Part of USS Century: 1. Videre Invisibilium

Shuttles at Dawn

USS Century
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The USS Century’s arrival in orbit of the fourth planet has sparked a renewed level of activity among her crew. Each department was coordinating with one another in the hopes of narrowing down the location of the missing vessels and perhaps locating the parties responsible for their disappearance. Orbital scans showed that the craft they were in pursuit of were not in orbit with them, which made a surface landing the most likely path for the ships to have taken.

Lieutenant James set to work comparing the predictive models of the planets location in tandem with the path that their scans had picked up that had led them to conclude that the fourth planet was a likely candidate for the ships’ last destination. Given the length of time that had passed between the transports being reported missing and the Century’s arrival into the system to investigate, the computer models could only provide a vague picture of where they might be if they truly had been forced to the surface. With a search radius of a few hundred kilometers coupled with the amount of time the thieves had already had to make their prize disappear, the crew was working at a disadvantage.

The planet that filled the screen had only small patches of green that encircled relatively small bodies of water on the surface. The rest of the terrain was little more than deserts, even if the conditions on the surface would usually allow for a much wider disbursal of vegetation under normal circumstances. The lack of abundant surface water was the logical culprit for the large voids in habitable landscapes.

After silently observing the activity around the Bridge for nearly an hour, Captain Gar’rath finally spoke up, directing his attention toward the Science officer, “Have you been able to make any headway with your scans, Mister James?”

Brian turned toward his commander, “I’ve managed to calculate a probable search grid, but it is roughly two hundred square kilometers, and much of the terrain is mountainous and difficult to get clear scans of. It may take a few hours to come up with anything solid.”

Gar’rath nodded at the response, “Very well, do what you can.”

“Mister Sorreth, are you picking up any transmissions from the surface? Anything that might indicate our suspects are in communication with anyone either on the surface or nearby?” Commander Peters inquired.

“There have been no signs of subspace communications since we entered orbit,” the Vulcan reported.

“What about less advanced communication methods?” the Captain followed up.

The Ops officer repeated the sweep of frequencies coming from the surface, this time looking for signals beneath the subspace band. He sifted through several frequency types and a sizable number of power outputs before discovering what looked to be coded impulses near the lower limits of the AM radio frequency, a rather archaic but still perfectly usable method.

“There appears to be low band AM frequency transmissions coming from the surface, however the signal is incredibly weak and I cannot pinpoint an exact location,” Sorreth remarked.

“Can you send me the general location you’re picking these signals up from?” Lt. James asked from across the room.

The Vulcan nodded silently and sent his readings over to the Science officer. Brian used the information regarding the radio signals as an overlay on his own estimated probable search area, generating a much smaller search area than he’d been working with before. With that information, the man was able to conduct a far more detailed analysis of the area, finally coming across a possible match for their missing craft.

“I’m detecting metals consistent with the hull composition of our missing cargo ships,” James called out before sending his findings to the main view screen. The area indicated looked to be a deep tectonic trench that would usually have been at the bottom of an ocean on most worlds. The depth as well as the chaotic nature of the massive ravine made it an excellent place to stash small vessels like the ones they were looking for. It also did a naturally good job of scattering sensor signals and other passive scans, making it almost impossible to find if one didn’t know where to begin searching.

“Can we get a lock on any life-signs in the area?” the Captain asked. A brief pause preceded Lt. Khar responding in the negative. With that information, Gar’rath surmised that attempts at transporting an away team down, or bringing anyone back up would likely be a risky venture. “Mister Khar, assemble a security team and head down to the surface in a shuttle. Try to find out what you can about who is down there and if you can discover they are responsible for the theft of our missing transports, apprehend them.”

“Will you be joining us, Captain?” the Klingon asked as he moved away from his station.

For a brief moment, the Gorn was tempted to accept the invitation even though it hadn’t been a completely serious one. Sadly, when weighed against the chances that they may end up in some manner of confrontation should the group responsible for the theft be none too willing to cooperate, it was a risk he couldn’t justify.

“If we knew more about the situation, I might have, but the risk is too high,” Gar’rath shook his head.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to try and talk you out of it,” Peters said with a smirk, “I’ll go in your place.”

“Very well,” the Captain nodded to his XO.

The two officers departed the bridge together, boarding the turbolift and taking it down to the shuttlebay on deck nineteen. While they were on the turbolift, Lt. Khar reached out to his department and had a detail on their way to meet them, placing the contingent of officers departing the ship up to a solid six, not including whichever unlucky pilot they were about to wrangle into the team as their chauffeur. The pair stepped out into the corridor flanking the shuttlebay just in time to meet with the security crewmen who had been selected to accompany them, each of them armed with both a phaser and phaser rifle. One of the group held an extra rifle while another member held a spare phaser, each one handing the spares over to their department head before the entire party moved into the shuttlebay proper. 

The sight of five heavily armed security officers flanking the ship’s Executive officer was enough to prompt Lieutenant Junior Grade Connor to wander down from the control room to greet them.

“Good morning, Commander. Is there something we can help you with here in the shuttlebay?” the man asked.

“Are you a pilot, Lieutenant?” Peters asked.

“I am, yes. Why, do you need one?”

Abigail gave the man a friendly smile, “I do, as a matter of fact. I need you to prep a shuttle for an away mission to the planet surface. How soon can you have one ready?”

“We usually have a shuttle on standby throughout the shift, so I can have her ready in about three minutes,” came Zac’s immediate reply.

“Perfect,” Peters nodded, “Lead the way.”

Lt. JG Connor looked around the shuttlebay until he spotted the craft that had been brought up into standby a few hours previously by his shift. With a nod to himself, the Lieutenant took off at a brisk pace toward the small vessel that would carry the group off the ship and onto the planet below. The group of security officers followed behind the man, with the XO bringing up the rear, coming to a stop just outside of it while the young pilot ran a few checks. Once he was satisfied that everything was in order, Zac sent the shuttle a command from the console he was working at to open the shuttle door to allow the group chatting near the rear of the craft to board.

“Commander Sorreth should transfer the coordinates of our intended landing site to you once we’re ready to depart. It’s going to be a very narrow fit going down there, just so you know,” Cmdr. Peters said as the pilot headed toward the back of the craft to board himself.

“That shouldn’t be a problem, ma’am. As long as I have about a meter of clearance on all sides, we should be fine,” Connor remarked with a daring smirk.

“You’re a confident one, I’ll give you that,” Abby chuckled, amused at the bravado the young man was attempting to exude for some reason.

“I’d say so, yeah,” Zac nodded as he climbed up the ramp, “Flown enough close formation maneuvers to feel pretty good about my skills.”

Cmdr. Peters took the seat on the other side of the cockpit, “Well, just in case, I think I’ll play co-pilot for this trip.”

“I take it you’ve flown, Commander?”

The XO nodded, “I’ve flown everything from a cargo shuttle to a starship, made a career of it before I took this assignment.”

“Oh…” Connor murmured, his previous confidence seeming to evaporate after finding out that the person he’d been bragging to was herself a more than capable flight officer.

“Take us out, Mister Connor,” Abby said with a thin smirk from her side of the small compartment.

“Aye, ma’am…”