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Chapter 7

“Any idea what might have killed him, Doctor?”

S’Tel shook her head, closing her tricorder. She gently pressed her hand on the man’s face, placing her fingers on the katric points. She closed her eyes; she hoped her colleagues would mistake it for concentration, but in truth it was out of despair. There was nothing; no nudge, no gentle push of the dead man’s katra on her own. “He was not killed by a tetryon weapon, or a phaser, if that is what you are inquiring.” She removed her hand and opened her eyes, continuing to move about her duties as a doctor with as much emotional detachment as she could manage. The sight of the dead man - a Vulcan - in so much terror was disconcerting to her. She replaced her tricorder in the pouch on her hip. “He died when all neural activity in his brain ceased.” Her already almost non-existent frown grew only slightly more severe in frustration.

“His brain shut down?” Obruz knelt down next to S’Tel, staring intently at the dead man, as if willing him to wake up and explain what had happened. “What could do that?”

“I am not sure. I detected a complete lack of neurogenic energy in this man’s body.”

Obruz lifted his head, staring at the doctor with a blank look on his face. Wirstowx and Guillary also exchanged confused looks. Sano, still gripping tightly to Wirstowx, offered her help. “It’s energy contained in almost every lifeform’s nervous system. Just about every living being has it or is made up of it.” She slowly pulled away from the tactical officer’s large arms, looking up at and nodding reassuringly to him. Wirstowx helped her to her feet before standing up himself. “Hirogen do use neural disruptors; it’s possible he met his end that way.”

S’Tel shook her head; she had already considered that option. “That would not fit with the rate of decay of the weapons blasts you found. If my scans are correct, this man was dead long before the Hirogen would have boarded and fired their weapons. Even if it were possible, neural disruptors, as their name suggests, disrupt neural energy, usually ending with the death of the target; they don’t drain neural energy.”

Nizeri frowned and pulled out her own tricorder, verifying what the doctor already knew. “There’s no way the neural energy could have dissipated this quickly from a natural death. It’s like…something sucked the life right of him.”

“Precisely.” S’Tel stood, glancing down at her fallen kinsman one final time. She regretted it immediately; the man’s terrified face would haunt her during her meditations later that night, she was sure.

“So the Hirogen definitely didn’t kill him, or the crew. That matches with the rates of decay on the weapons blasts and his time of death.” Obruz shook his head, pondering the situation quietly.

Sonia spoke up, asking the question on the Bajoran’s mind. “Then what did kill the crew?”

Sano’s tricorder rang in alarm, and she glanced down at it, confused. “What in…” She looked up at Obruz. “My tricorder just picked up a spike in triolic energy, coming from the anomaly in the back of the cargo bay.” She blinked a few times and tapped the device, then closed it with a shrug. “That was odd. It’s gone now, whatever it was.”

Sonia suddenly brought his hand up and swatted the back of his neck, looking around anxiously.

“Something wrong, Lieutenant?” Obruz asked, looking around cautiously as well.

Sonia shivered, finally looking back at the first officer and shaking his head. “Nothing, sir…just felt like something brushed against my neck.” He shuddered again. “We should get going. We should be able to restore main power in engineering.”

Dossu nodded. “Right, let’s get to it.” He lifted his rifle, prompting the rest of the team to bring up their weapons. “But, keep an eye out for more Warwick crew members. I don’t want to start shooting survivors if there are any.”

S’Tel raised an eyebrow in typical Vulcan curiosity, eyeing Sano for a moment. Something about what the Trill woman had said sounded vaguely familiar to her. “Commander, we’ll need to take more samples from dead crewmen.” S’Tel put her hands behind her back, doing her best to keep stoic and calm in front of her shipmates. “If we analyze them, we may gain better insight into what killed the crew.”

“Understood.” Dossu turned to Sonia and motioned forward with his head. “Mr. Sonia, find the door panel. Let’s get out of here.”

Sonia grumbled. “I picked a terrible day to wear red.”

===


There were more!

Fortune was smiling down on it and its brethren, it seemed.

The others were not going to believe it. Where there had been only one ship in this area, now there were dozens, all of them filled with sustenance. They could feast for weeks and never be hungry.

It had to tell them. It had to tell them now. They wouldn’t believe their good fortune, but they would come.

They wouldn’t resist.

===


“Commander St. Peter to the bridge.”

Jessica startled, quickly opening her eyes. She looked around the small ready room for a moment in dazed confusion. When did I fall asleep, she wondered, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and pushing herself up with her other arm.

