@Theo Whittaker, this was simply an amazing sim because I feel like you've really captured his emotion when he finds out half the senior staff has (probably) died. It made me tear up, even though they aren't gone at all. Perfect writing. 😭
For those not on the Columbia, no, they're not dead. The ship with the away team on it simply cloaked and made it seem like it exploded.
((Bridge - Deck 1, USS Columbia))
((Time Index: Immediately after 'A Spy In The Shadows'))
::Shock waves from the explosion slammed into Columbia and sent Lieutenant Sanara Pran crashing to the floor in an unceremonious heap. She hit the deck with a thud and felt the wind knocked out of her stomach. Almost two decades of Starfleet service- had it really been that long- propelled her instincts and she rolled forwards and into a crouch almost as soon as she hit the deck. Ignoring her aching body, she sprang up on her feet and shouted above the blaring din of the red alert klaxons, her eyes drawn to the expanding and evaporating cloud of flame and debris now filling the viewscreen.::
::It was Rolla Haneer who replied, her face a mask of shock and horror.::
Haneer: The alien vessel... it's exploded.
Pran: Survivor? ::she called out even as she knew the answer to the question.::
::Nobody could have survived an explosion of that magnitude. Commander Thoran and the away team... were no more.::
((Cargo Bay 2 - Deck 13, USS Columbia))
::With Lieutenant Duyzer already getting to work on contacting the Losarian Commonwealth to see if they had any information- concrete or otherwise- about the region of space that Columbia was now exploring, Theo Whittaker turned his attention to two of the newest members of his family. He had already met Ensign Owens when she had first come aboard, but he had missed Ensign Holza's arrival and thus, this was the first time he had met the human officer who wore an earring of the Bajoran faithful. Clearly, there was a story there.::
Whittaker: Your first assignment... how are you finding them?
::Despite the tension that was coursing through his body thanks to his ever mounting suspicions, he tried to move past it for the sake of the two new ensigns. It would not do them any good to see their commanding officer in his own mind, stewing on the number of "coincidences" and signs that pointed to foul play of some sort. When he had first ascended to the captaincy, he had vowed to make himself available to any member of his crew regardless of rank or position. That promise had served him well, especially aboard Columbia which sailed amongst distant stars at the edge of the galaxy.::
Owens: It's a little daunting, sir. There's so much going on, and it's certainly a lot more complex than my academy final. ::she let out a slight smile, but inside she a bit nervous and worried::
::Theo had felt much the same when he had been in her shoes. His first days aboard the Columbiahad been tumultous. The ship had been assigned to investigate a research outpost on Piktar II that had stopped responding to hails. It had transpired that all manner of ethically dubious (if not outright illegal) experiments were being carried out there. One in particular- a sentient weapons system known as "Mercy" had gone rogue and had infiltrated the Columbia's mainframe. He had been sickened to learn that it's core was the neurological imprint of a frightened girl who had been torn from her family in an accident. The program had been purged, but not before the scientists responsible had all but purged the imprint of the girl from the system.::
::It had taken him weeks of counselling to get over that experience.::
::He put the awful memories to one side and turned to Holza, eager to hear what he had to say.::
::There was no time to reply as the cargo bay shook violently and a noise like a thunderclap roared all around them. His arms shot out to arrest his fall, finding purchase against a nearby console that had been set up. The overhead lighting system dimmed and the ship's internal sensors- registering an emergency- activated the red alert klaxons. Somewhere behind him a panel exploded in a shower of sparks.::
Whittaker: ::his first priority at that moment was to Owens and Holza.:: Are you alright? ::he called out above the din of the alarms.::
Whittaker: ::his eyes found Duyzer.:: Pholin?
