, the air to the right of the crowd suddenly erupted in a blaze. The foundations were ripped from the it's base as the building collapsed and a thick black cloud enveloped the panicked crowd. The chancellor called for everyone to get inside. Guards escorted himself and the pale skinned scientist inside the safety of the ship. As the last Cobaford crossed the threshold, a orange skinned soldier pulled a large red lever and spoke into his radio.
Malcolm could not hear what he said but the lower ramp began to close infront of the crowd and filled the hallway with darkness. As Malcolm felt the environment dissolve for a final time, all he could hear over the confusion was Rar repeating "Jarvia! Kola! Where are they?"
Malcolm felt himself fall, back into his chair, but he did not move at all, as if this mind fell into his body. The chancellor sat opposite him with his head in his hands.
"I'm sorry, captain." Said the chancellor, raising to straighten his back. "I tried not to access your mind but it is difficult to ignore certain memories when it is at such the forefront of an individuals mind."
"What did you see?" Malcolm inquired.
"You are alone out here, wrongly accused and hunted." Rar said. "And you are desperate to prevent your home from being torn apart."
"Before the federation left our long-range sensors, we detected the USS Gregore firing upon a civilian cargo transport." Malcolm explained. "So you're right."
"If you return my child to me, captain," the chancellor said, "I will give you my L-1 unit. It's memory banks will be more useful to you than to me."
"So why did the chancellor not go back for them?" Ellie posed a question to the table. The crews senior staff all sat in the conference room.
"He believed that they were killed in the explosion." Malcolm explained as he sat at the end of the table. "Now I saw Kola there on the planet the day they abandoned it. But Miller said that it was at least a thousand years ago."
"Their physiology indicates that the Cobaford can live for hundreds, if not thousands of years ago." Said Ellie to Malcolm's nod.
"So when are we handing him over?" Jennifer interjected to Paul's opposition.
"H-hang on." Said Paul. "Kola does not seem to want to return to the chancellor."
"He might have been raised to resist to be returned to him," Jennifer justified. "Also imagine what information we could be given by going through with this?"
"Are w-we really considering trading a sentient being for an android?" Said Paul in shock.
"No we are reuniting family back together in return for a friend, assistance, starcharts and valuable information to help guide us." Jennifer said, emotion and frustration could be heard in her voice. "We have no friends out here, no safe harbour, no way out. I'm sorry but what these past few months have shown me is that we need help."
"Everyone, please." Malcolm jumped in, raising his hand out. "I have not made a decision yet."
"All I know, sir," said Paul, "is that when I linked with Kola and saw him the day they left, it did not look like the face of a child that was looking forward to joining him."
Malcolm placed his left hand on his chin, scratching his neck and staring up at the ceiling, before dropping it softly back to the glass and wood of the table. "Alright." Malcolm said. "Where is Kola? I am going to allow for Kola and Rar to choose."
"He's-he's in my quarters." Said Paul and he clarified against miss Gillians glance. "He felt safe with me and there I could modify the environmental controls to make him more comfortable without inconveniencing anyone in sickbay. Ellie nodded and turned back to Malcolm to confirm she authorised it.
"Alright I will tell the chancellor the good news." Said the captain standing from his seat.
Having informed Chancellor Rar of their decision, Captain Malcolm guided the chancellor through the corridors and halls of the Odyssey. After making a few turns, the two soon saw Paul standing in a door frame staring down at his shoes.
"Kola is inside." Paul muttered. Rar walked inside with no regard for Paul's position, he even gave him a glare of anger. As Malcolm too entered the room, first allowing Paul to move out of the way, he soon realised that he had never seen Paul's quarters. It was much smaller than his and Ellie's captains quarters, nearly half the size. And it was messy. An absolute tip of papers and padds, pens, wires and circuits.
However there seemed to be a purpose to each objects location, and strangely Malcolm did not doubt that Paul could find his way round this room with his eyes closed. And there, sitting on the bedside table through the dividing archway was Kola, who recoiled at the sight of Rar.
"Kola, please. It's quite alright." Rar assured. Kola glanced over at Paul, who simply nodded in hope that he will still trust Rar. The chancellor sat on the side of the bed and Kola cautiously cocked his head. "Son, please. Take my hand." Kola sat there staring at the chancellor's outstretched hand, eyes squinting but Malcolm noticed that the young Cobaford kept glancing towards Paul. Soon Kola slowly reached forward and grasped his father's arm. The slits between the scales glowed in sequence, the chancellor's first, then Kola's. It all took a matter of seconds. The two shone bright before they broke embrace. Almost as soon as the lights stopped, Kola, for the first time either Malcolm or Paul saw, hugged his father. It was not the sort of hug you would give to a friend or to comfort someone in distress, but that special way only a parent and child would.
"Kola, where is your mother? Where is Jarvia?" The chancellor asked holding his son by the shoulders. Kola held out his hand once again, but not to link. He extended three fingers, the two longest and the shortest finger; the son, the mother and the father. With his other hand, Kola closed one of the longer fingers, the day Jarvia left with Kola, next after a short time he closed the second finger, leaving the shortest alone on his hand. Rar closed his eyes and simply nodded quietly.
It did not take much longer until Paul left his quarters and took over from Crewman Willis in engineering. He spent hours analysing and reanalysing the same scan data of the quantum engine. Jennifer Gillian along with several Starforge crewmen bring in the L-1 unit the Cobaford had given them. Out of the corner of his eye, Paul saw Charlie and Katie bickering to the right of warp core. Eventually Charlie crossed the hall, avoiding the Starforge engineers scanning the L-1 unit, taking a wide path towards Paul.
"Are you okay?" Charlie said cautiously waving.
"Yes, Marteez I'm fine." Said Paul, refusing to look up from his console.
"Because you've been looking at the same scan data for almost an hour now. You also do a face when you're upset about something." Said Charlie. Paul denied what he had said about his face but now he had become muc more conscious of his outgoing appearance. "Is this about this about the Cobaford situation?"
Paul took a long deep breath, closing his eyes he was well aware there wasn't much point lying to Charlie. "I can't understand people very well. I've always struggled it since I was a child. But when I linked with Kola, on the planet's surface, I felt an understanding of something I've never felt. I thought I knew what he wanted so seeing it turn out how it did, it showed me that I just misunderstood another one."
"I understand." Said Charlie. "You know they are departing for the station in ten minutes."
"It doesn't matter." Paul shook his head.
"No it does." Said Charlie. "So what if he made a different decision than what you wanted. But he trusts you, and whatever choice he made he would want you to support him. That's what it means to be friends." Paul glanced up for just a second. He scratched his nose and then nodded towards Charlie before pulling away from the console.
"Again I would like to say I'm sorry about what happened with Jarvia." Said Malcolm as he escorted the chancellor and his son through the great chambers of the VC station. Paul had thankfully joined them but remained very quiet. Paul did not meet Rar's glares and avoided eye contact as much as he could.
"Yes I have spent so many years believing she was killed by those terrorists that day." The chancellor said solumely, approaching his pod. Two pods were left empty to unite the last of the Cobaford. "I did not see that she would help them in their attack on the dropship, and escape in the panic." The chancellor pulled himself into the pod, slipping his hands into two gauntlets and a helmet lowered over his head. The pod doors closed with a hiss. Malcolm glanced to his right and saw Paul embracing Kola before the pod doors closed to seal the last Cobaford inside.
2:4 (These Flood Waters Do Not Scare Me) Edit
The doors slid opened to allow for Captain Oweye's entrance into Starfleet Command. In the past few months, Head Admiral Collins had been keeping a closer eye on Oweye's movements and actions because of his link to the declared outlaw Richard Malcolm. He had been denied patrols to the uncharted regions and the newly established Neutral Zone. However, despite for Oweye's protests against Collins taking credit for the new Neutral Zone and brushing Malcolm and Kadens influence to that particular agreement under the rug, he had began to feel Starfleet had begun to breath down his neck more and more.
Leaning on his hip high wooden walking stick, Oweye limped his way into the command centre. There, sitting around a briefing table, was Admiral Galeb, a man that stretched Oweye's patience more each meeting.
"Ah captain! How has your knee being treating you?" Admiral Collins said, putting on a false positive tone that Oweye identified immediately.
"These old bones have still got another decade in them at least." Said Oweye sitting at the foot of the table and tapping his knee with his walking stick. "No, its my nerves are just not as fast as they used to."
Collins gave a sympathetic smile but Galeb interjected as Oweye adjusted his tunic. "I'm sure you can get an implant for that."
"I am not going to extend a false sense of good health." Said Oweye, giving him a piece of his mind. "If I can't remain strong as nature intended then I would rather be weak. When I die, I will die on my own terms."
Galeb put his hands up in defence. "My apologies."
"Gentlemen, I have invited the good captain to discuss his latest report on the current state on civil unrest." The head admiral split the two apart before an argument would ensue.
"Of course," said Galeb, "captain, on stardate 52134.9 you filled a report where you spoke about civil unrest that you felt would destabilise the entire federation."
"Yes I warned that the destruction of the SS Quartermaster would damage confidence within the civilian population." Said Oweye. "There are those who are convinced Starfleet has become corrupt. Frankly I do not blame them."
"That ship entered an illegal shipping zone." The head admiral justified, ignoring Oweye's comment.
"That zone was established just days before the attack." Said Oweye. "It's possible they were not aware of the ban. But regardless of whether they were aware of the ban or not, since when do we mandate where and where not civilians conduct their business in Federation space?"
"The Kartha system is off limits for the time being to protect an endangered spacefairing creature we have recently become aware of." Admiral Galeb explained. Oweye could almost taste the lie under his breath.
"I would like to request permission to assess the situation in the Kartha system."
"Access denied, Captain." Collins immediately said, for a moment Oweye thought that the head admiral used a threatening tone.
"Admiral I must warn you that this level of secrecy, this disregard for the liberties of our people and lack of communication with the Federation council is what eventually led to the downfall of Section 31." Explained Oweye's position. "Do not let Starfleet make the same mistakes and suffer the same consequences."
"Alright captain you've made your point." Galeb said. "No I don't think I have." "Yes you have, captain." Collins interjected. "You are dismissed."
Oweye was astonished. There were of course rumours that Galeb had ties to Section 31, so he knew making comment at their expense would rile him up, but Oweye always believed that Collins one of the most reasonable man he ever met. But sitting there now, glaring at the head admiral, Oweye knew there was no point attempting to convince him. Reluctantly Oweye grabbed his walking stick strode out of the room, muttering to himself something foul as he overheard Galeb making a comment about his age, something Oweye just shook his head about.
Oweye returned to his ship, the USS Shinwari Gladiator Class, via transporter. It wasn't long before the starship exited the Sol system at warp speeds.
The USS Rodney remained in orbit of the great blue marble known as Earth. Rown awaited for the arrival of the ships commander, Admiral Galeb. This had become a reluctant tradition over the past few months. The airlock opened on its rail and to Rown's surprise, Head Admiral Collins walked along side Galeb.
"Admiral, this is Commander Dean Rown." Said Galeb and the two shook hands.
"Ah formerly captain of this starship, were you not?" Collins asked but Rown did not give him the gratitude of a response. Not that the Head Admiral noticed, of course. The two turned and began to walk through the corridors with Rown in tow. "How goes the search for Richard Malcolm?"
"We encountered him a few months ago, he seems to be heading deeper into the outer reaches of the Scutum-crux galactic arm." Galeb briefed the admiral.
"Where on earth do they think they are going? That's uncharted space."
"I believe I can answer that." Rown interjected. "Astrometics calculated that by following Scutum-crux, that would be the most efficient path to a spheroidal dwarf galaxy, Sagittarius."
"Why would he be heading out there?" Collins asked.
"With all due respect sir, but I thought it was obvious." Rown said. Collins certainly did notice this time, but let it slide after a moment. "The signal Paul Miller talked about, the motivation for the construction of the USS Odyssey?" Rown said.
"That signal was false." Collins said. "Simply a gamma ray burst interfering with our sensors. But you mentioned you calculated the path he would take? That could be mighty useful."
