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

Searching the City

Bardor Bay City
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Sorek, Cordon, and Crawford moved down the street, watching as many locals were leaving.  Some had wagons.  Some used pack animals similar to horses.  Others carried what they owned.  It was clear they were fearing the sickness, but the evacuation was surprisingly ordered and not a panicked rush.

For a while, no one paid attention to Sorek and the others, but two men in uniforms, each with a weapon on their hips, stopped them.  The one with a symbol on his arm addressed Sorek like the two women weren’t there.

“What’s your business, stranger?”

It was obvious they weren’t known as residents of the city, though Sorek didn’t know how.

“Greetings, sir,” said Sorek.  “My betrothed and I are going to the Temple of Halan to offer the traditional prayers for a blessed and fertile marriage.”  He wrapped his arm around Cordon’s shoulder, giving her an affectionate squeeze.  “My sister…” Sorek nodded towards Crawford, ”has studied the rituals.”

Crawford did her best to remain under control.  She had never done well with being talked to by security or anybody in authority.  She was an engineer, not a practician of incognito!  She sputtered out, “I’ve studied them and know them well.”

The officers ignored her again, and she remembered the quick briefing they were able to get on their way out the door of the facility.  Women were not treated all that well here, and it would have to be Sorek that carried the day.  She wondered how much of a thumping she’d get from the two if she started spouting about rights and the like.  Carolyn recited the Prime Directive and General Order 1 over and over in her head.  If Pottinger didn’t kill them first for an infraction, Halsey would undoubtedly have their hides.

The two guards narrowed their eyes, “We wouldn’t advise using the Temple, strangers.  There’s talk of the waters and the grounds spoiled by something…or someone.”  They heard an argument farther down the line erupt.  “Watch yourself, sir…and don’t let them speak again.  There are rules here for a reason.”

Neva leaned into Sorek’s embrace, smiling demurely with eyes to the ground. As he released, she resituated herself so that her arm was threaded in his, listening quietly. She tried to hide her distaste when the guard admonished them about speaking. ‘Oh how I wish i could give you a psychic swat like my mother can!’ Neva fumed silently, keeping her gaze down. ‘No talking my happy a-’ Neva stopped short, ebony eyes flying wide. “Sir-ek,” she slid out. “The ‘someONE’ is closer to true than the ‘someTHING. Like it or not, we’ve got to go to the Temple.”

“Of course, my dear.  Anything for you.”  Sorek offered an affectionate smile, though he wasn’t sure if he did it properly.  “Officers, thank you for your concern, but happy wife, happy life.”  Sorek couldn’t remember where he heard that saying, but it seemed appropriate now.  Tipping his hat without revealing his ears, he led Cordon and Crawford down the street.

They moved against the crowds toward the temple.  The atmosphere wasn’t panicked yet the tension in the air grew as they drew closer to the temple.  Crawford stelled her eyes to glance at the security presence and was surprised to find little of it as they saw the large temple building. The people leaving the area were giving it a wide berth; oddly enough, they weren’t even looking at the ornate worship building.  They were averting their eyes, the worried looks on their faces sending a message.  Crawford whispered, “Something is up with that building…we need to get in there, somehow.”

Sorek didn’t expect to see the people avoiding the temple.  It was his understanding, that in times of crisis, clinging to beliefs in a deity was what gave hope and comfort.  Was it possible the people thought the sickness was a judgment upon them for some transgression?  Reaching the entrance, they might soon find out.

Carolyn kept her grip on Sorek as she gently steered him down the road, keeping a respectful distance from the building, trying to avoid appearing as if they didn’t understand the threat the temple had.  Her eyes searched the side of the temple until she found the rear covered in trees and plants.  She whispered to him, “There’s gotta be a back door to this place…we get in there, people won’t see us trying to break down a door or something.”

“Ms. Cordon, can you get the door open?” said Sorek.  “I will stand watch.”

