Monday, February 25, 2013

Relic - Chapter 11

Chapter 11

"Lieutenant D'vresh, what is the status of the Cahar shuttles?"

"Captain, the first three have delivered personnel to our forward loading bay and are going back for more survivors. The next two are docking by engineering to deliver consumables, equipment and their engineering personnel to help expedite repairs."

Capt. Menard had only just gotten back from his rest period relieving Cmdr. Tomel. Their shift schedule allowed for a minimal amount of time for consultation and Tomel had been at the forward cargo bay to help direct personnel. They would get a full command crew together out of the three remaining Federation vessels, and Capt. Menard was longest in service with the USS Blade, or what remained of it, being the only vessel that had propulsion capability that meant that the Light Cruiser Captain now was put in the position of getting the survivors away from this place at the edge of the Organian system just inside a shell of planetesimels that were the equivalent of Earth's Kuiper Belt Objects.

"Good! After that comes the New Carrolton. Make sure that Capt. Fosma can coordinate for the equipment and consumables and then give us a warning to tractor the evacuation pods from them."

"Aye-aye, sir."

"Next is coordinating with the Organians..." Capt. Menard looked at the viewscreen as he shifted it view the twisted wreckage of what had once been a very advanced starship. "Let me know when... Pilot Thossen?..."

"Yes, Captain," Lt. D'vresh said.

" available. They told us they needed time to dismantle some of their equipment to help in their survival."

A minor series of tones came from the console of Lt. D'vresh who started shifting comm channels.

"Captain, Pilot Thossen is available."

"On audio," Menard said as that was a low throughput system that wouldn't take away from all the ongoing rescue and movement efforts amongst personnel, ships, shuttles and coordinating the transfer of goods and equipment.

"Captain Menard, this is Pilot Thossen."

"Yes Pilot, how are your preparations going?"

"Slowly, Captain. Our sensors are picking up activity. Our systems are somewhat more sensitive than yours and it appears that a large vessel is approaching at sub-light speed."

Menard got up and went over to the empty science station and reviewed what the automated sensors had recorded the last hour.

"Can we free up some comms to get a feed relay?" he asked when there was no apparent changes from the sensor systems.

"Aye-aye, sir."

"Transfering the data stream, Capt. Menard."

"Reviewing directly, Pilot Thossen. We are short on sciences personnel."

"Understood, Captain."

As he reviewed the data he noticed the mass change and shifted the analysis systems to the incoming data.

"Definitely a ship and its following... its coming in from where our taskforce entered the system..." Menard started getting data from the sensors still working on his ship and integrated them with the data stream coming from the Organians and sent that back to them.

"Are you getting that, Pilot Thossen?"

There was a pause after he said that and he noticed the Organians shifting additional sensors towards the direction the new vessel was coming from.

"Yes, Capt. Menard. That is a very large vessel yet it is giving very little beyond its mass for sensor analysis."

As they spoke the approaching vessel gave off an IFF response which gave the ship ID and owner of the vessel, that being Daystrom Industries.

"I don't believe it..." Menard said, "... that is the salvaged vessel we were supposed to wait for before we got the emergency call to drop everything and come here. I thought that ship was in disrepair."

"Apparently not, Capt. Menard," the Organian replied, "yet it is a private vessel. Is it a freighter?"

Lieutenant D'vresh got an incoming hail as Menard saw it change course and speed towards their ship grouping.

"Captain, we are getting a hail from that vessel."

"As am I, Captain Menard," said pilot Thossen.

"OK, for this I'll divert bandwidth. Pilot Thossen I'll send my feed to you if you can do the same for us.

"Yes, I can do that, Captain. I will now talk with the incoming vessel directly."

"Right," Menard said, "Blade, out. Lieutenant, on screen if we are getting that."

"Aye-aye, sir."

"...Raul Edrera from Daystrom Industries working under Federation Trade Articles, are any of your vessels able to respond? Repeating. This is Captain Raul Edrera from Daystrom Industries..."

"Captain Edrera, this is Captain Menard of the USS Blade, responding for our group. We are in dire straights as are the USS New Carrolton, USS Cahar and Organian vessel that we came to rescue. This is the remains of our task force protection group to keep ships from Organian space and I am senior ranking Captain now in charge of that group. We have stranded spacemen in need of rescue and evacuation from the Organian system which has been taken over by unknown and hostile forces as well as one Organian vessel that has survivors in need of rescue. Over."

The minutes dragged by and Captain Menard was relieved to have a crewman from the Cahar take over at the Science station, so that he could go back to the command chair. D'vresh had muted out the repeating signal while the main viewscreen now looked out into space somewhat aft of their vessel with the Organian vessel to the lower left of the screen. A pip indicated where the incoming vessel was, its mass and IFF pinger ID. It was still not in easy visual enhancing and augmenting range. Even knowing the general type of vessel had not prepared Menard for its mass indicator, yet for all the power it must have it gave off little in the way of obvious radiation in any part of the spectrum.

"Captain Menard, this is Captain Edrera. There is more than enough space aboard my ship for all survivors. If this system is in hostile hands, I will not be able to guarantee that I can tow out any vessels from it. Please provide a priority listing for vessels in need of immediate help. I will keep the aft shuttle bays open as well as side cargo bays for shuttles of navigable escape pods. I will be opening no bays facing into this system. My ship will assist survivors in getting organized once on-board to facilitate further operations. Our shields will be down and our weapons charged in case of any attacks. Over."

