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Part of USS Mount Shasta: Too Far is the Sky and Bravo Fleet: Ashes of Deneb

1.8 | Pressure

Shuttlecraft McCloud, Correolan System, Deneb Sector
April 2401
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“Bridge to shuttlecraft McCloud.”

“Roosevelt here. Go ahead, Captain.”

The tension was beginning to show in Abigail’s voice, though she worked, mostly successfully, to hide it under a veneer of confidence. “You’re clear for departure. Good luck.”

“Aye, sir.” Ensign Del Roosevelt eyed the control panel before him. It was a simple approach, training exercise stuff, until the docking. Lieutenant Brod had briefed him thoroughly, helping Del develop the mission parameters, and now that Ensign Da Silva had relayed sensor data, it was clear that the parameters were already being pushed.

“Control to McCloud, you are clear for takeoff, repeat McCloud is clear.”

Del raised the shuttle, a big, sleek type-11, and maneuvered it beyond the threshold of Mount Shasta’s shuttlebay one. As the confines of the ship slipped from view, the wash of rich blackness, studded with the gemstone flecks of distant worlds forced a brief moment of quiet awe over the six people onboard the McCloud. It was a thing few spacefarers tired of, and as the ship swiveled toward the fourth planet of the Correolan system, they were again struck by its azure and teal splendor and the pearlescent ring of ice and dust that haloed it.

Karva nd’Luku, the Arkenite Lieutenant Commander in charge of the Mount Shasta’s large science division, was already breathless when he arrived on the shuttle, having rushed down directly from the bridge. Now his breath was taken away again. But he quickly focused on the anomalies of the situation, a skill he had of course honed to a fine point.

The planet was a wonder. Massive continents, shaded deepest green, faded to bright turquoise strips of jungle as they met the oceans, bluer than Risa’s or Betazed’s or Earth’s. Notably, so close to achieving orbit, it was clear to the eye that the world had no cities. They had not anticipated any, but they had anticipated that Correolan IV was too icy and with too-thin an atmosphere to support life, much less this much life.

“It’s a garden world.” Doctor Sitara Bellwether stepped closer to the shuttle’s cockpit-style window, placing a hand on Karva’s seat back.  

“And,” Karva added in his multi-tonal voice, “doesn’t that seem unusual?”

Sitara smiled slightly through furrowed brows, realizing this was not simply a wonder, but a mystery. “You mean, why did the Federation assist in settling the third planet when this one looks like Eden?”

“And,” said Skell, as he stepped behind Del’s pilot’s seat, “how did Correolan IV get that way?”

“And when,” added Karva.Del was feeling claustrophobic. He had already been struggling to justify himself for being on the senior staff. Now he was actually going to attempt a high-stakes mission. He tried to refocus on the controls.

“Setting course for docking,” he said, a little too quietly.

Sitara turned to the back of the shuttle and began briefing her surgeon and nurse, expecting any number of problems associated with oxygen deprivation and spaceflight without inertial dampers.

Skell leaned forward. “The docking clamps will not provide an airtight seal on the vessel,” he mused, reading the scans. “We will have to deploy the device Commander Bush developed.”

Del knew the mission just became twice as hard. And he knew that if Skell needed backup, he would be the one assisting in EV maneuvers.

Karva smiled. “Try not to sound so excited, Mister Skell,” he said in his Arkenite monotone. “It’s unbecoming of a Vulcan.”

Skell said nothing. He walked to the rear of the shuttle to double check his EV suit functions.

“Mister Roosevelt,” Karva continued, “their subspace beacon is no longer functioning, or has been disabled.”

“Understood, sir.” He concealed a sigh. It sunk to his gut, already tense with fear. So now they don’t want to talk to us?

He pulled up a new set of commands on his console. “Initiating visual ship-to-ship hails.”

The shuttle’s signal lamps flashed at the adrift little vessel, only a handful of meters long, in a vague delta shape, similar to the first super-orbital vessels of many Federation worlds. They all quickly noticed its homemade quality compared to even modern sub-orbital vessels. The lights signaled “SOS received – standby – attempting boarding and rescue” on a loop.

“It seems likely,” he said, studying his readouts, “that they do not even have the capacity to respond.”

“Oh,” Del said, “great.” He terminated the signal.

“Don’t worry, Ensign.”

Del gave Karva a hopeful stare.

“It may simply be that the crew is already dead.”

“Oh. Great.” Del turned his attention back to his course heading.

What surprised Del the most was that, for his part, the mission began quite well. The drift of the little rocket-propelled craft was even and predictable, and he was able to align a synchronous movement within a few meters of the craft’s hatch — or what most appeared to be a hatch. It was no small feat, it took a good mind, and a quick one. Piloting was not dissimilar to surgery, Sitara thought, as she finished briefing her own surgeon, Dr. Biln, and watched Del move the McCloud into position. Everyone was watching and, like everyone else, Sitara was impressed when the vessel’s movement was steady and final.

