((Bridge - USS Nelson))
::Satisfied that everyone was as alright as they could be, Sidney looked at her suit's readout to determine what the non-critical sound was trying to tell her. The helmet seal on her EVA suit had been weakened. It wasn't leaking oxygen, blessedly, but it was obviously non-secure. More chest tightness crept up on Sidney. More fear. She dismissed the alarm in her headgear.::
Frost: You girls alright?
Pierce: ::trying to keep her voice level:: Knocked my suit up a bit. What about you?
:: The last time Liam felt this badly knocked around was after the last Sambo lesson that Liz had given him. He took several moments to check that his suit was still intact, and not leaking oxygen. There were no signs of damage to the suit, or any of his extremities, and he was finally able to lift himself off the floor.::
Frost: Feels like I went a few rounds with Liz, but I think I'm alright. Make any progress?
Pierce: Before the blackout I was going over the medical logs. There were some fairly recent partials. Lots of people were coming in with heavy burns – a lot of stations and equipment shorted out at the same time, like some sort of system-wide power surge. Add to that a lack
of visible crewmembers and jettisoned escape pods, I'd say whatever totaled the ship made the Nelson's crew evacuate.
:: It wasn't a lot to go on, but it was at least a place to start. He wasn't surprised that they were having trouble making connections between the various systems and databanks. The Nelson was in rough shape as it was when they had found it. If the theory that the Nelson had fallen victim to the energy being, then it stood to reason that dozens of systems may have been separated from the other systems. If they even worked at all.::
Pierce: I say we make our way down to the escape pods and see what's there. Without power the bridge and helm are just as useless as anything else around here. ::half-smile:: Might as well do some hands on detecting.
Frost: I'd like to check out the Captain's ready room too. We recovered some partial logs. I'm hoping he left a few behind for us. I'd also like to see if there's anything to be found in sickbay as well.
Pierce: There's still the matter of Johnson.
::What /were/ they going to do with their unconscious Ensign? He could be teleported back, but at the same time he represented another link to the Expanse's strange effect on people. Leaving a security officer with him seemed like a waste of personnel.::
Pierce: We can revive him, we can leave him here with Trell, or we can send him back to the Apollo.
Frost: I don't know. I don't like leaving him there. But until he gets his marbles back, he's a liability. Trell will let us know when he comes around, and we'll go from there.
:: Liam looked around the darkened bridge, but there was just a little more than nothing they could do in their current predicament.::
Frost: I want to go check out the Captain's ready room first. See what we can find.
Pierce: You're the first officer. The ready room is more immediate anyway, we can get the entire bridge area done before checking anything else out. I hope Barnes and his team are having better luck than we are.
::The ready room was a scant few steps. Satisfied that she had everything, Pierce let Frost lead the way. The inside was a disaster - part of the desk had been scorched and a bookshelf toppled. Some of the person effects having toppled could easily have been the shockwave that had just knocked the two officers over; even so, every inch of space had some debris covering it.::
::There were some unsettling marks along the floor. The doctor crouched down and eyed one. Reaching for her tricorder, she scanned the area and looked mildly concerned at the result.::
Pierce: That's blood. Who was the captain of the Nelson?
:: Liam looked around the room, scanning in as much detail as the narrow beams of light from his helmet would allow him to. files and books scattered the floor, as well as the various trinkets that had been assembled by the Nelson's Captain. He imagined how the room must have looked when it was in better shape; stately and impressive. It had been, at one point, a testament to career full of accomplishment. Now it was, like the rest of the Nelson, a shell of it's former self. A glint of something caught Liam's eye. The majority of it was obscured by the overturned coffee table, but there was no mistaking what he had seen.::
:: A boot::
:: Liam moved closer crouching down close to investigate. The body lay on the floor, seemingly almost mummified, it's flesh dried and clinging tightly to the bone. He slowly scanned it, looking for an indication of identity. He found a clue as he got higher. Atop a red collar, the same colour as his own, sat for pips. Pips that had once been so highly polished they would have made a good signal mirror for a survival exercise. Liam pulled out his tricorder, scanning for the ID in the comm badge, which confirmed what he already suspected to be true.::
Frost: Captain David Evans.
:: The body was in a strange state. It should have been almost perfectly preserved by the vacuum and the exposure to the cold. And yet his body looked more like the images of mummies that he had seen in museums. It looked dry, almost like worn leather, pulled taught in towards his skeleton. Sidney was slowly making her way over to him.::
::Liam had walked over to the other side of the room and stopped. Curious, she carefully stepped over the remnants of a heavy paperback novel to take a look. Nothing so far had prepared her for what they were standing in front of. The entire body looked like it was covered with spider silk, strangely waxy and pale. Layer upon layer made the surface seem solid, but parts of the uniform still showed through. This was the captain.::
Pierce: This is the first indication we've seen of personnel actually being on-board.
Everything else looked too clean, like they knew they were leaving. It could be the Captain's blood. I'll be able to say for certain in a few moments...
Frost: So what happened to him?
Pierce: I... have never seen anything like this. ::looking up:: There's barely anything left of him. He's missing blood, cerebro-spinal fluid; all his cells have ruptured. There's no fluid left in him at all. Think deep-space compression of a humanoid, but his skeletal structure is intact, as is what's left of his musculature. Something took all the water out of him and left this instead.
