When Worlds Collide
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Table Of Contents


Mission 33: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

 

The contents of the Ship Logs are considered to be a "compilation" under the provisions of Title 17, U.S. Code (known as the Copyright Act): that is, "A work formed by the collection and assembling of preexisting materials or of data that is selected, coordinated or arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an original work of authorship." As such, it is the property of the ship’s Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET is effected upon publication of this mission by the ship’s Captain ipso facto.

As outlined in Circular 1 (Copyrighted Basics, Library of Congress, Washington DC, USGPO 1989-262-309/12), "copyrighted in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from the copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution."

This mission may not be reproduced in any form without the express, written authorization of STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET.

Prologue

Main Bridge, USS PHOENIX

Lieutenant Sidney Walker slid into the Communications Officer’s seat on PHOENIX’s Bridge after officially relieving the previous watch officer. She glanced around as she firmly seated her personal earbug where it belonged and punched her own code into the console. The console computer acknowledged her right to issue it commands and a synopsis of the last hour’s messages scrolled down the screen. It was the middle of the ship’s "night," and there few other watch officers present. Navigation and Helm, of course, were manned, as usual, and Sidney nodded to Lieutenant (junior grade) Don Walker (no relation) at Navigation when he smiled at her. Ensign Jared Fenwick’s back was to her at Helm. Commander Stryker sat in the Command chair, studying something on his console Sidney couldn’t see. The "chirp" as the Communications Console recognized her brought his eyes up to her station and he smiled absently at her before looking back down. The Engineering Console was manned by someone she didn’t know. The Science Station was empty.

The last message recap disappeared and LT Walker settled in for a quiet watch. It would be a welcome change from dealing with all the convoluted ins and outs of the last mission. Sidney sighed. She hadn’t been involved with the M/V Azure Sky or the asteroid that had belonged to Don somebody or another or even the happenings on New Canton. In a way, she was jealous of the other crew members; but that thought faded as she remembered the results. Maybe an exciting deployment wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, she thought to herself. There might be something said for a sedate, unexciting, boring job. PHOENIX was on a charting mission to an area called The Big Easy, which, she mused, could certainly come under the classification of "boring."

Sidney had absolutely no idea why this particular area of space was called The Big Easy and had come up empty when she tried to research the name on the ship’s Main Library Computer, except for a veiled reference to a city on Earth that had been swallowed up 200 years ago by the Gulf of Mexico during the rise of sea level caused by one of the planet’s many warming spells. Little was known of The Big Easy as well, except that there were star systems and, possibly, planets. It would be the job of PHOENIX to find out.

An hour went by without a single message earmarked for PHOENIX, either "Action" or "Information," and Sidney wondered if this was a good time to try out something that Master Chief Miller had told her about during Communications Officer School. It was called (Master Chief Miller hadn’t known why) "Surfing the Net." Subspace communications was made up of 104 "bands," each with 1,000 subdivisions which could be thought of as frequencies, although they weren’t a frequency like those used by amplitude modulation or frequency modulation radio. They were more like tunnels through which messages could be transmitted, but almost every Starfleet officer, except for those purists who refused to compromise, called them frequencies. The bands were designated "A" through "ZZZZ," and the frequencies went by simple numbers.

There were some reserved frequencies, like A-016 for emergency traffic, which were always monitored; and those assigned to Fleet usage, but most of them were used by anyone who wanted to send a message from point A to point B. Each entity in the Federation, whether it was a ship, a station or a planet, had an assigned frequency. PHOENIX’s frequency was ABZ-452. The interesting thing about them was that if the frequency was not being used, there was a musical tone to the carrier. When you "Surfed the Net" you programmed your communications scanner to randomly sample different frequencies and impose a rhythm on the sampling. Sometimes the combination of carrier tones would create a weird sort of symphony that many Communication Officers enjoyed listening to. LT Walker had never tried it, but it seemed like a fascinating thing to do. She glanced around the Bridge once more. Satisfied that everyone was busy with their own consoles, she instructed her console to begin a random search of frequencies A-01 through ZZZZ-1000 with a syncopated theme and to send the signal to her earbug.

Bridge, Imperial Ship Deathbringer

The Hsssttsk battlecruiser Deathbringer was imitating a hole in space—and doing it quite successfully. Only its passive sensors were operating, its engine throttled down to a level that just barely operated the environmental systems which kept the crew alive. Novice Warrior Yklash made not a sound as he carefully scanned the multitude of channels in subspace, looking for the telltale sign of life. Although young for such an important post, Yklash was an accomplished Communicator. He had already found two other civilizations on this, his first voyage aboard a Hsssttsk warship. Even now, other ships of the fleet were rounding up the beings he had found to take them to the Home Planet and feed the millions and millions of fellow Hsssttsks who were desperate for food. The fact that the two civilizations were sentient beings, one of them with spaceflight, was totally unimportant.

