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Message In A Bottle

Posted on 21 Apr 2017 @ 6:02pm by Captain Harvey Geisler & Lieutenant JG Charles Carmichael
Edited on on 26 Jun 2017 @ 11:11pm

Mission: The Finnean Crisis
Location: USS Vasco de Gama patrolling the Finnean Convergence Zone
Timeline: Stardate 65790.5 || October 16, 2388

Blue and white energy cackled on the viewscreen. In Commander Stryk’s forty years of life, the Vulcan woman had never seen a phenomenon so fascinating. She had been fortunate to have been on the bridge seventeen years ago as relief science officer when this energy barrier was first up on sensors.

Ever since then, the Vulcan had dedicated her life to understanding the energy barrier, soon named the Finnean Convergence Zone after the sector in which it resided. She had refused promotion or transfers to other starships. Were she not Vulcan, one would likely surmise that she was out for some sort of glory or desire to go down in history for her contributions in studying this zone. Truthfully, she possessed no such desire other than to satisfy her natural desire to understand what Starfleet had made poor attempts to study over the last seventeen years.

Though the Nova-Class USS Vasco de Gama had been left on assignment in the Finnea System, the science ship spent more time around Finnea Prime and Deep Space Fifteen than it did at the zone. Stryk understood Starfleet’s logic in the situation. Finnea had never been a troubled world, but it attracted trouble. Dosi, Karemma, Paradan, Ferengi, Rakhari, Selubassari and more passed through the system on a daily basis. Even though Starfleet had negotiated with the Finnean Steadings to construct a Presidium-Class starbase in orbit, traffic in the system continued to increase. Only a few of these were interested in the Convergence Zone.

It was logical for the Vulcan to understand why. Following its discovery in 2371, no one had ever attempted to enter the zone. A few ships attempted to leave the zone, and only one managed to survive the process. Those aboard the failed attempts exhibited various forms of failure, including crystallization of organic matter, or the complete inversion of it. Knowing the zone was now hazardous to lifeforms, the Vasco de Gama had sent a variety of probes, nine hundred and forty-three to be exact over the course of seventeen years, into the zone in hopes of studying the barrier and finding a method of entry. They’d lost telemetry from each and every one after a few hundred kilometers. The zone was measured to be larger than three sectors, a feat managed by the Vasco de Gama in 2383 when Stryk was promoted to Chief Science Officer. Starfleet, armed with this full understanding, classified the zone as an unstable area of space, permitting exploration at its convenience.

Stryk had always found that quite illogical. Starfleet was renowned for its expeditions and studies, especially with its “explore strange new worlds” mantra. Yet, for the last ten years, the Gamma Quadrant proved to be more unstable than the sectors containing the Klingon Empire and Orion Syndicate. To complicate matters, the Zone was on the fringe of explored territory. Long ago, Starfleet had contained their boundary at Deep Space 15, rarely permitting any ship to travel further towards the zone, and kept its forces either centralized around Idran and New Bajor, or expanding northward past the Gavara Sector.

The Consortium Crisis only worsened the situation. Starfleet, under the orders of Commodore Juliana Terlexa, withdrew totally from the Finnea system and consolidated at New Bajor. The Vasco de Gama had then been reassigned to the Idran system where it miraculously escaped heavy damage when true Starfleet forces emerged from the wormhole and revealed that Terlexa was in fact the head of the cancer that plagued the quadrant. Captain Bolz took the opportunity to retire, and Stryk made her plea to Admiral Archer, who granted the Vasco de Gama the chance to return to its study of the zone.

For the last five weeks, the Vasco de Gama had made the most of what she was given, conducting scan after scan, launching probe after probe. Unfortunately, they had not learned much more than they already knew, leaving Stryk with only two choices. Rather than give up their studies until technology yielded alternative methods, she commissioned her crew to come up with a way to enter the zone, using the last seventeen years of data and failed results from the unknown vessels that emerged to engineer a method.

Various tests had been conducted since using Class Nine probes containing organic matter on a preprogrammed course to enter and leave the zone at steep and shallow trajectories. Twelve tests had been conducted so far. All twelve had failed to deliver their telemetry beyond sixty seconds of entering the zone, and never emerged when they were supposed to. In fact, they never emerged at all.

“Commander?” came a voice from behind the Vulcan seated in the center chair.

Stryk did not have to look at the new arrival to identify the voice. “I am not late, Doctor,” she coldly stated, though those around her could swear they heard a bit of annoyance in the woman’s tone. “In fact, I have forty point two minutes before I need to report for my regimen,” she stated as she scratched her neck.

Doctor Ch’balt, the Bolian surgeon just assigned as the ship’s medical chief, tried to look past the comment. “Commander, I’ve taken the liberty of reviewing not just your medical records, but those also still under the effects of the Chabanlon Pollen. Your body, like theirs, is adjusting to the medication, becoming more resistant. I estimate that you are in fact two hours overdue.” A gander at the irritated area of her neck only served to prove his hypothesis. It was the area in which prior injections had been made since 2372.

Not far from the Vasco de Gama’s current position was the Bellogeer system where Stryk participated in a landing party. It wasn’t long after the party returned to the ship that they discovered that the team had been exposed to an extraordinary drug. Exposure to it sparked immediate addiction. In fact, Captain Bolz had chosen to retire there with his wife. They’d both been exposed at the time of the landing party, and medical claimed that they’d been cured. However, he’d taken a certain fondness with a planet and its marsupial-like lifeforms. Stryk believed it confirmed her own private hypothesis, that one could never be released from the addiction.