Captain Menard nodded at D'vresh who put the priority schedule into the data stream.

"Very good and nice to have you here, Capt. Edrera. It is my understanding that the escape and rescue pods of the Organian vessels will be able to navigate freely and I will ask that they abandon their vessel to board your ship. Our task force priority at this point is to evacuate the New Carrolton, then the Cahar and then the Blade. The New Carrolton has taken the most severe damage and the majority of its escape pods are non-functional and they have patients in critical condition. We will use the shuttles from the Cahar and Blade's escape pods to rendezvous with your vessel. Once all are with you I would advise immediate escape from this system before you are noticed. Whatever these beings are, they have weapons of types that cannot be stopped by shields or even armor and the smallest of their vessels are difficult to destroy and only through anti-matter destruction of other task force members were a number of these unknown vessels destroyed. Those that remained disabled us and left the vicinity. Over."

"We have visual now, Captain."

"Very good, Ensign. On screen."

The main viewscreen wavered for a moment before all the visual augmenting systems were able to render the image of the incoming vessel into something more than just a faint blur. First the approximate outlines of the vessel appeared and then the augmented coloration and shading, which was all in tones of black and grey. With a forward hull that was distinctive, and a rear hull that was out of scale to anthing he was used to calling a 'starship', the vessel itself now appeared. With the scaling next to it having to start in the hundreds of meters, Captain Menard knew that even though the makers of the vessel were obvious, it was something that would have dwarfed all of the members of the original task force, combined.

"That is a roaming battlestation, not a starship," he said to himself.

"The Klingons built that?" the Ensign said as he stared at the screen.

"Built it and lost it during their Civil War, ensign. I had thought that ship was a joke or just a tall tale... until it was found by Capt. Edrera now of Daystrom Industries. I would have thought that such a thing would be an unusable hulk being as old as it was."

As it approached D'vresh indicated that the full audio and visual signal was available.

"On screen," Menard ordered.

What appeared was the visual of an Andorian in Daystrom Industry suit sitting in the center seat of a large Klingon bridge. Large for Klingon designs, at least, small in comparison to a Galaxy Class or other modern vessel in the Fleet.

"Captain Menard, the rear shuttle bays doors will be open and personnel can transfer via the air locks there for those too critical to move via escape capsule. I'm sending the radiation hazard zone directly aft of the vessel and my automated system is working to minimize its output. I'm in contact with Commander Pierce of the New Carrolton and believe I can manuever the forward boom cargo bay along side their saucer bay on the port side for temporary bridgement between the ships. As the Cahar is nearly abandoned, their last contingent will be using the bay on the starboard side. The one thing my ship is desperately low on is impulse engine fuel and my automated systems here inform me that Federation fuel, while not optimal, can be used by my ship. So either of the container shuttles if they can off-load impulse fuel from any of the surviving vessels to my ship would be greatly appreciated and both would be extremely helpful. All smaller cargo docks facing to the aft or away from the interior of this system are open and available for use for personnel transfer and any larger cargo necessary for crew survival. Pilot Thossen informs me that their vessel is in primary abandonment process and they will proceed with off-loading their portable survival equipment and then use personnel escape pods for their crew and smaller containers. My automated system is doing the coordinating between transports, pods and utilizing tractors where necessary, although I do not want to call attention to my ship by actively using such high power energy systems."

"Understood, Capt. Edrera. I've informed my crew that we are evacuating to your vessel. And thank you for taking over the comms and coordination duties! Our comms array took a bad hit from some sort of fusion weapon." he said looking at his comms officer who was shifting feeds even as he spoke. The main viewscreen of the Blade shifted to forward as the larger vessel passed to its port side, and then augmented feeds from it started to appear on the main screen. As it passed he could see the tiny lights that indicated open bays and airlocks, until the last and largest part of the vessel passed to reveal the top and bottom shuttle bays as small rectangles of light and a red, angy glow between them across the entire expanse of the rear hull save for a small dark area along the direct beam of the ship. He didn't doubt that it could take all of the remaining survivors. In fact getting lost in such a vessel that size might just prove to be a problem.

"Yes, Captain, more than happy to do that for you. Do you have any recordings from the conflict? If there is a chance that this ship will have to fight off an attack, I would like any information you have."

Menard looked at his science officer, raising his eyebrows.

"I can have what there is of it in a few minutes, Captain."

"Good. You'll have that before we evacuate, Captain Edrera. I'll make sure the rest of the surviving ships provide that for you, save the Organians as they are outside my command sphere."

"Understood," Raul said, "I'm the last ride leaving here, and I need information. I have a guess as to what's going on... an uncountable number of starships in the inner part of this system tells me a lot... but I need confirmation. And not to be noticed. I don't want to stay here one second longer than necessary and I'm really not sure this ship is up to a fight."

"We sure weren't, that's for sure," Menard said, "and thank you for getting here, Capt. Edrera. I'm afraid we left in a bit of a hurry to find out why Organians would send a distress call."

"I can see why you did that," Raul said. "Captain Menard, I'm needed for other coordination of evacuation for the New Carrolton. My system is set up to coordinate evacuation procedures. As there are only Klingon type medical systems, you'll need to bring what you have for transporting patients and find some people who can adapt the Klingon systems to something you can better use."

