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Rated: E · Sample · Sci-fi · #2278522
A story inspired on picture prompt. (wip)
The Ashes of IO-286
N.A Miller

“Captain’s Log, Star date: 4533.4,
Science Vessel, U.S.S. Russell Chamberlain, NCC-1534

The ship has just arrived at sector one forty-five, arriving at sixteen hundred hours, Xenos Colony time. We have come per orders for research of a navigation anomaly in region caused by volcanic activity on planet eight, designated IO-216. We also will be checking on all systems of the power station that was built on planet that provides power to Xenos Colony on planet three, ensuring continued normal operations of the station. So far everything is normal and functioning.”

Cruising in the stars of space, the Russell Chamberlain, a Battle Cruiser Class Starship converted to a Science Vessel slowly plows toward the solar system known as the Xenos Cluster. As the ship slowly approaches the outer-fringe of the twelve-planet solar system, on the bridge the crew works feverishly to scan the system. They are taking in relative data before heading to their destination to start their research assignment in orbit around the eighth planet. The crew is also understandably nervous with this assignment, sent out without a military escort to a far off world as the enemies of the Earth Federation are in the general vicinity of the new colony located in this cluster.

As for the Chamberlain, the ship itself is large and bulky, the size of four city blocks, a floating island in space. It has two massive engines powering the ship on the rear, a narrow, but massive main body, and a rounded front, in which it houses the bridge. It is a sleek design, dressed in white, trimmed with the red stripe and logo of the Earth Federation. It is one of the more powerful exploration and research vessels converted by the EDC. But it is under equipped and armed only with phasers as a defense. It is another reason the crew is nervous, and uptight, almost wishing that a military vessel would have been dispatched with them when the orders were cut. But that had been over three weeks ago, and there had been no contact with any other ships during their travel to this cluster.

Captain Thomas Franklin Raithe calmly sits in the command chair on the bridge of his ship, staring idly at the screen as the ship enters the Xenos cluster. As he remains seated, he turns his chair toward the science officer, Varis Delong, who sits at his station. He has his face in a scanner module before him. He waits impatiently for Varis’ report as the ship enter the cluster, beginning their mission in this part of space.

“We’re entering Sector-one forty-five,sir.” He finally announced, and there was a murmur on the bridge.

Quickly the captain, turning his chair, faced the Helm and Navigation positions from the blank wall where he had been staring.

“Helm, slow the ship to sub-light speed for the Xenos Cluster. Ahead, warp point five,” Captain Raithe ordered, “Turn the ship to course three, one, two mark six.”

“Slowing to warp point five and turn to course three, one, two mark six.” the helmsman, named Vanessa Parks, said, as her hands danced across the console making the ship slowly turn on its new course. Next to her, Crx-tks, the Insect-like navigator sat at his place at the Navigation position, and he busily punched in calculations as they slowly cruised through the solar system of the cluster and their destination.

“I have a strange course anomaly, sir. I am adjusting our trajectory for the sector,” Crx reported, his claw-like hands moving across his console. “It is off three degrees from our projected course.

“Very well…” Captain Raithe replied, “Steady as we go.”

“Confirmed, there is a three degree anomaly, sir. It seems to be some sort of magnetic force that is causing the navigation error,” Varis reported.

“What’s causing that, Varis?” Captain Raithe asked.

“Well according to the colony data sent to us, it might have to do with the volcanic eruptions on planet eight, sir. It might be throwing everything off and out of whack. I can’t give you an exact reason at this time.”

“Excuse me Captain. We will be in orbit in fifteen minutes, sir,” The helmsman said, half turning in her chair to glance at the Captain who sat in the command chair.

“Very well…” The Captain replied, “Maintain course and speed.”

“I am scanning planet eight. It is the size of Mercury in Sol, but it is caught between the two gas giants, planets seven and nine. Approximate composition is like Io, one of Jupiter’s moons. It has over four hundred active volcanoes. Designated as Io-two, one, six, it has become geologically active object in this Solar System. This extreme geologic activity is the result of tidal heating from friction generated within Io’s interior as it is pulled between the two gas giants. Several volcanoes produce plumes of sulfur and sulfur dioxide that climb as high as five hundred km, about three hundred miles, above the surface.” He took in a breath as the computer continued it readout.

