In Fine, Et Principio
Posted on Monday August 23rd, 2021 @ 12:59pm by Commander Deila Fargold
Location: Ulysses Station, Level 5
Timeline: Day 1 at 0000
"So why is it you've dragged us down here before our shift rotation?" Nazir queried, somewhat jokingly, somewhat sarcastically. She and her first officer, Deila, had been summoned from their quarters by a rather nervous sounding ensign on the other end of their priority comlines. As open and willing to support her crew as she was, Nazir wasn't particularly thrilled to be called upon so early in the morning, but duty never sleeps, even if the officers do. The level they were walking down was 5, one level below the fully operation ones. It was rather dark, and musty, and smelled like something died, or maybe several somethings.
The young ensign, a male Andorian named Th'yrnak Sinan, or Nak as he preferred, walked in front of Nazir and Deila, his anxiety rather evident in the stuttery and trembling way he walked. What could possibly have shaken him so much? She'd have Deila look into his personnel profile later, see if he was prone to nervous fits. Nak turned to look over his shoulder, pointing down the hall.
"Me and some others on damage control were scoping out this level to see what exactly needed doing before we initiated a power up, but when we got to this part of the level, we uh...found something."
Deila spoke up now, less impatient as the captain, more driven for expediency by curiosity than annoyance. "Well? What was it? Get to the point."
Nak blinked once, antennae twitching. Worry? Anxiety? Natural movement? Neither Deila nor the captain were too well versed in Andorian physiology. "Uh...well we're here, best just to show you ma'am, sir."
Indeed, they had arrived at a large double set of blast doors, where two more officers stood, with various arrays of equipment such as manual override clamps, hyperspanners, and several isolinear chip replacements. From the looks of it, the three of them had managed to crack whatever seal was holding the doors shut. Nak pointed to a strange, alien symbol painted upon the blast doors.
"First of all, the symbol. We don't have any idea what it actually says but from the looks of it...." Nazir and Deila peered closer. The symbol was indeed layered with an alien text that had no resemblance to any known script, but the pictogram itself was a large white circle with a thick border, with a smaller greyer circle inside of it, and what appeared to be a blue cube inside of the smaller circle. Deila ran a hand through her hair.
"If I had to guess, that symbol means there's something cold behind this door. The cube could be an ice cube. Cryo units possibly?" Nak nodded excitedly.
"When we got through the door we found a chamber full of cryostasis units. Completely unknown design of course, but definitely used for long term stasis. Most of the units were offline or worn out with natural wear and tear, and thankfully the ones that were still operational were empty, but two of the units...still had occupants when they went offline."
Nazir exchanged a look with her XO, a knowing look. If alien life, even dead alien life, was still on the station, that meant they were one step closer to discovering who originally constructed this station. Nazir nodded emphatically. "Let's take a look then." Nak nodded in return and gestured to the other two officers. They scattered the equipment they had to the sides and grabbed the manual clamps, pulling the blast doors open with a loud metallic nnnrrrrrrgghhhhhh . Once the doors were as open as they could make them, the party entered the chamber.
As was expected, the chamber was very cold. One could just see their breath in the air. Roughly a dozen or so man-sized glass tubes lined the walls, a thin layer of frost covering most. Their orientation led Deila to believe they were intended to be used standing up. Nak pointed to a few of the tubes. "These are dead, and are beyond repair. These are active but just offline. These two...these have the bodies." His voice got quieter as they approached the target cryo units. Group finally stopped in front of two of the offline tubes, staring into the glass pane.
Deila gasped, Nak shuddered, while Nazir just stared in disbelief. The two bodies were about as alien as they come, if their skeletons were anything to judge by. Their skin and internal structures had almost entirely rotted away due to the inactive tubes. They probably suffocated to death, grisly. Nak turned to Nazir. "As you can see I took it as my best judgement to call you and the Commander down here." Nazir nodded, lost in thought.
"Thank you Ensign. Deila," she said, drawing the young human's mind back to the present instead of the decaying bodies. She glanced up at her Trill captain in anticipation. "Go back to Ops and get an archaeology and biology team down here. I'll stay here and see what we can learn in the computer banks." Deila nodded in agreement and headed for the blast doors. She rounded up the two officers, leaving Nak with Azuals. As she was leaving, Nazir went back to contemplating the deceased aliens. Who were they? Were they loyal officers trapped in a failed experiment? Civilians on the wrong side of luck? Prisoners being punished for their misdeeds? She hoped to learn everything she could about them, even if their voices were silent, and their eyes were dull. A corpse can be just as revealing about a culture as a living sample can be. The Trill began conferring with Nak about how to get into the stasis chamber logs, to see what they could learn.
Meanwhile in the corridor outside, Deila was also deliberating, with the current duty shift in Ops over her combadge. They were writing up a list of the best qualified personnel for a mission of this type. Handily, a few people were already on Level 5, exploring it much as Nak and the others had been. She had just confirmed the third officer to assign to this mission when suddenly, a blaring klaxon went off. Deila's head spun around back towards the cryo chamber, instantly worried for the captain's safety. Where was that siren coming from, and WHY?
Moments before the alarm went off, Nak and Azuals had just accessed the central database at a computer console inside the stasis chamber. Nazir had found an icon resembling the statis chamber symbol and pressed it in high hopes it would lead them to some answers. She had been woefully mistaken. As soon as her finger came in contact with the icon, the alarm went off, lights dimming even more than they had before, red ambience taking the place of the dull glow. With a creak and a shudder, the cryo blast doors began sliding closed. Nazir and Nak scrambled for the doors, trying to slow them, but the conclusion was inevitable: Whatever that alarm was, it was obviously a latent security alarm and had sealed off the cryo chamber from unauthorized personnel. Namely, Nak and Nazir.
