STAR TREK:SHADOWS AND SUNS
“INCIDENT ON TARSUS- PART ONE"
STAR DATE 5552.67- ABOARD THE U.S.S. ENTERPRISE,
DOCKED IN EARTH ORBIT
(6:22 A.M. SHIP'S TIME ON JULY 12, 2255)
Chris Pike entered the main briefing room, his senior officers all rising to their feet as he moved to the head of the conference table. Taking his seat quickly, he waited for everyone to be seated again, then began to speak.
“First off, welcome aboard, everyone. I know this is the first time we've all been in one place at the same time, so let's go around the room and introduce ourselves.”
As requested, each person quickly stated his or her name and rank.
“Commander Arianna Troi.”
As M'ress finished the quick roll call, Pike resumed his speech.
“I know we're supposed to be departing in three days for our shakedown cruise and I know this change in plans is rather sudden. Enterprise is the only Constitution-Class starship in range, so the job is ours.”
“And the job is?” Troi asked, even though she was sure she knew the answer.
“The job, Number One, is to render assistance to the Tarsus Colony.”
“I thought the colony is refusing assistance,” Boyce stated, fully aware that everyone in the room knew that to be the case.
“The Federation Council met earlier today and voted to send a single ship. We're taking field rations and medical supplies. When we get to Tarsus, we're almost certainly going to receive a code seven-ten ordering us to not enter orbit.”
“Logic would dictate we not violate such an order, sir,” Spock offered.
“Agreed, Mister Spock. If the code is issued, we're to leave the system and proceed as previously scheduled, to carry out our shakedown cruise. But if the order isn't issued, then we're to deliver our supplies.”
“Deliver where? And to whom?” Troi questioned.
“Wherever needed, and to whoever asks for them, Number One. Our people on Tarsus haven't been heard from since this crisis began. No one knows for sure what's going on.”
Tyler spoke next. “Do we know what caused the crop failure?”
“A severe drought. The colony declined to install weather control technology when they were setting things up and now it's come back to haunt them.”
Boyce, again stating what everyone else present already knew, said, “Chris, there are eight thousand people on Tarsus. They had enough food stored to last a month. This has been going on for three months. We're almost certainly looking at mass starvation. Are we carrying enough food and medicine to deal with that?”
“We are. That's one good thing about not having everyone aboard yet, we can cram empty crew cabins and unused rec rooms full of supplies.”
“Amen to that,” Boyce replied.
Pike held in his disapproval of Boyce's words, the two of them had gone over the subject a dozen times over the course of their friendship and had long ago agreed to disagree on as to whether or not there was a God. Instead of saying something about that, he decided to close the conversation and get the ship underway.
“End of discussion, people. Number One, get up to the Bridge and start the launch countdown. Mister Spock, you're new to the posting of Second Officer, so let's throw you in the deep end and see if you can swim, my quarters in five minutes. Have a detailed duty roster prepped that reflects our being short-handed.”
Both officers were up and out of the room in record time, the others remained seated, awaiting their captain's next words.
“The rest of you, get moving. I want full status reports from your sections by sixteen-hundred hours.” Once they were all gone, Pike opened the ship's log and began to dictate his mission dedication.
SPACE- THE FINAL FRONTIER. THESE ARE THE VOYAGES OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE. HER FIVE-YEAR MISSION: TO EXPLORE STRANGE, NEW WORLDS. TO SEEK OUT NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS. TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE!
Kodos sat behind his desk, and sighed. His was a thankless and difficult task. In the first few days following the crop failure, it became apparent that mass starvation would be the outcome if drastic actions weren't taken, and taken quickly. Late at night on the third day, he decided to act.
The next morning he presented his plan to the colonial legislature and when they refused to consider it, Kodos declared martial law. Within forty-eight hours, the process had begun. And now the population of Tarsus was one tenth of what it had been at the beginning.
Kodos, scientist by training and politician by accident, had put into place his own highly controversial theories of eugenics, theories that had led to his dismissal from three different research facilities. He executed those he felt were genetically inferior, and those he felt would have inferior children if allowed to breed. He also executed the members of the resistance that arose for the purpose of stopping him. The executions were public and brutal with the condemned vaporized by phaser fire. He also instituted strict food rationing.
