Missions - Whispers In The Dark

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Mission Synopsis

Location: USS Ulysses
On: Day 7 at 0000

After nearly three days of travel at high warp, Ulysses arrives at Xendi Sabu to find a planet still burning. With another raft of changes to her personnel, Commander sh'Elas entrusts the investigation into the attack to her senior officers, keen to learn the truth as soon as possible. Soon enough, the mystery takes a twist when a lone survivor paints a startling picture of the brutality she endured, but the worst is yet to come...

Hope's Arrival

Featuring: The Survivor
Location: Xendi Sabu
On: Day 7 at 0945

A thin red-haired woman sat huddled in a dimly lit cave. Faint light illuminated from two handfuls of glowing blue moss which was placed at her side. She rocked back and forth, her arms clasped around her knees. Her feet were bare, her clothes worn and tattered. It was evident that she had not washed for several days, blood and dirt had dried to her bits of exposed skin, her hair was matted with pieces of debris interwoven. She looked across the room to a dirty, stuffed toy and it’s round black eyes looked back at her.

“We are not going to make it. We are going to die here. We are just preventing the inevitable. I should never have let you talk me into this. Did the thought never cross your mind that I’m going to starve down here?! I should have just let them shoot me. You made me come down here. Hide. I should be dead. Dead.”

She snarled at the toy as her face angered, her whole body snapped. In one quick, enraged dash she lunged and grabbed the toy in her clutches. She peered down at it. “Damn you! Damn you! Damn you Esma! Let me die! Just let me die!” Tears began to run down her face as she wailed. “Let me die!” She stood and threw the toy deeper into the cave until the darkness consumed it. She let out a sigh of joy, proud of her action.

She sat alone now as she wiped the tears from her face. Her fingers began to trail through the cave floor. A small two-headed worm-like creature revealed itself. She quickly scooped it up between her fingers and tossed the creature into her mouth and bit down on it. The juices splashed against her teeth.

She then glanced up toward the darkness. “Esma...” She whispered, “Esma...” she said again. “Esma!” She finally screamed as she skittered across the cave, thinking better of her earlier action. She held a bit of illuminated moss against the cave floor as she searched for the toy.

“Esma, Esma, Esma!” She continued to scream as panic washed her face. She looked for the toy frantically. At that moment, finding the toy was the only thing that mattered.

Alas she spotted it, pressed against the wall of the cave. “Oh! Esma!” She squealed as she hurried to scoop it up. She held it close to her chest. “Esma! I’m sorry Esma! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry. Never again Esma! Never again!” She rocked the toy in her arms. “It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re going to be okay.”

The rocking continued for a long while, hours in fact... until a distant sound caught her attention. She heard footsteps echo through the cave. The woman’s eyes perked up and cocked to the direction of the sound. She placed the furry toy between her teeth and froze perched on her hands and feet.

At the mouth of the cave, a lone figure stared deep into the darkness of the void. Languid, tall and gangly, the alien being had four long, upper limbs with long, pointed digits. It’s skin, at least the skin that was visible, was a pale grey colour, the kind of colour Romulan’s looked when they’d had too much Romulan ale. Standing between 7 and 8 feet tall, the creature was adorned in garments that made it look terrifying. Armour-like plates covered its strong rib cage, sitting comfortably atop its clothing and boney torso. In truth, it almost looked fragile, to the point that it wouldn’t take much for the creature to have its arms or legs snapped.

It stood rather stoic, silent and still as it listened for noises from within the cave system. Eventually, it’s superior hearing, like most of its sensory abilities, warned it of the caves single occupant. Preparing itself, the creature took a step to enter the cave and would have made its way further into the void had it not been for the sound that permeated the air and drew its attention to the heavens. Its heightened senses had allowed it to detect the sonic boom associated with a craft of some variety entering the atmosphere and by the sounds of things, the craft was drawing closer.

Turning back to the cave, a series of clicks from its vocal cords sounded incredibly sinister as they echoed and bounced along the rock faces of the tunnel. The sound was soon accompanied by a bright flash of light as the creature was engulfed in a matter stream and disappeared from sight, leaving the entrance to the cave wide open.