Neva broke away from Sorek and tried to carefully hide working with her tricorder. Suddenly, she gave a tell-tale smirk and a soft laugh. “I can’t believe I actually get to use these!” Slipping the tricorder into her pouch, she then pulled a leather wrapped pouch just slightly larger than her hand. Unwrapping the leather strap around it, Neva unfolded it to show what looked like strangely shaped metal sticks. She crouched down in front of the doorway and set the pouch on one knee. She glanced quickly at each of her crewmates, nodded, then focused back on her task. After a couple soft curses, pursed lips, and then her tongue sticking out a little, a muted “click” rewarded her ministrations. “Ha! Take that, sucker!” She rocked back onto her heels as she returned her tools to their places. Wrapping the strap around the pouch, she stood and grinned. With a sweeping gesture, she murmured, “After you!”

Before Sorek could go in first, Crawford entered the temple.  It was odd that she did, as she had been nervous and fearful since they discovered the science team was infected with a virus.

The door creaked open, and Crawford stepped in first, followed by Sorek.  Neva slid the door closed behind them.

Carolyn slipped out her tricorder and did a cursory scan.  They were the backroom of the temple.  It was quiet.  She reported, “There is a single life form in the main temple area…but it is faint.”  She inched forward carefully, slipped the curtain aside, and gasped, “Holy cra… Commander!”  Sorek was at her side, looking through the curtain.

“Remain here.”  Sorek carefully moved forward.

“Stop!  Stay away!”

Sorek kept going, stopping next to a young man sitting on the floor, leaning against a bench.

“Don’t come closer, or you’ll get sick!”

“You are Jacob.  I am Commander Sorek from the USS Mercy.”  He took off his hat, revealing his ears.

Jacob was shocked, but that reaction was followed by relief.

“What happened here?  Why did you leave the outpost?” said Sorek.

Neva reflexively lifted the back of her hand to cover her nose and mouth, rooting herself in place. Eyes wide with shock, she stared at the man before her. The waves of pain emanating from Jacob battered her like a tsunami wave. Gritting her teeth and wincing, she turned away to look at the room before she lost what little she’d eaten that morning. 

Jacob Dewain groaned and clutched his side, grimacing as the pain tightened.  He let out a breath as it faded for a moment.  “USS Mercy is a medical ship.  Well, at least the right people are here.”  Dewain looked to Sorek, “Commander…did Captain Pottinger come with you?”

“She did,” said Sorek.

He laughed but was interrupted by a wet cough.  He accepted a cup of water that Crawford had scrambled up for him.  “She’s the cause of all this.  We’re here to observe…but also to steal artifacts.”

Of all the possibilities that motivated Pottinger, theft was the last thing Sorek expected.

Carolyn asked, “Why are you telling us this?  Pottinger will destroy you.” She wasn’t sure this man was on the level.

Jacob winced at the pain swelling against his nerves, “I’m a dead man walking.  For each of the artifacts we took…there was something different about them this time.  It affected each of us differently…but it did something to us. I got sick.  It made Nathan crazy…he lost his damned mind.  The worst part is that whatever we were infected with…spread. My sickness started here…and spread.  I don’t know where Nathan or the others went…but whatever effect their artifact had one them…you can bet it’s happening or going to happen to the people of this planet.”

“Do you have one of the artifacts with you now?” said Sorek.  He motioned to Cordon.  “Perhaps our chief engineer can discover what’s happening.”

Dewain nodded, squinting at the discomfort, “It’s on the altar.  Don’t worry about it affecting you…it only transmits by touching the device for us.  For the people here…I have no idea how it spread to them.” Jacob leaned back against the bench, “I think I’m going to pass out now.”  

His head slumped over, and Crawford scanned him, “He’s alive…but barely.”

Neva’s eyes popped open at the mention of her name. She registered what Jacob said and carefully made her way to the altar. Pulling out her tricorder, she studied the readings of the objects around it. She shook her head and looked up at the Commander. “Sir, if you believed in the Apocalypse from Earth, it’s here. This artifact has some form of bad mojo attached to it.” She let out a soft down trilling whistle and scratched her head. “I’m honestly advising nothing gets touched when we find the others. Carefully destroyed, yes. Just not where they can harm anyone.” Her lips pressed together in a tight frown. “Pottinger definitely screwed the pooch on this one!”

Crawford monitored Dewain.  His life sign signals were worsening.  She pulled from her medical kit what she could.

Sorek knew something needed to be done.  He reached into his pocket and grabbed his comm badge.

“Sorek to Mercy.  I need to speak with the captain.”