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[2010: SEP-OCT] All That Remains


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All That Remains

On the bridge of the USS Pandora, Captain Zomox placed her blue hands on her hips and frowned at the viewscreen. On the display in front of her was a small green planet, one of only three objects in this system, the others being the perfectly formed yellow sun and the alien probe which orbited the planet. But it wasn't the alien device wasn't causing her to frown - rather it was the fact that, according to their records, this planet did not exist.

"T'Ross, what do the scans say?"

The Vulcan science officer checked her readout.

"M-class planet, Captain. Oxygen rich atmosphere, temperate climate, high levels of vegetation, no signs of permanent habitation or advanced technology." She paused and adjusted the resolution on the scanners. "I'm also detecting numerous lifesigns of unknown origin - they don't match any entries in our database."

"Can you get anything on them?"

T'Ross looked puzzled, which, Zomox remarked, was a first. "I am unable to provide much additional information, Captain. I cannot determine the exact number or physiology but they are concentrated on the northern archipelago."

"What about the device in orbit?"

"Unknown composition but very old. It's still broadcasting at 18 minute intervals in a language that bears similarities to various ancient galactic dialects. I have Mr Joro working on a full translation."

Zomox sighed. She was a scientist, too, and she didn't like things that were, for want of a better word, 'illogical'. And a mysterious alien probe in orbit around a non-existent planet definitely qualified. Still, that was why the Pandora was out here, to make sense of the unknown. She sat back down next to her first officer.

"Any ideas why this planet didn't appear on the last survey?"

Sykes shrugged. "Maybe it wasn't here. What's that old saying? When you've eliminated the impossible..."

"Commander, are you suggesting this planet just appeared out of nowhere at some point in the last 20 years?"

"We've seen stranger things. Why not?"

"Why not indeed?" The Bolian smiled. "You've piqued my curiosity, how do you feel about taking an away team down there?"

"I thought you'd never ask." Sykes smiled back.

"Get a team together in two hours. Hopefully Mr Joro will have translated that alien transmission by then."

"Aye Captain."

* * *

Sykes checked the energy setting of his phaser before settling it on his belt. Around him the other members of the away team prepared their equipment - T'Ross, Dr Young, Singh and Loxley from Security. As they gathered on the transporter pad, Sykes tapped his communicator.

"Sykes to Bridge. Any luck with that probe yet?"

Captain Zomox's voice came back. "Not much, Commander. The language seems to be incredibly complex. So far Joro has only identified one word, 'box'."

"Box? That's not much to go on."

"I know. It's only an approximate translation, it could be open to interpretation - box, container, vessel."

"Are we still going ahead?"

"Yes. There's no obvious signs of danger and I want to know what this planet is hiding. But I want you to be extra vigilant."

"Acknowledged. We're ready to beam down now, target coordinates will put us on the largest island in the archipelago."

"Very well. Standard protocol, Commander. Good luck."

* * *

The Captain closed the link and stood up again, pacing the small space in front of the viewscreen until the ship's counsellor joined her.

"Erl, what do you make of all this?" She gestured to the green planet below them.

"Nothing much to add, Captain." Erl shrugged. "I'm picking up overwhelming curiosity from the crew, though. We're all very interested to know what's down there."

"Well, we'll find out soon enough."

The display flashed to show that the away team were all down. A moment later Sykes contacted the Pandora.

"We're in the middle of a small jungle, Captain. It's beautiful down here and there's a sound on the wind, almost like music. It's quite wonderful."

"I can't wait to experience it myself Commander. Any sign of the local creatures?"

"We're picking them up on tricorders, about a quarter of a mile east of here. Still unable to get an accurate reading on them, though. Shall we take a look?"

"Do it."

"Right. On our way. I'll check in again once we're in position."

There were several minutes of silence. Zomox saw the Betazoid Counselor leaning forward in anticipation.

"I don't think you're going to see anything from up here, Erl."

"Sorry, Captain. It's just... very compelling."

