USS Watership – Bridge – 1645
“Captain, we are approaching the Paulson Nebula.”
Peter Crawford sat forward in the center chair on the Olympic class starship, his heart beating a little faster than usual. “Confirm that, helm. Ops, go to yellow alert.” The soft klaxon for yellow alert signaled throughout the ship as the lights on the bridge clicked over to a soft yellow and officers rotated to alert specific duty stations. He turned in his chair to science, “Updates?”
The woman at science gave a nod as she consulted her console, “Readings are increasing with proximity, sir. The band of both quantum fields and temporal traces are present. There’s much more there, and our teams are working on the data as it comes in.” She tapped her earpiece to confirm receipt with whoever had just reported to her, “The nebula remains unusually unstable, Captain. Recommend keeping our distance until we are able to discern this data better.”
Peter stood, “Helm, drop us out of warp and bring us to a full stop.” The stars on the screen suddenly slowed as the ship leaped from warm and slowed to a stop. The soft yellow light filled the bridge, and Crawford had grown to appreciate the mood it created with the crew. ‘Always be prepared’ had been a lifelong motto for him.
Rebecca had been sitting at the back of the bridge. Moving to Peter’s side she stood silently staring into the abyss. After a moment Rebecca said softly to him. “I spoke with Ethan’s wife last night. They are having a girl.” She let the silence fall between them for a moment, and then she spoke again this time speaking of her husband, “Milo will likely need something to do. Something to keep his mind off of things. I could use my authority to temporarily recommission him into Starfleet so he can head those security forces you brought on at Starbase 23.”
Peter felt the silence. New life was always a blessing, and it was now a curse given that Ethan and his crew were missing. He didn’t want to think about the possibility of not finding them. The consequences of that loss would break much of the former USS Denver crew, and the grief would leave wounds that would never heal, no matter the time. He considered the Vice Admiral’s suggestion and turned to her, “I’m not opposed to it, Vice Admiral. We could use a strong leader on that team, just in case.”
“It will help keep his mind off of things. I know Milo. He has to be doing something. Especially at times like this.”
Cheon leaned in as he looked at the nebula, “I have a bad feeling about this Rebecca. A feeling that I think we should have considered reassignment of the Denver,” he stated in a tone just low even for her to hear.
They could not see the head of this monster that stood silently before them. Nor its many mouths that had taken their friends and family.
Peter followed the stare of his former FO to the screen. There was a certain amount of unsettling feeling coming from the nebula, and enough of it that he couldn’t quantify. He stood and turned to his science chief, Lieutenant Keira Mitsak, “Mitsak, what’s our initial read?”
The young Korean woman swung in her chair, “Plenty. Our science teams downstairs are having a field day.” She tapped at her console and the main viewscreen displayed the initial readings and details, “The nebula is notoriously unstable on a good day, but you see here,” she tapped and the wild readings were applied over the historical readings, “We’re past unstable and good days. The temporal waves are on a rollercoaster and the quantum lines are snapping around pretty wildly.” She tapped another button on her console, “If you’re feeling uncomfortable, that’s happening across the ship. Nothing serious, yet…but we’ve got a growing list of nausea, mild headaches, light anxiety, and just an all-around unsettling feeling. Doctor Keynstona is mapping out the parts of the ship currently impacted and dispatching our medical and science teams for further inspection.” She shook her head, “That’s not even counting the rifts that we are detecting deep inside the nebula. They are open and closing at a mad rate – likely a symptom along with the other readings. I recommend launching passive probes and keeping our distance unless absolutely necessary. The effect of the nebula at high doses is an unknown variable.”
Crawford let out a breath he had been holding, “Thank you, Mitsak. Keep at it.” He turned to the gathered group of old friends, “Thoughts?”
Cheon looked at Seong for a moment and then back at Peter. “This nebula reminds me of a very old, very ancient story from early earth, from a Greek author called Homer.” he then looked back at the nebula, “The Odyssey, and more importantly Charybdis. A monstrous whirlpool that swallowed ships whole and then spat out their remains.”
“I agree,” Rebecca responded. “These rifts need to be closed, but maybe we can take a peek inside before we do. Hopefully, we will find our wayward ships.”
Captain Crawford nodded, “I agree. Lieutenant Mitsak, ready two passive probes and two active probes. Target each for an area of the nebula with rifts. See if you can get them through a rift or two.” He stood and moved to the center of the bridge, “Put the feeds on the viewscreen…launch when ready.” Mitsak gave a curt nod and tapped at her console quickly and launched the four probes.
“Telemetry data tracking now. Strong signals.” She put the data from each on the viewscreen. Crawford frowned at the data and video being relayed back. Mitsak spoke again, “Probes 1, 2, and 4 are entering the rifts. Probe 3 is in the nebula only.”
The CO of the Watership pointed at the screen, “Talon…what do you make of…that?”
“Too little data to tell,” Rebecca replied. “These rifts have completely unknown properties and a visual observation is next to useless.”
“Lieutenant, can you retrieve probes 1 and 4 and send them with 3 into the rift that 2 is in?” Cheon asked as he leaned over and tapped on the feedback from the number two probe on her console. He then expanded it to take over the viewscreen.
The feed was the worst of the four probes but what had caught Cheon’s attention was a single Federation ship hovering over a Negh’Var warship. It was grainy at best but it was something. He tried to clear the image but it made it visually worse.
Mitsak frowned at the worsening, “Hold on a moment, sir.” She gently tapped at the console, “Captain, I’m going to use the deflector strip to focus the signal connection.” Crawford gave her a nod and she went to work, slowly bringing up the deflector strip’s power while creating a thin connection to the probe. The ship shuddered for a moment and she warned them, ”It’s going to be a bit bumpy with the deflector assisting in the connection. Mr. Cheon, it should be clearing up for you now.” The ship rumbled a little bit more, “I’m going to increase the power to the deflector incrementally. Hold on to something.”
