Mason woke up today like he had the past several days, hoping that this whole thing was just some kind of long nightmare that wasn’t real. He hoped that he would somehow wake up from this whole mess, back in his quarters on board the Enforcer and just laugh about how crazy it all was with his friends. But instead, every morning when he opened his eyes, he woke up to the same reality as the day before: his ship was destroyed, wrecked on some asteroid in the middle of nowhere, and his friends were all presumed dead.
Though the crew of the Enforcer were officially classified as “missing”, Mason knew better than to hold out hope for their safe return. He wanted to believe that they had somehow survived, and that they were out there somewhere, but the scientist in him knew the statistical probability of that possibility was so small it wasn’t even worth considering. Having said that, and though he didn’t want to admit it to himself, there was still a large part of him, buried deeper than he realized, that hoped he would see them all again.
While on the Venture and taking scans of his former vessel, he was able to determine the escape pods were all still in place; not even one of them was missing. If the crew didn’t die on board when several areas of the vessel were exposed to the vacuum of space, then they were most likely captured by the Gorn.
The problem is, the Gorn don’t take prisoners. Instead, they would have used their bodies to incubate their young until they were ready to be born… or hatched… or whatever they call it. When their young are ready, they tear through the incubated body, killing the host in the process. There was no way to survive the process, and Mason knew and accepted that. What an incredible way to die, he thought to himself.
He shook his head, shuttering at the thought of his friends being used in that fashion. He couldn’t believe he was about to think this, but he hoped that they died from being thrown into the vacuum of space when the Enforcer impacted the asteroid. At least it would have been a quick death, much less horrifying that the prospect of reptilians tearing out of you, fighting for their freedom on the way out.
Mason knew Starfleet wanted answers, he felt the same way. He wanted to know what happened to his friends more than anyone. Never mind about the damn ship, he couldn’t care less what happened to the vessel so long as he found his crew alive. Material things can be replaced, but lives cannot. Starfleet asked over and over why the Gorn would have invaded Federation territory and what the Enforcer was doing in that sector, just repetitive questions that really only served to infuriate Mason because all they asked were clear to read in his reports.
Mason’s debriefing with Starfleet was nearly over, he estimated he had one more session with them at best, but they were going to get the same answer they have been getting for the past several days. He simply doesn’t know what happened to the rest of his crew. Mason reviewed the Venture’s logs and the tricorder images of the bodies that its crew found on the same ship he was found on, and he was the only one from the Enforcer on board. Starfleet tried to insinuate that maybe he wasn’t as familiar with all of the crew on board the Enforcer as he claimed to be, but Mason slammed his hands on the table and warned them if they ever tried to make that insinuation again they’d regret it.
He did everything he could think of, but from the time he was knocked unconscious on the bridge to the time when he woke up when the crew of the Venture found him, there’s nothing. He even went to see a counselor to try and possibly access some unconscious memories, but you cannot access what you do not have. The counselor attempted to poke at his survivor’s guilt as well, but overall was largely unsuccessful in breaking down his defenses. Though he was cleared to return to duty, they recommended more sessions to help him live with what happened. Mason considered it for a while, he may seek out additional help, but now wasn’t the best time.
Over the course of his debrief, Starfleet at one point attempted to say it was highly improbable that he didn’t know what happened and that he must remember something… clearly the brass at Starbase 11 doesn’t understand that humans, despite how far they’ve come in the last few centuries, still don’t have the ability to be alert of what’s happening while they’re unconscious.
The one thing he just didn’t understand was why the Venture was pulled off this assignment when it was when it was clear that Mason was the right person for this job. He knew the situation, he knew his former ship, and most of all, he knew his former crew. If by chance any of his crew did survive, and they were somehow not used as hosts for the Gorn’s incubation process yet, Mason would be the best person to find them. He knew his ship, the frequencies of the systems on board, and most of all he knew his crew. He knew the kinds of strategies they would employ to save themselves, after all he served with these people for years. If he didn’t know them by now, what kind of officer would he be?
The most frustrating thing of all, though, is Starfleet didn’t seem to agree. Even though they haven’t classified the crew as deceased, they have officially given up hope of finding them alive. They would rather pull the Venture off the case because of whatever that situation was with the captain and first officer being detained upon the ships arrival at the starbase, than let him continue his search. Mason shook his head as he thought about it all again, but as frustrated as he was, he sincerely hoped that the Scarborough has better luck in finding some facts than they didn’t.
In the meantime, however, and despite what he has just been through, Starfleet did assign Mason as the temporary commanding officer of the Venture until the new captain arrived. Due to the lack of high ranking officers in the area, and given his experience, they concluded he was the best person to ‘tend the store’ until the new CO arrived.
He didn’t know who they selected to replace Captain Scott, but Mason fully expected to be relieved of his post upon the new captain’s arrival. After all, a captain usually selects someone they have researched or someone they know for their right hand officer. He just hoped that after command was transferred, he could be allowed to continue the search and perhaps join the Scarborough to help find his friends.