SEASON 3: EPISODE 03
THE ONLY THING NECESSARY: Part Seven
Ilata lay down on the bed not feeling at all at ease.
“So this won’t hurt?” he asked for the third time.
“Not at all,” said the doctor. “This is completely non-invasive. I’ll lock this over your chest and it will run scans of your body to add to our database. It will give us a chance to study your species biology and anatomy. Just lay there and in a few minutes the process will be completed and we’ll have complete maps of your skeletal structure, muscles and organs, circulatory system, even a map of your brain.”
Ilata nodded nervously as Doctor Murphy locked the device over his chest and then pressed several unseen buttons. He expected to feel some sort of sensation but felt none.
“That’s under way now,” said the doctor with a smile. “If you feel any discomfort just call for me or Nurse Wood.” The doctor pointed to a human looking male who seemed to be playing with a number of very shiny devices on a cart.
Ilata was still having a bit of difficulty with telling some of the aliens apart. Humans seemed to pretty much identical to several other species and on more than one occasion he had been corrected when he identified someone as a human. At times he had to wonder how they managed to tell each other apart.
He spun his head and looked around the pristine sickbay. Like all parts of the ship he had seen it was clean, tidy and ordered. Panels with flashing and blinking lights were spread out around the room, each as indecipherable as the next to Ilata.
He had seen one other patient in the room, a blue skinned being with what looked to be antennae sprouting from its head. The being seemed to have suffered what looked like a very severe burn to its hand around its thumb and index finger. Its appearance had made him squirm but the being seemed unconcerned by the injury whether by some sort of pain killer taken before or thanks to its alien physiology Ilata had no idea. The doctor treated the being by running a small and simple looking device that seem to just emit a wave of light over the wound and the injury simply faded away. In no time the being’s hand looked as good as new, as far as he could tell, and the being thanked the doctor and went on his way. It was to put it simply, miraculous!
He heard the telltale sound of the automatic doors to the medical bay open. He looked around the device over him and saw Ambassador Whitechapel along with the starmap expert enter.
“Hello ambassador,” he called out.
The ambassador smiled broadly at him and headed over to his bed. “Groa, I’m glad to see you agreed to the medical scans.”
Whitechapel had brought up the idea at the function. “What you said made sense. I’m helping out in scientific cooperation and if I get injured while I’m over here you’ll be able to treat me easier. So what are you in for?”
“We’re getting scans ourselves and some injections before we head down to your planet.”
“You’re going down there?” he said with surprise. It had only been a day since the Totality representatives had visited the ship. He had expected at least three to four days for the ruling council to argue about what to do before the next step was taken. He in fact did not expect he would still be on the ship when it happened.
“Yes, your government extended an offer to formally greet us at your capitol building. So we’re having a check up to make sure we don’t have anything that might make your people sick and we’re getting an immune system booster to keep any blighters from your planet at bay.”
“What about me?”
“You’re more than welcome to remain on the ship if you want.”
“No, I mean what if I catch something from you?”
“Well, since you’re on our ship what better place to treat you? And the scans you’re getting done will only help if you do get ill, which is unlikely. All we need is a scan of a woman to complete the picture, not that it would make them any less mysterious,” said the ambassador with a smile and a wink.
The doctor called the ambassador and he took a seat on a bed a couple down from his. The doctor held what they called a “tricorder” as she waved some other device around the ambassador.
“What happens after the formal greeting? How much longer will you stay?”
He had to wait briefly before the ambassador replied as the doctor administered an injection to him. She then asked him to wait in case he had an unusual reaction to whatever she administered to him. She then moved to the starmap man and started the process again.
“Depends on how things go, though I doubt we’ll stay for more than a week. Given the difficulties we have with communicating with outside the nebula we’ll head out to report back to my superiors and its then in their hands what happens next. If things go well maybe in a few weeks or months time more Federation people will arrive. Whether I’m with that group is up to my superiors.”
The doctor returned to the ambassador and again waved a device around him while she asked how he felt. She checked the readings before telling him he was ready to go.
“I wish I could stay and chat, commander. However, as you can imagine I have many things to go over before I travel down to your planet.”
“Like write a speech that will forever be remembered in the history of my people?”
