Part of USS Altai: Here Be Monsters

First Night on the Base

Outpost 1-SZ, Operations Office
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Streth wiped the brownish dirt across his face with an equally dirty uniform sleeve. Predictably, this achieved nothing but to smear streaks of rock dust mingled with sweat over his brow. The sleeve itself was tattered and frayed, the result of heaving against heavy metal, moving generators and steel into place. He’d still not checked into the base’s rudimentary infirmary after ensuring Vogler was being safely treated. It would have been a waste of time anyway, he reasoned to himself, as the place was only half-built, the staff no doubt busy enough. And he sure as hell was not beaming back up to the Altai at this time of night.

Unlike the infirmary, base Ops was nearly complete. A few of the Don S. Davis’ crew remained in the control centre, performing a last minute rearrangement of an isonlinear relay matrix. Streth ignored their sideways glances, fully aware of his bedraggled state as he strode over to the communications console. The room was circular with a central island which housed a holographic display. Sensor, communications, tactical and operations controls lined the perimeter of the nerve centre. Three doorways, evenly spaced, were also embedded into the duranium walls. One led out to an access corridor connecting the room to the rest of the base’s above-ground facilities. The middle door formed the apex of the base’s turbolift network. While not exactly at the ‘top’ of the outpost, Ops was at the furthest point from the subterranean levels. The final door led to Streth’s office; a utilitarian room, but not in the sterile Federation grey fashion so common on Starfleet facilities. Instead, the room was tinged with a light shade of green. While not the most comforting to Streth’s Andorian sensibilities, he understood that the Don S. Davis’ renovation works did not extend as far as cosmetic alterations.

He tapped at the comms controls. These, at least, were familiar to him. The Corps of Engineers had ripped out the old Breen equipment post haste, replacing it with the vastly more capable and user friendly Starfleet technology. Captain Walker came into view on the holo display, and Streth looked around to face him.

“Commander Streth, what can I do for you?” Walker looked as erudite as ever standing on the bridge of the engineering vessel.

“Just wanted to say thanks for the equipment Captain, we’ve shored up the tunnels now. Lieutenant Beck is confident that we won’t be getting any more nasty surprises springing up at us from down there.”

“I heard about what went on,” Walker’s expression grew concerned, “you look a little worse for wear there, Streth, everything alright?”

A sheepish ghost of a smile shadowed Streth’s face, and he rubbed his eyes with a thumb and forefinger, “Nothing a sonic shower and a good night’s rest can’t fix,” he sighed.

“Good.” Walker said, not entirely convinced, “Well you’ll be pleased to know the repairs are on schedule despite that little hiccup with the bugs.”

“Excellent,” Streth tried hard not to reveal the pang of regret he felt. He was less than thrilled by the prospect of the Altai being left alone to maintain this rock, and he was going to miss having the Don S. Davis around. The engineers had already helped them out of a tricky spot with the bugs, and he had the feeling they were certainly not all that was lurking in this desolate, godforsaken pocket of space. “Your departure time remains unchanged?”

Walker nodded, “I like to stay on time, Commander. We’ll be out of your hair in… About seventy-two hours.”

“Then we better make the most of the Don’s replication facilities while we can.”

“Hah.” Walker’s laugh was dry, “And I think you better get some rack time while you can, Commander.”

“Looking forward to it. G’night, Walker.” Streth stifled a yawn as he closed the channel.

***

Streth’s quarters were only marginally less dingy than his office had been. The soft orange lighting glowed in the corners of the small room, illuminating nothing but the stark, featureless walls. He pictured a few decorations here and there; a potted plant, a framed holoimage of his parents back on Indarax, anything that could take him away from the bleakness of the rock in which the base lay half buried.

He peeled off his uniform jacket, sliding the well fitted uniform over the back of a chair. He examined the torn sleeves, confirming that it was in fact unsalvageable. A fresh one would have to be replicated in the morning. Kicking off his shoes, he unfastened his belt buckle and eased himself out of his remaining clothes. He stepped forward into the shower cubicle. It was a simple affair, with two-way controls for heat and the intensity of sonic pressure that was to be applied to his skin by a small particle field. As he reached towards the panel where the controls were mounted, he caught sight of himself in the mirror. Only now did he realise the full extent of the caked dust that clung to him, what was left of his silvery hair now appearing a shade of dark terracotta. His antennae drooped, relaxed as the sonic field surrounded him. The familiar warm sensation tingled its way across his body, imperceptible vibrations separating foreign matter from the blue skin underneath.

That was when he saw it. The bug, fist sized, scuttled across the floor in front of him. He seized up. Antennae stood almost vertical as electricity shot down his spine. Nearly pulling the shower screen clean of its hinges, he leapt out, eyes following the bug’s path.

“Computer, lights, full brightness.”

The soft glow of the night lights was replaced by a hard, sterile fluorescence. Every nook and cranny of the room was now exposed. Streth scanned, tired eyes blinking as he looked hard for anywhere the bug might have got to. He moved towards the bed and sat down. Naked, denied even the simple pleasure of a shower, he exhaled sharply. A low growl then came from his throat. Had the bug really been there? A shiver coursed through his body, bringing his skin up in gooseflesh. What if there were more of them? He reclined on the bed, too tired to think. It was going to have to be a problem for the Streth of tomorrow.

“Computer, lights out.”