Consciousness returned to Jonozia Lex and a wave of disorientation passed through him as the minds of symbiont and host coalesced into a single stream of thought. For a normal joined Trill it would an experience that would have been unsettling, but for Lex was just another aspect of his joined existence; a side effect of his mixed heritage. There were times when Jonozia and Lex were two entirely separate beings and others where the two were merged so completely that you couldn’t tell where the one ended and the other began. It was something that Sara had noticed and commented on more than once.
He opened his eyes and blinked several times. His vision was hazy and it took a while for them to focus. He started to pull himself up from the deck, using the back of Arkin’s chair for support. As he reached standing position he became light headed, fighting off a wave of nausea that confirmed his suspicion he had suffered a mild concussion.
He heard a groan from the direction of the tactical station and he carefully turned in that direction to find a fully conscious Elizabeth Lisley helping Kate Sheridan to extract herself from her seat. Lex looked around the rest of the dimly lit bridge, checking on the other members of the bridge crew. James Dulmis was pulling himself off the floor near the operations console, favouring his right leg over his left as he did so, while Arkin Jora and Hanulk both lay slumped unmoving over their consoles. He checked Arkin for signs of life and was relieved to find a pulse. He was about to do the same with Hanulk when he noticed the scorch marks on the console and bulkheads surrounding the Saurian and Lex knew there was little he could do for the Engineer who had probably saved all their lives.
“Good to see you back in the land of the living, Captain,” said Lisley as she approached, accompanied by Kate Sheridan. There was no humour in her voice.
“Thank you Commander,” replied Lex as he noticed the line of drying blood that ran down the right side of her face for the first time, “Are you ok.”
“This?” asked Lisley, putting her hand up to her hairline self-consciously. “It’s just a scratch.”
“What about you, Captain?” asked Sheridan, “You look a little pale.”
“I’ll be fine,” he replied, straitening up. “What’s our current status?”
“Power to the bridge is offline,” Lisley responded, “and communications with the rest of the ship are down.”
Lex tapped his combadge, but the small device gave a non-functional buzz. He gave it another tap with the same result. “Odd,” he said, “even with the ship’s communication system out, our combadges should still work.”
“Their signal strength is greatly reduced though,” said James Dulmis. “Low level radiation or a dampening field would be enough to disrupt them.” He pulled out his tricorder, which was similarly unresponsive. “Looks like it’s affecting tricorder functions too.”
“Lieutenant, stay here and try to get the sensors working,” Lex ordered Dulmis. “See if you can discover the source this disruption and whether it’s natural or artificial. Also look into ways of getting our equipment working if we prevent it.
“Commander Lisley, I want you to stay here with Lieutenant Dulmis. Try to get a couple of these consoles up and running and access the sensor logs from before the crash. Find out what happened and where we are. Planets don’t just appear out of nowhere. Commander Sheridan and I will see if we can find some more survivors in the rest of the ship.”
“What about Jora?” asked Dulmis looking over his shoulder at the injured Bajoran, his concern for his friend evident.
“I’ll send Dr. Richmond up to see to her as soon as I find him,” Lex replied sympathetically, “but there’s not much we can do for her right now. I need you to concentrate accessing those sensor logs.”
“Aye sir,” Dulmis replied turning back, trying to refocus his attention on the job at hand.
“I’m counting on you, James,” reminded Lex.
“Yes sir,” he repeated, more confidently this time. “I won’t let you down.”
Lex nodded and then headed towards the exit with Sheridan in tow. He removed the panel to the right hand side of the door and pulled down on the emergency release. The doors parted an inch and he wrapped his fingers around the edge of one of them while Sheridan did the same with the other. After a few hard pulls they separated far enough for them to squeeze through and into the adjoining corridor.
Lieutenant William Johnson watched as Dr. Richmond reached over and lowered Ensign Daveney’s eyelids as the single continuous note from the Doctor’s tricorder marked the young engineer’s passing.
“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said, his voice heavy with remorse, “there’s nothing I could do for her.”
Johnson nodded to show he understood. In the cacophony of noise and light that had come from Defender’s exploding systems during the crash landing, Johnson had had to watch in horror as the console Daveney had been working at had exploded, throwing her and another engineer, Ensign Harris, across the room where she landed in a limp heap. Johnson had originally considered Harris to have been less fortunate than Daveney when he saw that he had been impaled by a piece of wreckage, but he now realised that Harris’ death had been instantaneous while Daveney had remain alive for several minutes after the ship had come to rest.
The creaking of the doors on the upper level broke Johnson’s moment of grief and the sound caused both men to look up in that direction.
“Hello,” a female voice called through the widening gap, “is anyone alive in here?”
“Down here,” Johnson called back, standing up to get a better look at the new arrival. A moment later, the recognisable forms of Kate Sheridan and the Captain squeezed through the gap they had created and stood on the upper level.
