Chapter 6

U.S.S. Aldrin

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

07:46 Hours, January 29th, 2380

Stardate 57077.522932

 

“How many are left on the surface?” Clark watched the viewscreen as Starbase 1, a massive blue multi-tiered orbital station, peaked up over Earth’s horizon. Though nearly five kilometers tall – large enough to house several starships at once – Starbase 1 was still just a speck in front of the moon in the distance.

R’Mor, the only other officer on the bridge, tapped her console, scrunched her brow, and tapped it a few more times, “Just a moment, my–” She futilely tapped with more force, “–my console is frozen.”

Clark tapped the controls at the end of his armrest, receiving no response. He held his hand over the small screen, “Huh. Computer, run level one diagnostic of bridge systems.”

The computer beeped as Clark stood and tapped the controls on the empty first officer’s chair. He looked up to R’Mor, “Check the back stations.”

R’Mor stepped over to the science station, leaning over the edge. As she shook her head and moved to the wide master system display at the center, the computer reported, “Level one diagnostic complete. Bridge controls have been disconnected at ODN junction 5A.”

Clark blinked several times, “Why?”

“Unknown.”

Clark looked to R’Mor as he questioned again, “Why wasn’t the disconnect detected?”

“Unknown.”

He shook his head, “Clark to Engineering.”

The computer buzzed in response, “Intraship communications are offline.”

“I think something’s wrong,” R’Mor said, only letting a hint of sarcasm into her voice. She smiled meekly at the annoyed glare Clark cast her way.

“Ensign, please head to Engineering and find out what the hell is going on.”

R’Mor nodded and headed towards the turbolift on the port side of the bridge. Expecting the door to immediately open to the on-call turbolift on her approach, she nearly smacked into the unmoving panels. She reached out and touched the control panel on the door side and received no response. The bridge lights flickered and she mused, “EPS failure?” She paused, “Do you hear that?”

“I do…” Clark trailed off as an electronic hum rose out of the processing banks to R’Mor’s right. He stepped towards the bulkheads, holding out a hand to tell R’Mor to stay where she was. The hum grew louder and stopped as Clark reached the gray panel. He looked to R’Mor, who shrugged. The bulkhead panel to Clark’s right suddenly blew off in a fireball that knocked him to the deck.

 

07:48 Hours, January 29th, 2380

Stardate 57077.523312

 

“Commander!” the young lieutenant from Arkansas called out as she ran towards the warp core where Vorik was standing. “Commander!”

“Yes, Lieutenant?” Vorik calmly responded.

She breathed heavily, “All the consoles… in Engineering… are… frozen!”

Vorik almost dropped the PADD he was holding, “What about the rest of the ship?”

“I don’t know.” She braced herself on a support for the platform around the warp core. Vorik turned and lightly tapped a console attached to the warp core, receiving no feedback from the screen.

“Computer,” called Vorik, “Why have the access consoles stopped functioning?”

The computer calmly replied, “Unknown.”

Vorik looked to her, “Lieutenant…”

“Brown. Julie Brown,” she grinned.

“Theories?” Vorik prompted. He remained still as the lights flickered, an event that drew Brown’s gaze upward.

“Failure of the primary EPS network would disrupt plasma flow to the main computer and–” she stopped as the deck shuddered. An instant later the lights and consoles in Engineering all went dark, leaving the swirling blue-green reaction in the warp core as the sole light source. “Secondary EPS controls should have activated by now,” Brown said quietly.

Vorik called out into the darkness, “Report to the storage lockers for accountability.” The sound of a few sets of boots sounded over the low hum of the warp core as the skeleton crew in Engineering made its way to the lockers around the aft side of the warp core.

He tapped his combadge, “Vorik to Bridge.” After getting no response, he tapped again, “Vorik to Clark.” After waiting a few seconds for all to arrive, Vorik counted the six shadowy officers before him and said, “The Aldrin has suffered a significant systems failure. James and Dawson: diagnostics. Colmee: reestablish communications with Engineering-B. Connors and Bur’var: activate emergency fusion reactors and ensure life support is operational. Brown and myself: reestablish communications with the bridge.”

