“That’s the ship that our captain abandoned?” Harris stared at the viewscreen as the transport ship spun quietly on its axis, debris hanging from the hull.
Fowler felt the uneasiness creeping back up her back and across her neck. In addition to the reports forwarded to them from the Palasa Transport Group, the captain's words had unsettled her. She repeated the scan and deepened the focus on the sensors, “Registery is coming back as the SS Jhou and it matches the recent report from them about the missing ships. Doing a deck-by-deck scan now.”
Kondo was next, “Weapons are not powered but show signs of recent use. Several cannons and two-photon torpedo tubes - much of that is aftermarket.” He didn’t feel the same unease as Fowler. He felt worried that whatever door had been opened was going to be very hard to shut. Something had done something to the ship in front of them. Something was making a powerful syndicate worry enough to ask Starfleet for help.
Ambrose was puzzled more than worried. He turned to his newly assigned XO, ‘Thoughts, commander?”
The resident Vulcan remained in the right side chair, her eyes glancing from her PADD to the screen and back again, “The readings are consistent with an attack of some kind. It is curious there are no impact markings or weapon traces on the hull of the transport. They clearly fired but at what is the question.” She tapped the PADD again, “The only warp or engine signatures being detected by the sensors are those of the SS Jhou.”
Fowler turned in her chair, “That would make sense, given the theory by Palasa about ghost ships and the like.” She caught the severe look from the new XO and quickly added, “It’s just a theory, of course.” The XO was going to get some getting used to - she was a Vulcan and a scientific one at that - making it that much more of a challenge for her as chief science officer.
Harris noted the XO’s look and continued, “Life signs?”
“Deck-by-deck scans are not showing any. There is something biological tripping the sensors as they move, but the computer is unable to determine the exact classification.” Fowler pulled out the data, “There are traces of what may have been life in the results, but the rest is…just a mess, if I’m honest, sir.” She retasked the sensors one more time, “Environmental readings are showing stable - the ship is in a low power mode.”
Ambrose glanced at his newly assigned XO, “Commander, I'd like you to take an away team to the Jhou. I'd recommend a full team.”
T’saath stood, “Understood. I'll gather my team.”
Jordan Reid stood in the transporter room, mentally checking her equipment for the fifth time. She'd been briefed on T'saath by Harris. She'd worked with plenty of Vulcans in her medical training and had found ways to tolerate their particular…Vulcan characteristics. Fowler entered the room next, her equipment on her utility belt and in the case she carried. Both women shared a quiet glance as they did their final preparation for the away mission. Kondo was next with two security officers and the Assistant Chief Engineer Lieutenant Moore, who was carrying her case and a belt of engineering tools.
The door opened one last time, and Commander T’saath entered and looked at each of them before speaking, “It is my first away mission with you. I think it's important to ensure you understand I am in command of this team, and you will follow my orders.”
They all stared at her, blinking. Reid resisted the urge to frown, “Commander, we're aware of the command structure on away teams.”
The XO raised an eyebrow, “It is good practice to review processes when a new command team member comes aboard. Clarity avoids mistakes and errors in away missions.”
Reid glared at Greer as she could see in the eyes of the engineer that the look of, ‘The hell is going on?’ would soon be verbalized. She tried once more, “Commander, you can be assured we do not need a remedial lesson.”
T’saath looked cooly at the Chief Medical Officer and contemplated her response. She was becoming aware that her opening attempt at asserting authority over the human crew hadn't landed in the manner she had expected. She landed on, “Very well. Let's get on our way. Chief?”
The SS Jhou smelled…off. Fowler immediately snapped out her tricorder and surmised, “Reading deceased life forms throughout the ship, commander. Four on deck five, three on deck four, six on deck three, two on deck two, and…ten here on deck one.”
