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Captain's Log, Stardate 54683.2.
We've arrived in orbit around one of the Federation's oldest member planets, Ardana. Our mission is to prevent Stratos -- Ardana's infamous floating city -- from crashing down on the populace below. Our first order of business is to stabilize the city's descent before any work can be done on repairing the anti-gravity engines. Chief Engineer Conlon is working on using the da Vinci's tractor beam as a safety net to test last-minute safeguards.
"Captain." The newly promoted Lieutenant Songmin Wong spoke up. "We're being hailed from Ardana -- it's Captain Scott."
Captain David Gold pulled his lips into a thin line as he saved his log. "On screen."
The familiar and easygoing supervisor of the Starfleet Corps of Engineers filled the screen. He smiled broadly beneath his bushy, salt-and-pepper mustache. "Ah, David. We've got to stop meeting like this."
Gold chuckled. "Seems like only last month we were chasing Rod Portlyn around the galaxy."
"Aye -- I still haven't made it back to Earth since then. Not when this came up. You lot made record time."
"Because I have the best crew in the Corps, Scotty. I only hope you and those other engineers haven't mucked things up."
"No, no. The Edison left yesterday once we knew you were available."
"How is Commander Alverson?"
Captain Gold had received Captain Scott's change of assignment orders three days ago, along with a couriered package, diverting he and the da Vinci from a mining colony on K'lny to the floating city of Ardana. The Edison's first officer had taken a dagger in the chest while exploring Stratos, releasing a trap set by a group of revolutionaries known as the Disruptors, more than a century ago.
"Dr. Balboa said it was close -- the dagger nicked the heart bad enough that they headed for Starbase 375 and their surgical specialists at warp nine."
Gold frowned. He wasn't pleased about the possibility of other traps laying in wait throughout the abandoned city. Stratos had remained empty until an abrupt drop during one of the planet's recent holidays. "No way to know where those traps are, is there?"
Scott shook his head. "Unfortunately you know when you step in it. I've had six engineers combing the engine room and central control. Nothing untoward happening there."
"Reading these reports I see we only have three days left to stabilize Stratos or land it before it descends. Rapidly."
Gold suppressed a smile as he recalled Domenica Corsi's suggestion to simply blow it out of the sky. As the engines failed the planet's own gravitational pull would work against it, using its weight to bring it down. If they couldn't fix the problem or land it, a tractor beam might prove to be their only solution.
If not -- as Corsi said -- there were always phasers. The U.S.S. Bataan was on her way to lend the power needed in case neither of their solutions worked.
"But first, about those baubles you sent us -- "
"Aye." Captain Scott nodded. "They're part of a private collection of the only artifacts taken from Stratos when the war escalated."
Gold nodded. "Well -- one of these artifacts appears to have attacked one of my crew."
Scott's eyes widened. "Bloody hell. What happened? Who?"
"Stevens. Gomez had assigned him to scan the artifacts for their molecular structure. Stevens was found unconscious on the lab floor."
"That's terrible." Scott glanced to his right, off the viewer. Gold frowned. Who else was there? "How bad was he injured?"
"I'm still waiting on a preliminary report from sickbay, though Corsi tells me he's complaining of a headache."
"So he's awake?"
"As of twenty minutes ago."
Abruptly a thin face appeared next to Scott's. Humanoid, much like a human male, with pale skin and long dark hair. His dark eyes were expressive and he nodded to Gold. "Forgive me, Captain. My name is Vanov -- I'm the Elected Advisor's Historian. I'm afraid this is my fault -- we know so little about the artifacts -- so much of our history and technology before the Disruption was lost. I always thought of them as beautiful boxes."
Gold nodded. That was pretty much what Dr. Bartholomew Faulwell had called them. "I understand, Vanov. You wouldn't have any idea what was inside of the box?"
"I'm afraid not." His expression darkened. "Captain, which one of them opened?"
He looked at the padd in his lap. Gomez had uploaded the report. "The cylindrical one. Dark color."
Vanov clearly looked worried.
"Historian, do you know something?"
Vanov shook his head. "No...no. So very few things were taken from Stratos. We've kept them on public display in our capitol's museum until recently."
"Oh?" Gold arched a gray eyebrow. "Why did you remove them?"