Vorik stepped to a storage locker, opened it, and started removing and distributing Type-2 hand phasers and wrist lights to the officers, “All parties are to be armed at all times until this situation resolves itself.” He slapped a two-lens light onto his wrist and turned it on, “Get to work.”

As the engineers quickly dispersed, Brown attached her phaser to her belt, “I take it you don’t suspect EPS failure?”

Vorik walked towards the open Jefferies tube ladder to the side of the warp core, “I suspect sabotage.”

 

Starfleet Academy

San Francisco, California

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

07:51 Hours, January 29th, 2380

Stardate 57077.523882

 

Kelley stood quietly on the Academy transporter pad, waiting to be beamed to the Aldrin. A young male Human cadet stood at the controls next to the pad in the Starfleet Academy Transportation Center, a large crescent-shaped building composed of transporter pads, control offices, and waiting rooms, all wrapped around an open-air landing pad filled with two dozen shuttlecraft. The glass walls overlooked San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Starfleet Headquarters at the far end of the bridge.

The cadet working the freestanding transporter controls stared intently at his screen, “Ma’am, I’ve lost contact with your ship.”

The pleasant memories of her 36-hour leave, including a surprise dinner with her parents up on the moon, faded in an instant, “What?”

“The transport link failed, and I can’t reconnect,” he said.

“Did you try hailing them?” Kelley asked as she stepped off the pad.

“Yes, Ma’am.”

She looked over the back end of the console, “Scan for the Aldrin. It can’t have gone far.”

The cadet started the scan, and then looked up at Kelley, “Lieutenant, I’m only a second-year cadet. I’m not trained for this; I should get my supervisor.”

Kelley sternly pointed back down at the console, “Cadet, scan.”

He looked to the console, “Sensors indicate the Aldrin is still in a standard orbit, but appears to be without main power.” His brow furrowed, “Or lifesigns.”

“What’s your name?” Kelley asked.

“Francis Key, Ma’am.”

“Come with me, you’re getting me a shuttle,” Kelley started away from the transporter, headed for the nearest door out onto the landing pad. Key quickly deactivated the transporter controls and ran after her. As they stepped outside, the strong bay winds caught Kelley’s long hair and whipped it about her head. She walked straight to the small covered control desk that sat in front of the neatly arranged shuttles.

A dark-skinned Human female cadet, with the four vertical bars on her collar of a senior-year student, looked up at their approach, “Good morning, Ma’am.”

“I need a shuttle,” Kelley said, dispensing with pleasantries.

“I’m going to need your clearance,” the cadet standing behind the desk replied.

Kelley leaned forward, resting her arms on the desk, “What’s your name, Cadet?”

“Ann Siddik. Your clearance, ma’am?”

Kelley pointed up at the sky, “My ship is in orbit right now with no power, no communications, and no lifesigns.”

Siddik’s mouth fell open for a moment, and then she asked, “What’s your ship?”

U.S.S. Aldrin, NCC-89465.”

She tapped a few commands into a screen built into the desk and read, “Command lost contact with the Aldrin two minutes, seventeen seconds ago. And it says I need a level five security clearance for additional data.” Siddik looked up to Kelley, “What kind of ship is this?”

“I need a shuttle,” Kelley said. “Now.”

“I can’t allow that,” Siddik replied. “Starfleet Code 57, Section 6, Paragraph 4 requires that all derelict vessels undergo a level three scan before being boarded.”

Kelley leaned in closer, “Do you think I care about Starfleet Code 57, Section 6, Paragraph 4 right now?”

Siddik swallowed, “No.”

“Shuttle. Now.”

The cadet quickly worked her screen and then said, “Shuttle 7 is yours, Ma’am.”

Kelley nodded, “Thank you. Key, come with me.” She turned around and bumped into a towering, brown-skinned Human male Starfleet officer, with nary a hair on his scalp and a full black goatee around his mouth. He was accompanied by a shorter blue-skinned Bolian officer with an academic air about him. Both carried bulging black duffel bags. “Excuse me,” Kelley said, noticing the phaser rifle slung over the Human’s shoulder.

He nodded and turned to Siddik as Kelley and Key walked away, “Who do I need to talk to about a missing starship?”

Kelley stopped and turned around, “The Aldrin?”

The Bolian jumped to the side, “How’d you know?”

