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Diane Doyle

The Honorable Mention for the
2008 Orion Press Writer's Challenge Contest

After several months on the U.S.S. Enterprise, Ensign Pavel Chekov had only recently been assigned to the Alpha shift on the bridge. However, this was the first critical situation the crew faced during that time frame. The Enterprise had journeyed to Pyris VII, a dark, forbidding looking planet that, according to sensors, was uninhabited. Chekov himself had confirmed that fact at the Science Station earlier that day under the direction of Spock.

A landing party consisting of Chief Engineer Scott, Lieutenant Sulu, and Security Officer J.J. Jackson was sent to explore the world. While there, they were expected to contact the ship at regular intervals. They checked in as scheduled the first time. However, at their next scheduled check in time, they did not contact the ship. Another half hour elapsed and still no communication from the landing party.

At the navigation console, Chekov could feel the growing tension on the bridge. He could see Uhura seated at the communications station, monitoring the light pattern intently. He also noticed that Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock both stood next to her, intensely interested in her findings.

"Still no response," Uhura said mournfully as she turned around.

"Keep it open," Kirk ordered.

Uhura nodded and turned back to her communications board.

Kirk began pacing the area and grumbled, "I don’t like this. Nothing since the first check-in. Sulu and Scott should have contacted us a half hour ago."

Spock countered, "They may have nothing to report. Our sensors have picked up no indication of life forms, except our landing party."

"Nonetheless, Scott and Sulu are well aware of landing party procedure. They should have checked in by now."

Chekov reflected on the situation. One of the missing people was Sulu, the person normally assigned at the helm with him. Sulu’s outgoing, effervescent personality had helped make it easier for Pavel to adjust to bridge duty on the Alpha Shift. In fact, Sulu had taken on the role of a mentor to Chekov during the initial time frame and now they were beginning to function well as a team. Initially, Sulu, along with many other members of the crew, had misgivings about Chekov, an ensign only a few months removed from Star Fleet Academy, assuming bridge duty. Sulu would have probably preferred his friend Riley to be at navigation. Yet once he was reconciled to the idea of Chekov moving to the bridge, helped him adjust. But now Sulu was missing. Instead, at the helm was the taciturn Lieutenant Hadley who normally served on Beta shift but was pressed into duty on Alpha shift.

Eventually, the buzz that indicated an incoming message sounded. Uhura immediately opened the connection and announced, "Contact established."

The filtered sound of Lieutenant Jackson could be heard, "Jackson to Enterprise."

The captain leaned towards the communications station, "Kirk here."

"One to beam up," was the requested command from Jackson.

"One? Jackson, where are Scott and Sulu?" Kirk was obviously disturbed.

"I’m ready to beam up," Jackson emphasized the first word in the statement.

A roar of static came from the communications speaker. Uhura tried to adjust the controls.

"I’m sorry, sir. I can’t clear it," Uhura sounded apologetic.

In reaction, Kirk leaned over Uhura’s shoulder. "All right. Notify the Transporter Room to prepare to beam up one member of the landing party. Then have Doctor McCoy report to me in the Transporter Room on the double."

Kirk left the communications stations and sprinted towards the turbo-elevator, with Spock following, and headed towards the Transporter Room. Uhura turned her attention to her communications board once again. Lieutenant Vincent DeSalle, the ship’s Assistant Chief Engineer, left the bridge’s engineering console and sat down in the captain’s chair, as he now had the conn.

As Kirk and Spock left the bridge, Chekov felt somewhat disturbed. He thought to himself, At least Jackson seems to be okay. But what about Sulu and Scott? I hope nothing happened to them. Maybe Jackson can tell the captain what happened to them and we can rescue them.

Chekov’s concerned thoughts were interrupted several minutes later when the intercom on the bridge buzzed.

"DeSalle here." The Assistant Chief Engineer punched a communications button on the command chair.

"It’s Kirk. Jackson is dead! From no apparent physical cause. Spock and I are beaming down to the planet’s surface to find out what killed Jackson and to search for Scott and Sulu. You’re in charge while I’m gone."

"Yes, sir," DeSalle assented. His tone of voice changed, "I’m sorry to hear about Jackson. Good luck in finding our missing crewmen."

