Can Nicky control the debilitating fear threatening to overwhelm her as things go wrong?
As soon as the transporter system showed a successful and complete cycle the ship’s computer, set to continuously and closely watch Christ’s location, life signs, comm-signal and his immediate surroundings with the ship’s sensors, began to audibly and visually throw error messages at Nicky. That in itself was cause enough for the barely suppressed feelings of worry, fear and insecurity she had been ignoring until then to attempt to take control away from her conscious mind.
The fact that all of the error messages were the worst in their respective categories caused Nicky to freeze up for a few seconds, breaking out in cold sweat while her mind seemed to shut down completely.
Nothing seemed to enter her consciousness. Sound, vision, smell or any tactile feeling, though received by her senses and sent through her nervous system into her brain, failed to be processed and delivered into her consciousness. For what felt like minutes she simply stood there behind the consoles staring without seeing, hearing, feeling or thinking anything at all.
Then, as if her brain was being rebooted like the systems of the ship, one by one her senses came back to her.
Her tactile feeling first, noting the cold sweat on her forehead and her back.
Then her hearing, almost deafening with the multiple audible error signals, followed by her vision which flicked back and forth between the screens and the red lines that cried out with the same errors she was hearing.
Lastly her conscious thoughts came back to her with “I can’t allow fear or anything else to paralyze me into inaction!” being the first thought she consciously became aware of being consciously aware.
That thought proved to be the capstone that completed the wall around the insecurity and fear that had crumbled for what turned out to be only a few seconds. With them contained once again she began acknowledging and analyzing the error messages one by one until the computer’s speakers went silent and the error messages on the computer screens stopped blinking.
Whatever had happened made every sensor that had been tasked with monitoring Christ loose contact with him completely. This included the sensors that scanned for the physical presence of his body and the equipment he had with him.
This calmed her nerves down some more as she rationally concluded that the instantaneous nature of the loss of contact could only be caused by either the total instant disintegration of every molecule in both Christ’s body and the inorganic materials of which his equipment was made, or by something that none of the sensors could penetrate coming in between the sensors and Christ’s location.
Instantaneously disintegrating both organic and inorganic material at the molecular level could only be accomplished with ridiculous amounts of energy which would have been impossible to hide from all of the ship’s sensors. That’s the sort of thing you need the energy of at least the equivalent of star for. So the only logical conclusion was that the sensors were being blocked by something. Refusing to let herself be distracted by emotion, this time relief threatening to wash over her, she began tapping commands into the computer.
The first command brought up the view on one of the peripheral screens from the visual sensor that was pointed at Arend’s little playpen. The little guy was evidently blissfully unaware of anything other than the three toys he had with him. The invisible restraints, a stroke of genius out of the box thinking by Nicky, consisting out of combining some of the properties of the transporter’s Heisenberg compensators, the inertial dampeners and those of force fields like those used for containment, were working fine.
They were ready to freeze the little guy safely in place and protect him if the specified safety parameters were exceeded in any way. The safety system was what Christ had began referring to as their son being “strapped in”, despite its purpose being to avoid having to resort to physical straps to keep the little guy safe.
Nicky’s mind was now working at full speed causing the conscious awareness of her child being safe and sound to vanish into the subconscious part of her brain milliseconds after entering her consciousness. Her consciousness moving on to the next order of business which was confirming that the ship’s sensors hadn’t picked up any changes within their range other than those tasked to monitoring her husband.
That’s when she noticed there had only been one change. The energy emission, the one Christ had beamed down to investigate for, had vanished along with Christ. Of course that could not be coincidence. Focusing more of the ship’s sensors on the location and widening the range allowed Nicky to put more and more data together into information that she could analyze.
Where the data before had suggested that the energy signal was at the center of a large city area the data was now telling her there was a circular void around the point where the energy emissions was located and that beyond that void almost all of the planet consisted of nothing but empty, flat and sterile surface.
“No, scratch that, there is something that hasn’t changed after all” Nicky mumbled, tapping the display with the data she had focused on. Squinting at the data and scowling while her mind analyzed it, she noted that there still was an energy emission coming from the crater’s center.
“The crater is still there, and hasn’t changed since we first scanned the system when we arrived” she told herself, or the computer, or nobody.
Having confirmed her child was happy and didn’t need her at that moment as well as the absence of direct threats within the sensor’s range she turned her mind to considering what to do with the information she had gathered so far.
Something had appeared around her husband and the energy emission that blocked any and all sensors she had available and outside whatever surrounded her husband and the energy readings everything except the crater had been replaced by what appeared to be the flat, shocked surface left by a superheated shockwave, created by whatever caused the crater.
The computer’s analytical algorithms had estimated the crater and the surface’s devastation to have occurred 20.000 years ago, give or take a century, but was somehow unable to identify the source of the energy emanating from the center of the crater or tell her about it’s properties.
In her mind that left her with two possible options. She could focus on her husband’s location, take the ship and try to penetrate whatever was blocking sensors around his location with sensors, weapons or the ship itself. Her second option was to concentrate her focus on the crater and the energy emission at it’s center, the only thing on the planet that hadn’t changed when her husband had been blocked from sensors.
Then, as if she had been physically hit by a hammer, her eyes went wide and her mouth opened with a silent scream at the realization there was one thing they had picked up on when they entered the planet’s orbit she had totally forgotten about. “The space station! I forgot about the space station!” she shouted while whacking her forehead.
She faced back to the computer console and began tapping in the commands that would turn the attention of some of the ship’s sensors onto the space station and had them scrutinize it, and it’s immediate surroundings, as closely as they had the surface of the planet just moments before. Even though the results streamed across her screens in fractions of a second the analysis of the data took long enough for Nicky to sense an instant of impatience, and she blew out the breath she felt like she had been holding in when the results appeared on the screens. “
As Nicky read the results though they left her with conflicting emotions. Nothing had changed as far as she or the sensors could tell, which elicited a sense of relief she didn’t miss anything important that could have contributed to the predicament they were in but also a sense of disappointment that there was nothing that could help her make sense of their predicament or deciding on what to next. The only new morsel of data she noticed was the computer’s estimation of the space station’s age. Unsurprisingly it’s age matched that of the crater on the planet.
She stepped back from the console, moved into the cockpit and let herself drop heavily into the pilot’s seat in deep thought. As she looked up with her hands hovering over the ship’s helm controls she gritted her teeth and forced herself to choose.
“Computer, activate shields, charge phaser cannon and load the micro-torpedo tube.” Nicky said addressing the computer, adding “Activate automated defense AI algorithms and prepare to take offensive action on my command“.
Obediently the only panels in the ship that she had never seen active before lit up. Then, seconds later, it’s indicators flashed to green one by one. The weapons the USS Eagle carried were active, the computer’s algorithm for defending the ship from incoming threats using those weapons was running and the computer was standing by to carry out whatever offensive action that Nicky ordered it to. They were going in!
“Hang on honey, whatever it is that ‘s separating us right now, I'm going to hit it with all the USS Eagle’s got!” Nicky growled, before punching the controls.
The USS Eagle’s impulse engines flared up, pushing the ship out of orbit onto a course that would take it, Nicky and Arend, straight to her husband.