Sat around the observation lounge for the first time in days, the senior staff of the Odyssey were assembled to discuss the next leg of their trip: the radioactive mutara-class nebula. All of them had read the numerous files prepared for the meeting by the captain’s yeoman and the recommendations made by Doctor Slyvexs.
Thankfully they had passed through the plasma fields with no bumps or bruises. The Tok’lar’fern had kept to themselves after the Odyssey’s initial greeting and had kindly requested to be left alone. That had suited McCallister quite a bit as he wasn’t keen to begin first contact procedures while in the middle of this mission. Time was of the essence and they had to reach the centre and find out if this Tkon outpost truly existed.
Sitting at the head of the table, the captain had several PADDs either side of him. Duncan sat to his right, with Reyas to his left. Next to the first officer was Hunsen, followed by Jen, T’Rani and Flemen. On the opposite side to them and next to Reyas was Slyvexs, followed by Lenjir, Samris, Tomaz and Court. The uneventful trip through the plasma field had given them all breathing space to ensure they were ready and rested for the next leg of their trip.
“Right ladies and gents, where do we stand with our preparations?” McCalliser asked, kick starting the meeting.
Hunsen spoke up first, as the chief engineer it was right for him to begin. “Final checks on all systems were completed two hours ago sir, we have green lights across the board. I’ve set up the computer to run level three diagnostics every three point five hours in every primary and secondary system once we go under. Each diagnostic is set up to avoid overwhelming our holographic engineers with multiple troubleshooting issues at the same time. It will certainly keep them on their toes while they’re watching the shop.”
“They are holograms, multi-tasking should be second nature to them.” Duncan remarked.
“But we wouldn’t want to tax their matrices too much in case we lose them in the nebula.” McCallister added. “Thanks Tremt, what about emergency and back-up systems?”
“All working within peak efficiency. I had my teams undertake maintenance on them all ahead of our normal schedule. Final diagnostics on them were completed an hour ago, again nothing to worry about.” Hunsen assured.
“Good, what’s next?” McCallister asked his team.
“The transfer of command and control to cetacean ops is ready to go, you just need to give the computer the word.” Jen remarked. “Lieutenant Commander Quendez is ready too. He said his entire team is eager to make you proud sir.”
“That’s very kind of them.” McCallister said with a sense of pride that they were repreparing to do whatever it took to protect their ship and crew. “Tobias, make sure Charlin is ready to meet with me an hour before our planned long term sleep.”
Court just nodded as he took a note on the PADD he held in his hands. He was quickly taking minutes of the meeting, something he did when the entire senior staff met to discuss matters that would have significant impact on the ship or its mission. On this occasion the mission had a significant impact on the crew.
“Where are we with the stasis chambers?” He asked Slyvexs.
The Denobulan doctor turned in her chair to look at her superior, “All ready sir. Our civilian population will go in first and Cline has kindly offered the support of his security teams to oversee this. Once they are under, we will then begin on the crew.”
“Samris, what’s the latest from the crew regarding all of this?” McCallister asked his recently appointed chief counsellor. The Romulan man had been Duncan’s protege for a long time now and was more than ready for his role as the ship’s senior psychologist as well as liaison with the civilian population.
Leaning forward, Samris’ body appeared almost rigid as he attempted to avoid eye conflict with anyone on the other side of him for no apparent reason. “No-one is questioning why sir, but we’ve just got a lot of frayed nerves. My teams have been working to limit them and before people go in we’ve prepared a presentation they will all view to reassure them that the whole process is safe.”
Chuckling slightly, McCallister understood why they all felt that way. He and Karyn had numerous groans from their sons about it all. “Just make sure there is a kid friendly one. I don’t want us scaring any of the children.”
“If you can make one to appeal to a bunch of teenagers, I have three that you could test it on.” Reyas offered.
The senior staff all chuckled at that remark related to the captain and her sons. The McCallister-Reyas triplets were well known by them all, they had all watched them grow into the young men they were slowly becoming but their mixed heritage of being half-Human and half-El-Aurian had not stopped them going through their hormonal mood swings. Reyas had joked in several meetings that she was certain that she’d prefer to raise Klingon teenagers some days. McCallister had shared how he had teased their sons that he was going to make them undertake the Kolinahr ritual of which T’Rani had offered to do for free.
