Part of USS Arcturus: Epsilon Indi Calling

Chapter Three: Suspicions

USS Arcturus, Main Bridge
Early January, 2399
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Hayden was pacing in front of the main viewscreen. It had been almost four hours since Captain Lancaster had last checked in and she was starting to get antsy. When she had gone to bed, it had sounded routine: aid a packet liner with an emergency until a larger ship could arrive, but waking up to no contact was unusual. Whether it was merely a distress call that was holding his full attention or something else, she couldn’t shake the unease at the silence.

“Operations, prepare to cast off. We’re going after him,” Hayden decided, turning and moving towards the command throne. Commander Larus Aleser was an Ardanan with a skin tone between bronze and mocha, as well as the haughty smirk of someone who thought very highly of himself.

“Incoming transmission from the Ella Fitzgerald, Captain,” he reported. Hayden’s heart rose.

“Belay my last and put it on screen,” Hayden said, sighing as she sat down into her seat. She furrowed her brow when an unfamiliar face appeared on the screen, a dark-skinned Lieutenant that she didn’t remember from the roster. “This is Fleet Captain Elizabeth Hayden of the Arcturus. With whom am I speaking?”

“This is Lieutenant Corey Pressman, sir. I am, or was, the captain of the Janice Rand. Your shuttle docked with us after we experienced severe systems failures,” he explained.

“Where is Captain Lancaster?”

“He and the rest of the shuttle’s crew were rendered unconscious when another power surge ionized the cofferdam as they attempted to board, ma’am. My medic is monitoring them, but they’re going to be down for the count for several hours,” Pressman said, almost robotically; it was clear that he was in shock. “I’m transmitting their lifesign readings now. Maybe your doctor can come up with some better treatment for them?”

“I see…,” Hayden replied, looking at the biometric data on the console in the armrest of her chair once it came through.  “Your ship was damaged beyond repair?”

“Yes, sir. I have several survivors aboard, but our life support was failing by the time your shuttle arrived. I thought the only course of action was to resume your crew’s original course,” Pressman replied.

“Of course. How far out are you?”

“Approximately eight hours.”

“Commander, can we get out of dock and rendezvous any more quickly than that?” Hayden asked, turning back to Alesser.

“No, ma’am.”

“Lieutenant, I want updates on their condition every half-hour. We’ll have medical teams standing by when you arrive. Understood?” Hayden said, standing as she addressed the shell-shocked lieutenant on the screen.

“Yes, s-sir. We’ll make sure they get here in one piece.”

“Good. Arcturus out,” Hayden said, before glancing behind herself to Alesser, who cut the channel. “Thoughts?” she asked.

“Such an ionization event could be caused by a catastrophic warp engine failure, though it would be very unusual for such an event not to result in the outright destruction of a starship,” Alesser replied, crossing his arms. “It’s also standard protocol to apply a dispersion field around any points of contact between the cofferdam and a vessel with unusual energetic properties in the hull. It’s possible that’s what left the crew with only a loss of consciousness, but any surge powerful enough to push through the field should also have vaporized our shuttle. It’s suspicious.”

“One of the away team members may have touched the hatch itself,” Hayden thought aloud. “I agree that it’s unusual,” she tapped her badge. “Hayden to Anjar. I’m sending you biometric readings from our four crewmembers on the Waverider. I want you to analyze them to reverse engineer a cause and develop a treatment for their lack of consciousness.”

“Understood, Captain,” came a quick response.