"Thank you, Captain Edrera. We will do so. Blade, out."

"Edrera, out."

The main viewscreen changed over to a composite of sensor overlays from to show the inner part of the Organian system where ships were moving around the inner planetary bodies. Another analysis piece was added that started to differentiate ships by their albedo and reflected light intensity.

"Nothing prepared us for that," Menard whispered as he went over to D'vresh. "Lieutenant, get our assignments and entry areas for Edrera's ship and start evacuating our wounded personnel. I'm heading to the data log stores and getting those ready to travel, along with the ship's bell. I hate to leave the Blade, but what is out there leaves me no choice. We will abandon ship in an orderly fashion, but abandon it we must."

"Aye-aye, sir. We are getting information and feeds from the automated system on Captain Edrera's vessel," D'vresh said as he looked at the Captain. "You might want to take a look and listen at that for a moment, sir."

Menard look puzzled and then nodded.

"On main, we can't do anything about the rest of the system," he said looking at the main viewscreen.

An exterior view of the battered saucer and remains of the dorsal interconnector of the Blade was on screen. A small logo on the lower right with 'DAYSTROM INDUSTRIES' was visible. Multiple highlighted zones were starting to show up with lists of personnel attached to them. A woman's voice could be heard.

"... aft Cargo Hold 2 for staging of injured personnel and their transport. Cahar shuttle 5 dash 1 is scheduled for rendezvous at lock in 10 minutes. Transit time to Level 18 cargo dock will be 7 minutes. Adjust all personnel comms to Administrative Channel 7 or via coordination with Tricorders on wide band instruction..."

"We have a number of direct data streams now by-passing our comms system, Captain."

"Really? But how is that possible?"

"I don't know, Captain. But if that is an automated system, it has a lot to do since it is doing that for each of the ships."

"Just what the hell did Captain Edrera find? And who the hell are Daystrom Industries?"


Captain Fosma walked across the improvised cargo bay connector extending from the saucer section of his vessel to the forward most part of the boom of the ship Mr. Edrera was piloting. Fosma wore his away team uniform and had a pack on his back that contained personal effects and the ship's logs. In a carrying case in his left hand was the ship's bell which, by tradition, was where the soul of a ship was. He saw Edrera standing, with a long pack on his back, in the receiving bay of that section of the boom as he saluted Fosma.

"Permission to come aboard, Captain Edrera?"

"Permission, granted for you and all other survivors, Captain Fosma."

Fosma pressed his lips together and nodded and indicated to the Lt. Commander in charge of moving personnel that it was safe to get started.

"Thank you, Captain Edrera..."

"Raul, please, Captain Fosma. I wanted to be here to greet you and make sure that everything can be done to expedite your evacuation."

Fosma nodded and watched as his crew started moving the wounded on manual stretchers as the extended artificial gravity fields wouldn't allow for normal repulsors to work. As they came to the cargo hold a tricorder on each stretcher gave directions to the turbolift which was in use to help transport the injured and sick to the nearest room functioning as a sick bay.

"Thank you, Raul. Collin is my name," he said extending his hand and shaking Raul's, "we won't be long for the wounded. I have what's left of my engineering crew in the rear cargo area ferrying over bulk containers that contain the remains of our impulse engine fuel. And the crew not essential to move the wounded will be doing that with smaller cargo and consumables here."

Raul nodded.

"Any chance of trying to salvage your sub-space comms system?"

Fosma shook his head.

"Melted slag. Who or whatever they are didn't bother doing that to the lower power sub-space systems, like sensors, but just blanked those out. For the heavier units that utilized sub-space a concentrated and sustained energy attack fused them solid. Ditto the back-up and tertiary units. We've been operating on emergency stores as the replicators are out as well which means no transporters of any sort."

It was a story that Raul would get used to.

"Lets get out of the way, here," Raul said, "we can accompany the next load of your wounded to one of the aft medical bays and then walk over to where the Blade escape pods will be landing in a cargo bay."

Fosma nodded and fell into step next to Raul as they went with an injured Lt. Commander who had three sets of portable units on his manual stretcher giving readouts to the medical technician moving it forward under temporary repulsors that M-5 had found amongst the stores in the Klingon vessel. Federation repulsor systems didn't work well with the grated decking of the Klingon vessel, but the ride was smooth with the Klingon systems that could carry a minimal charge and still worked. Captain Fosma placed his hand on the hand of the unconscious Lt. Commander and shook his head. Raul looked at the radiation burns and indication that the systems gave for stimulated regrowth of bones and nerves for the right hip and leg area. Additional readouts for the patient indicated low fluid levels, steady but low vital signs and other indicators for concussion. They reached the turbolift elevator which was open to them and stepped in along with three other patients on the manual stretchers and the person guiding each of them.

"Turbolift moving to Rear Hull, Section 3, Level 18," the voice said on the turbolift's intercom.

Captain Fosma took his hand up and shifted the ship's bell back to it.

"Raul, just what the hell is this ship?"

Raul smiled as he looked up from the wounded crewman.

"Collin this is the biggest wild goose hunt object in this and the adjoining sectors for at least 100 years. It was being put together by a group of Klingon rebels just before the collapse of the Empire due to dilithium shortages. From what I can piece together there would have been a civil war in the Empire one way or another, and this ship was made as a way to move multiple semi-completed hulls as one vessel. Or maybe just as it is as one super-ship. I don't know, for sure, and the factions fighting on this ship didn't leave good records. The dead of this ship told no tales."