"Yes we can guess the most efficient path he might take but where he is on that path and where he is now is the difficult part."
"No worries, commander." Said Collins. "In the coming days, we will be able to pin point his exact location for the first time in months."
Captain Oweye stood up from his chair central to the Shinwari's bridge. Hands held behind his back, Oweye approached the helm station, minimising his limb. "How are we heading, Suhn?" Oweye asked the helmswoman.
"We are maintaining course." She reported. "But the USS Venator is shadowing us. They are maintaining a distance of 3.2 light years but they are definitely following."
"That's quite alright, lieutenant," said Oweye, "there's nothing suspicious with us, we are just on a pulsar survey." There was a rhythmic beeping arose from the science station near the rear of the bridge.
"Captain the pulsar is releasing massive amounts of radiation."
"How are our sensors?"
"Offline due to the interference." Suhn reported. Oweye paced up and down the bridge.
They waited for a good hour before the captain finally spoke. "That must have been long enough, the Venator must have crossed into the interference. Let's hope that the gift from our friend works." Oweye nodded towards the operations officer and returned to his captains chair. The lights around the bridge dimmed and flickered as the bulkheads groaned. Slowly the plates along the surface of the hull vanished from visual sight and detection. Both ships exited the field of interference from the pulsar and it was just now a matter of waiting and watching. "Status report." Oweye said after another hour.
"The Callister is not following us anymore," said Suhn, "they haven't a clue where we went."
"Good." Said Oweye. "Helm, you know where to take us."
Doctor Coal rested in his quarters on board the USS Rodney. Continuous jumps with the spore drive had taken a toll on him but with the correct medicine the white matter build up in his temporal lobe was reversible. But what it could not subside the pain he had begun to feel. Not physical pain, but mental. At first he was in awe of the sprawling length of the mycelium network and it's possibilities, but following the Odyssey further and further out was getting more difficult each time. As if the longer the distance travelled, the more of the universe was crammed inside his head. Far more than a mortal mind was designed to handle. He had attempted to hide the worst of it. He had read from reports they had salvaged from Section 31 told of the original testing of the spore drive. The USS Discovery, NCC-1031, a highly modified Crossfield-class science vanguard, and piloted by Lieutenant Paul Stamets. He also began to suffer grave effects from extended exposure to the mycelium network, particularly after the strain from the one-hundred and thirty-three microjumps he made during the battle of Pahvo. This information, however, Coal found useless. There was no way of knowing if he was suffering from the same affliction as Stamets, in fact, he was pretty sure that medicine could have sorted him out if Stamets had access to the same medical technology. Nevertheless, Coal hid the pain from the other doctors and nurses. He knew that if the admiral found out then they would drag some other poor sod into that glass chamber and make him do it for them. And that was something he could not just standby and allow.
Doctor Coal arose from his bed at the sound of his door chime. Rubbing his head, he tapped the control and the door slid open. It was Commander Rown.
"Doctor do you have a moment?" He asked and Coal nodded, gesturing inside as the door closed behind them.
"Do you want any tea?" Asked Coal, not expecting anything from Rown.
"No." Said Rown and Coal rolled his eyes as he waddled to the replicator. "I need to give Malcolm's crew some information."
"Malcolm's crew is on the Odyssey, thousands of light years away."
"Not all of them." Said Rown. Coal glanced behind himself towards the commander. Rown held out a small datachip. "It is vital they get this."
"Now do I find them?"
"Malcolm's old mentor. Jar Oweye."
The Cardassian-Federation border. This was once the staging ground for the most bloody conflicts in Federation history. Hundreds of ships destroyed. Billions of lives lost. But that was years ago, and now the guns are silent.
Captain Oweye and the starship Shinwari crossed that border under the stealth of the cloak. It was a lonely planet they approached, M-class, stormy climate, subterrienian development, but most importantly, unmarked. Perfect hiding place for nearly fifty Starforge and Starfleet officers who were being hunted in the Federation. From time to time, the Cardassian ship the Gullet would check up on the underground camp but more and more Oweye had become concerned Starfleet was catching up with them. Oweye along with lieutenant Suhn transported down to the camp. Naturally they were met with three rifles pointed directly at them. It had been too dangerous to send down a warning of their arrival.
"Ah captain we were not expecting you." Said a Starforge engineer, Connor Forest, dropping his rifle. Not long ago he worked with Paul Miller in developing his Quantum Warp drive, and now he controlled the security of the camp.
"It's quite alright Forest, you cannot be too careful." Oweye said but Forest walked past the captain. He held out his hand to Suhn and she took it gratefully.
Forest escorted the two through the encampment. There were engineers tinkering with the shield generators and cloaking projectors. There were medical doctors taking care of the wounded and sick. There were those still in Starfleet uniforms, and there were those, like Forest, who wore casual clothes. But there was something different about what Forest wore. There was a round embroidered patch on his left sleeve, a gold star with a large hammer above to a crimson background; the mark of Starforge.
"We had begun to get worried that we would not hear from you again, sir." Said Forest. "That report you posted. It's accurate but I don't think Starfleet wants to hear that right now."
"I can handle Collins and Galeb, do not worry." Said Oweye.
Forest smiled and said, "I believe you." They continued through the tunnels, taking a left, then a right, then another right until they reached a large open cave. Metal pillars stood up through the rock giving the cave five distinct sides. Each section was filled with makeshift control panels, each demonstrating a different vital function of the base. "We got worried a few days ago when the USS Callister made a routine scan of the local star cluster. They were off course for a few hours." Said Forest. "They came dangerously close to us, luckily the asteroid cloud around this system is too treacherous for just any ordinary Starfleet pilot."
Forest glanced over at Suhn once again and she smiled. "Thanks Connor." She said. "It's easy when you see the patterns."
A rhythmic beeping sounded in Oweye's ear. He rose his middle and forefingers and tapped his left ear twice. "Shinwari to Oweye." A voice said over the comm, it was his operations officer, Ensign Leeward. Oweye gave the standard response and the ensign continued. "We received an unmarked subspace message from a James Coal. I just decoded it and you'll want to see this."
"Send it down to the camp." Oweye said. Forest looked over his shoulder to the communications who nodded to say they had received it. Moments later, with a punch of a few buttons, a hologram emerged from the central display. A hush ran over the cavern. The dozens of refugees stared at the rotating hologram. It appeared to be a highly modified station; merely one hundred ft from bow to stern, a long cylinder made up the main body, capped on one end with a wide oval shape, and the other end built into with a hexagonal sensor node.
"What is it?" Forest asked.
"I've seen this design before." Said Oweye and everyone gave him their attention as he moved to the display. "It's a new subspace sensor and transmitter system. It was being tested in Deep Space Sixteen to spy on the Romulans."
"I thought DS16 was just an ore manufacturing facility." Forest said. "My team used to get regular shipments when building cargo transports."
"That was just part of it, a cover up" Oweye explained, "using an advanced system of micronodes across a lightyear, the system would give a procise, real-time data for tens of thousands of light years. The Voyager incident demonstrated the need for this kind of technology, but if this is used to find the Odyssey-"
"Then there will be nowhere captain Malcolm could hide." Suhn finished Oweye's sentence. She expected some scorn from him, she knew her captain never liked to be interrupted but instead Oweye gave her a sad, weary look. "Did the message give a location?"
It took a moment to get a response but soon the communications officer gave a response, "the system K-H1185."
"That's only 14 light years away," Suhn said bringing her attention to her captain. "Sir we need to go there. Take out the station before they can trace the Odyssey."
"What you are suggesting will be treason," Oweye pointed out coldly.
"We are already fugitives anyway," commented Forest folding his arms and as he lent against the display stand, "I'm coming with you."
"Connor you can't, these people need you here," Suhn said.
"They can look after themselves, many of us have friends on Odyssey." Said Forest. "The USS Rodney has three times the armaments of the Odyssey. They have been able to survive for this long by simple evasion, remove that and they wouldn't stand a chance."
"You two are forgetting that I have not agreed yet," Oweye said.
"Captain we cannot allow them to trace the Odyssey," Suhn said. For a moment she was uncertain of Oweye's response, he could always be stubborn in his opinions when his mind was made up. Then suddenly Oweye let out a long, weary breath before nodding to her.
Commander Rown left the mess hall at the admirals request. Galeb had called to discuss the latest combat plan against the Odyssey. It had been decided that the reason why Malcolm escaped was that they jumped 300 million kilometres out from the target. But that would be on the fault of the navigator, Doctor Coal. Rown entered a turbolift and it was only when the doors slid closed with a security officer and the ships tactical officer, Lieutenant Marh, behind him that he noticed they had followed him. Certainly it could have been a coincidence, but in order to have been ahead of suspicion by assuming coincidence. Rown glanced to left and right and saw that were both armed. Rown left the turbolift and sure enough they followed, always being careful to stay at least twenty paced behind Rown at all times. Rown could see there was no way to lose them in the corridors, they knew exactly where he was heading. Rown entered sickbay and there he saw it...
At least five men, phasers drawn, surrounding the medical ward. Doctor Coal was being forced to the floor by the most weedy man, the barrel of the hand-phaser being pushed into his temple. The door to the glass navigation chamber had swung open and Rown could see the admiral pressing his hand against the outside of the glass. Before Rown could even think of retreating, he felt two barrels being pressed into his back in the doorway.
"Come in, commander," Galeb said, "as you are aware that we are expecting a transmission from the Minerva satellite of the location of captain Malcolm and his crew of fugitives by the end of the day. But I have noticed a slight security concern that might interest you." Galeb moved across the to the side of the chamber and slid out a small console from the glass. "If we exclude all mycelium jumps from deep space to home, and of course the occasion we encountered the Odyssey, and then compensate for stellar drift," he said all this as he punched it into the console so a list of coordinates was projected onto the glass, "We see that every single jump we made in pursuit of the Odyssey had been marginally off course. How at first I believed the fault was in the computer, maybe for some reason it had not adjusted the coordinates for stellar drift." Galeb punched more information into the console and several more coordinates appeared. "But then I added back in the jumps we removed and we can see that those coordinates are correct." Galeb turned away from the console, and with scorn in his voice he approached Coal who stood on one knee and his hands on his head. "This, to me, is evidence enough that the fault is on Doctor James Coal. And when I came to our doctor here I found him sending out this." The admiral held out a small data rod, transparent and orange. It was the message Rown gave to Coal for the Shinwari crew. "Now Commander, what do you think about this situation?"
Rown paused for a moment. He could see Coal sweating as the phaser barrel pressed deeper into his temple. Would he actually kill the doctor? That was something he couldn't take the chance on. "I told the doctor to send a message out for me." Rown said. It was true but he wasn't going to tell him the whole truth. "As for the coordinates I would need more evidence to make a judgement of foul play on the doctors part."
Galeb nodded. "Oh of course. Commander can you tell me what is in this message?"
"I can't," said Rown.
"You can't?" Said Galeb in disbelief. "Commander, who am I?"
"Admiral David Galeb." Rown whispered, looking down at the floor.
"But who am I to you?"
"The Captain." Said Rown reluctantly.
"That's right." Galeb said stepping closer. "I am the captain of this ship, not you. You lost your chance on your first mission. You lost your prisoner, you allowed sabotage on your ship, and lost the lives of fifteen officers. So believe me when I say I will not allow for this to continue under my watch. That is a promise." Galeb unhooked a hand-phaser from his right thigh. Stretching his arm out to its full length, Galeb pointed the phaser directly at Coal's head. "Step into the chamber."
The Shinwari remained undercloak while performing detailed scans of the system K-H1185, home of the Minerva satellite. Forest arrived on the bridge with his analysis of the situation and began the briefing of his plan by casting a map of the entire system onto the viewscreen.
"Minerva relies on a network of thirteen micro sensor-nodes across the entire system." Forest explained, pointing to several yellow highlights on the map as he spoke. "Each one opens a variable transwarp subspace corridor for a brief moment to send back impressive scans of a range of just under one hundred thousand light years. It is a truly astounding piece of equipment."
"I don't need you to admire the technology, Mister Forest," said Oweye interrupting, "remember why we are here."
