All nonessential personnel clear the deck! Retrieval crew to standby! Tractor beam engaged!”
The shuttlebay officer’s voice reverberated throughout the cavernous facility. Crewmen rushed across the broad tarmac and the radsuit-clad retrieval team busied themselves checking their toolboxes and diagnostic equipment. Through the open shuttlebay doors, a blue beam reached out and caught the tumbling navigational buoy, halting its list.
By the time Falkenberg and al Rashid arrived, the buoy was passing through the containment forcefield. The tractor beam operator slowly lowered the buoy to the deck, where it gently came to a rest.
The first officer looked to his left at the science officer. “Sorry to put you to work so soon, but let’s get to it.”
Mike scratched his head. “I’m not sure how much use to you I am at this stage, Khalid. Let’s get one of these engineers to get the case off. Systems? Sure, it’s probably fixable.” He waved over a young engineer’s apprentice. ”Otherwise, I’ll defer to you—don’t cadets on flight track disassemble a D9 cruiser or something at the Academy?” He grinned at the executive officer.
Khaled chuckled at the remark, and was about to retort, but a mop-headed youngster came up to the two men.
“Hello there. What’s your name?” Mike asked.
“Gyro. Er, Aristides Ainarozidou, sir, but everybody calls me Gyro.”
“Okay…Gyro. Can you take the housing off this buoy for us so we can take a look at it?”
“Oh, sure, sir. Glad to.”
Mike stepped back as the engineer worked, and clapped his hip. “Number One, I left my tricorder on the Bridge. I’ll borrow one from the shuttle over there.” He jerked his head in the direction of a corner of the deck and headed off. It was an older model of tricorder the science officer held in his hand as he sauntered back. He glanceed up briefly to see parts of the buoy lying disassembled on the deck. Just as he looked back at his tricorder there was an ear-piercing whoop, a blinding flash of blue light, and the smell of incinerated hair.
“Someone forget the safety protocols, Gyro?” the exec glanced down at his own right hand, remembering his own lapse in memory in the previous mission. He stepped over toward one side of the buoy and approached Gyro. The back of his hair hand was conspicuously bare and reddening in one spot. “Here, let me have a look at-” The exec stopped short, no longer focused on the engineer’s injured hand.
Protruding from the buoy was a long, odd-shaped object. If he had to describe its shape, he’d have said it looked like a photon torpedo tube, but much larger. He could not tell the object’s total length; it had clearly impacted the buoy with enough speed that the object had worked its way well inside the buoy. Whatever was at the other end must have been sharp enough to penetrate the buoy’s outer hull. Or it was traveling with enough speed to do so. Buoys were constructed to be tough, to last for decades. There were a few still in Federation service in the interior systems that were close to a century old.
Mike screeched to a halt beside the two. There was a clatter of boots as a fire team sprinted across the landing bay with Lt. Fucha at their head. Mike looked hurriedly between Rashid and Gyro. “False alarm, fellas,” he waved the team away. “Apart from one fried engineer.” He tilted his head toward the youth. “You won’t live this down for a month. You know that don’t you?” Gyro, dazed, stared at his hand and then gave a weak smile to the older man.
“Gyro, get to to sickbay and get back here on the double,” the exec said. “Mike…” he beckoned the science officer to join him. “What do you make of this?”
Fucha stepped back and shrugged as the more technical minds stepped up to have a look.
“I should contact the bridge and let them know what’s going on,” he said.
“Lieutenant,” Mike said with a cursory glance at Gyro. The young apprentice had lost color in his face. “Maybe one of your team could escort our engineer to sickbay and stick around till he’s ready to come back?”
Lt. Fucha nodded to the science officer and signed to one of the red shirts. Mike turned his attention to the probe.