Kelley walked back to the desk and stretched out an open hand, “Lieutenant Janice Kelley, helmsman, U.S.S. Aldrin.”

The tall man smiled, “Lieutenant Commander John M. Murphy, Chief Tactical Officer.” He took Kelley’s hand and shook briefly.

The Bolian waved, “Lieutenant Toq’bae. Science.”

Kelley smiled back, “Gentlemen, if you’re ready, I’ve got a shuttle waiting.” She looked to Siddik, “Isn’t that right, Cadet?”

Siddik nodded, “Yes, Ma’am.”

 

U.S.S. Aldrin

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

08:17 Hours, January 29th, 2380

Stardate 57077.631974

 

“Captain?” R’Mor’s voice called out in the darkness. Clark opened his eyes and rolled onto his back, feeling the stiff carpet under his head. A dim flickering reddish light barely illuminated the bridge.

He blinked several times, “Ensign?” Clark shifted his arms back and propped himself up, finding that he was facing towards the dark viewscreen.

R’Mor reached out and helped Clark up, “I’m here.”

“Did the processing bank that I helped repair just blow up in my face?” He turned his head to the left, seeing R’Mor’s crouched silhouette against the flame-illuminated smoke filtering out of the exploded bulkhead.

She shined a wrist light up at the meter-wide hole that spanned the entire height of the bank, “Yes, it did.”

Clark groaned as he surveyed the damage, “Are you okay?”

“I caught a few pieces of shrapnel,” R’Mor paused, “I think. I haven’t had a chance to look in the mirror.” She shined the wrist light on her face, revealing gashes across her left temple, over her right eye, and a burn on her neck, all seeping dark green blood, “How do I look?”

“Like you got into a fight with a Ra’tar,” Clark joked. When R’Mor’s eyebrow rose, he added, “And won, of course.”

She chuckled, “Glad to hear it. You, however, seem to have gotten off without a scratch.”

Clark slowly stood, with R’Mor balancing him, “Then why do I feel like I was run over by a shuttlecraft?” He brushed a few bits of debris off this chest. “That then landed on my head.”

R’Mor shined her light over at the bent bulkhead over by the command chairs that had been blasted away from the explosion, “You got hit by that instead of the stuff behind it.” She handed him a wrist light.

He slapped the light onto the top of his wrist and the band automatically shot out one side, wrapped around, and tightened itself down. “That explains it.” Clark looked back at the smoldering remains of the bank, “That shouldn’t have knocked out power to the entire bridge.”

“It didn’t,” R’Mor said, “Unless it also locked all the access points and jammed the comms.” She wiped a trickle of blood away from her eye, smearing dark green across her forehead.

Clark immediately headed for the weapons locked on the right side of the master systems display at the back of the bridge. He pulled out two phaser rifles, activated both, and tossed one over the operations arc to R’Mor, “Did they teach you anything about how to deal with vessel-disabling sabotage at the Academy?”

“That depends,” R’Mor walked up towards Clark, “Have we been boarded?”

“You said the comms are jammed.”

She nodded, “We’ve been boarded. Then yes, they did.”

Clark asked, “Then what do we do next?”

“Find the boarding party and neutralize them.”

“Good.” Clark turned on the beacon on his rifle and aimed it at the deck, finding the closest hatch, which happened to be at R’Mor’s feet. “Ensign, you might want to take a few steps back.” She silently obliged.

A loud thump sounded from the rear of the bridge.

R’Mor looked up from the hatch and whsispered, “What was that?”

Clark slowly lifted his head, “The docking port.” A quieter thump followed and Clark turned and aimed his rifle at the door that led down towards the dorsal docking port. R’Mor did the same and they both quietly lowered themselves behind the ops arc. The door itself thumped and it slowly split open. Once it was a few centimeters open, Clark fired a low power shot into the deck in front of the door and shouted, “Identify yourself!”

A string of Human and alien obscenities followed, and then Kelley called from behind, “Captain, it’s Kelley!”

Clark stood and shook his head, “You could have knocked!”

Toq’bae stuck his head against the opening, “Hello Captain!”

“Hello?” Clark slowly responded as he stood.

“We didn’t detect any life signs from the shuttle, Sir,” Toq’bae said through the crack.

