Star Trek: New Horizons
1.03 - “Conglomeration”
written by Travis Cannon
“Anything over there, Hutch?” Dr. Kelly Saunders called.
Lieutenant Donald Hutchby looked down the hill at the doctor, as she begin the climb up. He turned back towards Dr. Astian, the assistant chief medical officer.
“What?” Astian inquired, upon seeing Hutch's expression.
Hutch nodded towards Saunders.
“Hello?!” came her voice.
Astian looked down and waved. “Nothing yet, ma'am!” he answered. He turned back to Hutch and shook his head. “The air is not toxic, Hutch,” he said. “You can't hold you breath forever.”
It took a couple of minutes, but Saunders soon reached the hill's crest.
“Nice you to answer,” Saunders said to Astian, who merely nodded in response. She turned to Hutch and grinned. “On come, Hutch. How long has it been?”
“Four minutes, ma'am,” Astian answered.
“Well, his face is starting to turn blue,” Saunders commented. “What do you think the course of treatment should be, Johann?”
“Fear of death from suffocation should remedy the situation, ma'am,” was his answer.
Saunders nodded. “Agreed.” She turned around and looked down at the small brush they were standing near. With her tricorder she took some readings.
“This plant appears to be edible,” Astian informed her.
“Did you try it?” she asked.
“But it's edible?”
“Well, that's what's important, Johann,” she asserted. “We'll just have to adapt to the taste.”
“Hello no!” came a gasp.
Saunders and Astian turned to see Hutch taking deep breaths.
“What about the toxic atmosphere?” Astian asked, sarcastically.
“Can... be... treated... with... hypospray,” Hutch said. Each word coming in between deep breaths.
“You do know that a hypospray can't fix ever problem in your life, don't you, Hutch?” Saunders inquired.
“Better than dying from lack of oxygen, at least,” Astian commented sardonically. “Should I collect some of the plants.”
Saunders nodded. “Yes,” she said. “They should go well in Petty Officer Delano's hydroponics lab.”
Astian gave a quick nod, and knelt down and began collected specimens. Saunders turned back to face Hutch. “Okay, Hutch, you can go back to the ship now if you...” She stopped in mid-sentence.
“Yes?” Hutch urged her on.
That's when he heard the noise. He turned around and yelped in fear.
Captain's Log - Stardate 60248.09, Commander Jack Keller reporting:
The Treelanian were very hospitable. I almost wish we could have stayed longer, but the crew desires to return home, as do I. We left the Treelan system two weeks ago. I was tempted to use the jump drive, but both Lieutenant Gomez and Admiral Rutledge advised against that. So, instead, we are using the warp drive, even though its top speed is factor 5.
With the damaged to ship systems, and other key components, minus what we traded to the Treelanian for repairs, I've ordered the ship's sensors to be on alert for M-class planetoids. The replicators have begun to malfunction, so food has become somewhat limited. Hopefully we'll find one that has edible vegetation, which will allow Petty Officer Delano to get the hydroponics lab up and running.
We are currently in orbit of a small planet the new navcom system has labeled PM45. I'm still waiting for the away team's report.
“Report!?” Keller came charging out of the ready room.
“We're under fire, sir!” Ensign Hakim called from the helm.
Keller tapped his commbadge.
“Colonel Morgan to the bridge!”
He steadied himself as the bridge shook from a torpedo volley. He almost fell and hit his head, but Zimm Tegan, a bajoran crewman, was there to help him. A nod of thanks to Zimm, and Keller was back in action.
“I need a visual on the attacker, Mr. Hakim!” Keller nearly collapsed into the command chair.
“Working on it, sir!” Hakim cried out from the helm as a spray of spark burst out from the operations station.
The turbo lift doors hissed and Lt. Colonel James Morgan was on the bridge.
“What the hell is going on?”
“I'm still trying to find out,” Keller answered. “Ensign?!”
“There!” Hakim shouted, relief could be heard in his voice.
The forward screen winked to life and showed a massive ship pummeling them with bright blue torpedoes. It was knife shaped, and seemed to slice through space amazingly quick for a ship of its bulk. The hull was a greenish mesh of what seemed to be flesh globbed together over the inner hull.
