Stardate 76258.7; April 05, 2399
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
High Overseer Xi'Yor
CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER’S LOG, STARDATE 76258.7: Commander Keller and I are returning to the Starlight after responding to an apparent outbreak of Tevorian Plague on Defornath VII. While I was able to confirm one case of the potentially deadly infection, the victim was quickly isolated, and is expected to make a full recovery. There were no new cases reported, and while Starfleet Medical is sending a team of doctors to the planet for observation, I am confident the outbreak is contained.
It wasn’t every day Sarah Hartman was called upon to save an entire world. Thus, when the call came to her office six days ago, the doctor was more than eager to help. The Tevorian Plague was a ravenous little infection that occasionally appeared in the Beta Quadrant, and while there were plenty of treatments available to mute the myriad symptoms, there were still many unanswered questions about the disease.
At first, Hartman was under the impression that there were dozens of people infected, and that the disease was rapidly spreading throughout the population. Hartman later discovered that the local doctors, in their panic, slightly exaggerated the situation—for they had it almost completely under control the entire time. Still, Hartman had no regrets about going. Not only was she able to save a life, she also gathered plenty of data to study—data that might someday lead to a vaccine. Thus, Hartman was very eager to peruse the data.
And she did, several times.
But without the vast resources of the Starlight’s main computer, Hartman was rather limited in the scope of her examination. She couldn’t perform any detailed cellular analyses without using most of the shuttle’s resources, nor could she extrude a possible life cycle for the bacteria for the same reasons.
However, Hartman was free to theorize and run countless hypothetical situations through the computer—but after three hours of theorizing, she was more than ready to look at some cold, hard data. Her gaze immediately fell upon Erin Keller. “How much longer?”
With a few simple keystrokes, Keller had her answer: “Four hours, four minutes.”
Hartman clenched her jaw. She didn’t know if she could last another four hours. This data was practically burning a hole in the shuttle’s computer core. “Can’t this thing go any faster?”
“We’re already pushing warp twelve,” Keller evenly replied. Apparently she wasn’t even going to consider an increase in speed.
Unless Hartman insisted. “I know this thing can hit warp thirteen,” she said, pulling the knowledge from some dark, dusty corner of her memory.
“It can,” Keller confirmed, “but at that speed, we run the risk of tearing the ship part, and will almost certainly fuse the transwarp coils beyond repair. Warp thirteen on a Raptor-class flyer is strictly for emergencies.”
“Oh.” Hartman must have forgotten that particular facet when she perused the schematics. “Well, I’m a doctor, not an engineer.”
Keller arched her brows. “I can see that,” she mused, making a very minor course correction to avoid a nearby ion storm. “Hopefully we won’t have to put your engineering skills to the test.”
And then the silence returned. For all intents and purposes, Hartman didn’t really mind the silence. She had been looking forward to a quiet, peaceful journey home, so that she could study her vast amounts of data—but with Commander Keller on board, Hartman had not been too optimistic about her chances of getting that quiet. Keller was frequently a chatty individual, able to discuss almost anything at length. However, much to Hartman’s surprise, Keller had been silent for the vast majority of their journey. Admittedly, Hartman was curious.
Etiquette demanded Hartman broach the subject gently, but unfortunately, that was not one of the doctor’s strongest suits. She pondered a polite way to phrase her question for a few moments, but ultimately decided to say the first thing that came to her mind: “Is there something bothering you?”
Her eyes wide with surprise, Keller glanced up from the helm. “Is it that obvious?” she sheepishly inquired.
Hartman nodded. “You’ve barely said three words to me the entire trip—now, I know we’re not the best of friends, but that has never kept you from talking to me in the past.”
In fact, the two of them had battled more than a few personal demons, but those were apparently not enough to keep Keller from speaking her thoughts on this occasion. She carefully turned helm control over to the computer, and then shoved herself away from the console. “It’s Alan,” she simply replied—and her tone wasn’t the most pleasant thing in the universe.
That in itself spoke volumes. Keller would frequently poke fun at Alan Christopher, but rarely did she express her true criticisms. Hartman immediately cleared the data from her screen to give Keller her complete attention. “What did he do now?”
Keller’s lips parted to deliver a response, but the words died in her throat—a shrill sensor alert suddenly echoed throughout the tiny cockpit. In the blink of an eye, Keller’s deft fingers danced over the controls in search of answers. “I’m picking up a distress signal,” she said after a moment.
Defornath VII was Hartman’s first inclination. “Another case of Tevorian Plague?”
“No,” said Keller, shaking her head. “There’s an M-class planet 1.6 light years from our current position… The signal is coming from the surface of the fourth planet.”
Hartman wasn’t immediately familiar with any star systems in the vicinity—so a quick check of the astrometric database was required. “The planet is called Midrian IV,” she gleaned from her console. “Over the years, its ring system has become notorious for its unusually strong gravimetric forces. Mercenaries have used them to trap and later ambush unsuspecting starships…”
“And this definitely feels like a trap,” said Keller, meticulously inspecting the sensor data on her side of the console. “The distress signal is on an Elorg frequency.”
