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Sunday, October 18, 2009

An Enemy From the Dark. Chapter 7. Escaping the Wormhole

“This is it. Hold on!” Carick’s voiced echoed through every loud speaker on the Federation Starship Voyager. Roberts pulled once more on her restraints to be sure they were as tight as possible. Others were doing the same throughout the ship.

Violent spasms shook the Voyager as her entire body disappeared across the event horizon of the alien wormhole. Anyone and anything not fastened down and secure was thrown about like the beads in a shaken baby’s rattle. Carick tried to order an increase in shields, knowing that such a precaution was useless in a wormhole but he couldn’t get the words out . The shaking was too powerful. It was all anyone could do to keep their heads fastened to their shoulders. Carick knew there would be serious injuries, perhaps fatalities if, by some miracle, the Voyager held together. He tried not to think of that and instead focused on the readouts flashing across the Sphere. Everything was shaking so badly he couldn’t read the words. The diagrams, on the other hand, were understandable. The shaking was quickly approaching the Voyager’s limits. Hull ruptures were eminent.

Carick knew the alien wormholes collapsed shortly after their ship’s exited into normal space. It was something he was counting on when her ordered the ship in. At twenty seconds in he began doubting his judgment. Perhaps the wormhole sensed the presence of a ship and whatever enormous power source the aliens were using to keep it open was programmed to keep the wormhole open as a safety precaution until the ship exited. If so, the Voyager would exit the wormhole at the exact location in space where the alien ship was when it opened it. His ship might appear near an enemy base, or worse, near their home world. His mind began working through everything he was taught concerning wormholes. He tried to remember something - anything that might tell him how to collapse an open wormhole.

“Hull Breach. Hull Breach.” The voice of the ship’s computer was loud and strong. Decompression alarms rang throughout the ship. Those that were still conscious strained to see if any of the walls in their rooms showed cracking. Carick tried to focus the best he could on the readouts hovering before him. It was showing the rupture's location but his head was bobbing up and down and side to side so violently he couldn’t make it out.

Another siren sounded on the heels of the decompression alarm. Carick recognized the sound from his time in the battle simulators. “Fire Alert, Fire Alert,” the computer said again, loud and strong. “Automatic suppression systems engaged.” The alarm continued. Carick felt himself slipping away. He was loosing consciousness. He struggled to stay alert but the shaking was too violent. The last thing he remembered hearing was the computer saying ,” System Failure.....”

Everything went dark

“Captain. Captain?” it was Aland’s voice that brought him around. It sounded weak but close. Carick opened his eyes. The bridge was still in one piece. The smell of electric fires forced him into a coughing fit.
He looked around. His crew mates were slowly waking up. Each of them still strapped to their seats.

“Aland, you OK?” Carick asked.
“I’ve got a really bad headache.” Cadet Aland answered rubbing both temples with his two index fingers.
“Yea, me too. Unstrap and check everyone else. I’m going to try to get the Sphere online.” Carick unfastened the harness that held him tightly to his chair. On its release, he immediately noticed severe pain in his neck and shoulders. He knew everyone in the ship would be suffering from some form whiplash, broken bones, or both.

He struggled from his chair as Aland circled the bridge, stopping at every station to revive and /or assist his crew mates.
“Computer?” Carick said hoping for an immediate response. There was none. He said it again. And again no response. He punched the button on his chair to illuminate the Sphere. The projectors on the lower level failed to come on. They were complete in the dark concerning their location and the condition of their ship and crew.

“Nothing seems to be working,” he said to everyone conscious. There was a hull breech. I think that's how most of us lost consciousness.”
“Not to mention being thrown around violently,” Roberts added while rubbing her left shoulder and neck.
“Well, we’re alive so if it was a hull breech then either the force fields engaged or the bulkhead doors closed. Murdock, do you know anything about the Sphere?”
“I know my station and that’s about it.” Murdock answered.
“Anyone know how to get the Sphere to work?” Carick asked. There was no response. “Murdock, up to the top tier. The mainframes for the bridge are up there. I know you don’t think you know anything about how this ship’s computers work, but I also know the classes you took last term and one of them was advanced computer networking. Get up there and put some of that knowledge to use. I need the computer and Sphere back online.”

“I’ll do my best.” Murdock responded. He jumped from his chair and started climbing the black metal steps leading from the second to the third tier.