“It is, isn’t it?” On the display Zomox could see that the away team had slowed down and were spreading out slightly. She opened a channel.

“Commander Sykes, report.”

“We’re approaching the location of the creatures now, Captain.” Sykes’s voice was quiet. “But so far no sign of them.”

Zomox was about to reply when the lift doors opened to reveal Pandora’s Ferengi communications expert.

“Captain!” He shouted urgently. “I’ve translated it! It’s a warning!”

“Stand by, Sykes.” Zomox muted the comm channel before turning to face Joro. “Quickly, Mr Joro, what have you got?”

“Don’t open the box.”

Zomox blinked. “Is that it?”

“It’s not a perfect translation, Captain, but I think the box it refers to is the planet. Given the context, I believe it’s a warning buoy, designed to tell people to steer clear of this place.”

Erl stepped forward. “If that’s the case, the away team could be in danger.” He sounded disappointed.

Zomox rubbed a finger across her lips thoughtfully. “The message could mean a number of things and the away team haven’t come across anything dangerous. Planets don’t just appear and I’m not going to waste this chance to find out what secrets this one contains. Warning or no warning.” She re-opened the signal down to the surface. “Commander Sykes, proceed with caution. It sounds as if the message was a warning of some kind.”

“Aye, Ma’am. We’re heading forward now. Tricorder shows a clearing ten metres ahead, I can see something there but it’s hard to make out, almost as if it’s only half present. Hang on, they’re moving. Doctor, watch out..!”

The line abruptly went dead, a high pitched squeal filling the bridge speakers. Zomox jabbed the button on her controls but it was no use - comm signals had been lost so had the transporter locks. It was as if the away team had just vanished. She reacted immediately, throwing out orders to the bridge crew around her.

“Keep trying their communicators. Prep a shuttle for launch and assemble another away team, I’ll lead it pers…”

“Captain! They’re back!” Erl shouted.

Zomox turned to look at the viewscreen where the counsellor was pointing. Four signals had appeared, but there had been five on the away team.

“Who’s missing?” She asked.

“Ensign Loxley.” Erl replied. “The life signs of the others are all fluctuating wildly. I think we should beam them directly to sickbay.”

Zomox nodded and turned to face Joro. The Ferengi looked very nervous all of a sudden.

“Sir, I don’t know where the planet came from or what’s down there, in the box. But that probe or whatever is seriously old. Older than anything we have on record at least.” He paused. “I don’t like to think of what it was trying to warn us about, what we might have let out.”

The Captain turned to face the planet that dominated the screen at the front of the bridge. Counsellor Erl spoke into her thoughts confirming a successful extraction and Zomox tapped her communicator.

“Sickbay, report.”

A distorted voice came from the badge on the front of her uniform.

“We have them, Captain, but there’s something wrong with them. Medical scanners are going haywire, I’ve never seen…”

The rest of the sentence was cut short by a roar of almost inhuman anger and then screams. Zomox’s face went pale. The voice of the person who had let out the shout of rage had been unmistakable - Commander Sykes.

* * *

Nurse Gilbert hugged his knees as he sat crouched behind the biobed in the operating theatre. He’d hidden in there as soon as everything started going wrong and he couldn’t stop replaying the scene over and over in his mind; Commander Sykes had suddenly leapt to his feet, his face a mask of absolute hatred and had choked the life out of poor Doctor Tully. Gilbert had caught a glimpse of T’Ross staggering out of the doors, babbling insanely to herself, followed by Singh, the security chief had had a sly grin on his face and a rifle in his hands. Gilbert tried to block out the last image he’d had of Dr Young.

With a hiss the door to the theatre opened. Gilbert gasped. Something was in the room with him, coming closer. He peeked around the bed - it was Dr Young, the Chief Medical Officer’s face was now a mass of weeping sores and necrotised flesh. His uniform was stained and discoloured as, according to the brief tricorder scan they’d managed to complete, more than a thousand different diseases ravaged his body, rupturing the skin underneath. Gilbert had seen enough to know that Dr Young should be long dead by now.

