Posted on Wed Jun 24th, 2020 @ 3:46am by Captain Nycolas Temple & Lieutenant Commander Mindo & Lieutenant Ziara Rrareth & Lieutenant John Sandoval & Lieutenant Krysia Kaleri-Smith & Lieutenant JG Vecon Fick & Admiral Gordon Francis
Edited on on Fri Jul 10th, 2020 @ 5:59pm
The Evils Within
Timeline: After "Onwards"
Captain Temple returned to the Bridge after personally seeing off the Away Team in the Cargo Bay. He stomped onto the Bridge like a man on a mission.
"Lieutenant Rrareth," He spoke as soon as the Turbo lift doors opened. The Chief Tactical Officer was now standing in for Lieutenant Griffin. "What's the status of the Away Team?"
"They are en route to the beacon. No issues so far," Ziara replied in their clear 'on duty' voice.
"Good.... Thank you." Nyx nodded as he took his seat. The Lieutenant had been a reliable and efficient addition to the crew, someone he knew he could always rely on for answers, instead of questions. "Keep a close eye on them. Be ready to beam them out."
"Maintaining transporter lock. Aye, Aye, Sir," Ziara said, making a small adjustment to maintain the manual lock on the away team.
"Excellent." Nyx replied as he tapped his console, opening a comms channel to Engineering, "Lieutenant Mindo, you keep repairing the ship and I keep damaging it. Please tell me I didn't do anything permanent this time."
=/\= "Nothing permanent," the Chief Engineer's voice said through the comm. "But it's looking pretty bad. The entire ships structural integrity took a nasty blow and you can forget about shields for a while. Most systems are in tact, and the core remains undamaged. However, I wouldn't try flying out of here for at least a day."
Nyx tried to hide his disappointment, "Let's hope the rescue team doesn't require a more immediate evac." =/\= He commented into his arm panel.
=/\= Hey, I said I wouldn't try," Mindo replied. "I didn't say it was impossible!"
There came a laugh from the Captain, "I may have to hold you to that. Bridge out." =/\=
Krysia walked out onto the bridge, she wasn't sure how much use she could be but she was going to offer it anyway. "Captain, can I be of assistance?"
The Captain looked across the Bridge to see Lieutenant Kaleri arriving. He gave a brief smile and nod. "I'll need you on Ops for the time being. With Nash and K'Laus elsewhere, you're my most experienced Operations officer."
Krysia nodded. "By all means, Sir." She smiled and nodded before heading over to Ops and relieving the junior officer already there. Getting comfortable in the seat at the station was going to be awkward, but she made it work as best as she could.
Temple nodded and looked down to the screen on his chair once more. "Are we reading anything from Lieutenant Boucher, Mr. Fick?"
"No, Sir. There's a lot of interference..." Fick's tone was frustrated and his fingers tapped on the console a little harder than normal. "I'm working on it, but the atmosphere is being really difficult."
"Keep at it," Nyx replied firmly. "If there's a way to penetrate that atmosphere, I know you'll find it. Try using the sensor logs from our descent to Hansel and Gretel a path backwards."
Fick hadn't really thought about the sensor logs, but now it made perfectly good sense. He glanced over at Nyx for a moment, with a little smile. "Yes, Sir!" He immediately pulled the sensor logs and started to go through them carefully.
Just then, the Tactical console chirped with a notification. Someone was hailing the Pandora! The signal was faint, audio only, and seemed to generate a few miles from where the Pandora landed.
Ziara ensured they were recording the message and announced, "We're picking up a signal, audio-only, faint. It's originating a few miles from our position."
Looking around the faces on the Bridge, the Captain paused. He decided to speak his thoughts out loud, "We had specific instructions from Admiral Thac to conduct a silent mission. That is, to make contact only with the Federation research team in the Pithos facility and remove them from the planet safely and secretly. We had been specifically told not to tell anyone else about our mission, not even Starfleet HQ. Our job was to investigate the distress call and evacuate if necessary." Nyx then shrugged, "Of course, we had also been told the facility was on Hesiod Blue, when it was not. We had to risk the ship and our safety to reach the facility. We were not given any of the vital information about where we were going, who we were meeting, and why." He shook his head, "There's so much we don't know, or has been deliberately withheld. So what if this hail contains vital information necessary for us to complete our mission? What do we think, Bridge?"