With Spock being gone from the ship, Chekov got up from the navigation console and walked to the Science Station on the bridge. In addition to serving as navigator, he was currently being trained in many of the functions of a science officer. He would serve at the science station under Spock and occasionally take over the station on his own when Spock was off the bridge or in command. However, this was his first time at the science station when both Kirk and Spock were absent from the bridge.

He felt the eyes of his fellow bridge officers upon him. Uhura at communications always treated him graciously. However, he was not yet comfortable working with any of the others. Hadley, currently at the helm, was not inclined to talk to him. Chekov realized it was comparatively hard to gain respect since he was only an ensign. He knew that DeSalle, who was currently in charge of the ship, had earlier expressed concerns about an ensign on the Alpha shift, especially when the ship had more experienced command track officers of higher rank, like Riley, Farrell, Leslie, or even Hadley. And now here I am, working on the bridge with DeSalle when Spock and Kirk are both off the ship.

After much tense waiting, the sound of an incoming message was heard. Uhura toggled a switch at her station and then heard the captain’s voice, followed by static, "Kirk to Enterprise."

"Enterprise here," Uhura spoke into the transmitter at her station.

"What are the ship’s sensors reading right now, Lieutenant?" inquired Kirk.

In reaction, DeSalle got up from the command chair and walked over to the Science Station and said to Chekov, "Report, Mister."

Chekov glanced at the life sign indicators at the station before responding, "I’m only picking up physical impulses from the three of them. As far as the instruments can make out, there’s nothing else there that’s alive."

DeSalle turned his attention to Uhura, "Relay, Lieutenant."

Uhura once again spoke into the transmitter. "Captain, we are only registering on you." At that point, a roar of static obliterated any response. She tried adjusting the settings at her station in a futile attempt to hear her commanding officer. The static continued as she attempted to reestablish contact, "Captain? Captain Kirk?"

At the same time, Chekov continued his scan of the planet, hoping to find signs of Scott and Sulu. He adjusted the controls to zoom in on different regions on the planet along with calibrating the controls to account for different types of planetary atmospheres. None of these attempts proved fruitful. Soon after the captain’s last communication and Uhura’s last attempt to reestablish contact, the life signs of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy also ceased to register.

Chekov turned around from the hooded viewer at the Science Station and announced, "They’re gone, Mister DeSalle. The captain and the others simply stopped registering."

"Check for malfunctions!" was the order from the Assistant Chief Engineer.

"I did, sir. As soon as it happened."

Uhura swiveled her chair around, adding. "Mister DeSalle, that’s exactly what happened with Mister Scott and his party. They just disappeared."

DeSalle stepped over towards the communications station. His tone of voice was skeptical. "Nobody just disappears. They may have encountered a magnetic field or some other obstruction."

After that, DeSalle once again turned his attention to the Science Station, "Mister Chekov, recalibrate your sensors." In response to the order, Chekov adjusted settings on several instruments. DeSalle’s tone of voice became gentler. "If you need help..."

Here we go again. DeSalle thinks I’m too inexperienced for the job. He can sometimes be so patronizing. With those thoughts in mind, the young Russian retorted, with injured pride, "I can do it. I’m not that green."

Nonplused, the engineer turned his attention away from Chekov and, once again, towards communications. "Lieutenant Uhura, continue your efforts to break through that static interference."

"Aye, aye, sir," was the response from the Bantu communications officer.

"We know they’re down there. I want them found." DeSalle was obviously very troubled as he returned to the captain’s chair.

And I want to find them, also. How do you find people who suddenly disappear? Chekov kept thinking as he continued to adjust scanning sensors. He refined the zoom controls to increasing finer acuity to zero in on different regions of the planet. He also continually recalibrated the sensor settings to account for an even greater variety of atmospheric conditions, including different types of electromagnetic and cosmic radiation. He even tried to compensate for substances that could shield against sensor scans, such as concentrated deposits on lead in the world’s crust. All these efforts were in vain. Chekov started shaking his head with frustration.

In the meantime, DeSalle took readings at the helm station, standing next to Hadley. After that, he walked towards the science station for a progress report. "Any change, Mister Chekov?"

The young Russian shook his head. "No, sir. And I’ve run out of sensor settings. I can’t raise a thing!"

The engineer sighed before pacing the floor of the bridge. He next stopped at the communications station, "Lieutenant Uhura, what is the time lag for messages to and from Starbase Nine?"

"About ten standard days." The Bantu officer swiveled her chair in response to DeSalle before resuming her attention to the station.

