Chapter 5 - Episode 1, Scene 5 - Conclusion

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The landing party shone their palm lights around the large, round room searching for the life signs Gafer’s tricorder still insisted were nearby. All clustered together, everyone’s light converged almost simultaneously upon a group of colonists, Gorn, Orion and some Klingons, all unconscious and huddled together.

At the sight of what appeared to be a strewn lot of bodies, Zoe hung back a little, uncertain she wanted to be the first to see anything messy.

Meanwhile Xaiko stepped lightly between limbs and over torsos, continually sweeping her light to and fro. “I count twenty eight. Check lifesigns.” 

Gaffer kneeled beside an Orion male and scanned him, the medical wand in his hand as he glided it over the inert form. The readings that came back showed that there were no injuries, or  damage to speak of at all! 

When Gaffer’s data populated her tricorder, Xaiko looked thoughtful.  “Let’s see if we can revive any of them.”

With no real indication as to how or why they are unconscious he could only use a general stim to try and bring them around. He pressed the hypospray to the orion’s neck. The soft hiss told him it had been administration but nothing happened, checking the reading on his tricorder he saw nothing had changed.

He looked over at Xaiko and shook his head. “I don’t have the tools needed to figure out what’s going on here. It might be a neural overload but…” he trailed off shrugging.

Zoe could see now, if she was very very still, that they didn’t actually look dead, and she approached a gorn with extreme curiosity, having never met one of the fabled brutal lizard race before. She moved her fingertips as near as she dared to the nostrils on his? Her? Snout and could feel the gentle movement of air drawn into the unconscious gorn’s unconscious body.

Xaiko meanwhile had begun to search the bodies themselves, turning out pockets and lifting limbs without much compunction. “See if you can find anything that might provide more illumination to the situation. A tricorder or a padd, or some other means of record making…”

It felt wrong manhandling unconscious people, but Zoe sort of gently kicked where it seemed pockets and gear holsters would be on various people, only bending down to check when there was something with a little less give against her boot. 

At first the search only turned up wallets and personal items. Xaiko was beginning to think they would have to come up with another way to find out what was at play here, maybe risking running into more of the floating bioelectrical cephalopods while searching the stadium further.

Until the pilot of all people called out, “Ah-ha!” She was waving something small and flexible that certainly didn’t look like a padd or data recorder. “I found it on that caitian.” Zoe explained as she hop-stepped over the bodies to get to the Commander. 

Xaiko took it from the flight control cadet and began to flip through the tiny lined pages. “A spiral notebook. It appears to be to-do lists, notes from some sort of psychological lecture. Oh, wait. A log of personnel notes. I think there are missing pages…” Xaiko noted the shorn remains of a few of the tiny sheets left hanging around the wire spiral. “Wait, one of these is dated yesterday. ‘We’ve sheltered in the gymnasium, but still no sign of rescue. We’re hoping this works to keep them out, but we have no idea how much longer we can hold out, and we know they found their way into other buildings. Now that—”

“What?” Zoe pressed, crowding the Commander to try to see. “What does it say?”

With her thumb, Xaiko flipped the page where the pen line fell and on the bottom of the next sheet was hastily scrawled: “They’re inside.”

Zoe snatched the notebook back and flipped around looking for more. But there wasn’t any. “That’s not telling us anything we don’t already know!”

“They seem to have been a smaller group of the colonists who were isolated from the rest. If they only took shelter here yesterday, then the rest of the colony must have sheltered elsewhere,” Xaiko surmised. “In either event, we should get these people to safety and have them treated in a medical facility.” The commander tapped her comm badge. “Xaiko to Midnight Hunt. Do you read?”

Lag’Ek had been sitting in the cockpit, his eyes glued to the readouts waiting for something to happen when the commander’s communication had connected.

“Yes Commander,” they said, confirming the connection was sound.

Relieved that they still had communication with the runabout, Xaiko continued. “We have discovered a number of unconscious civilians at our location. Seeing as they are all unconscious but stable, we should have sufficient space to shelter them on the shuttle. Can you establish a transporter lock?” 

