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Chapter Notes:

Mlady has re-entered hibernation - and her communicator is transmitting a beacon signal again..


Star Trek Hunter

Episode 21: The Enemy of My Enemy

Scene 10: The Fourth Signal


21.10

The Fourth Signal


“I need more, Doctor Moon…” 2nd Officer Napoleon Boles was frustrated. His Director of Engineering was refusing to certify the U.S.S. Hunter for recursive warp (zip drive) because the mass of the hull was out of tolerance by a few kilograms. “Hunter…” Boles looked about the bridge.


The ship’s interactive holographic avatar appeared in his preferred location behind the navigator’s station. “Lieutenant Boles…”


“Could the romulans have attached something to your hull while you were powered down?”


“I am not finding any irregularities…”


“Scan your hull down to the micron. Could they have… I don’t know… sprayed on some sort of film?”


“Scanning…” said Hunter and promptly vanished. A moment later the avatar reappeared. “Confirmed. With the exception of the underside of the nacelle, I am finding a new layer of material approximately four microns deep that has been applied to the hull.”


“Geoff,” said Boles, “Get down to engineering. Work with Hunter and your department to identify the substance and determine how to safely remove it.”


“I’ll go get a chisel…” Alstars groused.


“Get a helmet,” Boles suggested. “Lieutenant Gamor, are we anywhere near an asteroid field or any debris field we can hide in?”


“Our closest option is to return to the scene of the battle,” Lt. Gamor replied. “Sensors show the Bestia left in pursuit of the remaining cube.”


“They might have left some assets to protect the resources left by the borg,” Boles mused. “Next?”


“A gas cloud about 2.3 light years distant and a brown dwarf system just under 4 light years away,” Gamor said.


“The gas cloud would be an attractive hiding place for pirates – which makes me think there might be a warbird lurking in it. How long to the brown dwarf at warp 8?”


“Just under a day and a half,” Gamor responded.


“Find me a rock between here and there to hide on for a few hours so we can scrape the hull,” said Lt. Boles. “You have the con. I will be in medical.”


“Are you all right, sir?” Gamor asked.


“None of us are, Lieutenant. If the romulans spray painted our hull with something, what do you want to bet they did the same to our stomach linings? They also ran us through their transporter, which means they have the precise frequencies for each of our internal communicators. Who knows what else they have done to us? I knew that escape was far too easy...” Boles was already near the exit to the bridge. “Special Agent Lynarr, this is Napoleon Boles. Meet me in medical…”


- * - 


Commander Kenneth Dolphin was startled out of a deep sleep. He had stationed the Hunter’s tactical unit at the rendezvous point and gone dark – reducing power output to minimal life support in an attempt to go unseen in dark space. Something had set off a signal alert. 


“What was that?” he asked of no one in particular, since he was alone. He scanned the control panels in front of him. An indicator was flashing on the navigation/tactical panel next to him. Dolphin leaned over, touched a control, read the display.


“Shit!”


“I believe you would chide any of your crewmembers for such language,” came a familiar voice.


Dolphin was nearly startled out of his wits. “Hunter?”


“Hunter Tactical,” came the response. “I have been here all along. You seem to be somewhat anxious. You do remember Dr. Kim and I are both here.”


“Thanks, Hunter,” Dolphin said. Then: “Mlady’s communicator is sending out her hibernation signal again. That’s going to bring romulans here. We can’t stay here. Bring the engine online and get ready for recursive warp – we’re on the move…”


- * - 


It started with the stomach pumping – which included deep cleaning of every part of each crewmember’s digestive system to include such organs as intestines, livers and kidneys. It was an extremely uncomfortable, inconvenient and, in most cases, completely humiliating experience. Everyone onboard had to go through it except Special Agent Anana Lynarr and Hugh Mann (who was once again dormant in his recharging alcove in the captain’s office.)


Of the U.S.S. Hunter’s crew, only Lynarr had not eaten romulan food – which, it turned out, had been laced with very low levels of a radio-isotope of iridium that would eventually have done long-term damage to the Hunter’s crew members. A similar isotope of iridium-oxide was found to have been sprayed onto the ship’s hull. For good measure, Lt. Napoleon Boles ordered each crewmember’s internal communicator removed, destroyed and replaced with a new communicator tuned to a new unique frequency.


Initial attempts to remove the isotope from the Hunter’s hull using the transporter verified that the isotope would contaminate the transporter system – as Midshipman Tammy Brazil had warned. Decontamination of even a small amount from the cargo bay transporter took nearly three hours and further attempts to use the transporter for iridium-oxide removal were abandoned. 


In desperation, Boles finally ordered the iridium-oxide isotope layer burned off with hand phasers, which required a dozen crew members in full EVA suits to walk on the outside of the ship, setting the volatile iridium-oxide isotope on fire with sustained phaser blasts. This created a surreal vision of a dozen people in space suits setting fire to a flaming ship while they walked on its hull, but each fire only lasted a few seconds as the metal and oxygen separated and burned away more oxides leeched from the surface of the Hunter’s hull, leaving a fine haze of elemental iridium and trace aluminum which could then be collected with an improvised tool that looked like a vacuum cleaner, but based on gravity plating.


All of the isotopic iridium that had been removed from the surface of the ship and the digestive systems of its crew was gathered and lumped into two small spheres roughly the size of golf balls. With the rest of the crew watching images transmitted back by remote cameras, Lt. Napoleon Boles, Chief Flight Specialist Thyssi zh’Qaoleq and Ensign Geoffrey Horatio Alstars, once again clad in EVA suits, clambered out onto the outer hull of U.S.S. Hunter. Boles carried the iridium golf balls. Alstars and zh’Qaoleq each carried a golf club.


Boles set each ball ¾ of an inch above Hunter’s hull, where, due to inertia, they remained. Alstars took the first swing, launching an iridium isotope ball into dark space. Without a moment’s hesitation and using only one hand, Thyssi zh’Qaoleq set the second iridium ball on a nearly parallel course. 


As the three crew members (and two remote cameras) re-entered the Hunter, Boles received a call from the bridge: “Dr. Boles, this is Lt. T’Lon. We just received a fourth hibernation beacon from Mlady’s communicator…”


21.10



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