“That is logical,” Stryk stated. In fact, she’d believed for some time now that the regimens were further spaced apart than what she desired. “However, I believe my nervous system will function adequately for the next forty point one minutes without the regimen. Perhaps you can recommend an adjusted schedule and implement it beginning next week.”

The Doctor was about to protest when an alarm sounded from the rear operations console. “Captain,” spoke a human ensign. “Sensors are detecting something from the zone.”

“That much is obvious, ensign,” Stryk turned and stated to the ensign, her tone seemingly colder than before. Much of the ship’s crew was new, pieced together from elements of ships that fell under Consortium fire. This particular individual came from the USS Calisto.

“Duranium alloy,” he continued to report as the object entered into a clearer sensor range. “Internal isolinear technology…” he looked up to face the Vulcan. “It’s a Class Nine probe.”

As the Vulcan immediately rose to her feet to join the ensign at his station, the young man continued, “It’s not broadcasting any telemetry, though there was a very weak signal coming from the transmitter. It seems to have stopped. In fact… no… this can’t be right.”

Rather than ask, Stryk’s left hand began to tap a few buttons on the console so that she could study the readouts for itself. “Based on the decay of the duranium, and carbon dating, it appears to be nearly a hundred years old.” Stryk arched her left eyebrow. “Fascinating.”

“What should we do, Captain?” the ensign asked. “It might be too fragile for transport.”

“Your guess is correct,” she replied. She surmised that the transporter would not only damage the probe due to its apparent age, but also disrupt whatever the zone had done to the probe. “Send a shuttle to collect it. Have it taken to the isolation lab on Deck Three.” Looking to the doctor, she stated, “I believe I will take that regimen early after all, Doctor.” The side effects would throw her internal systems out of normal operating modes for an hour after the regimen was administered. She wanted to be ready to examine this probe as soon as possible.

* * *

Precisely one hour and six minutes later, Stryk entered the isolation lab wearing a hazmat suit. The ship’s surgeon and science officer had declared the probe hazard free, but no one wanted to take any chances of disturbing the probe’s deteriorating condition. Duranium alloy was known to disintegrate nearly a century after its creation, especially when exposed to cosmic phenomena. How this probe survived in this condition for so long was a mystery. “Report, Mister Carmichael,” she ordered, joining the science officer and the Operations Ensign from the bridge.

“Well,” Lieutenant Charles Carmichael, another replacement from a fallen Starfleet ship, the USS Black Hawk, said, “It’s definitely age. Sensors show no tampering by cosmic experiences. What’s unusual is the probe’s isolinear core.”

“Explain,” said the Vulcan, looking now at Ensign Akagi who was working with a LCARS terminal.

“Normally,” began the ensign, “these isolinear chips would be filled with telemetry.” He didn’t have to explain that probes recorded telemetry internally in the event that their transmitter failed. “I can’t find much evidence at all. In fact, all I see… looks like logs, ma’am.”

“We also have just been able to confirm the serial number,” Lieutenant Carmichael said, handing the Captain the probe’s registration plate. “We didn’t launch this probe.”

Stryk did not reply. In all of her familiarity with the zone, she was not aware of other science expeditions or starships that had operated near the zone in the last ten years. The evidence was irrefutable, but the facts did not compute. Out of all of the probes this ship had launched into the zone for more than a decade, why was the first to emerge one launched from another ship? “Have any ships been listed as missing in this sector?”

“None,” replied Akagi who was attempting to read some of the logs from the probe. Each of the files he attempted to access appeared corrupted, ruined by age.

“What about the transmitter?” Stryk asked, returning to the probe to have a look for herself. “Have you attempted to restore power to it?”

Carmichael nodded, having been working on that task for the last fifteen minutes. “We can’t hook it up to our power grid without extreme risk of fusing its internal systems.” He motioned to the new power core that he’d installed after cannibalizing their last probe in the hold. “This should do the trick. Ensign Akagi, stand by to receive.” As soon as he got the nod from the ensign, he activated the core. Lights flickered to life within the probe, though they were not as strong as they were when first manufactured.

“I am picking up a signal,” Akagi stated, moving to a different terminal to route the signal through the speakers. “It’s broadcasting on a singular Starfleet frequency,” he reported. “Wait… That’s not right.”

“Ensign?”

“It’s Code Three-Nine, sir, directed at… Admirals Archer and O’Connell.” Ensign Akagi studied the transmission closely. “Confirmed. We’ve got a hundred year old probe looking for Admiral Archer and Admiral O’Connell… Wait. Changing now to Code Three-Zero.”

“On speakers,” Stryk ordered, noting that Code Three-Zero was something that she could listen to. The Code Three-Nine would have to be delivered directly to one of the admirals. Per regulations, she could not listen to it, regardless of its potentially historical and scientific significance, nor should she even attempt to decrypt it.

The Ensign pressed a button, and the viewscreen changed. For a few moments it was filled with crackles and static. The image fought to change its resolution, finally revealing a human male. His features were only somewhat recognizable as the quality of the source signal had degraded after all of these years. The image lacked definition and color, and the audio continued to crackle.

”...ardate 66…. This i… ...tain Harvey Geisl… ...ip Black Hawk. Th… ...in danger. Repea… ...deration is in dange…”

Stryk immediately looked to Lieutenant Carmichael. The man had served with Captain Geisler prior to his assignment to the Vasco de Gama. She didn’t need to ask him if he considered the message to be authentic. His pale complexion revealed enough.

She tapped her combadge. “Stryk to bridge. Set a course for Deep Space Fifteen. And contact Vice Admiral O’Connell at Deep Space Eleven. Priority one.”

 

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