“Sorry Commander,” they said, shaking their head… it was an audio only link! “Gonna need enhancers to get a lock in all this, our sensors are just not good enough to punch through this interference.”

Midshipman Logra pipped up and said they would bring them to the team. With permission she snagged the enhancers and some foul weather gear and quickly made her way to the away teams location. Forewarned she had managed to avoid meeting any of the local creatures along the way.

Slightly out of breath having hurried all the way, Logra practically burst into the room and spent the first few seconds of her arrival doubled over to catch her breath. “Here” she breathed and plopped the bundle of enhancers on the ground before her.

Without hesitation, Xaiko swiftly began to systematically attach enhancers to colonists. 

Zoe looked to Lorga. “You wouldn’t happen to have run any track, would you?” Even though the wait had consisted of staying alert for the return of any flying jellyfish, it still seemed to her that Lorga had made it over the distance in record time.

Midshipman Logra raised a single finger and continued to draw in slightly ragged breaths. “Been. A. While” he muttered. “Though I promise to start running again if this is going to be the jist of our missions!”

Zoe snapped out her tricorder and made an uplink over the communications signal with the shuttle to tap into the transporter controls and confirm the pattern enhanced signals of the colonists being marked by the rest of the team, as well as their own. When the team was finished and gathered back together, enhancers fixed over their commbadges, Zoe pressed confirm for Lag’ek. “Take us away.”

Manipulating the console Lag’ek locked onto and beamed the away team, along with several survivors into the runabout. He heard the hum of the transporter cycle and confirmed everyone had arrived safe and sound.

Once back at the Midnight Hunt the survivors started to come around, Gaffer had a moment of inspiration and ran a scan using the ship’s sensors. “Ah” he exclaimed, running his finger down the data of the readings on the screen. “That would explain that” he smiled a big toothy grin… which to an outsider would be utterly terrifying. 

Zoe went to the back of the shuttle in the larger storage area to try and stow her gear, but the place was covered end to end with rows of people like some kind of slumber party; weirdly, she thought she could hear several of them groaning and stirring. Deciding she didn’t want to enter the rear bay after all, Zoe turned around back to the cockpit, her gloves and coat still in hand, as she saw Gaffer at the sensors, wearing a maniacal grin. She startled and then tried to recover smoothly. “Uh, what explains what?”

He glanced at her, surprised anyone was there. “Oh,” he said and stepped to the side. “Metagenic radiation,” he said. “It was strong enough that anyone who fell asleep would remain that way. I think those survivors had been awake for a while. Finally gave in and, well that’s how we found them. The hull is blocking what little there was so they are coming too.” He cocked his head. “I am pretty sure the creatures are generating the radiation but I can’t be sure!”

“Of all the…” Zoe was amazed at what could be learned from some scans and transporter records so quickly. They would probably get the findings confirmed later. But at least it meant everyone was going to recover. “This place is gonna get real crowded real fast,” she muttered to herself as she cast her gear beneath the console and dropped into the pilot’s seat.

Meanwhile Xaiko was settling into the command chair, swiveling to address the engineering Cadet. “Thank you for holding down the fort, as it were. Have you completed a diagnostic on the shuttle? What condition did that lightning strike leave the Hunt in on the way here?”

Lag’Ek smiled, “The ship is in good condition, I have bypassed or repaired the minor damage we did take but we are good to go.” He checked a screen. “I rebooted the affected systems and it all came up good, I think that the lightning getting through the shields was a fluke, a 1 in a million kind of event.” he paused, “I have modulated the shield harmonics to better handle any further strike, should wash off us.”

“Very good. Let’s get back into orbit and try to make contact with the Wabi Sabi once more.” Xaiko ordered, latching her own harness.

“Good evening everyone,” Zoe said into the comm as she switched all the engines on. The Runabout hummed and dust blew around the viewports. “You are aboard the USS Midnight Hunt. We are about to lift off. Some turbulence is anticipated so please find a seat or a grip and secure yourself and a friend.”