::He straightened himself up and virtually slapped his communicator.::
Whittaker: =/\= Bridge, what just happened? =/\=
::The voice of Sanara Pran filtered through the small delta shield shaped device. Her tone was one of shock. A career of being party to horrific events had meant that he could recognise the dead tone of somebody who had just seen something terrible.::
Pran: =/\= It’s the alien vessel, captain…=/\= ::she replied, almost Vulcan-like.:: =/\= It’s gone… exploded.=/\=
::Without warning nausea bloomed in Theo’s stomach and he struggled to process the implication of what that meant. Bile roared up his oesophagus and he could the tell tale signs of his gut spasming. He was going to be sick. Closing his eyes, he fought against the urge with every fibre of his muted, shocked being. He swallowed and ignored the unpleasant, bitter taste of bile.::
Whittaker: =/\= Survivors? =/\= ::he asked, even though he already knew the answer.::
::The wait for the Trill officer’s response felt like a hellish eternity, one that stretched on forevermore. When she finally replied, it was like somebody had taken his world and shattered it into a billon pieces. A gut punch to his heart.::
Pran: =/\= None. I’m sorry….=/\= ::she trailed off into silence.::
::The world around Theo Whittaker became unnervingly still and quiet. He could not hear the whooping alert klaxons or the omnipresent hum of the ship’s powerful engines. For one horrific moment, he felt utterly alone and bereft. Then, the deafening silence was replaced with the thundering of blood in his ears- the tell tale sign of his flight or fight reaction kicking in. Adrenaline surged through his body like a magic serum, causing every inch of his skin to tingle and fizz. His jaw line hardened and righteous anger propelled him onwards. He pounded his communicator once again and the world came back to him in a blaze of light and noise.::
Whittaker: =/\= All senior staff, =/\= ::he snapped, his voice echoing through the ship’s internal communication system.:: =/\= report to stations, immediately. =/\= ::ignoring the sharp aching against his breast bone, he turned to look at the three officers with him.:: With me.
::Turning on his heel, he strode across the cargo bay floor in long, angry strides. He didn’t look back to see if Duyzer, Holza and Owens were following him. All that mattered was to know who or what had taken his family from him. He would mourn for Jarred Thoran, for Luna Walker, for Rune Jolara, for Karen Stendhal and for Anath G’Renn later. Justice would be served first.::
((Bridge – Deck 1, USS Columbia))
((Time Index: Three Minutes Later))
::Theo strode out of the turbolift so quickly, the doors were still half open. The ride in the turbolift had been silent with nobody talking. Theo had been lost in a world of ruminating over the situation, turning over idea after idea. Without concrete information, however, he had very little to go on.::
::He barely acknowledged that Lieutenant ch’Ranni and Ensign Colquhoun had arrived on the bridge before he and the rest. He looked to Pran, his angers blazing with anger.::
Whittaker: What the hell happened, Lieutenant?
Pran: I don’t know, sir. The ship simply… exploded.
Whittaker: A starship does not simply explode without warning, Lieutenant! ::he barked, before turning to Lieutenant Haneer who was stepping away from the science station to allow Duyzer and Owens access.:: There must have been some sign? No sign of antimatter containment failure?
Haneer: None sir. Nothing. Like Lieutenant Pran said- it simply… exploded.
::Theo took a deep, calming breath. His ears burned hot with anger and he could feel his self control slipping. If he went any further, he could very well wreck the bridge. Even in his heightened and furious state, he knew that it would serve him no good and it would conduct most unbecoming. He pursed his lips together and placed both hands on his hips, his fingers pressed tightly.::
Whittaker: I’m an engineer by trade despite my four rank pips. I know that starships do not explode without warning signs. There had to be some kind of warning sign. Pholin, I want you and Ensign Colquhoun to go over every byte of sensor data leading up to the destruction of that ship. Look for anythingout of the ordinary that could explain what the he- ::he stopped for a moment, reigning in his temper.:: - what just happened.
Whittaker: Jona, I want you to redouble your efforts to find out what happened before we arrived here. Ensign Owens, Ensign Holza- you will assist him. Leave no stone unturned and use whatever resources and personnel you need to.
::He paused for a moment and looked at the assembled officers. Anger was beginning to fade but he felt another intense emotion beginning to take hold: sadness, loss… grief. His self control was beginning to buckle once again. He needed to keep it together.::
Whittaker: We were lured here for some reason and somebody has taken members of our family from us. I will not let that go unanswered or unchallenged. We do not leave here without finding out what happened. ::beat:: God knows, we owe to their families to find out.
::And with that he marched from the bridge and into his ready room. Only when the doors had closed with a sad hiss did he let tears flow.::