“The planet’s surface is dotted with more than one hundred mountains that have been uplifted by extensive compression at the base of planet's silicate crust. Some of these peaks are taller than Mount Everest on Earth. The entire planet is primarily composed of silicate rock surrounding a molten iron or iron sulfide core. Most of Io-two, one, six’s surface is composed of extensive plains coated with sulfur and sulfur dioxide frost. Io’s volcanism is responsible for many of its unique features. The planet’s volcanic plumes and lava flows produce large surface changes and paint the surface in various subtle shades of yellow, red, white, black, and green, largely due to allotropes and compounds of sulfur. Numerous extensive lava flows, several more than five hundred km in length, also mark the surface. The materials produced by this volcanism make up the planet’s thin, patchy atmosphere.”

“It sounds unpredictable.” The Captain mused, and he managed a chuckle under his breath.

The science officer paused, as he tended his scanner, and frowned to clicked switches on his console.

“Be careful Captain, those plumes are high enough to reach us in orbit. The main volcano here, at this location near the station, is the size of Mount Everest on Earth. They could damage the ship with molten debris.”

“Helm, you heard the man, give us a high orbit.” The Captain ordered, making the Helmsman, move her hands across her console in compliance.

“Did you locate the station?” Captain Raithe asked.

“I have, sir.” Varis reported, “The coordinates are seventy three by one, nine five.”

“Is the station still intact?” The Captain asked, and the science officer only nodded his head in reply.

“Sensors indicate a standard power level, showing that it is still operating, sir.”

“Are there any life signs?”

“Negative Sir. The only signs are the indigenous life forms on the planet. They are the equivalent of slug-like creatures, invertebrates that live on Earth.”

“Helm, what is your status?” The Captain asked, and the Helmsman turned.

“We have a high orbit, thirty thousand meters,” she reported. “Orbit is going to be shaky, sir, with all the volcanic activity, blowing plumes of sulfur and gas in the atmosphere. It will make for some violent turbulence while in orbit.”

The ship shook violently.

“Very well, mind your helm,” the Captain warned.

“Aye, sir,” she replied and turned to scan her console, making the proper adjustments to their course.

“All science personnel report to stations for planetary observations,” the Captain ordered, speaking into the intercom. “Stand by transporter room to transport a team down the station to search for any survivors.”

“There should be a crew of six posted there. We should evacuate them immediately,” the Captain told the Science Officer, who looked up from his station.

“I agree, Captain.” Varis replied, “If they aren’t already dead from the initial eruptions that might have caused damage to the station. The atmosphere it is putting out is toxic to human life.”

“We are also at extreme transporter range; we might not be able to pull you guys out of there if we lose contact, so be careful.” Captain Raithe cautioned.

Varis stood up from his chair and began walking to the lift across from his station. As the wiry Science Officer walked toward the lift, he could feel the Captain’s eyes burning into him, and he paused, to turn, returning the worried expression of Captain Raithe who sat in the command chair.

“We don’t know what kind of shape the power station is in after these eruptions, sir,” Varis replied. “We’ll do our best to maintain all safety procedures.”

“Don’t take any unnecessary chances, and if there are any problems, beam out of there immediately…” Captain Raithe replied quickly. “We can’t afford to lose you on the planet.”

“I will, Captain,” Varis replied as he walked toward the lift. The doors of the lift opened obediently for him, allowing him to enter it, and then closed abruptly behind him.

Standing in the transporter room, a few minutes later, the Science Officer, Varis Delong, the Chief Engineer, Montgomery Adams, the Senior Geologist, Gina Ramsey, the Ship’s Doctor, Findlay Plat, and two Security Officers, Jones and Del Gatos, stood by ready to transport down to the surface of the planet. A moment later, when Varis walked into the transporter room, they all walked up to the console, one by one, to pick up their standard equipment: A tricorder, communicator and a hand-phaser. The team then walked over and stepped up into the transporter chamber. The transporter hummed and shimmered as it was activated, and the team disappeared from the chamber to materialize in the main module of the station, located on the planet.