"Since news of Stratos's imminent descent, various groups of disturbed individuals have begun vandalizing anything that had to do with Stratos, including the tourist centers that drive shuttles by the city."
"I take it those particular groups don't want Stratos to fall?"
"No -- they want Stratos destroyed. And they see the arrival of the Federation as interference in the city's natural and rightful destruction."
"Historian, don't they realize if that city falls it will land directly on top of your most populated metropolis? It'll kill millions."
"They don't care, Captain. I'm afraid you and your crew could be in danger."
There was danger from little boxes, danger from Disruptor traps, danger from a falling city, and danger from the very people they were trying to save.
Yep -- just another day with the Corps. Oy gevalt.
"David," Scott said in a soft voice. "There are a few things I'd like to discuss with you and your crew -- have you finished your briefing?"
"Not yet. I'll inform the transporter room and assemble the team."
"Aye." Scott gave him a worried look. "Your team's got their job cut out for them." With that he disconnected.
Gold informed Transporter Chief Laura Poynter that Captain Scott was beaming up and then sat back in his chair. When he'd first received the mission intel from Scott he'd been somewhat excited about the prospect of seeing the infamous floating city, but after reading the planet's history brief he was a little more than apprehensive -- especially with the morning's excitement with Stevens.
He was getting that niggling feeling again, the one his wife, Rachel, always asked him about. That feeling that something was going to go horribly wrong. And no matter what, he knew Historian Vanov was lying.
"It's just a headache."
"You can't assume it's just a headache."
"When a patient complains of bilateral temporal tenderness and pain, with no obvious signs of trauma, and his CSF shows low serotonin, indicating lack of sufficient sleep, and all this compounded by injected conjunctivae...I call this a headache. And I call it sleep deprivation."
Fabian Stevens, tactical systems specialist on board the U.S.S. da Vinci, lay quietly on the main examination table in the center of the ship's sickbay, the neutral zone between two warring doctors.
He clutched the sides of the table and imagined himself the size of a mouse. No -- scratch that -- most women he knew chased mice. He had a clear image of Domenica Corsi cornering a poor defenseless rodent who dared to invade her abode.
Maybe I'll just slide off the bed and creep out the door -- they'll never miss me. Oh, why didn't I just have Tony do the scans?
He and Anthony Shabalala had worked straight through two shifts chasing a harmonic ghost in the ship's shields. Conlon was determined to have the shield's harmonics perfectly tuned before attempting any tractor beam on Stratos -- only he and Tony hadn't been able to pinpoint the anomaly. Fabian had made a point of teasing him every time he fingered the new pip on his uniform, evidence of his recent promotion to full lieutenant.
On his way to his cabin Commander Sonya Gomez had hailed him, requesting a full scan of the artifacts couriered to them by Captain Scott. Putting off sleep once again, Fabian had detoured to the lab, and as Makk Vinx would say, badda-boom, badda-bing -- here he was.
He hoped Tony was having a better time at catching sleep than he was.
"Doctors," Gomez called out from where she sat at the examination workstation. She had routed the logs into sickbay so that everyone, including Fabian, could see what happened. Gold and Corsi stood looking over her shoulder, their expressions grim. "I'm going to venture a guess that what Fabian has is more than a headache."
Fabian raised his eyebrows. Oh?
Gomez moved the monitor to where everyone could see as Fabian propped himself up on his elbows. He winced again, wishing whoever was using the sonic drill between his ears would stop.
Gold moved to the examination table and took up a position to Lense's right, near Fabian's head.
Gomez ran her fingers over the light panels and the screen showed Fabian holding a tricorder and setting dials.
"I was calibrating," he said in a low voice.
Next he opened the box containing the artifacts and set each of them out on the workbench. Each one stood an average of five inches high. Gold had called them tchotchkes. Shelf dusters.
"Everyone watch the cylinder," Gomez said.
To Fabian's amazement the top of the cylinder opened as if an invisible hand pulled it back. As he turned back to grab the closest box he stopped. Literally stopped in mid-movement.
"He stands like that for a full minute before -- "
Abruptly he lurched back and collapsed on the floor.
Gomez touched a panel. "Time log shows he was there for a good fifteen minutes before Soloman found him."
"It's like time just stopped," Corsi said.