“Glad to see you’re ok, Lieutenant,” said Lex. “You too, Doctor. Are you the only people down here?”
“The only ones alive sir,” Johnson replied. “I sent crewmen Rhodes and Gray and Ensign Conrad to search for survivors.”
“Good,” replied Lex as he climbed down the ladder to the lower level. “Doctor, I’m afraid you’re needed on the bridge. Ensign Arkin took a nasty hit to the head during our landing and she’s unconscious.”
“I’ll go take a look,” said Richmond. As Lex reached the bottom he lost his balance and pitched forward, only avoiding a face-first landing on the deck thanks to Richmond catching him by the right arm. “You don’t look too good yourself, Captain.”
“I’ll be fine,” insisted Lex, demonstrating the bravado that comes naturally to the commanders of Starfleet vessels.
“No, you won’t,” responded Richmond, reaching into his medkit and pulling out a hypo-spray, “at least not until I give you some of this.”
Lex didn’t resist as Richmond pressed the hypo to his neck and the device hissed delivering the medication. Lex immediately looked more sure-footed and the colour began to return to his face.
“My pleasure,” said Richmond, heading for the ladder, passing Sheridan, who had just reached the bottom. “I’ll head to the bridge and see what I can do for Arkin.”
Lex turned his attention Johnson who had waited patiently for the Captain to finish with the Doctor. “Lieutenant, I need to know if you can repair the damage and get any of our systems operational again.”
Johnson moved over to one of the consoles on the front wall. Most of the displays were flickering on and off so he selected one of the more stable ones and started tapping commands into it, bringing up the Master Systems Display. Most of it was flashing a worrying red and Johnson shook his head.
“Propulsion is completely gone,” he said, pointing to the screen. “The Impulse system is completely fried and it looks like one of the nacelles has been torn away from the hull. It doesn’t make much difference without a warp core, but it has created a large hole in the side of the ship that extends across all four decks.”
“So what you’re saying that we’re not getting off this planet,” said Sheridan with a little gallows humour.
“Not on this ship, no,” replied Johnson in a similar tone.
“What about communications? Can we get a signal out?” asked Lex.
“With impulse and warp gone, any power requirements are coming from the battery backup,” Johnson replied, “and that’s looking dodgy. Added to that it looks like the communications system is all but destroyed as well.”
“I doubt we could punch through the interference with only battery power anyway,” said Lex.
“Captain, whatever caused this fried almost every system on the ship,” said Johnson. “We were lucky to have survived at all.”
“I don’t think luck as much to do with it as Ensign Arkin’s piloting skill did,” responded Lex.
The mention of the ship’s Bajoran helm officer gave Sheridan an idea. “What about the shuttles?” she suggested. “We could use one of them to get beyond the interference.”
Johnson pointed to the MSD. “Unfortunately the shuttle bay doors are located on the underside of the ship,” said Johnson. “Even if the shuttles survived we’ve no way to get them out of the bays.”
“The Defiant-class is designed for atmospheric entry and planetary landing isn’t it?” asked Lex.
“Yes,” confirmed Johnson. “Those systems probably helped to protect us during our crash landing.”
“And the shuttles are deployable while on the surface?” continued Lex.
“I don’t think there’s ever been a practical demonstration of the function, but the clearance required just to keep the nacelles off the surface should allow a shuttle to be piloted out from under the...” Johnson trailed off as he realised what Lex was suggesting and returned his attention to the MSD. He checked several of the systems and then turned back to Lex and Sheridan. “The landing struts seem to be intact as do the anti-gravity systems. Unfortunately, it looks like the front of the ship is buried pretty deep. We’d have to dig the ship out before we could extend the forward struts.”
“Could the aft struts be used separately to raise the back of the ship and give us the clearance we need?” asked Sheridan.
“I could cut the power from the fore systems so that only the aft ones activate,” replied Johnson, “but we would need to discover how deeply we’re buried first though otherwise no amount of power will raise that back of the ship.”
“Ok, Kate and I will check on the status of shuttles,” said Lex. “I want you to work on the feasibility of actually getting them out of the ship. I think that we’ll need them no matter what our current location is.”
“Meanwhile I want the rest of your engineering team to get as many systems operational as possible. We could be here for some time.”
“Aye Captain,” replied Johnson.
The console in front Elizabeth Lisley flashed to life and then flashed off again.
“How’s that?” James Dulmis asked from beneath the console.
“I had something for a moment, but then it went,” replied Lisley positively. It was a more encouraging response than they’d had from the five other consoles they had tried so far, which had all simply remained dark.