DeSalle sighed in resignation. "Ten days. Very well. Relay them the appropriate log entries for the past day."

As he looked up briefly from the hooded viewer, the young Russian mentally pondered their current situation. We’re certainly in trouble! We’ve had one crew member die already. Our top three officers and helmsman are missing. I’ve tried every possible combination and permutation of sensor settings to try to find them. And our messages are more than a week away from the nearest starbase.

Chekov’s thoughts were interrupted by DeSalle’s next order, "Mister Chekov, inform sensor banks I want combined readings on all sensitivity levels...even if it burns out half of them."

The engineer returned to the captain’s chair and punched a communications button. "Security, this is Mister DeSalle. Arm a ten-man landing party with full support equipment, arms condition A-1. They’re to be on permanent standby in the Transporter Room until further orders."

Uhura frowned and her tone of voice reflected much doubt, "Are you going to risk another landing party, Mister DeSalle?"

"I’m going to risk whatever it takes. Send that message, Lieutenant."

Turning back to her station, Uhura replied, "Aye, aye, sir."

Chekov reflected on DeSalle’s latest order. Beaming down any more people to Pyris VII seems to be...what is the idiom, throwing good credits after bad. We’ll just end up with more missing people.

Even though previous attempts to find the members of the last two landing parties had been unsuccessful, Chekov continued his search for life sign readings. He knew that Uhura was still scanning for communications signals from the planet surface below. Neither was having any luck.

Finally, Uhura detected a signal. With happiness, she clicked some buttons at her station and heard the voice of Kirk, "Enterprise from Captain Kirk. Come in please. Come in..."

A somewhat relieved Chekov thought to himself. At least the captain’s okay. If he’s alive, there’s a good chance the others are also.

After hearing the captain’s voice, Chekov was overcome by a feeling of warmth. Is it my imagination or has the bridge suddenly gotten warmer? Did the climate controls for the bridge break down? Is it time to call Maintenance Engineering?

The bridge seemed to grow hotter by the minute. Chekov felt sweat underneath his armpits and rolling down his forehead from the hair line. This is really uncomfortable... This uniform was not meant to be worn in hot climates. He mopped his brow with the sleeve of his uniform. Maybe I need to get a haircut. Long hair is too hard to handle when it’s hot! I feel like I’m in a building with no climate control... during a heat wave... Or like I’m on the sunny side of Mercury.

He returned his attention to the temperature readings at the science station, which confirmed the fact that the temperature throughout the ship was rising.

He heard Uhura answer the page from Kirk, "Captain, where are you? Are you all right? Are the others all right?" She seemed to be gasping for air but her tone of voice showed relief. Like Chekov, she was perspiring profusely.

"Never mind us. What’s happening up there?" came the filtered voice of Kirk.

DeSalle gave his summary report, "The temperature, sir. It keeps rising!" The engineer then prompted Chekov for more details, "Reading, Mister."

"It’s up sixty seconds in the last thirty seconds. We’re burning up!!" Chekov’s face displayed an expression of horror and his voice was on the verge of hysteria.

Kirk’s orders could now be heard, "Mister DeSalle! Channel bypass power into your heat dissipation units!"

"We’ve already done it, Captain. It had no effect. We’re cooking up here!"

"All right. I'll handle it down here. Kirk out."

The temperature on the bridge started inching back down to normal. The bridge crew, including Uhura and Chekov, while still drenched with sweat, started to feel better. Uhura got up from her station and walked towards the science station, standing behind Chekov.

The young Russian checked a temperature gauge and turned around to make a report. "Temperature is almost back to normal...dropping down fast."

DeSalle nodded and once again ordered Uhura, "Lieutenant, try to raise the captain again."

The Bantu communications officer stepped back to her station and reseated herself. She spoke into her mouthpiece, "Enterprise to Captain Kirk. Acknowledge." With a sigh of frustration, she reported, "We’ve lost him again, Mister DeSalle."

As if to answer her while she turned a knob, a sputter of static erupted from the board, similar to that seen when they had lost contact with the captain the first time.

"I’ll get back on the sensor scan," Chekov volunteered as he returned to his board on the science station.

"Forget it, Mister," DeSalle rejected Chekov’s suggestion.

DeSalle had more orders for Uhura, "Lieutenant, alert Transporter Room and Security. We’re going down there to find the captain."

