The red alert klaxons continued to sound as crew members hurriedly made their way to the various escape pods and shuttles. “Four minutes to warp core breach.” signalled the computer reminding everyone of the impending doom of the ship. Th’lora and Treylana made their way to the Dakota in shuttlebay two since it was nearer to them than any of the other pods.
Upon entering the runabout’s main hatch Treylana rushed to the fore section and seated herself at the helm. “Initiating ignition sequence. Opening shuttlebay doors.”
Th’lora not far behind, grabbed the seat next to her as the last of several other crew members piled in behind them. “Sealing hatch. Disregard preflight and depart when ready. Maximum thrusters.”
“Two minutes fifteen seconds to war core breach.” the computer echoed.
As quickly as they could, shuttle after shuttle launched from the shuttlebays. As the Dakota cleared the bay’s force field, pod after pod arced their way from their hatch, past Treylana’s view through the runabout’s viewport and toward the planet’s surface. She couldn’t be certain if everyone had made it, but a rough visual inspection showed enough pods and shuttles in view to account for everyone.
“Core breach in ten seconds.” Th’lora exclaimed “Brace for impact.”
One did not have to see the engine room to know the exact moment of a containment field failure. The moment the matter and antimatter fuels mixed outside of the reaction chamber everyone knew what was to happen next; a massive chain reaction between the large quantities of the two fuels not unlike the reaction of a sun but on a smaller scale. For a brief few seconds there was a bright light followed by a massive shockwave as the Hiawatha exploded into millions of pieces.
The shockwave moved rapidly and managed to catch up to the Dakota. Fortunately it’s shields were engaged and were able to absorb the brunt of the impact but it still shook the ship violently. Treylana lost control for a brief moment, but was quickly able to stabilize and resume course back to the planet. One of the escape pods was not so lucky however, and when it was hit by the shockwave it was knocked off course, sending the escape pod toward the planet at an unrecoverable trajectory causing it to burn up in the atmosphere.
Treylana’s heart felt like it sank into her stomach at that moment. If the pod had had a full complement of crew aboard, six more of her fellow crewmates had just lost their lives. However, mourning would have to be done later. The most important thing was to get everyone to the planet’s surface. Once there, they could worry about tallying the casualties.
Gurneys now began to line the hallways and military cots filled nearly every square meter of what normally would have been a triage and waiting room of the hospital. Instead it was being used as a trauma center for victims of the virus that continued to pour in as more and more people began to experience symptoms. Nurse Cahill had just finished administering medication to one patient to assist with the pain. She wished she could have done more, but until they knew what they were dealing with and how to treat it, it was all she could do. The ambient temperature in the hospital was steadily increasing with the sheer number of patients. She wiped a bead of sweat from her brow before proceeding to the next patient.
Doctor Brant was not having any better luck. He had been analyzing the effect of various antiviral compounds on some tissue samples when the analysis had been interrupted. He tapped a few key sequences on the console to make sure he hadn’t input any incorrect data. Confirming that he hadn’t, he tried sending the sample again but much like when the analysis was interrupted, nothing happened.
He then tapped his combadge to open a channel “Doctor to Hiawatha, come in.”
Empty silence filled communication channel.
“Hiawatha do you read me?” he repeated. Still nothing.
“Doctor Brant to Captain Vehl, please respond.” he said with a little more worry in his voice.
“Vehl here. Go ahead Doctor.”
“Captain. I was running an analysis on some samples when my uplink to the ship was cut off. Is there a problem up there?”
“Yes Doctor there is, but now is not the time to discuss it. Teylana and I will speak with you shortly. Until then do what you can without the data. Vehl out.”
With a feeling of concern, Brant went back to his work. He could feel he was close to a breakthrough with the antiviral compounds, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. As he pondered over his thoughts, his chin cupped in his right hand, Nurse Cahill joined him in the laboratory.
“Doctor.” Cahill began, not wanting to startle him with her presence “I’ve been able to question some of the patients. Many of the more advanced cases were employees at the refinery that was attacked three weeks ago.”
Brant turned to face Nurse Cahill “Were they able to give you any details about the attack?”
“Yes sir. One of them said on the day of the attack he was performing his daily safety in the water treatment center. He had noticed someone suspicious near the water reservoir. He asked the individual to show him his identification card, but the suspicious man ran off. He said he ran after him, but after a few minutes of futile chase, there was an explosion in the fuel storage tanks nearby, presumably so that attention would be drawn from the chase. He didn’t remember much beyond that. He said that he and his co-workers had to spend the better part of the day putting out the fire. It wasn’t until almost a week after the attack that he started to feel ill.”
Brant stood there for a moment to absorb all that his nurse had told him and then suddenly it hit him. If the water reservoir had been contaminated, perhaps it could be the source. “Find someone and get me a schematic of the refinery. Specifically, I want to look at the water distribution. Also see if you can have water samples brought from the refinery.’
Brant hoped his hunch was right. As of right now it was the only lead they had.