Clark walked towards the door, “There are at least two of us here.”

“Could we get some help here?” Murphy called, “The door’s kind of–” he pulled hard, moving the door apart a few centimeters, “–jammed.”

“We noticed.” Clark pointed R’Mor to the left side of the door and he took the right. With the three on the opposite side they pried the door apart, managing close to a meter opening.

Murphy was the first to step through, patting the door as he did, “New ships are always a bit tight.” He stretched out his right hand to Clark, using his left to pull his rifle back onto his shoulder, “Lieutenant Commander John M. Murphy, Tactical.”

Clark took the hand and shook, “Captain David Clark.”

Toq’bae stepped around from behind Murphy, “Shi’laan Toq’bae.”

“Doctor, right?” R’Mor asked. When Clark shot her a quizzical look, she responded, “He has a doctorate in wormholes or some such.” Clark’s look didn’t change. “It’s on his profile. You read the profiles, right?”

Clark looked back to Toq’bae and Murphy, “This one is Ensign R’Mor. Operations and smartass.”

Toq’bae nodded, “Charmed. And you don’t have to call me ‘Doctor’. I’d actually prefer you didn’t.”

“Sure thing,” Clark pointed his rifle at the nearby hatch, “We were going to blast our way out of here, but now that you’re here…”

Murphy quickly swung his rifle around and seemingly without aiming fired it at the hatch. As everybody on the bridge jumped back, the hatch clattered back into place, a charred and smoking hole where its lock used to be.

Clark stepped up to the hatch and pointed his light at it, saying with disappointment, “I wanted to do that.”

Murphy slipped his rifle back onto his shoulder, “Sorry, Sir.”

“No ‘sirs’,” Clark instructed as he crouched and lifted the hatch. It opened into the overhead of the corridor below, between the mess hall and docking port. A strip of emergency lights at the base of the bulkheads softly illuminated the space.

Murphy stepped forward, aiming his rifle into the hole. He slowly circled around, clearing as much of the corridor as he could from above. “Looks good.”

Clark nodded and Murphy hopped forward into the hatchway. He landed in a crouch, immediately bringing up his rifle and sweeping the corridor in both directions. Satisfied, Murphy flashed a thumbs-up at the hatch and stepped out of the way. R’Mor followed in similar fashion, and then caught Toq’bae’s rifle as it was dropped through. Toq’bae rolled with his landing, awkwardly coming to rest against a bulkhead. R’Mor handed him his rifle with her right hand as she caught Kelley’s with her left. The lieutenant and captain dropped through without incident.

Murphy walked up to Clark as the captain accepted his rifle from R’Mor, “We might have a problem.”

“No way?”

Murphy pointed at the small tricorder screen built into his riflescope, “I’m reading four life signs in the mess hall. A Vulcan, Deltan, and two Humans.”

“We don’t have any Deltans on the crew,” Clark said as he studied the display. “They’ve got a power source in there.”

Kelley asked, “What are they doing in the mess hall?”

“If they’re doing what I think they’re doing,” Clark paused, “Then they’re trying to gain access to the ship’s control functions through the primary ODN relay. It runs under the bridge – and over the mess hall – to that processor bank.”

“We’re in Earth orbit,” Toq’bae said, “And the Aldrin is armed to the teeth. This could be bad.”

“If they’re paying attention, then they know we’re here,” Clark pointed down the corridor, “The entrance is around that corner.” The five slowly moved towards the corner with Murphy leading the way. He stopped at the edge of the corner with his back to the bulkhead.

Murphy whipped around the corner, immediately drawing fire from two Starfleet hand phasers. He dropped back to the other four, unscathed, “Door’s open. Two shooters, one far and on the deck, the other close and upright.” R’Mor, standing next to him, nodded. Murphy stepped away from the bulkhead and R’Mor took his place. He turned around and faced down towards the door, still shielded by the corner, and whispered “On three.” He silently mouthed the countdown and on ‘three,’ R’Mor turned the corner and fired a burst of shots at the firer on the deck while Murphy strafed to the far side of the corridor, firing at the closer and standing of the two.