Chekov thought to himself. This is really bizarre! We hear from Captain Kirk while the ship is burning up. And then we lose him once the ship’s temperature goes back down to normal.

DeSalle prepared to leave the bridge. "Lieutenant Uhura, you have the conn." He stepped into the turbolift, and the doors closed behind him.

Chekov was worried. It seems that this world’s a black hole that sucks up everyone who goes there...of course, Captain Kirk did manage to break through once.

Soon there was a beep, indicating a call from inside the ship, specifically from the transporter room.

"Uhura here," the communications officer answered the page from the center seat.

"DeSalle here. We are unable to beam down. I’ll be back on the bridge shortly. Have Mister Chekov see if he can determine why we can no longer beam down."

"Yes, sir." Uhura turned in the center seat toward Chekov. "You heard the order, Ensign?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. Scanning now," he answered.

Within a few minutes, DeSalle strode back onto the bridge. His first destination was to the science station.

Chekov turned around and gave his report, "It's some kind of a force field, sir, but not like any other I've ever heard of before. It's not coming from anywhere. It's simply all around us."

"Wave length analysis, Mister Chekov?"

"It will not analyze."

"All right...but it’s there...and it’s real. If it’s real, it can be affected." At that point, DeSalle strode to the engineering station and punched a button. "Engineering, stand by to divert all power systems to the outer hull. Prepare impulse engines for generation of maximum heat, directed as ordered." He tapped the console and said with determination, "Maybe we can’t break it, but I’ll bet you credits to navy beans that we can put a dent in it."

For the next several minutes, Chekov continued to monitor the hooded viewer for any signs of a break in the force field. Uhura and DeSalle walked to the science station to stand behind him.

I see a slightly lower amplitude for the waves in the rightmost sector down below as compared to the others, about a point one percent difference. This may be our break! He thought to himself with elation and raised a fist in the air.

Uhura looked puzzled. "I don’t see any change."

"It’s there, Lieutenant," DeSalle insisted.

The Russian explained, "It was the electrical field we set up, Mister DeSalle. It’s not much, but it’s a start. That dent you wanted..."

DeSalle, seeing a possibility of success, ordered, "Keep it up, Mister Chekov. Channel the entire output of reactors one, two, and three into the relay stations. Whatever it is, it’s starting to weaken."

Chekov followed the order and checked the electromagnetic readings. I see some more dents. We’re making progress, slowly but surely.

Soon a communications signal from the planet sounded. The frequency indicated that the likely source was a Starfleet issue communicator. As soon as Uhura punched a button at her station, the filtered voice of Captain Kirk could be heard, "Kirk to Enterprise. Come in, please."

"Standing by, Captain," Uhura’s tone of voice betrayed extreme relief.

"Five to beam up," requested Kirk. This prompted Uhura to direct his signal to Lieutenant Kyle, the main Transporter Room operator.

Everybody is safe and sound. Thank God. Kirk and his party obviously found Sulu and Scotty. Chekov thought to himself with relief.

By the time Sulu returned to the bridge, Chekov was grinning from ear to ear with pride. As Sulu sat down at the helm, Uhura got up from her station to greet him. "Welcome back. So what was going on down there?"

"We were kidnapped by a pair of aliens who had transformed themselves into a man and a woman and who inhabited a castle. They seized control of my mind and Scotty’s so we were like zombies." Sulu continued to describe their encounter with Korob and Sylvia, the two aliens from another galaxy who had created the illusion of a castle and its scary contents.

"It almost sounds like you were involved in a Halloween adventure. Ghosts, witches, wizards, zombies," remarked the communications officer.

The navigator added, "Or involved with Cassian the Unmerciful, who Russian peasants considered the Guardian of Hell."

The others on the bridge rolled their eyes at Chekov’s latest Russian reference.

Chekov gave Sulu a pointed look. "Well, you did need some assistance to escape from the hell on Pyris Seven."

"How so?"

"We discovered that the landing party was trapped by a forcefield. I was at the science station and scanned for areas of possible vulnerability to determine a means of weakening the forcefield. Of course, we have to give DeSalle credit since he gave the order, not to mention Engineering. But I certainly deserve some credit, too," he said smugly.

"I see," Sulu grinned at the navigator.

"Not bad for someone who everyone considered too green to be up here on Alpha Shift during normal times, much less a crisis." Chekov grinned in return.

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