It has been four months since the EXCALIBUR uncovered
a renegade Romulan plot on Vulcan. The "natives" have been restless and
Starfleet uneasy. At this point, it appears that our patrol may be indefinite.
My bridge crews have been working back to back shifts from the time we went on
alert. People are edgy. Judging from the crew’s collective temperament, I’m
going to recommend that the PHOENIX be given a temporary reassignment to ease
Captain TE Lawrence snapped off the recorder and sat
back. She was as edgy as her crew. It would be nice to have almost anything
to ease the strain of playing patrolman.
"Captain," LT Sidney Walker said, fingering the
communications receiver. "I’m receiving a Class One distress signal from the
"On speakers," Lawrence said.
Fingers running nimbly over the controls, Walker
brought up the message.
"Mayday, mayday. This is Captain Roderick Collins of
the U.S.S. Usher. We are currently under some kind of attack. I’ve lost nearly a
hundred personnel to an unidentified assailant. We have discovered a common link
among the victims. Medical personnel have found that each victim…"
Subspace static suddenly broke in, cutting off Captain
"Get him back!" TE ordered.
LT Walker worked frantically from her station. "I
don’t know, sir. It looks as though the transmission was cut off at the source…
No wait. I’ve got it again."
"… don’t know how much longer we can hold out. Request
immediate assistance… location… Rusdic VII…"
There was no more forthcoming information. The
transmission had been severed by the Usher.
Lawrence made an instant decision. She gave a quick
sideward glance at Stryker. "Lieutenant Boldian, set a course for Rusdic VII.
Mister Pyrebon, I want this ship at warp 8 in five seconds." TE turned back to
Walker. "Tell Third Fleet Headquarters what is happening and that we’re going to
investigate. And keep trying to reestablish communications with the Usher. We
need to talk to that ship. If you break through, tell Collins we’re on our way."
Lawrence slapped a button on the arm of her chair and
ordered her heads of departments to her ready room in ten minutes.
When Lawrence entered the room she glanced around the
table at Wolphbayne Stryker, Alice McConnell, Seabrook, Mon’Teith, T’Prel, QaS,
Kora Natevera and Colonel Louis Horn, before she sat down at the head of the
TE tersely explained the situation to her officers.
"The Usher is a science vessel. She carries a crew of
two hundred and twenty. Collins had lost half of them by the time we picked up
his distress call. He’s a good captain and wouldn’t be losing half his crew
unless he was up against something he couldn’t handle. We need to find out
what’s going on before anymore people die.
I want two landing parties, completely outfitted. One
group I want on the Usher, the other on the planet. Whatever’s happening is
coming from somewhere; I’m assuming the planet, but let’s explore all
Lawrence turned to her CMO. "Collins was trying to
tell us there was a common thread to the deaths on the ship, but something
interfered with the transmission before he could. You’ll need a medical team to
take care of survivors and I want to know what Collins was trying to tell me."
"I understand, Captain." Natevera replied solemnly.
"The rest of you assemble your teams. And make damn
sure you don’t do anything stupid. I don’t want to bring whatever’s on that ship
back to us. After you’ve determined what’s happened, I want the whole lot of you
to implement decontamination protocol. Understood?"
Six PHOENIX officers materialized into utter darkness,
a sense of overwhelming gloom pervading their spirits.
"Lights!" Mon’Teith ordered.
Each person snapped on a portable light and flashed it
around. They were in a corridor. Except that the lights were out, everything
seemed to be in order. Then they found a body lying face down on the deck.
Doctor Natevera and Mon’Teith turned the body over. It
was a Vulcan male, a look of terror frozen on his dead, chalk white face.
Natevera waved her medical scanner over the body.
"What was the cause of death, "Doctor"?" Asked QaS.
"I find this most disturbing, Commander. This man’s
entire body has been drained of blood."
Kora continued to run her scanner and paused over the
man’s neck. Pulling down his uniform collar, she revealed two puncture wounds
set 4.04 centimeters apart.
