The Adventurer's Bug - The last stroke

Paula Chapman


== Aboard the Flambeau ==
== After "Hope and Resilience " ==

Two shuttles had remained originally, one serving as a go-between carrier to rotate harried technical crew, exposed to minimalistic living and working conditions on the ship. Bruno was bringing back some of them as he landed the third shuttle, now available again. Leaving them to report for duty, he headed to his Ready Room to meet Chase.

He liked being back aboard much more than being on the ground, that was a fact, for reasons that had nothing to do with Harkon IV. The Flambeau was where he belonged. The atmosphere was strange on the ship these days; it wasn't unlike taking a tour of a starship under refit in dry-docks, most crew gone, entire sections shut down. Except that repairs, going in earnest once the CEO went back on full duty with a vengeance, were being hampered by repeated malfunctions they couldn't find a cause for.

"We narrowed things down, several times but it's like the problem keeps moving around," Chance reported in obvious annoyance. "Lt Brenn says she's never seen anything like it. We do a series of repairs. We reactivate the system for a diagnostic and everything is as expected. Within a few hours we start getting flukes and gremlins."

For practical purposes, he had left her use of his ready room and the door was set to remain open. He thought he saw a move and glanced that way, but nothing further happened. For a while they talked things through and Brenn joined them for half an hour. The fact that internal sensors were part of affected systems wasn't helping. They agreed on that and reworked priorities.

"You two are overdue for some down time at Paradisio," Bruno said once he had a solid grasp of where things were at. "You in particular, Lt Brenn. Dr Tamad wants to see you two for assessment." He had made sure to have both together for this piece of news. As expected, Damon hesitated protesting. "24 hours. We can hold the fort just fine."

But Damon was cunning. "Does it have to be both of us at the same time, Sir? With all due respect, I've been on top of ship operations and you're just back aboard."

"I can use a shuttle transporter to report to Dr Tamad, Sir" Brenn noted at once.

"Nobody wants repairs done more than I do," Bruno shook his head. "24 hours. BOTH of you. Your teams know what to do and I'll be the proverbial set of fresh eyes. Maybe you'll see the problem in a different light after a decent day of rest."

A low level system diagnostic was in progress and he agreed to the delay, no further.

Working on a PADD, he slapped his neck as a reflexive gesture to a strange sensation and brought his hand forth to consider the result, with a heavy frown. All crew used a transporter cycle aboard the shuttles when transiting back. The purple bug squashed on his palm just shoudn't be there.

== Bridge ==

The skeleton crew manning the bridge looked in turn at the container in the captain's hand.

"We started seeing those after the evac, when we started rotating crew back and fro, Sir" Virtanen (npc) confirmed from Ops. "Bistow's in charge of sonic-spraying sections in use. The shuttles were, too but you came up with another one, Sir."

"Kominski reckons she's seen some of those around on the Biglow though," the young helmsman quipped from her station. "Sir."

Bruno knew for a fact they hadn't seen anything like it at the camp. The fact the bugs started getting noticed at one time didn't mean they'd not be aboard earlier - only that they got noticeable... He slapped the back of his head--and felt something scuttling down his wrist.

Virtanen was using the parallel internal comm system they had put together, routed through commbadges, to continue his task with Engineering.

+ Powering up at 25%, all systems look good +

The helmsman squeaked and spluttered while jumping to her feet, pointing at the forward screen that came alive as part of diagnostics. "SIR!"

Bruno looked at the screen, up, down and turned around on himself. Thousands of bugs seemed to be pouring unto the Bridge, more, coming from everywhere the eye could see. Before he could speak, assorted alarms started going off. Live consoles were blinking aphazardly.

"Ops, power down all systems to minimal!" he ordered, tapping his commbadge to contact Engineering, repeating the order.

"My console is not responding, Sir!" Virtanen alerted him, one hand wiping a handful purple things across his station.

Lights blinked out, on again, several times while Bruno listened to Damon reporting trouble all over sections in use. The last stroke came, the thing he had hoped not to hear.

+ We're losing emergency life support, Sir! We have 5 minutes left at best, recommend we evacuate the ship immediately +

The shipwide comm sent everyone fleeing to escape pods, slapping down bugs in earnest even as they separated from the ship and cleared it, as fast as the pods could run to get away.

== Deck 10, Torpedo Launch Room ==
== Long minutes later ==

There were a few places where the tiniest bug couldn't wiggle in. Bruno had brought a few with him, but they wouldn't get inside the torpedo casing. The torpedo rested securely in its damaged pre-loading berth, where Lt Ramos had left it with much regret.

The forward screen had flickered on one last time, as they left. The view in the rear mirror was astounding. The ailing Flambeau had held together all these days, in stationary orbit. Now it was listing above the planet--not for very long. Bruno didn't need a computer to predict what came next. It was about to dive right through the atmosphere. The SIF and hull would keep it together until it hit the ground, either on top, or close enough to the camp as to make little difference...

They had ran out of options faster than they could think of them. The warp core was cold. The self-destruct was offline. It left only one thing.

Bruno started inputing instructions. It wasn't that easy to work through layers of safeties to get a torpedo to do the one thing it was not supposed to do. Every seconds, odds to save the camp dwindled. The higher the altitude when the ship broke apart, the better the chances that most of it would burn through the atmosphere, dispersing far and wide.

The torpedo armed in stages, green lights switching to blinking red, painfully slow.

When all was done, Bruno leaned over it. He thought of a myriad things, his mind trying to embrace, all at once, all that made a life about to end. He couldn't do more now but he had that one second suspended in time... A fraction of forever.

OFF: TBC *big evil grin*
The escape pods would be communicating with the ground. This all takes place in the space of 10 minutes or so. There are only two shuttles on the ground (one is the captain's yacht) and the flying antigrav platform of the archaeologists, at disposal to clear the (uncertain) site of the impending crash.

Capt Bruno Marini
USS Flambeau