“Moving on,” McCallister said, “anything else on sensors before we enter the nebula?”
Reyas shook her head. “No, we’ve launched several probes ahead of us that will work for a limited time, almost like an early warning system. That said the radiation will eventually overload their shields and destroy them. I’ve already set up the automation system to launch another series of probes once we are in the nebula to take over from those we will lose.”
McCallister nodded and then asked, “Any sign of the Tok’lar’fern?”
Lenjir answered, “It would seem they’re struggling with the plasma storms, they won’t pose any threat to us.”
“Scans of their ships indicate that the nebula can overwhelm their systems. We did pick up some old debris on the outskirts that appears to be pieces from their own ships who have attempted the crossing and failed.” Tomaz added.
“Let’s hope we don’t share their fate.” The captain said as he looked down at one of the PADDs before looking back up. “And what about our guest?” McCallister inquired, referring to the Pendari they had rescued earlier.
“The professor isn’t keen and requested that he could shelter in his own ship.” Flemish reported. “Thankfully the repairs to his ship won’t be completed in time and the doctor has already prepared the stasis chamber for him.”
“I’m not having that guy roaming the corridors of my ship while we are all out. I want him to be in a stasis tube the same time our civilians go under.” McCallister mentioned.
“I’ll prepare some sedatives to help him relax before we put him under.” Slyvexs offered.
“T’Rani, where do we stand with flight control and navigation?” McCallister questions his pilot.
“Our course has already been projected and I have ensured those in cetacean ops that will be flying the ship are aware of all helm operations.” T’Rani said. She too was leaning awkwardly in, trying to avoid eye contact with those opposite to her.
“Good, anything else?” McCallister asked aloud, everyone either said no or shook their heads. “Great work everyone, let’s get through this without any drama. Dismissed.” They all filled out and McCallister observed the awkwardness that came from T’Rani and Samris, he decided he wouldn’t bother asking what was going on between them for now. He had bigger fish to fry.
“And you’re certain it’s safe?” Henri whined one more time as they approached the huge open deck that was designated for the stasis chamber network.
“For the hundredth time, yes.” Karyn reiterated to her son. “This is perfectly safe and we are only going in for two days. You’ll fall asleep and then wake up without realising what has happened.”
The entire deck was busy as the final elements of the ship’s population entered the stasis chambers and were being put to sleep. This was almost it for them all. Karyn had offered to take the boys down ahead of them going under so they could see and understand the whole process. She was now starting to regret it, especially with not having her husband with her to help out.
“I have to admit mom, it’s not appealing.” Alfie said, backing up Henri’s concerns as they could see the whole thing. “What if the hull buckles and we all get sucked out into space?”
Rolling her eyes at Alfie’s dramatic ‘what if’, which was typical of him, Karyn assured him that would not be the case. “Alfie, I promise you where all of the chambers are kept is far from the outer hull. This area is designed in an almost cocoon-like approach. The bulkheads are reinforced and containment fields are active the moment the last person goes under.”
“So that would be dad and Commander Duncan?” Theo said as he inspected an empty chamber. “It looks pretty comfortable. Could we not just sit in them while the ship makes its crossing?”
“No.” Karyn said. “The stasis field is what protects you from the field, it shields your higher brain functions and prevents your body from receiving radiation burns.”
“So we just sleep?” Henri inquired one more time, looking at the chamber that Theo was walking around.
“Yes.” Karyn answered through gritted teeth. She knew this was going to be hard and couldn’t wait for the peace that awaited her within her stasis chamber.
“Computer activate Emergency Command Holographic program, authorisation McCallister-one-seven-alpha-tango.”
On the bridge of the Odyssey, the room was dimly lit as Captain McCallister and Commander Duncan were the last ones left.
Forming into life, Odyssey’s ECH came online and appeared in the center of the bridge close to where McCallister was. The computer beeped and announced that the command codes had been transferred. The ECH’s physical appearance was of a human African-American woman in her early fifties who had straight brown hair with a few blonde highlights. She had a cheery disposition and as she recognised Captain McCallister and heard the computer speak, she gave him a friendly smile. “Captain McCallister, please state the nature of the current situation and command requirements.” Her four gold pips then appeared on her uniform, all in one row one after the other.
McCallister had only activated her a few times since taking command of the Odyssey and so seeing her was a relief of fresh air. “Penelope,” He said, calling her by her designation. “You should have our current mission orders to access. Please update your memory banks.”