Clark nodded as the two slowly moved toward the doorway, “Nicely done.” R’Mor quickly slid across the bulkheads toward the door, her weapon pointed into the opening, while Murphy slowly inched his way in the same direction on the opposite side of the corridor. Clark, Kelley, and Toq’bae stacked up behind R’Mor. The sound of tumbling chairs and tables came from within the mess hall. Murphy sidestepped ever closer towards the door, his field of fire slowly widening and shifting across the darkened mess hall as he moved. He was almost even with the door opening when he jumped away; a phaser beam impacted the bulkhead where his chest had been just a moment prior.

Murphy whispered to the rest of the group, “There’s one standing on a table in the center of the room, doing something in the overhead.”

“ODN relay,” Clark confirmed.

“The other put down some tables as barricades right next to him. I can’t take out the standing one without getting in the line of fire,” Murphy continued.

“Suggestions?” Clark prompted.

Murphy looked around, “You wouldn’t happen to have brought a flash grenade with you?”

“I knew I was forgetting something,” Clark rolled his eyes. He saw movement back down the hall and immediately lifted his rifle.

Jensen held her own rifle to her side as she approached, “Easy, David.”

Clark lowered his rifle, “Don’t sneak up on me like that.”

“I believe this makes six on one,” Jensen said, bringing her weapon back to a ready stance.

“We’re completely exposed if we try to rush the position,” Murphy countered. “He could mow down the six of us one at a time.”

“Can you at least lay down suppressive fire?” Jensen asked.

“I lay down suppressive fire in my sleep,” Murphy said cockily.

Jensen chuckled, “I have a witty response, but I’m going to let that one slide.” She pointed back down the hall, “You two lay down suppressive; the Captain and I will come in through the other entrance and get him from behind.”

“He’s barricaded the back side too,” Murphy cautioned.

Jensen smiled, “Then keep him busy so he doesn’t know we’re coming up behind him.” She turned and ran back down the hall, Clark stood for a second and then ran after her.

Murphy looked to R’Mor, “Put down a few shots – I’m going to take the other side.” She quickly turned the corner and quickly fired blindly into the mess hall, forcing the shooter down as Murphy jumped across the doorway to the far side. He slammed his back against the bulkhead and dropped to the deck, “Keep your shots low enough that they’re not going to get over the tables.” R’Mor mirrored his stance and a second later turned the corner to fire into the barricade.

Clark wedged his rifle stock into the seam of the closed door and pushed. The door resisted his effort for a few seconds before sliding stiffly about half a meter open. Jensen crouched behind the door and peered in, finding the shooter occupied with the sporadic fire from Murphy and R’Mor in the opposite doorway. She looked up at Clark, “It looks like he’s not protected on the sides.”

Clark looked in, noting the figure on the table with his head and arms up in the overhead, “You go right and put down some more suppressive fire. If he’s smart he’ll take the exit to the left – Murphy and R’Mor don’t have coverage there. I’ll grab him as he comes out.”

“Got it.” Jensen slipped through the door, staying low as she quietly moved into the standing tables and chairs by the forward windows. Clark followed and broke to the left, moving in towards the barricades. Jensen took up a position behind a table, aiming obliquely into the shooter’s side. She looked to her left, got a thumbs-up from Clark, and immediately began firing.

Her first shots barely missed and the shooter immediately dropped and scrambled on all four out towards the galley. Clark lunged forward and tackled what was now visibly a red-haired female Human from the side, kicking away her rifle and rolling over top of her in the process. He landed on his back with the woman facing towards him and struggling to get up. Clark quickly kicked into her chest, knocking her onto her back. He looked up to see the last man trying to climb up into the overhead, “Jensen!”

She was already on her way in. Jensen ran across the tabletops and leapt for the dangling legs. Her arms wrapped around the man’s thighs and pulled his body out from the overhead, along with a mess of conduits and cables in his hands. The pair flipped in the air over Clark and crashed into a cluster of chairs.

Clark stood as the other four came in, securing the unconscious bodies of the three shooters. Jensen rolled off of the limp body of the fourth man and landed sitting upright on the deck. She and Clark both froze. The man was clothed in beaten and heavily worn brown civilian attire, but his Vulcan features were unmistakable. They both spoke at once, stunned and confused, “Vorik?”