The turbolift moved forward then up and then shifted along the main travel path towards the rear hull.

Capt. Fosma grunted as he looked at the adjusted displays which formed something relatively close to Federation standard readouts.

"But how did you get all of these changes? I mean, I know the readouts and displays are adaptable to a degree, those that don't have imprinted, etched or stenciled gauges, at least. You haven't been on this ship your whole life, have you?"

Raul chuckled as the turbolift went down the main lift tube into the rear hull.

"No, I've had help from the system Daystrom Industries sent with me. It is an adaptable system that integrates with hardware and puts a coherent cybernetic framework to it that then feeds into the main units of the system for command and control."

"Really?" Fosma said looking around the turbolift which still had etched Klingon emblams, writing and emergency procedures that were not adjustable displays. "Adapts and integrates, you say?"

"Yes. It took me the better part of a week to take out the Klingon cut-offs, remove their security routines and cross-connect their systems to get the ship hooked together cybernetically. Without that system, I would have had to get this ship towed back to Daystrom Industries. It would have been worth the cost, of course, but a few extra months in the doing."

"That's an amazing system, to say the least," Fosma said as the turbolift slowed and changed directions to go into Section 3.

"This turbolift will stop near the appropriate sick bay. Please utilize guidance instructions on displays for movement to the appropriate room," the voice said.

"Thank you, M-5," Raul said.

"You are welcome, Captain Edrera. Would you like a status update?"

Raul looked to Capt. Fosma who blinked looking at him.

"M... M-5? Daystrom...."

"Yes, Collin. Not that M-5, but this one which is more appropriately M-5/V. The system that has integrated with this ship to run it and which is doing the job of coordinating this rescue operation."

"Not alone, Capt. Edrera," M-5 said, "everyone is being very helpful in providing crew status and equipment updates, as well as feeding in sensor data. The historical data on this attack are vital to this mission. Thank you for providing it, Capt. Fosma."

"You're welcome...M-5, is it?" Fosma said automatically as the turbolift slowed and shifted down levels.

"Yes, Capt. Fosma. I consider the information that all of the vessels have provided as essential to understanding this mission. Capt. Edrera, I would back their recommendations to expedite this evacuation and leave some secondary stores on vessels so that we can make rapid egress from this system."

Raul nodded.

"Agreed. I don't like ships that use anti-neutrons, 100 gravity shear forces systems, inducted energy transmission from sub-space or other less exotic if not less lethal capabilities on starships. Even this ship can't take that sort of thing. So ordered. We can get the protein systems adapted fast enough to keep everyone fed, there is more than enough water and we recycle that, and the rest of life support works well enough so that we can stay out of suits..."

"I would still recommend individual suits, Capt. Edrera," M-5 said, "as a safety precaution."

Raul smiled, "So ordered."

Captain Fosma watched Raul as he talked and listened to the M-5 system. This was certainly like no system he had ever heard of from anywhere.

The turbolift slowed and the doors opened onto Level 18. Medical technicians moved their patients out into the corridor and then turned to the left as they saw the indictors on their screens give them an overview of the level. After the last of them left the two men walked out and the turbolift doors closed behind them.

"And that is M-5? Able to do all of that?"

"Not just all of that, Collin. If you have down time it is more than willing to talk with you, but outside of ship duties it normally gives privacy and otherwise doesn't interfere with your life. I haven't been lonely for the weeks it has taken to get this ship into something like working order with at least one useful turbolift running. A ship still needs its crew."

"And a Captain," M-5 said, "I am just a crewmember, just one with greater responsibilities."

"Greater resp... but you are running the ship!" Fosma said.

"We can talk as we walk, Collin," Raul said gesturing to the right.

"Of course," Fosma said as they started walking over to a gangway.

"But... M-5... you do control this ship, correct?" he asked.

"Only insofar as is necessary due to the lack of crew, Captain Fosma. I cannot do the manual things necessary to run a ship like this or any vessel and if there were no crew I would return to the nearest designated safe point or recovery area, or one of its alternates and make the full record of any incidents available. I am accountable to my duties, Captain."

As they hand slid down the gangway Fosma followed Raul down to Level 22 where he stepped out to the corridor. He felt vaguely disoriented with the arrangement and couldn't place his finger on just what was wrong.

Raul looked at him and indicated towards the next intersection towards the center of the ship.

"They didn't have time to do a great job fitting things in on this hull. Very rush job to move ceiling fixtures to where it would be and adjust emplacements for floor mounted equipment to the new floor which used to be a ceiling. You'll have to excuse any upside-down entrances, rooms and such."

Smirking, Collin Fosma walked next to Raul.

"That explains it! Just a bit disorienting... but it makes sense..."

"Parts of this ship are still just framework, when you come right down to it," Raul said, "M-5 has listed all of those as no-go areas so someone doesnt get a 30 level fall or get wedged between some poorly adjusted ship fittings. Some of the main corridors are no-go for that, and its something you just have to get used to."

"Yes, I see... Raul, I think I should give a warning to my crew as to what sort of system is running this ship..."

"M-5, can you patch him through for that? Also give the DI overview of the M-Series systems?"