T’saath opined, “The report from the transport captain suggested there were no bodies. Curious.” She examined her readings, “Lieutenant Greer, engineering is in a lower power setting. Take Lieutenant Kondo and the security team with you to address the power situation. Doctor Reid, Lieutenant Fowler - you're with me." The XO moved down the corridor as the two others blinked twice and shuffled in behind her. All three hard tricorders were out as they carefully stepped deeper and deeper into the transport ship. A moment later, they reached the doors to the bridge.
Reid spoke up, “Detecting five bodies on the other side of the door.” Fowler went to work on the door controls, and moments later, the massive metal door groaned open. Reid peered in and swore.
T'saath frowned at her and gave a look herself, “Curious.”
Fowler stepped into the bridge and nearly threw up. The blood spatters were…everywhere. The five bodies had been torn into pieces and scattered across the bridge. The sickly smell of blood filled the air. Consoles were bathed in red, and some had pooled in places around the room. Sadie had to step out and put her head between her legs, “Goddamn…what the hell happened in there?” She fought to hold back her gag reflex and worked hard on her breathing.
Jordan had stepped inside and was walking around to the various body parts, scanning each as she went. Commander T'saath was working on the consoles in their low-powered state. Reid reported, “These injuries weren't post-mortem. This happened while they were alive.”
The Vulcan's badge beeped to life, =^=Lieutenant Greer to Commander T'Saath!=^=
They'd found the turbo lifts out of order and had resorted to using Jefferies tubes to get down to engineering on deck five. With Kondo in the lead and Greer in the middle of the other two security officers, they slowly moved through the dark corridors. Greer's tricorder guided them until they finally reached the massive engineering doors. It had taken her longer than she'd been happy with, but the door finally creaked open, revealing a hellish landscape that sent the Assistant Chief into a corner to throw up. Kondo stepped in with his two security officers at his side, weapons up, and charged.
The bottom half of the bodies hung from the high ceiling, and pools of coagulated blood sat silent witness on the floor. The various other pieces of the bodies were soon located as if they'd been thrown about the room in a fit of rage. Kondo and his team quickly cleared the rest of the room. The iron-infused smell of blood hung heavy in their noses.
Greer stumbled in, shaking her head, “Goddamn it, goddamn it, and goddamn it. That is the last time I fight to be on an away team.” She wiped her mouth and took several deep breaths, “I'm fine. Initial shock is all. This shit is…nuts.” She gestured to the state of the bodies all around.
Kondo returned to where she stood, “The reactor is functional. However, we're getting some strange readings from dilithium storage over there.” He pointed to the door in the corner.
She frowned and pulled out her tricorder, stalking over to the door to check for herself. A moment passed, and she shook her head in disbelief, “I don't fucking believe it. Sorry, coming down from that adrenaline rush. You recognize this reading?” He stepped forward, took a glance, and shook his head. She chewed on her bottom lip, “Those are similar to the readings we took on the Blood Dilithium in the Delta Quadrant.”
De La Fontaine felt a chill run up his spine, “You think someone brought some back here?”
She glanced at the tricorder and the results and replied, “No…it's not the exact same reading. It's different enough that…I don't know. I don't want to open this up until I know exactly what it is. The Blood Dilithium was a son of a bitch in how it affected people.” She held up her hands in surrender as Kondo glared at her, “Gotta work on my language.”
Kondo gestured to the reactor, “Can we at least start up the power?” Greer walked over and held her hands over the console, seemingly lost in thought. He stared at her, giving her a moment until he tapped her on the shoulder, “Greer?”
She snagged her tricorder and ran it over the reaction chamber, waiting until the readings came through. “Well, that's a double damn it kind of moment. The same readings from storage are coming out of the chamber. I'm sure as shit not turning that thing on.”
She moved to apologize and then had a realization, “Chief, we need to get the hell off this ship.” He gave her a worried look, “The adrenaline is long gone,” she explained, “…and I do know how to control my shitty…oh, boy…mouth. Whatever is happening to me…is happening because of this shit.” She slapped her commbadge, “Lieutenant Greer to Commander T'Saath!”