Krysia sat listening to everything Nyx was saying, as ship's counselor she was also his sounding board and there to offer advice where necessary. “Captain, if we don’t answer the hail how are we going to know? Like you said it could be someone with vital information, or perhaps even the research team we’re here to find.”
"If this hail is a distress call, we have an obligation to assist, Captain," John added. "And it's the right thing to do, orders be damned."
Ziara listened to the hail's greeting silently, taking advantage of the muting technology that prevented their natural voice from being heard, as the others talked. "If it's the federation team, then we are here to pick them up. I can place the hail's greeting on speakers, we're still passive, you can signal me if you want to open communications," the tomboy Caitian announced.
"Alright then, let's hear it," Temple announced, standing from the Captain's chair as he did.
Ziara put the hail on. The gruff voice of an older man came out through the speakers. =/\= "Federation vessel, you have landed in an unauthorized location. You do not have clearance to be here. Please depart immediately."
"This is Captain Temple of the USS Pandora," Nyx began, "We have been sent by Starfleet Command to respond to an SOS call from this location. We have been authorised to make contact and conduct an evacuation."
There was a little static on the other end, then the reply, =/\= "This is Admiral Gordon Francis. Supervisor of the Pithos Research Facility. I was not aware of any distress call. I can assure you, we are perfectly fine here. Please depart and erase any gathered information regarding this place."
Nyx tried not to roll his eyes. "We are more than happy to relay the subspace SOS transmission that Starfleet received, Admiral. But there is no mistake, Pithos sent a distress signal and I am under orders to investigate."
There was a static silence before Admiral Francis replied, "Pithos is a research facility. Our mission is a peaceful one. There is no reason for anyone here to send a distress call. If you can transmit the message, I will open an investigation myself, and you can leave."
"Allow us a moment to comply," Nyx explained, before giving a nod to Ziara to mute the call. Looking to the Bridge, the Captain frowned. "Thoughts?"
"We don't have any proof that he is Admiral Francis; he's claiming something didn't happen that he should know about that we know did happen and he's on a non-standard frequency without authorization codes. I'm not convinced the speaker is who they say they are. We should continue with the rescue mission," Ziara explained her thoughts.
"Isn't that a bit paranoid?" John asked.
"My wife's specialization is in Changelings and other shapeshifters, I'm never not paranoid," the short Caitian replied.
The diplomat could only nod. "Fair enough. Give me a moment to check something out, Captain." He turned back to his aft console. "Let's start simply. I'm putting up on the viewscreen information pertaining to Admiral Gordon Francis, including voice print ID and current assignment. If Admiral Francis died two years ago or is currently five thousand light-years away, we'll know this isn't him." He pushed some more buttons, and a personnel file appeared on the main screen.
The viewscreen dossier of Admiral Francis came on the display. His dossier claimed he was sixty-one. The picture on file showed a man with a receding blond hairline and thin blond beard. Square-jawed and broad shoulders suggesting he was either a weight lifter or a frequent cheeseburger eater. Most of the information on the man was labeled "Classified, Section-31," including a service history that labeled his assignments for the past several years as "Classified, Section-31."While he never had command of a starship, he spent twelve years as an intelligence officer on the USS Hudson, where he served as an Intelligence officer. While there, he earned the rank of Lieutenant-Commander. Soon after, he was reassigned to Earth and had his rank promoted to Commander. He served there for several years, working his way up the ladder to Section-31. After that, all other records were either classified or highly redacted.
Giving this information, the computer also included a voice print ID and reported that the voice in the hail was a 98.8% match.
"It's okay to be overly cautious," the Captain spoke. "A lot of this doesn't add up. That transmission was coming from well below the surface. Still, we need to fulfil our mission parameters."
"Captain, I have a pathway back," Fick stated. "Just so you know. Still nothing from Boucher." He looked over his shoulder briefly at the captain. Fick wasn't usually one to show a lot of distress in a given situation, he was good at keeping a cool head, but his eyes showed his worry.
"Good work, Mr. Fick," The Captain smiled, "We'll at least be about to get out of here when the time comes." Nyx nodded to Ziara to hail Pithos again. "Admiral, our ship received significant damage while landing on the planet. It will take at least twenty four hours of repairs so that we can depart."