"Of course, Captain Edrera. If you would like to speak to your crew or any of its members, just say so, Capt. Fosma. Your personal communicators are now fully part of the system and recognized for that as are all other crews, save the Organians who do not have such devices."

"Thank you," he said and then gave a quick run-down of the ship's control system, ship's condition and to pay attention to the designated no-go areas. "You know, I'll need to look at that overview, too," he said after having that delivered to his crew.

"It's pretty basic," Raul said, "most of the ship interface part is done by the M-1 and M-2 units. You could actually run a ship on just those units as an M-2/V system, all hooked together with any part of a ship that has accessible data links to it."

"Really? But that isn't what you have, is it?"

Raul looked at him as they got to another, dual gangway and Raul indicated to go down, again, and they stopped on level 24.

"Actually it is what I expected," Raul said, "I knew that there would need to be more M-1 and M-2 units and that they could gang functions for them into smaller housings. I didn't expect that anyone would put the full-up higher series into that mix and give me an M-5/V."

"You didn't... but why did they do it, then? It seems like a very valuable system to be lent out on such a venture."

Raul shrugged.

"Those in charge of that part of the project wanted to give Raul every chance they could to come back alive," M-5 said, "They trusted that Enid Daystrom wouldn't send out a member of the company on such a mission without proper equipment."

"You aren't part of Star Fleet, then?" Fosma asked.

"I was in the Fleet, transitioned over from the Gishan Defense Forces, did my tour and then went to I/CI, did my tours there and then retired, getting a bump up to Captain level at retirement."

"Up or out got you?"

"Essentially," Raul said as they walked following the status indicators along the corridor, "anyone going into I/CI at the low end knows they aren't headed into the Brass Factory. You have got to be a pure PITA and cycle out to active Fleet if you want that, and very few ever do."

"Those that survive, at least," Fosma said, "So what is your status now?"

"Retired Fleet, now part of Daystrom Industries, which has gotten Federation Trade Council sanction to bring in anyone and any ship on the 'wanted' list. The company is also starting up a refit and repair group, along with M-Series installs for commercial vessels, another group servicing Fleet vessels, and salvage work like this ship. But as I'm also part of the DI group to go after the 'wanted' list... say, I wonder if everyone in DI has that authority?"

"They do," M-5 said, "although few are given the specialized equipment to properly carry it out."

Fosma looked at Raul who looked back at him as they turned the corner heading to the Cargo Bay where the Blade crew was helping to off-load wounded from one of the Cahar's shuttles.

"Specialized equipment? And what is that? The M-5/V?"

Raul smirked, "Classified."

Commander Zahar Tomel stepped from the rear of the shuttle and helped his medical technician get one of the sets of Klingon repulsor systems from the side rack where they were stored and attached to the stretcher. As they walked towards him, Tomel stood up and saluted.

"Commander Tomel of the USS Blade, asking permission to come aboard."

Raul returned the salute.

"Capt. Edrera, in charge. Welcome aboard, Commander."

"Captain Menard sends his greetings. He is organizing the Cahar bulk transport shuttles and stores transition to escape pods."

"It's good to see you, Commander," Capt. Fosma said shaking his hand after Raul had done so.

"Glad to be here, Capt. Fosma," he said turning to Raul, "Capt. Edrera this is some ship you got here. Thank you for coming to rescue us."

"My pleasure, Commander. As there is only the one working turbolift, I suggest that we take it and after your most critical are off-loaded we can go to where we are most needed. Or at least you, Collin. I'll just take the gangway up to the lower shuttle area to greet the Organians... that is where you have them scheduled, isn't it, M-5?"

"Yes, Captain. Bulk transfers from the Blade will be in the upper shuttle area."

"Good. Commander Tomel, if you need to find directions to anything just ask M-5. Captain Fosma, I believe you will be required for final evacuation of your vessel, but a stateroom should be available to you along the way..."

"It is, Capt. Edrera," M-5 said, "rear sections of the ship will be for designated ships and their crew will be concentrated there, although any of the rooms that are habitable are available for general use."

"If you need safe storage," Raul said indicating to Capt. Fosma's case, "then aft Engineering or any of the storage areas associated with it is the place for it. Work it out with M-5."

"Of course, Raul, and thank you for all you are doing."

"I just want to get out of this alive, Collin," Raul said, "I will leave you two to your jobs. I'm the only crew of this ship that can do some things, and I'm needed elsewhere."

"Of course, Captain," Tomel said.

Raul waved and walked out to the corridor and turned to his right, disappearing from sight.

"He is joking, right, Captain? He isn't the only crew of this ship, is he?"

"No Commander, there is one other crewmember here and I think she... it... will take some getting used to."

"I can schedule the next turbolift to take you back to the forward hull after dropping off the wounded from the Blade, Capt. Fosma."

Fosma nodded, "Thank you, M-5, if you can get me to Engineering, I'll drop off my materials in safe storage and then go forward.

"Yes, Captain. I can do that. You may need to walk out of the Engineering area after that due to the priority scheduling of medical casualties," M-5 said.

Fosma looked at Tomel.

"You see, it is relatively friendly, given the circumstances. And I don't mind a bit of a walk. Do introduce yourself to M-5, Commander Tomel, I think we will be interacting with it quite a bit in the future."