The nurse let out a whimper and tried to dart past Young and out of the room but one of the doctor’s blistered hands lashed out and grabbed him by the hair, spinning Gilbert around. Young’s bleeding face leant close and his foetid breath filled Gilbert’s senses. He tried to scream but his lungs were already filling with a bloody foam as they started to rapidly decompose.

* * *

Lieutenant Pettinger led his security team along the corridor towards the mess hall on deck 4. The doors were open and a quick glance showed the destruction and death within. A lone figure stood in the centre of the chaos, a weapon still clutched in his hands.

“Sir!” Pettinger shouted. “Drop the rifle and come along with us.”

Singh slowly turned around to face them. He flashed an evil grin before walking towards the security team.

“Drop it now!”

Singh made no response. Pettinger cursed and raised his own rifle. The stun blast hit Singh square in the chest but had no effect. He was now only half a dozen metres away.

“Hell!” Pettinger turned to his team. “Shoot to kill!”

Five phasers lanced out but Singh walked though the energy beams unscathed. It wasn’t until he was almost within arms reach that he finally returned fire. The first shot hit the wall to Pettinger’s left, vaporising it along with Crewman Phillips who had been taking cover there. The second hit Weiss causing her to erupt into flames, screaming in pain as she was incinerated. The next two shots flew past Pettinger and he heard more screams from the other two crewmen behind him. Singh pointed his weapon lower and fired a final shot. Pettinger collapsed to the ground, momentarily confused, until he realised that his legs had been disintegrated. He stared at the space where they’d been for a moment before the agony overwhelmed his mind and drove out everything else.

* * *

Counsellor Erl heaved himself out of the hatchway and onto the darkened bridge, followed by a security officer. He turned a haggard face to the captain.

“It’s no use,” he said. “We didn’t make it very far. Everything on deck 4 has been smashed or shot to pieces, all the crew we saw on decks 5 and 6 were in various stages of insanity and deck 7 was so filled with rotting corpses and airborne diseases we had to turn back. There’s no way through to Engineering.”

Zomox swallowed hard. That meant the bridge was completely cut off while someone in engineering was using codes belonging to the first officer, the chief medical officer and the chief of security to take over the Pandora. She couldn’t even access the self destruct sequence. Zomox swept her gaze around the room, taking in the thirteen assembled crew with her, before coming to rest on Erl again.

“Where’s Joro?” she asked.

Erl shook his head. “He went mad and killed himself on deck 5.”

Zomox closed her eyes and sank back into the command chair. Fourteen crew, that was all that remained of the Pandora. The rest were either dead or insane, destroyed over the last hour by whatever had come back in place of the away team.

A slight change in the background hum caused her to sit bolt upright, eyes now wide open.

“They’re powering up the core! We need to get out of here before they take the ship to warp.”

“Out of here?” Erl asked incredulously. “And go where? There’s only the planet…”

“Exactly. I don’t like it either but if we stay here we‘re sure to die. We still have access to the bridge life pods. Grab everything you can and let’s move.”

* * *

Zomox popped open the hatch on her pod and felt the cool night air drift in. She took a deep breath watching the moonlight reflect from the sea just beyond the jungle trees. Sykes had been right - this planet was beautiful.

A sudden shout from her left brought her running past other escape pods and into a small clearing. Erl and a couple of other crewmen knelt over a uniformed body - it was Ensign Loxley. The young woman was breathing but unconscious. Zomox exchanged a glance with the counsellor and together they looked up as, with a flash, the Pandora went to warp, leaving the sky empty but for the infinite stars.

“What have we done, Erl? What have we released on the galaxy?”

“I don’t know Captain, but with a ship under their control the can spread their evil virtually anywhere they please.”

Zomox shook her head and looked away. “And all because of our [...]ed curiosity. We should have heeded the warning.”

“Not all is lost, Captain.” The voice came from the body on the ground. “One thing remains.”

Zomox and Erl backed away as Loxley opened her eyes, the pupils glowing golden in the darkness. Loxley smiled.

“Hope.”

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