Zoe waited only long enough for the automated flight hecks to return green before she drew back on the lift thrusters and brought them forward and away into the sky, angling for the storm they had weathered on the way down. “And once more into the breach.” She muttered before remembering to shut off the loudspeaker.

The sleek adaptly named Arrow class runabout pitched up and into the stormy skies. This state of the art craft parted the thick heavy clouds with her jet wash, as before they were struck by lightning, several times, the shields flaring with each strike but to the young cadets pride they held…

… Until they didn’t. A particularly powerful arc of plasma struck them aft and overloaded the emitter in that section. Part of the electromagnetic energy hit and buckled the hull. On board the computers glitched, the screen going blank for a moment before popping back to life.

Lag’Ek, to his credit, reacted quickly and found the problem, several Isolinear chips had been fried. He bypassed them quickly to other chips, it wasn’t pretty and the helm was going to be janky but they were still flying.

Zoe watched her controls flutter out and reactively started compensating by secondary sensor input measures, filling in the blanks with her own guestimates. The shuttle pitched about and there was a good deal of objections in the rear compartment as they were rolled and tossed about. Zoe grit her teeth. 

“I’m pretty sure we should be breaking the atmo. Aaaany moment now….” Zoe just trusted her inputs. In all of her academy training simulators, she usually only failed the worst when she second guessed herself. *You’ve got good instincts, Cadet.* her instructor had told her. *Probably in your genes.* And he’d shake his head and smirk. She gathered the testing Lieutenant had served with her dad, Ezekiel Pride. Just about anyone had spent more time with that guy than she had ever. It was easy to beat zero, after all. And yet somehow, she was told, he was practically in the simulators and training shuttles guiding her. And now she was even spending her first Cadet tour with a bunch of his old crew. 

She screwed up her lips, telling herself she wasn’t bitter that he wasn’t around to even catch a glimpse of. He went where ever the wind blew him, that’s what her mother had said. It was her reason for never reconnecting with her fling. She’d have had to live with holding him down with fatherhood, and neither one of them was going to get anything out of that. Even her mother had barely put in the time with her, always on assignment and leaving Zoe with her grandparents. On the one hand Zoe grew up hating the Fleet, and at the same time she felt inexplicably bound to it like it was the only thing she vaguely had left to call home. She bared her teeth staring into the broiling darkness… 

Until the clouds parted to the haze of the upper atmosphere and the stars were rising over the break. The rattling silenced and the blaring alarms all died out in the perfect stillness of outer space.

“Mr. Tarrim,” Xaiko said, exhaling with relief. “Scan for any sign of the Wabi Sabi.” If they had received the initial comms message, then there was reason to hope the Excelsior II ship was already in system and ready to debrief the Midnight Hunt team and recover the rest of the colonists.

Gaffer brought the long range sensors online and started a sweep. It didn’t take long, the Wabi Sabi wasn’t hiding and thus was lit up like a small city. The sensors pinged it and the computer confirmed it was indeed the mothership.

“Got her” he said, already running through the menus to open up a communications channel. “We have a connection”

“Put me through to the Captain.”

“Commander” Pax said leaning forward a little in his chair, as always he looked like he belonged there, and always the view wasn’t zoomed in on him but rather he sat center stage of the bridge. “We got your message, came as quickly as we could, but please fill me in.”

“Sir.” Xaiko said, “We’ve had quite a ride, and have twenty-eight survivors to be evaluated. There is one in critical condition, although,” She pressed a hand to her sore shoulder, “Some of the team will require medical attention for electrical burns. Permission to return and update you on our findings.”

He glanced at his screen and then back at them, “We will be there in a few minutes, dock and we will have medical waiting.” The big trill frowned, “You said twenty-eight? Any sign of the rest of the colony?”

“That’s a negative.” Xaiko shook her head. “The settlement is a ghost town. It’s my hope that the vast majority of them left before the lot we found. They’re waking up now, and it’s possible they will know where the rest of them were headed or what happened to them.”

“Okay, report to me once you are settled, we’ll start running scans to see if we can find them in the meantime. Good work Commander, and welcome back.” With a nod the communication was severed.