The ambassador chuckled. “I am making history tomorrow,” he said jovially.
The ambassador waited for the other man before he left. Ilata was on his own in the medical room again. The doctor returned to his bed and checked the device over him and assured him it was nearly finished. With nothing better to do Ilata stared up at the ceiling and thought about the wonders he had seen on the ship and tried to imagine them on his own planet.
Celcho rested against the wall of the Jefferies tube as he waited. From around the corner came another engineer, his grumbling turned to a half formed curse as he spotted Celcho.
“Geez, you nearly gave me a heart attack, commander.”
Celcho grinned widely. “Hi, John.”
“You could have said something before I came around the corner,” grumbled the other engineer.
“You probably wouldn’t have heard me. You were making enough noise for ten men.”
Ensign Muir trudged forward and rested himself against the wall. “I didn’t know you’d be down here,” he explained. “I thought you’d still be working on that warp ship.”
“I can’t leave you kids in charge; the ship would probably fall apart.” Muir gave him a sarcastic look of thanks. “Did you bring enough equipment?”
Celcho’s grin widened. “The joys of rank. Though now you point it out you don’t have an isolinear spanner on you, do you?”
Muir rifled through one of his bags and pulled out the spanner reached across to pass it to him.
“You’ve isolated it from the power supply?” asked Muir. Celcho froze; stopping his hand his hand a few centimetres from the spanner and gave Muir a look. Muir gave him an embarrassed look in return. “Of course you have. For one thing there should be light coming out of the hatch.” Celcho just continued to stare at him. “And you’re a highly trained and experienced engineer.”
Celcho finally satisfied took the spanner and delved into the exposed working of the ship.
“So how are the repairs on the warp ship going?” asked Muir.
“Stubbornly slowly,” said Celcho. He glanced back at Muir. “I even tried hitting it and nothing happened.”
Muir shook his head. Celcho had a reputation for at times being less than delicate with machinery. He at times had managed to get something to work by slapping or kicking it. He had heard that some of the older heads had told new engineering personnel that the mere threat of violence from him was enough to get an extra five to ten percent out of the ship’s systems.
“So how much longer do you think it will take you to repair the ship?”
It seemed like an innocent enough question but Celcho detected something in Muir’s voice. “There’s a pool going, isn’t there?” he asked.
“Say there is, do you think you need a day, maybe two?”
Celcho glared at Muir. “Nice try. I can say that it is unlikely to be today since I’m going my duties.”
Celcho continued his work for a few minutes but his mind was on the warp craft.
“Do you want to hear something strange about the Echlan ship?” Muir shrugged a ‘why not’. “I checked its fuel tanks and it didn’t even have enough fuel to make the journey back to Echla.”
“Wow, that’s a...ridiculous oversight,” commented Muir.
“I know! You would think that for their first test that they would make sure it had the gas to go the distance. According to Groa his test flight was meant to be much shorter and that it was revised just before he launched.”
“Well, I guess that explains the fuel problem. Someone is probably going to lose their job over that.”
Celcho handed him back the spanner and asked for another tool. “Unlikely given that the ship had its power failure, which has nothing to do with the fuel, there was enough to get the ship half way back.”
“Their lucky day. Though you have to feel sorry for Commander Ilata, even if his ship worked perfectly he would have still been stranded out in space,” said Muir. Celcho nodded in agreement, only half listening. He had finished the repairs but had one little trick up his sleeve for the young ensign, who continued to speak, “It’s lucky we were keeping an eye on the test.”
Celcho lent back and considered what Muir had just said. “I never thought of that. I guess when you’re lucky you’re lucky.”
Celcho then lashed out and elbowed the wall next to the open access panel. There was a flickering of light and a whirl of operating machinery. He just smiled as he twirled the tool in his hand. Muir just rolled his eyes.
“Now to the next thing on the maintenance list,” he said as he tossed the tool back for Muir to pack away.
“You want me to come along?”
Celcho gave him a perplexed look. “Of course. Who else is going to carry the tools I might need?”
“So I get to be a glorified pack mule?”
Celcho shook his hand and placed his hand on Muir’s shoulder. “No, no, no. There’s nothing glorified about.”