"Now that reclamation input shelter needs to go to the designated room," Pilot Thossen said to the two Organians who were utilizing a repulsor skid to shift material from the various escape systems into the larger shuttle bay. As their skid raised up from the floor it started to tilt and the Organian in charge tried to compensate and the enclosure on the skid slid off to his left side.

"... and that is it for the update, Captain Edrera."

The sound of M-5's voice could be heard as Raul approached the many trying to coordinate his fellow Organians on what needed to be offloaded to where.

"That isn't what I wanted," the one controlling the skid said.

"It is what happened, now the rest of you get that enclosure back on the skid," Thossen said as others turned to look at the Andorian approaching their group.

"Ah, you must be Captain Edrera, yes?" the nearest Organian said as Raul approached.

"Yes, that's me. Are you Pilot Thossen?"

"No, that's me," Thossen said watching his co-pilot and then looking at Raul who nodded and walked over to him.

"Glad to meet you, Pilot Thossen. I'm sorry that you are the last group I could get to, but there is limited transport in the interior of this ship."

Thossen waved the co-pilot to another group offloading the central part of the waste reprocessor system, and the co-pilot nodded, heading over to the capsule that had a bulky piece of equipment in it that three others were struggling to shift through the doors of the capsule.

"Did you get your wounded to the designated sick bay?"

"Yes, Captain. We are not used to... tending to physical problems by not having done them for so long. We have one of our number who was the equivalent of a nurse, I believe it is in your terminology, who is doing that."

Raul nodded trying to figure out just what it was that was in most of the capsules that the Organians had brought over and then shook his head.

"Have you had any problems working with M-5?"

Thossen inhaled and looked around the shuttle bay.

"I have no complaints, Captain. This sort of sentient construct..." he turned back from watching his people get the survival equipment from the capsules, pods and then the containers that held them, "... seems like a fair bit above anything we had experienced. We may have encountered similar but not everything in each of our memories could be moved to a physical body, particularly at the last moment. If we had but a day more..."

Thossen sighed shaking his head.

"Pilot Thossen, could you tell me what happened to drive your people to... this?" Raul said inclining his head towards the few dozen Organians that were trying to get their works organized.

Thossen pursed his lips and stared off to the rear of the bay and then back at Raul.

"Captain Edrera, the expenditure of power that we made to stop the war between your Federation and the Klingon Empire... it exhausted us. Not physically, of course, but moving such distances even as non-corporeal beings requires a fair amount of energy. Interdicting so many ships was far more than we had ever expended before. So long as we had contact with our energy taps via sub-space, we had no worries about replenishing ourselves and our reserves."

Raul shifted his head to one side and was obviously thinking about that.

"Yet you did. Weren't you able to do that? I mean, replenish yourselves?"

"No, Captain, we were not. During that episode until a final treaty was signed we expended a high rate of energy and drew directly through our sub-space taps. One can't exist as just an energy matrix without a source of power, you must understand. Any matrix even one encoded into space-time will suffer entropy. There is a small and vital reserve that each of us kept for ourselves, that we didn't commit, which would last each of us for thousands of years. At the end of negotiations, when we released our hold on the ships and returned to Organia..."

Thossen was lost in thought while looking at Raul.

"Something happened?"

Thossen nodded.

"Our tap sources, generally large stars but we had a number of smaller energy taps to more than enough of those long-lasting types in what you term the 'L' and 'M' class of stars, those taps shut down. At first we thought that it was through a strain in sub-space created by that energy flow. Of all the places we know so little about, sub-space is a primary one, even though we depended on it for our survival. Because of the nature of sub-space, our self-matrices would be distorted, at best, and ripped apart, at worse, if we investigated it over much. We had done so when we had physical bodies, of course, and found it hostile to keeping normal matter and energy together, but suitable for energy transmission. We had good models for sub-space and none of them explained what was going on."

"Is that related to all those ships now in your system?"

"Yes it is, Captain Edrera. There is one large gas giant in our system and we had understood that it distorts sub-space in certain ways and it was where our first physical tap sources were located. We tried everything else to re-establish our non-physical taps, of course, but we sent scouts out to see if the old physical taps could be utilized. They were on a moon around that gas giant. The moon had been turned into a molten slag. Not just the taps, mind you, but the entire moon. That a month ago, in your time frame, and we lost a few individuals who expended their reserves to get to those taps. After that we understood that it was, perhaps, our understanding of sub-space was faulty."

Raul shook his head and stared at Pilot Thossen.

"I... led a group of individuals back to our old ships, kept safely hidden inside specially created asteroidal bodies. We started working on them, and salvaging the few that could be made to work and got them running. We thought that with the ships, the technology, that we could..." Thossen frowned and looked at Raul, "... your Federation would take refugees. As we got the ships active we saw on our sensors that sub-space was being disrupted, thinned, near the gas giant. Then the first ships started to come through in their threes, sixes, nines and more. We warned our people, of course, urged them to take physical form..."

Pilot Thossen grew quiet as Raul stared at him.

"The Federation will take you as refugees, I'm certain, Pilot Thossen. I think that is about all we can do given what appears to be going on..."

"Captain Edrera, our ship is being scanned from sub-space," M-5 said.

"Not good," Raul whispered.

"They come for you, now, just as they did for us," Pilot Thossen said.

