Captain Robert Styles took the padd and skimmed its contents. It contained Commander Flores’ final conclusions and engineering recommendations on Prometheus for the Advanced Starship Design Bureau engineers back at Utopia Planitia. With the prototype starship now returning to space dock following her first successful shakedown cruise, Styles was satisfied with how well the ship’s systems had performed and he was pleased to see that Flores’ report spoke equally well of the ship’s performance in the chief engineer’s usual high level of detail. As he flicked through it, Styles wondered if Flores had included actually putting the ship’s correct registry number on the hull. It was the most cosmetic of problems with the ship, but she had mentioned it on every report that had been sent so far. Finding it brought a smile to his face.
“Thank you, Ensign,” he said, signing the report and handing the padd back to the eager young officer who was still standing to his left by the commander chair. Taking the cue that he had been dismissed, the young man nodded in response and headed back to the turbolift which had brought him to the bridge moments earlier.
Styles relaxed in his seat. He could finally put the failure of the Argus that had cost him the command of that ship behind him, and he was now looking forward to the shore leave that would follow their return to Deep Space Five. The Prometheus’ specially trained skeleton crew had been testing the ship since just before the outbreak of the war and they all were looking forwards to a rest after such a demanding six months. Then, after the yard engineers tweaked the ship, they would begin the next phase of testing, including some of the ships more advanced systems, like the new multi-vector assault mode.
“Captain,” said Lieutenant Mason at ops, “I’m picking up a distress signal.”
“On screen,” responded Styles.
“Sorry, sir,” he replied, “audio only.”
“Pipe it through then.”
Mason nodded and a voice, occasionally interrupted by static, came through the bridge speakers. “This is… Lissepian transport… Request… tance… Overload in… eps…Dead…Space.”
“Can you clean it up?” asked the Captain.
“Sorry, sir, but that’s the best I can do,” said Mason. “It looks like whatever disabled their ship has also badly damaged their comm system.”
“What’s their location?”
“They’re two light years away, on bearing 030, mark 006.”
“That’s not far off our present course, Captain,” said the Tiburonian Ensign at the helm. “It would only delay our arrival at DS5 by three hours.”
“Thank you, Gleb. Alter our course to rendezvous with the transport and bump us up to warp 8,” said Styles. “Mason, send a message to the freighter to let them know we’re coming and a message to DS5 to inform them we’re diverting course.”
“Aye, sir,” they both replied.
Lieutenant Commander Susana Flores strode into sickbay, her engineering kit at her side, looking for Doctor Marcus Haysbert.
In the six months that Flores had served with Haysbert she’d found the young doctor annoyingly idealistic. A veteran of the last war with the Cardassians, Flores had a more pessimistic outlook on life, preferring to live by the adage that if something can go wrong it will go wrong, which, as an engineer, tended to pre-empt a lot of problems. It was also the reason she made her reports so detailed.
Haysbert on the other hand was more a glass-is-half-full kind of person. He was upbeat about everything, even the hammering that they were getting in the war. “Don’t worry, it’ll all work out alright in the end,” was his take on the conflict, and it grated on Flores every time she heard it. The only way this was going to be alright was after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention a lot of death.
“Are you here, Doctor?” she called out, hoping he wasn’t.
“Hi there, chief!” greeted Haysbert excitedly as he exited his office, one of his annoyingly large grins plastered across his face. Approaching Flores the grin dropped and was replaced by the only thing that the engineer hated more, a mock frown. “Cheer up, chief, it might never happen.”
Only if I’m very lucky, she thought as she replied, “You called with an engineering problem?”
Haysbert seemed to notice her down-to-business tone and dropped the frown, “Andy’s on the fritz.”
“Oh, sorry, I mean the EMH,” he corrected before he shrugged his shoulders. “He kinda reminds me of a comedian from the early Twenty-First Century.”
Flores gave him a look that conveyed that she was unimpressed and after a moment’s silence he continued, “Anyway, as I don’t have a medical staff I’ll need him to help out if we find any casualties on the transport, but he keeps destabilising.”
The ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram had only been installed six weeks ago during a short stop off at Starbase 251 and, like the rest of the ship, it was an advanced prototype of the Mark II EMH. Flores couldn’t believe that Haysbert had given it a nickname already.
“Computer, activate EMH.”
There was a buzzing noise as a thin, brown haired man in a blue Starfleet uniform blurred into existence. “Please state the nature of the medical emergency,” it said in an official tone.
“Diagnostic mode,” said Flores.
The EMH nodded and then stood motionless. Flores walked over to the nearest console and started to work the controls. After a moment the EMH shimmered transparent, then solidified again and Flores pressed a few more buttons before opening the engineering kit that she’d placed on the surface beside her.
“Why are you wearing that uniform?” she asked, giving Haysbert a sideways glance.
“What do you mean?” said the Doctor looking down at his clothes, before he remembered that he was dressed in the gold of operations, rather than the usual blue of medical. “Oh, the colour you mean? I think there’s a problem with my replicator – it wouldn’t give me anything else this morning.”
“You should report things like that to engineering,” Flores said as she rolled her eyes. “Computer. Deactivate EMH.”
The hologram shimmered out of existence.
“I was in a rush,” he replied with a shrug. “So what’s up?”
“There’s a malfunction in one of the holo-projectors, won’t take too long to fix,” she said, pulling out an instrument out with a long pulsing shaft. She knelt down by one of the bio-beds, removed a panel and began to move the device over the exposed circuitry. After a little while she stopped, pulled out her tricorder and scanned the repair. Satisfied, she closed the tricorder, returned it to the pouch on her waist and stood up. “There that should…”
The whine of a disruptor cut her sentence short as its beam hit her square in the chest. Haysbert turned to see a newly materialised Romulan standing in the middle of sickbay and he quickly leaped for the safety of his office as the intruder fired again. The first shot missed creating a large black scorch mark on the wall behind where the doctor had been standing, but the second shot caught Haysbert mid dive and he landed hard, loosing consciousness.
“Intruder Alert, Intruder Alert!” cried the computer, too late to save either officer as the Romulan charged out of sickbay.
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