“What the hell!?” Morgan stood.
“Open a channel!” Keller commanded.
A crewman from the communications station acknowledged and Keller leaned forward in his chair, nearly sitting on the edge.
“To unknown vessel,” he said. “This is Commander Jack Keller of the Federation starship Horizon. Please cease your attack, we come in peace. If we have offended you in anyway, we apologize. Please respond.”
Keller looked over at the communications station. The crewman shook her head.
“Please!” Keller repeated. “We have no hostile intentions. Please respond.”
Morgan stepped over to the tactical station and stood next to the MACO corporal manning the station.
“They're like Klingons!” Morgan said. “They only respond to force. We must return fire... sir!”
A blast of steam hit a crewman from behind the command chair, and Keller ducked as sparks burst from the station.
“Medic!” Morgan cried, as he crouched down next to the crewman. “Hang in there, kid.” He turned back to Keller. “We need to attack, Commander!”
Keller gave his consent with a nod.
Morgan leapt into action.
“Corporal, target the weapons systems of that beast and fire!” he shouted across the din of sparks and steam.
Keller watched on the view screen as the Horizon's fired two torpedoes. The torpedoes arched up and rammed against the hull of the hostile vessel. A small explosion ensued before the vacuum of space consumed what oxygen existed in the sections of the ship that had been hit.
“Yes!” cried Morgan, pumping his fist. “Precise hit!”
“They have no shields?” Hakim was confused.
“Not everyone uses deflector shielding, Ensign,” Keller informed his youngest senior officer.
“The vessel is hailing us, Commander,” came the communications officer's voice.
“Open a channel, crewman,” Keller told her.
The view screen flickered into the dark interior, presumably the bridge, of the hostile vessel. It was hard to see, and the image was slightly distorted.
Suddenly a sharp clicking and whistle noise came across the bridge speakers.
Keller placed his hands over his hears and closed his eyes.
“What the hell?!” Morgan demanded.
“Crewman Magellan?” Keller turned toward the communications officer.
“Sorry, sir!” she said as she turned the volume done.
“What the hell was that?” Morgan demanded, again.
“They're language, Colonel,” Magellan said from her station.
“Clicks and whistles?” Morgan pondered. “Damn peculiar if you ask me.”
Keller tapped his commbadge. “Lieutenant Pelar to the bridge.”
Morgan gave him a look. “Think the Betazoid can read their minds, sir?”
Jack Keller merely shrugged. To be honest, he really did not want to put Janny through such an ordeal, but right now something had to be done to communicate with the alien vessel.
“Send the Federation standard language greeting to the alien,” Keller ordered.
“Already done, sir,” Magellan informed her commander.
Keller nodded in approval.
The turbolift doors hissed open and Pelar stepped out onto the bridge. “What's going on, Jack?” she stopped in her steps, eyes glued on the view screen. “Jack?”
Keller turned around to see the forward screen and nearly doubled over. The voice they had heard had a face. A triangular head with two big beady like black eyes, an pair to thin antennae on top, and two pinchers below the mouth. For all intents and purposes, Keller was staring into the face of an insectoid.
“Sir?” Hakim lowered his eyes from the screen towards his console. “The helm isn't responding. It seems that we have been placed in some sort of tractor lock.”
“Damn bugs!” snarled Morgan.
Keller turned back to Janice Pelar. “Can you read them, Janny?” he asked.
Her dark eyes remained locked on the view screen. “Janny?!” he called out. He stepped around the command chair and grabbed her by the arm. “Janny!?”
She was out of it. His brow lowered in anger and he turned back to the view screen. “Talk to me!”
Morgan began to open his mouth before he realized that Keller was speaking to the insect on the view screen.
“Very well, Commander!” growled a deep voice.
“You speak English?”
“You're language is simple compared to the Alvon!”
“And you are the Alvon?”
“So you do have a brain,” the insect responded. “How fascinating!”
Keller was not sure, but from the sound of the voice, it sounded as if the insectoid was being sarcastic.
“What do you want?” Keller asked. “Why did you attack us without provocation?”
“Provocation?” the insect laughed. “We need reason to attack you than you are you.”
“Come again?” Morgan demanded.