"Yes, sorry, I just can't help but fall in love." Said Forest for a second glancing to the helm before returning to the screen. "Luckily for us, each node requires a strict communication with each other. So I think if we expose one of them to enough graviton radiation then Minerva will register it as an incomplete sequence and attempt to start again. Kind of like knocking a holorecorder just before it takes the picture, the image is useless."
Oweye glanced over to his science officer who was mulling over his console. After doing the calculations in his head, the science officer looked up and said, "maths checks out, it's not a permanent solution but it could put them back at least a couple of months trying to figure out the problem. Then another three weeks to repair it."
Oweye looked forward again to the screen and placed his hands on his knees. "Okay but we are going to need to decloak to do this, as soon as Command notices a starship tampering with the nodes they will figure out the problem much sooner."
"That's the clever part," Forest pointed out, moving closer to the captains chair as he spoke, "in order to maximise Minerva's range, they had to gut their entire short range capabilities. So they cannot actually see us. But their environmental sensors will be able to identify us but the graviton radiation will mask us as natural interference. We decloak, fire a pulse from our deflector at one of the nodes, then recloak before any starships arrive."
Oweye looked about the bridge before returning to Forest. "Okay let's do it, helm set a course for the nearest node."
Coal looked anxious as he rose to his feet under the stress of the phasers pressing into his temple. Neither Coal nor Rown could clearly identify if there was a blue light on the phaser screen, that would indicate it was set to the lower stun settings, or a red light, which would mean it was set to kill. But either way neither of them could rely on Galeb's current mental state to be anything but unstable. Coal, hands raised behind his head, slowly approached the open glass chamber but halted when Rown spoke up.
"Wait," he said, "there is something I haven't told you." This certainly caught Galeb's attention. Coal had began to sweat again, what was Rown about to tell him? He thought. Surely he wouldn't tell him about what was in the message. "The sickness from navigating the mycelium network? It has been effecting Coal more than he is letting on."
"Is this true?" Asked the admiral as he turned to face Coal.
He thought for a moment before eventually the doctor simply said "No."
"It IS true," said Rown, pressing the issue but Coal wasn't going to bite. "He hasn't told you that because he wouldn't want anyone else to go through it. The doctor believes only he should do it."
"Commander this simply confirms my suspicions that the doctor purposely put us off course," said Galeb.
"Well can you blame him?" Rown asked. "Captain Malcolm reassigned 50 officers from the Rodney to the Odyssey when he was given command. Many on board used to be part of the crew. So you shouldn't except any of them to be eager to kill them."
Rown suddenly felt one of the barrels drop from his back. At the sound of the phaser being holstered, Rown glanced behind to see Lieutenant Marh standing firm.
"Marh! Return to your station!" Galeb shouted. For a moment Marh stood there, glancing to Rown, then to Galeb, and then to Rown again before quickly exiting the room. Rown saw that this had rocked Galeb up. He robbed the top of the phaser in his hair before letting out a long, deep breath.
"Okay doctor, you will get into that chamber and navigate us to the coordinates Minerva sends to us, or I will kill Commander Rown." The phaser now was pointed directly to Rown's chest. Galeb held the phaser slightly on its left, Rown noticed, clearly he was not used to this but there was no confusion on what setting it was on now, the light shone bright red reflecting in the admirals eyes. "Five seconds."
"Wait, admiral please." Coal said in panic.
"There are three hundred lives on that ship." Coal quickly said.
"They are innocent and you know it."
"Alright stop!" Coal called. "I'll do it."
To Rown's disbelief, Coal climbed his way into the chamber as the door closed behind him. Resting upright into the chair, two long needles were inserted into his arms and it wasn't until then that Galeb lowered his phaser.
"I will tolerate this disobedience no further," said Galeb, "Commander come with me to the bridge."
The Shinwari delcoaked at the edge of the system. It's metallic hull became visible plate by plate from the deflector to the nacelles. Oweye gave the order to fire the deflector dish modification and a stream of golden energy pulsated across the front of the ship against the micronode. When the seconds turned into minutes, Forest seemed more and more concerned. Suhn was not used to seeing this panicked side to Forest.
Worried, she asked "what's wrong?" As Forest approached the science station.
"It shouldn't be taking this long," he said.
"It should be alright," Oweye said, "just give it some more time."
"No, no, no," Forest muttered to himself, glancing up and down from the science console's screen, "I was worried about this, the they've upgraded the nodes with shield generators."
"Increase output from the deflector," ordered Oweye quickly, "let's get it done." The golden energy pulsated faster. Waves upon waves struck the sensor node as the minutes dragged on. Soon a flash of blue light came from the console and Forest confirmed that the node was compromise. The bridge crew let out a long sigh of relief but not before Suhn delivered the bad news.
"We managed to take out the system but those generators stopped us from doing getting it done in time," Suhn said, "Minerva transmitted a set of coordinates to the USS Rodney."
Oweye lowered his head into his hands, for a moment he was silent before rising to feet, holding his hands together. "Reactivate the cloak," he ordered, "get us out of here, high warp."
Rown could see the smile across Admiral Galeb's face. He was proud of what he had done, Galeb had won and he wanted Rown to know it. They stood side by side in the turbolift in silence as the small room shot up through the ship. The doors slid open and the two stepped onto the bridge.
"Admiral on bridge!" The helm officer called as Galeb approached the captains chair in the centre of the room. "Sir we have received coordinates from Minerva and are now standing by to jump."
"Good," Galeb sat in the leather chair, "these are the results I expect from now on." Rown saw that Marh sat in the tactical station, not that Galeb had noticed nor cared, he was taking the most pleasure in calling for the Black Alert.
A small green mug materialised in the booth built into the bulkhead and captain Malcolm took hold of the cups handle. He took a sip from the scolding hot black liquid as the captain walked across the bridge.
"I swear I'm being serious," Jennifer said as she lent over Reece's station, "I saw crewman Myra and Yhosh hanging out together in the mess hall."
"I told you they were in love with each other." Reece commented.
"Oh someone in love?" Malcolm nosed in for a moment and Jennifer assured him it was nothing. The captain simply nodded as Gillian returned to her station.
"Helm how long until we can go to Quantum Velocity?"
"Only a few minutes, sir," Reece said and Malcolm acknowledged. Almost as soon as Reece finished his report, a beeping noise filled the bridge from the science station.
"Captain you are going to want to see this," Reka exclaimed. Malcolm took another sip from his cup, and by leaning on the captains chair he waved Reka to continue. "There is a displacement in the local quantum field."
Malcolm had almost choked on his drink. In surprise he tossed the cup down to the floor before quickly moving across the bridge. A panic filled the room, they all knew what it was. The USS Rodney.
"Helm get us out of here right now," Malcolm ordered with a definite sense of urgency. Reece prepared the ship for warp but this was in vain when the enormous starship dropped into normal space directly in front of the Odyssey. "Shields up, red alert!"
Before the alert could even begin to sound, a volley of red bolts and beams flew from the Rodney's forward saucer section and slammed into the Odysseys hull. Shot after shot impacted the nacelles, saucer section and the engineering section. This barrage continued for minutes, officers were knocked to the ground as bulkheads flew off their seals. Malcolm desperately gave out orders to "return fire" and "evasive manuvers" but all to little effect.
"Prepare tricolbalt torpedoes," said Galeb with glee, "target the Odyssey bridge, let us break that armoured shell of theirs." Rown could hear the admiral whispering to himself as he sat in the captains chair. Not much of it was audible over the sounds of the cannons firing from below, but he heard Galeb say, "you should have listened to me, Miller."
Rown must not have been the only one to hear it, as the Rodney suddenly ceased firing. Rown and Galeb glanced back to the tactical station and there stood Marh shaking his head silently.
"Why have you stopped firing?" Galeb shouted across the bridge.
"I've had enough of this." Marh spoke out.
"And I've had enough of this disobedience," the furious admiral rose to his feet. He looked like he was about to hit Marh but instead Galeb ordered him off the bridge. "Anyone else wants to disobey me speak now." As Marh left the bridge, every other bridge officer silently returned to their stations, but the weapons remained cold.
"Captain they've ceased firing," Gillian reported as she regained her balance. Sparks of white hot metal rained down over the bridge. "Why would they stop?"
"Lets not stick around to find out," said Malcolm, "Reece get us out of here, Quantum Velocity 1.2."
"That's almost our maximum speed." Said Reece.
"I know just do it." Reece complied, sliding himself over to the right side of the helm control and rolling forward the red control. Before another shot could be exchanged, the Odyssey zipped off into space at unimaginable speeds. The ship rocked and creeked under the damage that had been inflicted upon it. The captain flicked one of the switches on his arm rest and opened a ship-wide channel to request a damage report. But he was met with message that he did not want to here.
"We have a medical emergency in sickbay," a voice said over the comm. Gillian glanced over to the captains chair but, without thinking, Malcolm was already in the turbolift.
In panic, Malcolm strambed through the corridors of the ship. Pushing past engineers and climbing over fallen bulkheads, the captain soon approached the two wide glass doors to sickbay. There were white-shirt officers running in and out, but to Malcolm's relief, Ellie sat on a biobed with a dermal regenerator against a long cut down her face. Malcolm almost shoved past the nurses that assisted her and he placed his arms around Ellie.
"I'm so glad you're okay," Malcolm said, "I heard the medical emergency and I feared the worst."
"I'm okay but I wasn't the emergency." Ellie said glancing to her right.
Malcolm could not believe he hadn't noticed it before. Panels had been blown to the centre of the room, pipes and wires hung down from the ceiling. The metal bulkheads had bent and warped and there laying sprawled on the floor, staring at the ceiling with cold lifeless eyes. Nurse Cruford lay dead.
2:5 (And Then There Was One) Edit
Nurse Cruford had been working under Doctor Malcolm for almost seven months now. He had been transferred to the Odyssey just after the conclusion of the Federation-Romulan war. A rising prodigy in Starfleet Medical, Cruford received a message that told him his request for a doctorate was all but accepted. His own medical team, his own ward and the chief doctor on a starship! It did not turn out the way. The day before he was ready to hand hid letter of resignation to Doctor Malcolm, there was the captains speech. He told them of the signal, the Terran Universe Odyssey, and the importance of the mission they were to undertake. The captain gave them all a chance to depart from the ship, to go with captain Oweye to a safe place to wait out the journey. But after a long night to think, he came to the conclusion that the sacrifice in this long journey was too important for the safety of those on Earth. Now, seven months on and on the day the Rodney ambushed them for the second time, unaware Cruford was simply taking care of the morning physicals.
"So Willis you're in perfect health, I would say," Cruford said with a smile and placing his padd on the tray rolled to his side, "as for that migraine caused by the pulsating of the warp core? Just try not to stare at it."
"Thanks doc," Willis said jumping off the biobed. Cruford returned to the tray when out of the corner of his eye, he saw the crewman halt just before reaching the doorway and down around.
"It's Tiphony by the way," she said, "crewman Tiphony Willis."
"Greg," Cruford responded.
"Do you, by any chance want to have lunch, together, with me," Willis rambled to Cruford's amusement.
"Yes sure, I just need to pack up here first."
"Great, I'll meet you there," Willis said and with a sweet smile, she exited sickbay. Smiling and whistling to himself, Cruford began to pack away his supplies from the tray into the various cupboards. Just as he placed the last pieces of scanning equipment, Doctor Malcolm poked her head out from her office.
"Nurse Cruford have you finished the bacterial scan of that algae we picked up last week?" The chief doctor asked.
"I'll have it completely by the end of the day," Cruford nodded. Doctor Malcolm simply waved it off as she told him to take as long as he needs. Before he could even respond however, the red alert sounded. Concerned, the doctor crossed the medbay to the comm system when the entire room shook and rumbled.
All departments reported casualties. A fire had begun in the sickbay and with a short blast from the fire suppression system, Cruford dealt with the fire as the first casualties were brought in by the other nurses. But then Cruford saw it. Doctor Malcolm didn't see it however, she had been preparing several hypospray and so was not aware what was happening right above her. A bulkhead had begun to warp, melting under the stress. A panel was thrown across the room, impacting the critical bulkhead and seconds before it fell, Cruford ran across the room and threw doctor Malcolm out of the way.