Without hesitation the female rose to her feet. She tucked the toy into the waistline of her pants, reached for the largest stone she could carry and lifted it above her head. Her face was fierce. She now galloped toward the mouth of the cave. The trek in total darkness, she had memorised the path on entry. Within seconds a loud scream reverberated through her chest and escaped her cracked lips - her battle cry, “FOR ESMA!!!” She screeched as the pain of the loss, the isolation, the fear and hunger consumed her. Her eyes watered, the soles of her feet bled on the cave’s floor; but, she did not slow. Her feet moved faster and faster. She burst out of the cave. The fresh night air hit her in the face as the stone passed from her fingers and sailed out into the open. There was no one there, there was no assailant. She, too looked to the heavens, and was forced to raise her hand to block a bright light.

A bright light that seemed to grow closer with each passing second...

Offer Rescinded

Location: Ready Room
On: Day 7 at 1040

"Commanding Officer's log, supplemental.

Ulysses has been at high warp for several days as we make our way towards Xendi Sabu to begin our investigation into the attack on Federation soil. The ship has functioned perfectly and it would seem that we have ironed out all the issues were were experiencing. The crew have worked tirelessly to get the Ulysses functioning at peak efficiency in time for our mission, and they are to be commended.

As we approach the outskirts of Federation space, however, I find myself wondering if my colleagues at Starfleet Command were right; perhaps we should have looked to seal our borders after the events of 2385? Perhaps we should look to ourselves and stop pushing the boundaries of the final frontier. If we keep pushing into the unknown, then we must surely expect to come across hostile species once more... right? Memories of the Dominion War linger for so many of my people, and no one desires any sort of repeat of that long conflict. Like them, I must hope that when we get to the bottom of this attack, a peaceful solution can be found..."

Ready Room, Deck One

All was quiet on the Ulysses as she hurtled towards the edge of Federation Space. Tharia sat on her ready room sofa, idly flipping through a report on a PADD; more crew transfers once they rendezvoused with the Task Group, but she couldn't help but wonder when things would stabilize themselves. "Change is as good as a rest," her mother would say, but surely they couldn't keep undergoing changes if they were to make any inroads?

She was just starting to feel a little drowsy when a monotonous beeping sound began to permeate the room, the offending piece of equipment being the computer console that began to rise up from beneath her desk. That could mean only one thing; a transmission.

'I wonder who it is this time...'

Wandering over to the desk and walking around the outside edge, the Commander pulled out her chair and took up her customary position at the desk. As the console rose to its final stopping point, Tharia noticed the flashing words beneath the logo of the United Federation of Planets. An incoming transmission from Deep Space 5.

"Computer, authorization sh'Elas, Alpha-Six-Three," she called out as she focused her attention on the screen. A beep and a change of screen later, and the Andorian was greeted by a familiar face. "Missing us already, Admiral?" she smiled.

"I wish it was as simple as that," Admiral Azulas remarked, the Trill looking more than a little flustered as she looked through the monitor at the Andorian.

"That doesn't sound good," the Commander retorted with a frown as her antennae bowed in unison.

"I want you to know that this wasn't my decision," the Trill spoke with wide eyes and a quicker pace, "I even protested on your behalf, but Admiral Hanson was having none of it," she added somewhat nervously, almost on the verge of becoming a blabbermouth. A deep breath later and she broke the news. "Admiral Hanson has overturned Commander Walker's promotion to executive officer," she told sheepishly.

"What do you mean he's overturned it?" Tharia asked with incredulity. "I was told that no matter how much Starfleet Command messed around with other appointments, the right to appoint a new executive officer would rest solely with me," she growled.

Azulas threw her hands up in the air in surrender, "Don't shoot the messenger! I argued the same point with him, but he felt that given the nature of your mission, you need to have someone aboard who has experience of command and can assist you in ways that Elias Walker cannot," she told honestly, before almost cheerily adding, but he also believes that Walker would be best placed to stay in engineering and accelerate the testing of the M.A.R.S. system, which could be a great asset for your investigation... she trailed off.

"And just who the hell is he sending me this time? The last person he sent to my ship was that bloody Vorta Observer," Tharia frowned, her antennae even lower now as her frustration grew.