“Let me try this,” said Dulmis. He started fiddling about under the console again. A scraping noise from behind Lisley caused her to turn and she saw Dr. Richmond widen the gap in the doors before entering the bridge and making his way to where Arkin Jora lay slumped over her console. Lisley nodded in his direction in greeting and he reciprocated
“Ok, what’s it like now?” asked Dulmis, drawing her attention back. She turned to the console and saw that it was online and was displaying the controls for tactical, its standard function. Lisley quickly reconfigured the console to access the ship’s sensor logs from immediately before the crash, but only the current sensor data was displayed. From the information that the damaged sensors displayed it seemed that the ship had crashed on a class M planet. However, the atmosphere was badly polluted and radiation was above the norms for an M-class world. The readings seemed to indicate that it was, or had until recently been, inhabited by a pre-warp civilisation.
Wonderful, thought Lisley. On top of everything else, we need to ensure that the Prime Directive is upheld too.
“I’ve got the sensors up, but I still don’t have access to the sensor data from before the crash.”
“Hang on,” replied Dulmis, pushing himself out from under the console. He stood up beside Lisley and she leaned back as he worked the controls. “This’ll take a minute or two.”
Lisley looked towards the front of the bridge where Dr. Richmond was attending to Arkin. The dim blue illumination of the Emergency lights casting an eerie glow over him and she could see him attending to the wound on the side of her head before applying a cortical stimulator. It looked like the young Bajoran had sustained a nasty concussion during the ship’s planet fall and Lisley silently wished for her swift recovery. All of Defender’s survivors owed their lives to her piloting skills.
Beyond Richmond and Arkin she could see the shattered remains of the viewscreen with its circuitry showing behind and just to its right she could make out the hunched from of the recently deceased Hanulk, to who they also owed their lives. Lisley hoped that the engineer’s death had been a swift and painless one and was relieved that he lay in an area where the Emergency lighting had failed, preventing them from seeing the full extent of the injuries that had killed him.
“There we go,” said Dulmis, standing up from the console and causing Lisley turn and face the display once more. She again attempted to access the sensor logs and the computer complied with her request this time. She checked the readings shortly before the ship lost power and discovered that they had passed through a subspace anomaly that had gone undetected by the sensors until a fraction before they had passed through it. This anomaly had destabilised their warp core and overloaded several systems, including the sensors causing a break in the data. When it resumed moments later thanks to Hanulk, it showed a dramatic shift in the ship’s position.
Lisley accessed the starcharts and attempted to find a match, hoping that they hadn’t been transported to an uncharted part of the galaxy or beyond, and relief swept over her when a match was found inside known space. However, her relief became short lived though when the full details were displayed.
“That can’t be right,” she said to herself and started to check the data again.
Kate Sheridan secured herself on the ladder with her right arm and then reached down and pulled hard on the release lever for the Jeffries tube exit hatch below her. At first, the lever didn’t budge and she pulled again, putting more of her weight behind it this time. She felt it give this time and after another pull on it a crack opened in the hatch.
Letting go of the now useless lever, Kate repositioned herself just above the hatch itself and spreading her legs so that she could place her feet on the small ledges either side of the hatchway. She reached down and grabbing the edges of the two halves of the hatch inside the gap attempted to pull them apart. After a momentary resistance the two halves retracted into their housings, revealing only darkness below, interrupted at irregular intervals by the flashing of the malfunctioning emergency lights. Activating her wrist beacon and climbing back onto the ladder, Kate continued her descent into the shuttle bay.
She stepped off the bottom rung of the ladder and turned to shine the wrist beacon’s light around the small launch facility. Located on the ship’s port side, which had taken most of the damage during the landing, she had expected the damage to be far greater here than it had been in the starboard and centre bays, but that hadn’t prepared her for what she discovered. The shuttle pods in the starboard bay and the shuttle in the central bay had remained anchored in place, sustaining only minor damage, while here one of the shuttle pods had come loose and slammed into the one beside it. That sent both careening across the bay into the bay doors, denting the metal, and, from the looks of the scorched area around the point of impact, this had caused a micro-fracture. During the entry into the atmosphere the temperature would have risen several hundred degrees and they’d been lucky that it hadn’t caused the structural integrity field to fail; otherwise the ship would have broken up killing them all and spreading parts of the ship for miles.
The putrid smell of burnt flesh invaded her nostrils and she started to seek the source fearing what she knew it had to be. Something caught her eye as she passed the beam from her wrist beacon over the mangled shuttles and she brought the light to bear on the area as she moved in for a closer look. Almost immediately, she had to stifle a gag reflex.
Kate had seen some fairly gruesome things in her time as a security officer and the sight of the charred remains of two crewmembers who had been assigned to the bay ranked up there with some of the worst. Crushed beneath the two shuttlepods, she couldn’t tell if they’d still been alive when the temperature had increased so dramatically in the bay and she quietly prayed that they hadn’t as she shone the light away again.
Deciding that the temperature would have destroyed anything that could have been salvageable, Kate turned back to the entrance of the Jeffries tube and left, leaving the gruesome sight and foul smell behind as quickly as possible.
<-- Prologue | Coverpage | Chapter 2 -->