Long hot shards of metal came crashing down, a sharp blade sliced down the doctors face but that was not the worst injury. Cruford felt trapped on the floor, unable to move or see correctly but there was the unmistakable sight of a long sharp shard of bulk head sticking out his chest up into the air. His lungs filled with blood and Cruford struggled more and more to hold his eyes open. The last thing he experienced was a voice calling a medical emergency as his senses went numb and all the lights went dark...
The USS Odyssey continued to limp onwards at highspeeds for weeks after the ambush, the crew continued to work as admirably as they could after the loss of Nurse Cruford, and captain Malcolm was far too weary to make any stops to explore the area they dropped into and he was very strict in continuing at warp between Quantum Velocity jumps. Soon enough, and pushing the engines further than Paul would like, they had crossed almost a thousand light years in just ten days, but Malcolm was still not comfortable. The loss of Cruford had hit ship wide morale hard. Almost every officer knew him in one way or the other, but the turn out for his memorial was small. Only a few officers stood around the stasis chamber. It was decided best to do this so they could return the body to his family when they return. Malcolm spoke at the memorial, talked about how it was a tragic loss but they must carry on stronger than ever and not let his death be in vain. All that was left now was to lock his quarters, sealed in memory of the one place on this ship he called home...
"We can't keep going like this," Sam argued to annoyance to the group that had gathered in engineering. Down she slammed a blackened lump of metal on to the screen of the ship wide anaylsis table. The metal was a warped cylinder but the grooves and cut outs made it appeared more like a crown then anything else. Inside there was a series of miniature fans and the entire cylinder was capped with a mesh of metal wires and tiny plates that had been warped into unusual shapes. The distinct smell of rust and burn steel rushed up the group's noses. Sam removed the thick glove she used to carry the object and turned her attention to captain Malcolm who had his arms crossed. "Captain do you know what this is?"
Malcolm shook his head. He had taken a basic Engineering extension course in the academy but it had been years and he had to admit his engineering skills were worse than his medical knowledge.
"It's a CO2 scrubber," Sam explained, "It's job is to extract oxygen from the carbon dioxide we expell. Or at least it used to be. If we did not have redundancies or if we had not noticed it, excess carbon could have entered the life support, the replicators, could have even corrupted a warp coil since they are being stretched as it is. The truth is we need to stop for parts."
"We can't," Malcolm insisted, "the Rodney could ambush us again and this time we might not be so lucky."
"Captain, this isn't the first system to go down," Sam said, "by our luck it won't be the last. A starship is a finely tuned piece of technology, but the more we push the Odyssey, the more systems fail and the weaker she becomes, until we might not even be able to reach a Quantum Velocity if we continue, and then we will certainly not stand a chance."
Malcolm looked about the group, the faces of Paul, Marteez, Staan, Gillian and Riley stared back. Soon Riley was the only one to speak. "If we are ambushed again," he said, "it would be better to take the risk now then when the engine fails."
Malcolm looked to the ceiling in thought, his left hand had gone up to his cheek before it slowly moved down to his neck, scratching it gently as it went. "Alright," Malcolm reluctantly agreed, "but it is going to take time to scan for materials or traders for new parts. Maybe if we send the Miller One to scout ahead we could reduce the search time. It's not like we have starcharts."
"But what if we do." Gillian said thinking out loud, the entire group turned to face her. Without giving an explanation, she split from the table and crossed Engineering to one particular station. L-1, the android the Cobaford had given to them for returning their chancellor's son to them, lay dormant, wires and cables hooked into the small silver box attached to the two large spheres that harboured it's eyes. One by one the group followed her as Gillian approached the panel and with a tap of a few buttons, blue lights lit up on the android, is two metal spheres darting up and down before resting on both Malcolm and Gillian.
"L-1 we need to locate a suitable source of spare parts." Said Gillian.
"Specify parameters." The robotic voice clanged against the bulkheads around them. Sam and Paul both stepped forward and began to list the parts they needed. To Malcolm's dismay it was an extenive list.
"We don't even know if it's starcharts go out this far," Malcolm said once the two had finished their list.
"The starcharts stored in my databanks have been collected by explorers and traders for up to thirty-thousand light years from the Cobaford homeworld." The L-1 unit informed the captain.
"Thirty-thousand?" Gillian said in shock, "that could take up half way to Sagittarius. Why haven't you given us this before?"
"I would have presented all information in my databanks if requested." L-1 said. "But forcefully attempting to access the information will result in my files becoming sealed."
Gillian looked down at her feet, L-1 was fully aware of their attempt to decode his files. "Look, I'm sorry for trying to force our way into your banks but we do need you."
The two blue pin pricks suddenly began to dart around the room while a faint buzz could be heard. Then, almost as soon as it started, it ceased. The android rose from it's seat, using it's left arm to grasp the cables attached to its head and yanked them out, and with his right, L-1 placed it's hand onto the screen in front, turning it blue with a detailed view of the systems ahead.
"Items required cannot be found from one single trader." L-1 informed them. "The USS Odyssey would not have the reputation in this sector to negotiate such a deal. However I have arrived at a shortcut. An old trader of the Cobaford government, the Oux, reported that a convoy of supply ships was attacked by an unknown hostile less than one year ago. The attack happened only one day away from our present location, all required parts can be found there."
"If this attack happened a year ago," Ensign Staan asked, "then how could the Cobaford even be aware of it if they have been in the VC centre for a millennia?"
"More importantly why haven't the Oux returned to the scene?" Asked Riley.
"The Legion series such as myself handles negotiation and trade to maintain the VCV station. In this role a Legion unit will collect information and parts for the Cobaford society. New information. New ideas. New thoughts to be shared." L-1 explained. "As for why the Oux never returned, I have analysed this situation for months and the most satisfactory explanation is an irrational fear on the part of the Oux."
"An 'irrational fear'?" Malcolm asked.
"The last distress signal sent out from the convoy described the attacker," L-1 said, "a large spheriod ship, weapons that could drain shields in mere seconds, ruthless soldiers with unnatural strength and the become virtually invincible after any offensive action the Oux made. This description was designated 'fearful' for organic life in my databanks." Out of the corner of his eye, Malcolm saw Riley take a step forward. From L-1's description, they all knew what the attacker was. The Borg...
"No," Malcolm said certainly, "we will find another location."
"There are no other viable location within a suitable range." L-1 said cocking it's head.
"Captain it might be weeks before we find another source of parts." Gillian began to argue but Malcolm simply began to exit the room. Pushing past Sam and Paul, they all heard Malcolm mumbling "we will find another location."
Before the captain reached the turbolift, he overheard the security and tactical officer, Lieutenant Connor Riley approached from behind. Malcolm made an effort to appear like he was not trying to avoid Riley but the two stood shoulder to shoulder when the turbolift door opened. Riley followed the captain inside and both said "bridge" aloud. "So what's you're tactical assessment of our situation?" Malcolm said after a moment of silence.
"Well with our full arsenal of photons and tricolbalt torpedoes we could do some decent damage to a Borg Cube but I cannot guarantee that we'd win," Riley said, "how are shields are now, if the generators continue to deteriorate, even on regenerative frequencies they wouldn't hold for long. Thankfully albative armour has been proven to be effective against Borg weapons but we will have to drop it to fire."
"It shouldn't matter because we are staying far away from that convoy," Malcolm said.
"Sir I need to point out that L-1 said scavenging from the convoy is our best chance to get the parts we need," Riley said and stopped himself short of raising his voice when Malcolm repeated that they would find another source, "and how long will that be? Days? Weeks? Months? What if we find what we need but it's incompatible to our technology? What if we do find it compatible but the a trader asks too much. We have a chance here and now."
Malcolm glance ahead for a second before speaking, the turbolift taking it's time he noticed, "you know I expected this from Jen or El, at least they are my first officer and wife, but I didn't expect this from you."
The door slid open and the two stepped onto the bridge, Malcolm followed Riley over to his station as the lieutenant still had more to say, "Well go ask her yourself, we need these parts, and I'm sure I'm not the only one here who thinks that we are smart enough and strong enough to beat the Borg if they are even there."
Many of the bridge officers had now turned around, some of them nodding in agreement, but Malcolm had a counter. "Have any of you seen the Borg?" Malcolm asked the room, many of them looked down, some shook their heads quietly. "Of course. Many of you would be too young to remember, and even if you were, you would never have seen the cube from Earth last time they came. But I must have been about eight years old. News had just came in from the Typhon sector that the armada had engaged the cube. My father told my mother that we'd been safe but the further the fleet was pushed back the more worried I saw him become." For a moment, Riley saw Malcolm pause, staring off into the distance before returning to his tale, "you know that the Earth never moves in the sky, it's static as if it were watching over us even during the long nights. The entirety of Apollo City was built as if it was reaching into the sky towards Earth. It was a comfort for me. But on that day, the evacuation sirens sounded, they had told us to get to the nearest shuttle as fast as we could but all I could think about was that I couldn't see Earth for the first time in my life. That blue marble had vanished, and in its place was this huge black cube surrounded by the destroyed remains of our starships," he raised his finger and began to nod, "of course the cube was destroyed, but it took one stray shot from the battle to puncture the atmospheric dome. If it wasn't for the containment shield the entire population would have suffocated, and if it wasn't for sheer luck all of us here today would not be."
The room remained silent for what seemed like a long while. Malcolm sat down in the captains chair, only the recognisable hum of the Odyssey could be heard.
"Captain," Riley said finally breaking the silence, "none has seen the Borg in twenty years, and they haven't seen us. Personally I doubt the Borg ship is still even there but if they are, we have twenty years jump on them."
Sparks flew out of the science console, singed Reka's stubby fingers. The screens went dark and Reka cursed under his breath. Malcolm and Gillian shared a look before the captain took a deep breath and nodded.
"Alright we do desperately need those parts anyway," Malcolm said and a general sense of satisfaction washed over the bridge. "Helm alter our heading, what would be our ETA?"
"Sir at our present speed we should reach the convoy in 21 hours."
"Okay good, inform the crew I want hourly battle drills, put us on yellow alert for now."
As Malcolm had expected, the following day was filled with random battledrills every hour. No one got that much sleep if any, but everyone was far too alerted for speed even if they could. Miller's team worked on modifying the phaser emitters so they would automatically switch to a random frequency after each shot. This same treatment was given to the hand-phasers and the rifles, soon every crewman was armed. An engineering team led by Ensign Staan worked with the security team to install dampeners across the ship which one modified had proven effective in disrupting the bond between the Borg nanobots in the past. Doctor Malcolm had mustered up all of her medical staff, even enlisting the help from Kaden and Lavivia, giving crash courses on Borg assimilation, and handing out trauma kits. Why they would need trauma kits she did not know, she thought, when the Borg are not known for leaving wounded. With preparations made, all was left was to wait.
They approached the last known coordinates of the convoy, the outline of their consoles, doors and corridors blinking red, Malcolm ordered the armour deployed. Black strips along the hull glowed blue as long featureless plates hugged the Odyssey's hull until the entire ship was covered in the armour. As the ship dropped into normal space, sure enough the convoy was there.
"Perform a sweep of the area, scan for Borg activity," Malcolm ordered. There must have been upwards of forty ships in this convoy, each one a varied form of an arrow strapped to cargo hulls and containers. Almost all of the convoy featured melted bulkheads, cracked hulls, and some even snapped in two. But there, floating in the centre of the shattered fleet, was a large black sphere. The massive ship was an almost a perfect sphere, but a mess of plates and greeblies covered it's hull. But what had been previously unobserved on Borg Spheres was a silver armour that crossed the equator and and the polar shapes, something the Borg must have improved upon in recent years of assimilation.
"Prepare a tricolbalt torpedo," Malcolm said as the red alert blazed and the bridge crew scrambled into position, "drop the armour on my mark and then raise it again immediately."
"Captain wait," Reka interjected, "I am not detecting any activity from the Borg ship."