"M-5, patch that information through to everyone. Red Alert. Pilot Thossen, I suggest you get your people a bit less exposed than here. I have work to do."


M-5 started to understand the idea of 'being busy' for the first time since its start-up. Getting necessary decks prepared, stores analyzed, and all the other business necessary to rescuing hundreds of people from starships, that was good though sad work to have. Directing with those being saved, consulting them, and getting background information allowed it to fully grasp just how bad this situation was. From multiple datastores it analyzed what had happened to the Star Fleet flotilla, how it was attacked, by what and with what. Save that a number of the sensor readings and analysis results by different ships made no sense to it at all. It wasn't just the lack of warp drive signatures, and yet faster than light motion, that it grasped to be a function of being partially in sub-space.

What M-5 was having difficulty in understanding was just how the readings on a significant number of ships, or objects acting like ships but in no way conforming to anything it understood to be a ship, could survive in space. That they did and that there were weapons in these non-ship objects was obvious. Actual, real ships, made with frames and armor, with power systems and everything else, that M-5 could grasp and understand. And those real ships of those types, although in many strange formations and sizes, were the real threat mounting the barely separated looping gravity planes that extended out for thousands of kilometers that could slip through all shields and do horrific damage to ship structures. They were lethal.

Yet they operated in ways it fundamentally understood. Ways that would allow some chance for manuever, escape, evasion, even when they traveled by sub-space. Those other things, the ships that weren't, they didn't leave tell-tale signs of sub-space passage for all the fact that is what they must be using. They slipped across the interphase between normal and sub-space without a sign, save for the loss of physical returns from them. And they could re-enter as they pleased with even less sign of passage.

To keep track of everyone, the material and information, who needed urgent medical care and what sort of care, all of that it created routines amongst the Klingon processing systems to handle, and at that with some of the lowest end systems on the ship. Humanoids wouldn't notice the nanoseconds of lag, even creeping into a real second or two, that it took those systems to respond. When the Cahar's shuttles landed, M-5 quietly moved programs into their systems to augment its standard Federation duotronic systems and the Klingon based sensor computational systems. It wanted to make sure that no one was left behind and that it could defend these lives to the best of its abilities. Yet nothing had ever been put together to deal with such a set of threats as it now faced.

Keeping to normal sensor sweeps, M-5 sought out those few yet significant signs of a sub-space sensor sweeping through the region of space that encompassed the crippled and nearly destroyed surviving vessels around it. Something about how those non-ships moved raised a major warning sign to M-5, yet it didn't know what that warning was, exactly.

Minutes dragged into an hour. What should have been simple rescue operation was becoming problematic due to delays, even after the order was sent to leave secondary materials behind. Captain Fosma set the final timer with his command crew to break up the New Carrolton, and came back on board to the relative safety of the Klingon ship. What remained of the Cahar also broke into pieces via self-destruction demolition charges. It was only once Capt. Menard had started the timer going on Blade that M-5 started to feel a bit better as it used thrusters to slowly back the ship up to expedite the arrival of Capt. Menard.

That is when it sensed the scan coming from within the mass of ships around the large gas giant of the Organian system and warned Raul.

Raul was running towards Engineering as the last shuttle carrying the last of the command crew from the Blade was still in transit.

"Status update, M-5," Raul said as he ran towards that one place where his space suit was, and the additional rounds for the device. He was starting to realize by the information M-5 had filtered through to him, that he was going to need a few more of rounds that he decided not to carry if things hit the pot.

"Captain Menard and two of his Lt. Commanders are 5 minutes from arrival here, Raul. Our power systems are up and operational, weapons are being charged."

As Raul got to a gangway he started climbing. It was equal time using a turbolift or climbing and running, and he felt better with the latter while the last of the critical patients needed the former.

"Good..." he said gasping as he climbed the rungs two at a time, "... update around... anything coming?"

"Not so far..." M-5 let the sentence hang for a moment, "... correction. I am reading a sub-space discharge coming from the cubic of the gas giant."

"Ship... wake?" Raul asked as he saw that it was just a couple more levels up to Engineering.

"Unknown but unlikely, Raul. It is passing outside of our cubic. It contains none of the signatures of one of their ship types."

Raul stepped out at the Engineering level feeling a bit woozy and out of breath. He turned and headed towards Engineering.

"4 minutes to Capt. Menard's arrival," M-5 said trying to analyze the wake of the sub-space wave that passed nearby. Its readings made no sense to M-5.

At Engineering, Raul got to the hanger with his space suit, took off the device and got into the suit using emergency hook-ups.

"Time for nicities later," he mumbled to himself.

"I have a reading of a ship, one light minute fore, starboard side. It is one of the unknown ship types and class, Raul."

He brought the helmet down and saw the green lights go on inside his suit before they toned down to normal indicators. He opened the pack with the device in it and cycled out a number of rounds meant to attack electrical systems with filaments and feedback and opened the case housing the heavier rounds of solid slugs, fragmenting pieces and fiddlesticks.

"Keep tabs on it, I got the countdown and position of Capt. Menard's shuttle," Raul said as he closed up the container of spare rounds. He went over to the old tripod arrangement, hit its anchors which wrapped around the Klingon grating and then attached the end of its tether to his suit.

