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Proximity Alert

Posted on 04 Feb 2014 @ 5:19am by Captain Harvey Geisler
Edited on on 04 Feb 2014 @ 5:24am

Mission: Echoes
Location: Altair System
Timeline: January 2, 2388 || 1245 hours

"Awfully quiet out here, sir," came the voice of Crunch over Wash's headset. "I'm starting to think this is a waste of time."

"No kidding," Wash replied. They'd been patrolling the system for more than a couple hours now, and it was about time for their relief to show up. Other than passing by each of the beacons placed by the Black Hawk on her arrival, there wasn't anything to be seen, save for a small asteroid cluster.

"Think we can get some target practice in on those asteroids?"

Wash slowly nodded, considering the request. Actual had contacted them more than an hour ago, apprising Wash of what was happening with the Away Team and to be on the lookout for any visitors. It would be unwise to go weapons free at this point. "Negative, Crunch. How about we work on maneuvers in that cluster before our relief gets here."

"Sure thing," came a disappointed reply.

Wash banked his fighter and led Crunch to the Asteroid Cluster. Earlier, they had noted that the cluster had a similar magnetic field that Altair IV proudly exhibited. Sensors would be nearly unreliable as long as they were in the cluster.

"Cluster's 2,000 kilometers deep," Wash informed Crunch. "Last one through buys the first round."

"Deal."

Without Wash's approval, Crunch punched his impulse drive and launched into the cluster. "Damn it..." Wash muttered, punching his drive to full and following Crunch inside. The cluster was moving quite fast and was plenty to surge Wash's adrenaline as he navigated the asteroids, trying to catch up to Crunch. Amazingly, Wash was quite calm. "I'm a leaf on the wind," he muttered, banking and rolling to avoid crashing on the surface of a couple larger asteroids.

"Leaf my ass!" called Crunch over the comm. "Looks like you'll be buying the first bourbon of the..."

"My bourbon that is!" Wash replied, punching through to the other side. He had lost, but he quickly figured out why Crunch had stalled. Wash brought his fighter into formation next to Crunch as they both stared down at an unknown vessel quickly approaching what looked to be a small Starfleet shuttlecraft.

"Wash to Black Hawk!" Wash exclaimed, hitting the encrypted comm channel.

===BLACK HAWK===

Harvey was standing over the science station, studying the data that had come in over the last hour in regards to Crewman Anderson's disappearance. It was truly odd indeed, and hopefully an answer would be found soon as to whatever was happening down there.

=^= "Wash to Black Hawk." =^= interrupted the pilot's voice over the comm. =^= "We've got company." =^=

He nodded to the Flight Ops technician to put him on. "Wash, Actual," Harvey replied. "What kind of company?"

=^= "Not the friendly kind. Looks like they're trying to snatch one of ours. Cargo shuttle by the looks of it." =^=

Harvey's eyes widened. "Defend that shuttle. We're en route now."

He turned immediately and pointed at tactical. "Red alert. Standby shields and weapons. Helm, move us to intercept. Someone tell me why we didn't see that shuttle before!"

"Wash is behind a magnetic field," came Lieutenant Carmichael at the Science station. "The asteroids are exhibiting a similar kind of magnetic interference surrounding Altair IV."

"That would have been nice to know after we arrived, Lieutenant," Harvey calmly scolded. He then gave the order for the channel between the two pilots to be put on the bridge's speakers.

Wash and Crunch had already moved their fighters to stand in between the newcomer and the cargo shuttle. =^= "This is Lieutenant Hoban Washburn of the United Federation of Planets. Identify yourselves." =^=

=^= "This system has been claimed by the Golden Stars," =^= came a gruff reply over the audio channel. =^= "Your puny fighter is no match for our vessel." =^=

"ETA is ten minutes, captain," informed the helmsman.

"Do better, Ensign," warned the captain. "Warp speed if you have to."

=^= "And this shuttle is ours," =^= Wash replied.

Harvey heard the sound of a proximity alarm come over the comm from Washburn's controls. =^= "Actual, they've opened fire." =^=

"Wash, Actual. Hold yours." Harvey moved to the command platform and stood in front of his chair. The helmsman had listened and took the ship to warp. It dropped out above the Asteroid cluster and began to move down towards the new arrival and the Federation craft.

"Open a channel." The moment he had confirmation from Ops, Harvey declared, "This is Harvey Geisler, Captain of the Federation Starship USS Black Hawk. We were unaware that anyone had claim to this system."

=^= "Now you are, Harvey Geisler, Captain." =^= came the gruff voice, now matched with an unfriendly face on the viewscreen. =^= "We also have laid claim to the small craft your puny fighters are interfering with." =^=

Harvey could take a decent look at their bridge. It was compact, yet fit five others around freestanding consoles. The ship appeared to have seen better days, but there was no sign of malfunctioning equipment. At least, not yet. "The vessel you claim is property of the Federation. We had a research team on one of the planets. We're in the process of retrieving it now."

=^= "That base is also ours." =^= replied the alien captain. =^= "We've come back to collect what we want." =^=

"Did your prior collection include five people?" Harvey demanded.

The alien growled, insulted by the question. =^= "Though I do not oppose the notion, I retrieved no slaves." =^=

Harvey frowned. "Despite any claim you have," he warned, "the base on Altair IV and this shuttle you are attempting to retrieve are Federation property. If this is your system, give us three days to clear out. You're welcome to have whatever else is left behind."

=^= "Nonsense!" =^= The alien captain turned to look at whom Harvey assumed to be the weapons officer. Before Harvey could issue a single defensive order, he watched the weapons officer disappear. It was as if he was taken by a transporter beam, but the disappearance was too sudden for any known transporter.

=^= "What sorcery is this?" =^= The alien demanded, turning to face Harvey on the viewscreen. =^= "How dare you summon away my crew!" =^=

Harvey was nearly as shocked as the alien, but he quickly realized this was an excellent opportunity to gain the upper hand. "Three days," he demanded in return. "Or you lose three more."

The alien was silent for a few seconds, staring at Harvey's eyes. =^= "Three days." =^= After a deep breath, he added, =^= "Not a second more." =^=

The channel was then cut off and the alien ship turned to leave.

Harvey exhaled, a bit overwhelmed by what just happened. He dropped his hands and ran his hands through his long hair as he absorbed every bit of this experience. "Stand down from red alert," he finally ordered. "Get that shuttle into the flight deck."

Moving over to Lieutenant Carmichael, he added, "Lieutenant, surely we can do something to compensate for the magnetic interference." He expected some sort of reply from the Lieutenant other than his working so intensely at the controls. "Lieutenant?"

"Captain," Carmichael softly replied. "The shuttle is exhibiting a very strong magnetic field of its own, though the polarity is reversed."

"Our shuttle?" Harvey looked at the readouts to see for himself. He could see the data, though he had a hard time making sense of it. Harvey knew the properties of magnetic polarities, and those were easily identifiable. Yet, something was in the center of that shuttlecraft, disguised under the magnetic field. "What is that?" he asked, pointing at Carmichael's main screen.

"That, sir," the lieutenant replied, turning to face the captain, "I believe... is a life sign."

Too much had happened over the last few answers, but at last they were on the verge of answers. "Get that shuttle on board. Bridge to Doctor Thomas. Have a medical team on standby on the Flight Deck. I'll meet you there."

 

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