"That's not unusual when dealing with them," Malcolm said firmly as he held his hand up, holding to give the signal to Riley.
"This is different," said Reka, "I am reading absolutely no activity. Energy readings, weapons arrays, shields, communications, absolutely nothing."
Malcolm saw it staring through the viewscreen. The sphere appeared cold, floating freely instead of the efficiency of the Borg, typical glowing elements were now dark. Malcolm stood from his chair and the approached the viewscreen, almost an arms length away from it and pointed out a small arrow shape docked within an empty opening of the sphere.
"There, you see that? On the southern hemisphere, is that a Oux ship?" Malcolm asked. Reka looked down at his console before nodding to his captain.
"The configuration of the ship matches the rest of the convoy, and I am detecting little to no Borg activity on the vessel." "Why would the Borg stop? Why wouldn't they assimilate it?" Malcolm asked before abruptly heading towards the turbolift doors. "Have Doctor Malcolm and Chief Miller meet me in Transporter Room One along with a security team."
Malenche handed a rifle over to his captain. He offered both Doctor Malcolm and Chief Miller, but Paul just glared at him.
"No I'm alright ensign," Ellie said before anything could happen between the two.
"Are you sure, doctor?" Malenche said still holding out the phase rifle. "If we encounter any drones on board, I cannot guarantee your safety."
"If we encounter any drones," Ellie said, "then I'll be better use without a rifle in my way. I need to be free to help treat my patients quickly and easily. I'll be fine with just a hand-phaser." Malenche nodded and then placed the rifle back into the locker just underneath the transporter console.
The ensign secured his own rifle in his arm, allowing it to lean against his right shoulder. They all stepped onto the transporter pads and Malcolm quickly assessed the away team.
"Remember, the Borg appear to be dormant for now but any activity from them, if they attack, you fall back. Open fire on them only as a last resort, give them as little chance to adapt as possible."
They all nodded before their captain told the operator "energise."
"Captain there was quite a bit of interference coming from the Oux vessel," said the Operator, staring at the group through the head visor covering his left eye, "I can cut through it with the transporter beam but only the medical tricorder will be useful over there."
"Why only the medical version?" Malcolm asked as Ellie smiled when she saw the rest of the group return their tricorders to their pockets.
"That one focuses on biological samples," the operator said, "the others would be useless scanning anything electrical because of the interference from Oux technology." Malcolm nodded and the operator pushed forward to energise six of the transporter pads while the away team felt themselves dematerialise.
Malcolm, Ellie, Paul, Malenche and two officers in Starforge security found themselves in the bowels of the ship. Lights flickered on and off and the air was cold and thin, the distinct smell like burnt wood lingered. The corridor was much taller and thinner than they anticipated, whoever or whatever built these must have been atleast nine feet tall. There was a fork in the paths ahead of them. All huddled up, the group stood almost single file before Malcolm gestured down the left corridor.
"Split up," Malcolm said, "locate any parts you need, what we can't scavenge from here we will collect from the other cargopods."
Paul along with the two Starforge security approached the left corridor as Malcolm, Ellie and Malenche walked single file down the right. Malcolm took point, having Malenche sweep their rear flank as Ellie remained between the two, using the faint beeps of her medical tricorder to guide the way. Ellie was not much taller than her husband, in fact she was pretty much a head shorter than him so she could not see ahead past Malcolm's shoulders. But as they pressed on, she began to wonder if she even wanted to see what was in front. They approached another fork in the corridors and Malcolm continued to lean right again until Ellie's tricorder beeped loudly and quickly.
"Hang on," she said, "there is a faint lifesign ahead to the left."
"Can you identify?" Malcolm asked, but Ellie just shook her head, "could be Borg."
"It could also be Oux," Ellie interjected, "we have no idea what their physiology is like."
Conceding that what she had just said was true, the three shuffled back along the ever thinner corridors and continued to the left hand. They must have only walked like this for a couple of minutes, they approach a fork in the corridors and Ellie guided them through, still blinded behind Malcolm. But suddenly after the third fork, Malcolm halted. The air had become suddenly warm, the hum of equipment could now be heard and a faint green light blinked slowly. Ellie could not see the source as Malcolm remained rooted to the floor. Ellie squeezed past in the tight space between Malcolm's shoulder and the bulkhead and there say a tall, thin creature at the portal of a mess of wires and black devices.
She knelt down in front of the alien creature, at a guess she would say it was a member of the Oux species. It appeared to be bipedal, or at least capable of walking on two legs if it was conscious. Ellie lifted and held it's arm, the semi-transparent skin was cold, hugging tight around the bone as if there was little to no flesh. One quick scan revealed that the Oux would not have needed flesh as their bones were hollow, tangled in with veins and a series of complex packets capable of creating an isolated vacuum to provide moment for the Oux without muscles. Then she saw what must have killed it.
It's veins were black, almost like wires, tangled up and down it's long body, but to the side of its head the wires all collided together into an eye piece. It split through the skin like it was grown from the inside, but what technology grows? Definitely Borg technology.
"Rich what do you think?" Ellie asked and Malcolm knelt down over the head. He took hold of it and ran his fingers over scratches along it's skin and around the black box that stuck out of its face. He had never seen Borg assimilation technology up close but he knew that it did not cause damage to the victim. Borg tech fused fesh, skin and metal as if they were one and the same. The perfect bonding of the synthetic and organic. Malcolm moved over to its right arm, long and thin though it was, they supported three powerful fingers, it's long nails covered in dry silver blood. Following the veins along the arms and chest, he found that they all originated from two small bumps on the Oux's neck, injection points.
"The Borg infected it with their nanoprobes," he said pointing to the two bumps, "then he ran, but that didn't stop the assimilation process. Panicked and in pain, he started scratching at the devices growing inside of him, trying to rip them out. Doing that he did not see the Borg infecting his ship, he tripped and fell." Malcolm gestured to the tangle of wires and devices, the Oux still one foot in the Borg-ified part of the ship.
"Then he must have died from the shock and trauma," Ellie nodded, "I honestly cannot blame him."
"How'd you figure all that out?" Malenche asked in surprise.
"I was Head of Security on board the Shinwari before I transferred to command, intelligence gathering is kind of my thing," Malcolm said, "plus it's not that difficult to figure out that the Borg had something to do with it."
Malenche nodded, yet continued to hold his finger on the trigger despite the little threat the corpse posed. Malcolm tapped his left ear once and spoke aloud, "Miller report."
A voice came out in all of there ears, it was Paul's, "Yes Richa- Captain, we have managed to locate at least half of what we need, but the further we go the more erratic the environmental controls become."
"That would be the Borg," Malcolm said, "keep your distance away from the far eastern quadrant." Paul acknowledged and Malcolm returned to the corpse.
"Now this has been remarkably well persevered," Malcolm pointed out, "could this have been the lifesign you detected?"
Ellie opened her tricorder and shook her head, "No the signature is coming from down there." She pointed down the corridor, through the tangled mess of devices and wires, the blinking green light and a faint ominous hum.
"Then it must be a Borg." Malcolm stated.
"But it could still be a living Oux, trapped with the Borg," said Ellie, before Malcolm could even intervene, she was on her feet and already taking on step into the arch in the corridor that segmented the Oux built ship and the Borg taken mess, holding her tricorder in her left hand and hand-phaser in right.
"Don't bring me along if you are going to have me leave someone who might need my help," she whispered to herself.
The humid air immediately hit her in the face, in an attempt to keep herself cool, Ellie pushed her hair back and allowing a single stream of air out of the side of her mouth as she cautiously stepped over the devices and cables until the corridor floor became clear of any mess a few steps in. The corridors opened up so two men could walk abreast with still room for the walls to be lined with alcoves, these upright pods the Borg use to regenerate their drones. Ellie could hear Malcolm entering the area, knocking into crates and devices as he went, but Ellie's attention was still on the lifesign. She knelt down to one leg, the lifesign was just underneath a large blown off bulkhead. Slowly, Malcolm and Ellie grasped either end of the bulkhead, and on the count of three they lifted, quickly shuffling it along to the side and there was the source Ellie's tricorder was making a huge deal about.
It was a Borg drone, pale as paper and covered in implants.
"El, move away from it," Malcolm said, quickly coming to his feet and raising his phaser.
"Wait," Ellie assured him, while continuing to look back and forth from the tricorder to the drone. "He's human."
"It's not human anymore," Malcolm said sternly.
"The Borg implants are offline," noted Ellie, pointing to the arm prosthetic and eye piece. "It's safe." Ellie slid her tricorder shut and for a moment she thought she heard the drone breathe. Carefully, Ellie placed her hand on the drones chest and lent in closer. She could hear the distinct sound of it breathing over Malcolm calling her to move away. Suddenly the drones eyelids lifted, those pale eyes darting around the room before dropping onto Ellie. It's arm reached out and grabbed Ellie by the shoulder and forcefully pulled her closer.
"El!" Malcolm shouted as the drone pulled her closer, Ellie tried to pull away but it was too strong.
"Save me." It whispered no louder than a breath. "Save..." The end of a rifle suddenly attacked the drone, impacting eye piece knocking it out cold. Ellie frantically moved backwards, lent against the bulkhead.
"Are you okay?" Malcolm asked, "you need to tell me if you're okay." Ellie grabbed her tricorder and shoved the sensor into her own temple, running up and down her own neck scanning for any sign of nanoprobes. The results came back and she assured Malcolm that she was not infected by the Borg.
"What did it say?" Malcolm asked. "He said 'save me,'" Ellie said. "Specifically 'Me,' singular, he's thinking like an individual."
"Are you sure that it's safe?" Asked Riley as Ensign Staan adjusted the dampeners to focus around a single biobed as the nurses prepared equipment.
"The captain and the doctor have assured me that it'll be safe," Katie said, "it is the only living thing in the entire convoy, hopefully we can use it to see what exactly happened over there. All I have to do is focus the dampeners so the drone cannot wake up and assimilate us all."
"But do we have to bring it on board?" Riley asked uncertain of the current situation as Katie moved from one projector to the other.
"Weren't you the one confident that we'd be fine against the Borg, sir," Katie commented.
"I didn't mean bring one on board," Riley said sending her an unappreciative look, "there are stories of one Borg getting on board putting the entire ship in danger. I'm just looking out for the safety of the ship, and the ship will be safer with any Borg outside. There we can fight them, we have proven effective defences and weapons that can push them back, but in here I don't think so."
For a moment Katie stammered, unable to make a comment about what he just said before confirming that she had finished her work. Riley tapped his ear twice and told the transporter room that they were ready. Several beams of light appeared in the room, a wirl shone brightly as the Captain, Ensign Malenche, and Doctor Malcolm materialised in the room with the Borg drone now lying on the biobed. Ellie almost immediately went to work, with the nurses providing her with sanitary gloves and various pieces of equipment she needed to remove the Borg implants.
Malcolm remained back, sitting in Ellie's office in the corner of the medbay, viewing the operation from behind a pane of transparent aluminium. Once the minutes formed into hours, Malcolm began to glance around his wife's work place. Although they shared quarters together, Malcolm had intended for them to maintain a somewhat professional relationship during shifts, something he knew he failed at constantly but Malcolm realised that he had not paid attention to how Ellie might have dealt with this in her professional environment.
Starfleet regulations did not permit much personalisation in terms of uniform or work space, but over the past eight months he saw more and more of the crew combining their personal and professional lives together. Jewlery, slight alterations to uniforms and even photographs of loved ones they left behind in their work space. And as expected Ellie had done the same. The room still maintained the typical light grey Malcolm internally mocked Starfleet as their favourite colour with outlines and highlights with silver's and black. But as the room moved further from the door the more cosy the office became, with a wood oak desk and a large soft leather chair behind it.