An alien voice, loud and slightly shrill, began an automated message. " Ikz nilli ythra, chirrj nallto! Ikz nilli athutra, chirrj kpue! " Deila and the Nak's companions rushed to the sealed blast doors, panic on the two ensigns' faces, a calm concern on Deila's. Now was the worst time to freak out. Only level heads and a clear solution would see them through. "Captain! Ensign! Can you hear me!" Deila shouted as loud as she could through the thick doors.
The captain's came back, muffled and quiet, but still audible. "Yes! We attempted to open the computer files belonging to this room, but that seems to have tripped our hosts' security programs. The door resealed as soon as it shut, and I can assume that we won't be able to use the same methods we did before to get it open!" Nak said something unintelligible to the captain, and she shouted back through the door. "Ensign Nak says he and his team expected this problem and had some advanced "lockpicking" equipment prepared beforehand! It should be on Level 4! Alert Ops and get someone down here with that equipment!"
Deila nodded, but quickly realized Nazir couldn't see her affirmation. "Yes sir! We'll get on it right away!" She tapped her badge and patched into Ops, explaining the situation in a hurried, but concise explanation. The good officers they were, they promised to get someone down to Level 5 in less than 10 minutes. They pondered the possibility of transporting the two out of the room, but for some unexpected reason the transporters couldn't lock onto the area in and around the stasis chamber, probably due to the same security measure activated earlier. As she was about to get off the communication, one of the Ops crew reported something unusual. "Ma'am, we're detecting a buildup of gases that seemed be leaking through the broken stasis systems. These gases are toxic to most humanoids, including Captain Nazir and Ensign Nak. Buildup is at 3 parts per 1,000 and steadily rising! They only have about 7 minutes!" Deila's face went pale but she thanked the officer for their input and rushed back to the door.
"Captain! Ops just informed me that there's toxic gas leaking from some of the stasis units, probably because the emergency seal damaged the systems even further! We're working as fast as we can but the equipment isn't here yet!"
If she wasn't mistaken, there was a low cough as Azula's first response, before she could muster words. "It's all right Commander, we'll be fine. Your first priority is the safety of the station at large. Make sure none of this gas is leaking out to the ventilation ducts! Worry about us second, we can take a little gas!" No, you can't.... Deila thought to herself, knowing full well when the Captain used this tone and those falsely reassuring words, that things were pretty bad.
There was no use trying to find the crewmen carrying the equipment. Nak described it being rather heavy and could only be moved so fast otherwise it would decalibrate and take longer to readjust than they had the time for, so all Deila could do was stand by and count down the mere moments left before the gas became terminal.
6 long and excruciatingly slow minutes passed, but the crewmen with the devices were finally at the doors. They set to work with the help of Nak's companions, Deila supervising from the side as she did not know how to operate it. One part hooked into the single computer terminal nestled into the wall by the blast doors, while the other hooked directly onto the doors themselves. The seconds flew by, or crept by, time was skewed by the tenseness and desperation of the moment. Deila paced back and forth, hair on the fritz, arms crossed. 20 seconds left.....15 seconds....10....5....CLEAR! With a triumphant cheer the officers shoved the doors to the side, having successfully broken through the alien seal. A few minutes back, gas-filtering masks had been distributing so that they too wouldn't be poisoned, so Deila rushed forward into the cryo chamber, a slightly green haze tinting her eyesight.
She looked around for Nak and the Captain, but was horribly surprised to find their bodies on the floor. She knelt by Nazir, scooping her up in her arms, while another crewman took care of Nak. The captain gasped, raggedly and hoarsely, as Deila quickly ferried her out of the toxic chamber, and out into the clear air of the corridor a dozen meters away. She was going to keep going, to get her to sick bay as soon as possible, but the captain weakly reached out and grabbed Deila's arm. Deila looked down, face paler than it had ever been, eyes holding back the desperation she felt in waves.
"D...Deila...stop..." the Captain croaked out, her features pained, skin becoming sicklier and sicklier to look at. Deila stopped hesitatingly, kneeling back down and setting the captain gently on the floor of the corridor.
"Captain, we have to keep going, we have to save y-" Deila started, but Nazir's eyes, full of such woeful resignation it hurt to look into them, stopped her.
"Deila, no...you can see in my face that it's too late. I and the symbiont are going to die. cough . I knew it was too late seconds before you breached the doors... cough . I won't survive....but Nak might. His couuugh biology is more resilient than ours. Get him to safety. Leave me..."
Deila was openly crying now. She knew she shouldn't, she knew she wasn't supposed to get emotionally attached to her captain and superior officer, but Deila was just like that. She grew attachments to those she worked with in such proximity every day, attachments to those who respected her and saw her as a valuable asset, attachment to those who accepted her for who she was. And here that person was, last vestiges of life sliding away, here that person was telling her to leave her to die. But what could she do? Nazir was right. The Trill was right.
As she let the tears flow down her face, the Captain gave one last squeeze to Deila's hand before her eyes went glassy, her hand slid out of Deila's trembling one, and her head lolled back. She was gone.
The Captain of the Ulysses was gone.
Half an hour later, Nak was in the safety of sickbay, his Andorian physiology saving him in the nick of time. Nazir's body had been moved to sick bay as well for the autopsy, and until a ceremony could be provided to give her a proper send off. The crew of the Ulysses were mourning the captain in their own way. Finally, Lieutenant Commander Deila Fargold sat in her quarters, staring out into the twinkling starlight that dotted the void of space, unsure of what lay in store next. For even as the captain passed and the tears flowed for some, Deila now had the heavy burden of taking up command of the survivors of the Ulysses and Nogura, to do everything in her power to get them home, or at least let them live the best lives they could on this station.
The End, and the Beginning.