Colonel Horn held out a tricoder and slowly turned 360
degrees. It was hot and sticky on Rusdic VII. In no time at all the party who
had gone planetside were drenched in sweat.
"Can’t say this is much of a picnic," LCDR T’Prel
said, pulling at her collar.
"Just make sure you keep yourself hydrated." LT Dylan
Macinis warned. "Even with all this humidity, it won’t take long before the heat
drains you of moisture." He took a swig from his canteen to make a point.
"You find anything, Colonel?" Robert Spenser asked. He
was ready to go back to the ship. Ten minutes in this heat and he’d had it.
Spenser decided he’d rather take shore leave on Vulcan than spend one more
minute in this climate.
Louis Horn studied the tricorder readout thoughtfully.
"I seem to be picking up some metallic debris about three kilometers to the
"Confirmed, Colonel," T’Prel said. She keyed in some
commands on her tricoder. "I’m picking up the same readings.
"I suppose," Triana Edwards groaned, "that we now get
to go on a little hike in this sauna?"
Horn nodded her way.
"In that case," Triana said, "Let’s get this bloody
show on the road. I’m getting thirsty and it’s not water I’m wanting." She made
a quick check on her weapons. "I’ll take point. Why don’t you bring up the rear,
Without another word, Triana marched off in the
direction the tricorder had indicated, the others following after.
"This is disturbing," Natevera said. She looked around
the bridge of the exploratory vessel, the lights of her companions shifting on
one body after another. Every body they had come across had been completely
drained of blood and had the same puncture wounds on the neck.
"I’ve found the captain." Seabrook’s voice was tense.
He knelt by a body on its back next to the command chair. "He’s just like
everyone else we’ve found." He gave an involuntary shiver. Seabrook’s instincts
were normally pretty sharp, and ever since he materialized on this ship, he’d
felt as though he were being watched. There had even been times when he thought
he’d seen something out of the corner of his eye, but when he turn to see, it
was never there. The darkness is playing with your head. Seabrook told
"It would seem that whatever or whoever is doing this
has no preference for the blood of any particular species." Mon’Teith commented.
"This is a mixed crew, and every one of them has suffered the same fate. She
paused. "This may seem odd, but I keep picking up sensations of malevolence. I
do not believe we are alone."
The other five started at her.
"Were you human," QaS said, "I would think you were
over reacting to the gruesome conditions we have found here."
Mon’Teith studied her tricorder readings. "Whatever is
wrong here, we’re not going to solve it this way. I suggest we go back to the
Phoenix and brief the captain on what we’ve found."
"She’ll probably send an engineering crew over to get
the lights back on, and a detail to take care of the bodies. We’re going to have
to put these people in stasis and send them home," stated Kora Natevera.
"But not before we find out what happened to them,"
Seabrook said. He looked over his shoulder again. He simply could not shake off
the feeling that they were being watched.
"Phoenix," Mon’Teith said, "six to beam up."
As they dematerialized, Seabrook was almost certain
something brushed through him. Had he been able to, he would have shuddered with
"Look at this!" LT Plymossarian brushed away a seven
centimeter layer of dirt and plant debris from a piece of metal and pulled it up
for the others to see.
There was a stunned silence as Ply hefted the metal
piece into their line of vision. A large USS Nantucket in red letters was
scrawled across the dirty metal. In the lower corner, the white and blue of a
small UFP logo was visible. The metal had torn directly through the middle of
the logo, leaving a valiant remnant fluttering in a nonexistent breeze.
Spenser blew a low whistle. "Do you think this has
anything to do with the Usher?"
"Hard to say," Replied Ply, "I think we should do a
little more exploring. There might be something else of interest here."
"I agree we keep looking." Horn said. "Keep your
tricoders handy, everyone. Let’s see what else we can find."
"Colonel, scanning the area I’ve picked up a cave
about four kilometers to the northwest. Maybe it’s worth a look," said Spenser.
