Encounter in the Interstellar Night

By Linda

Rating: PG

Genres: angst drama

Keywords:

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Rating: PG
Disclaimer: No filthy lucre changed hands
Summary: Entry in the Scream challenge


The utterloneliness of it, sitting there, an incomprehensible distance from any friendly aid. “A forlorn little ship,” was the way the captain described it. That’s why they had to do something about it. It was a human thing, as Captain Archer had once told T’Pol, to investigate a ship that was just sitting there in space, not answering a hail. She understood the logic of that now, the human logic. She kept the Vulcan view of privacy to herself as she monitored the shuttle pod’s progress toward yet another immobile alien vessel encountered in the vast emptiness of interstellar space.

The away team, this time just Trip and Phlox, scanned the shimmering blue-green hull in the beam of the shuttle pod's spotlight. Trip wondered what the skin of this ship was made of. Phlox wondered who was inside that hull.

On the second circle of the vessel, which was a quarter of the size of Enterprise, they found a hatch. The shuttle pod’s hatch overwhelmed it like a large round mouth over an hexagonal one, metal clanging up against metal. Trip applied a resin seal to fill in around the gaps between the curve of the alien hull and the shuttle pod’s flat hatch configuration.

It was easier than they expected, opening the inner hatch in their bulky EVA suits, ignoring what was most likely a set of compression controls. A whoosh of alien atmosphere buffeted them as they moved heavily through the inner hatch into a companionway. What were probably emergency lights, glowed faintly, outlining the walkway. They met no one until with some kind of engineer’s instinct, Trip found the engine room. Upon shoving a large hexagonal sliding door open, they found the remains of some of the alien crew.

The engine room crew, seemingly asleep at their stations was eerie, disturbing. Trip gently lowered an alien body to the deck so he could sit at a set of controls. The patterns of pulsing lines told him more than the alien script could. Maybe they should have brought Hoshi along. He identified various systems almost by instinct. Yet as he worked to comprehend the ship, one by one, motifs dropped out of the symphony of ship’s sounds and vibrations.

Phlox came into Trips range of vision and slowly shook his head. These unfortunate creatures were beyond his aid. An accident most likely, since the mix of gases in the air of the engine room differed from the mixture deep in the lungs of these creatures. A leak undetected until it was too late and they all suffocated? That was the most likely scenario. There was nothing more for him to do, so he watched the screens over Trip’s shoulder, where undulating lines were going flat, spikes on read outs dropping, fading, and screens were going dim, then black. Phlox’s patients were already dead, and it looked like Trip’s patient was dying too.

Trip spread his fingers and placed his hands flat on the console in front of him. Then he turned to Phlox and echoed the doctor’s headshake of a half hour ago. Silence screamed throughout the hull, down the companionways, and out of the dark consoles in the engine room. The ship was dead. Dead and far from home.

Both of them checked each other to see that their helmets were still locked in place. Their steps bounced in the fading gravity as they left the engine room, bodies rising in a macabre dance around them. Hurriedly, they climbed a ladder and found their way to the companionway with the hatch. They passed through the hatch, turning to take one last look at the interior of this still unidentified vessel.

On the return ride, Phlox bent as close as he could to the padd as his chair’s restraining harness would allow. This would not be a long report, the photos longer than the text anyway. Just another unidentified alien vessel, an ending quite typical for the crew of a ship exploring for something, their curiosity exceeding their survival abilities.

This report would most likely be filed and forgotten. Perhaps two hundred years from now, a clerk restructuring a database might come across it and bring it to the attention of a supervisor: “Sir, take a look at this. I think we are going to have to move the first contact date with the X----rians back a bit.” And the report would be passed on to the X----rians who would go to the coordinates and retrieve their long-lost ship; identify the remains, for anyone who still might care. The clerk might care, if he got a pat on the back for closing out this case. Phlox stuffed the padd in his uniform’s breast pocket and watched Trip expertly dock the shuttle pod.

For Trip, it was good to be off that ship after the engine went cold and silent. Good to return to the helm of a live shuttle pod. And even better to be back aboard the living, breathing Enterprise.


Comments:

Linda

Thanks for your comment, Sluggo; glad you enjoyed the story.  I am a bit nervous about you using the word "loot".  I am not sure if they would do that, though I think they would copy some information and try to translate it.  I should have put something like their downloading a database for future study.  Perhaps they would take things if they were desperate for them like they did in the Expanse from one alien ship, leaving that ship stranded.  So you have a point, but again, I think it would have to be an extreme need.

Sluggo

Liked the story, but I can't help but think that the Enterprise crew would never let such an opportunity pass. They would certainly loot the ship of any unknown technology or information. In the show Earth is playing catch up with more advanced neghbors. Nothing would be overlooked.

Linda

The comments by Leron, Damen, Gerry, Britta, and Sissy belong to some other web site and got here by some computer glitch. :( Perhaps they could be removed?  Anyway, I appreciate the real comments that people have left for my story!  :D 

Leron
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Damen
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Gerry
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Sissy
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Aquarius
[b]Linda[/b], this was very sad and lonely and beautiful. Very innovative use of the prompt, too, with silence "screaming" throughout the ship. This is probably my favorite entry for January so far. :)
Dinah
This was a beautifully descriptive story. Sad...yes. But then traveling through space is often dangerous. At least there is some chance for closure for the families of those who were lost. Very well done!
Linda
Thanks, everyone for your comments so far, you are very kind. And Reanok, can you give me the name of the author of Fight or Flight? I'd like to read that one.
blacknblue
It is nice to be able to close my eyes and watch the movie play out like this. Your descriptions are perfect.
Asso
What atmosphere! The way you write is only yours, it's unmistakable. I adore how you make a few words full of intense thoughts and implied emotions.
justTrip'n
Again (this keeps happening lately) all I did as a beta was give it my stamp of approval. I feel so obsolete, lol . . . I really like the way Linda writes--always real and original. She never skirts away from uncomfortable issues; still, her stories always contain a little seed of "Maple seed" of hope. I'm a fan.
Reanok
Linda this story is really good and it reminds me of Fight or Flight. Finding the ship with the alien crew members like that.At least their poeple will know what happened to their crew.
JadziaKathryn
Melancholy and completely believable. I like the second-to-last paragraph, because it too is realistic and almost hopeful that at least, eventually, that species will know what happened, but then again it keeps the melancholy tone because it will be too late for the relatives of the dead. Sad and touching story.
Linda
I have to thank JusTrip'n for beta'ing this little fic, and also, a scene in one of HER stories was the inspiration for it. Yes, it is kind of sad little piece, as I was thinking about how a ship, which is a little bubble of home world atmosphere and gravity is so alone and vulnerable so very far from home.
Anonymous
Very evocative and very lonely. An interesting, unexpected take on the prompt.
bluetiger
How melancholy to think of this tomb floating in space with family never knowing what happened. Very nicely done,sets quite a mood.

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