The Ensign manning the science station was confused. It was an odd signal, intermittent and irregular. It was extremely difficult to distinguish it from the background subspace noise, but it was definitely there, “Uhhh, sir?” He called. Better safe than sorry.
“What is it, Ensign?” Streth continued to monitor the away team’s progress over at ops. They were making some progress and, to his relief, they were safe for now. He made the short walk over to flight control.
“I’m reading subspace fluctuations that seem consistent with transmission data. It’s strange though, sir, it’s definitely not coming from the outpost and there are no other ships in the area.” The young Byzallian appeared perplexed.
“Weird…” Streth mused, “Can we pinpoint it? These damn asteroids aren’t helping with the interference.”
“I’ll give it a shot.” The Ensign input a few commands then waited as the results displayed, “OK, it looks like the signal’s real close. Just on the other side of the station, actually. I’m still not reading anything artificial in the location though, just a bunch of space rock.”
Streth scratched his beard, antennae wiggling slightly, “Could be cloaked? Klingons or Romulans could be paying us a visit. Hard to see why they would bother coming all the way out here… Could you bring up the subspace waveform?”
The officer displayed the visual on the LCARS interface. Torden exhaled, “Try matching that to any Klingon or Romulan frequencies in our database.” The screen flickered as it cycled through Starfleet’s signals intelligence data with lightning efficiency, yielding no positive result.
“Weird…” The Ensign echoed Streth.
“Worthy of our attention, I think,” The captain moved to seat himself in the command chair, “Mr. McQueen, take the Altai around the station and get us a better visual.”
“Aye sir” McQueen brought the maneuvering thrusters on line, rotated the ship on it’s vertical axis, once the bow was pointing away from the station he powered up the aft thrusters and started a tour of the clearing.
“Cowboy, if we move at least five kilometers from our last position I can get a second bearing onto the source of the signal” The Science Ensign called over to the Helm.
McQueen nodded, brought the impulse engine up and eased the ship forward, slowing when he had covered the required distance.
“That’s good, bringing lateral sensors on to the target area” Science reported. A few moments later they announced. “I have a second bearing. They intersect on the edge of the clearing, there’s a region of smaller asteroids. It’s in there somewhere. Cowboy, give me a third position and we should be able to isolate the right spot.”
McQueen brought the power back up, moving the ship to a third position another five kilometers away and three kilometers in altitude above the last one, to give Science the opportunity to locate a three dimensional location.
The watcher had dispatched its initial scans of the two ships, flashing out an encoded data stream to it’s masters. Now it sensed it was itself being scanned. The scan tripped a new protocol and it it immediately shut down, going as silent and inert as the rocks it was hiding amongst.
“Got it!” The Byzallian announced. “It’s about six hundred meters back from the edge, according to the scan it just a regular ast-”
He was surprised, looked blankly at his panel, tapped in some controls and shook his head. “It stopped!”
The rock was completely unremarkable. This was confirmed to Streth as the Byzallian read out the scan readings, “Around 28% iron, 33% cobalt, 18% nickel, rest of it’s hydrogen, carbon and some trace elements of ruthenium.”
“And yet was transmitting…?” Streth frowned, “How big is it? Can we bring it aboard?”
“Yeah, I guess so, sir. Not much bigger than a cargo pod.”
“Alright then, engage a tractor beam and open the cargo bay doors.”
“Aye sir” McQueen responded. Powering up he drove the Altai across the clearing, coming to rest close to the edge of the asteroid field.
Once in position he activated the tractor beam controls. Tightening the beam focus he slid it in between the jumble of rocks coming to bear on the one in question. “Tractor beam engaged and I have a lock. Bringing it aboard.”
Working the controls he deftly guided the rock through the maze of other asteroids and out into the clearing, then around to the port side of the ship and to the open hatch way of Aft Cargo bay Two. He deposited the rock onto the deck, shut off the tractor beam, closed the hatch and repressurized the hold.
“Rock is in Cargo bay two sir” He reported “Repressurizing and level four containment filed set up around the rock” He did not know what it was, but it if was in the ship he wanted it locked down.
=/\=Streth to Van Der Luan, we’ve detected an odd subspace signal that appears to be coming from an asteroid. We’re bringing it on board for a closer look. If you find anything unusual on the station, I want to know about it as soon as possible.=/\=
=^=Away Team acknowledges. Nothing to report yet but we’ll keep our eyes open=^= Van Der Luan’s response came over the speaker.
[Cargo bay Two Aft]
The rock had monitored the approach of the ship, the tractor beam and removal from its place of hiding onto the alien vessel. The computer activated the next step in its programming and waited.