After checking the readings, Horn had the team take a
short break and then began their trek to the distant cave.
When the party reached the cave they found that the
entrance had been sealed. Triana Edwards was ordered to use her phaser to blast
an opening, to allow them to enter.
The cave was dry and cooler than outside. Running
water could be heard coming further to the back of the cave. The team spread out
each using their handheld lights to light up the area.
"I’ve found the crew… or what’s left of them." Macinis
said. His tricorder helped him find the remains of five human bodies. There was
still some skin, hair and nails left and pieces of Starfleet uniforms were
"This looks interesting," Spenser interjected. He held
up a medium black box that resembled an old recorder. "Maybe it’s one of those
old time mission recorders." He handed it to Horn, who promptly turned it over
"See what you can make of this."
Triana sat down on the ground to examine it.
Ply shook her head. "You’re talking about connecting
years of differences in technology. Don’t see how you will be able to do it."
"I’m a Marine!" Triana simply replied.
Lawrence listened to the report without saying a word.
When Natevera finished the medical briefing, TE stood, clasped her hands behind
her back, and started to pace. Sometimes it was just easier to think when she
was moving. "Any theories as to what or who could have drained the blood from
over two hundred people and leave not a drop on the deck, Kora?" She asked.
"No captain. Not at the moment."
"If I were superstitious," Chandra Tahl muttered, "I’d
say we were dealing with a vampire."
Seabrook gave her a sideways glance and TE glared at
her. "I want reasonable theories, not mythological conjecture!" She snapped.
TE took a breath, and then punched the intercom
button. "Lawrence to Engineering."
"Engineering," came the voice of LT T’Ayia Llire.
"Lieutenant, I want you to organize a couple of engineering teams to get the
Usher back in working order. Make sure you tell your people it’s not a pretty
sight over there. We’ve got a few bodies to clean up."
"Aye, sir." She answered.
Lawrence looked at Natevera. "You get the unpleasant
duty of body detail, Kora. Pick a team and get the job done."
"Once the bodies are collected, we’ll need a place to
"I’ll make arrangements for one of the cargo holds,"
"Use what you need," TE told him.
"I’m going to need some tools aboard ship, Colonel. I
do believe I can get it working." Triana reported.
Horn turned to face the group. "All right, let’s take
a quick tour around this area to see if there is anything else to salvage. I
want us back aboard the Phoenix within the hour."
All of the Heads of Departments were seated around the
table in the Captain’s Ready Room.
"A little magic and presto! We’re connected!" Triana
Edwards couldn’t keep the triumphant smile off her face. "Now, let’s see what
"…Colonel Angelique Usher… three months since we cras…
thrown off course b…unknown gravitar… a...nomaly. W… running low… o… food and
morale. All attempts to commun…with Earth ha… met with failure. …bably too far
ou… range. I’m not sure of th… date anymo… We’ve been beset with terror. There’s
something… here that we ca… fight. Three of ou…crew are dead. Captain Dean and I
found them dead, their bodies complet… drained of blood. …Two puncture wo… in
necks. Found cave and mov… supplies… water here. Sealed cave entrance to protect
oursel… "God I want to go home."
"There isn’t anything more, Captain," Triana informed
Later that evening:
"You’re telling me this woman died exactly the same
way as everyone on the Usher?" Lawrence was enraged. "I told you people to
undergo decontamination protocol before coming back here!" She glared down at
Lieutenant Lana Parker’s unnatural white body lying on the deck in a corridor.
"All decontamination procedures were implemented as
you ordered, sir. Natevera said. "I made certain of that myself." She hesitated
before continuing. "You might be interested in knowing, sir that the same
feeling of malevolence Mon’Teith felt aboard the Usher she reports as feeling
Lawrence hit the comm. Button. "Yellow alert! Yellow
Marie Wallis was preparing for bed. She didn’t notice
the black mist coming out of the room’s vent…