Chapter 13: Pressures
Evan stood at the Engineering section at the rear of the bridge, finishing off his conversation with the disembodied voice of his First Officer. The shuttle had landed safely – the Hiroshima’s sensors had been able to pick up that much easily enough – and the crew had begun making their way to the wreckage of the Lorrenz’s main section. That hadn’t been so easily detectable by the sensors, with the crew’s life signs merging quickly with the electro-plasmic readings that Briar had seen in her scans from orbit. Only the signatures from their commbadges gave away their location.
Mez had little to report. The away team had set down at a starport and had begun trekking deeper into the old coastal city, but the going was tough. She estimated that the city’s ruined condition would delay the team’s arrival at the main wreckage site considerably. The city was deserted. No signs of life so far. Thankfully, there were no signs of nanotech either, be it active or inactive. Evan had filled her in on what had been found amidst the debris in cargo bay 3 and let her know what to look out for.
With another confirmation that she’d check back in in 20 minutes’ time, Mez closed the channel.
Evan turned to look through the data appearing and disappearing on the neighbouring auxiliary Ops station’s screen. The Hiroshima’s sensor suite, more advanced than anything else in the fleet, had been running at full pelt since the team had beamed down. They were painting a picture of a moderately advanced civilisation – power systems, lifeless but recognisable; buildings of various construction techniques and compositions; more starports like the ones Mez had described; interstellar communication arrays that had long ago fallen into disuse; and atmospheric transport vessels that ranged in size from two-person craft to craft that could’ve carried thousands, all now grounded. The most impressive aspect were the vast weather control systems. He thought they might rival Earth’s, or even Risa’s, for sheer scope.
Curiously, they hadn’t found any spacefaring craft yet. Sure, there were a few vessels that bore the hallmarks of suborbital transports, but nothing that could take people to the stars. A civilisation this advanced had to have had that capability. So, where were all of their starships?
The Hiroshima’s sensors were revealing less interesting things about star system N21. The star was a main sequence one with a handful of other planets orbiting it. Long-range scans hadn’t detected anything of note on any of them – no power or communication signatures, no life signs. Still, he’d ordered probes dispatched to each to take a closer look. The first had arrived at the planet orbiting closest to the one below and was sending back data that only reinforced the initial scans. Maybe the others would reveal something else on the remaining worlds, but Evan suspected that whatever it was about this system that had worried Briar’s alien ship so badly was on the planet below.
That conundrum had been winding its way around his mind since Briar had first told him. What could worry a creature like the Elder? It had reached out across space to communicate with Briar multiple times and, on SB157, had gone a step further to use the Foundation’s own technology, and its connection with her, against them. It could control wormholes and wipe Borg vessels out of existence using nothing but gravity.
So, what did it fear? Others of its own kind? Contagion? An enemy that had yet to reveal itself in this situation?
Of course, his presumption’s starting point could be wrong. Perhaps the Elder had only been concerned for its former crew member and there was nothing here that it feared itself. Even if it had showed a disregard for her care before, there was a possibility that the entity was only looking out for Briar. But it knew something about this place. That didn’t automatically mean that it had been here, but it was as close to a lead as Evan had found so far, and he wasn’t going to ignore it.
He glanced at the bridge chronometer. Darney was still working on the nanotech samples she’d pulled from the debris and had yet to file preliminary results. It meant that the exact nature of the tech remained unknown. Evan hadn’t let that stop him from digging through some of his old logs and reports, though. His encounter with modified nanites at Xavix 9 was impossible to forget, but refreshing his memory of the technical details couldn’t hurt.
Well, it might actually, he told himself. As with presuming that the Elder was scared for its own safety, spending too much time delving into an unrelated incident risked setting him down the wrong path. At Xavix 9, he’d destroyed what the Cardassians had tried to build with alternating subspace pulses, but there was no guarantee that the nanotech Darney had found even needed subspace communications to function. Most did not, in fact, relying on other means of control and co-ordination.
Regardless, he had his old data ready for forwarding to Davies-Muir. It mightn’t prove useful or it might, but it was good to be prepared regardless.
She seems to be on the ball, he thought. If she hadn’t thought about the same approach herself by now, then he’d be surprised. He had to admit, she seemed very on the ball. Throwing her into the deep end by making her his Acting Chief Engineer had been a concern – as she’d never held a senior role like that previously, so putting her in charge of one of the most advanced Main Engineerings in the fleet could very well have gone catastrophically wrong – but any concern had been outweighed by his own need to build loyalty among a crew who would turn on him in a heartbeat if they knew who he really was.
It was a plus that Davies-Muir proven herself so far. No, she hadn’t needed to deal with a thousand things going wrong in a pressurised environment that was the hallmark of a normal mission for the Hiroshima, but she was intelligent, knowledgeable and competent. It was enough to keep anyone from looking too closely into his reasons for keeping her in position when there were other more qualified engineers in Starfleet.
A line of data, highlighted in red, appeared on the auxiliary Ops screen, denoting that the ship’s communications systems were still failing to link with the Federation’s subspace network. It was a reminder that the Hiroshima was a long, long way from the Federation. That suited him, with the only people he had to look over his shoulder for being the ones on this very ship. Still, it was a worry. The crew was beginning to gel at most levels, and his senior officers were all good officers. They were untried as a unit, though. Eventually, they would have to be tested, and while he felt they could deal with most of what the galaxy could throw at them, if they were to be tested, he would’ve rathered it not have to happen thousands of light years away from the nearest help.
Capt. Evan Yearling