To the left of desk sat a large dresser, each draw with an organised contents. Each one filled with padds, jewlery, ear-rings, hair clips, a brush, but most interestingly Malcolm found that Ellie had stored in the widest and deepest draw of them all, a large pile of paper-written notes. On top of the pile, facing upwards was a small padd with the single name "PAUL" in orange writing across its surface. These papers were about the size of a typical padd but from top to bottom they were covered in tiny scribblings and scruffy writing, small ink drawings littered the paper. There was enough papers here to fill four large folders, describing new ways to improve the replicator filtration system, the deflector dish to become more effective, ways to make the Quantum Warp drive more efficient to achieve even higher environmental settings to make the non-humanoid crewmen more comfortable.
At the very bottom there lay very early design sketches for a starship. Although the drawing was quick and brief, the floor plan was enough information so Malcolm could see how the extensive this starship would have accommodated for hundreds, if not thousands of unique species with different biomes, specialisations with a central atrium and several different bridges all working together as one, and at its heart was Paul's engine. There were Starfleet ships that did accommodate for non-humanoid lifeforms, of course, such as the Poseidon class, an entire series of ships dedicated for an aquatic crew, but for the most part ships were almost entirely one species. But this class would allow for countless numbers of species to work in harmony as if the environmental factors wasn't even an issue.
In small letters at the top of the paper wrote "USS Odyssey- A Federation Starship for the Future." Is this what Paul had originally planned for the Odyssey? Malcolm knew that Admiral Galeb had his fingers in the project and the tensions with the Romulans had redirected priorities, but he had no idea the final ship was THAT far from the original plan.
The captain tapped his left ear twice to open up a channel to Paul to ask him about this, but when his voice responded overthe comm, Malcolm found himself rethinking if Paul would like him to talk about it. After all, Paul has never been the most open person in the galaxy and he clearly just shared these thoughts of his with Ellie and no one else, so he might not appreciate Malcolm going through his notes like that.
"Have you finished collecting the parts from the convoy yet, Paul?" Malcolm quickly thought could be a reasonable question to ask.
"Yes we have found- we have located all the parts we needed and enough spares to supply us for at least another year," Paul said over the comm.
"That's good work, Paul," Malcolm responded, "transport aboard once you've finished loading the parts and supplies so we can get underway."
The comm line closed and Malcolm once again stepped towards the transparent screen that looked over the operation. Ellie had just removed the eye piece, the prosthetic arm and some of the smaller implants that once littered the drones body. Ellie then turned to the window and gestured for Malcolm to come back into sickbay. They were ready to speak to the drone.
As Malcolm entered the room, the drone slowly raised to a sitting position, causing Malcolm the halt his pace. For a moment, he saw Ellie stare at him and flinch, at first confused then Malcolm realised he was standing in the same spot Nurse Cruford died on, the ceiling bulkhead only just recently been replaced.
"Where am I?" The drone said to everyone's surprise.
After a moment of silence, Malcolm finally answered, "You're on board the United Federation Starship Odyssey, NX-208805."
"Federation? You are all human like me?" The drone asked before rubbing his forehead with the only organic hand he had left. "It's so quiet now."
"Yes you were assimilated into the Borg Collective but something happened on the Oux ship that separated you from the hive mind," Ellie tried to make sound reassuring, "can you remember what happened?"
"No, all I can remember is fragments, emotions, it was so crowded then and so silent and cold now," the drone explained, "I'm sorry."
"That's alright," Ellie said, "do you have a name? Any family?"
"It's difficult to remember now," the drone said but after many moments and attempts to speak he finally remembered, "Nicolas, yes it's coming back to me now, I believe my name was Nicolas Cruford," Malcolm and Ellie shared a look as the drone chuckled, "I had a brother who wanted to join Starfleet, he was only six when my cargo ship was attacked. You must be the captain, what is the current stardate?"
"52082.1," Malcolm said carefully.
"August 2400," Nicolas said, "nearly twenty years. He must be a man by now, perhaps you knew him, Gregory Cruford?" Ellie looked down at her shoes and Nicolas began to get anxious when no one answered him, Malcolm even glanced back to the spot he once stood.
"Lieutenant Gregory Cruford served on board this ship under Doctor Malcolm here for eight months as one of our finest medical staff," said Malcolm solumely.
"What happened? Where is he now?" Asked Nicolas, his smile was slowly disappearing.
"He was killed in action nearly three weeks ago." Malcolm told him. Nicolas rubbed his forehead before gasping the stump that was once his Borg prosthetic arm and making a quiet low moan. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, Captain, I'm fine, it is just alot to take in," Nicolas said, "I was part of the Borg not long ago and now you're telling me after 20 years I missed my brother by weeks. Yes I would like to rest of you don't mind."
They all nodded and left him to lay back down on the biobed as Malcolm and Ellie began to whisper amongst each other. "Greg never told me he had a brother who was assimilated into the Borg," Ellie commented.
"He was young when it happened, I'm sure he just didn't want to bring back those memories," Malcolm said, "plus it is not exactly the best thing you would want to advertise in friendly conversation."
"I scanned distinct Oux DNA on Nicolas from the body we found, I would like to bring it on board," Ellie suggested, "I have a feeling whatever happened to him that's where I'd find the answers."
Malcolm nodded. "Well whatever he may say now, he's still a threat."
"I will have Malenche posted here on watch," Ridley said, "at the first sign of trouble he will be taken out."
Uneasy about remaining this close to a Borg Sphere, dormant or not, so as the last of the supplies were being secured, the Odyssey engaged at low Quantum Velocity. Hours past and the crew was finally able to rest despite the alert still sounding yellow. Ellie slept in her office as they kept Nicolas under suvalience and sedation. Leaving the refresher after a long night, Ellie could feel the ship shake as they passed back into normal space. Almost as soon as the door slid to a close, Ellie almost fell to her knees.
Past the insignificant shake from the engines, the corridor twisted and turned, the entire ship seemed to spin around but none of the passing offices noticed. Ellie crossed the corridor as her vision faded in and out, and she stumbled from one side to another. The sides of the bulkheads refused to focus as a tall figure stood in front of a shining light at the end of the corridor.
Pale skin and rugged hair, the figures white uniform stained with crimson red blood gushing out of a large gash right down his chest. It was nurse Cruford.
Ellie tried to call out but simply could not find the words. The shadowy figure turned and began at a furious pace down the corridor, compelling Ellie to follow behind. They walked through the passageways crisscrossing the ships layout, Ellie did not know if the corridors were deserted or she simply didn't notice as they passed by but either way Ellie's entire attention was locked on Cruford.
The figure increased its pace to almost a dash, running until finally passing right through the wide glass doors of sickbay as if they were open. Ellie crashed through the doors just as they slid apart to allow her in and the weight over here suddenly lifted.
"Are you alright commander?" Asked the nurse on duty in the medical bay.
"Yes I'm fine," she said glancing from bulkhead to bulkhead in confusion. "Calahad you can go off duty if you want. I will take over if you want."
The nurse nodded and quickly packed away her equipment. Ellie looked behind herself and saw Malenche stood in the corner, rifle in hand and leaning up against the wall as now the nurse left the room. Moving closer to the sedated Nicolas, Ellie felt the weight drop back over her. Almost collapsing over a tray, to the ignorance of Malenche being distracted by the sudden blazing red alert and that the drone now sat upright despite the sedation.
"Where did it come from?" Malcolm asked impatiently as the bridge scrambled to position.
"Unknown sir," Reece reported, "they must have followed us from the convoy with a transwarp conduit." The doors to the turbolift slid open and a panicked Riley ran over to the tactical station a few feet to the rear left of Malcolm's chair.
"What's going on?" He called out.
"We have a single Borg Sphere that matches the one we found in the convoy approaching at high warp," Malcolm said catching up to speed. A feeling of dread washed over Riley as he realised this could be his fault. He was the one who insisted they went to the convoy. "Helm can we outrun them?"
"Negative sir, the Sphere's velocity already exceeds our maximum factor and still rising."
"Load two tricolbalt mines," Malcolm ordered, "we might not be able to outrun them but we can at least fight back." Riley worked at his console before nodding to the captain to signal that they were ready. "Fire."
Two bright blue objects shot out from the Odyssey's rear launcher, soaring through subspace for a couple of minutes before detonating directly in front of sphere. The large ship disappeared behind the blinding light from the mines, sensors were thrown off for seconds but just as a sigh of relief could be heard on the bridge, the Borg Sphere simply passed right through. The explosion would have created massive subspace disturbances that should have shattered the Borg's warp field. But it had no effect. Malcolm realised that the Borg must be after the drone in sickbay, scrambled to the comm line and gave the order. Malenche's voice came through on the other end. "Captain, we have a serious problem."
Malenche told the captain what had happened. The red alert sounded and then suddenly Nicolas had risen to his feet. He had been sedated and therefore shouldn't have been able to wake up but there is stood. Malenche said he charged his rifle and ordered him to get back on the biobed but Nicolas did not respond. Without even blinking, Nicolas quickly stepped towards Malenche, forcing him to open fire. The powerful bright red stream impacted the drones chest, or at least it was supposed to. The beam dissipated inches from it's chest, blocked by a green wall that hugged it's skin. Nicolas halted all the same.
Panicking, Malenche shouted down at him as he stood just outside the dampening field but suddenly he felt an unnaturally strong force impact his temple, knocking him to the ground. Malenche looked back up and there stood Ellie, cold and uncomfortably still, holding the book end of a large hypospray, now small tight Borg implant splitting out of her skin around her eyes, ears and cheek. Before either Nicolas or Ellie could move, Malenche dashed for it, almost slamming into the glass doors and punching the small keypad to seal the room as he held in the corridor.
Hearing this, Malcolm remained silent, staring down the corridor where the glass doors stood sealed. Through the transparency, he could see shapes and figures move within sickbay. "I'm sorry I wish I could have done more," Malenche said as he finish his tale.
"You couldn't have done any more," Jennifer assured him, "getting out of there when you did was the best decision you could have made." She glanced over at the captain who was still leaning against the bulkhead remaining silent, all he did was nod before voices came down the corridor.
"What's happening?" Paul said walking at an incredible pace, "What's going on?" Malcolm, for the first time since hearing Malenche's report, pushed himself off the bulkhead and placed his hands in the way of Paul's path.
"You should be at your station, we are at red alert," Malcolm said.
"Marteez is looking after everything for me," Paul explained, "Where is Ellie? I heard something was wrong." Paul still tried to move past Malcolm but he grasped his arm, preventing him from moving much further than arms length. But he could still see down the corridor. Behind the two transparent doors, the figure of Ellie had walked up to the glass, staring out before returning to whatever they were doing, the implants now much larger and almost completely enveloping her left eye. Paul took a step back and slowly turned to Malcolm.
"I will fix this," Malcolm told him, "we still have time before the sphere is in range, I promise I will keep your sister safe." Paul stared at Malcolm for a moment, a mixture of shock, anger and sadness in his eyes, before slowly moving back behind his captain again. Malcolm turned to Malenche and Jennifer and spoke quietly as Paul walked away, "set up a perimeter, find a way to save them, I'll be on the bridge."
Images flashed before Ellie's eyes. She felt trapped, unable to move yet her limbs moved for her. Ellie could feel the nanoprobes building and twisting inside her and she could not scream out in pain, as she was forced to reattach the implants to Nicolas' drone body. Thoughts and feelings became more and more erratic and distant, if she forced herself she could retain memories, even drift in and out of some.
Voices began to flood her mind, overwhelming her as the sickbay around her drained of all colour and contrast. Soon she found herself surrounded with a void in her mind.
"Why do you resist?" The voice echoed in the void, "resistance is futile." Slowly a figure emerged, at first she though it was Nurse Curford but then she saw blue eyes instead of his once brown, the figure was much taller than the nurse but maintained the same frame and chin line.
"Nicolas?" She asked, assuming this was him just without all of the implants and disfigurement the Borg had done to him. Although he did not look like a Borg, he still stood and spoke with the same cold efficiency. Ellie ran her fingers over her eyes and felt no implants either, coming to the conclusion that none of this was real.
"Nicolas is an irrelevant designation," he said, "this unit's designation is Two of Seven. You will not fail to answer our query, why do you resist?"
"The fact that you asked that shows that you'd never understand why," Ellie said glancing around at the void around her, "how is this even possible?"