“I am Intendant Baas Ju-vuk of the Avkon Conglomeration!” the insect responded, as if that would answer all of their questions.
“Never heard of you,” Keller said.
Ju-vuk made a growling noise. “Impossible, the Conglomeration controls all of this space.”
“Well, we're not from here,” Keller said. “And I answer to your authority.”
“Foolish flesher!” snapped Ju-vuk. “All fleshers in Avkon territory are required to be marked and tagged.”
“Marked and tagged,” Ju-vuk repeated.
“Inventory,” Ju-vuk replied.
“Inventory?” Morgan repeated. “For what?”
Ju-vuk made a growling noise and his pincher twitched. “Food need not ask questions!” He turned and clicked off the transmission.
“Food need not ask questions?” Morgan repeated, looking questioningly at Keller.
“Yep, we're the food,” Keller said.
“Hutch, wake up,” came the soft voice of Dr. Kelly Saunders.
Lieutenant Donald Hutchby slowly came to, and when he saw where he was he nearly freaked.
“Calm down, Hutch. Calm down,” Saunders pleaded.
“How can I calm down when there is mucus and...,” he searched for the words to describe his present location.
“We're in a cell, Lieutenant,” Astian said from across the room. “Aboard what appears to be a biologically-designed based ship.”
A kind of membrane blocked the entrance, and a highly viscous material oozed from the walls.
“What kind of ship has mucus?” Hutch demanded.
“A living one, Hutch,” Saunders answered. “And right now, we need to remain calm and discover what has happened.”
“Isn't clear what has happened, doctor?” Hutch said. “We've been eaten. Eaten by a living space leviathan.”
“I seriously doubt that,” Astian interjected.
“They exist!” Hutch asserted. “Large space dwelling organisms. Many Federation ships have encountered them. It is quite possible!” He started to hyperventilate. “I... wish... I... had... a... hypo!”
“Calm, calm down,” Saunders pleaded smoothly. “Breath in, breath out. Nice and slow,” she coached.
“You're not helping, Johann!” she hissed at her assistant CMO.
Astian nodded and backed off, continued his examination of the membrane covering the entrance. After a few moments, Hutch had calm down.
“Do we have a hypospray?” he asked.
“No,” Saunders said. “When they transported us up, they must have removed them. Sorry.”
“Like we remove weapons, or biological agents that could be infectious?”
“Yes, I suppose you could say that, Hutch,” Saunders confirmed.
Suddenly the membrane receded into crest of the entrance. Saunders stood, helping Hutch up, as well. Astian backed up as two insectoids in purple colored uniforms stormed into the cell and grabbed Astian.
One of the insectoids raised a rod and placed the tip against Astian's side. Astian cried out in a quick burst of pain and then slumped limply into the arms of the other insectoid. Throughout all this, the insectoids were making clicking and whistle noises.
The insectoids with the shock rod turned held the device up to Saunders and Hutch, all the while making clicking noises at them. Meanwhile, the other one carried Astian out of the cell. When he was gone, the insectoid in front of them made a whistle sound and then left the room. Another membrane immediately enveloped the opening behind him.
They stood in silence for a moment before Hutch declared;
“I feel sick!”
“They're moving away, sir,” Hakim said from the helm.
Keller was still looking at Pelar, who seemed to still be in some sort of trance. He tapped his commbadge. “Admiral to the bridge.”
Morgan stepped forward and knelt down beside the command chair. “Commander, what are you thinking?”
Keller narrowed his eyes. “We've stumbled into a hornet's nest, Colonel.”
“Yeah, literally,” Morgan said. “Bugs! Yuck!”
The turbolift doors opened and Admiral Rutledge stepped out the bridge.
“You wanted to see me, Commander?” Rutledge inquired. Keller nodded. “I take it it's about our new 'friends'?”
“You can say that, sir,” Morgan said, standing up.
Rutledge looked over at the crewman on the floor.
“Where's the medical team?” he asked.
Keller and Morgan exchanged looks. Keller's eyes became wide.
“Excuse me?” Rutledge inquired.
“Dr. Saunders and an away team beamed down to the planet to look for edible plants for Delano's hydroponics lab,” Morgan explained.
“And where are they now?” Rutledge asked.