Smiling widely he gave Muir a slap on the back and proceeded to crawl up the Jefferies tube. Behind him all he could hear was the muttering of a very displeased Ensign Muir.
“Lieutenant Letac, is the probe ready?” asked Masters.
“Yes, sir. One class 3 probe is loaded in one of the rear facing torpedo launchers.”
“Good, I want a quiet launch. Just have the probe ease out. I don’t want it shooting out like a missile.”
“Probe is exiting launcher. It’s clear. Moving into assigned orbit for a scan of the planet.”
“Sir, we are being hailed by the Echlan space station,” reported Karak.
“Damn poor timing. On screen.”
“This is Defence Chief Qual. We have detected a small object leaving your vessel and moving away. You will immediately explain this!”
Masters tried to hide his surprise. The class 3 probe was meant to be undetectable. Not even the Dominion seemed unable to detect the probes even with their superior sensor technology. There should be no way the Echlans could, unless they had seen it launch. However, Masters had taken the precaution to move the ship so to obscure its launch from the station and the planet’s surface.
“I’m sorry, defence chief?”
“The object that you have launched that is heading around to the far side of the planet. I demand to know what it is! Your ambassador agreed that no craft would leave your vessel without first notifying me of a launch.”
He was right. When Commander Core had taken out the scoutship earlier he had to inform the Totality of the launch and get their ‘permission’.
“Of course. I apologise defence chief. We launched a scientific probe to run further scans of the system while our ship is in orbit of your world.”
“In the future you will notify us of any further probes that you plan to launch before you launch them,” he told Masters before ending the transmission, not waiting for a reply.
“Lieutenant where is our probe?”
“When you said it was to study the system I changed its planned route. It is heading away from this planet towards the outer edge of the system. Plotting a course that should allow for some long range scans of the far side of the planet.”
“Good thinking and quick work, lieutenant. How the hell did they detect the probe?”
“It should be impossible, sir,” said Whitechapel. “Class 3 probes are just about invisible to sensors. They must have seen it launch.”
“The bloody thing is as black as night,” he commented.
“Maybe an unlucky glint from the sun and they saw it. Or one of their outer satellites picked it up against the backdrop of the planet.”
“They would have to be incredibly lucky in that case. They were onto it so quickly, there is something not right about this situation,” he stated. His first thought was what else had the ambassador failed to tell him.
Commander Susan Core dropped the Venture class scout to impulse. She was on the perimeter of the nebula, close enough that she would be obscured from any vessel outside but clear enough that her own sensors could give her detailed information. Her caution was due to the nebula’s proximity to the Tzenkethi Coalition. So far the Tzenkethi had not made any moves to take advantage of the Federation’s distraction with the Dominion War and had kept to itself, probably hoping that all the powers involved simultaneously destroyed each other, but it still paid to be cautious. The last thing she wanted was to be trying to dodge Tzenkethi raiders. While she had never faced the Tzenkethi or their ships she had read up on them specifically for this mission and from all accounts their ships were to be respected.
A brief image appeared on the ship’s sensors and Core readied herself to flee back to the Swiftfire. The contact disappeared and she retargeted the sensors to do a thorough scan of the area but nothing appeared. She guessed that it was a sensor ghost created by the nebula. She decided to do one more scan of the immediate vicinity. The SC-193’s sensors showed that there were no ships nearby.
She immediately rebuked herself for referring to the scoutship by its designation; the ship had recently been given a name by the crew, Lucky. So far in the war the ship had survived three hairy situations. The first was when Terri and Nikki had been forced to lay low on Larkin III to hide from the Dominion. The ship had been damaged during that time and they had to keep power low yet had survived several days in a highly irradiated environment before the Swiftfire picked them up. Next Nikki had flown it when she led the ship’s shuttles as an escorting force when the Swiftfire had made its run from the Tong Beak Nebula back to Federation space and survived engaging numerous larger and more powerful vessels. Lastly, just a few months ago the ship had survived an encounter with the little known Vendoth. It had been captured by the Vendoth with Captain Masters onboard yet Masters managed to escape custody get to the ship and flee from a Vendoth battle cruiser before it exploded. After that the shuttlecraft maintenance staff said that the ship had to be lucky or charmed and soon others were referring to the ship as Lucky. With the captain’s approval and a little addition to the ship’s identification codes and the SC-193 was now Lucky.