All that had extended the food supply to a point where it would now last until the new crops were ready for harvest. Those crops were growing underground in a secured facility that housed several hydroponics bays.
Kodos sighed again. A starship was on its way, one that would arrive in just a few hours. Its captain would be duty-bound to arrest him. He needed to make his escape and he needed to make it now. Pressing the button that sealed and locked the door to his office, he then erased all the files on his computer but one. That one he copied to an external drive and put in his pocket. He then walked over to the two-man transporter pad that took up one corner of his office and beamed out.
He rematerialized a few seconds later on another pad, this one located in his personal shuttlecraft. Before lifting off, he went to the last row of seats to check on his young daughter, Lenore. She was still asleep. He returned to the cockpit and lifted off the launch pad, bidding his home a silent farewell as his gaze fell over the city one last time.
At the same time Kodos was running, Chris Pike was trying to break in his new second officer.
“You had the duty roster ready ahead of time, didn't you, Mister Spock?” he inquired.
“I did, sir. When you requested that I deliver it, all I had left to do was finalize it to reflect the final crew transfers that took place this morning.”
Inspecting the roster, Pike let a brief flash of irritation cross his face. “You've set up a three-shift roster. I'd like to run my ship on a four-shift one.”
Trying to hold back his own irritation, Spock replied to the statement his captain had made, “A three-shift rotation is standard, sir.”
“I don't care what's standard, Mister. This is the Enterprise and from day one, we're going to set the new standard. Can you rework this for four shifts?”
“I can, though some non-critical duties may be neglected.”
“You mean the laundry might pile up.”
Pike could see Spock's back stiffen as the younger officer tried to keep himself in check.
“Among others, that might indeed be one result.”
“I can live with it, and if I can, so can everyone else. Send me the revisions by the end of the day.”
“Yes, sir. Will there be anything else, Captain?”
“Yes. I've gone over your service record and I was hoping you can clear something up for me.”
“Sir?” Spock questioned, not having any idea what his captain was talking about.
“While the Enterprise was being constructed, you were offered a slot in the advanced course for Command training. You turned it down. Why?”
“My presence was required at home on Vulcan and so I took the extended leave offered to me during decommissioning of the T'Sara. Furthermore, I have no desire to command, sir.”
“All right. You're dismissed.”
Pike watched as the Vulcan (half-Vulcan, he silently corrected himself) left the office area of the captain's quarters, the red door sliding open and shut with the familiar "whoosh" sound that everyone in Star Fleet knew so well. Rising from his seat he made his way out from behind his desk, his image reflected in the perfectly polished wood. He exited his cabin and began to stroll towards the nearest turbolift. He had a starship to command and he wanted to be on the Bridge for the launch.
The sight of a corridor filled with crew-people hurrying from place to place made him smile; he had missed it. His previous command the U.S.S. Everest had been a happy ship. He found himself daring to wish that the same would one day soon be said of his new ship.
The launch went off without a hitch and as the great ship warped towards her destination, the deep reddish lights inside her nacelle caps glowed as the large interior blades rotated around and around. Each nacelle cap had a small slender needle protruding from it, needles that Assistant Engineer Montgomery Scott had drawn the duty of inspecting, a task he had begun an hour after the launch.
Making his way along the narrow catwalk that led to the port-side cap, he softly spoke to himself, vowing that if he ever became Chief Engineer, he would never, ever trust such an important job to a mere ensign. He also vowed that he would personally install the coils that were being designed to replace the needles, which did the critical job of measuring small but important variances in the Cochrane constant. Those variations could be correctly predicted fairly well as a ship moved between star systems, but they still effected the speed of a ship just enough to need constant monitoring.
Repeating the actions he had taken earlier when inspecting the starboard side he pulled out his tricorder and began taking readings. The first set of parameters was normal, and so were the next two. Something about the fourth set though, worried Scott. The needle seemed to be working fine, but it was giving him a false reading.
That, Scott realized with a shudder, or the constant was fluctuating wildly, wildly enough to make warp travel dangerous. Rechecking quickly, he realized that it was fluctuating. Dropping his tricorder he then pulled his communicator and flipped the cover open.
