CAPTAIN’S LOG, STARDATE 74857.9: The Starlight is en route to the Delta Antar System in response to a distress call from the USS Maine—a long-range Federation scout ship. At the present time, details on the source of their mire are not overly forthcoming, but the situation does not look good.
Matthew Harrison liked a good mystery. There was something about their complex intrigues that sparked his imagination, and drove the Commander on a seemingly futile quest for clues. Naturally, none of these clues made much sense at a mere glance, but when weaved together into an intricate tapestry, they magically formed something called the solution. As he stared at the tunnel of verdant light streaking across the Starlight’s viewscreen, the beginnings of that tapestry were beginning to form, for Matthew Harrison was intrigued.
But while Matthew happily pondered the mystery at hand, Alan Christopher sat at the opposite end of the spectrum. The Captain loathed most mysteries—especially those involving distress signals and Federation starships, for they tended to result in unpleasantness for one and all. And while this particular mystery didn’t seem overly dire, looks had the tendency to be deceiving—and deception was at the heart of every mystery…
Unable to keep his posterior in the warmth of his command chair, Christopher finally gave in to his brimming nerves, and rose to his feet. Instinctively, he started to pace behind the helm, but only a few steps into the maneuver, he paused, and turned his bright teal eyes upon the workstation. “Neelar,” he said, “what’s our ETA?”
The young Bolian’s deft fingers danced over the control interface. “Two hours, ten minutes,” he replied after a moment.
Christopher nodded indecisively. As far as he was concerned, that was two hours too much—but at the same time, he knew those same two hours could be put to good work. With any luck, they could begin to shed some light on this newfound mystery—and Christopher intended to do just that. “I want to know everything that’s been happening in and around the Delta Antar System,” he promptly announced.
Megan Reinbold immediately glanced up from the operations station. “I’ve already run three long-range sensor sweeps of the entire region,” she stated. “Nothing out of the ordinary has taken place.”
Christopher trusted the Starlight’s sensors. He trusted Megan Reinbold. But for some reason, he always felt better when Erin Keller delivered status reports from ops. He suspected his eternal devotion to Erin might have something to do with that… However that was one mystery that was not in need of immediate resolution, and Christopher promptly turned to Harrison for his thoughts on the more pressing matters at hand.
“Perhaps they suffered some sort of mechanical failure,” suggested Harrison almost immediately. “It has been known to happen.”
“Indeed it has.” Christopher could recount several occasions when the Starlight was rendered dysfunctional due to some sort of mechanical problem—the malfunctioning phasers being the most recent incident. “Still, I’m not going to discount anything until we arrive. The dreaded and evil—”
A sensor alert suddenly interrupted the Captain, bringing his cunning remark to an abrupt end. “There appears to be an object in the transwarp conduit with us,” Bator announced a brief moment later.
“A ship?” Harrison inquired.
The Phobian shrugged. “Unknown,” he replied. “Sensors cannot easily penetrate its surface—however, the object is small… No larger than ten centimeters in diameter. It may be a probe of some kind.”
Something that small didn’t exactly strike fear into Christopher’s heart—but he wasn’t about to discount the object. “Are we being scanned?”
“No,” said Bator.
“But the object is destabilizing our transwarp conduit,” added Neelar Drayge. “We’re losing it!”
Christopher immediately tapped his communicator. “Christopher to Tompkins!”
* * *
Standing over the master control station in main engineering, Lucas Tompkins knew exactly what the Captain wanted even before he answered the hail. Their transwarp conduit was steadily breaking apart—and Christopher wanted an explanation. But as he tapped his communicator, Lucas Tompkins was as far from an answer as one could get. “This is Tompkins,” he replied.
“Lucas,” said Christopher evenly, “what the heck is going on down there?”
Tompkins glanced at the data on his screen one last time, just to be certain he had not missed anything. But much as he expected, everything was in perfect working order, including the transwarp manifold. “As far as I can tell, the disruption isn’t related to the Starlight,” he said. “There’s nothing I can do to keep us from losing the conduit.”
“What about boosting power to the engines?” Christopher inquired.
In the back of his mind, Tompkins knew that was not going to help, but it was always best to humor the Captain. “I’ll give it a shot,” he said, “but I’m not sure what good it will do. Tompkins out.”
Those were not the words Alan Christopher had wanted to hear. He wanted everything to go perfectly, without so much as a single hindrance; of course, it never did, and Christopher long ago realized there was little use in fretting over it.
The ship jolted slightly as the engines kicked up a notch, but as Tompkins had prophesized, it did little to help their situation. The ragged transwarp conduit on the viewscreen slowly streaked away its verdant light; the Starlight lingered in utter darkness for only a moment before its grandiose expulsion from transwarp amidst a blaze of white light.
Christopher swayed slightly as they streaked into normal space, and was immediately crestfallen at the sight of stars gently streaking across the viewscreen. Trouble was brewing on the USS Maine, and the Starlight could barely amble to their rescue.
“We’ve dropped down to warp three,” said Drayge after a moment.
“Damage?” Christopher inquired.
“None,” said Bator.
That was a relief. Often times, an unexpected departure from transwarp gave rise to ten kinds of tumult, leading Christopher to believe that luck just might be on his side for once. So he decided to take a gamble, and test the lucky waters. “What about the transwarp engines?”
Drayge promptly went over the data on the helm. “They look like they’re fully functional,” he stated. “That… thing we saw in the conduit must have been the problem.”
Christopher clenched his jaw. “It must have been,” he said. “Reopen the conduit, and resume course for Delta Antar.”
On the viewscreen, the gentle streaks of starlight abruptly merged into a flash of blinding light. The Starlight rumbled a bit, and when the light finally subsided, the tunnel of verdant light returned.
“There is no sign of the object,” Bator announced.
Matthew Harrison expelled an immediately sigh of relief. “Most excellent,” he proclaimed. His mind was focused entirely upon the mysteries of the Maine—not that there was anything wrong with that. Once the investigation began, Christopher was confident the solution would not evade Matthew for long.
But Christopher still harbored some concerns about their tiny friend in the transwarp conduit—and he didn’t like it one bit…