The only slightly bad thing that happened to the craft, other than its capture was the fact that Starfleet Intelligence had confiscated the class 4 cloaking device that they had appropriated from a Maquis defence satellite and installed in the scoutship. It was a shame as a cloaking device could have come in very handy.
The reason she was out here in the scoutship was because she was attempting to communicate with Starfleet. Unfortunately the Echla system was located close to a pulsar and that pulsar was making it impossible to communicate to or from the system. Fortunately short range within the system was fine otherwise they would have to resort to smoke signals. She powered up the communication system and transmitted the message. It was heavily encrypted due to the nearby Tzenkethi Coalition. It was directed to Starfleet Command and from Captain Masters asking for clarification of his orders and revealing the ambassadors concealment of information. It would take time for a reply to be sent back. Maybe several hours depending on how quickly the wheels at Command turned. She settled in for a long wait. That was why when her communication system indicated an incoming hail within a few minutes that she nearly wet herself.
It was a Starfleet transmission so she answered the hail. An Arbazan male appeared on her screen.
“Commander Core, I’m Commander Kigral of Starfleet Intelligence.”
That was a surprise. Of the people she expected it to be Starfleet Intelligence was not high on the list.
“What can I do for you, Commander Kigral.”
“We received your communication.”
“You received it?” she asked confused. “It was directed to Starfleet Command.”
“I know who it was addressed to, commander. The fact is Command has given Intelligence the lead in this operation.”
Kigral’s answer did nothing to alleviate her confusion, in fact it increased it. “Why would Intelligence care about a just minted warp capable race?”
“That isn’t for me to discuss. Suffice to say that we are interested. It’s our decision that the mission keeps going along the lines the ambassador has set.”
That was not the reply she wanted. “Did you read it all? The ambassador has concealed information from us. Command should know.”
“We know of the situation regarding the withholding of information. It was considered mission critical that certain aspects remained confidential. Obviously these aspects have come to the fore but you are to continue with negotiations with the Totality only,” he said, emphasising the last part.
Core shook her head in exasperation. Why did Intelligence have to be difficult? She had dealt with members from the agency following the incident with the Vendoth and their secrecy and ‘we know better’ attitude did grate her. Nor did it help that she had her competence questioned by the agents. Masters had nominated her for a commendation but given that the mission was classified she had to be awarded it for the cover story, defeating two Jem’Hadar battle cruisers and a dozen attack ships, at least until a time when the truth of their mission could be revealed. The agent had questioned her ability to have commanded the ship in that situation successfully. She had wanted to break his nose but Masters had torn him a new one in her defence. Watching the agent buckle under his verbal assault had been more than satisfying.
“This doesn’t make sense! What about the rest of the population?”
“They are not considered important to this mission. The ambassador knows what he is doing and he has our blessing.”
She was about to tell him where he could shove his ‘blessing’ but decided to be a bit more tactful. “What about what Command thinks?”
A look of annoyance appeared on Kigral’s face. “Maybe I am not being clear, commander. The ambassador’s mission and his methods have our approval and therefore it has Command’s approval. You are to inform your captain not to contravene the ambassador’s mission or plan in regards to who you are to negotiate with on Echla.”
Core was not going to be dissuaded by some spook that easily. “I’d still like to speak to someone from Command.”
“If you wish I can forward your message.”
That statement meant that her transmission was not just picked up it was completely intercepted by Intelligence. If she had not forced the issue she would have never known that Command never even got her transmission.
“If you could be so kind,” she said politely.
She again did not have to wait long for a response. It was an encrypted message and not a face to face so she carefully read the reply. I was exactly the same as what Kigral had told her with the added note to deal through Intelligence if they required any more clarification.
“Will that be all, commander?”
“For now,” she said suppressing a sigh. “Thank you for your time,” she said with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“It has been a pleasure,” replied Kigral showing no sigh he noticed her tone.
Core closed the channel and powered up the engines to take her back to the Swiftfire. The captain was right, there was a lot more behind this mission than they were aware of. He definitely was not going to be pleased with what she brought back from her mission.