"M-5. Close off this conduit to the bottom of the ship, evacuate it, and then open it. You'll have to seal up Engineering to do it. I need clear readings from this device... I don't want heavy weapons going off while Menard is in transit," he said as he heard the doors close and air whistle out of Engineering.

"Aye-aye, Captain. You want to see if these ships are harmed by what Enid created?"

"Yeah, that's the idea. And a bunch of anti-neutrons sailing into a shuttlecraft isn't such a good idea, you know?"

"Doors opening. Alien vessel closing, not responding to hails."

"No shit," Raul said as he stepped to walk out into the opening that M-5 had created via the cargo corridors that led not just to one surface of the ship, but both, just off-set from each other. Artificial gravity pushed him down while the braking system on the tripod slowed him until he got to the surface of the ship.

"One minute to arrival," M-5 said.

Raul peered out over the edge of the bay opening and swung his weapon around to face the oncoming Swarm ship. He kept on changing bands to get readings on it, ranging, and utilized M-5's overalys to finally get a target picture.

"God that is one ugly..." he said.

He could see the vessel fire something and felt a light shutter transmitted through the hull to him.

"Just a standard phaser going after the shuttle, Raul. They are trying to scan us but... I think they are having problems."

"Yeah. Shoot first. No questions," Raul fired off what he identified was a portion of the vessel that did have some metallic bulkhead to it. He had decided on his round as he targeted it. It sped off through space and he could see something shimmer as it went through what might be a shield, but he suspected was skin of some sort that was translucent. The secondary thrust system kicked in on the round and it pierced the degenerated metal that had been in sub-space far too long. It was just solid enough to activate the round.

Into the atmosphere beyond that metal the round flew spewing thermobaric material which started to catch fire as soon as it touched the plasma of the bulkhead the round had come through.

Raul smiled as he saw skin and more erupt open into space.

"Capt. Menard's shuttle is on board," M-5 said.

"Right, get us the hell out of..."

Raul had just put the device back into the lock as he saw the thrashing remains of the vessel speed towards his ship.

Speeding towards him.

Through sub-space as it interphased.

M-5 activated the tripod and closed the airlock, the space suit at its end moved slowly level by level, with levels shutting and re-pressurizing after it passed.

"Raul?" M-5 asked.

There was no response.

"Your bioindicators are active, Raul. What happened to you?"

The limp suit was pulled up into Engineering, the floor closed under it, one of the solid emplacements in the open grid framework of the Engineering deck. Slowly the sound of air started to come into the room.

"Red Alert", M-5 said as two more ships appeared on its sensors.

"Captain Raul Edrera is unconscious, possibly wounded. Medical personnel signal your availability. This ship is under threat. Prepare for warp drive."

Additional anti-matter fed into the solid state system and that energy flowed into the warp drive system. A warp pocket enveloped the ship and it started to move.

"We are under warp drive. Alien vessels approaching, charging weapons."

As the USS Blade broke up the large Klingon vessel backed out of the system. One of the vessels darted towards it in normal space discharging anti-neutron weapons which interacted with the plasma in the shields. Energy dispersed and radiated the hull of the ship, anti-particles slowed by the shield plasma impinged on the hull but no longer as a concentrated stream, only pitting the forward most part of the forward hull. Other anti-neutrons that had retained speed interacted with the dense armor and slowed to impinge on the sub-surface laminates, eroding them and releasing energy that was absorbed by the armor. M-5 lashed out with phasers that seemingly went through the body of the vessel it fired at. Proximity photon torpedoes caused its form to ripple and brought the ship to a halt. Disruptors broke through the outer layers of the ship and dispersed it into large floating translucent masses peppered with metal rooms and bulkheads.

The other ship phased out of sub-space behind the Klingon vessel.

M-5 increased speed and released energy into the rear intercooler structure. It had kept days of heat generated by the ship in its cooling structure to mask its presence. Turning the Swarm vessel, if such it was, turned to meet the oncoming rear of the ship that M-5 had manuevered towards it. Before that ship could strike, before M-5 could target the rear photon topedo tube at it, the heat discharge of the large vessel pushed out and into the warp pocket that the Swarm vessel was trapped in. M-5 contracted the pocket and its sensors brought information that this ship type, whatever its merits, could be boiled and cooked by extreme heat and then vaporized by it. M-5 adjusted the pocket structure to wipe the vaporized remains of the vessel from it and then pulled the pocket tight around the ship, intensified it, and moved into proper warp speed.

All of the M-Series were created to sustain the life of a crew when their ship was damaged. To manage the operations of a vessel to save the lives of those aboard it. To confront a hostile universe and use the tools at hand to protect those who were its crew and passengers. And, at the last, M-5 would strike out with those tools to attack those that came to it as enemies. It had reviewed the records and knew that such of these small ships as it had destroyed were just scouts, feelers, and were meant to delay via harassment. This M-5 was having none of that after they had attacked its crew, its captain and its friend. Not being part of Star Fleet, not being at war with the Swarm and having its duty to save lives as primary, M-5 increased warp speed and dumped out waste energy at a high rate. It would deal with its own feelings and emotions only after its mission was over.

The readings coming from Raul Edrera's suit indicated that he was still in it.

The Daystrom Industries equipment linked to him indicated that this person was not the Raul Edrera that had been approved for the use of the equipment given to him by Daystrom Industries.

Medical technicians and an actual doctor arrived to move the limp form of Edrera to the nearest sick bay.

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