When they arrived, each member of the crew pulled out their tricorder units and began to take readings of the station. They all glance at the large, thick-glassed, bay window that is located in the main module of the station at the beam down area. A sinister scene of the volcanic/sulfur landscape stretched out before them. The team also noted the yellow tinged-colored sky, thick with sulfur dust, ash and other debris from the eruptions that spewed particles into the planet’s atmosphere. It also coated the station and crust of the planet’s landscape.

“The outside temperature is over twelve hundred degrees Fahrenheit because of the multiple eruptions in progress, sir,” the Geologist reported, reading her Tricorder. “We have a seismic disturbance, approximately five point nine, on the Richter scale, for the one closest to the station.”

"Could these shock waves and eruptions damage the station, if they hit it?" Varis asked, and the Geologist shrugged slightly.

“I guess it could, yes, but it would be a surprise if it did.” The Chief Engineer replied, “The station is made of titanium, the hardest known substance to our science. It would have to take a direct hit from debris by a volcano to do any damage.”

“Seismic shock waves could damage and crack the station, if they were hard enough.” Gina added. “Volcanic lava could melt the titanium.”

“I just do not understand where the crew went. Even with eruptions, they still had shields,” Varis grumbled as he turned to scan the station with his eyes.

Around them, the station, which was on automatic, was deserted of the six who had been assigned to the station. There was no sign of them.

“Could it have been a mental breakdown, doctor?” Varis questioned. “To make them go out in that?” He pointed to the window.

“It might explain a few things,” the Doctor replied as he continued to scan the station and the area for life signs.

“Well let’s hurry up and search for survivors before we become trapped in the station and are not able to get the hell off this rock because of the eruptions down here,” the Science Officer ordered. “Fan out and conduct a room to room search for the station personnel. Set hand-phasers on stun, move out.”

“Aye, sir,” a chorus of voices said, as the team dispersed and began searching the station. Room by room they searched, and they only found signs of the personnel who worked here, but no one was in the station.

“Where’d they all go?” the ship’s doctor asked. “Could they have been evacuated off the planet to the colony? I see everything is on automatic.”

“Could be, but the colony didn’t report taking them off,” Varis replied, and he turned his light into another chamber.

“I don’t like it, Varis.” The Doctor said. “Something stinks, and we’re walking into a trap.”

“You think so?” Varis asked, and the Doctor nodded.

“I have a feeling,” the Doctor replied. “It’s too quiet; there should be even bodies, but there is no one. Nobody just up and deserts their post for no reason, even if there is a chance of being destroyed.”

“The eruptions had just started, according to the colony observatory, and this station does have protection from the extreme heat and shields to deflect flying debris,” Varis told him. “But you may be right Doctor.”

The two officers continued walking, but an explosion struck the station, throwing everyone to the deck in every part of it. There was a hiss as there was depressurization, and both men glanced at each other before bolting toward the main module.

“The station has been hit Mr. Delong!” the Security person, known as Jones shouted. The remnants of the team from the Chamberlain ran toward them from all directions. The station quickly began to heat up, as a surge of gas entered, and the secure doors began closing around the remnants of the five who had beamed down. They were trapped in the center module.

“No kidding!” Varis replied sarcastically, “Where’s Security officer Del Gato?”

“When the station was hit, he was in the D-quad,” Security Officer Jones replied. “It cracked the station open like an egg, with the explosion.”

“There is no D-Quad now,” Varis observed.

“I recommend we get the hell out of her, sir,” the Doctor said. “Tricorder indicates the station has been breeched and temperature is rising, filling with sulfur gas and lava. If it reaches the reactor, with the heat and toxic atmosphere, it will go super critical in less than three minutes!”

“Varis to Chamberlain… There is an emergency! Five to Beam up…” Varis said into the communicator.

“We have you,” a voice said on the communicator. “We’re getting a fix.”

There was a rumble as the station was hit again by debris, and another explosion knocked them to the deck.

“Screw the fix, beam us up now!” Varis snarled into the communicator, as a piece of girder above them was shaken loose by the eruption. It cracked off to swing freely at them.

“Look out!” Security officer Jones shouted, pushing Varis out of the way, and the girder hit him squarely with a crunch before throwing him against a nearby bulkhead. The girder creaked as it cracked and began to give way. Everyone screamed as it fell, and the remaining four shimmered as they disappeared from the station. The girder landed where they had just been. Had they not been beamed up, it would have crushed them. They shimmered as they materialized in the transporter chamber and thankfully, the four were safely on board the ship. Varis bolted off the platform in a heartbeat.