Everyone straightened and turned almost as one to look at Fabian. His eyes widened as he gave them his best confused expression. "What?"
"Stevens." Captain Gold narrowed his eyes at him. "Do you remember anything about what just happened?"
"No, sir." He shook his head. "I woke up and told Sarj I had a headache."
Lense spoke up. "I've given him a cursory examination -- and I can't find anything physically wrong with him."
"Except for the headache," Gomez said, her expression reflecting concern.
Fabian looked at her and smiled, once again hoping to reassure the commander that he didn't feel uncomfortable around her.
He only wished he could say the same for Gomez. She quickly looked back at the screen. If only he could erase the kiss she'd given him a few months ago. He glanced at Corsi who turned a frown toward the first officer.
Gold turned and touched Gomez's shoulder. "Make sure the artifacts are locked up and in stasis. Have Faulwell and Abramowitz dig a bit deeper into Starfleet records on Stratos -- and have them concentrate on anything relative to geometrically shaped glass boxes."
Gold then straightened and looked at Lense, and then Sarjenka. "I need you two to work together." He gave a dramatic pause with only a hint of a smile as he looked from one to the other. "And give Stevens a full examination -- report anything you find to me immediately. Captain Scott's beaming aboard -- we'll be briefing in two hours." He looked at Fabian. "I'm going to have to confine you to sickbay for a little while, Stevens -- at least until I know more of what happened."
Fabian nodded. "Yes, sir."
Gold reached out and squeezed Fabian's shoulder briefly before leaving sickbay. Gomez was right behind him without a backward glance. Fabian touched his shoulder. "Was there a meaning attached to that gesture -- squeezing my shoulder? Like, 'Good job and I'm glad you're in trouble and not me'? 'Happy you took the bullet and not the rest of my group'?" He frowned. "'Borg -- very dangerous, you go first' -- kind of thing?"
Corsi gave him a lopsided grin. "Maybe it means, 'Fabe's done it again'?"
"I'll say." A sharp pain flared behind his eyes. "Only this time -- " He closed his eyes and winced. "I think I got it stuck to my boot." Fabian pushed himself up with the intention of sitting. Sickbay moved and shifted in front of him and he blinked several times to clear his vision.
"Fabe?" Corsi stepped closer, her hand on his arm.
"Wrong move..." With a slight groan he lay back down. Pain ebbed and flowed from behind his eyes to the base of his skull.
Lense had her tricorder out and gently moved Corsi a step back. Her expression bothered him. "Doc?"
"Is it another headache?" Sarjenka asked to his left. He turned to look up at her. It was like looking through a bowl of water at first, but then gradually her image cleared. "Fabian?"
A soft yellow hue superimposed itself on her face when she said his name. "Do -- do that again."
"Do what again?"
She did, and again there was a surge of yellow -- but with a smattering of finely woven red. "Wow."
When he spoke, the colors shifted, melded with one another, and created a soft orange.
"Elizabeth," Corsi said, "what's wrong with him?"
With Corsi's voice the colors shifted again to a brilliant indigo. He looked at her. "Say something."
Again as he spoke the indigo ordered itself, no longer a thing of mist.
"What's wrong, Fabian? You're -- you're not looking at me."
He refocused his eyes. The more she spoke, the more the misty tendrils of color appeared in the air. "I -- I'm seeing colors."
Lense moved in to look at him. "You're seeing colors?"
"Yeah." He swallowed. He was also very thirsty. "When different people talk I get impressions of colors. Sarjenka's is yellow, primarily. And Dom's is indigo. And yours -- " He frowned. "You're kind of gray."
"When we talk you see colors."
Fabian nodded. "Now there's a red bleeding into the gray."
Lense's left eyebrow arched. "Sarjenka, get Mr. Stevens ready for a full and thorough examination. Full scans. There's something strange happening inside that head of his, and we need to find out what."
Fabian looked from the now obviously pregnant Elizabeth Lense in her Starfleet Medical lab coat to the more diminutive Dr. Sarjenka with her shy smile.
Stevens closed his eyes. Full examination. Great. This is Elizabeth's chance to get back at me for all those fat jokes.
Copyright © 2007 by CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Posted September 6, 2010
No text was provided for this review.