“Err…Commander St. Peter?”

Jessica shook her head quickly, doing her best to not sound like she had just been woken up, before tapping her commpin. “Go for it, Ensign.”

“Ma’am, we’re picking up some strange readings. We’d like you to take a look.”

Jessica sighed and slowly pulled herself back to her feet, taking a moment to stretch out before she tapped her badge again and walked out the door and back onto the small bridge of the Rafale. M’Ral was standing next to the science station in the back of the bridge, looking over the shoulder of the on-duty science officer, a Benzite man who was hunched over the console studying his readouts intently.

“What have you got?”

The Benzite sprang up to attention as Jessica approached, while M’Ral turned around to face her in a more relaxed manner. He purred softly, his tail twitching slightly and his ears lowered back in what Jessica could imagine was annoyance. He motioned to the science officer. “Specialist Ceram wants a third opinion on his sensor findings.”

St. Peter smirked, taking a free console on the opposite side of the table-like station and bringing up Ceram’s readings.

The other blue alien cleared his throat as Jessica worked her controls. “About twenty minutes ago I detected multiple energy spikes around the Bassen Rift, to include close proximity of the Rafale.”

Jessica was finally looking at a display of the Benzite’s mysterious energy spikes. “Twenty minutes ago? Why so long to ask me for my opinion?”

Ceram straightened more, so that he seemed to stand even taller as he proudly answered, “I had to be sure the readings were correct. I double checked my own findings, and then alerted my direct superior to my findings, and then proceeded to report to the officer of the watch, who then contacted you immediately.” He frowned somewhat as he said that, as if the fact that the Ensign not taking his time to notify the commander offended him.

Jessica glanced up quickly at M’Ral, whose purring had grown louder as the Caitian turned to look away from the Benzite. She shook her head and went back to the scans. “Thanks for keeping me in the loop, M’Ral.” She studied the scans for a moment, then looked up at the Benzite. “Triolic energy? In the Rift?”

Ceram nodded. “My scans were correct all three times, I made certain of it.”

Jessica shook her head. “That doesn’t make sense. Why would you be picking up triolic energy?”

“What is it?” M’Ral practically growled, eyeing Ceram as if he had asked the question multiple times before.

Jessica shook her head. “Harmful to humanoids, for one. Most people stay away from it because it’s known to cause deterioration of living tissue.” She refined the scan results, isolating on the locations of the energy spikes while she talked. “I’m not an expert, so I don’t know much else beyond that. Ceram?”

The Benzite cleared his throat again, preparing to impart his knowledge on the two officers. “Triolic energy waves are a result of a process called ‘selective molecular polarization.’ This process modifies a substance at a fundamental level to convert matter into energy.”

Jessica shrugged. “What he said. But that doesn’t explain why we’re detecting it in the Bassen Rift.” She paused, then looked across at Ceram again. “The Hirogen…?”

Ceram shook his head. “No, they do not use triolic energy. I would imagine even they are smart enough not to knowingly use it.” He paused, opening his mouth for a second before closing it again.

“What is it, Ceram?”

The Benzite shook his head, offering the commander a small smile. “Nothing, ma’am.”

St. Peter shrugged, clearing the sensor results and stepping to the center of the bridge. “Keep me posted on those spikes. Let me know as soon as you detect another one.”

“Commander…”

Jessica stopped, slowly turning around to see the Benzite hunched over his console again. “What?”

Ceram turned his head to address the woman. “I’ve detected another energy spike. Main Engineering.”

Jessica tapped her commbadge, the color in her face draining. “Bridge to Engineering.”

“Seurer here, go ahead Lieutenant Commander.”

“Commander, what’s your status down there?”

There was a pause, and Jessica was sure she could hear the other woman let out a sigh of annoyance. “All fine down here, ‘sir.’ We had a slight hiccup with our lighting, but my technicians isolated and fixed the problem.”

M’Ral turned from his console at operations to look at St. Peter, confused. “I didn’t detect any problems.”

“Well, don’t worry too much, Ensign. It’s been taken care of. Just waiting for Decoste to get out of the Jeffries tube now.” In the background of the channel there was a barely audible gasp of surprise, and then raised voices. Elaina cursed suddenly, shouting at the other voices. “What happened? Where was he?” More confused voices and shouting ensued, until the engineer came back on the comm. “Medical emergency in main engineering, I’ve got a man down!”

===


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