“Affirmative captain.” She said with a gentle nod.
Named for the famed wife of Odysseus, Penelope was one of the first ECH programs solely designed away from the ship’s EMH program. As such she did not rely on medical subroutines such as the terrible bed-side manner that sometimes came with early EMHs. It was rare for ECH’s to get a name, but McCallister couldn’t deal with calling her just E-C-H all the time, so he allowed the engineers that installed her to name her after the queen of Ithaca.What made her extremely impressive was the fact she could literally control the entire ship through its automated systems and do it so fast that it could put the crew to shame. Though she was fast and impressive, she was limited in what she could do and required the support of the other holographic programs to maintain the ship with repairs and providing medical relief.
“Update complete.” She soon answered, “I can see why now the bridge is deserted, sir.”
Pleased she knew everything, McCallister nodded for Duncan to leave and to let him complete the final parts why he headed down to the stasis chamber network. Once they were alone he activated the Omega Directive within Penelope’s program.
“This is a first, sir.” She said after his security clearance was accepted again and the computer activated certain precautions to prevent anyone from tampering with Penelope’s program. “Is there anything else I should know?”
Shaking his head, McCallister told her that she was to do whatever it took to deal with omega in case she encountered it while they were under. “Lieutenant Commander Quendez and the rest of cetacean ops will be available to assist with navigation and monitoring the crew remotely, but I’m leaving you and the rest of the Emergency holograms to maintain the ship. Life support will be deactivated on all decks, besides those for cetacean ops and in the stasis chamber deck. Transfer that power to shields and engines. Get us through this nebula as quickly as possible, do not stop for anything.” He then walked over to his seat and opened the side pocket and pulled out the mobile emitter. Not quite as sleek as the mobile emitter that Voyager had got their hands from the 29th century, it still did the job. He held it up in the air as he spoke. “There’s enough of these to ensure you all remain active, in case any of the holographic systems on the ship’s fail.” He then placed it in her palm.
“Understood sir.” Penelope said as she held onto the device tightly.
Looking around the bridge for one more time, McCallister smiled and gave Penelope a wink as he made his way towards the turbolift. “Penelope, the bridge is yours.” He said after getting into the turbolift and just before the doors closed on him.
Penelope looked around at the darkened room and placed a hand on the back of the captain’s chair. She began a timer, counting to when the rest of the crew would come out of stasis.
Arriving in the stasis chamber catacomb, something that Commander Duncan had called it earlier on in the day, McCallister saw his entire senior staff and sons all waiting for him. Smiling at them all, he gave the order for them to get in. Giving one final hug to his sons, both he and Karyn helped them get in and watched as the chambers closed on them.
Slyvexs stood by the nearest set of monitors and she could be heard activating the ship’s Emergency Medical Holograms. Giving them their final orders, the Denobulan doctor then made her way over to her stasis chamber and got in.
Looking around the room for one final time, McCallister saw his entire crew all now sleeping besides him, Karyn and Max. “See you both in forty-eight hours or so.” He said.
“See you on the other side, sir.” Duncan said as he got into his stasis chamber and it closed on him.
Escorting Reyas over to her one, which was next to Henri’s, McCallister gave his wife an assuring kiss and wished her goodnight as he watched her get in and go under.
Finally alone, he looked around and nodded to the EMH’s that he was getting in his. Swinging his legs in he looked to his left and saw Alfie fast asleep and then saw Theo the other side of him, also peacefully resting. Lying down, he activated the switch from the inside and the door closed over the top of him. Closing his eyes he took one final breath and soon was no longer conscious.
Swimming up to the main controls, Lieutenant Commander Charlin Quendez noticed the signal that told him that the rest of their crew were now under. Signalling to everyone else in cetacen ops that the stasis chamber deck was now fully active, he closed the bulkheads and activated the special containment field around it.
“Ceta Ops to the bridge,” He gurgled into the intercom.
“Penelope here, lieutenant commander. What’s your status?” The ECH answered.
“We are good to go ma’am, helm and navigational control is ready down here. We just need your word.” Quendez remarked.
“The word is given.” Penelope replied. Looking over to his fellow aquarians, Quendez gave the signal and the Odyssey moved at high impulse into the mutara-class nebula.