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Proximity Alert

Introduction The Station Puzzles Away Team
The Thing Bug Hunt Deep Space Nine The Second Attack
Infirmary Hunger Awake!  

Chapter One =/\= The Station

Captain's Log, Stardate 49172.5. We are responding to a distress signal from Proxima One, a scientific research station in orbit around Promina Tanis Theta, a small planetoid in between Bajor and Koralis. Given the current situation on Deep Space Nine, it seems logical to investigate this ourselves and let them deal with the Cardassians and the Dominion.

Captain Akeel Ahmad stood on the bridge, gazing into space on the main viewer, watching and waiting for a report from the away team. He was very much aware of the tension on the bridge - it was almost tangible. Commander Neil Meechan, his First Officer, stood by him, his face a picture of anticipation.

"Shouldn't we have heard from them now, Sir?"

Ahmad glanced at him. "The away team beamed over to the Proxima One Research Station thirty-seven minutes ago - they are overdue in reporting."

"I guess Dr Qnayf's been kept busy with all the casualties, and hasn't had the chance to report."

"She is a highly skilled healer and a very efficient organiser; and I saw the logic in letting her lead the away team."

"Really? I heard that she threatened you with a physical examination, if you tried to stop her."

"Indeed," Ahmad raised his eyebrow at Meechan. His First Officer was, however, correct. The Chief Medical Officer's bedside manner - or lack of one - was legendary aboard the USS Avenger.

"Captain, we are being hailed".

"On screen"

The image on screen changed to that of a small, young woman, her Klingon features visible through her environmental suit.

"Captain, almost half of the people died instantly; the radiation burned out the nervous system and rest have varying degrees of radiation burns. I've done as much as I can so far, it's a real mess down here. There are fifty-six survivors, the rest are either dead or otherwise unaccounted for, I'm beaming them directly to sickbay."

"Make it fast, Doctor. Proxima One is going into orbital decay."

"Acknowledged." Qnayf broke contact.

Ahmad glanced up at Lieutenant Hessan. "Get me Blair at Proxima!"

"Aye, Sir."

Chief Engineer Nick Blair appeared on the screen, wearing a heavy radiation suit - his voice slightly muffled.

"Captain, the lads and I have gone over what's left of the generators and we cannae find the cause of the radiation leak or the meltdown - but somehow I don't think it was a malfunction - it's just a feeling I have. I'll report my findings when I get back."

"Understood, Avenger out."

Ahmad became pensive. What kind of radiation destroyed neural tissue yet left other tissue relatively unharmed? There seemed no logic behind that.

"Captain, if it wasn't a malfunction; it had to be caused by something."

Ahmad looked at the tall, grey-eyed First Officer. "Yes, Neil, the question is what, or who? Best wait for Blair and the others to return with details before we speculate."

He glanced at the screen again. "You have the bridge, Number One. I will be in my ready room, meditating." He walked over to the door, glancing at the main viewer as he did so.

"How often does he meditate, Sir," Kevin Steele, the young blond ensign at Ops asked, looking at the door to the ready room,"

"Five times a day. He says it helps him cope with the strain of command." Meechan replied, glancing over at him. "Although he's a Vulcan, he was raised on Earth, so he probably missed most of that mind-discipline stuff that they teach on Vulcan."

"That's that last of the away teams on board now, Commander." Hessan said, glancing down at his console.

"Acknowledged, Mr Hessan," Meechan replied as he watched as the spacelab began its final fall to the barren rocky surface of Proxima Tanis Theta. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and the Avenger was rocked by a shock-wave.

"Shields Up! Yellow Alert"

Ahmad stepped out of the ready room, "Helm, get us to a safe distance, now!"

"Aye, Sir."

"Right. Neil, set up a conference for twenty minutes from now!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

"So, what have we got?" Ahmad asked, facing his senior officers. "Doctor Qnayf, please report your findings."

Qnayf went over to the screen, which lit up at her approach. It displayed an anatomical diagram in the usual LCARS style while she reported, "The radiation which caused this neural damage was at unusual frequencies and phase energies, and was short lived; by the time we got there it had dropped to almost background levels. "

She paused briefly, as the display updated. "From what I saw of the casualties, living and dead, this radiation had a direct effect upon the central nervous system of an individual, rather like burning out the spinal cord and then the extremities, causing numbness and paralysis. This neural corrosion then spread up into the brain causing coma followed by a quick death. It is not a nice way to die. Many survivors will need extensive neural regeneration. There were at least thirty people unaccounted for."

"What kind of radiation can do this?" Ahmad inquired, with a questioning glance at Lt Cdr Andrew Dunipace, his Chief Science Officer.

Dunipace shook his head, "No known radiation exists which attacks purely neural tissue. All living tissue should have been destroyed equally: muscle tissue, skin tissue - but this seems to be very neat - almost too neat."

"There is only one other alternative in my reasoning," Security Chief Ian Cairns spoke up. "A weapon - it's the only thing that fits. Here we have a science research station, in a volume of space long disputed by the Federation and the Cardassian Union. It’s turning into a big free-for-all, with the Maquis wanting to carve out something for themselves and not caring who gets in the way, the Dominion, their Vorta minions and their Jem-Hadar sniffing round here and now the Klingons getting more than a little bit unhinged. It's obvious that someone’s developed a new weapon and has been doing a bit of field testing, and I bet that someone is Section 31!"

Ahmad looked sharply at his lank, dark-haired Security Chief. "Section 31? I won't rule that out just yet, but I believe that it may be something that the Proxima Team were working on themselves, without Section 31. I'd better get onto Starfleet Command about this. Dismissed."

They filed out of the room, Ahmad stayed behind staring out into the stars and over at Proxima Tanis Theta in the lower left corner of the window.

"Computer...?"

"Awaiting query."

"How long will it take to open a secure channel to Admiral McNair at Starfleet HQ?"

"Nine minutes and twelve seconds."

"Transfer it to me ready room." Ahmad said, exiting the conference room.

"Affirmative."

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