With her trademark grace, the Admiral couldn’t help but offer a smile of appeasement. "When you arrive at Xendi Sabu, a Lieutenant Commander Aria Winters will report aboard," she looked down briefly to check her data PADD, "she'll be joining you from the Rhode Island and has been part of their investigation since the first minute the ship arrived in the system."

“Oh good,” Tharia responded sarcastically, “No offense Admiral, but you're asking me to trust some woman I have never met with my ship and crew as executive officer. I've not even had time to review her profile!"

"Her profile is on its way to you now," the Trill responded as she tapped at a console somewhere off screen ."I sympathise, Commander. I know this isn't the news that you wanted, but there are very few people that outrank Admiral Hanson these days, and I don't know about you, but I don't fancy bothering them on personnel matters," she gave a wry smile, which was echoed by the Andorian.

"I understand," Tharia nodded slowly, "is that all ma'am? I need to break the news to Commander Walker..."

"That's all, Commander. Let me know if you need anything," Nilani nodded in confirmation before the screen went black.

Sitting back in her chair, the Commander looked at the blank screen before reaching out a hand and slamming it upon the controls which caused the screen to descend to its hidden location beneath the desk. Deciding that there was no point dragging things out, she reached for her commbadge and tapped it once. "=/\=sh'Elas to Commander Walker. Report to my ready room," she requested before tapping her commbadge once more.

Elias Walker stood at the centre on the bridge with his hands behind his back and watched the bridge when the call came to report to the ready room. He tugged as his uniform before handing command of the Ulysses over to Lieutenant Travis before he headed towards the ready room and entered. “You wanted to see me, ma’am?” He asked after the doors slid closed behind him.

"Come in Elias," Tharia greeted the man and gestured to the seat opposite her at the desk, "please, take a seat."

Walker smiled and took the offered seat, “Everything ok, ma’am?” He asked.

Tharia let out a sigh as she listened to his question and shook her head slowly. "No, Elias, its not," she told with a frown. It was time to confess all. "There is no easy way to put this, but Admiral Hanson has rescinded your promotion orders," she revealed.

“W-why?” Elias said with a frown and disappointment evident in his voice. “Have I done something wrong?”

"Not at all," she responded instantly, "get that thought out of your head straight away. It's bureaucracy, plain and simple. Hanson thinks a command track officer with experience would be better placed to assist with the investigation, and so, he has assigned us an officer from the Rhode Island," she revealed as she lent back in her chair and gripped its arms. "He thinks the best way you can serve Ulysses is back in engineering, getting the MARS system running," she added.

“How does one get experience at command if you don’t do the job to get the experience?” He asked quietly, still confused.

"You don't have to tell me," the Andorian sighed sympathetically, turned down for command on two occasions myself, remember? All we can do now is prove to him that he has made a mistake. We do our jobs, we get rid of this newcomer, and then we get you your promotion for keeps," she advised her friend.

Walker let himself process what he’d just been told. He’d just started adjust and settle into his new role. However, going back to Engineering, a job he loved, wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He slowly nodded, “I understand, ma’am. It’s been an honour to serve as your Executive Officer, even if it’s been for a short time. Do I stand down now or when the new XO arrives?”

"I'm heading over to the Rhode Island as soon as we arrive at Xendi Sabu, and I'll be taking Javorian with me. You're in command until we get back," the Commander revealed, "it is my intention to bring this Winters woman aboard when we return."

“Understood.” Elias said with a nod. “I get one last chance to sit in the big chair before I’m sent back down the basement.” He added with a chuckle.

"I'm so sorry Elias," she frowned as she rose from her chair and walked around the edge of the desk, "but rest assured, you'll always have a place on the bridge should you want to visit," she smiled as she tried to make light of the situation as best as she could. No matter how hard she tried though, she couldn't help but feel responsible for the situation that had developed. Perhaps she should have cleared the promotion with Command before offering it in the first place? At least then she wouldn't feel as angry as she did.

Picking up a data PADD on her desk as she perched on its edge, she held it out to the Commander. "Let's talk about engineering, shall we?"