For the second time since the mission began, Treylana found herself landing the Dakota on the planet’s surface. It certainly wasn’t her intention, but under the circumstances there were no other options. Fortunately their stay would be short lived as the Captain had managed to send a message to Starfleet Command informing them of the situation and requested a transport to retrieve the crew as soon as possible. All they had to do was sit tight for three days for the nearest ship to arrive. The escape pods had enough emergency rations and the replicators on the runabout could supplement anything that they might have been lacking.
With the runabout secure, Th’lora tapped her combadge to signal for her Chief Engineer “Vehl to Harrison, what’s your location?”
“About a thousand meters from your location Captain.”
“Excellent. Rendezvous with Hess and I as soon as possible. We need to discuss what has happened with the planet’s administrator.”
“Right away Captain. Harrison out.”
Th’lora and Treylana departed the runabout and made their way toward the main building while the remaining crew stayed behind having nothing else to do in the interim. Harrison caught up with the two of them approximately fifteen minutes later. Once he had, the three of them proceeded to the Administrator’s office. Since no one had been aware of their presence aside from Orbital Control, Th’lora firmly knocked on the large wooden door before them when they arrived in front of his office.
“Enter!” Came a surprised acknowledgement from the other side of the door.
Th’lora pushed the door open and the three officers entered. The Administrator recognized Treylana from their earlier meeting, but did not know who her companions were. “Greetings Commander Hess! To what do I owe the pleasure?” he said, directing his comments at the younger of the two Trills.
“Administrator. This is my Commanding Officer Captain Th’lora Vehl and my Chief Engineer Lieutenant Commander Paul Harrison. We’re here because we have some disturbing news. I will let Mr. Harrison explain.”
“First of all Mr. Administrator, I want to thank you for your agreeing to provide us with the needed deuterium we asked for. However, I believe that someone from your planet, someone who was on the team that procured the deuterium for shipment, sabotaged one of the barrels. Shortly after we brought the deuterium on board the Hiawatha one of the barrels exploded and destabilized our antimatter containment field.”
Puzzled and shocked at what he was hearing, the Administrator responded “What are you trying to say Mr. Harrison?”
Th’lora immediately chimed in “What he’s saying, is that the explosion caused a warp core breach and my ship has been destroyed!”
“I am terribly sorry Captain. Rest assured we will do everything that we can to find the person or persons responsible for this tragedy and bring them to justice. In the meantime, if there is anything we can do to make your stay more enjoyable, do not hesitate to let me know personally.”
“Please see that you do.” Th’lora retorted. “Furthermore, consider yourself lucky that we have already agreed to provide humanitarian aid regarding this virus that is plaguing your capital, otherwise I would recall my officers and peacefully await for a rescue vessel from Starfeet and leave you to attend to your problems on your own.”
With that, Th’lora gestured for her officers to follow her and the three of them left the office while the Administrator hung his head in shame.
Back at the laboratory some time later, Doctor Brant had managed to go over schematics of the refinery that he had requested and as luck would have it, his assumption that the entire refinery’s drinking water had been supplied by the reservoir was correct and as a result he was able to obtain samples of the reservoir water. He was just starting to look over the results of the scans when Treylana and Th’lora entered.
“Ah Captain…Commander, you’re just in time.” Brant stated as he returned his glance back to the monitor displaying the scan data not even batting an eye that the Captain was present against standard away team protocol.
“Uh huh. Just as I suspected.”
“What is it Doctor?” Th’lora queried.
“We have the source of the virus. Nurse Cahill was able to question some of the patients. When she did, she learned that during the attack on the refinery three weeks ago there was a suspicious individual lurking near the refinery’s water reservoir. Through schematics I was able to determine that the refinery’s drinking water was fed from the reservoir and this container…” he said lifting a tall cylindrical canister “contains a sample of the water from that reservoir. I’ve just conducted a scan and there is a foreign contaminant in the water with trace signatures that match scans of the patients here in the hospital.”
“Do you think you can cure it?” Treylana asked, with an enthusiastic overtone.
“Well, if we can get the uplink re-established with the ship…”
Brant was immediately cut off by the Captain “That won’t be possible I’m afraid. The ship has been destroyed.”
With an almost defeated look on his face, his next words to the Captain did not come easy “Then I hate to say it Captain, without the assistance of the ship’s computer there isn’t much I can do. The Celesian’s medical technology isn’t as sophisticated as ours. I may be able to synthesize a compound to neutralize the virus and prevent further contamination, but I won’t be able to treat the genetic alterations of those already infected. There will be mass casualties in a matter of days as those with the most severe symptoms begin to cease responding to current treatments.”
“Do what you can, doctor. I’ll inform the Administrator of your progress and what he can expect. I’ll also express the urgency to Starfleet to get a science vessel here as soon as possible to continue your work. Let us know if there is anything you need.”
At this point there wasn’t much that could be done except to let the doctor proceed with what analysis and treatment he could provide using the tools he had available to him. The two ladies departed the lab and exited the hospital to catch the next shuttle bound for the Administrator’s office and runabout. Treylana didn’t like being the bearer of bad news but someone had to do it.
As far as Treylana was concerned, the mission was now over. She had hoped for a better outcome. However, it was obviously doomed from the start. At least a partial success was better than complete failure.