“Varis to Bridge, the search team has returned. We have about one minutes and forty seconds before the reactor goes critical and explodes!” the Science officer exclaimed into the intercom.

On the bridge, the Captain gasped, and he turned to the Helm position where Vanessa and Crx sat at their positions.

“Jesus…! Helm, warp us out the hell, out of here! Increase to emergency maximum speed!” the Captain ordered. Outside in space, the ship disappeared into warp, as there was a flash of light behind them.

“We shouldn’t warp in the Solar System, sir,” Crx said. “We might run into a star or planetary body, if we are moving too fast.”

“Navigator, plot us the course out of the solar system,” Captain Raithe ordered. Crx complied as his claw-like hands moved across his console.

“Course plotted, and lay in,” the Navigator replied.

“We are to close! Brace for shock waves! Hold on!” the Helmsman shouted, and they braced themselves as they were thrown to the deck, but the ship accelerated on its way. Varis ran onto the bridge from the lift, and a moment later, he was at his console. He quickly read the data that streamed on the monitor next to his station.

“Sensors indicate the reactor went super critical when a magma flow melted into it, and the flash just annihilated part of the planet,” Varis reported. “The explosion was equivalent to three million of our torpedoes.”

“Reverse angle on the viewer,” Captain Raithe ordered, as the screen was switched, and the flash of energy and debris plummeted out into space. Another explosion made the remains of the planet shimmer brightly and disappear completely.

“Jesus Christ!” Captain Raithe said, as the ship moved rapidly toward the edge of the solar system. When they were outside the system, the Captain breathed a sigh of relief.

“We’re clear of it,” Varis reported, as he clicked a couple switches on his console.

“All stop,” the Captain ordered and the ship wallowed rapidly to a stop.

“Initiate a sensor scan of the colony,” The Captain ordered, “and the solar system.”

Varis complied, his face in the viewer of the sensor module unit.

“Sensors indicate the explosion has shifted the three outer planets; the inner planets were far enough away that they were not affected at this time.”

“Is the colony still there?” Captain Raithe asked, and Varis nodded.

“Planet eight has left a permanent asteroid belt in its orbit. It will be impossible to navigate with anomaly still in place sir, without adjustment to our navigational instrumentation.”

“Plot a course to colony, helm.” he said, “Impulse power for Xenos System only. Full ahead, warp point nine. Be sure to stay clear of the asteroid field.”

“The remains of Io-two, one, six will be active and spewing debris for a few years sir.” Varis reported, “The shift will eventually hit the inner planets, but it will take a while.”

“We are on course, sir,” Vanessa reported, touching the console. “Warp point nine one, sir.”

The Captain merely nodded to her.

“What will it do to the planet when the shock wave hits them?” the Captain asked.

“If it shifts the planet enough, the colony will be destroyed, as well as all life on the third planet,” the Science Officer said. “We had better inform command base to send us every ship available for a rescue; they have about a month before that happens.”

Communications… relay message to Earth Federation Base… Priority one,” Raithe said.

“Go ahead, sir,” the Communications Officer replied.

“Planet eight’s energy station has been destroyed by eruption, no survivors. Request Federation colony ships to Evacuate colony, due to orbital shift, possible destruction eminent for station. U.S.S. Chamberlain requests permission to remain on station to study effects of planetary destruction. Signed T.F. Raithe, Commanding, U.S.S. Chamberlain.”

At the communications station, Thrrr Thsss, the Thyrnn Communications Officer nodded his massive reptilian head as his hands danced across the console.

“Let’s head for Xenos,” Captain Raithe ordered, and outside the ship, it banked as it turned on course toward the doomed colony.

“All sensors activate, let’s study this anomaly.”

As the crew put themselves to work on the bridge, back on Earth at the Headquarters a klaxon went off. A task force was immediately dispatched, and it rose from the Saturn station. It headed for the edge of SOL on course, bound for Xenos to assist. They were hoping they were not too late to assist the doomed colony and the personnel there. However, that was to remain to be seen.

WC: 3,341
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