“They're still on the planet,” Keller said. He turned towards communications. “Magellan?”
“I'm not picking them up, sir,” she said. “They are not the beam down coordinates, nor are they anywhere on the planet, sir.”
“Widen the scan to the entire system,” Keller commanded.
Magellan typed in the appropriate commands into her terminal, and then waited for the results. “Confirmation on their commbadge signals, sir,” she reported. She hesitated for a moment, as if she was shocked. “Sir, I'm picking them up from the alien vessel.”
Keller and Morgan both turned and glared at the view screen image of the alien ship.
“Try your commbadge,” Saunders said.
Hutch tapped it, it chirped, but nothing else.
“Nothing, doctor, absolutely nothing!” he was frustrated.
Saunders was feeling a bit frustrated as well. It had been almost an hour sense Johann Astian had been taken by the insectoids. She was beginning to lose hope of ever seeing him again.
“Doctor!” Hutch suddenly cried out with glee.
“What is it, Hutch?” she asked, coming out of her brief reprieve.
“In my pocket...!” he exclaimed excitedly.
“A hypospray!” he was overcomed with a kind of euphoria.
She snatched it out of his hand, before he could program it.
“You don't need any medicine, Hutch,” she said, looking at the programming interface. “You're fine. This ship, on the other hand, needs to catch a cold.”
“But what if its contagious!” Hutch objected. “I might catch it! I'm very susceptible to that sort of thing, you know?”
“Only in your mind, Hutch, only in your mind,” Saunders answered as she began to program the hypospray.
“Intendant!” an insectoid soldier saluted Baas Ju-vuk.
The Avkon bridge was dim and dark. Ju-vuk was seated on a stool with a kind of fleshy membrane covering the seat.
“The one we took for the experiments,” he said. “The doctors have rejected him. He is not compatible.”
“Apparently, Lord Intendant,” the soldier tried to explain. “He is not of the same species as the other two.”
“What of the first ones we took, the two females and one male?” Ju-vuk demanded.
“They are the same,” the soldier answered. “Same together and as the companions of the incompatible one.”
“Are they compatible?” Ju-vuk asked.
“Yes, Lord Intendant,” the soldier said.
“Ah, excellent,” Ju-vuk's pinchers twitched, he leaned back in the membrane chair.
“Intendant!” a soldier from the forward control area called out. “We are receiving a transmission from Prefect Ru-guth of Distribution Center 19.”
“Open transmission on forward viewer!” commanded Ku-vuk, standing up.
The drone soldier scurried back on his hind legs.
A fleshy membrane descended from the ceiling and an image appeared.
“Prefect Ru-guth,” Ku-vuk lowered his antennae. “What may I do for you?”
“Baas Ju-vuk, you slug,” chuckled the fat Prefect. “You're late!”
“The quota was difficult this cycle, Prefect,” Ku-vuk insisted. “I have only now obtained some specimens that will allow me to complete it, sir.”
Ru-guth's large head and beady eyes shook with displeasure. “Very well,” he growled. “Return at once and the counting drones shall confirm you inventory. Ru-guth out!”
The image being projected on the fleshy membrane disappeared and the membrane retracted back into the ceiling.
“Prepare the hiveship for embarkation!” ordered Ku-vuk.
“What of the flesher ship?” asked the pilot drone.
Ku-vuk took at the terminal before him.
“Leave it,” he commanded. “But record the vessel's registry number and engine signature. These humans are compatible food sources.”
“They're releasing there tractor lock, sir,” Hakim said.
“No longer hunger.”
Keller turned and saw that Janice Pelar was coming out of her trance. She nearly fell, but he caught her in his arms.
“Ms. Pelar?” Rutledge felt her neck. “She's unconscious.”
“Zimm, Durst,” Keller order. “Take her to sickbay.”
“Aye, aye,” Zimm said.
Durst and him took Pelar from Keller's arms and carried her off the bridge.
“I'll go with her, and make sure she's all right,” Rutledge said, and followed them.
Keller and Morgan turned back to the view screen.
“Orders, Commander?” Morgan asked.
“We need to get our crewmen off that ship, Colonel,” Keller said.
Morgan grinned. “Can do.” He turned to the corporal at the tactical station. “Rawlings, have Major Watts and an assault team meet me in transporter room one.”