:: Liam let a clight curse out under his breath, unsure if Sidney heard it or not, but not really caring if she did. He stood there for a moment simply staring at the body. He walked over to the desk, one of the only undamaged pieces of the furniture in the room. He found the desk terminal still operational, its battery backup still functioning. He pressed a few keys, bringing the device to life and casting a glow across the room. An icon flashed on the screen, indicating a waiting message. Liam took a deep breath before beginning the playback. The image of Captain Evans appeared on the screen, looking stern and haggard. He had the look of a man who had lost more sleep that most Cadets ever did, and carried the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders.::
::At the sound of a loading vid, the doctor turned her head towards the monitor and saw what was undoubtedly Captain Evans. He looked tired. What could have been happening to him and his crew? Whatever it was had left him here in this mummified state, and had sent the crew running alone into the Expanse. The skin on her arms began to crawl. Her body was beginning to react to this whole scenario - they needed to find the answers.::
Evans: Captain's log, stardate... hell, does it matter? I've come to the most difficult decision that any commanding officer ever has to make. The Nelson is lost. The energy creature, whatever it is, has set its sights on us. We shut down the warp core, and it seems to have helped, but without the warp core, we can't get anywhere, and as soon as we fire it up again, it'll be all over us. I'm preparing to give the order to abandon ship. We've programmed a torpedo spread to get the creature's attention. That should give the escape pods enough time to get clear. Then we'll start the warp core up again to give them as much time as we can.
The catch is that someone has to stay behind to run the startup sequence. I can't, in good conscience, order one of my officers to do it. So, in a bit of anachronism, the Captain is, in all likelyhood, going down with the ship. It's not a decision I take lightly, but the information we've gathered needs to make it out, or everything we've sacrificed will be for nothing.
If anyone finds this, let it be known that the crew of the Nelson have served with distinction, valour and bravery, in keeping with the highest traditions of Starfleet. Commendations are hereby granted to all crew members. The following officers are hereby promoted in recognition of their bravery: Lieutenant Max Kincade, Lieutenant junior grade Jason Gondor, Lieutenant Kelly Shannon, Ensign Danny Maxwell, Lieutenant junior grade Brax, Ensign Toran G'dar and Lieutenant Kaitlyn Stafford. If Commander T'Pral is found alive, it is my recommendation that Starfleet command immediately consider him for captaincy.
Finally, please, tell my wife Amelia that I love her, and that I'm sorry we never got to take that trip to Betazed.
Captain David Evans. USS Nelson
::In the void after the message, Sidney slumped down beside what remained of the Captain, her heart low in her chest. The hint of red from the shoulders of his uniform was the only indication that what lay beneath was the man in that message. He had sacrificed a great deal and all for the safety of his crew. Somewhere members of the Nelson were still alive because of this Evans' bravery and here he was here at the edge of the galaxy, alone. She felt almost as if she would cry, but more than that, she felt angry. She connected a PADD to the system and downloaded the message. This would need to be sent back when this away mission was over, and it might finally give closure to his wife.::
:: The message finished, and for a long time, nothing was said. He simply stood there, staring at a screen that was now blank, save for the Starfleet Insignia. He let out a long breath as the magnitude of what had just happened sank in. Captain Evans had made the ultimate sacrifice to give his crew the chance to escape. He had no idea if they would succeed or not. But he had given them the best chance he could, regardless of the cost to himself. He wondered, if he were ever placed in that situation, if he would be able to do the same. He remembered the sacrifice made by Lieutenant Commander Guy Hunt almost a year ago, and Alice May before that. Sacrifice seemed to be a nearly constant factor when it came to a life in Starfleet. He'd known it when he joined, and he knew it now. And he quietly vowed that he would not let that sacrifice be forgotten.::
::Opening her kit, Pierce brought out a microscalpel and gingerly touched it to the layer protecting the Captain's body. When nothing happened, she began slowly working away at the outside. Cutting away the film felt like the only thing keeping Sidney from flying into a rage. She set her jaw firmly and continued to work.::
Pierce: ::monotone:: We need to take him back with us. We need as much information as we can get on this decomposition process, and we're sending him home to his family.
Frost: Agreed. I'll tag his comm badge. When we leave, we can beam him to the shuttle if we have to.
:: He thought for a moment about what Captain Evans had given up, and what would be left behind now that he was gone. He wondered what he would leave behind if he had to do the same. The people who depended on him and the people he cared about. It was a somewhat sobering thought, which he swallowed down as best he could. He closed his eyes and let out a slow breath.::
Frost: Alright, let's head out. We've got more work to do.
::The Lieutenant stood up slowly, eyes on the only thing she had been able to do to help. Captain Evans was free now, but the idea of leaving the body here did was not something Sidney wanted to do. He had stayed here for the rest of his crew, and now it should be time for him to be honored and to rest. He would never get to take Amelia to Betazed, but he would be able to go home. Her mind wandered to the Apollo's mission. This same thing stood poised to happen to any one of her crew if they didn't find a way to defend themselves. If she was this upset about the death of a man she'd never met, how would losing Lanius affect her? The Captain? She looked at the Apollo's first officer. The image that formed in her mind was destructive, and yet she couldn't let it go. Her heart remained in the pit of her stomach.::
Pierce: Sounds good to me.
LtCmdr Liam Frost
Lt(JG) Sidney Pierce
Chief Medical Officer
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