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Part of USS Higgs: Radio Silence

Radio Silence – 1

U.S.S. Higgs NCC-79830
February 2401
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Captain’s Log, Stardate 78088.9. The Higgs is en route to Orinal Two, deep inside the Paulson Nebula, to reestablish contact with a science team studying the planet in the aftermath of the Century Storm.

 

While I’m disappointed that Challenger Squadron’s expedition to the Gamma Quadrant has been scrubbed, I’m both excited and anxious to be entering the Paulson Nebula. Excited by the chance to study the changes the nebula has undergone in the year since the Century Storm, but anxious because those changes have made the nebula a more dangerous place.


“Now entering the Orinal System,” Lieutenant Commander Mitchell announced from the helm. “ETA to Orinal Two is fifteen minutes.”

Captain Anastasia Matheson acknowledged her XO’s announcement before resuming the uneven beat her fingers were tapping on the armrest of the command chair. The dust and gas of the Paulson Nebula swirled around them, its dusky pink and purple hue visible on the viewscreen. 

“Hard to believe it’s only been a year since the Century Storm tore through this place,” Mitchell commented, his gaze set on the viewscreen.

Lieutenant Shepard quickly chipped in, “And we still know very little about the effect it’s had, just that life here’s now harder and more dangerous than before.”

“Ensign Edal, hail the science outpost,” Ana ordered. 

The young Trill was only a year and a half out of the Academy and had quickly proven herself indispensable with a grasp of non-Federation Standard languages, unlike anything Ana had seen. “No response, captain.”

“Interference from the nebula?”

Edal just shrugged. “No ma’am.”

“Commander Pezara,” Ana turned to her chief science officer. “Do the sensors indicate a failure of their comm system?”

Ana pushed herself out of her seat and moved to the science station, standing just over his shoulder with her arms folded. The sensor data on the large LCARS display provided her with her answer, but the muscular Bajoran science officer made his report anyway. “The nebula’s making it difficult to get clear readings from this distance. We won’t be able to get a clear picture until we’re in orbit.”

“Is it possible another rift has opened up near the planet, preventing communications?” Ana asked.

The captain watched with satisfaction as her former deputy switched his feed to the input from the lateral sensor array and studied the data silently. “It’s hard to tell, but I don’t think so.” He finally replied. “I’m not seeing the same kind of agitation of the nebula’s particles that we saw last year during the storm.”

Ana continued to watch Pezara work, even getting involved. For a few minutes, she forgot that she was the captain, for a few minutes she was just a science officer again, unburdened by command. They analysed the incoming data together, sharing thoughts and theories. 

“Captain, we’re approaching Orinal Two,” Mitchell announced a few minutes later, bursting the captain’s bubble. “Entering standard orbit.”

Reluctantly returning to the centre of the bridge, Matheson settled back into the command chair. “Edal,” Ana turned to her senior communications officer once more, “hail the outpost again.”

“Still no response,” Edal replied after several expectant seconds. 

This is more than communications issues, Ana told herself. Her stomach churned as she quickly ran through the possibilities, “Barim?”

“I’m not detecting any humanoid life signs on the surface,” Pezara reported.

Ana pushed the anxiety she felt to the back of her mind, “Alright, I guess we’re beaming down.” She announced, before firing off orders in quick succession. “Lieutenant Fournier, you’re with me. Have Chief Gold join us. Edel, have T’Nira and Armstrong meet me in the transporter room. Commander Mitchell, you have the CONN.”

When she arrived in the transporter room a few minutes later, the requested team members were already waiting. She accepted a holstered phaser and tricorder from Fournier and attached them to her uniform. Before stepping onto the transporter platform, Ana took a deep breath and steeled herself against what they might find on the surface. “Energise.” 

The transporter room around her dissolved in what looked like a shower of sparkles. While the interior of the outpost materialised, her worst fear did not, at least not immediately. There were no bodies visible, the lights were still active and the consoles looked like people had been working at them only minutes earlier. 

“Fournier and Gold, secure the rest of the outpost,” Matheson ordered. “T’Nira, check for signs of the science team. Armstrong, see if you can access the logs. I want to know what the hell happened here.”

The away team fanned out. Ana could almost imagine the science team was just on their lunch and would return to their work soon. But the Higgs’ sensors already confirmed that wasn’t the case. “It’s like they disappeared into thin air.” She said to no one in particular.

“Not all of them,” T’Nira replied, looking at something on the floor.

Ana traced the CMO’s path and came upon the body of a Tellarite man. “Lieutenant Commander Gorek.”

“Killed by an energy weapon,” T’Nira reported with her medical tricorder in one hand and the detachable scanner in the other, pointed at Gonek’s body. “Single shot to the chest.” She studied the tricorder screen silently for a few seconds. “Judging by these readings, the weapon used was a Klingon disruptor.”

Kneeling beside Gorek’s body, Ana studied his face. She’d been struck by how grumpy the commander looked in his service image. He looked even grumpier in death than he had in life. The thought caused a sad smile to momentarily flicker across her face. Catching sight of it, T’Nira cocked an eyebrow but didn’t comment.

“Mister Armstrong, any luck accessing the outpost’s logs?” Ana asked, standing to her full height.

The engineer’s features were furrowed in concentration, and he was muttering to himself, though Ana couldn’t make out what he was saying. Her question hadn’t seemed to register with the chief engineer because he hadn’t looked up.

“Mister Armstrong,” Ana’s said again, her voice raised this time. Armstrong looked up, surprise written across his face. “Any luck accessing the outpost’s logs?”

Ana’s shoulders sagged at the frown on Armstrong’s face. “The logs have been badly corrupted. Visual sensor logs, the science team’s logs, their research. There’s not much left intact.”

“Can you recover anything?”

Armstrong didn’t take much time to think about the question. “This isn’t my area of expertise. Lieutenant Shepard should take a look. There’s no one on the Higgs who knows computers better.”

“Establish a data connection to the Higgs,” Armstrong nodded as Ana tapped her commbadge. “Matheson to Higgs.”

The sound of Mitchell’s voice replied almost instantly. “Mitchell here. Any sign of the science team?

“We found the body of the team’s commander, Lieutenant Commander Gorek,” Ana told him sadly. “There’s no sign of the rest of them. Lieutenant Armstrong is establishing a link to the Higgs’ computer. The outpost’s logs have been corrupted. I want Lieutenant Shepard to work on them, and see what he can recover.”

There was a momentary pause, no doubt as Mitchell silently dismissed Shepard from his post to carry out the captain’s orders. “Understood.

“The outpost is secure, captain,” Fournier announced as she returned with Chief Gold in tow. “No sign of the science team or any indication of what happened to them.”

The evidence of what happened to the science team was here. No one just disappeared without a trace. “Commander Mitchell, send down a forensics team. I want them to go over the outpost with a fine-tooth comb.”

Forensics team’s on its way,” Mitchell replied.

Ana looked around the room slowly, her worry for the science team written on her features. She was determined the outpost would give up its secrets. One way or another they would find out what happened to them.