Task Group Begins To Take Shape

Location: USS Rhode Island
On: Day 7 at 1205

"...time was I'd be in command of this little group," Commander David McLintock muttered with a heavy sigh as he followed his first officer into the transporter room. He gave a curt nod to the Ensign on duty, tugging on his uniform sleeves as he stopped a short distance away from the transporter platform. "You say the wrong thing to the wrong person and suddenly you've created a diplomatic incident and everybody is after your head."

With a distinct hint of amusement in her eyes, Lieutenant Commander Aria Winters allowed him the moment to vent. His demotion was a difficult subject and in truth he had not quite accepted it, almost a full month later. "For now we have more pressing concerns. And, perhaps, next time it would be advisable not to insinuate the Ambassador's wife resembled a -"

A chirp from the transport console interrupted her. "We are ready for transport, Sir," Ensign Javid informed McLintock.

"On time, good, good," McLintock said gruffly before nodding over his shoulder. "Energise."

Engulfed in several tones of blue as two energy patterns began to materialise on the pad, the small transporter room swiftly gained two newcomers. Standing on the pad in two distinctively different uniforms to their counterparts from the Rhode Island, the two officers from the Ulysses exchanged glances before the lead officer took a step down from the pad.

"Commander Tharia sh'Elas," she offered a hand in greeting to the senior most official from the host vessel.

"Commander David McLintock, welcome aboard. This is my first officer, Lt.Commander Aria Winters," McLintock replied, giving a brief shake of sh'Elas hand before gesturing to his second in command.

"Commander," Winters offered with a brief nod. "Welcome to the Rhode Island."

Tharia exchanged pleasantries with the Commander before stepping aside and nodding to her colleague from the Ulysses. "This is Lieutenant Javorian Travis, my Chief Science Officer and Second Officer."

"Lieutenant. Well...If you will follow me," McLintock said as he gestured towards the exit, "we can discuss the current situation in the briefing room. Needless to say, we stand by to offer any assistance we can."

"Thank you Commander," Tharia nodded as she followed the Rhode Island's commanding officer into the corridor, a brief look behind to her Second Officer to ensure he was following.

Following the two commanders out into the corridor, Aria glanced at Lieutenant Travis. "Nice uniform," she commented quietly as the group approached the turbolift. "I have to admit, there are days when I do miss wearing blue."

Javorian looked at the woman, and offered a slight smile, "It's the only uniform I have any desire to wear," Javorian replied. "It might impact my ability to progress further, but at this point in my career I think that is perfectly fine with me."

"Absolutely," Aria nodded. When the turbolift doors opened she waited for their respective commanding officers to enter before gesturing for Javorian to go first. "Please..."

As she entered, she said a silent prayer that all of the swearing in Russian she had heard from the Chief Engineer this morning meant that the short trip in the turbolift would be uneventful. Especially given they had been offline for almost a full day until an hour ago. "Deck 1," she ordered as the doors began to close.

"Personally," Tharia spoke up once the lift was moving, "I find these uniforms to be incredibly comfortable," she smiled as she tugged gently on the hem of her uniform jacket.

"Well, the RI isn't due back at a starbase for a week or so yet," McLintock commented, "so we haven't had the pleasure yet. Commander, about the other matter... I haven't had the opportunity to brief my crew. I will do so immediately after our briefing, if you will allow me the liberty of breaking the news."

He didn't miss the confused expression of his first officer, "All in good time, Number One."

Aria frowned, but quickly recovered as the doors opened and she led their guests to the briefing room. "Before we begin, can I get anyone a drink?"

"I'll have a lemon lime water please," the Andorian requested, to the surprise of those in the room, but she had always had a taste for the fizzy Earth beverage.

"Not a problem. Lieutenant?"

Javorian simply held a hand up to dismiss the offer, "No thank you, ma'am."

Aria grinned, now I feel old ... Fetching the commander's order, she set it down before taking her customary place to McLintock's right hand side. For his part, he straightened, clearly asserting his authority within the walls of his ship as he activated a holographic display which materialised over the centre of the table. Xendi Sabu, prior to the devastated attack.

"The reason we are all here," he said simply. "I cannot recall ever witnessing such a brutal, senseless attack. Hell, even the Borg took something. This seems to be about nothing more than death. From our records, there was nothing of particular significance about this colony."