“Scott to Engineering.”
“Commander, ye need to shut down the engines, now,” Scott ordered with a calm he had to force on himself and with an urgency only a fool could fail to notice.
Troi was seasoned enough and smart enough to know when a junior officer was right and when one was wrong. Running and pointing to the main control board at the same time, she conveyed the urgency of the situation to Larry Marvick who was the civilian that had designed the new engines.
“Shut it down!” she yelled to him.
Marvick did as ordered, handling the controls like a maestro conducting a full orchestra. As the low roar of the engines ceased, the ship dropped from warp. Troi began counting in her head (one, two, three). On three, the intercom near her whistled and she answered the call.
As she had known it would be, it was Pike calling.
“Bridge to Engineering. What the hell just happened?”
“Something caused Ensign Scott to have me shut the warp engines down. He's inspecting the nacelle needles; if I had to guess, I'd say he detected a dangerous fluctuation in the Cochrane constant.”
“Say no more. I'm on my way to the nacelle. Which one?”
“Port-side. I'll meet you there.”
A few minutes later Pike and Troi both stood alongside Scott. As he explained what had happened and showed both officers the tricorder readings, Pike realized that the younger man had saved the ship.
“You know what you just did, right?”
“Aye, sir. I think I saved the ship.”
“You certainly did. Number One, you're our resident export on warp theory. Run through the possible causes of this large a fluctuation in the constant.”
Troi began to quietly list them. None of them were good which was something all three officers knew all too well. “Temporal disturbance of level-three or higher. Destruction of a close and massive star. Imminent collision with a parallel reality on a highly localized level. Imminent dimensional incursion from a parallel reality on a large scale, say at least fifty or sixty ships.”
“Get up to the Bridge and have Spock start checking for all of those. Also, send a coded flash to Star Fleet Command on a secured channel.”
Troi's voice was calm and measured as she responded to Pike's orders. “Shall I ask for instructions as to proceeding to Tarsus?”
“Instructions”, Pike knew all too well, was shorthand code for “do we ask what to do or decide for ourselves?” He himself had asked that question several times during his tenure as Robert April's second-in-command, back in the old days on the Everest.
“No. This takes precedence by any reasonable interpretation of regulations. Have Command advise the Federation Council. And have M'ress activate the EBS system warning all ships to avoid this sector.”
“With all due respect, sir, I think you might want to consult with Command.”
“If the Enterprise were less than literally a day old, I'd say yes to that. But that isn't the case. We need to prove ourselves to the rest of the Fleet if we want to be designated as flagship one of these days.”
“Aye, sir. I'll say no more on the subject.”
The whole time the captain and first officer had been talking, Scott had been standing as far away as he could, he had caught only a few words of the conversation. He tried to read their body language but failed at it.
“Captain?” he inquired when the conversation reached a pause.
“Ensign. Stay here and wait for your orders."
Both the captain and the first officer were about to leave the area when Pike turned and asked another question: “Ensign, do you have a nickname?”
“Aye, my friends call me “Scotty”.”
“I'll remember that. Carry on, Mister Scott.”
Several minutes later, a conference was underway on the Bridge. Pike, Troi and Spock all were standing next to Spock's duty station.
“And you're sure this was a level-four temporal disturbance?” Pike asked, worried about the implications of Spock's findings.
“I am certain of it, Captain. Furthermore, the disturbance was centered in the Tarsus system.”
Pike turned to Tyler who held down the Navigation station.
“Time to Tarsus at warp one-point-seven?”
Tyler had anticipated the question and was ready with the answer.
“You're not going to be happy, sir,” he warned.
As he smiled grimly, Pike responded to that. “I'm already not happy, Mister Tyler. We have a full blown crisis and a brand-new ship under our feet. How long?”
“Command's not going to like that,” Troi stated.
“If anyone back at Command can get his, her, or its ass out here and change the laws of physics, they're welcome to fix this mess. Otherwise, seventy-three hours it is, and that's that. You said it yourself, Number One. The warp constant in this sector is still unstable and warp one-point-seven is the fastest we can safely go.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry for stating the obvious about the reaction we're going to get from the brass.”
