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Part of USS Mercy: Mission 3 – “Lost in Space”

It Begins

USS Mercy
10.15.2400 @ 0600
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Chief of Helm Maxwell Alexander Fleming reported, “We’ve dropped out of warp.  Full impulse to target – arrival in five minutes.”

Halsey stood on the United Federation of Planets Logo, his hands in his pockets.  He had been unusually reserved over the last twenty-four hours, and the bridge crew had picked up on his mood.  Not enough to say anything, but enough to watch him a little more carefully.

Pottinger sat in the left-hand chair, her PADD on her lap, legs crossed, and staring at the Captain of the Mercy. She had not spoken to him since leaving the bridge the day before, and she had kept to herself, aside from sending out the roster, directives, and missives related to the mission. In that regard, she had been busy. Now she waited mutely for her moment to take back the control Halsey had momentarily gently taken back by standing where he stood and working with the helm officer the way he did.

Sorek saw the tension between the captains.  Of course, the staff did as well.  This was bad for morale, but unless it came to blows, he had to go with it.

Ensign Fleming tapped at his console, “Starting the sensor sweep now.”  His console display shifted as the new data came streaming in.  He frowned and turned to the science chief, “Lieutenant Beattie?”

“I’m seeing it too, Ensign. Captain, we have run both long and short-range scans twice. Our scans are giving us the same data.” He spun his chair toward Ensign Huvem, who shook his head. “Captain, the data we are receiving at this moment is not consistent with what Captain Pottinger and her team supplied us. We’re going to need to run some further scans so that we can investigate this fully.” 

“Captain Pottinger, is it possible to have the scans from the ship that received the one-year data upload? So that we can run checks against the original scans from your team, the scans from that stop, and what we are seeing now?” Grace tapped at her PADD, sending the data to the science chief.  She remained silent.  The science chief continued, “Commander Sorek, might I suggest a broad range sweep for radio or communication signals? See if we could be missing something?”

“Of course, Lieutenant,” said Sorek.  “Do what needs to be done.”

Pottinger turned to her console and echoed the frown of the helm officer, “This doesn’t look right.” She tapped at the console to refresh the sensors and shook her head, “That is impossible.”  She glared at the helm officer, “You sure you got us to the right place?”  The tone bordered on accusatory, and the young man turned in his chair to protest, but Halsey stared at him, silencing him.

The CO calmly asked, “Ensign Fleming, please confirm our position on the star chart compared with the coordinates provided by Starfleet Observation.”  He kept his eyes on his officer, a gentle look replacing the hard warning he had projected moments ago.

Fleming did his due diligence and confirmed, “We are at the location.  The sensor readings confirm the civilization as expected…but…,” he turned to the Chief Science Officer.

“Sir, we see the planet.” he pointed to it on the main view screen. “ However, we are not detecting the team, nor can we get a good fix on the situation around or in the observation post or the satellite posts.” 

Pottinger stared at her console, “That is…impossible.  Scan for our crew across the planet.”

Halsey glanced to Cezar and his team as his voice retained the calm and even demeanor from his conversation with the helm, “Please and thank you. ”  He turned to Fleming, “Take us around the planet – non-standard orbit.  That scan will take a moment…get the cameras focused on the site identified as the main facility.”

Ensign Huvem turned to face Captain Halsey. “Sir, we are not detecting any life signs that match the ones given to us by Captain  Pottinger and her team. This is highly illogical   Unless something is wrong with the data we were given.”  Halsey gave the ensign a nod as he watched the viewscreen.

Fleming did as he requested, and the Mercy rumbled forward, banking as the battery of cameras and scanners pointed at a point on the planet.  The view screen shifted to an overhead view of the city as the zoom accelerated and focused, the helm officer manually centering the view.  The facade of the hill and mountain remained, and the population moved about, unconcerned.  The helm chief wondered, “Whatever has happened, it hasn’t been cataclysmic in nature.”

Leopold turned to his new science chief, “Lieutenant Beattie, what can you tell us?”

Cezear stood and walked over to look over the shoulders of the two Ensigns. The three of them were actively checking and cross-checking the data. He turned to look at Captain Pottinger.  “Captain, are we absolutely sure about the technological level of the planet’s inhabitants?”

Pottinger glared at him, “Yes, we are absolutely sure.”

He went back to looking at the two consoles with the Ensigns. “Captain, this is perplexing. We are showing signs of some sort of interference that was not mentioned in the briefing packet. We can not lock onto the location that the interference is emanating from.”

Pottinger was furious but wasn’t sure who to blame for whatever had occurred.  She tapped furiously at her PADD for a few moments before she stood, “Captain, I need to communicate with Starfleet Command.”  She stalked off and into his ready room, and the door slipped shut behind her.

“Presumptuous, isn’t she?” said Sorek.  It was a breach of protocol to march into the ship captain’s ready room without asking first.  It was also disrespectful, but perhaps that was the point.

Halsey chewed on his lower lip, his hands still in his pockets.  Had he been a younger and brasher version of himself, he might have chased Pottinger into his ready room and had it out with her behind closed doors.  He’d learned plenty in the five years since he’d last encountered Pottinger and people like her.  It was going to be a miserable cat-and-mouse game.

The door to his ready room flew open, and she stalked to the center where Halsey and Sorek stood.  “Starfleet Observational Command has instructed me to begin an investigation regarding the missing team, the change in atmospheric conditions, and the status of the facility.  Modified mission orders are being transmitted.”  She turned to Sorek, “Commander, assemble our teams and meet up with them and me in transporter room 1.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Sorek accessed the console at his XO station and sent the order to the mission teams.

Halsey mused, “If we find the need to go into the population, we’re going to have to get creative if that’s the case.”

Grace gave him a look, “This crew cannot fail us.  Keep that in mind.  Commander, I’ll see you in transporter room 1.  Laurel, with me.”  She was gone, and the turbolift door slid shut as Leopold glanced at his XO.

“I suspect logically it is better that you assist Captain Pottinger.  I wish you good luck, Commander.”

“It is better, and luck is illogical,” said Sorek.  Leaning close to Halsey, he whispered in his ear.  “Be strong for the crew, sir.”

Halsey allowed a thin smile as he whispered back, “We’ll get through it.” His voice returned to a normal volume, “Helm, get us into standard orbit.  Make sure we avoid the orbital platform.”

Beattie spoke up, “Sir, I would advise against that if the inhabitants have any knowledge of astronomy or have developed a telescope in some form. A new blob of light moving in a standard orbit may draw some looks. I would suggest maybe on the far side of the moon. Then using the runabouts or shuttles as a means to run scans and collect data.”

Halsey thought about it for a moment, “If they’ve developed such technology, they would have seen the orbital platform.  I’m willing to compromise – I don’t want us to be far away if something develops – put us in high orbit, limiting our visible range, helm.”  He glanced at the science chief, “You should probably head to transporter room 1, Lieutenant…Captain Pottinger is not fond of…waiting.”

“Aye sir, Ensign Linwood your with me.” as he tapped his combadge to notify the two department heads he had chosen to join the away team. “Ensign Huvem, keep checking those scans. Get with engineering and operations see if we can figure out where that interference is coming from.” as he followed Ensign Linwood towards the turbo lift.

Halsey returned to the center chair, “Let’s start a full and complete planet scan.”  It would take considerable time, but Leopold’s hackles were raised, and his concerns were growing.  What lay ahead was unknown…and he wanted to know as much as he could, quickly.