There was groaning coming from Carick’s left. Cadet Hall was coming to. Water was dripping from his face. Aland stood over him with plastic cup looking proud of himself.
“He’s the last.” Aland reported. "All present and accounted for."
“Good, we all made it then. Listen up troops,” Carick’s voice was as loud and strong as it was during station departure. “This is an update. We made it through the wormhole. I don’t know where we are. I do know we are alive and from what I can tell we’ve not been boarded. That tells me we didn’t appear in the heart of some alien starsystem. I’m hoping the wormhole did what I thought it would do - collapse around us - and by doing so, dropping us off somewhere in the galaxy far from enemy space.” He looked at his comrades. They looked shaken up but and bruised but their eyes were full of life and hope. That gave Carick the energy he needed to continue.

“The ship is damaged. No Sphere or computer. Murdock is working on restoring the computer on the third level.”
“Up here,” Murdock said as he peered over the metal bannister down to the second tier.
“Ben, you’d better not screw this up.” Harken warned. “We need that computer. If you don’t know what you are doing, don't touch anything. If Tex is alive he can fix it, or maybe one of the those second and third year brainiacs can do it.”
“Hey! What do you think this is?” Murdock shot back while pointing to his head.
“Well, for the last several minutes let’s see, I’m guessing a Punching Bag like everyone else’s.” Harken looked please with herself.

“Enough people,” Carick interrupted. “We need to find out what’s damaged and who’s injured. We need to find out where we are. We need to get this ship running. Harken, you stay up here with Murdock. Help where needed. Hall and Aland, you two go to engineering. Report to Tex. Help him get things repaired. Roberts, you find Stellar Cartography. Find out were we are. I’m going to sick bay and check on injuries. Let’s move people!”

The cadets stood and moved together toward the turbolift. The door opened. They all breathed a sigh of relief. It it hadn’t, it would be deck after deck of descending ladders.
“Destination?” the computer voice requested after they all entered.
“I’m glad this system runs independent of the main computer.” Carick said while punching the destinations on the wall screen. He preferred to make his requests manually.
Each destination on the read out blinked green except engineering. It blinked red. Carick touched a few buttons, bringing up a diagram of the lift shafts.
“The shaft to engineering is blocked.” Carick explained while pointing out the blockage on the screen. “Hall, Aland - get off here, right before the obstruction, one deck up, and take the service ladders the rest of the way.”
“Yes sir,” they both responded.

Carick tapped the deck just above Engineering.
“Accepted.” the computer responded. The lift car started moving. Its first stop was Deck 6.

The doors opened. Carick stepped out. “I’ll be back on the bridge in 30 minutes. No need to report to me in person if we can get the intercom system back online. If not, I want one person from each team to meet me on the bridge with a full report in 30. Understood?”

Some nodded, others said “Yes Sir,” The lift doors closed.

Carick heard the sound of screaming in the distance. It was accompanied by shouting. He recognized the voice of Cadet Hanne Payne. He was relieved. She was someone classified as indispensable with her qualifications as an EMT. He sprinted down the hall. The screaming grew louder.

Carick turned the corner before reaching Sickbay's hall and nearly knocked Cadet Merryweather over. Mary was doubled over and vomiting on the floor.
“Mary, you OK?” Carick asked while watching where he was walking.
Merryweather stood upright and wiped his face with his uniform sleeve.
“You’re alive!” Mary said. “Captain, you’ve got to get me out of here. There’s too much blood and.....” the gagging reflex started again. Mary started to bend over. Carick took him by the shoulders.
“Calm down Mary.” Carick shook him slightly. “You know more first aid than anyone else besides Payne. You are the man for the job. From what I can hear there are cadets in there that need your help. Come on Mary. You can do this. Let’s go.”

Mary nodded and straightened his uniform. They walked side by side back to the sickbay doorway. The sliding doors were in the open position.

“Carick!” Cadet Payne shouted. “Thank God you’re Ok.” Carick stopped in shock at the sight of so many of his fellow cadets and friends on the tables and sitting on the floor. Blood was everywhere. It was truly ghastly.

Payne’s gloved hands were covered in blood. He could see she was in the middle of sewing up Cadet Rowberry’s badly cut left arm. Another scream filled the sick bay. Carick turned toward the source.

Mary was leaned over the squirming body of a first year cadet. Carick could tell by the color of his uniform. He could see the 13 year old cadet was badly burned across the chest and neck. Mary was attempting to remove some of the burned clothing with tweezers. Each attempt sent the boy screaming in agony.

Carick was relieved to see the Meredith Hologram standing next to Mary pointing to certain places on the boy’s chest. At least the tutoring program was still working.
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