"What can you tell us from your analysis so far?" Tharia queried, looking more at the Rhode Island's XO than the ships Captain. If this Winters' woman was to join her crew, she wanted to know her view on things.

"We have been analysing debris in orbit, there is clear evidence of weapons fire but an unknown signature," Winters explained, as the holographic image shifted. "As for the planet... we have found no signs of life. The entire colony ecosystem has been decimated, the atmosphere toxic. Most of our visual data has come from retrofitted probes which we have been using to document the extent of he damage."

McLintock leaned forward, "our medical teams do not recommend sending any teams to the surface."

Aria frowned at him, adding, "teams can be on the surface for thirty minutes before it becomes dangerous. A colony is a lot of ground to cover and we have a small crew. Repeat exposure is not recommended. Certainly not within 48 hours. So far we have focused on key areas, the council chambers etc. The same scene everywhere. Energy signatures from weapons we cannot identify. Our scientific advisor believes we are dealing with a potentially new race, one we have not encountered before."

At the mention of potential first contact with a new species Javorian's ears perked a bit. He quickly made a note to himself in his PADD and then looked at the woman briefing them, "May I please have all data concerning that hypothesis transferred to me at the earliest possible time? I have my A&A officer on stand-by, but if we can't realistically get boots on the ground that could pose some problems. I'd like him to get started on the data at least."

"Of course," Aria nodded. "And I'm sure Professor Carter will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to contact her."

"I will do that," Javorian replied, noting the name down, and considering tracking the woman down after this meeting if he could get the Commanders permission to remain aboard the Rhode Island for a while longer.

"Naturally, we'd like all materials, data and probes you have used sent to the Ulysses so we can analyse them," Tharia told the Commander of the Rhode Island without so much as a second thought. If it came across that she didn't trust his people, that was OK to her. The only people she would trust in this investigation was her own, and that included the woman that was supposed to take over from her XO. "If you can let this Professor Carter know that Javorian will be contacting her, that would be fantastic," she added.

"Speak to her, Number One," McLintock instructed. "And make sure the commander has everything she has asked for."

Aria nodded. "Aye sir. Is there anything else you need from us right now, Commander?" she asked their guest, not surprised at all by the woman's earlier request. She was, after all, now responsible for getting the answers that Starfleet were expecting.

Tharia nodded her head slightly. "We'll set up a database link so that all data we find and use on either vessel is stored in a central location and is accessible from both ships. I don't want anyone to be hampered by having to request access simply because they aren't on the right ship at the right time," the Andorian told as she looked at McLintock. "I expect daily updates too. Even if there is nothing to report, I want to know. Personnel should also have free access to beam between vessels as required to aide the investigation," she finally concluded.

"Agreed," McLintock nodded as he stood, "if that is everything, I will deal with the other matter, Commander."

"No, that will be all," Tharia remarked as she rose to her feet and looked at Javorian as if to say 'time to go'.

Aria stood, McLintock following suit. "I'll show you back to the transporter room," she offered.

"Don't worry Commander," the CO of the Ulysses smiled as she held a hand up in protest, "we can find our own way." With that in mind, the Andorian led her second officer out of the briefing room.

As Javorian followed Tharia out of the briefing room he reached out and touched her arm, "Commander, would you be opposed to me going to meet Professor Carter before I return to the Ulysses?" he asked.

"Not at all," the Andorian responded with a shake of her head, "I'll see you back on the Ulysses whenever you're ready," she directed the Lieutenant before going off in their separate directions to carry out their different objectives..

As the room emptied, Aria turned her gaze to her own commanding officer. "Other matter?" she prompted, sitting down and turning to face him. She had an inkling that she was not going to be thrilled given the way he shifted in his seat. Or perhaps it was the other way around. She knew his tells, she knew his growing list of somewhat questionable habits. And she knew when he was uncomfortable.

"What other matter would that be?"

"New orders," McLintock sighed as he leaned forward, pointing towards the door where sh'Elas had just exited. "You just met your new commanding officer. Admiral Hanson's orders. Effective immediately. Congratulations. Don't screw it up."

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