And a dozen red flags were summarily raised in Hartman’s mind. “Should we call for backup?”
“The signal is very weak,” said Keller. “If it’s truly a genuine distress call, I don’t know if we can afford to wait around until reinforcements arrive… There might be someone hurt on the surface.”
“Agreed,” said Hartman, but since she was very much the realist, she simply could not ignore all of the warning signs. “I still don’t like it, though… Is this type of thing consistent with Elorg tactics?”
Keller shook her head. “I don’t exactly recall this type of situation happening ever before,” she tentatively replied. “But the Elorg are quite devious. If they’re trying to lure us into a trap, I suppose this distress call is a very convenient way to do it.”
Hartman furrowed her brow. “What could they want from us?”
“From us specifically?” prompted Keller. “I don’t really know. Neither one of us would make particularly valuable prisoners—and this shuttle certainly won’t do much to impress the Elorg.”
Hartman chuckled. “Perhaps they’d be more interested if it could hit warp thirteen without tearing itself to pieces?”
“Perhaps,” Keller pensively allowed; she was apparently not in the mood for humor. Alan must have really pissed her off; Hartman would definitely have to conclude that conversation later… For the time being, she had to keep her thoughts focused on the task at hand.
And despite her reservations about mercenaries or Elorg raiders, Hartman wanted to visit Midrian IV. “We’re the only ship in the vicinity,” she said. “If there are injured people on the surface, we can’t just leave them.”
Keller’s hands hovered over the helm controls. “Shall I set a course?”
Hartman nodded her assent.
Erin Keller tried to land the shuttle as close to the distress signal as possible. With the unusual gravimetric forces in the planet’s ring system, beaming to the surface was definitely not an option—but much to Keller’s chagrin, landing near the source of the signal was also not a viable option. According to sensors, the distress signal was located on a steep, forested hillside. The shuttle couldn’t land without clearing some forest, something Keller wasn’t about to do.
Thus, she landed the shuttlecraft in a clearing near the bottom of the grassy, wooded hill and readied herself for an arduous climb. But arduous might have been an understatement.
“That’s an incline of about… forty-five degrees,” Hartman muttered as her eyes scaled the forested hill.
According to Keller’s tricorder, the exact angle was fifty-one degrees, but she chose to keep that particular piece of information to herself. She didn’t want to accelerate the deterioration of Hartman’s mood. Thankfully, the signal was located reasonably close to the bottom. “I’m detecting a single life sign,” she added.
“The readings are consistent with Elorg DNA,” gleaned Hartman from her tricorder. “Unfortunately, they look pretty weak.”
“Then we need to hurry,” Keller crisply replied, forcing the unpleasant thoughts of Alan Christopher from her mind. Now was definitely not the time to dwell upon him or the unpleasant news he shared a few weeks ago. Keller had to concentrate on her job, and nothing else.
The terrain was more unforgiving than she had anticipated. The yellowing grass—though sparse—was tall and untamed, flailing aimlessly in the stiff breeze. Stones and pebbles littered the uneven terrain like carpet, reducing traction and making the ascent even more difficult. Plates of jagged, moss-covered limestone jutted from the reddish earth, occasionally accompanied by a forest of little mushrooms. And then there were the trees…
The immense towers of green soared high into the cerulean skies, casting ominous shadows that danced upon the forest floor. Some were old and craggy, with gnarled roots, obtuse knots, and bulges; others were just plain huge, perhaps three or four meters in diameter. But they were all of them tall, including the elegant white birch not less than fifty meters from Keller’s position.
There was a body resting wearily at the foot of the tree. Keller instantly recognized him as an Elorg—his pale, ashen skin was a dead giveaway—but there was something about his clothes that piqued her interest. The man was clad in an elegant black tunic that glistened under the golden rays of sun. There was a cape wrapped around his torso, and a silver brooch upon his chest. “I don’t think this guy is a simple underling,” she whispered, so not to disturb the man.
“What makes you say that?” asked Hartman, already running some cursory scans with her tricorder.
“That’s not a standard-issue Elorg uniform,” said Keller. “It looks a little bit too lavish.”
“An Overseer?” suggested Hartman.
“I don’t think so,” Keller replied. She had seen plenty of Overseers, and while many of them wore dark colored uniforms, none of them were as elaborate as the one she saw now.
“They have a new regime,” Hartman continued, obviously struggling to ascend the steep hillside. “Perhaps they just changed their uniforms?”
For a scant second, Keller was willing to entertain Hartman’s theory. Technically speaking, there wasn’t anything wrong with it… but there was just something about the uniform that make Keller think otherwise.
And then it hit her.
“That’s the Cerebrate,” she proclaimed. “That’s Ra’thenn!”