Karva told him well done, and signaled Skell to begin his spacewalk. Skell initiated airlock procedures and rose through the shuttle’s dorsal docking hatch. It was an awkward move to pass through the hatch whilst pulling the makeshift docking bridge behind. He managed and, following some fits and starts, affixed one end to the McCloud, creating a total magnetic seal.

On the far end, however, the damaged craft’s hatch was far too large to fit the docking bridge. He knew he’d have to activate the grappling seal. When he did, the crew inside the McCloud heard a sound like a phaser impact and felt both vessels shuddered as Commander Bush’s makeshift umbilical cord attached and pressurized.

“You are clear to open the hatch and begin disembarking,” Karva said.

“Aye, sir,” Skell said before adding coolly, “I will need to cut away the hull plating with my phaser to open the craft.”

Del spoke involuntarily. “What?”

“Understood, Chief. Proceed.”

Del looked to Karva like he’d just suggested Del cut off his head to save on haircuts and shaves.

“This was an anticipated possibility, Ensign,” Karva said in what he thought was a soothing voice. “And Skell and Ensign Da Silva prepared for this.”

Del was relieved, but now, of course, embarrassed. “Of course, sir, I—”

“Don’t worry, Ensign. That maneuver you just pulled getting us in position was harder than anything the rest of us will have to do.”

“I see,” Del could only manage.

Karva rose. “I am going to assist Mister Skell. Please maintain the conn.”

“Yes, sir.”Karva was right. Skell found it very easy to attune his phaser so that he could slice through the primitive titanium hull to create an opening for any survivors. Karva came up the bridge, wearing a breathing apparatus in case of depressurization, and carrying similar masks for the survivors. It was a silly bit of theater, Skell had always thought. If the bridge material were punctured, the force of the decompression would pose a much more lethal threat than the lack of oxygen, still, the survivors were likely breathing dangerously thin air as their life support systems dwindled.

“They are alive,” Karva said, as if answering the question in Skell’s mind. “Sensors indicate.” 

He floated down the short corridor with skill. Arkenites were an aquatic people, and even wore balance-keeping devices in non-aquatic situations, which in Starfleet was almost always. But space was much closer to the effect of water, and despite the fact that the docking bridge was remarkably cold in just a uniform jacket, he liked it.

Sitara and Biln stood under the docking hatch and just outside the pressurization field, looking up as the last glowing strip of metal lifted from the wayward vessel with a bang.

“Hold it!” Skell shouted as he threw his hands against the makeshift hatch. Karva quickly followed suit, crying out as the freezing metal hit his palms. Together, they slowly began allowing the cutout to rise from the hull, fighting against the suction of the bridge’s lower pressure — something they had not considered, assuming the pressure difference would be little, if any.

“Look out, down there!” said Karva, as the two released the chunk of metal as it shot to the floor of the shuttlecraft, smashing hard but thankfully not shattering. The pressurization field glittered.

At the forward station, Del immediately saw the pressure alert. He hadn’t been shown how to alter the pressurization field, but he had a guess. He tried it.

The field glittered again, and Karva and Skell could feel themselves being pulled by a pressure wave. Sitara looked up, unblinking. As the two officers regained their hold on the opening, a figure came into view, grasping at the edge. A young man, Human, perhaps in his late 30s. Another, younger man came behind. Karva and Skell helped each through the opening, each getting a look of utter shock from their respective Humans before pushing off the hull toward the floor of the shuttle. Before they reoriented and landed, Sitara cast a glance over her shoulder to the forward console.

“Not bad, Mister Roosevelt.” Before he could turn and respond, she was already scanning the Correolan man as Karva jumped back into the docking bridge. Another young man came down, and a young woman. They said that was all of them. All were in bad shape; weak, hungry, oxygen-deprived. Serious, but easy to treat.

The hatch closed and Karva moved back to his station next to Del. He deactivated the pressurization field. He retracted the bridge before turning to Skell, who was walking toward them, helmet under his arm.

“Mister Skell,” he said playfully, “I daresay your little—”

“Commander!” Del broke in. Klaxons sounded. “Ferengi marauder just dropped out of warp, 20,000 kilometers astern.”

Karva whipped around to see that Del was already pulling past the damaged craft, orienting toward their homeship.

“Should I hail them?”

“No, Ensign,” Karva said. “Get us back to Mount Shasta as fast as you can.”

Comments

  • Love this! It's a great dialogue driven story, totally different from the Genghis Kahn history lesson from before! That ending, just a simple "No, get us back", it leaves me beging for more! P.s. I said it before and I'll say it again: That character art is just awesome!

    September 17, 2023
  • Thanks! I've definitely been thinking a bit about pace from scene to scene. Like, if this were an episode of a ST show, would the balance feel right? Glad your enjoying, and thanks for the encouragement!

    September 18, 2023