Crawford hit the ship-wide channel, “All hands, brace for multiple impacts.” He turned to Cheon and Talon as he closed the channel, “We’ll hold the connection as long as we can, but Olympic class wasn’t built for moving and shaking for long periods. Mitsak, activate our damage control teams.” She nodded as the connection with the probes strengthened and the ship shuddered further.
Talon spoke quickly, “Open a channel. Hail that ship. It looks like an Argonaut-class. It might be the Heracles.”
Peter stood from his chair and turned to his chief communications officer, Lieutenant Rodney Garrett. “Mr. Garrett, do as she says. Boost that signal.” He turned to face the screen, his heart beating a little faster than before. The ship continued to shudder and klaxons rang throughout the ship. He could see out of the corner of his eye Lieutenant Mitsak with an earpiece directing damage control teams in tandem with their Chief Engineer in engineering.
Crawford stepped forward, “Captain Peter Crawford, USS Watership.” He gestured to the others, “Vice Admiral Talon and crew. We’re looking for some friends of ours.” The ship shuddered hard and nearly sent Crawford to the ground but he held his balance. “Time isn’t on our side.”
Vausees was suddenly full of mixed emotions as she looked at another Captain wearing the same uniform, that had taken over the main viewscreen. That is until she heard what the other Captain had said. “Peter I understand that you and the Admiral are looking for your friends but if you do not cut this transmission you will be pulled into the rift and your Olympic Class ship will be torn to pieces. I can not and will not allow that to happen. Captain, trust me if I see someone from our side over here I will do my best to get them home,” she stated as the signal started to become grainy again. “One more thing,” she said, “Who are you looking for if it wasn’t me?”
“The USS Zebulon Pike. My daughter and step-son are on that ship,” Rebecca replied.
Rebecca took up a nearby unmanned science station. “The gravimetric and tachyon instability is increasing. The rift is destabilizing. The quantum signature is fluctuating. Communications, adjust the frequency to match,” she shouted. Suddenly a gravitational eddy lashed out from the rift and slammed into the Watership with such force that the hull and deck plating groaned and popped under the strain. Master caution alarms filled the engineering panel. “The instability is increasing. Ionic particles are interfering with the shields.”
Crawford threw himself into the chair as the bridge didn’t just shudder, it shook with a force it hadn’t ever done in the past. The helm officer picked herself up off the floor and gave him a wave that she was ok, just shaken up. The deck below them was now vibrating as the inertial dampeners were put to the test. Other officers held onto their stations. His operations chief and first officer Alexandra Hoyt shouted from her station at the back of the bridge, “Engineering reports the energizer and power systems are being pushed to the max, Captain.” The bridge shook again, but everyone managed to hold on this time. There was a sense that things had suddenly become dangerous for all of them.
“Ionic particles and gravitational forces are increasing. We got just a few seconds maybe a minute before shields fail. We have to disengage the deflector,” Rebecca reported as she worked the Science station frantically trying to make sense of the data that was flowing in. The console buzzed, “Another rift is opening up 800 kilometers off our port bow 012 mark 88.”
Cheon looked at Peter, “Rebecca, kill the feed,” he stated and then looked down at the helms officer, “Get us out of here, and place us 4 thousand kilometers out of the path of this ion storm. I don’t care how you do it, just do it.” He then looked back at Peter and Rebecca before he started to move toward the conference room. Before he entered, “Captain, Admiral, we need to talk. Lieutenant Mitsak please join us with all of the data that you have gathered.” With that having been said, he entered the conference room.
The helm officer gave a side look at Crawford who nodded as the ship’s shaking continued to worsen. The captain turned Mitsak, “Cut the feed, disengage the deflector.” She scrambled quickly as the helm officer threw the Olympic class USS Watership into full impulse and 90 degree hard turn. The strained inertial dampeners nearly shorted out as the massive bulk of the ship turned on a dime and began to make its escape. The shaking of the deck slowed until it had faded. Steam poured from a vent over a turbolift while some stations flickered. The gathered crew turned to face their captain, who was now standing in front of the command chair. “Admiral, I’ll meet you in the conference room in a moment.”
“Of course Pete. I’ll be right there. I have a lot of sensor data I want to look over,” Rebecca responded.
As she entered the conference room he turned his attention to his first officer and operations chief, “Damage report, Hoyt.”
She tossed him a PADD she’d been working on at her console, “We have damage to the hull on ten decks and engineering is assessing a temporary fix. Four of our decks have buckled, but engineering is reporting they’ll be able to stabilize them within four hours. Our shield generators are half functional – damage control teams are assessing the situation but we’re going to need some time to restore them.” Crawford continued to read as she spoke, “Doctor Keynstona reports one hundred injuries across the ship, thirty of them critical and ten are stable in intensive care.” She paused and collected herself. It was the first time onboard the Watership she’d had to give this kind of report, “The good news is no fatalities.”
Crawford gave a quiet nod, “Thank you Hoyt.” He turned to the bridge crew, “Thank you. You did some of the best work I’ve seen on a starship. I wish I could say it was over, but I think you know we’ve got friends and fellow officers we’ve got to get home. Stand down to yellow alert…and let’s see what we can do to help.” The assembled bridge crew gave a nod and slowly moved back to their stations. Peter walked back to the command chair and sat down roughly. He’d been through plenty of hell in his life in service to Starfleet…but this had been the first time he’d been responsible for the souls onboard his ship. He felt relief at lives preserved. He stood, “Hoyt you have the CONN. Find me with anything you need. Mitsak, let’s go.” The science chief nodded and followed him in.