Nicolas stood there perfectly still, a posture that would break the back of any normal man, eyes were darting from side to side before resting on the space to Ellie's left. A room emerged from the darkness, it was a cell, Ellie saw herself strapped to a chair with the Romulan General L'Rol standing over her. A year ago, Ellie was captured by the Romulans during the war, for weeks L'Rol had her hooked into a mental probe. Physiological warfare for his own ends, L'Rol intended her to help him decrypt the Sagittarius signal and later the destruction of the Odyssey. The pain and anguish came flooding back.
"You resisted then, you resisted now," Nicolas said, "weeks your mind was assaulted, you must have developed a defence against it, and so my attempts would pale in comparison. More forceful methods are required." A wave of pain washed over Ellie, like an unbareable weight was pressing on her shoulders as she fell to her knees. Memories she did not recognise flashed once again before her ideas, then she realised, they were Nicolas'.
"You just said 'my attempts'," Ellie realised, pulling herself up as the initial pain subsided, "just like you did on the Oux ship. That does not sound like a Borg."
"This unit lacked the power to assimilate a whole ship from the transport," Nicolas justified, "a strategy was devised to gain access to your ship. I exploited humanity's known affection for assisting the weak and powerless."
"There, you did it again, 'I'," Ellie pointed out, Nicolas had now become defensive at her comments, "What happened to you?"
"This unit is defective," Nicolas said, "it will be rectified once we reunite with the Collective." But his mind was now open to Ellie, to her right, the corridor on board the Oux transport, where the Borg had taken over, formed from the darkness. A figurement of Two of Seven attacked a fleeing Oux, holding him steady and injecting it with nanoprobes. Almost as soon as the tubes made contact, the drone froze in place, as if an electric current was passing through him and was grounded into the floor. Ellie felt very pleased with herself and smiled.
"The Oux have a very unusual nervous system," she said triumphantly, "instead of electronic shock through nerve cells to muscles, they send subspace disturbance into many micropackets of air to create a vacuum. So when you attempted to assimilate them, it compromised your organic components and starving your mechanical. The new subspace disturbance spread to the entire sphere, didn't it? That's why the Sphere was shut down." Ellie rose to her feet and Nicolas took one step back, "you needed to get a drone away from the interference, send a signal back to the Sphere so they can update the software, reactivate." Without another word, Nicolas disappeared into the black. The feeling of triumph slowly vanished within Ellie as she felt the darkness slowly kept in.
Captain Malcolm sat silently staring out of the window behind his desk. From the view of his ready room, he could look over the sprawling hull of the Odyssey, the impulse engines glowing the distance , the two large squared nacelles tailing off into the distance as the stars zipped by at furious speeds. The stars all converged where the great black Sphere slowly approached. Standing behind Malcolm's chair was his first officer Miss Gillian, Ensign Malenche and Leuitenant Riley, all standing as Malcolm read the padd they had handed to him. The plan Malenche had suggested involved using the structural integrity forcefields and bulkheads to create a path from the sickbay to the nearest airlock, flushing them both out into space. "No," Malcolm said bluntly.
"Captain, I don't like it either but the Sphere is tracing them," Gillian justified. "It's not going to happen," Malcolm responded and Gillian backed down,
"I told you to find a way to save Ellie not kill her."
Malenche stepped up despite this and asked his captain for permission to speak freely. Malcolm nodded. "Earlier you told me that if that drone made any wrong moved I was to kill it. Put the safety of the ship over its life. But why now are you putting the entire ship in danger for them?"
"The drone has El," Malcolm explained, "our priority is to protect our crew from the Borg. All of our crew, and that includes Doctor Malcolm."
"Doctor Malcolm is a drone now!" Malenche shouted in frustration before lowering his voice again, "whoever it is now, that drone is not the woman you married anymore. The Borg would not hesitate to assimilate us all if we for one moment attempted to humanize them."
To both Jennifer's and Riley's surprise, their captain did not raise his voice. Maintaining a calm and quiet voice, he addressed the ensigns comments but there was still a subconscious frustration the two could hear. "You're right, Ensign, the Borg would never humanize us," he said, "but if we don't even try to save our own from them then how can we call ourselves better? I don't believe I would ever forgive myself if I atleast didn't try."
"With all due respect captain, I believe you are placing your personal feelings ahead of the ship," Malenche said, "if it was anyone else I don't think you would be doing the same."
"Alright ensign, I have heard your case, you are dismissed. Leuitenant what do you suggest?" Malcolm said addressing his head of security and tactical officer as Ensign Malenche left the room.
"Well the Sphere would be in weapons range within the hour, and they will relentlessly case us as long as the drone is in range, who have appeared to have transformed a medical scanner into a long range transmitter," Riley said, "so it seems that our only choice is to fight or to kill the drones, both of them. Sever this ships connection to the Collective."
Malcolm nodded slowly. "Then we fight." He said. Jennifer and Riley glanced over at each before returning to their captain in shock. "What was it that you said, lieutenant? We are smart enough and strong enough to fight and win if we have to."
"Captain the Borg took those tricolbalt mines like they were nothing, they should have knocked them out from warp but they had no effect." Riley explained.
"Have security teams on every deck and evacuate non-essential personell to deck 2, set up a level ten forcefield there to be safe." Malcolm listed off several orders and Jennifer took a note of them, it was difficult to catch all of it as he spoke far too quickly before ending on something that concerned her, "I will lead the defensive line around sickbay. If we are boarded, that's where they will head there first."
"Richard, with the armour deployed the bridge will be the safest place to be, you'd be vulnerable down there." Jennifer said.
"I know, but Ellie is in grave danger and it's my responsibility to protect her," Malcolm said, he rose to his feet and started to the door, "besides, I have my first officer in charge while I'm gone." Jennifer gave him a sad smile and Malcolm gestured for Riley to come with him.
Malcolm opened the small weapons locker located to the rear of the bridge. From it he pulled two standard phaser rifles and set each one to a rotating frequency. Malcolm handed the second rifle to Riley who took it cautiously and they both stepped into the turbolift.
"Alright," Malcolm let a quick breath out, Jennifer had just taken her place on the captains chair and Malcolm wondered if it would be the last time he ever saw that chair. Before he could finish wondering, Malcolm forced himself to give the order, "Deploy armour."
The lights dimmed and the entire bridge in front of him was bathed in the red blinking lights of the alert. A deep rumble could be heard overhead, no doubt the generators were glowing blue and plates of armour materialised over the hull of the ship. Soon the door frame of the turbolift shone the same blue as three large grey plates of armour overlapped each other before sealing the entrance to the bridge. The noises of work stations and the blaze of the alarm was silenced. Malcolm turned from the doorway and stood along side Riley in the turbolift.
"Deck Nine," he spoke in a loud clear voice.
"Warning," came a reply from the computer, "this turbolift cannot return to the bridge, whilst molecular armour is deployed, once departed. According to security protocol 13-J."
"Understood," Malcolm said and the wirl of the turbolift could be heard around them. The two officers stood there in silence for about half a minute before Malcolm realised that Riley was shaking. He glanced up at Riley's face and saw that his eyes were too closed as if in a panic.
"This is my fault, I'm sorry," Riley said quietly.
"What? What is your fault?" Malcolm asked but he felt he already knew the answer.
"This whole situation," he said, "I just wanted to get the supplies we needed, I never intended any of this to happen."
Malcolm remained silent for a few moments before turning to his tactical officer, "That doesn't matter anymore, you're afraid, aren't you?" Malcolm said, Riley nodded, "good, because look at me I'm terrified. Malenche is right, I'm not thinking straight, I'm being emotional. All I know is that El is in trouble and if we don't stop the Borg, then who will? We all chose to be here on this mission to stop the Sagittarius signal from hurting our home, this is the same situation. Because if the scared and frightened don't stand up to beings like the Borg or whoever is in Sagittarius, then no one will. And when people like us make a stand, we become the brave ones and we make them afraid, buddy. So, will you help me?" Malcolm asked, holding out his hand. Riley looked at his captain for a moment before taking hold and smiling.
"There is still a delay of 1.7 seconds between dropping the armour, and weapons and shields becoming available," Charlie Marteez called out, handing a padd to the panicking engineers, "Miller wants that down to less than a second, come on people."
In Paul's absence, Charlie was placed in charge, Katie Staan knew that but she had been on the lookout for Miller as the red alert continued to blaze. She had come to expect this disappearing act Paul sometimes pulled but never there was work to be done and certainly not in a crisis. Katie asked around and eventually got Sam to tell her that she saw Paul enter one of the engineering labs before the final alert sounded It was not unusual for him to be found in one of the labs, the drive he invented and the four of them, Paul, Katie, Charlie and Sam, worked to stabilise over a year ago. But after looking through each one of them, she found that they were all empty, even his drive room was devoid of people, but she did find was that one of the labs was locked. Glancing up at the door and the label that marked it as "software security and analysis." Katie found that her access code was denied, so with a small jank, the door padd detached from the bulkhead. After a couple of second of fiddling with the wiring, the door slid open on itself.
The lab was a small room, each of the four corners were rounded to almost to a cylindrical curve. In the centre of the room there built up one single console with Paul standing behind it. He took one glance up to Katie and shook his head.
"You should be at your station, we are at red alert," he said.
"So should you be, right?" Katie said giving him a quiet smile.
"I put Charlie in charge," said Paul.
"That might be fine when is just getting off duty for our fencing lessons but not when we have the Borg baring down on us, you know that," said Katie but she could see Paul attempting to avoid eye contact with her, "is this about what's happened to your sister?"
Katie shuffled around and followed Paul's eyeline down to the console. Across the screen was an analysis of an inference software comparison with his own custom made software.
"Paul, what's this?" Katie asked as Paul moved around the console awkwardly.
"The Borg stopped when attacking the Oux transport," Paul said under his breath, barely audible so Katie had to move forward to hear, "but not only that, they shut down. I'm guessing that it must have something to do with the frequency of the subspace disturbance Ellie told me about, it's the Oux equivalent to a nerve system."
"Okay but what does that have to do with this?" Asked Katie.
"I think I can replicate it," said Paul, finally raising his head to make eye contact. To Katie's surprise, Paul was tapping his middle and forefingers against the side of the metal console frame, and there was a slight confident smirk he only ever saw him make once he beat her at fencing, or whenever he was hanging out with Charlie. "Just a more limited version, of course, but hopefully enough to free Ellie from them. The Collective shouldn't be able to trace her then."
"Paul that's brilliant," Katie said widening her eyes, "but what about the drone? Nick, was his name?" Paul dropped his head again, shuffling back around to the console tapping an orange circle on its screen. A small device materialised on top of the central stand, Paul took it and inserted it into his jacket pocket. "Paul, what about him?"
Paul sighed. "I need the Borg to find one of them. I need them to find what they are tracing and hopefully they will leave Ellie alone."
"You're going to sacrifice him?" Said Katie. The room shaked and rumbled. Katie glanced up to the ceiling and quickly made for the door. "The Borg, they must have caught up with us," she said.
Katie halted when she saw that Paul had not moved from the console.
"I have to help her." He said, there was a sort of sad sincerity in his voice. Katie thought for a moment before finally coming through for him.
"Alright what do you need?"
"I need you to reconfigure a site-to-site transport so the bridge can't trace it," Paul said. The room shaked once again.
Great green blasts came soaring out of the Sphere and impacted the Odyssey's rear engines. These were the energy dampening weapons the Borg utilised to drain shields of opposing ships. To little effect against the Odyssey's armour. Jennifer ordered them to return fire, the armour dropped, and in a flurry of red and orange light, they unloaded their full arsenal of phasers. An array of explosions crossed the Sphere's surface. The wave of relief that washed over the bridge was soon drained as the Sphere continued with no damage taken from the barrage.
The only advantage Jennifer Gillian felt they had was their armour, which was raised up again, but even that did not take long for the Borg to adapt to it. The officers on the bridge lurched forward as a tractor beam took hold of them. Cutting beams carved into the armour as the tractor beam crushed the hull around the engines, forcing the Odyssey to fall out of warp. The Borg followed them. Holding the Odyssey still as they boarded the ship at deck nine.
