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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 Five =/\= Bug Hunt

"Energise"

Meechan and Cairns beamed down again, this time accompanied by security officers McMinn, Powers and Weller.

They made their way across the barren landscape towards the lab modules and entered, the five security officers were ready with phasers primed.

The dim light of a luminescent ooze, pulsing in large cylindrical tank, combined with the skewed and tilted grav-plates of the module gave the lab a weird perspective. There was no sign of Woods body. However, as they watched, the silvery, shiny ooze began to extrude solid shapes and projections from its surface - pyramids, spheres, cylinders. One cylinder, human-sized, rose up slowly and ominously in the middle of the slick; and its exterior began to shift, features formed on its surface, and formed a face. It was the image of Woods.

Meechan stepped forward, indicating to the others to keep back. "I'm Commander Neil Meechan of the USS Avenger."

The blank expression on the entity's face did not change, its mouth moved but there was no sound.

"Where is our crew member?" Meechan demanded, in the hope that this would elicit some response from the amoebic form, which shifted the contours of its face constantly.

The face became more animated, and as the mouth opened, a multitude of voices could be heard, screams and shouts of fear and panic, and many voices spoke in unison.

"Where are we? Release Us? It is dark in here, where is the light? What time is it? When do I transmit the data?"

The rest of the amorphous manifestation had become agitated as well and many different faces were forming on all its surfaces, screaming and shouting.

This was too much for Weller. Yelling "A shapeshifter!" he raised his phaser rifle and fired. The bolt struck 'Woods' and was absorbed. McMinn and Powers followed suit and fired also, ignoring Meechan's command to hold their fire. He dived out of the way along with Cairns, as three phaser blasts struck 'Woods' in the centre of the chest.

For an instant nothing happened, then 'Woods' raised his arms, which flowed, changed into wicked razor sharp tentacles and shot out towards Weller and Powers, impaling them neatly through the centres of their torsos, straight through environmental suits and body armour. A third tentacle formed and caught McMinn at the ankles lifting him into the air. The bearded security guard screamed and fired his phaser, but it just sparked and fizzled uselessly. The image of Woods melted and reformed into huge wolf like jaws, gaping wide. McMinn was carried screaming into the horrific mouth and disappeared.

Meechan and Cairns turned away in revulsion and disgust as the bodies of Weller and Powers were dragged into the pool of silvery ooze, and the manic voices sang out: "Come to us, join us, feed us, it is your destiny."

Meechan glanced at the thing again, the liquid began to spill over the lip of the tank, it’s contours were shifting and it began to take on the appearance of a humanoid figure. As more and more fluid flowed out of the tank and merged with the figure it grew to many times the size of a human, its physique grotesquely muscled and contoured. The head was featureless, with great horns arcing from above the temples. The glittering silver faded to a jet black. Two great bat-like wings grew from its back and with a sudden upswing of it’s massive arms it smashed open the ceiling of the lab module and leapt up, out of the enclosure.

It flew upwards away from the planetoid, slipping past the orbiting Avenger and shimmered out of existence.

Meechan tapped his combadge "Meechan to Avenger, two to transport." A feeling of relief washed over him as the tell-tale tingle of the transporter beam lifted them away from the terrible scene.

No sooner had they materialised than they ran into the nearest head and vomited.

"It was 'orrible! ", Cairns said, as they sat in the observation lounge. "A shapeless mass which took on various shapes and personalities. It fed on them, and said it was their destiny. It might have been a shapeshifter but I’m not really sure..."

"Then it turned in to some strange jet black thing with wings and just got out..." Meechan said, "This gives us an idea as to where those people unaccounted for ended up. I don't know what this experiment was meant to be, but whatever it was, it backfired and killed a hell of a lot of people in that lab. This thing just fed on them – absorbed them."

Searochd nodded, "That must have been what I sensed earlier, the pain and anguish of all the people that thing killed must have somehow been recorded and it transmitted those emotions, affecting all psionically sensitive people, like myself, which is why there was so much agony. Most of the crew had exceptional Psi ratings for their respective races."

"Have you analysed the data from their computers?" Ahmad asked.

"We're still working on it, most of the data is heavily encrypted and we're having problems bypassing the protections, sifting out personal data from project data, etc. But so far we've ascertained that the main project, code named Project Asmo, had something to do with artificial intelligence, muta-genetic engineering, long range psionic transmission and metamorphosis, with an emphasis on the military applications."

Searochd paused briefly, "I believe that this suggests some kind of intelligence probe designed to be non-detectable by conventional means because of its psionic concealment and shape-changing ability. This ability means that it could masquerade as any life-form, convert itself to humanoid form or anything, and could infiltrate any organisation. The perfect espionage instrument. It would also have had the means of refuelling by 'feeding' on organic matter, and also the means to defend itself if necessary."

"So a shape-shifter? Like one of the Founders of the Dominion? And they lost it?"

"Well since there was no indication of any launch it escaped without any fail-safes or control elements installed so it is most likely to be out of control. Not a pleasant thought"

"And the nearest inhabitable world is Bajor..." Ahmad said, realising the horrific implications of this fact.

"Bajor, and Deep Space Nine, Sir."

"Set a course heading, Number One, Maximum warp; I'll have to talk to Captain Sisko, see if he’s heard anything, or even warn him about this. Searochd, get a team together and see what else you can extract from the files. Go over them with a fine tooth comb if you have to. I want to know exactly what this thing, this entity, can and cannot do, and how we can stop it. Dismissed."

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