Making those her parting words, Troi slid through the turbolift doorway and was on her way. As she departed, Pike resumed his place in the command chair at the center of the Bridge. Folding his arms in front of him, he took a long look at the view screen in front of him.
Time to go see what the hell is happening on Tarsus, he said to himself.
“Resume course for Tarsus at best speed."
“Engineering to Helm. Resuming the feed in forty-five seconds.”, came a voice Pike tried to place. Failing to do so he then correctly assumed it belonged to one of the officers who had transferred aboard earlier in the day.
Exactly forty-five seconds after the call came warp power was tied back into the helm and Arex eased the ship into warp.
As each officer on the Bridge went about tending to his, her or its work, Pike found himself with nothing to do but sit and wait. He knew that a call from Admiral Archer would be coming any minute now, and though the call would probably be something to get through as best as he could, at least it would relieve the monotony.
It took just under twenty minutes. M'ress answered the hail and at Pike's order transferred the call to the main screen. The image of Admiral Archer came into focus and he wasted no time.
“Seventy-three hours? Is that the best you people can do? Take three days to get to where you're going when we need you there today?”
“Admiral. It's the finding of my Chief Engineer that we're going as fast as we dare to. The Cochrane constant is still fluctuating.”
“I've seen the data, Captain. You can do warp three easily. That will put you in orbit of the colony less than seven hours from now.”
“We can do warp three, yes, but at great danger to this ship. At that speed we'd have to recalibrate the nacelle needles every two seconds. That's physically impossible.”
Archer scowled at the man whose image he was seeing. He had commanded the very first five-year mission, and his ship the U.S.S. Columbia had become a legend in its own time. Deciding to try a different approach, he calmly and quietly asked a question.
“Do you have the new design, the one for the coils?”
“Yes, sir. We do.”
Archer's voice rose with excitement and authority as he spoke again: “Then install the damn things. Those coils recalibrate themselves every five hundred milliseconds. That'll get you to Tarsus by the end of the day.”
Pike, knowing it was a good idea quickly and silently chastised himself for not thinking of it. He also made a mental note to gently chide Troi and her people for not thinking of it either. He then decided to make a token attempt at saving face.
“And we have your permission to do a field installation?”
“Yes. Now get to work on it. Archer, out.”
The work went slowly but three hours later, the new coils were ready for testing. Troi stood at the Engineering station on the Bridge and watched as the flow of power to the warp drive gradually increased. Switching her attention between that set of readings and the set for the coils, she put every bit of concentration she could muster into the task at hand. She felt the vibrations gently rattle the deck plating beneath her feet. The Enterprise was proving herself to be every bit as good as the design team had claimed she was. Power was flowing smoothly and the coils were performing flawlessly.
Arex's voice as he intoned the gradual increase in speed registered at the edge of her consciousness.
“Warp three, now. Now at warp factor three and holding.
Helm is steady and responsive."
“New ETA for the Tarsus system is four to four and a half hours.”
“Thank you, Mister Arex, Mister Tyler."
Pike then raised his voice for all present to hear his next words.
“Number One. I want you to personally notify Mister Scott that there's been a formal commendation placed in his service record.”
“Yes, sir. Permission to leave the Bridge?”
Troi quickly pointed out to her relief which readings to watch and which to ignore then made her way off of the Bridge. Pulling her uniform shirt tightly as she tapped the lift controls, she let herself relax during the ride to the Engineering deck. She made her way into Main Engineering and quietly pulled Scott aside to give him the good news. Watching with pleasure as his face lit up, she then informed him that she wanted him to begin taking at least one shift a week on the Bridge to further his training.
Leaving Scott a very happy officer, Troi then made her way to the nearest Rec Room. She was still on duty but knew Pike would not mind her taking time for a quick bite to eat. Selecting just a sandwich and coffee with a pair of data cards she removed her food from a small compartment when it materialized. As she began to eat, she had the most odd feeling that someone was watching her closely. A quick scan of the room seemed to disprove it as the few other people present were all busy eating or reading tech manuals over a cup of coffee or tea.