"Very well," the Admiral's voice responded. "Unfortunately, we do not have the proper equipment here to assist in your repairs. I'm sure you understand. Please transmit the distress call so that I can begin my investigation. I assure you, Captain, we are in no need of assistance. Francis out." The communication was severed.
Krysia looked at Nyx as the transmission closed. “He’s worried, extremely worried about us being here Captain. They’re definitely hiding something and that something is unpredictable, it could put our away team in danger.”
The light indicating the transporter lock on the away team went out. Ziara looked down and her small hands ran deftly over the LCARS worked quickly to try and reestablish it.
"He's also very rude..." Fick mumbled.
"Seems to be a common trait with Admirals these days." Nyx commented, more to himself. "Lieutenant Rrareth, try to get in touch with the Away Team. We may need them to return to the Pandora."
"We've just lost the transporter lock. I can't even pick up their comm badges. I thought it was a wind shift, but I haven't been able to reestablish contact." Ziara said as they worked, then shook her head. "We won't be able to contact them until the winds shift again. I'm not sure when that will be."
From one of the aft stations, John had a number of data feeds open. With so many absent, he had volunteered to monitor sensor data and other inputs of critical importance. He expected to find nothing. He was wrong.
"Captain," he called, turning his head towards the fore of the bridge. "Some strange sensor readings are coming in. Huh. This can't be right. Sir, the computer is identifying them as lifesigns."
This caused the Captain to stir and lean forward in his chair, "I'm assuming you don't mean our crew..." he commented, though already knew the answer.
John gave a slight smile. "Indeed not, Captain."
Nyx turned to look at Lieutenant Kaleri, "Are you sensing anything?"
Krysia took a few moments to let her senses focus on the planet. It was a piece of fine tuning on a mass scale, having to push aside the sense of those on the ship. She nodded as she looked towards Nyx, "I am now Sir, I wasn't before though. I don't understand why I didn't sense it before!"
"Confusion upon confusion!" He complained to no one in particular. "The planet is not supposed to be inhabited! There shouldn't be life signs out there."
It dawned on Nyx that he was having one of those big life moments, where he had to decide on a path to take and he wasn't sure where to go. He was known for following orders, being the reliant Starfleet officer, always performing his duties no matter the task. That's how he rose to Captain. But following orders had seen his home destroyed; it had seen the Pandora come into serious danger on more than one occasion. And the orders were getting harder to follow. Already they had been struck by discoveries that had been deliberately withheld, and unnecessary lies from the people in charge that were quickly being unravelled. He worried that he was making a rash decision, more of a reaction of been lied-to by Admirals Thac and Francis, but his conscious was telling him to act. So he did.
"While we wait for the repairs and confirmation from the away team, we will investigate the life signs." Nyx declared, looking to the Bridge. "We have a duty as members of the Federation and officers of Starfleet to investigate and assist wherever necessary. It may be that these life signs, these people, may have been the ones to send the distress signal. If so, we must help. Any objections?"
Krys shook her head. “No objections here Sir.”
"Sandoval, Mindo, Rrareth, Kaleri and Fick." Nyx called out, pressing the comms channel on his chair panel to speak with Engineering, "You will form a secondary away team and investigate the life signs. Meet in the Cargo Bay in fifteen minutes."
Krysia looked up at Nyx in surprise, she wasn’t expecting to be assigned to any away duty parties in her condition, but given the life signs they were reading she was the closest thing they had to a walking life signs detector. “Yes Sir.” Heading off the bridge she hoped they had a suit big enough for maternity fit or she’d have to replicate one pretty darned quick, although Starfleet did supply a fair range of sizes in the various suits needed for work in an unsuitable atmosphere.
"Cargo Bay in fifteen minutes, aye-aye. Can I add Ensign T'Kemi to the away team as a sixth?" Ziara asked, as she moved towards the turbo-lift. The short security officer started to think about what they would need on the surface. Ensign Yugrid stepped smoothly into the spot Ziara had vacated and the LCARS shifted to match the Tellarite's preferences.
John stood, gathered his cane from the wall, and followed T’Kemi to the lift.
=/\= "Acknowledged, Captain. I'm heading out now," Mindo said over the comm.
Fick stood from his seat and straightened his uniform. "Aye, Captain." He headed for the turbolift as well. "I guess I should pick up a phaser?"
"Let's hope you won't need it." The Captain replied with a grim smile.