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Part of USS Apollo: Plaguebearer

Act II

USS Apollo
Stardate 2400.6
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Alarm klaxons blared as the Apollo twisted to dodge fire from an unknown assailant. Commander Rhodes slipped back into his seat at the science station and focused all of the available sensor arrays he could on the other ship. It was big—at least relative to the Apollo—but didn’t appear to be particularly sophisticated. At about 300 meters long, the alien vessel was studded with what appeared to be plasma weapons. Lifeform readings showed a crew of approximately nine hundred, but they also appeared to be smaller than most humanoids.

“Hail them!” Gaudain ordered as blasts of purple energy flew past the viewer.

The standard friendship greetings went out on all channels, but the aliens didn’t seem to notice or care as they continued to pursue the Apollo. Rhodes had to give Lassus credit for her piloting abilities, as so far, she’d managed to avoid the enemy ship and had avoided slamming the Apollo into any of the asteroids.

“No response,” Knight replied after a moment.

“Open a channel. All frequencies,” the captain replied.

“Open.”

“This is the Federation starship Apollo. We come in peace. We are responding to a distress call,” Gaudain said.

A moment later, a plasma burst collided with the shields. There was negligible damage, but it served as a definite answer to their hail. Rhodes continued his analysis, finding no matches in the ship recognition database to suggest that this species had ever been encountered before by Starfleet.

“Are they holding back?” Gaudain asked.

“I don’t think so, sir. Their weapons are showing an enormous amount of thermal strain even at just that output level,” Lieutenant Schaeffer replied. “Permission to return fire?”

“Negative. Prepare a warning shot across their bow. 50% power,” Gaudain ordered.

Rhodes arched an eyebrow, pleased but slightly surprised at the captain’s restraint. His reputation as a cowboy was evidently a little exaggerated.

“Ready.”

“Fire.”

A beam of energy lashed out from the Apollo, passing within a few dozen meters of the alien ship, but not causing any damage. For a moment, the other ship stopped firing altogether as they apparently considered the ramifications of that message. A moment later, there was a pulse of light from the other ship, coupled with a high-band transmission. Before the Apollo could react, the other ship jumped to warp, re-cloaking before they could get a vector on her.

“What the hell just happened?” Gaudain asked, turning to Knight and Rhodes.

“It was a message, sir, but I have no linguistic frame of reference to even begin to translate,” Knight replied. He blanched when Gaudain’s eyes locked on his. “But… I’m sure we’ll have it figured out in no time.”

“Good,” Gaudain replied. “Did we get any information on their ship?”

“Big. Relatively primitive. Large crew, but small crewmen,” Rhodes replied.

“Ah, I guess we’ve passed the part in the day where I get full sentences out of you,” Gaudain quipped, which made Rhodes blush. “That stealth technology’s pretty impressive, though. We had no idea they were in the area.”

Rhodes frowned as he nodded. “Approximately equivalent to a Klingon cloaking device, upon analysis of background radiation scans from before their reveal, sir. I wouldn’t consider them to be a threat unless they were significantly concealing their true power.”

“Noted. Stand down to yellow alert. Helm, swing us back around to the Fleming. I want a full analysis of that ship,” Gaudain ordered, turning his chair back around.

The Apollo darted back through the asteroids to pull alongside the Fleming. Sensor readings showed that the ship had power, though Rhodes was detecting a number of alien devices onboard. There was also a significant amount of organic matter aboard, and it was, for lack of a better word, strange.

“The Fleming is intact, Captain, but it’s definitely been compromised. I’m reading an extremely elevated level of radiation aboard,” Rhodes reported.

“Is their warp core damaged?” Tasev asked from ops. “We should increase our distance if there is a theta radiation hazard.”

“Negative. Their warp core is offline, and looks like it has been for decades… This is different. Gamma radiation is off the chart, which either means this ship has been way too close to a pulsar or there’s radioactive decay in progress,” Rhodes said.

“There’s no fissile material on the ship’s cargo manifest,” Tasev replied.

“They left port without their uranium rods? Shocking,” Gaudain quipped as he turned his chair back around to look over Rhodes’ shoulder again. “Any indication of the source?”

“I’m detecting a number of devices aboard which are not part of the ship’s original design. Without additional evidence, I’m inclined to believe they are the best lead we have,” the science officer said. “There’s also a large amount of biological matter aboard… almost like the ship has a fungal infection,” he said, tapping a few buttons to show gaudain a cross-section of a corridor segment.

The bulkheads were covered with some sort of material the computer was displaying in pulsing red. It wasn’t necessarily a life form, but it was a substantial amount of carbon-based biological material. As he kept scanning, though, there was one thing that he was not finding in the right quantities: bio-mimetic gel.

“We need to know what happened here. Can we send an away team?” Gaudain asked.

“They’d need to be in EV suits. I have no idea what impact the contamination might have on a respiratory system,” Rhodes replied. “We’re not going to be able to learn much more from here, though. The remote access protocols are all offline.”

“I want one of those devices, a sample of the organic material, and the ship’s logs. Rhodes and Schaeffer with me. Lieutenant Shaw and Dr. Bradley, report to Transporter Room One,” Gaudain ordered before leading the way off the bridge. “Tasev, you have the conn.”

Rhodes considered resisting for a moment; there were a few regulations that would have supported keeping Gaudain on the bridge, but he knew that the captain would be extremely difficult to stop once he had an idea in his head. The science officer tapped a button to summon a replacement and then scrambled to follow his commanding officer towards the transporter room.