The engine room aboard the Asbetos was a mess. Cables had been strung across the tiny compartment to allow the ship to far exceed her average top speed, even after sustaining damage across multiple vital systems. The chief engineer had been burned badly—an irony given that the ship was named for one of the Greek daimones keramikoi, the spirits who made life for potters and ceramic artisans difficult, and in particular the spirit responsible for burning and charring—so a team from the Arcturus had been sent over to see to the situation. Lieutenant Arturo Hidalgo was in command, with the support of the ship’s second hazard team under Lieutenant Tellora.
“No, no, we can’t divert power away from the deflector dish. They’ve routed primary EPS power through the bus there,” Hidalgo said, stopping Chief Osid from carrying out her proposed course of action. “We have to find the power somewhere else.”
“Well, we don’t need weapons or shields, do we?” she asked.
“Good idea,” Hidalgo confirmed.
This Centaur-class ship’s engines were barely what Hidalgo would consider to be “modern,” derived from the same designs that powered the venerable Excelsior-class cruisers. They operated under the same principles of most designs created since the 2290s, a step ahead conceptually from the older engines found aboard the long-retired Constellation and Miranda-class ships, but going from a top-of-the-line Class-Nine design down to this nearly-obsolete design was making his head spin.
“I haven’t worked on an engine like this since the academy,” the lieutenant muttered, glancing over at one of the situation displays. There was a low thud from deep within the ship, followed seconds later by an alarm. All of the panels switched to red, and Hidalgo’s heart sunk. “We are too late. We’re four minutes from a warp core breach, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Osid to Tellora. It’s time to go,” the chief said, tapping her badge.
Lieutenant Tellora was on the bridge of the Asbetos. Of the ship’s own crew, only Lieutenant Commander Samir, the captain, had remained behind. Tellora had half of her team with him on the bridge to help him maintain what processes could not be automated. The young Human was at the edge of exhausting himself, going between the engineering, operations, and environmental control stations to keep the ship spaceworthy. Tellora respected his will to keep his ship intact, though her instinct was just to scuttle her and be done with it.
“Ensign Gardner, flush the auxiliary life support buffers. The automated system is offline,” Samir ordered.
“Yes, Commander,” Gardner replied, earning a glare from Tellora. “Captain,” he corrected before completing the task from one of the aft stations.
Samir nodded, not seeming to notice the disrespect as he collapsed into the center seat. Before he could get his bearings to return to his task, Tellora’s commbadge chirped.
“Osid to Tellora. It’s time to go,” the chief reported.
“Understood. Evacuate Lieutenant Hidalgo and his people to the runabout,” she ordered. She could see from the helm console that a warp core breach was now in progress. “Captain, our efforts have been unsuccessful. With your permission, I will put distance between us and the Arcturus.”
“Do it. I’m not ready to abandon her yet, though,” Samir replied, leaping out of his seat and going over to the engineering console. “There has to be something left to try.”
Executing a pre-arranged plan with Ensign Stanton on the runabout, Tellora used what thruster power was left to make the most of the momentum provided by the smaller ship’s impulse engines. If the Asbestos were too close to the Arcturus or the planet, the effects of a warp core breach would be devastating.
“Tellora to Arcturus. Our efforts have failed.”
“Understood. Evacuate immediately,” replied Captain Okusanya.
Samir tapped his own badge. “Your team can go, but I’m not leaving until I’ve tried everything.”
“Captain, I have been monitoring my team’s progress. There is nothing left to try.”
Samir shook his head.
“As the senior officer present, I am ordering you to abandon ship.”
Crewman Woods didn’t fully have to pull Samir off of the console, but nearly so, until Samir, Woods, Tellora, and Gardner were crammed into the turbolift. Samir gave one last glance at his bridge before the doors closed. They went down two decks and then crossed the saucer to the docking port for their runabout. As soon as the hatch closed behind them, Stanton blew the explosive bolts on the docking tube and pulled them away. On her current course, the Asbestos would avoid damaging anything in the system if it didn’t make it to the sun before exploding.
Samir pulled up an external view from one of the auxiliary science stations on the runabout, watching his ship get further away. About a minute later, it exploded, causing a whiteout on the screen and a tremendous flash of light in the viewports. He punched the bulkhead next to the screen. The idea that the captain should go down with the ship was familiar to Tellora, just as much from Klingon culture as Starfleet and Earth mythos, so she understood where he was coming from. It was an honorable death to die on the bridge of your ship, after all.
“Captain, there is no dishonor here. You did what you could,” she offered.
“Just ‘commander’ now, I think, but I appreciate that.”
The Arcturus was far enough away not to feel the effects of the blast, but a warp core breach was enough to send a ripple through subspace. Commander Armstrong knew they only had a few seconds to adapt the shields on the sensor network to protect the delicate sensors from being thrown out of alignment. It would take far too long to reconfigure each of them manually, and they’d just finished installing the new equipment. It was a much easier problem to solve than to figure out how to protect the network from the storm itself, which was still bearing down on them.
“Got it,” he said, mostly to himself, as he sent the command across the network to set their shields to the inverse of the resonance frequency from the warp core breach.
The science officer watched from his station as the relatively minor subspace wavefront hit the sensor grid and was successfully repulsed. There were reactions in the atmosphere, though. The region was already volatile enough even ahead of the storm that it was causing lightning storms in the planet’s atmosphere. The station at Sentinel Major had been reinforced with enhanced lightning towers, but the delicate ecosystem in the habitable zone was being driven haywire. The explosion triggered another burst of intense storms.
Lieutenant Eirell from Cetacean Ops had journeyed to the bridge for the occasion, wearing a somewhat-awkward suit that provided her with two mechanical legs and support for her arms, which were used to moving with the buoyancy of water. As the resident expert on cetaceans, she was monitoring the so-called “gas whales.”
“Commander, there is a large pod of the organisms headed towards the outpost itself,” she reported, her suit’s systems translating her voice. “Based on these movement patterns, they are quite agitated.”
“Great. Just what we need,” Armstrong muttered. “Captain, I think you should see this,” he said, looking up from the science station.
“On screen,” Okusanya ordered.
On the viewer, the bridge crew could see a pod of maybe forty whales headed towards the aerostat colony. Most of them veered off, but two of the larger specimens were headed directly for one of the flotation bladders—enormous blimp-like constructs. The massive creatures were likely confused by the strange weather, their internal navigation senses thrown off. One of them hit the flotation bladder with enough force to puncture it, flying straight through to the other side.
“How long can the station remain afloat damaged like that?” Okusanya asked.
“Normally, indefinitely. But the anti-grav array won’t be able to function when the storm hits,” Armstrong replied. “When the Century Storm arrives, the colony is going to end up crashing to the planet’s core.”