The Hsssttsk Queens—there were hundreds of them now—were fertile and laid thousands of eggs at a time. Of course, not all of them hatched. The Queen often made a meal of her unborn offspring, especially since fewer and fewer Ghugh (the favorite meal of a Hsssttsk) were being produced. Novice Warrior Yklash didn’t know why that was; the question of why seldom crossed his mind and, when it did, he spent very little time on it. The only thing of any importance to a Hsssttsk, any Hsssttsk, was food—any kind of food.

Planet PMK-1024-5

The ship had gouged a ten-mile-long furrow in the grassy plain when it plowed into the planet. The once powerful Jirzzaque warship now lay in three broken and smashed sections, the bodies of its crew nothing more than crumpled forms rotting in the bright sunlight. There were no survivors. There was enough power left in the backup systems to transmit a weak signal—and that wouldn’t last but a few more hours. The subspace transmitted neither knew nor cared that the ship had crashed. It simply fulfilled its designed purpose and sent out the pre-programmed message over and over again.

Main Bridge, USS PHOENIX

Sidney quickly got bored with "Surfing the Net." It was an interesting experience, but not one that excited her. Maybe I’m not doing it right, she thought. Master Chief Miller seemed to think it was great fun. What am I missing? She reached out to the console and stopped the random sampling, frowning as she thought hard. Suddenly an orange light appeared on her screen. Sidney glanced at the readout and quickly entered the frequency. Null? She thought. If it’s a null frequency, why am I getting a signal? Honing in on the signal she boosted the gain. The signal strengthened and she held her hand over the earbug as though that would help her understand what she was hearing. The signal was still weak even after she boosted it, but Sidney managed to locate its origin in just a few seconds. She listened for a moment, puzzled at the lack of intelligence in the signal.

"Commander?" she called out.

Stryker looked up from his console. "Yes, Lieutenant?"

"Commander, I have an incoming signal on a null frequency." Walker tried to sound nonchalant, but it wasn’t easy. For some reason, alarm bells were going off in her head. She wasn’t prescient but she had learned long ago to listen carefully to the little voice in her head that kept repeating "Danger! Danger!"

"Source?" Stryker asked.

"Two eight five by one three three by zero one nine."

"Navigation, what’s on those coordinates?" Stryker turned to look at Don Walker.

It took LTJG Walker a couple of minutes before he could answer. "A class K star, Commander, with no planetary system indicated—it’s an unexplored system."

"Still have it, Sidney?" Commander Stryker turned back to the Communications Officer.

"Yes, Sir. Weak but steady. Nothing but a tone. It sounds like it might be some sort of beacon."

Stryker leaned back in his chair and absentmindedly stroked his goatee, his eyes unfocused as he contemplated the information—or lack thereof—from Sidney and Don. It took him less than 30 seconds to make a decision.

"Helm, plot a course to the signal source. Warp 2. Estimated time of arrival?"

"Four hours, Sir," Fenwick answered promptly. He had started to lay out a course as soon as Sidney reported the bearing.

Stryker nodded and punched a button on the arm of his chair. "Captain, this is the Bridge."

Captain T. E. Lawrence’s reply was immediate even though she had been sound asleep. "This is the Captain."

"Captain, I have an unknown signal on a null frequency classified as a beacon. The ship is at Warp 2 heading for the origin coordinates. Estimated time of arrival is four hours."

T. E. nodded then realized Stryker couldn’t see her. "Good work, Commander. I’m on the way up."

Bridge, Imperial Ship Deathbringer

"Warrior Joat! I have an unknown signal!" Yklash called out, his green skin flushing in his excitement. Was this a third world he had found? If so, he would surely be promoted and—Yklash licked his lips—given extra food.

The harsh voice of the captain shattered his excitement. "Useless report! Do it right or you will be my dinner!"

Yklash gulped. "Sir, I have an unknown signal from an unexplored system approximately 100 light years from our position."

"Nothing more?" The voice dripped with displeasure.

"No, Warrior Joat. No other information available."

Without turning his head, the Hsssttsk captain snapped at his helmsman. "Take us there! Now!"

Planet PMK-1024-5

The small animal sniffed at the body and backed hastily away from the pungent smell. There was nothing to eat here. It turned on its back legs and wandered off, oblivious to the signal still being transmitted from the wreckage; a signal that would trigger an encounter between two totally different civilizations. The crews of both ships would soon learn that it can get messy when worlds collide.