“Colonel... Jim,” Keller said.
“Bring them back.”
“Yes, sir!” Morgan answered with a grin, and then left the bridge with Rawlings.
A junior lieutenant took Rawlings' place at tactical.
“The vessel is moving away, sir,” he said.
Keller nodded. “Mr. Hakim,” Keller said turning towards the helm. “Stay with them.”
Keller positioned himself in the center of the bridge. His eyes firmly fixed on the view screen.
“Lt. Reyes, report!”
“The assault team has transported over,” the junior lieutenant from tactical said.
Saunders and Hutch jumped back as the membrane opened and Astian was thrown back into the room. Hutch caught him. The membrane seal closed up immediately.
“Good catch,” Astian said, shaking his head.
“Ahh!” coughed Hutch, backing up. “The hypo! Doctor! Give it to me! My hands! Look at my hands!”
Saunders looked over at Hutch and sighed, then she noticed Astian. He was covered in a grayish viscous mucus.
“You all right, Johann?” she asked.
The assistant CMO nodded. “I'm fine, Dr. Saunders.”
“Doctor!” cried Hutch, holding up his hands.
“It's harmless, Lieutenant,” Astian said. “Look at me, I'm covered in the stuff and I'm fine.”
Hutch was vigorously wiping his hands on his uniform.
“What did they want with you, Johann?” Saunders asked.
Her Metaklite colleague rubbed his neck and hesitated. “Food, ma'am.”
“Why weren't you... uh...?”
“Yes, for a lack of a better word?” Saunders agreed.
“It appears Metaklites are not very tasty,” Astian answered
“I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it,” Saunders said playfully.
“Blake, Thompson, and Xavier weren't as lucky,” Astian said, become serious.
Saunders gave him a questioning look.
“They've been preserved,” Astian said. “At least that's what I could gather without understanding our captors' language.”
“That's what this mucus is?” she asked.
“I would assume so, ma'am,” Astian replied. “So sort of food preserver. They placed us in a kind of status pod. The pod rejected me and literately spit me out.”
A moment of silence pass between them, meanwhile Hutch continued to complain about the mucus.
“Any ideas on how to get out of here, ma'am?” he asked.
Saunders held up the hypospray.
Lt. Colonel James Morgan raised his compression rifle as he made a turn down the corridor, he was followed quickly by Rawlings and Watts. He had left Mendez and Chiang at the beam in site for back up.
He scanned the area ahead of them.
“They're somewhere around here,” Morgan whispered to his comrades.
Suddenly a membrane door snapped, and a orange substance splattered across the opposite wall. Morgan held up a fist and bring his men to a halt. He signal them to prepare. They had been luck so far, and had not encountered any of the insectoids.
“It's us!” came a familiar voice and Morgan smiled as he saw Dr. Saunders emerge from the opening.
Morgan and his team rushed forward to assist.
“How'd you do that, Doctor?” he asked, as he helped Hutch out of the cell.
“I gave it a cold,” Saunders said holding up a hypospray.
“They want us for food, Jack,” Saunders said, sitting behind her desk.
Keller was standing before her desk, leaning against the edge. The Conglomeration ship had left without incident, and the Horizon was still in orbit of PM45. “I'm just anger, Kel,” he said. “Blake, Thompson and Xavier! Damn it!”
Saunders stood up and placed a hand on Keller's shoulder. “I got have been worse, Jack,” she said. “A lot worse.”
Keller nodded and accepted her touch. He turned and looked out the see-through wall at the biobed in the emergency area.
“How is she?” he asked, referring to Janice Pelar.
“For now, fine,” Saunders said, taking on a more professional air, though she did not hide her disappointment at the end of their more intimate moment well. Keller, however, was too absorbed in Pelar's condition to notice.
“What do you think happened?” he asked, as he watched Dr. Astian begin to run a scan of Pelar with a medical tricorder.
“To be honest, I can't say,” Saunders admitted. “Whatever it was, it seems to have only affected her.”
“What should we do?”
Kelly Saunders reached out and placed a hand on Jack Keller's shoulder. “Wait,” she said. “All we can do is wait.”
To Be Continued...