At least ten security officers surrounded the three corridors leading to sickbay. Riley held the left and right corridors with three officers each, however Malcolm had set up barricades down the centre corridor, pulling off bulkheads and four officers standing behind him. To his surprise, he heard a familiar voice call for him from behind their lines. It was a short, stocky built man, grey skin and lined with scales. He was holding a phaser rifle very awkwardly as if he had never held one in his life, and he sat down next to the captain. "
Kaden you should be on deck 2, it's not safe for you here," Malcolm said. Another rumble came from the bulkheads around him.
"Lavivia said the same thing," said Kaden, "but I owe this to you."
"Excuse me?" Malcolm asked in surprise.
"When the war started, you could have kept me in the dark. I was your prisoner. But you didn't," said Kaden, "you let me contact my family, probably even saved her life. So I want to do the same for you." Malcolm smiled and thanked him. "What are friends for, hey?" Said Kaden before a shout came from behind calling 'transporter signal detected!'
Malcolm and Kaden both readied their weapons from behind the bulkheads. Down the dark corridor, three green energy pillars appeared, and walking at a furious pace, the drones marched towards them. Malcolm squeezed the trigger and two long red bolts leaped from the rifle and slammed into the drones chests. With sparks flying off the Borg, they fell to the ground. Seconds later, two more drones appeared from green pillars of light. Once again, Malcolm squeezed the trigger, this time joined by Kaden.
But when the phaser streams hit drones chests, they dissipated inches from it behind a wall of green. Malcolm quickly came to his feet, backing up but still maintaining the fixed aim of his rifle on the drones. He glanced towards two signal dampeners they had set up and gestured for Kaden to follow him back. "Ready to activate!"
Malcolm shouted to the ensign behind him. The drones continued to march forward, stepping over the barricade and the dampeners wirled to life as the captain shouted "now!" The blinking lights of the Borg implants shut down, and with a clang the drones hit the floor. A sound of phaser fire could be heard from the other two corridors, Malcolm spun round but unable to see round the corner, he could only identify the red lights coming from the phasers. Before he could even think, more green pillars shone from behind the barricade and three more drones marched from it.
Then immediately following that, the lights from the downed drones lit up again and they rose to their feet.
"We need more security around sickbay!" Malcolm shouted into his comm, quickly tapping his ear twice, as now eight drones began their march to their defensive line. Malcolm pressed the setting button on the small screen of the phaser rifle, setting it to the strongest frequency. The brightest bolt of red and white zoomed through the air and impacted a Borg drone, dissapearing behind a green energy wall. Squeezing the trigger and holding it resulted in a long stream pulsating against the Borg's shield. Tens of seconds Malcolm held the stream for as the drone slowly edged towards him. Eventually the phaser energy broke through the shield and the drone flew back through the air to the bulkhead. Glancing around, Malcolm looked back to Kaden who had resorted to using the butt of the rifle as a club, knocking the drones backwards. They were both pulled back as an ensign tossed a small ballistic explosive into the crowd of drones, knocking them all back in a blast of heat and shrapnel.
Katie had done what Paul had asked, after pulling a few favours, they had managed to reconfigure a site-to-site transporter than would not set off the bridge's sensors. This being done, Paul materialised in Ellie's office. The room was warm and dark, as the Borg must have tapped into the environmental systems to make it perfect for them. A green light shadowed what was once a bright clean room. The diagnostic table had been completely transformed, large sharp black pieces of metal reaching upwards as the entire structure projected a very organic humming noise, reminding Paul that of a frog's croaks.
Paul removed the device from his jacket pocket and it blinked to life in his hand. He was ready. Paul tapped the release button for the door and the man that was once Nicolas turned immediately to the doorway. Paul had hoped that he could do this quietly without attracting their attention but now he could see that the drone was unrelenting. Marching across sickbay towards him, Paul quickly put his hands forward and shouted, "Wait!" To Paul's surprise, the drone suddenly halted, staring blankly at him almost twitching in a way like something was holding him back.
He glanced to his right and saw Ellie standing there frozen looking unnaturally pale and rigid. Almost immediately after Paul took a step towards Ellie, the drone forced a step forward. A single step. Paul retreated back behind the door of the office. In panic, Paul quickly began to talk aloud.
"Your name was Nicolas, wasn't it?" Paul did not know what he was attempting to do. Appeal to his humanity? Probably wouldn't work for a Borg. Buying time? "I suppose the Borg has given you a designation. But listen please. I know that you feel a need to return to the Collective, and I can understand that, twenty years being so connected to so many and then you are one again. Believe me I understand. Up until a year ago I felt completely alone and now I would not give up this for the world. But before that, you know what helped me through all those years before anyone else? Ellie Miller did, my sister." Paul pressed his head against the door as he spoke now, "so I understand you want to return to the Collective, you're not wrong about wanting to be a part of something again. But please if there is anything left of humanity in you, you have to understand why I can't let you take her."
"Why have you stopped me?" Asked Nicolas reappearing from the darkness inside Ellie's mind.
Ellie smiled. "There you are again." Ellie had heard everything Paul was saying. For a moment his voice had pulled her back into her own eyes again.
Nicolas closed his eyes, almost in frustration. "Why are you stopping us?" He repeated.
"Do you know who he is?"
"He is irrelevant once we rejoin the Collective," Nicolas said, "whoever he is, he should be happy you will join us, you will all join us."
"Paul Miller," said Ellie, "before you shown me of a memory from a year ago, but go further forward from there and see what you find." Nicolas froze, his eyes spinning very fast until finally resting to Ellie's left. The interior of a shuttle craft emerged from the darkness. Paul formed kneeling in front of a rigid and silent Ellie holding a small cylindrical detonator. A week after the Romulan General L'Rol had brainwashed her, and the Odyssey had come to rescue her, the general had influenced Ellie in attempt to destroy the ship. But Paul had pulled her through it. The memory echoed throughout the blackness.
"You remember what you said to me?" The memory of Paul said, "You said you would never let anything hurt me, and if you've forgotten about that, then go right ahead." The figments vanished again.
"Do you understand yet?" Ellie asked. "You think that because you keep referring to yourself as an individual as a problem, it's not. The Collective is not the only way to be strong. When individuals are together, we are capable of incredible selfless sacrifice for each other and it's that connection to those we are separated from is what makes us strong. If we all though the same- all acted the same- then we, as a collective, become stagnant and incapable of improvement." Nicolas attempted to move away. Ellie took a step forward and grasped his arm. "Do you want to see how your brother died?" She asked. For the first time that she had seen Nicolas in her minds eye that she felt that she had genuinely saw him. Nicolas slowly turned and nodded quietly.
A large hall formed around them, they were in sickbay. Sparks was falling around them as they watched the past conflict with the USS Rodney. Wounded were being wheeled into sickbay, and doctors and nurses remained at their posts doing their duty. The figment of Ellie's past stood in the centre of the room, preparing several hyposprays and calling out orders. Suddenly, fire began to fall from above the figure as the memory of Cruford leaped in the way, knocking her out of the fall of the debris. Ellie shut her eyes tight when she heard the shard of bulkhead impact Cruford. Reluctantly she opened her eyes and saw Nicolas stood there watching his own blood brother dropping cold. "You are not alone, you know?" Ellie said quietly.
Ellie attempted to reach towards Nicolas before they were all engulfed in a high-pitched sound. Ellie clapped her hands over her ears but it was impossible to drown it out. She felt that it may have been Nicolas but he too could feel the pain too. Nicolas faded into the darkness and Ellie was pulled back into her own eyes.
Paul had used these few moments of distraction. He attached the device to one of the implant ports across Ellie's face. Paul dragged Ellie's body through the door of the office. Sliding the door shut, Paul propped Ellie up against the bulkhead as he watched through the screen of transparent aluminium. The glass doors opened and a single drone stepped in. The fighting outside in the corridor still dragged on but Paul guess that one must have slipped Malcolm's defensive line. The Borg scanned the room before resting on Nicolas, frozen and still twitching in the centre of the room. One glance, one tap of the drones arm, and the two disappeared into a green pillars.
Malcolm scrambled to his feet. The Borg continuing to advance, having quickly adapted to every frequency he could throw at them, Malcolm had now resorted to using the rifle as a club to knock them out of the way. Wack. Malcolm's rifle impacted an the lower right side of the drones head. Wack. Another right to the throat. But the third never landed. The Borg caught the end of Malcolm's rifle, crushed it and threw it right to one side. Malcolm backed right up, leaning right to the bulk head he had no where else to go.
The drone advanced, arm outstretched and all of Malcolm's fears of the Borg since that day he saw the Borg Cube block out the Earth from the surface of Apollo City came flooding back to him. They engage the Borg: they adapt and become stronger. They retreat: they adapt and become stronger. They are assimilated: they adapt and become stronger. But as the Borg reached out, it suddenly stopped.
All of them did. Frozen in their place before it slowly retracted it's arm. The drone stared at Malcolm, the seconds felt like hours looking down those cold eyes, and then they simply vanished. Vanished into green light. Malcolm tapped his left ear feeling as if he was unable to breathe.
"Malcolm to bridge, report."
"Captain the Sphere has disengaged it's tractor beam and is pulling away," Jennifer Gillians voice came over the comm.
"But why would they stop?-" then it hit him, they were only tracing Ellie and Nicolas. Glancing towards the sickbay, he saw the glass doors open. One drone must have slipped by. Malcolm dashed through the doors, scanning the room with his eyes. He ignored the heat or humidity as he began to panic, he could not find Ellie. Malcolm shouted her name.
He felt Kaden follow him in. Malcolm moved through the wires and heat and still no sign of Ellie. Then he realised, there was one part he did not check, the office! Malcolm darted across the room and almost punched the door release. The doors slid open and there was Paul and Ellie sitting up against the bulkhead. Safe.
For the second time that day Malcolm found himself sitting quietly staring out of the window behind his desk in the ready room. The Borg might have left but the damage they inflicted on the crew and the ship could still be felt. Paul regretted to report that it would take at least three days to repair the warp engines working round the clock and pulling double duty. In the meantime Leuitenant Marteez had set about getting the armour back online but for now he had no luck. The electronic ring of the door chimed. Malcolm spun his chair round back to the desk slowly but still keeping his eyes out the window when he said, "come in."
Jennifer stepped inside, holding a padd. Her face and voice sounded like there was a forced calm in it when she spoke. "Full damage report for you Captain," she said, placing the padd on the desk, "we have a bull breach on deck fifteen but Miller says he will send a team to repair it before the end of the day, it's the armour that's the problem, it wasn't designed to crumple and it'll take along time before we can restore the plates, and whatever the Borg did has compromised the structural integrity of the starboard pylon so no high warp speeds for at least a week." Jennifer attempted a smile but it did not convince Malcolm very much. "Most of the damage can be repaired with the supplies we have onboard, luckily. You don't blame Miller for what happened to Nicolas, do you? He had no other choice."
"It wasn't Starfleet, that's for sure," Malcolm said quietly, "he sacrificed an innocent man to a lifetime trapped in the Collective to save someone he was personally close to, Starfleet would have found another way, but hell, we are Public Enemy number one according to Starfleet anyway. But no I don't blame him, because it's exactly what I would have done."
"How's she doing anyway?"
"El? She started stirring about an hour ago, Nurse Calahad has removed the implants, they didn't get to full assimilation so she'd be strong again in a few days."
Malcolm though that was all but Jennifer stayed with one more question, "Richard, is there something else bothering you?" She must have noticed the look on his face that now Malcolm had become very subconscious of and he turned to the window again.
"Twenty years we've had to develop Borg-killing weapons," he said, "this isn't Wolf 359, every ship we build now have got the Borg in mind as a threat. Frequency modulators, nonoprobe dampeners, molecular armour. But when it came down to it, all for nothing, it was. We threw everything at them, and we were so little a threat to them that they just left once they completed their goal."
"If that's now strong a Sphere is, I dread to think what would happen if we encounter a Cube."
"Yeah," Malcolm agreed solumely, "I dread to think what would happen if one turned its eye to Earth again."