Finishing her food quickly, she started back for the Bridge. Shaking off the odd feeling as she felt the caffeine from her coffee start to kick in, she picked up the pace of her walking. The coffee had raised her level of alertness enough to get her through to end of shift in a half hour.
That half hour passed quickly and as the primary Bridge crew made its way off the Bridge, Pike admonished his people to take it easy and get some extra sleep as they might well be called back to duty on short notice. Pike himself declined to rest, staying put in his command chair and not budging until the ship entered orbit of Tarsus. Tension levels of those present dropped ever so slightly when the order to not enter orbit never came.
Time to get sneaky Pike said to himself. Let's see if I can head up the landing team without Troi either insisting she take my place or insisting she take the conn. Standing next to the Comm officer on duty, Pike had her set up a call to the transporter room that bypassed the normal channels that would trigger a display on Troi's work station. The call was a text-only message and the answer came back the same way.
As he headed for the lift doors, Pike turned to call over his shoulder to the most senior officer present at the time.
“You have the conn, Mister Thelin. If anything starts to go seriously wrong, you're to call Commander Troi to the Bridge. Is that clear?”
“Crystal clear, sir,” the young Andorian responded.
Four minutes later a landing team beamed down. It consisted of Pike, Boyce, Security Chief Anderson, Security Officer Stonn and Ambassador-At-Large Lisa Fuller. As they became aware of their surroundings, Pike frowned. They were way off the mark from where they were supposed to be. All that surrounded them were a few trees and not much of anything else. Pulling out his communicator and flipping its cover open Pike waited two seconds then spoke into its tiny microphone.
“Pike to Enterprise. Something went wrong with our transport. Check and see how far we are from the city center.”
"Checking, sir,” came Christina Youman's voice over the communicator's speaker. As she got the information from Thelin who had wordlessly and efficiently slid back over to his post at the Science station, she kept her voice level and calm though doing so was not easy. It had taken her almost five minutes to come back, which worried Pike.
“Captain. Scans confirm that you are at the city center. Sensors confirm also that there is no city.”
“Repeat that, Ensign.”
“Aye, sir. Sensor readings confirm that there are no sentient life forms on Tarsus other than the landing team. Ensign Thelin is speaking with Mister Spock to confirm his theory as to why.”
Several long and tension filled seconds ticked by with none of the team members daring to speak. Finally, Spock's voice broke the silence. His voice was calm, reasoned and filled with certainty.
“Captain. Spock here. Mister Thelin and I concur on his findings. The temporal disturbance that was centered on Tarsus has altered the history of this world. There is not now nor never has been any Earth colony or Federation settlement of any kind on Tarsus. Per standing orders, Commander Troi has taken the conn and sent a coded message to the Temporal Observation Post on planet Gateway. They have advised that a preliminary report as to the existence of any other alterations will be sent within the hour.”
Stunned beyond any level he had ever imagined possible, Pike managed somehow to get out the words he needed to say.
“Understood. Do you feel that the landing team is at risk, Mister Spock? Or can we move around and take tricorder readings?”
“It should be safe, for now, sir.”
“All right. My orders, Mister Spock, are as follows. Radio silence until we are hailed by the researchers on planet Gateway. After that, the only person talking to anyone is myself, to Star Fleet Command. We'll stay here a few hours then depart for Earth. Please inform Larry Marvick and Commander Troi that I need as close to full speed as they can give me, safety protocols be damned.”
“Acknowledged, Captain. Spock, out.”
Silently and somberly, the landing team began to move about taking tricorder readings. Pike and Fuller, having nothing else to do, both found themselves staring up into a gray and cloudy sky and wondering who could have done such a thing as they were now witness to.
Story Notes: The series title "Shadows And Suns" is one first used by myself over a decade ago. I've borrowed it for this series set in an alternate universe TOS era. This marks my full-time return to fanfic writing after an absence of several years. It's good to be back.
Chapter Notes: This is the complete story of just over 4000 words. Major characters include Pike, Spock, Dr. Boyce and Number One. Part two of this "episode" to be posted next Friday, August 27th 2010.
Chapter End Notes: Next week comes the conclusion as the crew of the Enterprise deals with the repercussions of what has happened.